“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.’”
There were many difficulties for me in the year 2000. You probably went through some hardship as well, right? Had Jesus not protected us, we would have passed away already, but we know that our Lord has kept us alive, for He is truly powerful. Even when all our ministers and saints at our Mission are added up, our number is only a few hundred, and so in some ways, it does seem to make little sense for such a small gathering to try to work with the whole world. However, even through this, we once again realize just how great God’s power is. Even though we are insufficient, the Lord is never insufficient. That’s why I believe that if it’s the Lord’s will, then it will be fulfilled for sure. Even though we are small in number and preach the gospel to the whole world, it is very hard for us to work so incessantly. When I really think about it, we are indeed doing something truly amazing.
Exhausted from backbreaking labor, we really came close to death. When we think about it in carnal terms, our labor is so hard on us that we cringe at the mere prospect of the work that needs to be carried out in the days to come, but when we think with a spiritual mind, we are very grateful even for this. While I myself am struggling, I know that our ministry workers and all of you supporting the preaching of the gospel are also struggling. Yet despite this hardship, you did not perish away, but kept yourself alive to follow the Lord all the way to this point. I am very thankful for this.
Today, we read a passage from Matthew chapter 16. In today’s Scripture passage, Jesus told the disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem, suffer many things from the elders, priests, and scribes, be killed, and rise from the dead again in three days. Then Peter, to show his loyalty to Jesus, said to Him, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” Peter had said this for the sake of the Lord, not realizing that it was actually his own carnal thought. So instead of being commended for his loyalty, Peter’s words only brought Jesus to anger, and he was harshly rebuked as a result.
The Lord then said to Peter and to us as well, we could truly live spiritually: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
The Lord says here that whoever wants to follow Jesus must first deny himself, pick up his cross, and then follow Him. Now, some of you may think, “There he goes again; we already know all about this passage!” We may know all about the Word, but far too often, we are unable to actually put our knowledge into practice. As well, there are certain passages that our minds can only fully grasp and understand after a few years, even after hearing several sermons on them. So even if we were to speak of all the passages in the 66 Books of the Bible hundreds of times, it cannot be too excessive to us. That’s why we must listen to the Word of God time and again.
What Jesus said to Peter in today’s Scripture passage is very beneficial for us. “You are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” The Lord rebuked Peter because of this. What, then, is the difference between the things of men and the things of God? How are they different? We must be mindful of the things of God. Whenever we want to do anything somehow, we must first think of the work of God. We must also be more mindful of greater things than smaller things, and the whole picture than the partial picture. Above all, we must set our minds on the greater cause. If we are not careful, we are prone to be obsessed with petty things and then it’s quite possible for us to think that our judgment is right in our own way. However, if we stay focused on the will of God, then we can realize that it’s wrong for us to think based on petty things.
We Must Follow the Thoughts of the Spirit, Not the Thoughts of the Flesh
Just as Peter was rebuked by Jesus in today’s Scripture for this reason, it is also what we must all infallibly remember in our lives of faith. In other words, it’s imperative for us to first think of greater things than smaller things, and the greater cause than the will of the flesh. If this principle is not clearly settled in our hearts, Jesus will also rebuke you and me just as He rebuked Peter. He will say the same things that He had said to Peter. Our thoughts must be upright. This means that we must first think of God’s work. Of course, I’m sure that you are all mindful of God’s work, but it cannot be emphasized enough just how imperative it is for us to think about how the work of God is different from the work of mankind and to know this difference clearly.
As we go through many different affairs in this world, we are all prone to think of the things of men first, just like Peter. “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” This is what Peter said when the Lord told the disciples, “I will go to Jerusalem, be persecuted by the elders and scribes, and be crucified to death. I must die and be resurrected.” Peter then tried hard to dissuade Him, saying, “This shall not happen to You!” Many Christians in this world, and sometimes even you and me, who profess to be serving the Lord, think and say like Peter all too often. But you and I must never do so. It’s not just Peter who expressed concern over his own prosperity, but this is something that everyone else, including you and me, should also be concerned about.
While serving the Lord, sometimes we compare one another based on our own human standards and argue over who is better than whom; in reality, however, we know that there is hardly any difference among us. We know that when looking from a spiritual viewpoint, the difference between any two human beings is only paper-thin. How much taller could one be even if he were tall, and even if one is learnt, how great is secular knowledge? The difference is insignificant. Those who are carnally minded, those who think from the perspective of mankind—that is, those who are concerned about only their own welfare and honor, and think everything only for the prosperity of their flesh—think like Peter.
Recently, I’ve been watching a historical drama on TV, and I often see people conspiring against their political enemies and murdering them to grab power, and how such conniving and unrighteous people prevailed. It’s no exaggeration to say that the history of mankind is one that is marked with endless bloodshed, instigated by those thirsting after power seeking to fulfill their lusts. In other words, mankind’s history is the outcome of the activities of those seeking after power. In many aspects, it’s by a few individuals that the history of the human race has unfolded as a field of contest to determine who would succeed, who would be higher, who would be greater, and who would be preeminent, rather than for any great cause.
Peter loved Jesus so much that when Jesus said, “I must die,” he tried to dissuade Him, saying, “This shall never happen to You!” Peter said this because he loved Jesus too much. It’s not because Peter hated Jesus that he said this. While we serve the Lord, however, our focus must be on whether or not the will of the Lord would be fulfilled. We have to be mindful of greater things. In other words, rather than arguing over individual merits, you and I must set our minds on the greater cause. “This is what the Lord is saying and this is what He wants. How should we then serve Him with the same heart and same purpose with the Lord on this issue?” It’s with such thoughts that we must lead our life of faith.
However, even among our ministers serving the Lord and our brothers and sisters alike, far too many of them are delighted if they are good at something and their work is going well, but at the very moment they get slightly disappointed at themselves, they fall deep into spiritual despair all of a sudden and end up spiritually dead. Of course, many of our ministry workers are not like this. There also are believers who are rejoiced together when the will of God is fulfilled and who are saddened together when the will of God is not fulfilled. In other words, there are those who set their minds on the Lord’s work and unite their hearts to this endeavor regardless of themselves and whether what they are doing is going well or not. Their hearts are conditioned by the work of the Lord, rejoiced and saddened together with Him depending on how His work is unfolding.
There are two types of people among those leading a life of faith, those who seek the greater cause and those who seek only their own interests. In the Corinthian churches, there were some saints who had formed different factions, saying, “I am of Apollo; I am of Peter; I am of Paul.” Likewise, there are many Christians today who are mindful of only the things of men, not caring about the will of the Lord. These people all think like Peter. Yet God cannot work through such Christians. That’s why the saints of such churches were the first to be corrupted once Rome allowed religious freedom to Christians. Intoxicated by the world, they all ended up abandoning the truth of salvation and renouncing the righteous work of God. As a result, these regions became the first places from where the work of the gospel disappeared.
During the 2001 Winter Jesus’ New Life Discipleship Training Camp, I would like to ask the following question to everyone, including myself, all our coworkers, our saints, and even the unsaved who still do not believe in this gospel: “Are you mindful of the things of God or the things of men?” I would like to share the Word to address this issue. If we are mindful of the things of men, everything must satisfy our wish in the end. Whatever we do with such a mindset, we are only happy if our wish is satisfied and unhappy if not.
But how is it when we are mindful of the things of God? If God says, “I have saved you like this,” then regardless of whether this Word suits us or not, the proper thing for us to do is to say, “Amen! If You have done this, then You have done so.” Depending on whether we are spiritually minded according to the greater cause or succumb to self-centered humanistic thoughts, the success and failure of our lives of faith are determined. When Jesus said that He had to die, Peter tried to dissuade Him, saying, “No, that must never happen!” Yet he was only rebuked by Jesus, who said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan!” This means that those who are mindful of only the things of men are a brood of the Devil.
Because you and I both have flesh, it is extremely hard to deny this flesh. To lead a life of faith, however, it is still absolutely imperative for us to deny ourselves. Just as Jesus said in today’s Scripture passage, whoever desires to come after the Lord must deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow Him. That’s why it’s such a struggle for all of us the born-again to lead a life of faith. Yet even though it’s hard, we must still examine ourselves to see what it is that we are actually mindful of in our lives of faith. We have to ask ourselves whether we are mindful of fleshly things or the will of the Lord, whether our thoughts are of mankind or the Spirit, and whether we are serving the Lord according to His desire or with the mindset of man. Those who desire God’s work to succeed and whose hearts are devoted to the fulfillment of the will of God are clearly God’s workers and His servants.
Even if the will of God is not fulfilled right away, such people set their goal on this will, they labor and sacrifice themselves for it, and they run toward this goal. If it’s the will of God, then these people run toward it regardless of whether it succeeds or not and they are rejoiced when this work is achieved; in fact, they have few things that bring any joy to them except for the work of God. Clearly, such people must be God’s workers and His servants. In contrast, if someone does not care about what happens to the will of God and His work, but is only interested in his own contentment and welfare—rejoiced when his own work goes well and saddened when it does not—then strictly speaking, he is not a true laborer of God. All those who are serving the Lord must examine themselves carefully to see whether they are indeed serving God or themselves and they must completely dedicate all their hearts to living for the Lord.
We are now preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit all over the world. In some ways, proclaiming the gospel throughout the whole world may seem like a tremendous challenge, but when looked at with faith, it’s a challenge that we can rise up to meet. Because the Lord has told us to spread the gospel to every tribe all over the world, because this is the will of the Lord, His pleasure, and His commandment, because the Lord’s commandment is infallibly fulfilled, and because we are instruments used for this work, all that we are doing is just obeying this commandment. There is no other reason.
Quite frankly, I think that throughout the entire history of Christianity, there has been no mission organization or denomination anywhere in the world that has labored so hard like us. Is there any mission group that is preaching the gospel to over 200 nations all over the world? There is no denomination in this world, no matter how large, that is working with the whole world in mind like us. This is a remarkable achievement if we were to boast about it. But how is it when God sees us from His point of view? How is it if we look at ourselves from God’s perspective or through the eyes of faith? We are just doing what God has told us to do as His servants—no more, no less.
When we, the born-again, carry out God’s work, how will our hearts and faith be disposed? We must be mindful of God’s work in everything we do. If we find ourselves saddened and struggling in our lives of faith, it’s all because our hearts are set on our own flesh. God’s work itself is not the cause of our sadness or hardship. Of course, in some cases, we feel as if our sadness and trials stem from serving the Lord. However, if we reconsider this, we can see that it’s because we are mindful of the things of men that our hearts go astray and suffer. It’s when we think based on human standards and the things of men, that we are saddened and feel so overworked. If we think from God’s perspective—that is, based on the will of God—then it is only a matter of fact for us to pay any price of sacrifice. And if we think about how much of God’s work is achieved through our sacrifice, our hearts become rejoiced and happy.
I am not saying these things to rebuke you, as if some of you have done or said something wrong. Rather, I am only saying these things so that in this day and age when the day of the Lord’s return is not that far away, we would all refine our faith properly and lead a life of faith that’s truly free from any regret or failure.
You and I are God’s people following the Lord. I know that you have labored hard and sacrificed much while following the Lord and that you have lost much and gained much as well. This is how we the righteous have led our lives. At this present time, when there aren’t that many days left for our lives of faith, I contemplate on what it is that we should do. Ultimately, we must become the kind of people who are always rejoiced when the work of God goes well and saddened when God’s work progresses slowly. You are I must indeed be mindful of God’s work always. We should never become such people who are mindful of only the things of men, saddened and rejoiced by them. Our beliefs, our thoughts, and our faith must be freed from the bondage of human desires and turned toward the things of God to be mindful of them.
We must have such faith and thoughts. Only then can we follow the Lord unwaveringly in this age, when the end is not far away. Regardless of our merits and demerits, we must become the kind of people who follow the Lord unchangingly, who are grateful for Him, and who can stand up without any shame on the last day, at anytime the Lord returns. This is possible only if our faith is such that we are always mindful of God’s work first. Without this kind of faith, nothing can ever be achieved.
You and I should never allow ourselves to succumb to the thoughts of the flesh like Peter, who had spoken from the Devil’s side in today’s Scripture passage. Even though it may have seemed right in Peter’s eyes to obstruct the way of Jesus to fulfill the will of God, in God’s eyes, he was clearly speaking words uttered only by Satan’s servants. As such, setting aside our merits and demerits for now, we must learn and realize from today’s Scripture passage what kind of faith we should all have. You and I must be mindful of God’s work.
Deny Your Carnal Thoughts
The Lord said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” It would be a struggle for you to obey this Word. Nevertheless, I know very well that you have followed the Lord to this day precisely because you have denied yourself all this time. Isn’t that the case? I am sure it is. However, the Lord commands us again, demanding the same requirement from us time after time, today and tomorrow: “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” This Word is not something that was spoken just once, but it was spoken continuously. Today and tomorrow alike, and until the day the Lord returns, this Word is God’s commandment for all of us.
For us to follow the Lord, denying ourselves is not enough. The Lord said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” The cross here denotes hardship. There is no one among you who has no cross. That’s why everyone struggles. There is an excellent gospel song in our hymnbook that goes, “♪Though I am weary and lonely, I believe that God is giving me new strength♪.” What is important, however, is that we shouldn’t fall into self-pity even while singing the words of such a praise song, saying to ourselves, “Oh, it’s so hard! I’m so miserable!”
When it comes to serving the Lord, everyone has his own cross. People realize this right away when they meet the Lord, as soon as they are saved. In some light, perhaps even before being saved, for anyone to meet the Lord and receive his salvation and eternal life from Him, there probably was a cross that he had to shoulder for this as well. Everyone who wants to be blessed by the Lord inevitably comes across this Word first.
This is the Lord’s commandment to us. “If you want to follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross, and then follow Me.” Sometimes, it’s harder to deny yourself and pick up your cross than to die. If the cross were far away, then you could go around and avoid it, but is your cross really that far away? No, your cross is so close to you that there is no way for you to avoid it. Everything and anything can constitute your cross—you could be your cross, your stubbornness and your thoughts could be your cross, or your family, relatives, your closest friends, and even your most beloved parents could be your cross. All these things can be what make it hard for us to follow the Lord.
Is it then a curse for us to struggle so much to follow the Lord after being born again? No, that is not the case. Everyone has his own cross though many people don’t show it outwardly. What about you? Don’t you have a cross to pick up? Of course you do. I am sure that you all agree. Because everyone has his own cross to bear, there is no one who does not struggle while serving the Lord. We have to recognize that each of us has his own cross to carry—if not mine, then you still have a different type of cross to carry; and if not seen by the eye, then you have an even larger spiritual cross to take up. Serving the gospel is inevitably accompanied to hardship. Since that is what the Lord Himself said, it’s actually strange to come across anyone who doesn’t struggle.
Yet even among such trials, the Lord still commands us to follow Him. We should therefore accept our cross and be all the more grateful for it. If we had no cross to bear, just how prideful would we be? There are many of us who, without a cross to carry, would turn so conceited that it would be a completely unbearable sight. Such a person, convinced that he alone is worthy, would despise his own brothers and sisters of faith and turn himself into a stumbling block that leads them to spiritual death, saying to them, “Is that all you can do? That’s not the right life of faith; this is that proper life of faith!” There would then be no one left here. He would then end up all alone in the Church and lead his life of faith as if he were greater than Jesus Himself. Such people would not be able to tolerate anyone who is even slightly weak.
This, however, can never happen to us, for you and I alike each have a cross to carry. If our cross were a wooden cross, we could just take it off, but we can’t do this because this cross is always accompanying us. It’s inevitable for those who have struggled a lot to have compassion on other struggling souls and endure their weaknesses precisely because they themselves have gone through such trials. It’s because both you and I are like this, because we have tolerance for each other, that we are now gathered here to worship and serve the gospel together.
Everyone who serves the Lord has a cross to carry. That’s why the Lord commanded us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Faith is about following the Lord no matter what happens to us. In other words, it is all about denying ourselves and following the Lord. This Word is the Truth that we cannot help but admit even if we hear it thousands and tens of thousands of times. Regardless of our circumstances and situations, we must apply this Word to our faith, thoughts, and current circumstances. And if there is anything that compels us to deny ourselves, then we must indeed deny ourselves. Those who consider themselves too weak should deny such thoughts of their own and tell themselves that they are strong in Christ, for they believe in the Lord. On the other hand, those who think they are strong and perfect enough should look toward the Lord and say to themselves that they are indeed nothing. You and I alike must all deny ourselves and pick up our cross even in our hardship and if this hardship has been permitted by the Lord, look toward the Lord and follow Him.
The Lord said to us, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” We have no choice but to follow the Lord and accept this Word. Why? Because your predecessors of faith have been following the Lord even in their hardship. If you happen to think, “It seems to me that my predecessors of faith have no hardship at all. They seem to get around just fine by themselves and are always happy,” then you couldn’t be more wrong. The predecessors of faith in God’s church have denied themselves for a long time to serve the gospel and to follow the will of God. It’s because it’s so hard and difficult that when your predecessors of faith get together, they play soccer once in a while. Rev. Kim, who is now ministering alone in the United States, once confided to me that there was no one to play soccer with. He remembers with fondness how he had so much fun playing indoor soccer with us with a ball made out of some pieces of sponge or socks when he was back in Korea. He also told me that when he is driving, he finds himself singing Korean songs all the time. I can understand this quite well. That’s how hard it is for Rev. Kim to follow the Lord while denying himself to achieve the things of God.
Do you know how useful foul words are from time to time? Are foul words a part of language or not? They are a part of language. Can you live without language? Some people, when they hear me swearing while preaching, say, “That pastor has such a foul mouth!” But I don’t usually swear that much. When my heart is all fired up, however, I do swear quite a bit. I can’t help this. Unless I swear, my blood pressure would shoot up and I would die from it. When I am stressed, my blood pressure skyrockets, so much so, that I can’t see anything, even people standing right in front of me. So when there aren’t people around me, I don’t hesitate to utter some of the worst obscenities; if there is a can lying on the ground, I kick it; or I go into the bathroom, turn on the tap so that no one can hear me and swear like a pirate.
What happens after swearing so much like this? I ask myself, “Isn’t this too much? Aren’t you also like everyone else? So why are you complaining about others when you are no different?” I then answer to myself, “Well, that’s right. I am no better, but it’s just so hard and difficult. I feel so ashamed.”
What would have happened had the Lord not lived on this earth for 33 years? He experienced how hard it is to live with the flesh. So it is written, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Had Jesus not experienced for Himself how life itself is a cross, then He would not answer our prayers. It’s because the Lord Himself experienced everything we go through that He knows our prayer requests and wants to help us who are weak. That’s why we are praying to the Lord.
Today, I would like to admonish you all to be mindful of the things of God rather than the things of men. We should quit clinging to the things of men. We need to be broadminded; if we are narrow-minded, we will only turn into worldly scoundrels. If we forsake our greater cause and only think of ourselves, then in the end, everything will be done only for ourselves and for our own faction. We are supposed to live for the Lord, and so how ridiculous would it be if we cared only for ourselves instead of the Lord? For a country to prosper, there must be many patriots who are devoted to their country. If there are more people who are only mindful of themselves, their own factions, and their own interests than patriots who are devoted to their country, then the nation will fall.
Sometimes when we are actually involved in a large project, we see people preoccupied with petty things and we may wonder about them, thinking “What’s wrong with them?” But if we put ourselves in their shoes, we can understand their mindset. What is important is that we shouldn’t be mindful of the things of men, as Peter had been. When we are mindful of the things of God, we can solve all the problems facing us and we can also overcome all our difficulties. In other words, thinking of God’s work is the answer to every problem we face. It’s when we believe in God and carry out His work that we can overcome our insufficiencies and take up our cross. While serving the Lord, do you ever say, “If this goes on, I’m going to die of overwork?” In times like this, we must have faith and stick together, telling ourselves “Let’s finish everything that has to be done before we die. If we were to fail at this, we would be committing a great sin before God. We must complete everything that needs to be done. We should spread the gospel to the world now with all our strength.”
Do you wonder in your mind what could possibly be accomplished by a group of people who are no more than a handful even when they are all gathered together? God fulfills His work through whomever it takes. If God blesses our ministry, if His servants work, and if you labor with them, then even with our small number we are more than able to preach this gospel to everyone throughout the world for a thousand times and more. Isn’t this more than possible? Of course it is.
The total membership at our Mission, including our children is about 300. If each of you would take up one country, there still would be no less than fifty of you left, since there are around 250 countries in the world. If you are more capable then you can take up 10 countries; if you are even more capable than this, then you take up 20 countries. If, on the other hand, you are not so capable, then you can take up just half a country, and if you are still even less capable, then five of you can get together and collectively take up a country. When we the righteous gather together, there is nothing that we cannot do, for God is with us. Even though there are 5,000 tribes in the whole world, our 300 members can each take 17 tribes. Can we do this by our own strength? No. It is in Him who strengthens us that we can do all things. All that we have to do is just pray to God for His work to succeed and the rest is up to Him. Since God Himself has commanded us to carry out this work, wouldn’t He then also give us the strength?
Starting this year and onto the next, I am planning to spread the gospel to most parts of the whole world within two years. And I believe that if we work hard, we will be able to accomplish this. If the Lord strengthens us, we will be more than able to achieve this goal; if He does not strengthen us, then we will not be able achieve it. Since the Lord Himself has told us to carry out this work, all that we have to do is just do it, trusting in the Lord. However, just in Korea alone, how few are those have accepted this gospel even though we have preached it so diligently? And how many countless people have rejected it? The same goes for other countries.
Nevertheless, those looking for God anywhere in the whole world can now readily access and read our books. We are giving out our books for free and providing e-books, so that anyone who is looking for God can meet the Lord. Those who do not look for God and are not mindful of His work cannot meet the Lord, even if they live next to us in Korea. If people cannot meet the Lord, then they can’t reach their salvation either. It’s not because we have the power, but because the Lord has the power and because it is His will for the gospel to be spread all over the world, that the gospel will indeed be proclaimed throughout the whole world. All that we are doing is just carrying out this work by faith.
Can the work of serving the Lord fail? Will this work of preaching the gospel of God all over the world end without accomplishing its goals? The business that absolutely cannot fail is God’s business. Failure is impossible for the business of God. The reason why we are so confident that success is guaranteed for 100 percent and failure is impossible is because this is the very will of God. It is under such conditions that we are now serving the Lord. You and I have done a lot of work last year. This year also, the saints and God’s servants are carrying out the work of the gospel, but the speed will accelerate many times faster than what we had done until now. If you take up your cross and follow the Lord, if you think of God’s work and dedicate your body and mind to it, and if you serve the gospel by faith, then the gospel will be preached to the entire world so assuredly that I can say with every confidence that it has already been preached completely.
Those Who Want to Die for the Lord Will Live, But Those Who Want to Live for Themselves Will Die
Anyone who wants to preserve only his own life from hardship will suffer death, but anyone who is willing to lose his life for the Lord will be saved. That is the Word of Truth. It may seem as if we would die if we are mindful of the Lord and His work and believe in Him, but we will actually live. If, in contrast, we try to save just ourselves, then we will suffer death. It’s precisely for this reason, because we want to live, that we take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow the Lord. In other words, we follow the Lord because we want our souls to live no matter what happens to our flesh. If our souls were to perish and die even after living like this, then who among us would follow the Lord? If this way of following the Lord were a way to our own destruction, who would really be willing to follow Him? It would be impossible to follow the Lord if it were to lead us to our own destruction. The only way of life that saves us is to be mindful of the work of God and devote ourselves faithfully to this work of serving the gospel even to the point of our death, and that is why we have denied ourselves by faith, taken up our cross, and are now following the Lord. Even though what we see at the present may seem failure-bound and impossible, we must still live such a life precisely because in the end that is the only way for us to be saved, attain eternal life, and receive blessings.
Incidentally, do some of you wonder by any chance, “Why are there so few people in Korea who has this gospel?” Do you know how many people the Apostle Paul had when he preached the gospel? He only had about a dozen people in Ephesus, around ten in Rome, a few in Thessalonica, and about ten in Colosse as well. At every church planted by Paul, he preached to a congregation with less than 50 members.
Compared to this, our number is huge. Before today’s worship service, I dropped by our Sunday school, and there I saw three teachers and about 30 students. Frankly, when compared to the Sunday school of a mega church in the world, our Sunday school is indeed a tiny gathering, even if all the children of our branch churches were gathered together. However, in God’s eyes, our Sunday school is a tremendously great gathering. There is life and the Word here, the teachers are true teachers preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and the students listening to these teachers’ words are also clearly born-again students. When our Sunday school students at God’s Church hear the Word, they believe in it right away and put it into practice as soon as they learn it.
Having attained our salvation, you and I are now gathered together like this in Korea, worshipping the Lord and serving Him. Although the brothers and sisters gathering together in Korea are not many, if we count all the born-again saints throughout the entire world, the number of our church members is very large. If there is any denomination in the world that is larger than us let it stand up. Should we gather together all our saints and God’s servants all over the world and wage a spiritual battle with all the Christian sinners of the world? Even if they were to attack us in the thousands, we would not be defeated but win over them instead, even if we have just a dozen fellow righteous people on our side. Because the righteous have the Word, the sword of Truth, if we open the Bible and show them a few passages, they will admit that their faith is false.
Long ago, there was a time when Elijah, a prophet of God, hid himself in a cave. God called him at that time. So Elijah said, “Lord, everyone who fears You is now dead, and all Your servants have been killed. I am the only one left alive.” What did our Lord then say to him? He said, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 King 19:18). There are God’s people left in each and every corner of the entire world. Even though they may not be seen in our eyes, in God’s eyes His people are everywhere.
The servant of God who presided over the worship service before I began my sermon said that there are about 100 ministry workers in our churches in Korea, but in reality, there are far many more throughout the whole world. That’s what I believe. These people are uniting with us from every corner of the world. They are sharing our books and the gospel is being preached through their lips. So many people have received the remission of sin through them that in the end times our denomination will be the largest denomination in the world. Even at the present, their number is huge if we were to count them all, but I admonish you to see with your eyes of faith just how many more coworkers from every country will be added to us in the end times.
It’s written in the Book of Revelation that a countless multitude clothed in white robes, innumerable by man, will come before the Lord on the last day (Revelation 7:9). So the Apostle John asked the Lord, “Lord, who are these people?” Then the Lord said that they were those who came out of the great tribulation (Revelation 7:14). Who are these people that the Book of Revelation speaks of here? They are those who have been born again of water and the Spirit. In other words, those who triumphed by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit in the middle of the great tribulation and received salvation from God will come out all at the same time. I believe in this with my eyes of faith. Presently, the workers and saints at our Mission only total about 300, but even if we count just 300 coworkers in each of 150 countries a considerable number of people will be saved and come before the Lord. In the end times countless multitudes will receive the remission of sin. My fellow believers, do you believe in this Word of the Bible?
All these things are done by God. It’s God Himself who brings everything to pass according to His will. We are just His instruments, but as His instruments we must be mindful of His work in our labor. That’s all we are doing. We worked like this in 2000, 2001 and 2002 as well, and until the day the Lord returns we will always carry out this work. There isn’t that much time remaining for us to work overseas. Some brothers said, “If 2002 passes by and Jesus still hasn’t returned, then let’s just give up serving Him,” but that’s not when the world ends and Jesus returns. A farmer must sow the seed at an appropriate time. Only if he sows the seed exactly in due season do sprouts come out and flowers blossom. It is then that the farmer can harvest the crop when the time comes. We are now laboring to sow the seed. Although this work may seem very small for now, its end will be exceedingly great. It has already become exceedingly great and harvested many fruits. It will become even greater. When a single kernel of seed is sowed and sprouts, how many fruits are born? It bears many fruits. It’s the same principle.
We are now sowing the seed of the gospel throughout the world, and if one person accepts the gospel he will bear even more fruits by 30, 60, and 100 fold. Imagine what will happen when not just one person, but 30 people from all over the world receive the remission of sin and bear fruits by 60 and 100 fold. If all these people would go out and spread the gospel, the fruits of their labor will increase exponentially. If we have preached the gospel to one person, this means that is not the end of everything; rather, from this alone, it’s possible for millions and tens of millions of more people to come to receive the remission of their sins. In other words, because of this one person, the gospel is spread all over the world.
As we carry on with our lives in this age, we must cast aside our humanistic eyes and thoughts, and instead we must set our minds on the work of God and His Word of Truth. We must think of God’s work, deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord. Even though in our trials we may not be able to completely deny everything 100 percent, we must still deny ourselves as much as possible and follow the Lord. We have to deny ourselves everyday since there always remains something that we still must deny today and tomorrow alike. There is no one who has been completed. Until the day we stand before the presence of the Lord, there will be hardships for us and there will also be many things that we have to deny. It’s our destiny to live like this until the day we go to the Lord.
By any chance, do you think that you are the only one struggling? In reality, however, all of us are struggling immensely. That’s because each one of us has his own cross to take up and must deny himself. Yet even amidst all this, we still deny ourselves everyday and live for the Lord. Even in our hardship, we live everyday by the strength and grace the Lord has given us. It is to trust in the grace of God that we are doing His work and it is also because we have found this grace of God that we are now carrying out the Lord’s work. As such, following the Lord by His grace is leading the right life of faith.
Although it’s easy to speak about leading such a life of faith in words, it’s very hard to actually practice it in real life. It has been so hard for you and me to carry on with our duties while denying ourselves day after day. I am very glad to meet you again like this and I am so grateful to God that you did not perish away spiritually but lived by faith while serving the gospel separately in the past few months. My fellow believers, let us not perish away but live faithfully until the last day. Let us live by faith and put on the crown when the Lord returns. Let us all endure by faith until that day and let us be the kind of servants who are commended by God rather than rebuked on the last day.
In the parable of the talent, a master left his servants with five talents, two talents, and one talent each. While the master commended the servants who yielded five talents and two talents in profit, the servant who had received one talent was rebuked by the master and driven away, as he had buried it in the ground instead of putting it to use. It is better for us to endure our trials and follow the Lord now by trusting in Him, so that we would not be rebuked by the Lord and driven out to darkness on that day, but instead put on His grace. To live and prosper more, I admonish you to deny yourself and follow the Lord faithfully.
It is my hope and prayer that you would all follow the Lord even in your hardship until the day you see the Lord face to face.