Freedom to obey

Galatians 3:1–13

An elderly woman was nearing the end of her life. A pastor visiting the hospital stopped at her bed. He asked her, “Are you ready to meet God? What will you say when you see him?”

She looked at the pastor and held up both her hands. They were lined and worn.

“I am a widow. I have raised five children. Life was hard and I was too busy. I had no time for church or the Bible or anything religious,” she said. “I always did my best for my children. When I get to heaven, I will just hold up my hands. God will look at them and he will understand.”

What would you say to this woman? What would you tell her?

The pastor looked gently at her and said, “Dear woman, you are too late. Far too late.”

She was surprised to hear this. “What do you mean?” she asked.

He explained.

“Someone else has got there before you. He is already holding up his hands in front of God. God looks only at him.”

She was even more surprised. “What do you mean?” she asked again.

“Don’t trust in your hands for admission to heaven. Put all your trust in his hands.”

This is an example of expecting to get into heaven by works. It is legalism. It is the idea that if we are good enough we will be admitted to heaven. Among those who are not Christian it is comparing themselves to a church-goer and finding that they are just as good at obeying the law. Being a Christian cannot be defined as being kind to cats and old ladies.

That is why in verse two Paul asks the Galatians a pertinent question.

“Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses?” (Galatians 3:2)

We should respect the rules of the church, but obeying these rules is not how we get to heaven. There are only four steps into the church – repent, believe, baptism, receive the Holy Spirit. All other steps, rules or regulations are steps in the church toward sanctification.

There are some people who believe that if a non-believer commits adultery it will take them straight to hell, but if a Christian commits adultery it is acceptable.

They believe in license, which means that once you are saved some kinds of sins are excused. They say that you may lose some blessing, but not your ticket to heaven.

Paul is concerned in Galatians to make to points to his readers. He is urging them to beware the equal and opposite dangers of legalism and licence. That is the main thrust of his letter.

He is writing to a church where people have become confused by conflicting messages. They are being told that the gospel is not enough. They need more. This is the same mistake that cults make. The Christian cults add something to the Bible. They have a new improved revelation. They have a person with a direct message from God.

These false preachers say the have more truth than is in the Bible. They demand the people turn to them. Paul says the good news is all you need.

Salvation is the question at the heart of this letter. Some people are telling the Galatians they need to do something to be saved. Others are saying faith alone can save them, and if they have faith they can do anything they like.

Paul has to answer both these errors.

Galatians 5:13 – “But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

In this one verse Paul uses the word freedom twice. In his letter he repeatedly talks about freedom. And he says it is a freedom that must be used to serve each other.

Works plus faith says a Christian has to obey six of the Ten Commandments and then have faith that God will forgive you for breaking the other four. Faith plus works says that we must start with faith and then you must keep the law.

Paul is talking about freedom from the law.

There are three men standing on a rock in the sea. They have not noticed the tide come in and are stranded. The rock is about to be covered by the sea and they will drown. Safety is just a few meters away. The first man jumps. He gets only one-third of the way and drowns. The second man jumps. He gets two-thirds of the way and drowns. The last man jumps. He jumps really far and almost makes it. He is just inches away. He falls in the rough water and drowns.

This is the curse of the law. All the way, or you die.

Getting to heaven this way is impossible for us.

Jesus sets us free from the need to jump. Jesus rescues us from the rock.

Being set free does not mean we can do whatever we want. Liberty is not doing what others tell us to do. Liberty, true freedom, is allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us.

Galatians 5:22 – “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”

We have freedom when we have a relationship with Jesus. Anything you do that damages that relationship is sin.

A non-Christian who lives a good life doesn’t have this relationship. However far he jumps, he can never jump far enough to be safe.

Galatians 4:5 – “God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.”

We are not trying to keep the law, we are God’s very own children.

As we work on this relationship with our father, we have the Holy Spirit producing fruit in our lives.

David Pawson says that the first three flavours of fruit – love, joy and peace – bring us into harmony with God. David says there is only one fruit with different flavours.

The second three – patience, kindness and goodness – bring us into harmony with other people. The final three – faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – bring us into a good relationship with ourselves.

You may find some of these flavours in non-believers because God made us in his image, but never all of them. As we allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit, the fruit grows.

Galatians 5:16 – “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

Galatians 5:25 – “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.”

True freedom is to walk in harmony with God. True liberty is to live a life that is constantly guided by the Holy Spirit. That life is a life free of sin and free of law.

Paul is calling us all to turn directly to God. He is telling us to accept God’s gift in faith and live in perpetual relationship with him.

It is a narrow path of freedom to walk between legalism and license. Walking straight on this narrow path we are free to not sin. We are free to be bold. But only as we walk in the spirit.

To walk in any other way is to walk back into sin and turn our backs on salvation.

Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - English | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

God’s warning

Ezekiel 33:25–33

In the ancient days of fortified cities, watchmen would stand on the walls day and night. Their job was to warn of danger. If a watchman failed to warn of an enemy approaching, he would be punished with death.

God explains this to Ezekiel, and thus to us, in the first nine verses of Chapter 33. God tells Ezekiel that he has been selected to be a warner. In verse seven God says, ‘I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.’

There are three possible outcomes when the danger approaches. First, the watchman fails to warn the people. In this case the people will die in their sins, and the watchman will be held responsible. That’s the worst possible outcome. Everyone loses.

Second, the watchman tells everyone what is coming but they ignore him. In this case the people still die in their sins, but the watchman is saved.

Third, the people heed the warning. In this case the people are saved along with the watchman. As a Warner myself, by name and by calling, this is the outcome I seek.

When he is given this task by God, Ezekiel is living in exile in Babylon. The people he is told to warn are God’s people. His message is for the children of Israel. Ezekiel has to send his warning to Jerusalem and the people living there as well as to the exiles. He is to say to them, ‘Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die?’

The first thing we see in these passages of Scripture is how serious it is to be selected by God as a ‘warner’ with a message for his people. It may cost us a lot to deliver the warning that God has entrusted to us. You might feel concerned at what it may cost you to deliver the words that God has given you. We are all called to share the Good News. God has tried to teach us that it is not the cost we should be looking at. We should be keeping our eyes on him, and then the cost will seem small by comparison.

Of first importance is our relationship with God. If that costs us a great deal in this world, so be it. Our relationship with God is worth far more than anything the world has to offer.

We also see that Ezekiel is called to warn God’s own people. They have not been granted any special protection because they are God’s people. They will still die in their sins if they ignore God’s warnings to them. It is the same for us. God is holy and he judges his own people. He does it to help us become holy. His purpose in judgement and punishment is to bring us into a close relationship with him.

God is holy. He cannot have a close relationship with wicked people. To enable us to have that relationship with him, he judges us and punishes us. Please see that this is not an act of anger like road rage. It is an act of love and compassion. Especially it is God’s grace.

God warns us in verse 12 that, ‘The righteous behaviour of righteous people will not save them if they turn to sin.’

You cannot be a Christian on Sunday and then sin on Monday without consequences. The person who lives like that is not saved, Ezekiel says. They haven’t developed a relationship with God. The wicked church-goer who realises they are wicked can be saved, says Ezekiel, ‘if they repent and turn from their sins’.

Some people have a question at this point. Are these warnings only given to believers? Should Christians impose their morals on non-believers? It is a question with all sorts of difficulties. Should we demand that others live by God’s standards for us, his disciples. How should this impact our debate on things such as marriage, abortion, euthanasia, or divorce?

Some have said that God has given these instructions to his followers. They say that those who do not believe must be free to follow their own ways. This would mean that although we are bound by the rules, non-believers can do whatever they want and God doesn’t get angry.

Others insist that God’s standards, morals and ethics are for all people at all times. They should be imposed on non-believers. If possible we should warn people against these behaviours. We should also warn them that they face severe consequences if they continue in their wicked ways. Lots of people get upset when they are told their ways are wicked. It was so at the time of Ezekiel. It is so today. When we speak God’s words of warning, we can upset a lot of people.

Who are these words of warning for?

Let’s turn to the New Testament. Open your Bibles please at Acts 17 and find verse 30:

“God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him. 31For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.”
The man whom God raised from the dead is going to judge the world. This man is Jesus. Jesus is going to judge everyone everywhere. The warning God has told you to share is for everyone.

There are no people who are exceptions. God’s message is for all people in all countries.

2 Peter 3:9 – ‘He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.’

God wants the people of North Korea to repent and be saved. God wants the people of Jinju to repent and be saved. Any place you can name, God has a warning for the people who live there. Repent of your sins and turn to Jesus. And if they repent, they will live.

Ezekiel in verse 16 says, ‘None of their past sins will be brought up again, for they have done what is just and right, and they will surely live.’

Ezekiel tells us that the people didn’t like his message. They accused God of being unfair and unjust. This is much like people today who insist God doesn’t love them if he wants them to give up their drug taking or adultery or immoral behaviour. Verse 20 says, ‘O people of Israel, you are saying, ‘The Lord isn’t doing what’s right.’ But I judge each of you according to your deeds.” ’

You and I are judged not by what our parents did, or by what we did last year, but by what we are doing right now. Although there are obviously consequences of our sins for future generations, the sins are visited upon the sinner. You cannot blame your parents.

It seems from Scripture that Ezekiel was rather good at what he did. He blew the bugle of warning and people came in their thousands to enjoy the music. There were big crowds when Ezekiel spoke. I wish we also had big crowds to hear the message of the Lord. But God was not happy with that. A church full of people who are having a good time and enjoying the preaching is not God’s purpose.

In verse 32 God says, “You are very entertaining to them, like someone who sings love songs with a beautiful voice or plays fine music on an instrument. They hear what you say, but they don’t act on it! But when all these terrible things happen to them – as they certainly will – then they will know a prophet has been among them.”

By the time they know it will be too late. Our part is to speak out the words of warning at any time we can get people to listen. We need to also teach them that these words of life have to be acted upon.

Remember, God is gentle. He seeks relationship. Speak his words, but do it gently so as to encourage people into a relationship with him. We are not to judge, that is what Jesus will do.

Do not be angry at those who are unable to obey today, but patiently urge them to listen and obey. Gently encourage everyone everywhere to come to Jesus and submit to his authority.

You know what we have to do, now we should do it. Don’t be one of those people who fail to obey because, as verse 31 says, ‘their hearts seek only after money.’

Let’s help each other and together seek first the kingdom of God.

Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - English | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Jesus the gentleman

Matthew 11:20–30

A British gentleman was recently defined by a British newspaper as a man who:

  • Can train a dog and a rose.
  • Arrives at a meeting five minutes before the agreed time.
  • Can ride a horse.
  • Would never own a Chihuahua.
  • And knows there is always an exception to the rule.

When Jesus said in Matthew 11:29 that he was a gentle man, this is not what he meant.

In Galatians 5:23, gentleness is listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:5 that everyone should be able to see how gentle we are.

So there we have it. Jesus was gentle. We have to be gentle like Jesus.

Colossians 3:12 – “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

The word for gentle in the New Testament is a little hard to define. It is also commonly translated as meek.

The Greek word, epieikes, is variously translated as gentleness, graciousness, forbearance, moderation, patience, sweet reasonableness, mildness, leniency, yieldedness, kindness, charitableness, considerateness, magnanimity, bigheartedness, or generosity.

As we follow Jesus and grow into a deeper relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will shape us into people like this. We are called to cooperate in this effort, not sit by and wait. We need to identify and encourage the tender shoots of gentleness in our lives. Paul says it is a garment we have to wear. He says, ‘you must clothe yourselves with … gentleness’. This requires us to first recognise the garment and then to make the effort to put it on.

We can say therefore that gentleness or meekness is not laziness. There are easy going people, laid back people, who are not gentle or meek. The world may admire these people, but according to the Bible they are merely lazy.

Nor does gentleness mean niceness.

There are people who seem to be born naturally nice. That is not what Jesus meant when he said, Blessed are the meek, or as the NLT version ‘God blesses those who are humble’.

That is something purely biological, the kind of thing you get in animals. One dog is nicer than another dog, one cat is nicer than another cat. That is not meekness or gentleness or humility. So gentleness does not mean to be naturally nice or easy to get on with.

Nor does gentleness mean weakness in personality or character. It particularly does not mean a spirit of compromise or ‘peace at any price’.

How often do we mistake these things for gentleness and godliness. How often do we regard a persons as gentle when they say, ‘I would give anything to avoid a disagreement.’ They say, ‘Let’s agree. Let’s try to break down these distinctions and divisions. Let’s smooth over these little things that divide. Let’s all be nice and joyful and happy.’

No! No! Being gentle or meek is not that.

Gentleness is compatible with great strength. Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. God is gentle. Jesus is gentle. A meek and gentle man may so firmly believe in standing for Jesus that he will die for Jesus if necessary. The martyrs were meek, but they were never weak; strong men, yet gentle men.

Gentleness is a characteristic of true Christianity. We are called to be gentle and God created us to be gentle. Our attitude and conduct with respect to others is to exhibit gentleness. There are two parts to this – my attitude towards myself, and the expression of that attitude in my relationship to others.

For example, there’s reasonable flexibility. The Pharisees were incapable of such flexibility, sticking as they did to the letter of the law. Some of us simply cannot abide it if something isn’t done according to a particular policy or preferred method. Others consistently insist on their own way, and make others’ lives difficult until they bend to their direction. I’m sorry for any times that has been me.

I shall try from now to be mild, kind and – as long as it doesn’t violate the Word of God – yielding. I shall try to be reasonably persuadable – reasonably flexible.

Secondly, there is a temperate gentleness that pervades the disposition of one who is “gentle.” You know these people. These are the people about whom you say, “He is just a gentle man.” Or “She is just a tender, warm, and welcoming woman.”

The gentle person is someone you’d feel very comfortable speaking with about things that are troubling you in your life. She is someone you would feel very comfortable talking to about the struggles in your Christian walk. This isn’t someone who is going to be abrasive and dismissive and prickly. They’re not going to slap you on the shoulder and tell you to “suck it up!” This is someone who can be tender, and warm, and nurturing.

All us bristly, abrasive, manly men need to remember. Our Lord Jesus was the manliest man to ever walk this earth. He voluntarily submitted to the cross.

The man or woman who manifests the gentleness that Paul calls us to in Philippians 4:5 is marked by patient forbearance. What does that mean?

Paul describes the opposite of this as quarrelsome. Do not always be ready to defend yourself. A gentle man is not easily offended. His instinct is not to bash physically or bash verbally.

The gentle man humbly and willingly surrenders his own rights. Even in secular usage this word had this connotation. The pagan philosopher Aristotle said this word described “the one who by choice and habit does what is equitable, and who does not stand on his rights unduly, but is content to receive a smaller share although he has the law on his side.”

Maybe you’ve heard a fellow Christian say, “The other person was wrong! They sinned against me, and I have a right to this, that, and the other thing!”

Paul says, “Why not just accept the injustice and leave it at that? Why not let yourselves be cheated?” (1 Corinthians 6:7) Your relationship is much more important than being right.

Where is that Gospel-shaped gentleness that gladly yields your own rights and prefers to suffer wrong if it can benefit others? Where is that eagerness to forgive someone who’s wronged you at the very first sign of their repentance (Matt 18:22)? How can we, who have been forgiven a debt of trillions upon trillions, throw our brothers and sisters into the debtor’s prison of our hearts for the pennies that we’re owed (Matt 18:35)?

If we have truly set our sights on the first and most important thing, our relationship with our Lord and saviour, we will be content whatever the situation.

The person who manifests this gentleness that the Holy Spirit has nurtured is also marked by a happy contentment. The gentle Christian is happily content. When the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes to see God and talk with him, where is dissatisfaction going to come from?

Spurgeon says of the gentle person, “If he can have God’s face shining upon him, he cares little whether it is hills or valleys upon which he walks.”

To finish, here is a quote from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

“The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive, … all that is gone. The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself. He never talks to himself and says, ‘You are having a hard time, how unkind these people are not to understand you.’ He never thinks: ‘How wonderful I really am, if only other people gave me a chance.’ Self pity! What hours and years we waste in this! But the man who has become meek has finished with all that. To be meek, in other words, means that you have finished with yourself altogether, and you’ve come to see that you have no rights or desserts at all. The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is its essential quality.”

Gentle brothers and gentle sisters, let’s help each other to put on the garments of gentleness and cherish our relationship with our Lord and with each other.

Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - English | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tyranny of circumstances

Philippians 4:4–9

Two months ago, Yuri and I left you and went on our sabbatical. When we left we didn’t know what to expect. We hoped we’d return safely, but we didn’t ‘know’ if we would get back. We also didn’t know if there would be anyone to return to. But here you are, and here we are. And we’re very glad to see you.

We planned our two months carefully, and then threw the plans away. We did this several times. At one time I really wanted to be able to come back and tell you that I’d had an unusual experience on top of a mountain and met with God. I imagined how amazing it would be to have an extraordinary vision like John or one of the prophets.

Let me share with you this morning a little of the rather ordinary things that actually happened, and what God taught me through them.

By the time we left at the beginning of July, my only firm plan was to read two books. One is a book on prayer written 10 years ago by American theologian Dr. Larry Crabb and lent to me by sister June. The other is a classic on the Christian life written in 1964 by the famous Welsh preacher Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones.

I had no idea why I needed to read two books by theologians who are also medical doctors.

Yuri and I went to Thailand, and I took my books. We went up the mountains in Korea, and I took my books. Wherever we went, I took my books. I read them both. In fact I read the book on prayer twice. It wasn’t until an interesting experience with air travel just a couple of weeks ago that I felt I knew what God was teaching me.

I have titled this sermon ‘the tyranny of circumstances’. Let me explain briefly what I mean by that expression. Circumstances are simply what’s around you. It can refer to all sorts of things such as how much money you have in the bank, or where you live. The tyranny is referring to the control of your circumstances over you. It’s a tyranny because there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot change the fact of your parents, year of your birth, colour of your eyes and many other things in life.

This is a sinful world. We are all sinners. God has an enemy called Satan.

These are the circumstances in which we live. These circumstances tyrannise us. They oppress us and are beyond our control. Things happen to us. We have learned to turn to God for our salvation. Jesus is the only one who can save us from this tyranny.

What kind of God do we turn to for help in our distress?

Some people turn to the slot machine God. We have heard that to love God is to obey God. With the slot machine God, people think this means that if they follow all the rules, and they tithe and attend every service, and read their Bible every day that God will automatically do what they ask of him. Prayer is one of the coins that you feed into the slot machine to get what you want. If you pray for something and don’t get it, it must be because you didn’t pray enough or in the correct manner. Or are at fault in some matter of devotion or obedience.

There is no relationship with the slot machine God. There is no love. There may be awe, but no idea of closeness.

Then there is the Santa God. The Santa God brings good things to the little boys and girls. The Santa God is distant but you can send messages to the Santa God and tell him what you want. If you are good he will give what you ask for. But you don’t really have a relationship with Santa. How many children on seeing Santa ask him how he feels? How many stop to show concern for Santa or take time to get to know him? Mostly we tell him what we want, and complain if we don’t get exactly what we demand.

As Dr. Larry Crabb explains, as Christians we have a father God. We have a God we can have a deep relationship with. We can talk to him. The greatest command is to love God with all of our being. We should care deeply how God feels. We should share with him how we feel. When we come to God in prayer it is to develop this relationship. This is not news to us, but the book on prayer was able to clarify the idea for me.

My second book, by the famous Welsh preacher, seemed at first to be about a different topic but I found as I read further that Martin Lloyd-Jones was saying the same things as Larry Crabb.

For almost two months, God has been talking to me about what should be most important in my life. He has been encouraging me into a deep personal relationship with him.

It was interesting. I marked passages in both books that seemed particularly important. But it wasn’t real.

To be real it had to be lived.

So let me tell you a little about the worst journey ever, because it was only in the tyranny of circumstances that I learned anything.

It began simply enough. Get on an airplane and fly to destination. But at the destination there was a problem with a connection. And then there was just one problem after another, so that a two-day journey took almost one week. It was the tyranny of circumstances at work. What was worse from my point of view, and maybe from Yuri’s point of view as well, is that my wife and I were separated by several thousand miles. She was inside the circumstances and I was an observer. There was nothing I could do, except pray.

How should I pray? Should I cry out to God to make a Jumbo jet miraculously be in one place rather than where it actually was? Was there a particular number of coins of a particular value to be fed into the slot machine to change the circumstances? If I wrote a really nice letter, would Santa God poke his finger from out of the sky and move things around to my liking?

I decided to apply the lessons of these two books.

The lesson is in fact not a new one. Let’s look at what our Bible reading this morning has to say about it. In Philippians 4:6 the apostle Pauls says – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

This isn’t one instruction. I think it is actually four instructions to be carried out in the order they are given.

First, stop worrying. That could be taken to mean, stop thinking about your circumstances. Don’t pay attention to the tyranny, it doesn’t do any good. Instead, pray.

This is really important. And because I had read these two books, I had an idea of how to do this. The essence of prayer is coming to God to build up your relationship with him. It’s not even a new idea in the New Testament, but sometimes we just miss things.

When we pray, we are not feeding coins into a slot machine. Prayer is coming to God, the creator of the universe and our father, and talking to him. It is telling him how we are and talking about how he is. So I told my daddy how frustrated I felt and how I was worried because of the circumstances. I talked with him about how more than anything else I wanted to be in a close relationship with him. How I wanted this more than getting what I wanted, more than fixing the problems with airplanes. More even than being with my wife.

It put God first. Then what I found was that when I started talking to God about the circumstances I did it from a very different point of view. I wasn’t asking God to make planes be in different places than they were to please me. I was asking for a better relationship with him through the trials for myself and Yuri.

That was step three. It was supplication, pleading for help, but firmly on the basis of relationship. I told God what I needed after relating with him. God said he would do what he could, but some things depend on other people having a relationship with him. He would ask flight attendants and check-in people to help, but if they didn’t have a relationship with him and didn’t listen to him then it might not happen.

It lead me to pray for those other people to know God (their salvation) and grow in the knowledge of him (sanctification). And that led me to pour out thanks to God. To thank him for his love, not to thank him for doing what I want.

In the end, some people didn’t listen to God and it was the flight from hell. But Yuri and I got closer to God through difficulty and we were blessed.

Verse 7 of Philippians 4 suggests that this is the way of peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And the teaching of this verse is that God will guard our hearts. When we are in trouble and surrounded by enemies, our hearts will be guarded if we have come close to God. Never, never must we allow our circumstances to control our hearts. The apostle Paul has instructed us that we have to come into a state where our misery or joy are not determined by the tyranny of circumstances but by our relationship with God. We are people who are controlled by God, not the events that surround us.

Not even death is able to separate us from the love of God.

I have found peace in difficulty these last two months, and I urge you to approach father God and tend your relationship with him above all things. Then you too will know this peace that passes all understanding. Bless you.

Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - English | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

We can trust him

Deuteronomy 8:1–6

Moses is going away.

He’s about to die.

He’s led the chosen people for 40 years, and Deuteronomy is his parting message. In fact it is actually three parting messages, delivered over one week. The section today is part of the second discourse and was probably given on the third day of the last week of Moses’ life.

Most of the sermon is about the 613 laws, but chapter 8 diverts to give some encouragement.

In the first discourse Moses reminded the children of Israel why an 11-day journey has taken them 13,780 days. He said it was because their parents lost faith and didn’t trust God. So they should not be like their parents. If they keep faith, they will be able to stay in the land.

In this part of the second discourse, Moses again reminds them of the need for obedience. He says that without their obedience God cannot deliver on his promise. ‘If’‘then’ … is the format in verse one.

‘If’ you “obey all the commands”, ‘then’ “you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.”

The only thing they need worry about is obeying God. The only thing they need fear is God. There is no need to fear the enemies in the promised land. The Hebrews have the assurance of 40 years in the desert with God. We must just remember each day all that God has done.

Moses points out in verses two to four that God has spent 40 years training the Hebrews. They need to remember this in the future when things get tough. Moses says that God wanted to “prove your character” and find out if they would obey him.

You may wonder why God would need to do this. God is already aware of their character. Why does he need to test them to find out? Another way of expressing this is to say that God was acting to bring out the things of the heart. God was putting the people in a situation where it would be obvious to everyone what was in their hearts.

God knew what was in their hearts, but they didn’t. God was at work to uncover what was hidden, and this is always part of what God is doing in our lives.

The author of Harry Potter, Joanne Rowling, tells of her own experience of this at work in her life. After a series of misfortunes she was living in poverty as a single mother. She had failed at everything in life, including work and marriage. Rowling says that at the bottom she had no more illusions or fantasies about who she was or what she could do. She at last knew herself.

At that point, she was able to focus on the only thing in her life that mattered. Rowling, a Christian, says that after all the lies of the world had been stripped away, she was standing on a sure foundation. On that foundation alone she could prosper.

It seems that this is what God did to the Hebrew slaves over 40 years of desert experience.

They learned that they could not feed themselves. Every day God gave them just enough food for one day. I’m reminded of this every time I say the Lord’s prayer – “Give us today our daily bread.”

In the desert it was called manna, which means ‘What is it?’ God was teaching his people to have total dependence on him. I know that many of us prefer independence, and if you are from the United States you will be proud of your declaration of independence from Great Britain. God is trying to teach us dependence.

But it’s not just bread. Manna is the word of God. Jesus rebuked Satan’s temptation in the desert by saying “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In Matthew 4:4 Jesus was quoting our reading today. He was citing Deuteronomy 8:3 – “He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Moses’ words in the last week of his life are not just for the people standing in front of him and for their children. Jesus showed us that these words are powerful today for us. We can use these same words when Satan comes to tempt us. You can be sure he will come, and even now is crouching in wait.

Are you worried about tomorrow? Don’t worry about tomorrow. God will give you tomorrow’s food tomorrow. He will give you tomorrow’s instruction tomorrow. Today, only worry about obeying the instruction he has given you today. God is training you to rely on him more and more. He is training you to rely on yourself less and less.

God’s message to us today is to trust him totally and completely. He will feed us. He will show us our true character and reveal the depths of our hearts.

Not only that, but he will clothe us. For forty years in the desert the Hebrews never went without clothes or shoes. There was always food enough, and there were always clothes enough. Do you worry about clothes? Do you get stressed over clothes? Don’t. God doesn’t promise to you that you will always be fashionable, just that you will always be dressed.

God treats you like this because he treats you as a child. You are a child of God, so you are being taught how to be a child of God.

In my home country the highest social classes have private schools where they teach their children the things they need to know to behave as high-class people. In the same way, God teaches his precious children the things they need to know to live as his precious children.

God promises the chosen people a great life in the promised land, if they totally obey him.

God promises you a great life in heaven, if you obey him in all things.

We are taught in verse six that the way to obey God’s commands is “by walking in his ways and fearing him.”

You might stumble over the word ‘fear’ in this verse. We keep talking about how God is love and he treats us as his children. We aren’t afraid of God. We should be afraid of God though, but not in the way we are afraid of spiders or snakes.

In Isaiah 43 God says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”

Do not be fearful that God will cause any harm to you the way you fear terrorism or war or disease.

Acts 9:31 – “The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.”

This is a different fear. This is reverence. The fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder. It is the only appropriate response to our Creator and Redeemer.

Deuteronomy 8:11 – “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.”

If you ever forget God, you will be destroyed. So verse 18 says always remember God. “Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.”

I’ll be back in September, until then walk one day at a time and don’t forget God. Bless you. We are going to miss you.

Just trust God, it will all turn out right in the end. See in September.

Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - English | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

주님을 따르시고


모세는 죽어가고 있습니다. 곧 죽으려고 합니다.

그는 40년 동안 선택 받은 사람들을 이끌며, 신명기는 모세의 이별 메세지입니다. 이것은 사실, 일 주일 이상 전달해온 세 부분의 이별 메시지로 되어 있습니다. 오늘 이 부분은 2차 담화의 부분과 모세의 삶 중 마지막 주의 셋째 날이 아마 주어졌을 것입니다.

Deuteronomy 8:1–6

설교의 대부분은 613 법에 대한 것이지만 8장은 격려하는 방향으로 전환합니다.

첫 담화에서, 모세는 이스라엘 자녀들이 왜 11일 여정이 13780일이 걸렸는지를 알려줍니다. 그는 그들의 부모님이 믿음을 읽었고 하나님을 믿지 않았다는 이유였다고 말했습니다. 그래서 그들은 그들 부모처럼 되지 말아야 합니다. 그들이 믿음을 지키면 그들은 이 땅에 머물 수 있을 것입니다.

두번째 담화 부분에서, 모세는 그들에게 순종이 필요하다고 계속 상기시켜줍니다. 그는 순종 없이는 하나님께서 그의 약속을 전달할 수 없습니다. ‘만약’ , ‘그러면’ 단어는 1절의 형식입니다.

‘If’ you “obey all the commands”, ‘then’ “you will live and multiply, and you will enter and occupy the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors.”

‘만약’ 당신이 “모든 계명을 지켜랴” 하면, ‘그러면’ “당신은 번성하게 살 것이며 당신의 조상에게 주기로 주님께서 약속하신 땅을 들어가서 세울 수 있을 것입니다.”

그들이 필요한 단 하나는 하나님께 순종하는 것입니다. 그들이 필요한 단 하나는 하나님을 경외하는 것입니다. 약속하신 땅에서 적들을 두려워 할 필요는 없습니다. 히브리인들은 하나님과 사막에서 40년 동안 안전했습니다. 우리는 단지 하나님께서 하신 모든 것들을 매일 기억해야 합니다.

모세는 2절~4절에서 하나님께서 히브리인들을 단련하는데 40년을 쓰셨다는 것을 말합니다. 그들은 미래에 힘든 일이 생길 때 이것을 기억해야 합니다. 모세는 하나님께서 “너를 시험 하사 네 마음이 어떠한지” 그리고 그들이 하나님 순종 하는 지를 알아내고자 하심을 말합니다.

당신은 왜 하나님이 이렇게 해야 할 필요가 있는지 궁금해 할 수 있습니다. 하나님은 그들의 성격을 이미 알고 있습니다. 왜 하나님은 확인하기 위해 그들을 시험할 필요가 있는가? 이것을 표현하는 다른 방법은 하나님께서 마음속에서 부터 끄집어 내시려고 행동 하신 것을 말합니다. 하나님께서 사람들이 마음이 어떠한지 자신들이 잘 알기 위해 어떠한 상황에 두 실 때가 있습니다.

하나님은 그 들의 마음 속을 알고 계셨지만, 그들은 몰랐습니다. 하나님은 숨겨 있는 것을 드러내 보이려고 , 이것은 항상 우리의 삶 속에서 하나님께서 하시는 일의 일부입니다.

헤리 포터 작가 Joanne Rowling은 그녀의 삶에서 그녀의 자신의 경험을 말합니다. 불운의 연속 이후에, 그는 홀 어머니로 가난하게 살았습니다. 일과 결혼을 포함한 삶 전반적인 면에서 실패하였습니다. Rowling은 밑 바닥의 삶에서 그녀 자신이 누구이거나 무엇을 할 수 있는 지에 대해 환상이나 허상은 더 이상 없었다고 말합니다. 마침내 그녀는 자신이 누구인지 알았습니다.

그 시점에서, 그녀는 그녀의 인생에서 중요한 단 하나에 집중을 할 수 있었습니다. 기독교인 Rowling은 세상의 모든 거짓들이 없어진 후에야, 그녀는 견고한 토대 위에 서 있을 수 있었습니다. 이 토대 위에서 그녀는 혼자 번창할 수 있었습니다.

하나님께서 40년 동안 히브리 노예들에게 사막 경험을 시키신 것과 같습니다.

그들은 그들 힘으로는 먹을 수 없다는 것을 배웠습니다. 매일 하나님께서 날마다 하루 치의 충분한 음식을 주셨습니다. 저는 주 기도문을 할때마다 이것을 상기시킵니다. “날마다 일용한 양식을 주옵시고.”

사막에서, 이 음식은 ‘무엇인가’ 라는 의미로 만나라고 불렸습니다. 하나님은 그들이 전적으로 그에 의존해야 한다는 것을 가르치고 있었습니다. 우리들 대부분은 자립을 선호 하는 것을 알고 있습니다. 만약 당신이 미국에서 왔다면, 당신은 영국으로부터 독립 선언에 대해 자랑스러울 것입니다. 하나님께서는 우리를 의존에 대해 가르치려고 하십니다.

그러나 이것은 단지 빵이 아닙니다. 만나는 하나님의 말입니다. 그러나 예수님은 유혹하는 마귀를 꾸짖을때 이렇게 말씀하셨다. “성경에는 사람이 빵으로만 살 것이 아니라 하나님의 모든 말씀으로 살아야 한다.” 마태복음 4장 4절에, 예수님께서는 오늘 인용한 성경 말씀을 하고 계셨습니다. 예수님은 신명기 8잘 3절 – “사람이 빵으로만 살 것이 아니라 하나님의 모든 말씀으로 살아야 한다는 것을 여러분에게 가르치기 위해서였다.” 것을 인용하고 있었습니다.

그의 삶의 마지막 주에 모세의 말은 단지 그 앞에서 서 있는사람들과 그의 자녀들을 위한 것이 아닙니다. 예수님께서는 이러한 말들은 오늘날 우리에게도 힘이 있다는 것을 우리에게 보여줬습니다. 우리는 사탄이 우리를 유혹할 때에 똑 같은 말을 사용할 수 있습니다. 여러분은 그가 올 것이라고 확신 할 수 있으며 심지어 지금도 기다리는 중입니다.

여러분은 내일에 대해 두려운가요? 내일을 걱정하지 마세요. 하나님께서는 당신에게 내일 음식은 내일 주실 것입니다. 하나님은 여러분에게 내일의 지시는 내일 주실 것입니다. 오늘은 단지 하나님께서 주신 지시에 순종하시면 됩니다. 하나님은 여러분에게 더욱 더 의지할 수 있도록 가르치고 계십니다. 하나님은 여러분이 점 점 더 자신을 더 의지 하지 않도록 가르치고 계십니다.

오늘 우리에게 하나님의 메시지는 하나님을 전적으로 완전하게 믿는 것입니다. 하나님은 우리를 먹일 것입니다. 하나님은 우리에게 진실한 성질을 보이실 것이며 우리 마음의 깊이를 드러내게 하실 것입니다.

그 것 뿐만 아니라, 그는 우리를 입히십니다. 사막에서 40년동안 히브리인들은 옷과 신발 없이 살지 않았습니다. 항상 음식은 충분했으며 옷도 충분히 있었습니다. 당신은 옷에 대해 걱정하시는 건가요?

옷 때문에 스트레스를 받으시나요? 그러지 마세요. 하나님은 여러분이 항상 유행하는 옷을 주실 꺼라고 약속하시지는 않지만 항상 옷을 입히실 것입니다.

하나님께서는 여러분을 어린아이 다루시는 것 처럼 다룹니다. 여러분은 하나님의 자녀이므로 어떻게 하나님의 자녀가 되는 지를 배우고 있습니다.

내 나라에서는, 가장 높은 사회적 계급의 사람들은 그들이 상류계급 사람들처럼 행동하는데 필요한 것들을 자녀들에게 가르치는 사립 학교가 있습니다. 똑 같은 방법으로, 하나님께서는 그의 귀한 자녀들에게 그의 귀한 자녀처럼 살게 하도록 그들이 필요한 것들을 가르치고 계십니다.

하나님께서는 그들이 그를 전적으로 순종 한다면 선택 받은 사람들에게 택한 땅과 위대한 삶을 주기로 약속 하셨습니다.

하나님께서는 여러분이 전적으로 순종 한다면 여러분은 천국에서 위대한 삶을 주실 것이라고 약속하셨습니다.

우리는 6절에서 “여호와의 명령을 지키고 그분의 뜻을 따라 살며 그분을 두려운 마음으로 섬기십시오.”라고 배웁니다.

당신은 이 구절에 “두려움”이라는 말에 약간 문제가 있을 수 도 있습니다. 우리는 어떻게 하나님께서 사랑하고 우리를 친 자식처럼 다루는 것에 대해 계속 말합니다. 우리는 하나님을 무서워하지 않습니다. 우리는 하나님의 생각을 두려워 해야 하지만, 우리가 거미나 뱀을 무서워하는 방식으로는 아닙니다.

“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”

이사야 43정에서 하나님은 “너는 두려워 하지 말라 내가 너를 구원하였고, 내가 너를 지명하여 불렀으니 너는 내 것이라.”

하나님께서 당신이 공포, 전쟁 또는 질병을 두려워 하도록 어떠한 해로움을 일으키지 않으므로 두려워 하지 말아라.

Acts 9:31 – “The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.”

“이렇게 해서 교회는 유대와 갈릴리와 사마리아 온 지방에서 평안을 누리며 성장해 갔다. 온 지방에서 평안을 누리며 성장해 갔다. 그리고 주님을 두려워하고 성령님의 위로를 받으며 그 수가 점점 더 늘어나고 있었다.

이것은 다른 두려움입니다. 이것은 숭배입니다. 하나님의 경외는 존경의 태도이며 숭배의 응답이며 그리고 경이로움입니다. 이것은 우리 창조주와 구원자에게 응답하기에 가장 적절한 것입니다.

Deuteronomy 8:11 – “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.”

신명기 8장 11절 – “여러분은 오늘 내가 가르치는 여호와의 모든 법과 규정을 어기고 여러분의 하나님 여호와를 잊어버리지 않도록 조심하십시오.”

“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.”

만약 여러분이 하나님을 영원히 잊어버린다면, 여러분은 무너질 것입니다. 그래서 18절은 항상 하나님을 기억하라고 합니다.네 하나님 여호와를 기억하라 그가 네게 재물 얻을 능력을 주셨음이라 이 같이 하심은 네 열조 에게 맹세하신 언약을 오늘과 같이 이루려 하심 이니라

나는 9월에 돌아올 것이며, 그때까지 하루에 하루만 걸어가고 하나님을 잊지 마세요. 여러분을 축복합니다. 우리는 여러분을 그리워 할 것입니다.

단지 주님을 따르시고, 나중에는 다 잘 될 것입니다. 9월에 만나요.
Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - Korean | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Are you ready?

Isaiah 8:11–22

Are you ready? What are you ready for? Are you ready for anything?

A few weeks ago, there was a lost dog. She was quite cute. My neighbours found the dog and tied it outside their restaurant, hoping someone might recognise it. On the spur of the moment, Yuri and I asked permission to take it for a walk. We walked two blocks, turned right up a small side street and spoke to the first random stranger we met.

He had a dog and was a bewildered by our approach. He tried to ignore us and walk on. He seemed to think we wanted his dog. Just then heads began to poke over the tall wall next to us. Several boys had heard us. They looked at us and the dog. They recognised the dog and next moment his owner had clambered over the wall to join us. Happy reunion.

If we hadn’t responded to the nudge of the Holy Spirit at each stage, it couldn’t have happened. God showed us how he cares for even the smallest among us. And how we must be prepared to listen to his voice at all times.

Many years ago a rich nation sent astronomers to Africa to study the transit of Venus. Preparation to view this great sight had been going on for months. There was a critical moment when the sun, Venus and the earth were all in line. Every astronomer knew that at that moment his eye must be at the smaller end of the glass if he would see the planet go flying past the larger end. If he should miss that moment, no power on earth could bring the planet back again. The world is full of these moments.

Galileo studied the eye of an ox and beheld the principle of the lens. Watt looked at the tea- kettle lid as it was lifted by steam. Columbus saw the wind’s direction and knew there was
land not far away. The difference between these men, to whom the world is indebted, and many others is this. The others looked at the oxen’s eyes and were unmoved. They allowed the tea kettle to boil without it making an impression upon them. They allowed the wind to blow without leading them to any shore. The opportunity for greatness is gone. There is not a person in the world but to whom at some time a great opportunity has been given, and for the use or abuse of it we shall be called to a strict account.

When Jesus first saw Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the day of his triumphant entry, he wept. Why did he weep. It was not for himself but because they were not prepared and had missed their moment.

Luke 19:42 – “How I wish today that you of all people would understand the way to peace. But now it is too late, and peace is hidden from your eyes.”

Nehemiah was leading the work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It was going well. When Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem.

So inspired by God’s guidance, Nehemiah prepared the people.

Nehemiah 4:17 – “The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon.”

From that moment, they kept their swords with them at all times and the work was completed.

Just as we cannot tell at any moment what danger may be coming on us, so we cannot tell at any moment what blessing from God may be coming on us. Those Jews, in the day of their visitation, were blind, and they rejected Christ. It was Christ they rejected. Christ was there, not in anger, but in love; not to judge, but to save. The power of the Lord was present, not to destroy, but to heal them. They would have none of him.

God’s instruction to me in 2 Timothy 4 burns in my heart: “Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.”

The instructions continue this way. “You should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”

Do you think this warning is only for me? Do you think that your pastor is the only one who must prepare himself? I am sure you know it is all of us who must be preparing ourselves all the time. What will you do when I’m not here? Is that the time to start preparing? No, that time is too late. I’m going away soon. Next week will be my last Sunday.

After that you won’t see me. If God allows me the blessing, I will return. If you stand firm, you will see me again in September.

Take seriously the words of Isaiah in our reading today.

Isaiah 8:13 – “Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe.”

How do you make God holy in your life? You trust in him. You believe in him. Not just sometimes, but at all times. We don’t make God holy. Obviously God is already holy. We live our lives in ways that give honour to his holiness.

The force of this was that the people should not fear the coming Assyrians. They should not fear what the invading army might do to them. They should not fear the king of Assyria.

If they feared any of those things it showed that they did not trust in God. It would show that God was not holy in their lives. When God is welcomed into our lives and we keep his presence in our lives holy, he fights our battles. This is what happened with Nehemiah. They kept working on the wall, building it up. They kept their swords at hand ready for a fight.

In fact we are taught later that this prophecy is not just about God, but about Jesus. When we spend our lives for Jesus, living lives that honour him, we are kept safe.

Verse 16 tells us to “Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me.”

We are only going to be prepared for danger or for blessing when we live close to God and practice daily listening to him. Scripture tells us that the sword is truth. We need the truth. But Scripture also tells us we need the Gospel.

Ephesians 6 says we must take up ‘the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God’. It also says to put on Gospel shoes. Verse 15: “For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.”

When Paul wrote this he may have been looking at the armour of the Roman soldier he was chained to. His shoes would have had strong metal studs so that when he was standing with his shield the enemy could not push him back. He would not slip. He would stand firm.

When the enemy comes against you, will you be wearing non-slip shoes of Gospel truth so that you aren’t pushed back. Will you have your sword of truth in your hand to defeat his lies?

When the devil comes, you won’t have time to learn the good news. It must be living in you.

That is what it means to have God holy in your life. You are prepared for anything.

You are ready to go and find the owner of a lost dog. Your are ready to stand against false prophets without slipping. You are ready when I go away, and you will still be here when I get back.

At every chance, tell people the Good News that Jesus has come to save them. Don’t miss the chance. At every moment be ready to stand firm in the Gospel, and not be pushed back by lies.

Isaiah 8 is the inspiration for 1 Peter 3:15 – “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”

This verse is not talking about knowledge. It is talking about action. It’s about how you live. It means to recognise, in word and deed, the full holiness of Jesus, and therefore to treat him with due awe.

Being always ready to explain the Good News is the consequence of sanctifying Christ within by the worship of living a pure life. Then no moment, no questioner shall find us unprepared to speak with freedom of our hope in Jesus.

You don’t have to be an expert in the Bible. That’s not what the Bible is saying. It does not say that every Christian ought to know why he is a Christian, but that every Christian’s own life ought to be so free from taint, so conscious of Christ enshrined within, as to cause him no misgiving in defending the faith. If you live this way then you will always be ready.

Amen 아멘

Posted in Sermon - English | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment