“It came to pass at that time that Judah departed from his brothers, and visited a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua, and he married her and went in to her. So she conceived and bore a son, and he called his name Er. She conceived again and bore a son, and she called his name Onan. And she conceived yet again and bore a son, and called his name Shelah. He was at Chezib when she bore him. Then Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him. And Judah said to Onan, ‘Go in to your brother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother.’ But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the LORD; therefore He killed him also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, ‘Remain a widow in your father’s house till my son Shelah is grown.’ For he said, ‘Lest he also die like his brothers.’ And Tamar went and dwelt in her father’s house. Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And it was told Tamar, saying, ‘Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.’ So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. Then he turned to her by the way, and said, ‘Please let me come in to you’; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. So she said, ‘What will you give me, that you may come in to me?’ And he said, ‘I will send a young goat from the flock.’ So she said, ‘Will you give me a pledge till you send it?’ Then he said, ‘What pledge shall I give you?’ So she said, ‘Your signet and cord, and your staff that is in your hand.’ Then he gave them to her, and went in to her, and she conceived by him. So she arose and went away, and laid aside her veil and put on the garments of her widowhood. And Judah sent the young goat by the hand of his friend the Adullamite, to receive his pledge from the woman’s hand, but he did not find her. Then he asked the men of that place, saying, ‘Where is the harlot who was openly by the roadside?’ And they said, ‘There was no harlot in this place.’ So he returned to Judah and said, ‘I cannot find her. Also, the men of the place said there was no harlot in this place.’ Then Judah said, ‘Let her take them for herself, lest we be shamed; for I sent this young goat and you have not found her.’ And it came to pass, about three months after, that Judah was told, saying, ‘Tamar your daughter-in-law has played the harlot; furthermore she is with child by harlotry.’ So Judah said, ‘Bring her out and let her be burned!’ When she was brought out, she sent to her father-in-law, saying, ‘By the man to whom these belong, I am with child.’ And she said, ‘Please determine whose these are—the signet and cord, and staff.’ So Judah acknowledged them and said, ‘She has been more righteous than I, because I did not give her to Shelah my son.’ And he never knew her again. Now it came to pass, at the time for giving birth, that behold, twins were in her womb. And so it was, when she was giving birth, that the one put out his hand; and the midwife took a scarlet thread and bound it on his hand, saying, ‘This one came out first.’ Then it happened, as he drew back his hand, that his brother came out unexpectedly; and she said, ‘How did you break through? This breach be upon you!’ Therefore his name was called Perez. Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand. And his name was called Zerah.”
Every true born again Christian must perform their responsibilities that God has entrusted them with. We must know about and fulfill our responsibilities properly before God. Among the twelve sons of Jacob mentioned in this passage of Scripture, Judah is spoken of and he became the ancestor of the royal tribe. It is written here that Judah took a wife for his son Er and the name of his daughter-in-law was Tamar. And she was a Gentile woman.
Tamar: A Woman in the Lineage of Faith
In the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew we read about the genealogy of Jesus Christ where the lineage of faith is recorded. Matthew chapter 1 verse 3 reads: “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram.” It is recorded here that Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. It tells us that Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar. Who is this Tamar? She was the wife of Judah’s eldest son. In other words, she was Judah’s daughter-in-law. But what happened in the end. Judah slept with his daughter-in-law Tamar unwillingly after many twists and turns. Dear fellow believers, isn’t it horrible that something like this be recorded in the Bible? However, I believe that our God is speaking to us through this account how exactly our true selves are like.
To the Israelite people, like us the Koreans, the women had to continue on their husbands’ family line. When a woman got married, she had the absolute responsibility to give birth to a descendent to continue on her husband’s family line. And so, if the oldest son of an Israelite was married but died without bearing any child by his wife, then the younger brother would go to her in order to have a child. Even in the New Testament times, some of the Sadducees asked Jesus, saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife” (Luke 20:28-33).
In such a cultural context, Tamar had a duty to pass down the family line of Judah, but Judah’s sons did not fulfill this. The Bible records that Judah’s firstborn Er was wicked in the sight of God and the Lord killed him. What is very strange is that Er somehow knew that if he had relations with his wife, that child that would be born would not be his child and so he prevented her from conceiving. It is said that the Lord was angry of his evildoings and killed him. For the sake of the older brother Er, God gave the younger brother Onan to Tamar. If we look at the Book of Genesis 38:8, it says, “And Judah said to Onan, ‘Go into your bother’s wife and marry her, and raise up an heir to your brother’.” And so Judah made him go to his sister-in-law Tamar. However, this Onan did the very same thing that his brother did and was destroyed because of it. If we look at verse 9, it says, “But Onan knew that the heir would not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in to his brother’s wife, that he emitted on the ground, lest he should give an heir to his brother.”
Well then whose turn is it now? Judah’s third son named Shelah was now in line, and it was obviously his turn to be married. But Shelah was still very young. Judah had to continue on his family line but his two sons were already dead. And his daughter-in-law had to wait for his third son Shelah to grow up, but Judah felt that Shelah would die also if he gave his youngest son in marriage to Tamar, so he avoided doing this. He did say to her, “I will give Shelah to you, but just wait until he has grown up.” As a father he was afraid of what would happen to his youngest son. Judah thought to himself that if they were allowed to sleep together, his youngest son would die also. He thought that this daughter-in-law was like a black widow that was going to devour all of his sons. And so in the end he did not give his third son to this daughter-in-law.
Tamar Who Slept with Her Father-in-Law
The Book of Genesis 38:12-16 writes as follows: “Now in the process of time the daughter of Shua, Judah’s wife, died; and Judah was comforted, and went up to his sheepshearers at Timnah, he and his friend Hirah the Adullamite. And it was told Tamar, saying, ‘Look, your father-in-law is going up to Timnah to shear his sheep.’ So she took off her widow’s garments, covered herself with a veil and wrapped herself, and sat in an open place which was on the way to Timnah; for she saw that Shelah was grown, and she was not given to him as a wife. When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face. Then he turned to her by the way, and said, ‘Please let me come in to you’; for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. So she said, ‘What will you give me, that you may come in to me?’”
From what it says in this Scripture passage someone told Tamar that her father-in-law had come up to Timnah, it can thus be assumed that Timnah was where Tamar was living at the time. It seems that Judah’s daughter-in-law did not have her widow’s clothing on but hid her face and was seated on the side of the road like a prostitute. And Judah even though his wife had died not that long ago slept with this prostitute who was seated at the side of the road.
Dear fellow believers, this is the true picture of the man Judah. Like this, the Bible records everything just as it was. The Word of God does not hide anything in regards to mankind. Because the Word is the Word of God, it tells everything about human beings. The biographies that people have written only mention the good points of some great man. For example, it is written that General Lee Soon Shin of our country was a genius and was very smart from a young age. Furthermore, he was courageous, honored his elders and was well-mannered. However, the Bible does not write about our forefathers in the faith in this way. The Word of God tells us about any biblical person just the way he or she is without adding or omitting anything. And so, after Judah had lost his wife and had buried her, he had relations with a harlot.
The Israelites used to set apart a day every year for shearing sheep. It is the same in our country where in the fall we gather in all the crops that we have worked so hard for. But in Israel the work was mostly cattle raising, so the period for shearing sheep was when they had an abundant harvest. But on the day that Judah was going to shear his sheep, he saw a woman on the wayside and had relations with her. There was a woman on the side of the road that had her face covered. I guess the prostitutes of that time did that. Judah told her that he would go into her, and she probably asked for money. Judah said that he did not have any money, and so she asked for something that could be a guarantee of payment or some collateral. Judah then told her that he had his signet, cord and staff. And so the woman asked for that as collateral. Actually, this woman was not a harlot but Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar. She was the wife of his first and second sons.
After some time had gone by, it was time for Tamar to give birth to a child. And some people told Judah about this. People were saying that his daughter-in-law had committed adultery and was in the full term of her pregnancy. They said that she should be stoned and killed. If this was true, then according to the commandment of the Law, her sin called for death. And so Judah, in order to kill his daughter-in-law, grabbed her and sat her down and asked her who had done this to her. Tamar then said the owner of the signet, cord and staff had done this to her. Judah was at a loss of what to say in response to this. It was as if Tamar was saying, “If you had given your youngest son Shelah to me, then this would not have happened. You did not fulfill the obligation that you had towards me. And as I had the important responsibility of continuing on your family line, I had no other choice. My purpose was solely to continue on your family line.”
Dear fellow believers, when a woman gets married into a household, she has the obligation to continue on that family line. Put differently, she must ensure that the descendants of that household are not cut off. No one can deny that duty. And so, if any Israelite women were not able to bear children, they were despised or look down upon. And so, because of this, Judah was not able to kill her. And so the offspring of Tamar and Judah became a part of the genealogical line of faith. And later on through this genealogical line, who comes forth? Jesus Christ is born in human flesh as the Savior.
We Must Fulfill All Our Spiritual Duties
We see here the reason that Judah’s sons Er and Onan were killed was because they did not fulfill their duties before God. Their duties were to have children to succeed their family line. It is proper that one should do his or her rightful duty. Why then did they emit semen on the ground so that a child could not be borne?
If this be so, what are the duties or responsibilities of those of us who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit? Dear fellow believers, it is great evil for us to not fulfill our duties before God. And there is nothing as evil as those who believe in the righteousness of God to not proclaim His righteousness. It is a greater sin than any type of murder. I am saying that these men mentioned here who were not faithful in their responsibilities towards their families and before God and those believers in the gospel of the water and Spirit who do not proclaim the gospel of the water and the Spirit are the same. It is the duty of the righteous to fulfill what has been entrusted to them. Those who do not fulfill this responsibility will not be able to avoid death. However, there will always be some saints who do not proclaim the gospel of the water and the Spirit. They do not serve the righteousness of God and they do not unite themselves with the Church of God. They must take heed and not do this.
We see here the two sons of Judah died because they did not fulfill their duties. I guess that they did not particularly take an interest in Tamar as a person. Why do you think God killed Er? It is written that Er, Judah’s firstborn was wicked in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD killed him. I think because Er had spilled his seed on the ground Tamar could not conceive a child. And God looked upon this as evil and killed him. The other brother Onan was killed as well. Judah said, “Onan, please continue on the descendants of your older brother. Go into your sister-in-law in your brother’s place, have her conceive and continue on the family line.” But Onan thought about this and had it in his heart that even if a child was born, it would not be his but his older brother’s child instead. There was no reason for him to have his sister-in-law conceive and so he avoided this. Because of this act, God looked upon Onan as being evil and killed him also. He should have fulfilled his duty but he did not do so. And so, these two brothers were put to death for their sins.
Dear fellow believers, this Scripture passage applies to us as well. This is why we must ponder over this Scripture passage very carefully. We have been born again by believing in the Word of the water and the Spirit. Jesus Christ has saved us from all of the sins of the world by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. He has blotted out all of our sins. But if we, who have been saved from all our sins, do not do our duties to save souls, then we are no different to the sons of Judah. And so, today’s passage of Scripture is a Word of profound meaning to us the righteous. Put differently, people among the born again who do not unite themselves with the Church are not fulfilling their spiritual responsibilities. If anyone among the born again keeps his or her mouth shut and does not share the gospel of the water and the Spirit with others, then they are the same as these two men who did not fulfill their duties.
If someone asked me to tell them what is the most wretched thing that the born again can do, I would say the evilest person of all is the one who has received the remission of sins but does not serve the righteousness of God, and rather serves his or her own desires of the flesh instead. Anyone who cannot proclaim the gospel directly must unite with the Church, so that they can with others share this true gospel in whatever way possible, and they must do the work of the passing the seed down and having souls born by sharing this gospel. But there will always be wretched saints who refuse to do this. Even the most ruthless evil gangsters cannot be compared to people like this. What I am saying is that such gangsters are not that evil when compared in God’s sight.
Of course what that gangster did is sin, and terrible at that. But someone who has been saved and has clearly believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit before God and has been saved from all his sins, but refuses to fulfill the responsibility of serving the gospel of the water and the Spirit by uniting with the Church of God—is a wretched one and has committed a sin that is worthy of death. Such a person deserves the curse of God. Such a person will come to ruin both spiritually and physically. Someone who does not fulfill his or her duty is the most evil person in the sight of God. Does the Lord not show His treatment towards such people in the parable of the talents? The Bible tells us that one particular person received a talent from his master and then hid that talent in the ground. This master returned later and exclaimed after learning what he did, “Cast this unprofitable servant away.” And the Bible says, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” We must therefore unite ourselves with the Church of God and the righteousness of the Lord while living in this world.
Dear fellow believers, what do you think is the greatest sin a husband can commit to his wife in a marriage relationship? It is not fulfilling his duty to her as a husband. If you had a wife, but you refused to live together with her but lived apart from her, there would be nothing more evil than that. Let’s say there is a son or a daughter born to a married couple. If this child could not somehow fulfill his or her duties to their parents, then it would be okay, but if they could but did not and neglected their responsibilities to take care of their aged parents, then this is truly an evil thing.
Dear fellow believers, what do you think is the greatest sin among the sins that someone who has been saved by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit can commit? The greatest sin is not fulfilling the duty that God has commanded them to keep. Someone who believes in the Word of the gospel and the Spirit through the Word before God but does not fulfill his or her obligations is the most evil person. Our duty now is to serve the righteousness of God, but if someone does not fulfill this responsibility then it is a sin that is deserving of spiritual death. This kind of sin is the worst of all sins. What is the greatest sin someone can commit after receiving the remission of sins while attending the Church of God? It is the sin of promptly forgetting the grace of God right after receiving the remission of sins.
They are like a terrible thorn in God’s side. And I think that people who behave in this way are people who are throwing away the blessings which God has given them. God is thus thinking to Himself as He plans His vengeance, “You think that you are wise. But let’s see what happens when you continue doing this.” If the servants of God in His Church forbid someone to come to the Church, then it will be the end of his life. Dear fellow believers, do you know what the worst punishment for a saint is? It is not being able to attend the Church of God. It will be the end for the righteous if they cannot attend the Church of God any longer.
Who is a thorn in God’s side? Who are to be cursed by God? We who believe in the righteousness of God do not curse others, but God will curse them. Who then is doomed to be cursed? Those who have not received the remission of sins are not the object of God’s curses. They are actually the objects of His mercy. They still are the objects of God’s compassion. But only death awaits that person who has heard and believed in the gospel of the water and the Spirit but does not unite with the Church of God and absolutely does not fulfill his or her duties—they think they can outsmart others and refuses to unite with the righteousness of God until the end.
God killed Er and Onan, the sons of Judah. And God placed Tamar into the genealogy of the ancestors of faith. How can Tamar who had relations with her father-in-law become a physical ancestor of Jesus Christ? But the Bible has lifted up the faith of Tamar and placed her in the genealogical table of faith. Who is better in faith between Judah and Tamar? Her faith was superior to Judah’s faith. Why is this? Tamar was married into that household so she had to continue on the seed of this family. And so, she faithfully fulfilled her duty. The Bible records the genealogy of Jesus Christ, and Tamar is clearly mentioned like this: “Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram” (Matthew 1:3).
So physically speaking, how did she fit into the genealogy of Jesus? She actually became the wife of Judah. Isn’t that right? This is how this account ended. It is a bit odd in the genealogical line that Tamar was the daughter-in-law of Judah but she later became his wife. Nevertheless, there are many strange things that happen in the realm of faith.
What we must however realize here is that whether we are weak or lacking or not, we must understand that it is the will of God towards us that we must fulfill the obligations that God has given us. We must never forget what our responsibilities are. The person who fulfills his or her duties is the person who truly receives blessings before God and this person can stand confidently before Him as someone who has done everything that has been entrusted to him or her. Therefore, let’s fulfill our duties of proclaiming the gospel of the water and the Spirit. For a saint to neglect his or her responsibilities is the most evil thing. You saints must believe and serve the righteousness of God and be blessed by God. You must serve the righteousness of the Lord and partake in the body of the Church. You must be determined that you will either live or die along with the Church. If the Church prospers, you will prosper; if the Church perishes, you will then perish also. And we must be the people who seek out our spiritual duties before God and fulfill them, and thus stand in confidence before God.
Dear fellow believers, it has been several years since I have been able to visit my mother and father’s graves. This happened because I was serving the righteousness of God. Truly serving God is my top responsibility so I cannot stop doing this duty in order to do something else. My duties before God and before the saints are to conduct my life by faith which serves the righteousness of the Lord. We must do three things during our lifetime: Believe in the righteousness of the Lord, proclaim the gospel of the water and the Spirit, and unite ourselves to the Church of God. Whatever we are able to do, at least we must share the gospel of the water and the Spirit. And we must uplift and serve the righteousness of God.
What we must know is that our Lord told us that He came to this earth not to be served but to serve others. After we have grown in our faith a little more ever since we were saved by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we must learn how to serve the righteousness of God. Dear fellow believers, we must know what our spiritual duties are. We must know how we are going to serve the righteousness of God and what are the things that we must do? And we must learn by faith how to serve the righteousness of God.
We must lead our lives by not being like Er or Onan who were killed by God for not performing their obligations. Also, we must not be the people who live lives foolishly and selfishly asking for others to just serve them. We must unite ourselves with the Church of God so that we can obtain help from God and His Church in times of need. We must try the best of our abilities to be the faithful workers who serve the righteousness of the Lord. We must be the people who fulfill our spiritual obligations. The person who fulfills his or her spiritual responsibilities is the one who proclaims the righteousness of God.
We have been saved from all of our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. So, if we do not fulfill our duties, won’t we then be regarded by God as being evil? God is pleased with people who fulfill their responsibilities in His presence. Even if we are lacking in some area of our lives, we must still fulfill our duties as best as we can. Of course, there are times when we fulfill our duties well and times when we do not. But our inabilities do not matter. What is needed is a heart that is willing to fulfill our duties. People who are like this will receive love and help from God.
For Us the Saints, It Is Our Duty to Unite Ourselves to the Church of God
Dear fellow saints and servants of God. I believe that whether you are mature or still young in faith, if you have at least been saved from all your sins, you must unite yourselves with the Church of God. The righteous must fulfill their duties. If you are not good at preaching the gospel of the water and the Spirit, you must fulfill your responsibilities in any form or means by uniting yourselves for the propagation of the gospel. Then, by fulfilling your rightful duties before God, you will receive the love from God. And when you feel you are lacking in something, you can pray to God for His help, and you will then receive His help and grace in all things. In this manner, the relationship between God and us saints will become stronger because we have confidence in Him. Dear fellow believers, we must fulfill our duties so that we can stand confidently before God. When we fulfill our responsibilities even though we are not perfect, we will be the people who can live in fellowship with God in His abundant grace and blessings.
Pray for the Salvation of Souls
The Gospel of Matthew 8:28-34 says: “When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. And suddenly they cried out, saying, ‘What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?’ Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. So the demons begged Him, saying, ‘If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.’ And He said to them, ‘Go.’ So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.”
In the passage of Scripture we just read, two demon possessed men met Jesus and were healed from their evil spirits. In the process of their healing, the evil spirits went into the herd of swine nearby and the herd ran into the sea and drowned. When the people of that region saw this, they asked Jesus to leave their region.
Jesus Christ performed a miracle to set these demon-possessed men free. Nonetheless, from a spiritual standpoint this passage seems a bit strange. These two people got to meet our Lord who had such great ability and authority and the Lord cast out those demons. But despite this the villagers asked the Lord to leave their region. If these people were now in their right minds even though a herd of pigs had perished, they would have been so thankful for the fact that two people had their health fully restored. And they should have desired that Jesus stay with them a long time in their villages and heal the sick and the demon possessed, but these villagers were not like that. They were not interested in their salvation. They only thought and complained about the herd of pigs that had drowned and so they thought that Jesus should not remain with them. They thought that if Jesus continued to stay with them they would be ruined in the flesh and so they implored Jesus to depart far away from them.
As we live out our spiritual lives we often ponder over how we are going to live out our faith. Should we continue to do the work of saving lost souls from their sins? I am worried that we could become the fleshly people like the people of the Gergesenes. And because of this our spiritual lives must be lead by the Spirit. Therefore, we must concentrate on saving lost souls from their sins. In this passage, the two men met Jesus and were released from the evil spirits that had entered into them and were saved. And so, we must take heed that we focus on the salvation of lost souls and do not become like the owners of the pigs who were blind to anything other than their physical prosperity. Isn’t this right? We must not live out our faith in this manner. Isn’t this so true?
They should have given thanks to Jesus Christ who had come by the gospel of water and the Spirit. They should have said, “The pigs died and that is a huge loss, but many people have had demons cast out of them and so we are truly thankful. Thank You very much. These pigs are not important. We wanted to have bacon sometime, so while we can’t sell them we should have a village feast. Let’s take hooks and bring those carcasses ashore one by one and cut them up. Let’s remove the hair. Let’s marinate the meat and have a barbecue. Isn’t it something that we should rejoice over?” But it is truly regrettable that they chased Jesus away from that village.
In our spiritual lives, we must focus on many people receiving salvation and being saved from all of the sins of the world. In order to do that, we must have a huge interest in the work of God. We must fully realize this and carry out the work of God with even more fervor. In whatever way possible we must be the spiritual people of faith. If our hearts are not Spirit-led, then we can be regarded like the owners of those pigs. We must think about whether we are going to lose the things of the flesh and gain the things of the Spirit, or if we are going to lose the things of the Spirit and gain the things of the flesh. True spirituality consists of giving our best efforts towards saving even one soul from his or her sins. Our God requires us to have faith and to concentrate our efforts on His spiritual works.
During the recent book exhibition at Gangwon University, several souls received the remission of sins. I feel that the Church of God must strive further to do spiritual works as we live out our lives of faith. The objects of our evangelism should not only be university students but we must come into contact with many high school students as well. Honestly, preaching the gospel to high school students may be too late. We should start with middle school students. That’s because high school kids are very busy. I think it would be great if we have book exhibitions for middle school students as well as various events planned for them. It is a good thing for our hearts, bodies, thoughts, time and faith to be invested in saving lost souls from their sins.
When we devote ourselves to the salvation of lost souls, God gives us all the faith needed to handle such work. Are we then not truly the people who are living within the blessings of God? But what will happen if we do not dedicate ourselves to the work of saving souls? God will not take interest in us anymore because even if He does bless us we will think only of ways to prosper our flesh. That is why we must be interested in spiritual work and live out our faith spiritually. All of us must strive to proclaim the gospel of the water and the Spirit in order to save lost souls from all their sins. For this purpose, we must dedicate ourselves to the service of the gospel. And a lot of time must be invested for this work of God. Our thoughts should be directed spiritually. Our faith should be “spiritual” as well. We must concentrate our efforts in saving one soul from sin rather than anything that has to do for the flesh. In order to accomplish this, we must take an interest in the work of God’s righteousness and put aside any personal disappointments, difficulties and pride. We must contemplate, pray and speak about how we can spiritually save even one more soul everyday.
If we are not able to discern well what is spiritual from what is fleshly, we will swing back and forth between the work of the Spirit and that of the flesh. And so, as we look at this passage of Scripture from Matthew chapter 8, the Lord is asking us to be mindful of our responsibilities for lost souls. Instead of being thankful for the demon possessed being saved, the villagers were not mindful of that but asked Him to leave after arguing over the loss of that herd of pigs. The Lord is telling us that we must not live out our spiritual lives in this manner. We must lead our lives of faith spiritually. We must focus on saving lost souls from their sins. Whether we eat or drink, we are to do everything for the glory of God. We must strive, work hard and concentrate all our resources for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls. In order to do this, we must draw a clear-cut line of faith in our hearts that enables us to seek after the work of the Spirit first. When our flesh is struggling and we are worried, it is at this time that we must all the more practice our faith spiritually. Unless we do so, we will become frustrated and everything will seem to be laborious and hard. But if we look upon the work of God from a spiritual perspective, everything is precious and meaningful.
And So We Must Give More Attention in Doing Spiritual Work
We must pay more attention towards saving lost souls. More than any other work, we must dedicate ourselves to the work of saving souls. God is speaking to us about exactly this. So this question is asked: “How are you and I living right now?” Let’s think about whether we are spending more time on the things of the Spirit or the things of the flesh. Since we are humans, of course we are going to give our time to both the works of the Spirit and the flesh. But if we have been born again, we must give more attention to the work of the Spirit. We must be more concerned with one lost soul being saved over some herd of pigs being drowned.
Nevertheless, among those who have been saved, there are some who ask Jesus to leave because they cannot forget the fact that they lost several pigs. Such people must repent. This is not right. They have been born again by accepting the gospel, but they are saying that they cannot live out their lives of faith in this manner. They say that they can’t seek after only the work of the Spirit. They say that they can follow the Lord only if they are well off in their flesh, that is, only if their herd of pigs increases in number. Dear fellow believers, this is not right. There are sadly many people who think in this way.
The Bible says that our spirit must be well-off first in order for our flesh to prosper. But those who have the wrong mindset think opposite and believe that the flesh must be well-off first in order for the spirit to prosper. When your soul prospers spiritually, your flesh will prosper as well. It is guaranteed one hundred percent that when your spirit is well-off you will prosper in every fleshly aspect, as it is written, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 1:2). There is no evidence where the flesh prospers first and then the spirit prospers. In doing God’s work, the Bible says that we must seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to us. The work of God is of top priority. When we ponder and consider what we should do first and what we should think about first, without a doubt, it is spiritual work. We must think first of the work of the Spirit. A spiritual saint is to do the work of the Spirit first before anything else. Whatever state our flesh is in and regardless of whether I am evil or not, if we serve the gospel of the Lord and proclaim it wholeheartedly, then God will look upon us as true spiritual people. But no matter how just and how virtuous someone might be, if they do not work for the Lord, they are people of the flesh. As is shown so clearly above, our God desires that we live according to the Spirit.
Why has the Bible recorded this account? We don’t know how many pigs died from the above Scripture passage. Perhaps it may have been several thousands of pigs. But they could not be exchanged for a single human soul. If someone is truly a spiritual person can he or she exchange a thousand pigs with the souls of two human beings? And so, the Lord is speaking to us that we must be the people of faith like this.
When Jesus went to the region of the Gergesenes, a great work of salvation was accomplished. Nevertheless, because of the fleshly value system of these villagers, they chased Jesus away. We can be like that too. While leading our spiritual lives, if our flesh struggles and faces hardships, we are prone to forsake the Lord. But we must not be such depraved Christians who end up following after the flesh. We must absolutely follow after the Spirit. We must think of the work of God first and the salvation of souls first. We must think about following after God first and foremost and think first about the will of God as we lead our lives of faith. Of course, it is not as easy as it seems. It is very difficult. Nevertheless, we must live in this way. We cannot but lead our lives in the flesh, but still we must think about and serve the work of the Spirit first. We must lead our spiritual lives in this manner. Dear fellow believers, do you understand?
It Is Proper for Us to Live for the Salvation of Lost Souls
“And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.’ Then another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, let me first go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead’” (Matthew 8:18-22).
In this passage of Scripture we just read, the Lord speaks to us about two choices, whether to live for the Spirit or to live for the flesh, teaching us that it is right that we live for the Spirit. Jesus was popular when He was on this earth. It is true that Jesus was slapped, was stripped naked, and was spit upon. People despised Him until He died on the Cross. But actually when Jesus was doing His ministry on this earth He was a true superstar. These days I see a lot of posters for superstars. But Jesus was a true superstar. Who is the screen superstar that flies around in the sky? Is he Superman? Yes, a Superman. Jesus was more popular than Superman and had more power than him. Superman could not prepare food for approximately 10,000 people who are seated in the fields, but Jesus prepared food for over 10,000 that day. When Jesus was on this earth, He was popular with men as well as women. He was popular with the sick and with those who had power. If there was a popularity vote taken among the Israelites, Jesus would probably have taken first place. And so, the people of Israel tried to make Jesus their king. If Jesus wanted to He could become the King of Israel. But Jesus wanted to be a Teacher to the multitudes who surrounded him and followed after Him crying “Teacher, teacher,” while stumbling and at times falling flat on their backs.
Once, a scribe came to Jesus. A scribe at that time was a public servant, a significant public position. This person came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” This scribe had been captivated by Jesus as he had seen the miracles and wonders that the Lord had performed. He wanted to follow the Lord, saying, “Jesus Superstar, truly You can solve all things. If there is an illness, it is solved; even if there is no food You will give us food so we are not lacking in anything. Anyway, I will follow after You.”
Our Lord then said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Our Lord said this to this scribe. And this is also what He is saying to us: “Do you follow after Me because I showed My power and provided every worldly blessing to you? Actually, I do not want to be your physical King nor am I interested in gaining popularity. I am not interested in doing well in the flesh on this earth. The Son of Man has no place to lay His head. Even sparrows have their nests, but the Son of Man does not. He does not even have a house. You have nothing to gain from Me no matter how devotedly you follow Me for the rest of your life.” Jesus was speaking and implying that the scribe should have been following after the things of the Spirit but he wanted to follow after the things of the flesh and so he was on the complete wrong path.
When we follow after the Lord, we must first examine whether we follow after the Spirit or after the flesh. Dear fellow believers, after you have received the remission of sins by believing in Jesus, how are you going to live out the rest of your lives? It is a matter of whether you are going to live for the salvation of lost souls or whether we are going to seek for the prosperity of our flesh. Let’s think about this deeply.
Because we are still in the flesh, it is natural for our flesh to prosper. Because we still live in the flesh, we want both the spirit and the flesh to prosper. But if we were to choose between the two, which one would we choose? Which one would be the right choice? This is what I am talking about. We must first ask ourselves the question of whether we are going to do the work of saving souls during our whole lifetime or whether we are going to seek to please the flesh. Which one is to prosper? Of course, dedicating ourselves to the work of saving souls is the right choice.
Someone might ask me, saying, “Then, what are you going to choose?” I will answer them by saying, “I will choose to do the work of saving souls.” Then that person will ask in return, “You still live in the flesh. Do you then not desire to live for the flesh?” Of course, I do desire this. Nevertheless, although I still live in the flesh and can desire to live for the flesh, it is not proper to follow after the flesh only and so I do not pursue the things of the flesh. I am not saying that I hate the desires of the flesh, but I do not follow after the flesh because I abhor the things of the flesh as a born-again saint and, consequently I do not pursue the things of the flesh. The flesh loves the things of the flesh, but simply for the reason that it is not right, I do not follow after the desires of the flesh.
Let’s ignore how we have lived so far. We have to now take into consideration about how are we going to live in the future? Are you going to live for the Spirit or for the flesh? Which is right to live for the flesh or for the Spirit? Obviously, it is correct to live for the Spirit. Then what does it mean to live for the Spirit? Is it not doing the work of saving lost souls? Is it not sharing the gospel with people so that souls receive salvation? Is this not the work of living for the Spirit? Then whatever situation we find ourselves in, “Are we going to live for the Spirit, that is, for the spiritual works of God?”
I am lacking in ability or great skill, but because it is right to live for the Spirit, I want to live for the Spirit. For anything that I am lacking or in need, I always pray to God in this manner, “Lord, please provide me with those things. If You do not provide them, then I will not get anything, and if you do provide them I will receive them. But it would be good if You did provide them. But there is only one thing that I can concentrate on at any one time. I can’t focus on two things at once. Please allow me to do the work of saving souls. I will dedicate myself to spiritual work. It is correct to live for the Spirit. With single-minded faith that seeks after what is right, whether I am able to do the work of faith well or not, I will dedicate my hands, feet, lips, heart, thoughts, soul and all my possessions to You during my lifetime.”
The Lord is saying that we must live for the salvation of lost souls. We must take to heart the Word which our Lord spoke that “the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” God has provided every blessing that is needed for every creature in this world. Even the birds in the sky, when evening arrives have a place to rest. And in the morning, they wake up and fly about in the wide open sky that God has given to them, and they devour insects and live out their lives joyfully.
Nevertheless, our Lord did not have a single place to lay His head when He was on this earth. What does this mean? It means that the Lord did not have His own home. The Lord did not have a physical house. If the Lord desired the prosperity of His flesh, He could have become the king of a country or even the king of the whole world. He could have received the adulation of all people and had success in ruling as a king. But our Lord gave up the things of the flesh in order to save the souls of human beings, that is, our own souls.
The Lord had ministered in the flesh for three years, then one day before dying on the Cross in the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Jesus felt pain and joy in the flesh just as we do. Our Lord also knew what the flesh desired. Nevertheless, our Lord did not follow after the flesh. What did our Lord pursue then? He pursued after the salvation of our souls. Thus, He followed after the Holy Spirit only.
When someone dies they return to dust, or only a handful of ashes. Once in a while, you and I may go to a crematorium. Even when someone who had a large build has died and is incinerated, there is one bottle of powder that comes forth from the dead body. If the body was cremated absolutely, then there would be less than a bottle’s worth of powder. The cartilage is all burned up, including the ankles, knees and then small bones. Almost all bones are burned away. And a few large bones are chosen from the ashes and they are ground down. Everything could be burned up with even much higher heat, but because the family may be overwhelmed, they leave a few portions over. In this way, when people die, they become a small portion of powder or a handful of dirt. The amount of dirt that is left after people die is not that much. When you dig up a grave, the body has totally decayed away and has dropped further into the ground. The coffin has rotted away and you can find just some bones hidden in soil. But this soil is different than normal soil. And when you scoop up this dirt, there is nothing more left than a handful. You and I cannot escape becoming a handful of dirt someday.
But the soul of man lasts forever. If we believe that Jesus was born to this earth, bore all of our sins by being baptized by John the Baptist, received the judgment in our stead on the Cross, and rose again from the dead, our souls will live forever. Therefore, the Lord Himself had accomplished the work that lasts forever, which is our salvation from all our sins, and He desires that His disciples who follow after Him do the same work of the Spirit. And so the Lord is speaking to all of us through Matthew 8:18-22 that we must set in our hearts to do the work of the Spirit during our entire lifetime. We must not do the works of the flesh. We may often do some things of the flesh, but we must clearly purpose in our hearts to do spiritual work. The Lord is speaking to us about this today.
When Jesus was speaking to the scribes, there was a follower of Jesus who was standing next to Him and said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus then replied, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Our Lord clearly distinguished between life and death, between the things which are perishing and eternal life when He said this. He says that we should not do the things that are going to pass away, that are futile and are meaningless. The most precious and eternal work is to let the souls of people receive the remission of sins and live forever as children of God. And God desires that we do the work of saving souls so that they also receive the remission of sins and receive heavenly blessings from God during their present lifetime and in their afterlife.
Our Lord said to His disciples, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Dear fellow believers, the Word that Jesus spoke to His two followers is the same Word that He is speaking to you and me who have a heart that desires to follow after Him after receiving the remission of sins by believing in the Lord Jesus. How should we live then? Should we live for the flesh or for the Spirit? God wants us to do the work of the Spirit for the rest of our lives. And He wants us to live in this way. The Lord says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). God wants us to do spiritual work during this present lifetime before we go to God.
We Must Set Our Hearts
You and I are still in the flesh so we may experience much difficulty and anguish. There is much affliction in our hearts over whether we are going to do the work of the Spirit or the work of the flesh. Nevertheless, although I am not able to do everything well one hundred percent, I have set my heart to do spiritual work for the rest of my life because I have every confidence that doing the work of the Spirit is truly the upright thing to do. From now on, I am going to do the work of the Spirit, and for the rest of my life before I go before the Lord, I am going to dedicate myself to the work of the Spirit. And in the same way, I want to tell you the saints to set your hearts also to do the work of the Spirit in your lives, although you are still in the flesh.
You also must do this in order to not have any regrets and in order to live a life that is blessed before God. People will then receive the remission of sins through us. We must also remember and take heed of the fact that as those who met Abraham were blessed, and when we live according to the Spirit, many people around us will be blessed including our families. If one of us gives up living according to the Spirit then not only will we die but multitudes of other people will go down the path of destruction. And we must know the fact that if we neglect our responsibilities, our own soul will be saved but our flesh will fall into destruction, as it is written, “If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15). Therefore, it is 100% right for us to do the works of the Spirit.
We must do the work of the Spirit with the Lord for the rest of our lives and then go to meet Him. Although we are weak and lacking in many areas, we must do the works of the Spirit and proclaim the gospel of the water and the Spirit to even one more soul, pray for that soul and live a life of preparing for the salvation of other souls and sharing the new life with them. And then when the Lord calls us home or if the Lord returns we will go before Him. We must live such a meaningful life with a trustworthy faith. The person who helps people to return to the right path, that is, to return to the Lord will shine like the sun. The Lord says, “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43). And He also says,
“Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament,
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
As is written in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Matthew, we must live the rest of our lives as instruments that allow many people to return to Jesus Christ and to be clothed in His righteousness.