“After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ So he left all, rose up, and followed Him. Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, ‘Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”
Who Did God Save from Their Sins?
I am truly thankful that God has allowed us to have this prayer meeting and also allow us to sing praises and preach God’s Word vocally through the microphone like this. I am thankful we have this freedom in our country. I have been to China safely thanks to the grace of God and your prayers. In China, we would be imprisoned if we preached God’s Word publicly like this because they do not have religious freedom like we do in Korea. There are a few of our bothers and sisters in China and my heart is always with them. I believe God will raise them as God’s servants and make them stand upright and have the gospel of the water and the Spirit evangelized throughout all of China through them and have many souls receive salvation from sins. Not only Chinese, but also that all people throughout the entire world would receive salvation from sin and manifest God’s glory if you and I prayed to God, believed in Him, and tried to achieve this task.
I want you to know that it is by God’s precious grace that we can praise and pray to our hearts’ content like this. Foreigners can’t even evangelize freely in communist countries. A foreigner doing such work would be taken to jail by government authorities. Therefore, they must work secretly and they cannot even go around freely in full dress because the security officers chase the foreigners by their appearance. They cannot even put on a tie freely and they always have to be careful in rural areas whenever they go outside. I give thanks before the presence of the Lord who gives us such freedom. I earnestly want God to protect and bless our coworkers in China, our brothers and sisters, and ministers throughout the entire world. I want the Lord to give them the proper faith and bestow precious blessing upon all things they are engaged in.
Jesus Came to This World to Save All Sinners
Both in the old times and in this era, people slander and stay away from people who commit sin, or people whose sin has been revealed. However, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Lord came to this world to call the sinners to repentance and make them believe in the righteousness of God. Actually, all humans are beings that commit sin. Humans can surely steal things without learning because there is a heart of thievery in the essence of the human mind. You cannot guarantee that you wouldn’t do this either. Rather, you could possibly sin even more. If someone was made a president of the country, he might deposit the whole country in his account. Anyone can do such a thing. However, God Almighty knew already that you and I would do such things and He made us repent before we actually do that.
The reason people do not commit terrible sins is because the circumstance has not yet been fostered to do so. Anyone would commit sin right away if a proper circumstance for committing sin were fostered. A person that does not sin even in a proper circumstance for committing sin is the truly righteous person. But a person that does not sin because a suitable environment for committing sin has not been fostered is a person who commits sin, not a person who does not commit sin. Do you understand what I am saying? That’s why the Lord said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Actually, when we see people that Jesus called, we can see that He called the people who are poor in their own righteousness rather than people who are rich in their own righteousness.
We can confirm through today’s Scripture passage that Jesus called sinners from all sorts of people. Even in today’s Word, it says that Jesus called the tax collector who was called Levi. As other disciples did, this person left everything and followed Jesus when Jesus called him. After being called by Jesus, he invited Jesus and his disciples and held a big feast with a heart of thanksgiving to God.
But, what happened at that feast. Pharisees who came to the feast together were whispering about Jesus and Levi, saying, “Jesus would have known what a thief that person Levi was if Jesus was a real prophet.” Actually, the tax collector named Levi here was not just an ordinary thief. He was a really big thief. Maybe he took in more than Taewoo Roh, the former president of Korea. Anyway, one definite thing is that that the person named Levi was a very big sinner in the eyes of the other people and also in the eyes of Jesus.
However, there is one thing we must understand clearly. Who in this world can receive the remission of sins through the righteousness of the Lord? A person who acknowledges that he is a complete sinner can receive the remission of sins through faith thanks to the righteousness of God. Only a complete sinner is able to become a perfectly righteous person by receiving the remission of sins.
On the other hand, what happens to a person who thinks that he is not a sinner? It is difficult for him to receive the remission of sins. Therefore, a person who does not think he is a sinner must first become a sinner before the presence of God in order to receive the remission of sins. That’s the reason God lets the evil people exist in this world. God allows such scoundrels to remain in this world in order to make those who do not think they are sinners become sinners. God lets those people who are like a thorn in the eyes of the people who pretend to be holy and righteous spill all out all their filth.
That’s right. God did not sweep away the people who were so prickly that we would become crazy if we did not insult them and fight against them. God let such people coexist with us in order to make us understand through them what terrible sinners we are.
What did our God do when He cast out Adam and Eve, who had sinned against God, from the Garden of Eden? It would have been painful to God just to cast them out, but He actually cursed the land they had to dwell in. He cursed, “Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you” (Genesis 3:18). They could have had resentment toward God because the thorns and thistles were so painful for them. But they also could have also realized how wonderful was the Garden of Eden they used to live in.
We are also like that. We would never seek God and His righteousness if we did not face difficulties. Therefore, our Lord gave us difficulties to make us seek the righteousness of God. God allowed a really terrible and evil environment for us in order to teach us what great sinners we are before the presence of God. Hence, God made us realize we are complete sinners. That’s right. You and I who have received the remission of sins were complete sinners and we were able to become perfectly righteous people by knowing and believing the righteousness of our Lord. We must understand this fact clearly. Isn’t that right? Therefore, whoever has not become a sinner yet must understand what a sinner he is. Then, they can receive the blessing of the remission of sins and also receive all the blessings of Heaven.
The Pharisees there made sarcastic remarks toward Jesus and His disciples, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” As you can see in this remark by the Pharisees, the tax collectors, tax officials, were terribly wretched sinners. The power of money was as great back then as it is now. That’s because money refers to the power and ability in this world. Tax collectors at the time were horrible thieves. They were absolutely despicable traitors. They were terrible traitors who sold out their country and sucked in the blood of the people in their country. Israel at that time was a colonial country to the Roman Empire. As our country was under the Japanese rule for 35 years until the end of the Second World War, Israel was ruled by the Roman Empire.
Tax collectors did the work of collecting taxes from the people for the Roman Empire. However, there was much corruption in that work. They collected as much as they could from the people and turned over only a little to the Roman government and took the rest for themselves. They were not just ordinary thieves. The Roman government actually did not collect much tax in Israel. They did not assess a huge tax because it could cause violent uprising. However, tax collectors lied, “Rome told us to collect much tax,” in order to fill up their own pockets. They used the name of the Roman Emperor to exploit Israeli people for their own profit. Most Israeli people knew this situation well. Therefore, they considered the tax collectors as terrible and wretched persons.
However, Jesus called this person named Levi who was the most terrible tax collector of them all. Jesus told him, “Follow Me.” Then, that person left everything and followed Jesus. What does this Word mean? It means this person knew that he was a sinner even though he was a tax collector, and he understood Jesus accepted him even though the Lord knew about him. We can understand that he knew this from the fact that he held a big feast for Jesus and His disciples.
Actually, what was the reason Jesus came to this world? Jesus came to this world to save truly complete sinners like this tax collector; people that ordinary people would never associate with because they have so much sin. A sinner with a little sin cannot receive the remission of sins. Think about our selves. We were all complete sinners, but we have now become perfectly righteous through the salvation of Jesus. Therefore, in the Kingdom of God, there are only people who were complete sinners before but are perfectly righteous now. There is no such person who is partially sinful or a little righteous. Then, where is the destination of such a person who has received the remission of half of sin and did not receive the remission of the other half of sin? Such partial sinners will go to hell. I want you to make sure of this. Only sinners who have all their sins revealed like this tax collector can belong to God’s Kingdom, in God’s Garden of Eden, and among the people who have received the blessing of salvation from God.
Even though we do not commit certain sin through our actions, we still have such sources of sins in our hearts. Our inadequate flesh has all such sources of sins plenteously. Let’s take a look at our physical body for once. Our flesh can commit so many sins that the Gospel of Mark says that the things that come out of people’s heart are evil thoughts, murder, covetousness, evil, lewdness, envy, anger, theft, slandering, evil eyes, and foolishness (Mark 7:20-23). Our flesh has all these vicious sources and also actually does such things. We think evil thoughts with fleshly thinking. We commit murder with fleshly thinking. Though we might not kill a person by actually stabbing him, we sometimes have the heart of wanting to kill a person with our fleshly thinking and vigor. We also commit adultery. With what do we also commit sins of lewdness, envy, theft, pride and all 12 kinds of sins? Do we sin with our spirit? No, we don’t. We sin with our human physical body, with our flesh. Of course we sin with our hearts, but we forget the sins of our hearts easily.
What about This Physical Body?
Our physical body can commit these 12 kinds of sin at any time. It is the same with the physical body of us who have received the remission of sins. We can confess before God that we are complete sinners because our physical body always commits sin. We are weak and evil people who just don’t sin because the circumstance is not suitable to sin; we would otherwise sin with no hesitation if the circumstances allowed. We can say that the physical body of a person always wants to sin regardless of whether the circumstance is suitable or not.
Therefore, we can never say that we are righteous physically before the presence of God. However, we can only say that we have become righteous spiritually by believing the salvation of the Lord and the remission of sins. Actually, who is a perfect person? Who can be a perfect gentleman? They may look dignified, but they are not really dignified. Take a look at the history of Catholic Church. During the Reformation, Catholics stabbed and killed people with such things like bamboo spears in places like France and Switzerland. Catholics took the protestant believers and ripped their bodies apart.
Then, how are the religious people of this era? The religious people in the world always wear holy looking clothes, do benevolent work of deliverance, share love, and really pretend to be as compassionate as they could be. However, the reason they are pretending to be righteous is because they are evil. People always show their true self when they become powerful. Humans are essentially evil like this.
Humans are essentially evil. I don’t mean to say that you should live an evil life, but I am telling you that you must know that you are essentially evil before the presence of God. You must acknowledge before the presence of God that you are evil and therefore receive the perfect salvation God gives. When people recognize their evilness and receive God’s salvation, all such people become God’s children and become the righteous, their physical bodies become stronger, and their souls receive blessings of God. Therefore, we must know whom Jesus, our God, came to call in this world, and why He also called Levi who worked in the revenue department.
At the time when Jesus was in Israel, Pharisees must have tried to live righteously before the presence of God and they tried to live according to God’s will. But, then, why didn’t Jesus call the Pharisees? God called such an ignorant person like Peter and John who had furious tempers instead of Pharisees. Then, why did Jesus call such people with bad temperament? Why did Jesus call such a tax collector who was a thief among thieves and bestow the grace of the remission of sins on him? There were many upright people at that time and Pharisees lived faithful spiritual lives and did not even lie. But, why didn’t Jesus call them?
As I have said earlier, humans pretend to be righteous because they are evil. A truly righteous person shows mercy on others naturally without pretending to be righteous. Jesus did not call the Pharisees who looked righteous here because they were partial sinners and somewhat righteous people who pretended to be righteous. Jesus called the people who were wretched at the time.
Didn’t Jesus say, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance”? That’s correct. Jesus did not come to call people who live an upright life in this world like the Pharisees. Jesus knows the hearts of all the people because He is the Creator who created the human being. It means that Jesus knows that human beings are a complete mass of sin and how inadequate we are. That’s why Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, not sinners.” Jesus came to call sinners. He came to this world to call the complete sinners and make them repent.
The Lord said, “You are a sinner. You are a sinner who commits sin until you die because you have original sin. Do not pretend that you do not sin and that you are righteous. You will go to hell. Therefore, understand that you are a sinner destined to hell and turn back and believe in Me and receive the remission of all sins. I have come to save you from all your sins.” Jesus came to call sinners and make them repent. He came to turn them back and receive the remission of sins by believing in Jesus. Jesus came to save sinners and make them righteous. But, the Lord called such complete sinners and saved us and made you and me perfectly righteous people.
A short while ago, I went to Yenji City in northeast China and met the brother Youngsik Shin. He was a very mild-mannered person. He was well educated and he used to work for the forestry department of the communist government of China before he retired at the age of 50. In China, they automatically retire when they become 50 years old. Anyway, that brother is really a well-meaning person. However, although this brother believes in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, he constantly says nonsensical things out of his pride whenever I ask him to give his testimony of salvation.
Therefore, I told him God’s Word that said, “Only a complete sinner becomes completely righteous.” Then I opened up the Gospel of Mark chapter 7 and asked him, “Brother Shin, are you or are you not a person who commits theft and adultery?” His face burned red when I asked him that? Therefore, I asked him “Aren’t you a crazy bum and a thief?” Then, he admitted with his mouth that he was a complete sinner. Then his face became bright and his heart transformed and made a confession of faith that he believed that the Lord turned a complete sinner into a perfectly righteous person.
Jesus has blotted out all our sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. He has blotted out all the sins of people. Then, why can’t people receive the remission of sins yet? It’s because they do not acknowledge they are complete sinners before the presence of God, because they do not confess their sins as they are. They do not know the grace if they do not know their fundamental nature.
We who have received the remission of sins are the same. It always becomes an obstacle in our hearts and we are less thankful if we do not acknowledge that we are complete sinners in physical terms and that we have become perfectly righteous people through faith. You might look at other saints and think, “Why is that person like that? Why is he so evil? Why does he live like that when he has received the remission of sins first?” A saint who does not admit he is a complete sinner in physical terms is a person who does not acknowledge that he has become a perfectly righteous person through faith thinks like that. They look at other saints like that because they still have their own righteousness in them and because they do not admit they are complete sinners in their hearts even though they say they are complete sinners, and they have clearly received the remission of sins. However, what would happen if they admitted they were complete sinners before the presence of God and also believed that they have become perfectly righteous people through the righteousness of the Lord? They would praise the Lord whenever they look at the other saints’ shortcomings. They cannot help but do that. Do you understand this?
I do not mean that you should live like a sinner who does not believe in the perfect righteousness of God. Rather, I am saying that you must live with faith like the righteous who believes in the righteousness of God. Our Lord had mercy on us and came to save us because we were complete sinners who could not help but go to hell. We have received the remission of sins by believing in the Lord because He did actually save us from the sin. We have not become righteous because we have something just and benevolent in us. It’s not likely that someone goes to Heaven because he has done good works after believing in Jesus and another person goes to hell because he is evil. Rather, a person who has more shortcomings revealed in this world receives salvation from the Lord. Jesus came to save such people and He did actually save those people.
Jesus did not come to save such antiseptic people from sin that say, “I am a clean person. I am antiseptic.” Jesus came to save a sinner like the tax collector that appears in today’s Word. Jesus said clearly, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” Do you believe this Word is the Truth?
I read this verse many times before. Therefore, I thought, “Jesus did not come to call the righteous and I must be a sinner until death because Jesus came to call sinners.” I always thought of the Word like that and prayed, “Lord, this sinner has come to you,” with pride for the fact that I was a sinner. I prayed with pride for that fact and told this to other people with pride, but the Word did not mean this as I looked at it carefully later. This Word means that God Himself did not come to call the righteous, but that He came to call sinners and make them repent to have God’s righteousness. Our Lord was saying that He called sinners to make them repent and believe in Jesus in order for them to receive the perfect salvation. The Lord called those complete sinners to give them the blessing of becoming perfectly righteous people. You must understand the meaning of this Word clearly.
Many people believe in Jesus and interpret the Word absurdly according to their own thinking, and we must not make such error. We were complete sinners. Everyone was born as a complete sinner. However, such sinners became perfectly righteous people by believing in the salvation of our Lord. There are many around us now who shall become righteous like this. Through this Word today, I am saying that the Lord saved us from all sins and made us perfectly righteous when we were complete sinners. We must always remember this Word in our hearts and be thankful for the grace of God as we live in this world.
What is the point we must absolutely remember at this time? It’s that we used be complete sinners and that we became perfectly righteous because our Lord saved us. We must remember that all these things were of God’s grace and give thanks to Him. I am so thankful for this.
Many people in the world think of themselves, “Even so, I am a decent person.” However, that is just our thinking and we are not actually decent. We are actually wretched human beings, but we cannot see ourselves clearly because we have been deceived by the Devil and the education of the world. We look at ourselves like that because we have been deceived by many so-called saints in the world and because we have been deceived by the cultures of the world. That is true. The world teaches people, “Live righteously. Live an upright life. Then, you will later receive blessings from God.”
I also used to think like that. I thought I was a decent person. Our dream when we were young was something like, “I want to become a president when I grow up.” Then when we become a little older, we say, “I don’t want to be a president. Now, I just want to be a politician; someone like a prime minister.” Then when we grow even older, we say, “I think even that’s too much. I think it would be nice if I became an executive of a company.” When we become an adult, we say, “I just want my family to be healthy and have enough food on the table.” Our dreams become smaller and smaller like this.
What does this mean? Everything goes down and down as we come to know our selves. We become humble. Even so, we give hearty points to ourselves. We think, “I would at least make 80% grade.” Another person may think, “What is 80 points? I am at least 95.” However, what happens as we get older? We give ourselves about 98 points until we are 10 years old, but then we give 70 points when we become 20 years old. Then when we become 30 years old, the grade goes down drastically to 25, and a person who knows himself a little better gives himself 0 points or even minus 100 points. Why is it like this? That’s because the more we come to know ourselves the more it becomes difficult to give hearty points to ourselves.
However, our God said clearly, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” We were complete sinners from the beginning. Because we were complete sinners, because we were sinners destined to go to hell, because we were people who could not help but be cursed by God, God had mercy on us and came to this world to save us who were wretched sinners. The Lord took all our sins upon Him by receiving the baptism at the Jordan River and resolved those sins on the Cross and saved us perfectly. Therefore, we must know ourselves clearly. We must believe, “We are sinners physically, but we have become perfectly righteous by believing in the Lord.” More than anything else, we must know ourselves clearly. Do you understand this?
Our brothers and sisters here must also acknowledge before the presence of God that we were all sinners and also be grateful that the Lord has saved us. I praise our Lord who has saved sinners completely from all sins.