“Now the LORD had said to Abram:
‘Get out of your country,
From your family
And from your father’s house,
To a land that I will show you.
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’
So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.”
It is written in Matthew 1:1-2, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers.”
Why does the Bible say here that the Gospel of Matthew is the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, and the Son of Abraham? Abraham is the father of faith. And Jesus Christ, the Son of David, is the King of kings. Hence, His genealogy is a royal genealogy. How is this royal genealogy continued on? How do we continue to give birth to the children of faith? How can we continue to bear spiritual fruit? These are the questions that God wants to address through the above Scripture passages.
Let’s Think about Obedience
Today’s Scripture reading from Matthew talks about begetting children, but today, I would like to speak to you about obedience first. When we turn to Genesis chapter 12, we see the Bible saying, “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you.’” God then promised Abraham that He would bless him, and Abraham obeyed the Word of God.
Let’s ponder on this account first. Abraham obeyed the Word of God, and God said to him that He would bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him. But, for Abraham to become a man of faith and beget Isaac, the very first thing he needed to do was to obey the Word of God. Obedience was far more necessary than anything else. Likewise, for us to live out our faith, obedience is absolutely indispensable. If Abraham had not obeyed the Word of God wholeheartedly, then he could not have become the father of faith. It’s when he became an obedient man that God named him Abraham. His original name was Abram.
Above all, Abraham wanted to obey God. When we first begin to lead our lives of faith, the very first thing that God demands from us is faith of obedience, and not anything else special. God does not want any special talents or exceptional devotion from us. The first thing that God wants from us is to have enough faith that enables us to obey His Word. How important is obedience for us to live out our faith? Unless we learn to obey God, we can neither taste the true faith nor maintain a true life of faith.
Obedience is extremely important, but do you really know what it means to obey God? Obedience is all about doing whatever God asks us to do. It is about carrying out God’s order with full trust. The very first thing that we must learn in our lives of faith is obeying God by faith. If you have not become a man of faith yet, you must learn to obey God first. If you accumulate nothing but Biblical knowledge, you are bound to become arrogant and boastful. In contrast, once you learn to obey God by faith, it’s only a matter of course for you to not only reach spiritual faith and but also receive spiritual blessings.
Blessed Are Those Who Obey God
Among those who are blessed by God, Jacob yearned after God’s blessings and sought to receive them at any price, while Isaac was blessed by God for his obedience. As Isaac did, some people receive and enjoy all the blessings of God by doing nothing but obeying Him faithfully. In contrast, some people don’t obey God and instead go against His will at every chance even as they are very good at what they do.
Let’s consider these two types of people. Let’s say that there is a man who is full of weaknesses and shortcomings, but because this man obeyed God, his future is bright and he has been blessed by God. Let’s now assume that there is another man who is very gifted, bright, and talented, but because this man has refused to obey God and is doing whatever he wants to do, he is not only unable to receive the blessings that he seeks from God, but he even ends up leaving Him. Ultimately, whether we are blessed by God or not depends on whether or not we obey Him. I have learned from my life of faith that if I obey the Word of God even when it does not fit into my thoughts, I can then come to realize the will of God and be blessed.
We Must Learn to Obey God Truthfully
What does it mean to obey God according to His Word? We know that God has established His Church to teach us obedience, and that through His Church and the leaders there God is trying very hard to teach us how to obey Him. And we can see that God blesses all who obey Him. Those who learn to obey and submit themselves to God face a bright and wonderful future even if they are full of shortcomings and devoid of any faculty of their own.
In contrast, those who disobey God face a difficult and rough road. What would happen to you if you fail to learn to obey God? First of all, you will not be able to receive the blessings of faith that Abraham had received. When God said to Abraham, “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you,” Abraham obeyed this order even though he was already 75 years old. Abraham is the father of faith, but he did not become the father of faith just because he believed in God in his heart. He actually obeyed God and acted by faith. If you want to follow God, it’s absolutely indispensable for you to learn to obey God by faith, for only then can you embark on this road to taste God’s glory, power, and blessings.
Abraham begot Isaac and Isaac begot Jacob. For Abraham to beget Isaac, he had to first learn to obey God. Everyone must learn to obey God first without any exception. No matter how gifted anyone might be, if this person does not know how to obey God, then his faith is all in vain. Even if one of our brothers is smarter than any of our pastors, he must still learn to obey the Word of God. If he does not, then all his gifts are rendered useless. He can’t take advantage of any of his talents.
When you visit a prison, you will likely see quite a few people well versed in the Word of God. Some mission organizations also train their members to memorize the Word of God. But you shouldn’t think that just because someone can recite the Word of God from memory, this person has somehow received the remission of sins, is gifted, or has faith. Even if you cannot recite the Word of God from memory, what’s important is that you know what the Word of God means, engrave it in your heart, obey it, trust in it, and follow it. It’s none other than such people who are the people of faith.
God Said That Obedience Is Better than Sacrifice
If Abraham had failed to learn to obey God, he would not have been able to follow His Word. God said in 1 Samuel that obedience is better than sacrifice. Let’s look it up. The passage is found in 1 Samuel 15:22-23:
“So Samuel said:
‘Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He also has rejected you from being king.’”
It’s written here that to obey is better than sacrifice. It’s also written that rebelling against God rather than obeying Him is like the sin of witchcraft. What does this mean? It means that disobeying God is the same as seeking divination from idols, obeying them, offering sacrifices to them, and worshipping them. In other words, the failure to disobey God is not just a trivial matter, but God treats it seriously in the same way as He treats the sin of idolatry, just as it is written, “Stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”
As the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the very first thing that we must learn from God is obedience by faith. You must learn first to obey God by faith. When you obey the Word of God in small matters, you can then obey Him in big matters. This is surely true. But, obedience by faith is something that you must learn; it is not something you can have just by your intellectual efforts. Obedience is faith. Once you submit yourself to God by faith, you will find it so much easier to obey His Word. In contrast, those who don’t submit themselves to God cannot obey His Word even if they want to. Because our hearts are prone to go against the Word of God, it’s absolutely important for us to constantly force ourselves to obey God. We will then get used to obedience and in time we will find it so much easier to obey God. What would happen if you don’t obey God? If you fail to learn to obey God, then you would fail at your life of faith also, because obedience is the very first step to living out your faith. The first thing that God wants from us is obedience. He did not teach us about faith first.
Take a Look at What Happened to Saul When He Disobeyed God
God raised up Samuel as His servant to deliver His people and to reign over them. However, the Israelites asked God to give them a king, and God then granted their wish. The Israelites were very happy to have Saul as their king. Saul was so tall that most men came only up to his shoulder. That means he was taller than most men by at least 35cm. Moreover, not only was Saul a tall man, but he was also a very handsome man. So you can see just how physically imposing Saul was. So, all the Israelites accepted Saul as their king.
At first, Saul obeyed the Word of God for a while after his coronation. Through the Prophet Samuel God spoke to Saul and said, “I remember the Amalekites and how they had stood against Me when I brought you the people of Israel out of Egypt into the land of Canaan.” The Amalekites had ambushed the people of Israel when they came out of Egypt, and God remembered this and wanted to punish them for what they had done to His people. So He said, “Destroy and wipe out the Amalekites completely. Kill every one of them and utterly destroy all that they have, men and women, young and old, good and bad.” God said this to His servant Samuel, and Samuel relayed it to Saul.
So Saul went into war and defeated the Amalekites. He also killed all the Amalekites as commanded by God, but there were some things that he spared. He spared the best of the sheep and the oxen and killed everything else. This was disobeying God. God had ordered Saul to destroy everything that the Amalekites had because they were God’s enemies, yet Saul had failed to obey God completely by sparing the best of the sheep and the oxen instead of destroying them all. So God called the Prophet Samuel and said to him, “I have forsaken Saul, for he has not obeyed Me.”
The Prophet Samuel then went to Saul to confirm this. When he got there, he heard the bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen. So he asked Saul, “What is all this noise?” Saul then said, “I have spared just the best of the sheep and the oxen to sacrifice them to God, while destroying the rest.” Samuel said, “What did God say to you? Because you have forsaken the Word of God, you will no longer be the king. You have fallen from your throne.” Saul then replied, “I disobeyed the Word of God because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.”
Anyone who does not have the Spirit of God, who has not been raised by God, cannot obey Him. No man of the flesh can ever obey God. This is simply impossible no matter how anyone might wish to do so. Those who have not received the remission of sins just cannot obey God, even if they are brought to God’s Church. Saul had not received the remission of his sins. So God chose David as the next king of Israel. David was a man who acknowledged the Word of God, someone who had received the remission of sins. David always obeyed God whenever He spoke to him.
God is teaching us the people of faith to obey Him at all times. You might think that you had obeyed God even before being born again, but that does not even come close to obedience. You must obey God and His Church. Whatever the Church says, you must obey it regardless of whether you find it likable or not. Obeying God only when you find it fitting to your own thoughts and disobeying when you don’t is not really what obedience is about.
God Is Most Pleased by Those Who Obey Him for the Preaching of the Gospel
God said that to obey is better than any sacrifice. You must grasp here that no matter how ardently you might worship God and how much money you might offer to Him, obeying God fully is far more pleasing to Him than any of these things.
Do you think of yourself as an obedient saint? As you are attending this Mission School, do you think that you are obeying God? Do you think it is okay to just memorize a few Bible verses before heading back home? Are you still beholden to your own thoughts, thinking to yourself, “I won’t change my mind no matter what Rev. Jong says because I’ve come here for my own purpose”? You might have thought like this when you left your home to attend this discipleship training course, but you cannot learn anything about faith with that kind of attitude.
Do you really love the gospel of the water and the Spirit? If you really love the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then you must serve it. While the Church needs saints, it also needs dedicated and faithful workers. The true workers of God are those who obey Him by faith. Those who obey God by faith can be used by Him for His work. Such people can preside over God’s Church and lead it. In contrast, those who do not obey God are completely useless no matter how gifted they might be and how well they might preach and use the correct grammar. Such people cannot rise up to the challenge when they face adverse circumstances or spiritual problems. However, those who obey God can discern His will and obey Him by faith no matter what kind of challenge and hardships they might face.
Because our Church has continued to plant new branch churches, some saints might think that they would be ruined financially if they continue to attend this Church. Many saints think like this. However, in reality all that we need to do is just pray to God. God will then fill all our needs. Rather than obeying God only when it’s fitting to our own standard and disobeying Him when it’s not, we ought to submit ourselves to God completely. As long as God’s Church and His Word are right, as long as the Church preaches the genuine gospel, and as long as this is what pleases God the most, we ought to obey Him and pray to Him in unity. We can then all follow the Word by faith.
It is only proper for the Church to devote all its effort to spreading the gospel of the water and the Spirit. It’s not so complicated. Some of us support the gospel ministry from behind, while others preach the gospel. Even though this may seem very difficult, it can actually be achieved if there is just one dedicated worker who devotes himself to the gospel and obeys God. It can be done if there is just one obedient worker of the gospel. It’s not something that requires a lot of people. It’s very simple.
In the past I have also held down a job for a living. Where would you spend your hard-earned money? There are not that many things that is worthy of spending your money. It’s a waste to drink it away, as it is to spend it on the fleeting pleasures of the flesh. Where should you then invest your hard-earned money? There is nowhere else to invest it but in the spreading of the gospel. There is a passage in the Bible that admonishes us to store our treasures in the Kingdom of Heaven, and this is indeed a very important passage. To invest in the Church and the spreading of the gospel is to invest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The First Thing That the People of Faith Must Learn Is to Obey God
Many are called by God but few are really obedient to His call. What is the very first thing that we must learn after being saved from our sins? The first thing the Bible teaches the people of faith is obedience. Who is the first to be rebuked then? The disobedient are the first to be rebuked. How could Abraham have begot Isaac? God had told him to leave his country, his family, and his father’s house, and Abraham obeyed God. If Abraham had not obeyed God by faith, then there would have been no Isaac. Abraham would have had neither any fruit nor any descendant, and God would have used another man for His work. God told Abraham to obey Him above all else.
Therefore, obedience to God is the most important lesson that you must all learn before anything else. No one knows how long it might take you to learn this. Let’s think about a worker who is afraid to face a new environment. Would you like to move from here to another city? Some people might like it, but others might not for various reasons. I am one of the latter. My body gets so tired when I travel by a car for more than two hours that I just can’t bear it anymore. I also get car-sick. I had not known motion-sickness in my past, even when I rode in a boat, but nowadays I feel ill when I am on the road for a long time. So I dislike traveling even more. So, someone like me would be prone to disobey the Church when told to move to another city to plant a new church.
However, even if you don’t like to travel, if God’s Church tells you to go, then you should go in obedience. Regardless of whether you like it or not, you should go wherever and whenever the Church tells you to go. That’s what obedience is all about. And all of us must learn this obedience. Unless you yourself wish to learn to obey, you cannot obey God. While faith is something that you can have by believing in the Word with your heart, obedience cannot be had unless you learn how to obey.
For how many years God teaches obedience depends on whom He is teaching. Regardless of what you think, whether or not you obey the will of God when the Church speaks to you is entirely up to you. No matter how much you learn about the Word and how much faith you have, everything will become corrupted unless you obey God. Without your obedience, God’s power will never work in your life. It’s only after you obey God that the work of faith unfolds.
Once Abraham submitted himself fully to God, he then actually followed the Word and put his obedience into action. God promised him that He would give him a son if he followed Him in obedience, but it took another 25 more years until Abraham begot Isaac. It’s after this that God gave the fruit of faith to Abraham. Obedience should come first, not faith. It’s when people first obey God and listen to His Word carefully that they receive the remission of sins. In contrast, anyone who disobeys God and challenges Him with his own thoughts and notions will be cast into hell without fail. God’s work will never unfold in such a person’s life.
What Kind of People Is God Most Pleased to Use?
Would God prefer to use someone who obeys His Word faithfully, or someone who is smart but very willful? God likes to use someone who obeys Him by faith. To God, it does not matter whether one is smart or gifted or not. Someone who is gifted and talented but disobedient is absolutely useless to the Kingdom of God. In contrast, those who are devoid of any special talents but are obedient are used by God as His instruments as God Himself empowers them, fills their needs, strengthens them, and blesses them. This is the way how God works.
To this very day God has taught me how to obey Him. There were many times when I wished I could do whatever I wanted to do. However, whatever God spoke to me, I still obeyed Him completely even if I did not like it. Despite my shortcomings, when I moved forward step by step in obedience, God actually worked in my life. If I had not obeyed God, then I would be getting drunk in some tavern right now rather than preaching here.
Once people receive the remission of sins, they become divided into two groups: Those who obey God are used in His Church as His precious instruments, while those who disobey God are inevitably bound to end up in a bar fight. This is what the Bible says. The Scriptures explains just how much easier it is for God to work through the people of faith who are obedient to Him.
Therefore, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to obey God. There are many things that I admonish you to do in your life. Each and every one of these things is indispensable to you. Of course, you may think that these things are trivial and doesn’t really matter, but you must learn to obey God step by step from the smallest step. Without your leader in God’s Church, there is no one who can teach you how to obey God.
As the Born-again Righteous, Let Us All Live in Obedience to God
Until today, you might have lived in whatever way you wanted to live. You might have done whatever you wanted to do without care. But now I, as the chief leader of the Church, have something to ask of you. Even though it may seem trivial for now, when you look at its implications down the road, it is something that you must obey without fail. If you reject even the smallest admonishment, the consequences will be grave. That’s why the Church leaders make their admonishments to you step by step.
I don’t want you to be just an intellectual well versed in Biblical knowledge. This will come about as a matter of course if you just abide in this Church. Don’t worry about your lack of biblical knowledge. That’s nothing to worry about right now. As we live out our faith together, as you obey the Word and follow it by faith, and as you listen to the Word without missing any gatherings, I have every confidence that God will fill all your needs. But you must learn to obey the Word first. God will then surely bless you to bear much beautiful fruit. However, if you continue to disobey God, then no one else but you are responsible for the consequences. Neither God nor I can take responsibility for the consequences of your disobedience.
It is extremely important for you to listen to your church leaders. You need to realize here that although God speaks through the Bible, the Bible speaks through your church leaders and your predecessors of faith. There are those who are ahead of you in the Church. Not everyone in the Church is on the same spiritual platform. Someone who received the remission of sins a year ago is not the same as someone who received it five years ago. How many years a saint has spent in the Church is the evidence of this saint’s obedience. It is the living history of one’s faith. The Bible says, “You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32). When you look at the seniors in the Church who have aged along with the maturing of their faith, they have countless experiences and stories to tell you. There is a great deal of wisdom and treasure hidden in them. They have so much wisdom accumulated over the years while living in this world as the people of faith.
To draw an analogy, let’s say that we are comparing a young woman with professional training in childcare to an older one, the untrained but experienced woman to see who is better at childcare. There is no question that the older woman would do a far better job than the younger woman with formal training. Formal training is not that useful when it comes to actually taking care of a child. In contrast, because the older woman went through child-raising with her own experiences, she is able to take care of children so much better.
In a similar vein, as students at our Mission School, you should not ignore your predecessors in the faith. You should not consider everyone else in the Church on an equal footing as yourself regardless of how long one has been a redeemed saint. When someone who just received the remission of sins a month ago ignores another saint who received it three months ago, this former one is actually ignoring all kinds of wisdom. There are so many lessons to be learned from the latter. Your predecessors of faith have so much that you have neither experienced nor tasted of yet. If you ignore them, then you are just making a fool out of yourself. You must therefore obey all your predecessors of faith in the Church no matter how far ahead spiritually they are, learn from their wisdom, and continue to move forward by faith. I can’t emphasize enough just how important this is. If we know the gospel but not the life of obedience, then ultimately we will amount to nothing.
There actually is a huge difference between someone who attends the Church and listens to the Word just once a week and someone who attends every gathering and listens to the Word at every opportunity. The students at our Mission School may seem no different from anyone else in the Church for now, but in time, there will be a huge difference. All these achievements come about by faith as one learns, obeys, and abides in what is assured.
Today, I have explained to you about the importance of obedience. The very first thing that God wants from us is obedience. The very first thing that God teaches us is also obedience. Without obedience, all learning is rendered useless. No matter what you are thinking now, you must ponder carefully on the absolute necessity to learn to obey God.
Indeed, you should never take the Word lightly or ignore and look down on the guidance of the Church. If you do this, it will become a huge obstacle to you as you try to live by trusting in God. God cannot use such people. God uses someone like the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul preached the gospel when God told him to do so. Wherever God told him to go and preach the gospel, he went there and preached as commanded by God. He did everything God commanded him to do, and through him God moved the history of the whole known world during the last half of the first century.
Whom does God use? He uses the obedient. God does not use just anyone who is too willful to obey Him. How about you then? Do you really want to be used by God? Do you really want to be used as God’s precious instrument? If you do, then learn to obey God, and He will surely use you for a worthy cause.
Don’t try to learn anything else. Would God be unable to use you because you can’t speak English or understand Hebrew? No, of course not! If you ever go abroad to preach the gospel, you can still communicate through a translator. Obedience is better than sacrifice. This is the core lesson all of us should learn well from today’s Scripture reading.