“Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.’ And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.’”
Were We Prodigal Sons Spiritually?
I am sure that everyone at God’s Church is quite familiar with the passage about the prodigal son and heard it at least once or twice. Although we are all very familiar with this passage, today at this hour, I would like us to give some more thought to what God is saying to us in His Word and what kind of grace He has shown us.
Let’s turn to Luke 15:11-12 together: “Then He said: ‘A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.”
Here the second son asked his father to give him his share of inheritance. Think about this for a moment. What are some of the things that all humans desire as their rightful share?
First, we can list material possessions. Everyone has his own share of material possessions to be had. Secondly, people need fame and ambition. This is what we humans all think in terms of what everyone should have. In other words, everyone thinks that things such as wealth, fame, and ambition are absolutely indispensable to him. Of course, there are many other things that people need, but for most people, the very first thing they want is wealth. Moreover, when they become wealthy, the next thing they desire is fame. Everyone wants to be praised in his chosen field. Everyone desires to have all that he loves and wants. Such desires are universal to every human being. There is no exception to this. Everyone is the same.
The second son in today’s Scripture passage also had the same desire. Having set his mind on the usual share that everyone should have, he said to his father: “Give me the portion of goods that falls to me. I will take it and live independently from now on. Give me my share of inheritance.” His father then gave him his share of inheritance just as he wished.
But what happened to this second son when he went out to the world with his inheritance? Let’s turn to Luke 15:13: “And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.” As the passage says here, the second son took all his possessions to a distant country and ended up squandering them all.
The father in today’s Scripture passage refers to God the Father. As you might have expected, the second son refers to none other than you and me. What does this passage mean then?
Man had originally lived in a paradise called the Garden of Eden. However, when God made us humans, He gave us free will. Due to this free will, man had the desire to leave God and live on his own. Satan then came to him and tempted him, saying to him:
“If you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you, too, can become like God.” Adam had wanted to leave God and live on his own, so what do you suppose his next thought was? He thought, “Yes, I can also become like God. I too, can become like the Father. It will all be possible if I eat this fruit as the serpent says.”
Simply put, Adam was full of arrogance. With his free will he had already desired to move away from God, and once Satan tempted him, he actually put his desire into action. In this way man ended up siding with Satan. As a result of swallowing the Devil’s false promise, man became completely separated from God. But what were its consequences? Far from being happy from going on his way apart from God, mankind came to live a wretchedly tragic life.
This is the lesson that God is teaching us in today’s Scripture passage. It teaches us that those who departed from the righteousness of God, those who went on their own way apart from God, and those who took their share and left God behind were never happy. Can anyone live happily apart from God? Most people are deluded to think that this is possible. They think they can easily prosper all on their own. So every child wants to leave his parents and live on his own once he has grown up a little. This is what all the youth of today want in their hearts. They want to get their share of inheritance, become independent, and live a better life than their fathers’. Of course, this may be possible if it’s about leaving one’s fleshly father. But how is it when it comes to our spiritual Father? We human beings can never be happy by leaving God, the Creator who made us.
Take a look at everyone born and living in this world. Everyone is confident that he can live happily on this earth. But what is the actual reality? Far from being happy, many people fail to keep what they already have, fail miserably, and end up trapped in an empty life. There are so many people around us who can’t get anything going their way, and as a result despair in their unhappiness. Although all those who leave God try hard to ensure their happiness, none of them has ever led a truly successful life. One may think to himself confidently, “Even if I leave God, I can still live happily without His help and power,” but in the end, he will realize that it is absolutely impossible for anyone to live with any satisfaction by departing from God.
From the Foundation of This Planet Earth, There Has Been No One Who Ever Departed from the Righteousness of God and Still Lived a Happy Life
We can grasp this fact even more clearly if we inquire into the lives of the great sages and philosophers of the past. None of them ever lived a truly satisfying life. No matter how great a sage they might have been, none of them could say with full confidence that he had lived with 100 percent satisfaction. My fellow believers, everyone’s heart truly desires happiness. All yearn to live an upright and virtuous life, to be truly happy and honest, and to keep this happiness forever.
But what is the reality? Far from living the kind of life they want to live, they end up falling into unhappiness. Rather than living the life that they want to live, they fall into failure and despair that they do not want. This is the unhappiness of those who have left God. Do we not say we are unhappy when we find ourselves in undesired circumstances? If one finds himself in circumstances that he desired, then he would not be described unhappy.
There is a story that illustrates how those who have left God can never be happy. Let me take a moment to tell you this story. In Greek mythology, the Sphinx sat outside Thebes and asked a riddle to all travelers passing by: “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three legs in the evening?” No traveler was able to give the right answer, but Oedipus was smart enough to solve the riddle by saying, “The answer is man. Man crawls on four legs as a baby, walks on two legs when grown up, and then walks with a cane in old age. So the answer is man.”
Do you know what the real moral of this story is? It is that man does not have that much time to stand on his two legs. Man’s youth, in other words, can never be kept forever.
A proverb in Korea says that pleasure follows pain. Once someone goes through hardship, happiness and satisfaction will follow for sure. What then is the happiness and satisfaction that we will find at the end of our road, after going through so much hardship on this earth? We will meet God face to face. The purpose of so much suffering that we go through on this earth is none other than meeting God the Father.
Thus, those who meet God can realize the real nature of human life and its purpose. However, those who have not met God still do not realize why they are so unhappy. Today’s Scripture passage raises the following fundamental question: “What can we have when all our possessions disappear?” Just as the prodigal son returned to his father’s house after squandering all his possessions, when we become penniless, we will also go to God. Remember this: The righteousness of the Lord is absolutely indispensable to all who have wasted everything.
People living on this earth waste many things. Even though everyone works hard to make money, everyone let it all go to waste on this earth. That’s because no one can take this money with him to the next world. Few people really spend their money on a truly worthwhile cause. Of course, on a rare occasion we see some people who do so, but most people just waste their money. In God’s sight, there aren’t that many people who actually spend their possessions for a meaningful cause.
Our Lord said, “You have the poor with you always” (Mark 14:7). In this world, there are some people who share their wealth with these poor people, but few of them actually do so because they have real compassion on the poor and they really want to help them and make them happy. Quite the contrary, more often than not they share their wealth to secure their own fame; to make themselves famous. Others do so with some compensation in mind down the road, thinking, “If I help them like this, they will help me later on.”
How then, does God look at these people? Our God will not reward them, for their hearts are absolutely not upright before Him. As such, helping the poor with such expectations for eventual reward can also be described as a waste. If you want to help the poor, you must realize the Truth first and then help them.
Any church that’s truly worthy of being called God’s Church preaches the gospel of the water and the Spirit. If a church is wealthy, it must spend its wealth to the benefit of people. Why are Christian churches throughout the whole world facing so much criticism? Most churches just demand that the congregation make donations without providing any justification. They use whatever means to extract money from the congregation, and then use this money to build luxurious church buildings. Even though they claim to be God’s Church, they offer no benefit to the people. This is one of the reasons why so many people today dislike church so much.
Today’s Scripture passage says that the second son “wasted” his possessions with prodigal living, and nowadays there indeed are many people wasting their lives. Regardless of whether one professes to believe in Jesus or not, unless he knows the Truth, unless he believes in God and follows Him properly, he cannot help but waste his life, his possessions, and everything else. If a church is indeed God’s upright Church, it must lead people to happiness, just as the Church is supposed to be the light of the world. Yet most churches are failing at this. Of course, not all churches on this earth are like this, but the fact of the matter is that there are many churches that are not upright.
What Kind of Gathering Constitutes God’s True Church in This Age?
Our Lord spoke of the visible church and the invisible church in His Word, and of these, the visible church is failing to fulfill its role as the light of this earth. What did the Lord say in the Bible? He said, “You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” How wonderful would it be if God’s Church were found everywhere in this age and time and bore witness of the gospel of the water and the Spirit to all those around it? If your church is indeed God’s Church, it should never spend all the offerings on building a church building. This is not what any church is really supposed to do. Its true calling is preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit, God’s Truth, to the souls around it, leading them to the right way when they face Satan’s temptation, praying for them, and helping them so that they can come to the Church without any hesitation and get their problem of sin solved. This is what God’s Church must do today as the light of the world. That’s why no church should devote all its energy to building a mammoth church building.
One pastor cannot lead countless people properly all at the same time. Any pastor with a conscience should know very well that he can’t possibly provide proper guidance to so many people. If a church is indeed God’s Church, it should lead a few people’s souls the right way, and rebuke them as well when they go astray.
I spoke about how so many people are wasting all their possessions. In a similar vein, we also know that our bodies cannot remain healthy all the time. Nor can fame last forever. Your fame can disappear in a moment’s notice, as soon as someone new and better appears. No matter how great a contribution you might have made in your field, if someone comes up with a new and better theory, your fame will disappear suddenly like a bursting bubble.
There were many great philosophers in the past, and all these philosophers spoke of admirable things. But what happened with the passing of time? Even though in their own time they had taught great things, these philosophers’ fame was supplanted by the next generation of philosophers advocating new ideas. The same holds true for you and me as well. Our fame is not long lasting. Everything is a waste. There is nothing in us humans that won’t disappear. Everything will disappear in time, including fame and ambition.
We all have ambitions. But can we really fulfill all these ambitions? When we turn old and weak, we get tired of the ambitions that we had when we were young. It’s only when we are young that we are full of energy and ambition; once we get old, everything turns useless. We turn so fragile in our old age that even a goat can drag us anywhere it wants to go. When one is young, he is full of energy, but once he turns old, all his ambitions disappear. We get tired of everything. People are ambitious only for a short while in their youth; once they get a bit old, all they want is to just find a nice, warm place to lie down and take a nap. Try going to a seniors’ residence. Would you find anyone full of ambition? No, you won’t find anyone like that. This shows that one has ambition only when he has energy.
The ambitions of mankind are also ephemeral, to disappear in the end. Even though we all have certain ambitions right now, in time they will all dissipate as water runs through our fingers. The same goes for our possessions, health, fame, and desires. We must realize that all these things will in fact be lost.
God has given us desires. So we all have several representative desires, such as the desire for fame and wealth. However, even these desires will ultimately be wasted and lost. They can never be kept forever. Today’s Scripture passage tells the story of one such man who squandered everything. While reading this passage, we need to examine ourselves and ponder if we are not wasting everything God has given us. We should turn around and ask ourselves, “Have I not also wasted all my life?” As human beings, we are fundamentally different from mere animals, and therefore it is incumbent on us to think about our lives before they are over.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when he has to think about his life and reach a conclusion about its meaning. So, although many of us are still young, let’s take this opportunity to think about our lives. The conclusion is obvious. Our lives are destined to lose everything and fall into despair. If we could find any happiness or joy in our lives while living on this earth, we could say that we did not waste our lives. But what is the actual reality? If we consider our lives carefully from beginning to end, the inevitable conclusion to reach is that we have squandered our lives and lost everything.
Our lives are already destined to be lost completely. Do we have to reach our last day to realize this? No. Even just thinking about it now, we can easily realize that our lives will indeed be squandered. The conclusion is obvious if we really think about it hard. All of us were born from the wombs of our mothers, right? The end of life is so evident for all of us to see as soon as we are born. It’s completely hopeless. Once born, we grow up weaned on our mothers’ milk, go to kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and even grad school to receive a doctoral degree. But by the time we are in middle school, we already know all about our lives. We think to ourselves, “Soon I will go to high school and then move onto college. I’ll get married, have kids, and get a job or start a business to support my family. Maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to be successful and own my own company. But by the time I accumulate my assets and grow my company, I would have turned 50 and 60. My body will start to ache then. No sooner than this I’ll turn 70 and my sight will deteriorate. By the time I am 80, I would want to do nothing but lie down. Life will lose its appeal, my body will languish, and I will die in vain.” In other words, one already knows all about life by the time he is in middle school.
If death marks the end of our lives, we’ve already come to know all about life even if there are many things that we haven’t experienced in this world. Those who realize that life is meaningless like this and look for God are the truly wise ones that prepare for the future. Put differently, those who prepare for the perfect happiness of the future while they are still on this earth are the truly happy ones. Don’t you agree with this?
It’s written in the Bible here, “But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.” When we are young, we have everything in abundance. We are in good health, and we are also full of ambition. However, the day will come inevitably when we squander our lives, lose everything, and face a great famine. Destitute times will visit us without fail.
No matter how rich one is, and no matter how much food he has, there will be a time when he is visited by physical privation, when he can’t even put food in his mouth and chew it. Regardless of how rich you are with the things of this world, there will inevitably come a time when you find yourself destitute in your heart and spirit. Sooner or later, you will be short of the faculty of the mind, certain joys, and the pleasures of the body. Before such privation visits us, we need to realize clearly that our lives are completely lost. Indeed, we have lost everything in life. Although some people realize this, many people are still wasting their lives obliviously. Sooner or later we will lose everything. What then is the task that remains for us? We need to think about the following question: How can we restore everything that we’ve lost?
This Means That We Should Think about How We Can Have True Faith
We must look for this truth. Let’s then return to the Word of God and examine this Truth from now on. In today’s Scripture passage, the Lord admonished us to realize as soon as possible that we cannot find satisfaction from any religion. Only when we realize this can we restore the original image of man. Take a look at the second son here. It’s written that when this prodigal son went out to the world, he wasted all his possessions and had to eat the pods that the swine ate. The pods here refer to the teachings of the false religions of the world.
The foreign country where the prodigal son was residing was struck by a severe famine, and he had no choice but to seek refuge in someone else’s home as his servant. In a severe famine, being able to work even as a servant and getting enough food to get by may also be called a great blessing. But what is the truth? With the food that one obtains out in the world—that is, worldly religion in spiritual terms—one can never find any satisfaction in his heart. All of us must realize this as soon as possible. Only with this realization can we recover and put on our original image that was made in the likeness of the image of God. The famine was so severe that the prodigal son tried to get some food by cleaning out someone else’s pigpens. But the owner was so stingy that he didn’t give him any proper food and instead, worked him to death. So the prodigal son set aside his pride and even ate the sludge that the pigs ate. He was so starved that he wanted to eat even this sludge that the pigs were eating. But one day, he was caught by the owner while eating the sludge.
It’s written in the Bible, “He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” He had so little to eat that he had no choice but to eat even the pods that the pigs were eating. What does this all mean? It means that having lost his everything, the prodigal son was now entering the sunset of his life. Even though he was young, his life was already nearing its end. Having thus lost everything, he began to think about his father and his hometown. So, it is written, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’”
In short, the prodigal son wanted to return to his father.
Man Is a Truly Honorable Being
There is no creature in this world that’s as precious as man. Human life is a truly precious and honorable life. What’s the reason for this? It’s because human beings are made in the likeness of the image of God, and therefore just as God is holy, they have the same holy heart. Even though they have lost this holiness for a short while by falling into the temptation of Satan, they still have their everlasting attribute. Take a look at the animals in this world. These animals are satisfied as long as they can find their daily food. But human beings are different. We humans yearn to live forever, and we want to prepare everlasting food. Originally, when God first made man, he was abundant in everything and had no want whatsoever. If he had listened to the Word of God and obeyed it, he could have lived a glorious life with God.
However, man ended up doing the only thing that God forbade him to do. The Lord God had said, “I will allow you to eat from the tree of life, I will give you everlasting life, and I will make you live happily. I will fill all your needs so that you may lack nothing. But one thing I forbid you, and it is that you should never eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God had said this to Adam and Eve, the first human beings.
Why did God then tell them not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? It’s because God was worried that they would have their own standard. Yet despite this, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s Word, ate from this tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and came to have their own standard. What happened to them then? They were forced to leave the Garden of Eden that was overflowing with abundant happiness, took their portion, and ended up drifting away from God. Everyone in this world today is a descendant of Adam and Eve. This sin committed by Adam and Eve, our forefathers, was inherited by everyone to reach all the way down to you and me today.
Right now, we think that we lost everything of the world. Though we are not exactly sure where, we know that the Garden of Eden must be somewhere. We are always missing it. We yearn to return to that place. Although we don’t know the exact details, clearly, we long for the lost paradise. What’s the reason for this? It’s because everyone has the fundamental memory of his time in the Garden of Eden. Because we had lived in that place, where there is neither any disease nor any pain, but only happiness, blessings, joy, and pleasures exist, in our sub-conscience we have the basic instinct to desire to return to that place. Like the prodigal son, when we realize that our lives are meaningless, our yearning for returning to that place becomes that much more uncontrollable.
There are some species among fish that return to the place of their hatching. One of them is salmon. The salmon spawn in a river. The fingerlings grow up in the river and then head out to the sea. After roaming around the vast ocean, they invariably all return to their home tributary when it’s time for spawning. Even though they have no faculty of mind to know where their home tributary is, they instinctively return to it without fail.
The same is true for both you and me. Spiritually speaking, all of us were raised in the Garden of Eden. Our forefathers had lived there, and although we were not physically with them at that time, when seen through faith, we were as good as being there with them. The place where Adam and Eve had lived is the very place where we had lived. It is also the place where we will live in the future.
The prodigal son went out to the world and wasted everything. He then came to miss his hometown so much that it became unbearable for him. He thought to himself, “My father has so many hired servants and so much food, and yet I am starving to death here. It’s still not too late; I will turn my heart around and return to my father.”
Just like this prodigal son, we also wasted everything in our lives. When you lose everything and realize your true self, when you recognize the real substance of your life, your heart finally yearns to return to the place that you had left and you can make this decision.
Fall is almost over now and winter is just around the corner. As the fall season is slipping by us, what do we feel? What do we feel as we look at the rainy fall sky? Do we not feel lonely? Every time the leaves fall from the tree one by one, we feel the sheer emptiness of life, realizing that we, too, will also inevitably fall like them. We feel such emptiness precisely because we know ourselves; because we know that death is inevitable for all of us. Though the turning leaves are beautiful, what’s the reality behind this beauty? Changing colors are the evidence of the fact that the leaves are about to see their lives extinguished. This is all beautiful when expressed in literature, but when looking at life, it is a meaningless end. You may have read O. Henry’s The Last Leaf. We see that the protagonist of this novel was dying of a disease and that she identified her life to the falling leaves. Like this, when we look at a life form that’s dying, we are reminded of our inevitable death. This, my fellow believers, is how empty human life is.
Therefore, as those living a meaningless life of the flesh, you and I must return to God. We must prepare ourselves to return to Him.
King Solomon did everything he wanted. No one has probably lived more prosperously than Solomon in human history, as it is written, “I searched in my heart how to gratify my flesh with wine, while guiding my heart with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the sons of men to do under heaven all the days of their lives. I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds” (Ecclesiastes 2:3-8).
But what conclusion did Solomon reach at the end of his life?
He confessed with lamentation,
“Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done
And on the labor in which I had toiled;
And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind.
There was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11).
In conclusion, King Solomon then made the following admonishment:
“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment” (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
“Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come ” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
As these passages admonish us, we must realize what life is all about and return to God while we are still young, while we still have the faculty of the mind, and before we are completely seized by the world and rendered totally helpless. This is the truth. All of us must realize our true selves and find the Lord.
What Kind of God Is Our God?
The prodigal son here turned his heart around and went back to God. What was the result?
It’s written, “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” As you can see here, all that the prodigal son did was just turn his heart around. Having led such a wasteful life out in this world and squandering all his possessions, all that he had was his heart’s desire to go to God, and he had no face before his father.
But how did this father receive the son? Even though the son returned in tatters just the way he was when he was surviving on the pods of the swine, the father had compassion on him, ran out to him, and embraced and kissed him. The father had been waiting for his departed son day and night. On this day also, he had kept all the gates of the house open, lit the light, and was waiting for the son that had left him. “The sun is setting, but my son hasn’t returned today either. I wonder if he has any food to eat. By now he should have no possessions left and he should be returning now. He should return as soon as possible. Why is he then still not here? My son, how can you not understand my heart?”
However, the father began to see something. Far away, he saw something dark, and as soon as he saw it he recognized that it was his son. Even though the son was still far away, he ran to him, embraced him in his arms and kissed him. When you meet someone whom you’ve been missing for so long, manners are thrown out the window. You’d be overwhelmed with joy at seeing him. The prodigal son lowered his head in shame.
“What took you so long? How much you have suffered!” The father kissed the son and embraced him. How could the father have done this if he had no genuine love for his son? The father could receive him with so much joy like this because he loved him so much and he had yearned for his return.
My fellow believers, even though we are too ashamed to return to God and we have nothing, still, we were made in the likeness of the image of God. Strictly speaking, this means that all of us are God’s sons and daughters. Even though we have no possessions, we should at least turn our hearts around and return to God. Then far from rebuking us, God will have compassion and mercy on us, embrace us, and take care of us completely.
Yet many people still do not think so even to this day. They say, “I’ve committed too many sins to return to God. I smoke and drink, and so I can’t return to God.” But the truth is different. So long as we turn our hearts back to God, all of us can return to Him at any time.
The pods of the swine that the prodigal son ate here refer to the teachings of the religions of this world. They are worthless as food, and they can’t fill anyone’s stomach. We have to grasp clearly that the religions of this world are completely worthless just like these pods. Think about it. What has anyone ever gained from religion? All that’s gained from religion is just one’s own feelings, emotion, and virtue. The gist of its teachings is merely to lead a virtuous, good, and upright life. This is all that’s gained from religion.
But can we really live so virtuously according to such religious teachings? Fundamentally speaking, everyone’s heart is filled with piles of sins that were inherited. Everyone’s heart is plagued by lustful, murderous, adulterous, and covetous desires. The longer one lives in the world, the more such desires are exposed from him. Therefore, our seed is such that we can never live virtuously no matter how we are taught to do so by any religion.
Of course, when we were young, we all wanted to live virtuously. When we were in elementary school, we tried to live as our teachers taught us. But what actually happened? Even when we were young, we still had a desire to possess something, to buy and eat cookies. It’s just that we were too young to express such desires. What happens when one grows up? By the time one graduates from high school and goes to college, everything that’s in his heart is fully exposed. What does this mean? It means that human beings are fundamentally a brood of evildoers who can’t help but commit evil deeds. Yet despite this, the religions of the world keep extolling the virtues of mankind, saying, “Human beings are good by nature. So let your acts be good. Live a virtuous life. You’ll then become a Buddha. You will become a god. You’ll be blessed if you live virtuously.” But it is absolutely impossible for any human being to live virtuously.
All of us learned about ethics and morals while we were in school, right? Everything that’s taught in such moral training is correct. These moral teachings have been further developed by religion. No matter which religion you look at, if you look deep inside and analyze it carefully, you will see that every religion just teaches us to live a virtuous and good life.
However, even though we all learn these moral lessons, what happens once we are out of school and live out in society? Do we really live virtuously as taught in school? Is it possible for us to lead a virtuous life? Everyone is taught not to be greedy, not to steal, not to murder, not to commit adultery, and not to have lustful thoughts. But does anyone really abide by all these dictums? No, that’s not the case. Of course, we do good deeds once in a while, but strictly speaking, these good deeds are also done for our own sake. In other words, people sacrifice themselves not because this is the right thing to do, but because they think it’s in their own interest. It’s true that there are some people in this world who do virtuous deeds. But there is no one who is virtuous. Yet every religion relentlessly expounds on the goodness of mankind, even though this is completely untenable. The religions of the world sweet-talk everyone to live virtuously because they seek to cover up their wickedness. It’s because no one can live virtuously that they keep teaching everyone to live virtuously.
The way to finding God is not found in these religions. Only the true Word of the Lord can take us to God. No religion can do this. Many Christians are leading a religious life rather than a life of faith, and some of them claim that they received the ability to speak in tongues while praying. But is this a good thing? No, it’s like a sorceress levitating while practicing witchcraft. One should be rational as every human being is supposed to be. In other words, one should say sensible things, think clearly, and have the proper knowledge of what he should know.
There is nothing that’s not found in the Bible. In other words, the Word of God teaches everything beneficial to us including the proper philosophy of life. Because God made us, He addressed in the Bible everything that we need to know. So if one reads this Word, he can go to Heaven. But if one instead tries to do good deeds on his own rather than following the Word, he cannot avoid but be cast into hell.
My fellow believers, you must realize that religion is useless. You must also realize that you can never find any satisfaction from any religion. The Bible says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Just as this passage says, no one can actually live by the bread of the flesh alone. Because man is a spiritual creature, he can’t help but have religious beliefs. But these religious beliefs should be replaced with faith in the Truth and in God, and not laden with superstition. Remember this clearly. You can never find any satisfaction from any religion. You and I must realize clearly that we can never go to the Kingdom of Heaven through any religion.
If you have now realized the imperfection of religion, you must return to God. You must divulge all your sins to the Lord exactly as they are, ask for God’s mercy, and recover the blessings that mankind had enjoyed at the beginning. When you return to God, do not try to fix and spruce up yourself, but go to Him exactly as you really are. Meet a true leader with this right attitude. If you want to receive the remission of sins into your heart, and if you want to enter the Kingdom of God, it’s absolutely indispensable for you to find assistance from a priest, that is, a servant of God, just as the Bible says, “So the priest shall make atonement for his sin that he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him” (Leviticus 4:35).
Without a spiritual priest—that is, if you do not trust in your spiritual leader who has the righteousness of God—you cannot receive the remission of sins. You should realize and believe that there are such priests on this earth. As God is invisible, God has placed such people of faith in this world for you to see them. It is through these priests whom God has prepared, through the people who teach us right and lead us properly, that we can truly meet God.
My fellow believers, whenever you approach God, make sure to approach Him exactly as you are. As this God is full of love, He will then meet you without fail. He will recover your original glory perfectly. Take a look at what the Word of God says in today’s Scripture passage. When the prodigal son returned from the world and said to his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son,” the father said to his servants: “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”
When the prodigal son returned exactly as he was, his father told his servants to bring the best robe and clothe the son with it. What does this mean? It means that God has compassion on those who return to Him. It means that He will restore them to their original, righteous state in the likeness of His image. If God is the King of this world, then we are its princes and princesses. My fellow believers, our God has clothed us in the garment of righteousness. What is this garment of righteousness? It is the seal of approval demonstrating that we are righteous people.
“Take off all the filthy rags, cast them out and burn them all. Bring the best robe and put it on My son. Put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.” Like this, God has restored us as His cherished sons and daughters. When we were born as Adam’s descendants, we were born as sinners. But now that we have received the remission of sins, we have returned to Jesus and become righteous people. In other words, because we’ve realized and believed that Jesus Christ took away all our sins exactly as the Bible says, God has restored us to be righteous people again. Even though we were insufficient sinners before, now we are righteous people who know and believe in Jesus Christ. This means that although we ourselves are lacking, God has blotted out all our insufficiencies.
It is indeed a mystery to grasp this Truth and believe in it. In the world this is often described as finding the path. How can a human being approach God and become righteous? It’s made possible by realizing the Word of God and knowing the Truth, and this is the mysterious way to the Kingdom of God. The Bible says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
My fellow believers, it was indeed impossible for us to escape from the religions of the world. We had wasted everything drowning in religion, and we were also destined to be destroyed. Yet God is so full of love that even for such people like us, who had lost everything and were doomed, He has put the garment of righteousness on us. God has given all His precious blessings that only the righteous can receive. Words cannot express just how thankful I am. Our Lord has clothed us in the garment of righteousness and restored us to be His children. If we really believe in the Word of God and return to Him exactly as we are, God will accept us just as we are despite all our insufficiencies. He will also solve all the problems that we are facing. We must realize clearly here that when we return to God, He will not just solve our current problems, but He will also bless us with the restoration of faith to enjoy everything as the King’s sons and daughters.
Just as our God blessed the prodigal son, so has He also blessed us. Hasn’t He clothed us in the best robe? Hasn’t He put a ring on us? Haven’t we become God’s sons and daughters? We have indeed put on the garment of righteousness, become God’s sons and daughters, and put on our shoes as well.
God has also given us joy. The father in today’s Scripture passage said, “Bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry.” This passage means that by believing in Jesus Christ, we have come to live a joyful and happy life. God has called you and me so that He may enjoy happiness and joy with us.
My fellow believers, now that you have received the remission of sins, there is no need for you to cry again. There is already enough sadness and suffering while living in this world, so why would you come all the way to God’s Church just to cry? All of us are cheerful, happy, rejoiced, and full of love and joy, living a rewarding life. God has opened the way of righteousness and joy for us. He has restored us all, so that we can eat and drink with Him in the same feast and rejoice together. Did we not receive the remission of sins in order to come to God and live happily with Him? If one really receives the remission of sins, he will taste true joy. This joy cannot be compared to any joy that’s attained from achieving anything in this world. This joy is one that makes you smile even in suffering. Once one truly finds Jesus Christ, he can enjoy all such joy.
My fellow believers, God is indeed our God. Jesus is our Savior and our Father. The Holy Spirit is with us now. Everything is guaranteed to those for whom God is their Father. All the happiness, grace, blessings, and glory of this world are guaranteed to them. Can such people ever be sad?
If you ever face hardship while living on this earth, pray to God. I am sure that your problem will then be solved by the Lord. You will live in joy, and you will also lead many people to the way of righteousness. Let’s not go to that wonderful place just by ourselves. Let us instead lead as many people as possible to the righteousness of God.