“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Warm greetings to all our fellow believers. I am thankful that I am able to preach the Word of the Lord in this church. And I would also like to give my profound thanks to the minister and his wife serving the Lord here, including all the saints gathered here today.
The size of this congregation has increased somewhat from the last time I was here. I trust that just as I have, you have also been at peace in the Lord. Let us all then turn to the Word and see what God is saying to us at this hour.
The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This passage is from John 3:16, a verse we all know very well. As this verse says, God loved us so much that He sent His only begotten Son to us, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but receive eternal life. Although we are all very familiar with this passage of Scripture, it is still a very important verse that explains the gift of salvation and Gods love towards us. In other words, it implies that God has given us the blessing of salvation.
It’s said here in today’s Scripture passage that “God so loved the world.” To whom does the “world” here refer to? It refers to the entire human race, to none other than you and me. It means that God loved all the people in this entire world and each and every one of us individually. It’s also says here that God gave us His only begotten Son, meaning, that God has given the gospel of the water and the Spirit to each person individually and saved everyone. Therefore, whenever those who have already received the remission of sins into their hearts by truly believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit hear the Bible speaking that God the Father has given them His only begotten Son, they realize that the Lord has already blotted out all their sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit. That God our Father sent us His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior, is the same as saying that He has blotted out our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
Do you really know the righteousness of God and believe in it? Words cannot express just how profoundly thankful I am that the exalted God has saved us such lowly human beings from all our sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. That God gave His only begotten Son to this world, means, that He has given us true salvation. That He sent His Son Jesus to this earth, in other words, means that He has saved us from the sins of the world through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. At this hour, let us once again ponder upon just how great and indebting such love of God really is, and realize its profundity through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
To grasp this love of God accurately and concisely, we must first examine ourselves to see exactly what kind of people we are before God. Unless we see our true selves properly and clearly as sinners before God, we cannot really understand or grasp what it means when the Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Failing this self-recognition, we will not be able to comprehend just how great God’s love really is. So it’s absolutely important for us to know and realize who we really are in God’s sight - which the Father sent His Son Jesus Christ and blotted out all our sins. Socrates said, “Know yourself.” However, even those who claim to know the love of God oftentimes do not realize their true sinful selves. Knowing one’s weakness’s and insufficiencies and at the same time comprehending God’s love are mutually related. This is akin to medicine, for no matter how good medicine may be, if you don’t realize that you are desperately in need of it, then medicine has nothing to do with you.
In today’s Scripture passage the Lord is speaking to us about the true remission of sins, and about salvation. Just as someone who is ill and desperately needing a physician, so we sinners also desperately need a Savior that can save us from our sin. It is for this very reason that God the Father gave us Jesus His only begotten Son. It’s because all of us were inevitably born sinners and defiled by sin, and therefore we needed the gospel salvation of the water and the Spirit that would indeed blot out all our sins.
What Must One Do to Receive the Special Salvation Offered by God?
Why do you suppose I am speaking of this matter at the beginning of my sermon? It’s because many people still do not fully realize their true sinful selves, and this is often the reason why they cannot grasp the great love of the Lord. If we realize just how great a sinner we ourselves are in God’s sight, it will bring the love of the Lord into sharper focus, and we can eventually start believe in it as well. If you are unable to feel or experience God’s love, then this is evidence of the fact that you still do not realize just how really evil you are. The reason why so many people do not accept the love of God by faith is because of this fact that they do not see just depraved a sinner they themselves are in God’s sight. How well do we know ourselves? It’s absolutely indispensable for us to realize just how insufficient we are before God. We should all be thankful to God and praise Him for bestowing His grace of salvation upon people such as us. That’s because, although we were sinners doomed to be bound by sin forever, He made us perfectly righteous people.
Now we need to see again what the Lord Himself said about us human beings in Mark 7:21-23, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Here in this passage the Lord is explaining what kinds of sins human beings commit all the time, and how they have become depraved sinners. Through this passage we should be able to once again realize our true selves, something we might have not known or had tried to forget. The Lord listed the twelve sins of mankind here. What did He say is the first sin that comes out of the human heart?
The Lord Says That We Are All Evil
My fellow believers, our existence as human beings is such that we all harbor evil thoughts throughout our entire lifetime, it’s unescapable. As human beings we all have many evil thoughts that go through our minds continually, and we harbor and practice them until the day we die. As such, we cannot be anything else but defiled sinners before the Lord. Yet despite this, some people may delude themselves into thinking, “I don’t really have that many evil thoughts. I don’t harbor wicked thoughts. It’s hard enough to keep up with all the good thoughts that I do have, and so how can I entertain such evil thoughts?” However, even such people should realize that of the many thoughts that they have in a 24 hour day, most of them are evil. Even if people are deluded enough not to admit their own sins, the fact of the matter is, everyone commits sin all the time continually.
This is the core issue Jesus Christ Himself is speaking about here - who always speaks the truth. This is exactly how God has defined mankind. My fellow believers, Jesus Christ is the God who created the heavens and the earth. Just as a toy maker knows everything that’s inside the toy he created, so what the Lord said about us He said it knowing all about us intimately. Like this, our Lord knows our condition better than ourselves. He knows all about how we fell into sin due to the temptation by Satan, and how we ended up leaving God as a result of that. Satan did in fact come to our ancestors and deceived them, confusing their thoughts. In the beginning, Adam and Eve committed sin by being tempted by Satan and this sin entered their hearts, and from this time came the twelve sins listed as in Mark chapter 7. And the Bible says that such sins still continue to exist in our hearts as we live out our lives in this present age.
How about you? Do you happen to think that you are a good person unable to see your true selves? It’s next to impossible for such misguided people to receive the remission of sins, the God-given gift of love. The Bible says that those who do not know their true selves before God, and who instead think on their own that they are virtuous, cannot receive the remission of sins offered by God but remain in the same sinful place. Therefore, if you really want to believe in the love of Jesus you must at first realize what kind of a sinner you really are, just how many evil thoughts you harbor before both God and man, and then be washed clean from all these sins by placing your faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
For those of you who still don’t realize yourselves are probably thinking, “I’ve come to church today to be a good person, but the pastor is preaching something that’s counter to my thoughts. His sermon is completely opposite to my thoughts. I expected him to preach about living virtuously today, but he is just accusing me of being a completely evil person!” Listen please, if you have even the slightest of these thoughts, then I ask you to think about yourself one more time. You need to change your thoughts completely. I therefore ask you to realize your true selves, and to comprehend fully that your mind and your hearts are always thinking of evil and practicing evil. God told such people to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, which is His love.
Who Were Born as Adam’s Descendants?
Every human being is born as a descendant of Adam, and while all people are capable of thinking about doing good, their fundamental nature is such that they do not do the good that they desire to do, but only the evil that they do not want to do. All of us are a brood of evildoers. We are the seeds of evil practicing nothing but wickedness; this is what every human being is like. A thornbush produces nothing but thorns no matter how well it’s trimmed and taken care of. So do human beings. Like this, since all of us humans were born evil from the very beginning, we cannot help but have selfish and evil thoughts no matter how hard we try to live virtuously on our own, and therefore we cannot help but practice wickedness continually.
From our very birth we were all fundamentally born as a brood of evildoers. All our thoughts are for our own self-interests, and we all follow such selfish thoughts. When we try to do good even slightly, we see ourselves moving under cold and selfish calculations. So at times we try to hide our evil deeds with the few good deeds, and with these good deeds we try to establish our own righteousness.
In Isaiah chapter 59, referring to the wickedness of mankind, the Lord said, “They hatch viper’s eggs and weave the spider’s web….. And, their feet run to evil.” Like the Lord said here, we are indeed always harboring evil thoughts and doing evil deeds. I, too, was just like you before I came to know and believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Before I knew the gospel of the water and the Spirit, I truly abhorred myself for having evil thoughts and practicing wickedness. I stood before others and preached to them the Word of God without even knowing my true self. When I think about it now, I become very ashamed. But now that I believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, this is no longer who I really am. Because I believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit as given by the Lord, the Holy Spirit has now come into my heart, and so now, my heart yearns to solve the problem of sin for others.
My fellow believers, if one looks at himself accurately and carefully, they will realize that they are truly evil people who commit sin all the time. The mind of man is fundamentally wicked, and everyone lives an egoistic self-centered life. All human beings are evil by nature, thinking of only their own comforts and their own interests. This is who we were before we met the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we have met Jesus who constitutes our righteousness, and as a result, we are now practicing the righteousness of God in our lives - at least to some degree. If we truly knew the evil sins we were born with, then we would have known that we ourselves were sinners before both God and man. And we would have been guilty. Such people spend their entire lifetime hiding and camouflaging their true selves under the shadow of sin. And like this, if everyone had always thought of evil and practiced wickedness true to the nature of mankind, this planet earth would probably have been destroyed long time ago.
That’s why people needed to be taught ethics. It was necessary to a world filled with evil people. It’s said that the uneducated are no better than beasts. However, even the educated commit more wicked deeds than the uneducated, because everyone is born fundamentally evil. It’s because everyone is wicked. Therefore, for all human beings to receive the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit they must of necessity believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit as given by God - enabling them to live a truly upright life. For this to come about, God’s Church becomes indispensable.
We sometimes come across people wishing for a nuclear war to break out. They seem to have this wish because nothing is going well for them. Since they are unhappy with their miserable lives, they feel it’s only fair if everyone else becomes miserable as well. So they wish a nuclear war would break out and destroy all the rich and the prosperous, and they think that this would somehow bring them satisfaction. But how would their minds change when they become more prosperous like the very people whom they despise? They would, no doubt, think that a nuclear war would be disastrous. My fellow believers, you need to grasp this, that such people are none other than you yourselves. Those who are harmed by others in this world shouldn’t blame God. It’s because we all have such selfish hearts as others have. All of us were born helplessly egoistic and evil-minded people.
I realize that some of you may be thinking that I am being blunt and frank. But I believe that it’s better for you that I should be transparent, upfront and frank. There are so many preachers today delivering pretentious sermons in this world that it’s hard to understand them. They say in their sermons, “Let us all live a holy life before God. Let us live virtuously.” However, my fellow believers, can any of us, who were all born with sins, really live a holy life before God? Can we really live virtuously? If our thoughts are virtuous, can we actually practice them in our lives? No, this is not the case. We are filled with sinful thoughts, and so, how can anyone order us to live virtuously? Such sermons do nothing than to bring more confusion and void to your soul.
Think about it one more time. The reason why your heart is even more troubled and dissatisfied is because you cannot practice virtue. Many religious leaders and preachers give false sermons only to comfort the hearts of the evildoers and to deceive them. That’s why they shout out to the congregation that can’t help but practice wickedness, “Let’s live virtuously!” Then some of the congregation, having heard this sermon and not knowing themselves start resolving in themselves to live virtuously from then on, thinking, “Ok, I’ve made up my mind to live virtuously. I haven’t been able to do so until now, but from now on, I will live virtuously for sure.” What would happen then? Both the preachers and congregation will be deceiving themselves because they have already deceived themselves.
My fellow believers, do not blame others for your evil deeds. However, some people blame others for their evil deeds without knowing their true selves. They tend to think, “I’m not cut out to believe in God. It’s in my fundamental nature to have only evil thoughts, and so why does God tell me to live virtuously. So, although I did believe in Jesus, it doesn’t really fit in with my nature, and so I can’t believe anymore.” Like this, they end up giving up on their lives of faith.
My fellow believers, for you to believe in Jesus as your Savior, you don’t need your own righteousness. All of you gathered here do good deeds, but you are not sitting here because you are somehow apt at practicing virtue. It’s for the sole purpose of being remitted from your sins that you’ve come to God’s Church and you are now sitting here and listening to the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit. That’s why God constantly speaks to us of the gospel of the water and the Spirit. He does this because He knows all about what kind of sinners we really are, and the kind of lives we are leading. As this holy God has compassion for us sinners and loves us, He has saved us from the sins of the world once and for all through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and He is telling us to receive this salvation.
In other words, since we are fundamentally incapable of living virtuously, God has made us come out to Him and be washed from all our sins once and for all through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. However, those who don’t know their true selves and try to hide their sins cannot receive the God-given grace of true salvation, but instead, they end up standing against God’s love. And they continue to commit arrogant sins before God. I am sure that none of us would want to be such a person. We should always remember that we practice evil like this because we ourselves are evil all the time.
God Said, Fornications Come Out Of Man’s Heart
What else did the Lord say that comes out of our hearts? He said, “Fornications” come out of the heart. Everyone’s heart is filled with so many lustful desires that it’s always ready to commit obscenities. If our obscene imaginations were reflected on a mirror we would be so ashamed that we couldn’t possibly put our heads up. Even though we may not commit sexually immoral acts physically, but since you and I fantasize about them in our minds, we are fundamentally debauched in God’s sight. When men come across beautiful women in the streets, they begin imagining lewd things. For men and women alike, when they see someone attractive, they can’t just pass them by but desire to confirm them with their own eyes. When they can’t actually put their obscene imaginations into practice, mindful of what other might think, they fantasize about all kinds of lewd things when they are alone in their rooms. Just by looking how the Internet is overflowing with so many sexually explicit pictures, we can realize immediately what a lewd race we humans really are.
My fellow believers, we are such that we spend our entire lifetime thinking of obscenities and doing lewd things. Should I be more specific? What happens when we watch movies or TV programs with sexual contents? Even as we cover our eyes with our hands in indignation, something drives us to continue to watch them through the fingers. Some women wear skimpy clothes and use their whole bodies as instruments of lewdness. Of course, a woman may want to show off her beautiful body to a reasonable degree, but when I see entertainers on TV exposing even their hips, it reminds me again that the end of the world is indeed near. But we can’t really blame them alone. That’s because it is we ourselves who enjoy watching the lewdness that the stars sell to us by using their bodies. Just as the Lord said, “Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications,” we are indeed filled with sexual immoralities. We can see why our Lord said such things in detail.
The New Testament frequently mentions the Pharisees, and these people were so legalistic that even when it came to eating, they believed that they had to wash their hands and arms clean before eating any food. One day, one of the Pharisees invited Jesus and His disciples to a dinner. The disciples happened to eat without washing their hands. The Pharisees upon noticing this became horrified and started looking down on Jesus’ disciples, thinking, “These people are so ignorant and filthy. We can’t have anything to do with them!” So Jesus said to the Pharisees who became scornful of His disciples, “Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these things come from within and defile a man. Everyone’s heart is filled with such things by nature, and, human beings commit them throughout their entire lifetime.”
While the Pharisees saw only the outside appearance of the disciples of Jesus and scorned them for being dirty, Jesus saw the real substance of sin inside everyone, and He said, this is what really is filthy. Whose words would then be true and correct? What Jesus said was true and correct. The Lord said, what proceeds from the heart of man is that which defiles him, and He also said that He came to save such defiled people from sin, to save us all. When we couldn’t help but be trapped in lewdness and evil thoughts throughout our entire lifetime, but the Lord came to this earth to save us from all these sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
As such, it is absolutely imperative that you place your faith in today’s Scripture passage: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” After all, when the Lord came to this earth, He blotted out all our sins once and for all with the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Whenever I think about this gospel, and whenever I think about the love of the Lord, I am so thankful for the grace of God that my heart bubbles over with indescribable blessings. I am sure that this is also true for all of you who have been born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
The Lord Says That We Are Thieves
My fellow believers, the third thing that the Lord said that comes out the human heart is the desire to steal. It’s not just violent robbers that mug and steal in this world. Normal people and the educated alike all steal from others and live on the proceeds from their theft. Robbing and stealing from someone is actually a terrible crime. However, what’s even more terrible is to steal from others quietly and legally, using one’s conniving mind and take advantage of legal loopholes. Don’t be too self-confident to say, “I have never stolen anything in my life.” Instead, look into your heart carefully. Have you not ever wanted to take someone else’s belongings? Have you not ever wanted to steal something, but gave up afraid of being discovered? I’m sure that all of us have had such thoughts at some point in our lives. If this is true, then who are we really before God? We are thieves! So just as the Lord said, all of us are fundamentally thieves.
The Lord Says That Everyone Is a Murderer
The Lord continued on to say that we humans are also murderers. Indeed, hardly a day goes by without hearing of some murder in the news, with children killing their own father and mother, and even parents killing their own children. A husband is capable of killing his own wife, his friends, and even himself at the end. When you get into a fight with someone and you get angry, I’m sure that you’ve all thought, “I wish I could kill this guy?” Actually killing someone is not the only form of murder. The desire to kill someone is the same as the act of murdering. For instance, if we are estranged from their parents, we may think, “I wish my parents would die soon. Why don’t they go somewhere and die quietly?” It’s terrible to say such things, but that is the reality. The same goes for any relationship. Whether it’s between spouses, parents and children, or friends, we all have murderous desires at some point or another, even though none of us may be capable of actually committing murder.
It’s just that we don’t express such thoughts outright; every human being harbors murderous thoughts at some point or another. If we were to confess what’s in our hearts and say, “A while I ago I wished that you were dead, but now I see that it was wrong for me to think like that, I’m truly sorry,” we wouldn’t be able to trust anyone in this world. Like this, we live hiding our sins from one another. That’s why only you alone can know your true self, and why it is you alone who must realize and acknowledge it.
My fellow believers, as the Lord said, in our hearts there are indeed fornications, thefts, adulteries, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, and pride. Such evil desires do not arise just once in a while in our lifetime. Far from it, because we were fundamentally born with these wicked things, they are constantly with us from our birth to our death, rising up periodically. This is true until the day our lives are over, until our bodies cease to breathe. It is also true even for those of us who have received the remission of sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. It’s been a month since the last time I saw you, and I can imagine just how hard you must have struggled with such evil desires all this time. Although I haven’t witnessed your struggle personally, I can still feel it. We are all murderers, adulterous and covetous people filled with greed, and practicing lewdness. Here adultery and lewdness sounds very similar, but you should realize that “lewdness” refers to everything that’s lewd in speech, thought, and act, whereas “adultery” refers to having lewd thoughts while pretending not to be lewd.
Now then, do you admit that you yourself are such evil beings, just as Jesus told you? I had all these evil things. When I look back at myself before I believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, I can see that I had all these evil desires in my heart. So I am profoundly thankful for and blessed by this passage here that says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” By nature, I was nothing more than a pile of wickedness, but by sending His only begotten Son to this earth, and with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, God the Father has blotted out all the sins that I’ve committed. So how fortunate am I? No matter how I look at it, I can only thank the Lord who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
What would have happened had the Lord not come to this earth incarnated in the flesh? How would this world be if He had not saved us, we who only think of evil things, from all our sins once and for all through the gospel of the water and the Spirit? We would have continued to remained lewd and blasphemous people. Far from believing in Jesus Christ, we would have done only sinful things until our death. We would have blindly objected to other people’s opinions, obstructed them, and become arrogant and foolish. My fellow believers, do you know what foolishness means here? It means being as foolish as to appear to have gone mad. Without the Lord’s salvation, we would have done such crazy things until our death and disappeared in vain. Not just once or twice, but until the day our lives are over, we would have continued to do foolish things, have arrogant thoughts, blaspheme God, stand against Him with an evil eye, commit lewd acts, be covetous, commit adultery, murder, and theft, and harbor obscene and evil thoughts. None other than you and I sitting here today, and every human being, were such beings by nature.
However, God Has Saved Us from All Sins, For He Loved Us
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world.” The word ‘world’ here means none other than you and me, and all mankind. In other words, God loved this brood of evildoers whose thoughts are fundamentally evil and who commit sin all the time, this seed of evildoers destined to hell, deserving to be thrown into a dump and burnt, that He sent His only begotten Son and saved us from sin through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Even though we were completely useless, God loved us so much that He made us perfectly righteous people through His only begotten Son.
Throughout the remainder of this week, you will continue to hear about the gospel of the water and the Spirit given by the Lord, and if you can latch on or fully grasp just how the Lord has saved such evil human beings, and how He has blotted out our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then you won’t be able to help yourself but praise God even at this very moment. Like this, once you receive the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, you will come to have a deeper understanding of God’s love and His grace, and to thank Him always with your heart. The more time goes by, the more you will thank Him. Of course, at first you may say, “I am not such an evil sinner. I don’t commit such sins,” but in time, you will eventually come to understand the Lord’s Word and realize exactly what the Lord said that your fundamental self is indeed evil, and, that God has saved you from such evil sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
My fellow believers, it’s not those who don’t commit sin that are saved by God, but it is those who commit sin until the day they die that are saved by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit before God. Some people may think of themselves as good people, but the reality is, there is no one virtuous in this world. We human beings are simply incapable of doing good. If anyone thinks they are practicing virtue, then they are indeed liars and hypocrites. Such people are only falsely pretending to be a virtuous person. It’s akin to smiling at someone but at the same time grinding a knife and cursing at him from the inside. Our Lord made it clear that man is absolutely incapable of doing any good. He said that human beings are murderers, adulterous, thieves, lewd, proud, have an evil eye, and foolish. He said that it is none other than human beings who produce sins—that is, everyone commits twelve sins constantly and throughout their entire lifetime only to end up in hell.
As the Lord so rightly said, it is fundamentally impossible for human beings to live virtuously, and therefore, they cannot help but continue to do evil things and commit sin from the day they were born to the day they die, from the day of birth to an old age. As such, it is not by trying to live virtuously that you obtain salvation from God. You must instead realize your true self, admit that you cannot help but commit sin by your fundamental nature, and ask the Lord to save you. This is the only thing that you can do to reach your true salvation and obtain the remission of your sins.
Here next to the pulpit are some beautiful chrysanthemums. I think I got the name of the flower right this time. Anyways, why do you suppose these chrysanthemums are blossoming here? The answer is so easy. It’s because the plant is a chrysanthemum. Then what kind of flower would human beings produce, given the fact they were all born with sin? They produce the flower of sin. Even worse, the flower they bear is not just of one type of sin, but all twelve of these sins. When a lewd sin arises today, obscene flowers blossom to taint their hands and eyes with sexual immorality, and when a murderous desire arises tomorrow, murderous flowers blossom to make them commit murder indirectly, even if they don’t actually kill someone physically.
My fellow believers, flowers and all natural things reveal their true selves exactly as they were made, but human beings alone are exceptions to this rule. They by their nature disguise themselves with lies and then reveal themselves. While hiding their ugly selves and their evil hearts, they take turns to commit one sin after another, harboring a murderous desire today, an adulterous desire tomorrow, and a stealing desire the day after. Once they return to the starting point after thus committing all the twelve sins, they resume committing them once again. These sins are committed repeatedly and often times that while they are coming new sins, they tend to forget about the sins they’ve committed already. After sinning for a while, they may think, “Wait, I shouldn’t commit sin like this,” but at this very moment they end up committing another sin, and so they forget about the sins they committed before. It’s said that a fish has a memory span that lasts about three seconds. When you catch a fish, even if you make a mistake and lose it, but if you throw the lure back to the water right away, then that fish you had just caught before will likely be caught again. That’s because fish have such short memories that it can’t remember the very lure or bait that it had just eaten.
What about our human memory then? While it’s a lot longer than three seconds, it really doesn’t last more than 30 hours. With just half a day passing, some people can’t even remember what sins they committed yesterday. Of course, not everyone is like this. We regret about the sins we committed today, saying to ourselves, “I shouldn’t have done this. Why did I do it?" However, when tomorrow arrives and we begin to commit new sins, yesterday’s sins simply disappear like a mist from our memory. Because we commit the same twelve sins repeatedly throughout the twelve months of the year, we easily forget about when and what kinds of sins we have committed. So even as human beings continue to commit sin until they die of old age, they still say, “I haven’t committed that many sins in my lifetime.” In other words, it is precisely because human beings commit so many sins, because they are nothing more than a pile of sins that they spend their entire lifetime committing sin without even realizing they have sinned.
My fellow believers, I am convinced that if you fully understand and accept what the Lord is saying today it will become very beneficial to you other than spending loads of money and your entire lifetime to learn about philosophy in college. That’s because through the Word of the Lord you can realize your true sinful selves that you hadn’t known up until now. You can grasp that although man’s heart desires to do good, he is incapable of actually practicing it. If anyone says that he can do good things, then this person is nothing more than a hypocrite.
My fellow believers, we must realize just how filthy and evil we ourselves are in God’s sight. Only then can we accept God’s great love of salvation, and by believing in this love, we can receive the remission of sins through Jesus Christ. This means that you can be saved through the gospel of the water and the Spirit and enjoy the glory of the Kingdom of Heaven - only if you properly admit who you really are. Then what about those who don’t realize they are indeed a brood of evildoers? Far from coming to understand the love of God, they actually start rejecting it. Who then is able to comprehend God’s love? It is none other than those who know their true selves. Only someone who knows his true self and realizes his fundamental depravity as a human being is able to understand how much God loves him, accept this love, and to thank Him for it.
My fellow believers, today there are many Christians professing to believe in Jesus Christ. But very few of them actually have the full knowledge of their true selves. When they think about themselves, many of them will have deluded thoughts, thinking, “I am basically a good person, but sometimes I make small mistakes.” This is clearly nothing more than an illusion. So, even though these people profess they love Jesus Christ and believe in Him, both their love and faith are exceedingly small. This kind of faith is really a false faith. Only someone who knows himself accurately and truly admits himself as a sinner can be remitted from all sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. I therefore admonish you all to realize and believe that only those who know themselves accurately can be saved.
What Did Our Lord Say about Us Human Beings?
The Lord said that it is in our fundamental nature to commit twelve sins repeatedly throughout our entire lifetime because we were born with these sins. When we really think about this carefully, we see that this is indeed true. As flowers blossom, so we commit sin with a lustful heart today, and tomorrow we commit theft with a greedy heart. We commit all the twelve sins in this way. My fellow believers, we must have the right understanding of our true selves like this. Only when we know our true self-portrait can we thank God for His great love. Only when we know ourselves does it become possible for us to truly believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and praise our God despite our many insufficiencies.
Unless you know yourself, you cannot grow your faith. Even if you have some faith, but if your wickedness is stirred up, you will become discouraged and disappointed about yourself, saying, “Why am I so lousy?” and end up drifting away from the Lord. However, those who know themselves do not get discouraged like this. They are always thankful for the love of the Lord who has saved them, and they are compelled to shout out, “Lord, You are right! I praise You Lord forever!” “The Lord loved me so much that He gave His only begotten Son and saved me completely. He has saved such a worthless person like me. He has delivered me from all these terrible iniquities. Even though I am so insufficient, even though I was destined to hell, and even though I was doomed to be cursed, the Lord has saved me.” Taking this into their hearts, they begin thanking God with their faith in return for His manifold grace.
My fellow believers, sometimes we deceive ourselves so much that we think we are good. Both before and after receiving the remission of sins, we still continue to regard ourselves mistakenly as virtuous people. Take a look at the many people around you. Are there anyone who says, “I am evil? I’m a filthy being. I am a wicked person”? Most people just think, “Well, I’m pretty decent; I am not too bad of a person.” But how is the reality? No one is really decent. As we carry on with our lives, indecent thoughts keep arising, we keep doing one bad thing after another, and every time, we get discouraged as we look at ourselves. That is the fundamental truth. By nature, we were never upright from the moment we were born. Do you also agree with my assessment?
It’s true that I do desire to do only virtuous and righteous things all the time throughout my life while abiding in the Lord. But despite this virtuous desire, I still have evil thoughts from time to time, and I hate myself for having them. That’s because I know very well that all the twelve sins listed in the Bible are actually present in my heart, even though I may not have put them in action. So I cannot help but admit myself and agree with what the Lord said. I can’t help but thank the Lord for saving such an indescribably despicable sinner like me.
My fellow believers, we must grasp our true selves fully. Where it’s says here in today’s Scripture passage, “God so loved the world,” the word ‘world’ here refers to none other than you and me, and you and are the sinners that commit all the twelve sins. This is the absolute undeniable truth. It’s only ignorant religious leaders who say, “We human beings were born like a piece of white paper. Depending on what’s drawn on this paper, some of us become wonderful people, while others become evil people. So we must strive to live virtuously. We must lead an upright life.” Man is incapable of doing good on his own.
Only when you believe with your heart that Jesus Christ has indeed blotted out all your sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and only when you thus receive the remission of sins, can you start practicing the righteousness of God despite your insufficiencies because your heart is now cleansed and purified.
What Will Happen to Those Who Don’t Know Their True Selves?
It’s written in Matthew chapter 7, “Have we not prophesied in your Name, cast out demons in your Name, and done many wonders in your Name?” This passage means that even if you really think of yourself as a virtuous person and have done many good deeds, but if you don’t know the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and therefore, have not received the remission of sins, then you will inevitably be cast into hell in the end. Today, we know that there are many people who just believe that they must live virtuously and righteously, and who continue to be deceived by the false prophets throughout their entire lifetime, will head straight to hell on the last day rather than Heaven. My fellow believers, our salvation from sin was not obtained by adding even the slightest bit of our own virtuous deeds, not even 0.001 percent. It is purely by the work of Jesus Christ alone that all the twelve sins in our hearts and all the sins we’ve committed with our acts have been remitted away. It is, in other words, because the Lord who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit accepted all our sins and was punished for them all that we the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit have received our perfect salvation.
As such, although human beings may proclaim to practice virtue in relative terms, they cannot practice absolute virtue. Socrates was not a Christian, but he did leave one of the most famous dictums: “Know yourself.” Like this dictum, we must be able to see our true selves first. If we know ourselves, we will realize it much more that we are indeed sinners, and we will also come to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit the Lord has given us. We will then receive the blessed grace of the Lord and His love even more in abundance, and reach Heaven. God’s love and His blessings are not received by attending a church service, kneeling down or praying, while having no interest at all in finding out about our true selves, and are instead still deluded into believing that we are good people. Do you grasp this? If there is anyone like this, God will just say to them, “You are a hypocrite, a servant of the Devil!”
My fellow believers, receiving the blessings of salvation is easier for those who come to the Lord admitting their true selves than those who kneel before God and pray to Him until their knees hurt and start bleeding. The former will enter Heaven, for they will receive the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit which has come by the love of God. Such people readily admit that they indeed have evil thoughts, adulteries, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, an evil eye, pride, and foolishness in their hearts, and they confess to God, “Yes, Lord, You are right. I am nothing more than a pile of sin. But I believe that the gospel of the water and the Spirit, you Lord have given me, is my salvation.” Those who make this kind of confession of faith will be truly saved from all their sins. However, what would our Lord say if you were to practice hypocrisy before His presence and say to Him, “Lord, I love You. I will lay down my life for You. I will go to some foreign country as a missionary for the sake of the poor. I will sell my house for You, and I will offer it all to building Your church”? God will respond to that outpouring, “Should I be impressed that you are offering to sell your house to build a church, when this whole universe is already Mine? This is not what I need. All that I ask of you is to come to know and to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the Truth of the remission of sins that I’ve given you. If you do this then you can be saved from sin.”
As you all no doubt know very well, it’s not material possessions that our God wants from us. Yet despite this, many people try to “help” God along, as though the Almighty God is somehow poor. In other words, even though human beings are nothing more than mere creatures, they ponder about what to offer to God, the Creator of all things. To think like this is to be arrogant and deluded before Him. You should entertain such thoughts only if you wish to completely ruin your life of faith. Even church leaders lie through their teeth to rob their congregations, claiming, “If you offer a lot of material possessions to God, you will surely be blessed.” This is nothing more than defrauding people in the name of the Lord. It’s peddling the Lord for profit to satisfy their own greed, not what any upright servant of the Lord should be doing. These people cannot really be seen as the Lord’s servants. God does not want you to build Him a church, as though He is coveting your possessions. In other words, God is not so petty that He would bless you only if you make a lot of donations to your church, and not bless you if you don’t offer any material possessions. I admonish you all to realize clearly that this is absolutely not the will of God, but it is something that only false prophets would teach.
Today, many pastors on the face of this earth are advocating their own righteousness rather than acknowledging God and believing in His righteousness. Through their earthly churches, they show off their own virtues and continue to flaunt them, and in so doing they seek their own exaltation. For instance, they want to be respected by their congregation with 40 day Morning Prayer meetings or 100 days of prayers. And when someone does some good deeds, he is considered a man of good standing and faith, but when someone doesn’t do good deeds, then such a person is considered a man of little faith. How would those considered in lacking faith respond to this accusation? They would try to be even more diligent, thinking, “Since I can’t do what others are doing so well, I must really be lacking faith. I don’t attend Morning Prayer services, and so my faith must be small.”
In this city alone, how many pastors and Christians are beholden to such mistaken thoughts? Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong about attending Morning Prayer services and doing good deeds, but because this whole endeavor is based on mistaken knowledge from the beginning, the consequences are also wrong. That’s because it’s impossible for anyone to believe in Jesus Christ without first realizing their true sinful selves.
It’s been more than 30 years since I believed in Jesus Christ, and for the first ten years I didn’t even know who I really was. So I just tried to do good deeds and live virtually always. I thought I should not only volunteer my services whenever my church needed repairing or painting, but I should also make financial donations, however small, if the church ever faced any financial difficulties. So I tried to grow my faith in God on my own, thinking to myself, “I only lack a few things. But since Jesus has blotted out all my sins, all that I need to do now is to just live virtuously in God’s sight.” However, even until then, I didn’t really know myself that well. I was not fully aware of how completely I was a sinner, how I was living with so many depraved sins. Only after these ten years had gone by did I come to finally realize that I was truly a sinner. Before then, whenever I saw an attractive woman, and even when lustful desires crept up in my heart, I didn’t think that I was being obscene. I just thought that it was the woman’s fault for tempting me, not my heart that was lustful. However, I eventually realized that obscenities and iniquities were always in my heart. All that I was doing was trying to suppress my sins, while my heart was littered with all kinds of iniquities forbidden by God.
What do you think happened to me once I realize that I was an indescribably depraved sinner? Seeing my sinful nature, I began to hate myself. At the same time, however, I also wondered how it was possible for any young man to be indifferent to attractive young women. The Bible was saying that even if I didn’t actually commit fornication with my acts, but if I had any lustful thoughts, then it was as good as to already commit adultery. It says that if anyone has lustful thoughts about a man or a woman, then this person has already committed adultery. Through this Word of God, I realized that I was a sinner. I discovered that the more I tried not to have these lustful thoughts, the more I thought of lewd things. Eventually, it became so hard for me to continue to believe in Jesus that at one point I even thought, “I am completely hopeless! Others may be able to lead an upright life of faith, but I just can’t. I should give up on my life of faith. I must have believed in Jesus too early. It would have been better for me to believe in Jesus just before dying. That way, I could have died while thanking the Lord and shouting out Hallelujahs. But I started to believe in Jesus to early, and now I feel so miserable that I can’t even be attracted to women. It would’ve been better if I hadn’t known Jesus as my Savior.”
However, by then I had already known the Word of God and His Law, and so I couldn’t stop believing in Jesus as my Savior. Yet regardless of whether I believed in Jesus or not, I was still a sinner, and every sinner was destined to hell. One day, while being tormented like this, all of a sudden I came across the following thought: “Since God’s love is abundant, He must have saved me from all my countless sins. Surely, He must have blotted out all my sins already. How has He done this then?”
At that time, there was no one who was able to answer this question for me. So from that day on and I read and studied the Bible diligently. Only after this extensive search did I finally come to realize the gospel Truth of the water and the Spirit that constitutes the righteousness of the Lord. “So this is how evil a man I really am. I can’t help but commit sin like this throughout my entire life! I was destined to hell from the very beginning, and I have no righteousness at all. Yet the Lord still loved me out of His own volition despite my sinfulness, and so He shouldered my sins on His body by being baptized, and He bore the punishment of my sins on the Cross on my behalf. So by dying in my place, He paid off the wages of my sins. And rising from the dead again in three days and ascending to Heaven, He has now become my perfect Savior.” I came to realize and understand the gospel of the water and the Spirit by the grace of God.
My fellow believers, as I have shared my life with you so far, my heart was tormented even after I believed in Jesus Christ. However, once I knew myself and understood the gospel of the water and the Spirit more, true faith came flooding into my heart. I couldn’t help but thank God with all my heart. The Apostle Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks.” As this passage says, we the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit are indeed able to rejoice always by faith. I could rejoice because the Lord had taken away all my insufficiencies through the baptism He received from John the Baptist. In other words, because I believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, I was able to thank God. If I were saved from sin on my own merits or my own virtue, then I wouldn’t need to be thanking God. Why would I be grateful to God if it were through my own goodness and virtue that I am saved from sin? It is the Lord Himself who has saved me through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
This is the truth. There is nothing that we’ve done on our own to reach our salvation from sin. As sinners, the only thing that we’ve done is committing one sin after another, yet despite this, the Lord took them all upon Himself to blot out all our sins with the gospel of the water and the Spirit and He has saved us from all our sins. So now that we have received the remission of sins by believing in this love of the Lord we are able to enter Heaven, and we can’t help but be joyous always. Despite the fact that we couldn’t help but commit sin, we have been saved from sin by believing in the Lord’s love and His righteousness, and so how can we not be happy and grateful?
We commit sin because we are insufficient beings. And though it is in our fundamental nature to commit sin throughout our entire lifetime, we can still be joyful continuously by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Whenever the shortcomings of our acts are exposed, we can say to the Lord, “Lord, thank You so much for saving such an insufficient man like me. I am so happy.” By the same token, whenever we do something right, we can also say to the Lord, “Lord, thank You for saving me, for living inside me, and for allowing me to do such righteous works. Through me, you Lord are spreading the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the gospel of the remission of sins to the souls of man, and so I thank You God for this. You are using me as an instrument of Your righteous work. I thank You, Lord, and I am overjoyed.” In both our successes and our failures, we can always thank Him by faith, and we can always have a joyful heart.
If we were skilled swimmers, no one would help us should we mistakenly fall into the water. However, if someone who can’t swim falls into the water, then someone will throw such a person a lifeline, and so, save him. In likeness, because we can’t swim in this world, that is, because we are always insufficient and always practicing evil, the Lord has saved us once and for all through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. I admonish you to believe in this truth with all your heart and remember it always.
My fellow believers, we are complete sinners in God’s sight, and Jesus Christ is our perfect Savior. He is the Savior who has delivered us from all our sins of both our hearts and acts. If there is one thing you and I have, it’s evil thoughts and sinful acts. Yet the Lord has saved such people like us once and for all through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. This is why we are always giving Him thanks with our faith. My dear saints, as those who have faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we must realize and believe just how great God’s love of salvation is. Put differently, we must examine exactly how we have been saved from all the sins that we commit throughout our entire life time, and how we have come to have this true faith. And we must be thankful to God for this. Some of you may still be thinking, “I realize that I commit sin all the time, but I am not sure how God has really blotted out my sins. I can’t quite believe that the Lord has completely blotted out all my sins. I wonder if I’ve really received everlasting life or not.” If this is how you are thinking, then I ask you to once again ruminate on the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit the Lord spoke - “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
My fellow believers, as the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit proclaims, God sent His only begotten Son to us to be our Savior. And this Son of God bore our sins by being baptized by John and by shedding His life blood on the Cross, has saved us from the sins of the world once and for all. That is how God has saved us all. Have you received this God-given salvation by faith yet? Many of you are nodding saying yes now, but I am sure that some of you still haven’t accepted the gospel of the water and the Spirit fully in your hearts. But there is no need to worry.
In the following week, you will be able to learn more about this God-given salvation from the Word of God and through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. If you just keep your mind open for the duration of this week, listen intently to the Word of God, and accept the righteousness of the Lord into your heart, then you will be able receive the true remission of sins. You will be saved from all the sins you commit, become a righteous person, and enter the Kingdom of Heaven. God loved this world, and each and every one of us, so much that He sent His Son to such depraved sinners like us, and He passed all our sins to this Son through His water baptism. By sacrificing His precious Son after taking up all our sin, God has saved us from all sins despite our insufficiencies.
Do you believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit? You and I alike, and everyone else as well, are all inadequate before God. It’s not the wise and the virtuous capable of practicing righteousness whom God has saved, but it is the insufficient sinners whom God has delivered from sin. As the Lord had a method of salvation, we were able to be made righteous and become God’s children by faith. In God’s sight, we have become righteous people who have received the perfect remission of sins. Although we believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, those who believe they still have sin in their hearts will remain sinners. They are sinners because they neither really know the love of God nor the gospel of the water and the Spirit. I hope and pray that you would all realize just how much God loves us, and how He has saved us from the sins of the world through His amazing Truth of salvation, so that you would all receive the precious blessing of becoming God’s perfectly righteous people and enter the kingdom of Heaven.