Sunday, February 19, 2017

“Greater than Moses” (John 6:16-21) - Seven Signs of Christ V -

Stuck in the Middle?
Have you felt stuck in the middle, lonely, afraid? In today’s scripture the disciples were exactly in that situation: It was evening. They were in a boat. They were out on the Sea of Galilee and about half way across the lake. It grew dark. Jesus was not with them. The wind blowing against them and the sea became rough. Imagine this situation. You keep rowing painfully, but actually you don’t make headway. You don’t know what to do. You are stuck in the middle in your journey – scary, dark, and alone. Have you been in that situation? Or are you in that place today? You have good news. You are not the only one. The disciples have been there and delivered by our merciful Savior.

Many in Christian history have seen a spiritual reality in the disciples’ predicament. In other words, many suggest that these physical details – loneliness, darkness, and danger – also apply to the spiritual condition of those who are not in Christ or who are not walking with Christ as they should. The disciples without Jesus are toiling in the dark, frustrated, and tired. It is possible for those who believe in Jesus, at times, to be without him. So if you feel as if you are drifting alone on a lonely, dark and dangerous sea, the first thing you have to do is to examine yourselves whether you are walking closely with Christ. In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul exhorts us in this way: “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don't drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it” (MSG). Let us be honest and examine ourselves: “Am I walking closely with Christ today?”

Jesus Sees!

Jesus knows where you are in your pilgrim journey. Jesus sees your pain and struggles. Today’s story is written in three different gospels – Matthew, Mark and John. In Mark 6:48 Mark says, “And he (Jesus) saw that they (the disciples) were making headway painfully…” At that time Jesus was on the mountain by himself to pray, and the disciples had already rowed about three or four miles. And it was dark stormy night. So when the Bible says Jesus saw the disciples struggle, it is supernatural, divine knowledge. In Psalm 139 David praises God’s intimate knowledge of his people: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from afar… For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made… Your eyes saw my unformed substance…” You may think, “Nobody knows what I’m goring through, nobody feels the pain I’m experiencing.” Maybe there’s been a death in the family, a divorce, maybe we have health issues, and we feel very isolated and lonely. We start to think, “Nobody feels the pain.” But Jesus knows! He sees your pain. He understands your struggles.

Jesus Comes!

And Jesus not only sees, but he cares! He comes to you! Mark 6:48 says, “And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night (3-6 am) he came to them, walking on the sea…” (ESV). Normally, we often focus on the miracle of Jesus walking on the water – how he comes to them. But actually, in this story much more important miracle is that Jesus comes to them. He gives his disciples the miracle of his presence when they thought there is no way he could be here. Who could have thought in the boat that Jesus could come to them at that very moment? Nobody! But Jesus did come to them. So what is the point of the story? Here Jesus is saying to us, “I will walk on water to be with you. I will walk on water to get to you. I will go through whatever issues and situations to get to you. I will get to you.” Jesus did not come into the world to give us an easy life, but an eternal life – to be with him, to walk with him, and to commune with him. He did not promise to deliver us from the sufferings of this present age, but he did promise to be with us. Jesus comes to us in a time of need, even when everybody else has walked out.

Greater Than Moses 

The thing is we don’t often recognize Jesus even though he is so near to us. When Jesus was coming near to the disciples, they didn’t even think that was Jesus. Instead, they were terrified and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear (Matt 14:26). But Jesus said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid” (John 6:20). The clause “It is I” is from the original Greek ego eimi which literally means “I AM.” This expression reminds us of God’s divine name in Exodus 3:14. When Moses asked God’s name, God said to him, “I AM WHO I AM.” Jesus’ I am statement reveals his divinity – God in the flesh. Jesus did not just walk on water to impress his disciples, but there was an important message in it. At that time, people considered Moses their hero, the greatest prophet ever. Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites passed through the sea on dry land and ate manna in the wilderness. But now, Jesus is the One who is greater than Moses. He personally walks on the sea as if he were walking on the dry land without waiting until God departs the sea. He provides bread from heaven, the better and true bread which gives people eternal life. These two miracles show that Jesus is greater than Moses and he is the Messiah, the Son of God.

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus 

Jesus, greater than Moses, the Son of God, comes to you. In Matthew’s version of this story, by faith Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water as long as he fixed his eyes on Jesus. But when he turned his eyes and saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink. So what do you see? Do you see giant wind and waves? Or do you see Jesus who created them?

I would like to share a story of one man who fixed his eyes on Jesus in the middle of the storms of life. Nick Vujicic was born in 1982 in Melbourne, Australia, without arms and legs. His early days were difficult. In schools some of his friends made fun of him and called him, “freak” or “alien.” Throughout his childhood he struggled with depression and loneliness. He even tried to commit suicide when he was 10. He only focused on being “different” and “what he doesn’t have.” He just saw a life without limbs – a limited or no life at all. But at age 15, he surrendered his life to Jesus who came to him. By that time he blamed God for his pain. One day he read John 9. He read how Jesus said that the blind man was born that way so that the works of God would be revealed through him. He prayed to God “God, if you had a plan for that man I certainly believe that you have one for me.” Since that day, he fixed his eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of the faith. He totally let go of the ‘needing to know the plan’ and began to trust Jesus one day at a time. He began to be thankful for “what he has.” He has two toes on his left foot. By using them, he enjoys fishing, painting, and swimming. So far, he has been traveling more than 24 countries to share his story and the good news of Jesus Christ with millions. Nick says, “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, then He will certainly use any willing heart!”[1]

Take Jesus into the Boat!

Probably Nick prayed hundreds times to be healed. The miracle of healing. It didn’t happen the way he wished. Instead, Jesus came to him to be with him, to suffer with him, to heal his wounded heart, and to give him the purpose of life. Today’s story, Jesus walking on water, is not a story about stopping storms or getting people out of storms. We have been and will have storms of life – sufferings, trials, diseases, loss, and death – in our pilgrim journey. This is a story about taking Jesus into the boat. All of us in this room have our own issues – our family issues, our church issues, and our health issues. Jesus sees us and our issues. And he cares about us and comes to us. He will walk on water to be with us. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than storms. He is greater than our issues. He is able to help us, deliver us, sustain us, and guide us. When the disciples took Jesus into the boat, the Bible says, “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going” (21). So let us trust Jesus. And take him into our boat with joy, and together with Jesus we will safely arrive at our final destination. Amen.

[1] Nick Vujicic, Life without Limbs, https://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/

Sunday, February 12, 2017

“Giving Bread, Being Bread” (John 6:1-15) - Seven Signs of Christ IV -

“We Preach Christ Crucified”
There is one story that I always keep in mind as I prepare the message. This story is about one church in England. At first, the slogan of this church on the front door was always "We Preach Christ Crucified." But after many years, this sign changed to "We Preach Christ." They still preached Christ, but not necessarily Christ “Crucified.” They started focusing more on Jesus' moral life, his teaching and his philosophy than on his death and resurrection. And some people had left the church. A few years later, the church changed its sign once again. It became "We Preach." From that time on, the church started preaching any topics from politics, ethics to all kinds of social issues. Then more people had left the church. And eventually, the church had to close down. I had a chance to do some street evangelism with other Thai Christians in Thailand when I was an exchange student there. I was kind of surprised by two things. First of all, I was surprised that people were very receptive. They listened attentively. Several of them followed sinner’s prayer and accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But then, I was also surprised that they didn’t want to make any change in their lives. They said, “Buddhism is a good thing. It teaches me how to live and gives me peace of mind. And now I found that Jesus is good too. He gives me freedom and blessing. To me, they are all good and compatible. I will keep them both!” What do you think? When you say, “I believe in Jesus,” what does it mean by that?

Jesus, Giver of Bread
Today’s passage, the story of Jesus feeding the 5000, is quite famous and written in all four gospels. In particular, both Matthew and Mark observed that Jesus did heal people, teach them, and feed them because he “was moved with compassion for them” (Matt 14:14; Mark 6:34). In other words, Jesus cares about us. He cares about our health. He cares about our food. He cares about our needs. He took the five loaves and the two fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves and gave them to the people. They were all well fed and satisfied – and even 12 baskets of leftovers! After they saw this great miracle, all of sudden they remembered manna and Moses’ messianic prophecy in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him!” (cf. Acts 7:37, 52) The people began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (14). It looks like finally they understood who Jesus is. It looks like finally they came to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. In the following verse, verse 13, they made an attempt to take Jesus by force. They came to kidnap him, to promote him as their king, and to make him serve their agenda and their needs by force. They acknowledged, “Jesus, be our King, our Prophet, the Giver of bread!” But Jesus was not pleased with this. He knew they neither saw nor believed who He really is. Jesus said to them, “You want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs” (26, NLT).

Jesus, Bread of Life
Jesus fed the people because he did care about their needs. There is no doubt about that, but this miracle is called the sign (semeion) that points to something much greater. There is a much more important purpose why Jesus fed the 5000. By this miraculous sign, Jesus wanted to teach his people the following truth: He did not come into the world just to give bread, but to be bread. The people were still excited about the miracle performed by Jesus the day before and asked him, “Sir, give us this bread all the time!” (34) And Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will not hunger. He who believes in me will never thirst” (35). Then, they began to grumble about him and said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” You see, there is a huge difference between “giving bread” and “being bread.” The people were glad to believe Jesus as the one who gives bread. They were willing to make him king because he was useful. They would enjoy bread from him. They were much more interested in the product of the miracle than the person of the miracle. They didn’t want to believe that Jesus is the bread of life. Yes, they were seeking Jesus. But they were seeking Jesus as useful, not us precious. They were seeking Jesus as useful for the bread, the money, the health, the prosperity. But in John 6, Jesus plainly proclaims the main purpose why he came to the world: He did not come into the world to give bread, but to be bread.

Jesus, Bread to Eat
So Jesus clearly said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you!” (52) What does it mean to eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood? Of course, Jesus was not proposing religious cannibalism. Instead, what he was saying here is intimacy – believer’s union with Christ. In verse 56 Jesus said, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” – intimate union with Christ! To eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood means to have an intimate union with him. It is to know him intimately.

J.C. Ryle, pastor of Church of England in 19th century, had awakened many preachers and Christians. At that time, many people believed if they were baptized and members of the church, they would be saved and go to heaven when they died. But J.C. Ryle, in his sermon Christ Is All, said, “Let us understand that Christ will be all in heaven… What a sweet and glorious home heaven will be to those who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity!... But alas, how little fit for heaven are many who talk of "going to heaven" when they die, while they manifestly have no saving faith, and no real acquaintance with Christ. You give Christ no honour here. You have no communion with Him. You do not love Him. Alas! what could you do in heaven? It would be no place for you. Its joys would be no joys for you. Its happiness would be a happiness into which you could not enter. Its employments would be a weariness and a burden to your heart. Oh, repent and change before it be too late!”[1] Ryle concludes that the surest way to prepare for heaven is to begin a real, personal relationship with Christ. Jesus said, in verse 54, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Let us go back to our first question: When you say “I believe in Jesus,” what does it mean by that? To believe in Jesus is to commune with Jesus. It is to eat Jesus’ body and drink his blood everyday. It is to abide in him, and he in me every moment. In today’s passage the people began to realize that to believe in Jesus, to commune with Jesus requires a deep profound change in their lives. They began to realize that it doesn’t work to follow Jesus without making any change. And they said, “This is a hard saying. Who can listen to it?” (60) Then they turned back and no longer followed Jesus. It was all too much for them to take in.

Come and Eat!
But thankfully, today’s story is a story with a happy ending. Jesus’ disciples remained faithful. Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (67-69). They chose to believe, commune, eat, drink, and follow Jesus.

We know God through Jesus. We know Jesus through His word. Peter said, “You have the words of eternal life.” And Jesus himself said, “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (63b). We know and commune with Jesus through his word. Let us come and eat his word. There are good devotional books – upperroom and disciplines. There are lots of good sermons out there. But most of all, take up his word and listen to his word firsthand. Listen to Jesus at his feet. Ask him questions. Talk to him. Have a conversation with him. Commune with him. And I am 100% sure you will fall in love with him. You will trust him more, obey him more, rejoice in him more, and love him more.

“Oh, how I love your word! I meditate on it all day long!” (Ps 119:97)
“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps 119:103)

Let us come and eat! Let us eat Jesus and his word, the bread of heaven, and we will be truly satisfied – never hunger, never thirst, never die again – and have real and eternal life today. Amen.








[1] J.C. Ryle, “Christ Is All,” http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/christ_is_all.htm

Sunday, February 5, 2017

“Healing With Purpose” (John 5:1-18) - Seven Signs of Christ III -

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture
All of Scripture is telling one story. It’s a story about Jesus and our need for Him. In John 5:39 Jesus says, “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. But you miss the forest for the trees. These Scriptures are all about me!” (MSG). Every single text of Scripture points to Christ. And it tells us how we may have eternal life in him and through him. In particular, Jesus Christ makes ultimate claims for himself in the Gospels. Nowhere is this more obvious than in John 5. Today’s passage reveals and proclaims Christ-exalting truth: Who Jesus is and how we should respond to this truth.

Jesus Is All-Knowing
So who is Jesus? First of all, Jesus is all-knowing. In today’s passage Jesus goes to Jerusalem from Galilee to meet one man. In verse 6 John uses the Greek particle gnous which refers to supernatural, divine knowledge. Jesus knew this man’s situation. He knew that he had been paralyzed for 38 years. He knew that he had already been there a long time. And more importantly, Jesus knew that the man had been there a long time without hope. He knew that his mind as much as his body was sick and paralyzed. The place where the man was lying down was called “Bethesda” in Aramaic, which means “house of mercy.” At that time this place was known as a healing sanctuary among people. But what an irony! In this healing place, there were a multitude of invalids who had never experienced healing. This man was one of them. Probably, at first the man came to Bethesda with hope. He was eager to be healed. He got up early in the morning and kept watching a pool. But, little by little he began to get used to his life in this place. He got used to a dull life. He got used to maintaining the status quo. He got used to making excuses and complaints. He said, “I am not healed because no one helps me.” In fact, deep down in his heart he already gave up being healed. He already accepted this powerless life as his fate. He even became confident that it would be impossible to be healed based on his 38 years of experience. And Jesus knew all this. That is why he asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?” (6) Jesus knows you and me (Ps. 139). Jesus is all-knowing.


Jesus Is Compassionate
Jesus is also compassionate. Have you ever thought why did Jesus choose to come and heal this particular man? There were many other invalids there, but this man is picked out by Jesus, and no reason is given for his choice. It looks like Jesus healed him not because he had great faith or he was a prayer warrior, but simply because his situation was so miserable for so long. It looks like the healing came from Jesus’ compassion, not the man’s faith or righteousness. You see, when Jesus asks “Do you want to get well?” He doesn’t say, “Yes”; rather, he makes excuses, complaints, and blames others. Basically, what he says is this: “I am not healed because no one helps me! I am miserable because no one cares for me!” But Jesus graciously ignores the man’s complaint and says, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk!” (8) This is grace! Let us think about the life of the man paralyzed in the first century. Consider the problem of personal hygiene. Paraplegics frequently do not have bowel and bladder control. If we consider this, we can easily imagine this man’s life: People moved him from place to place unless he crawled; most of his income came from begging or from the charity of friends and family; and if he did not have bladder or bowel control, his hygiene problem would have been enormous. People stayed away from him. No one wanted to be near to him. He was the lowest of the low. Probably his suffering and isolation was beyond measure. Jesus knew this. Jesus knew this man and his situation. And he was moved with compassion. He chose to meet this man and heal him. We are healed, we are forgiven, we are loved, we are saved because he is gracious and compassionate, not because we did something to earn his favor (cf. Ps 103:8-14; Eph 2:8-9).

Jesus Is Powerful
Jesus not only knows us and is +compassionate with us, but also he is powerful. He is able to save us. He is able to heal us. When Jesus said to the man, “Get up,” the Bible says “at once” the man was healed (9). Jesus’ powerful word heals the man. By his word he created the heavens and the earth. By his word he made something out of nothing. By his word he divided the Red Sea in two. By his word he struck down the enemy. By his word he gives life to the dead and calls into existence things that don’t yet exist (Rom 4:17). One time Jesus helped people all day and now he was so tired. So as soon as he got on the boat, he fell fast asleep. Then the great storm came. Jesus’ disciples cried out and woke him up. I love how the Jesus Storybook Bible describes this incident: “Jesus stood up and spoke to the storm. “Hush!” he said. That’s all. And the strangest thing happened… The wind and the waves recognized Jesus’ voice. They had heard it before, of course – it was the same voice that made them, in the very beginning. They listened to Jesus and they did what he said. Immediately the wind stopped. The water calmed down.”[1] Amen. Psalm 29:4 says, “The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic!” When Jesus speaks to us, our soul is revived.  

Jesus Is Equal with God
In verse 9 John purposely says that the day on which this healing took place was a Sabbath. Why is this important? Why did Jesus heal this man on Sabbath? It is because Jesus wanted to invite Jewish leaders and us to stop and think who he really is. When the religious leaders saw the man healed on Sabbath, they were mad and said, “It is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” Then later, they accused Jesus of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus said to them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (17). Then they were seeking even more to kill him because they thought Jesus made himself equal with God (18). Actually, they saw his point: “Jesus is equal with God.” But they didn’t want to admit that truth. They were expectantly waiting for their Messiah a long time. And now here he is. They are supposed to celebrate their Christ. They are supposed to celebrate this healing with the man. But they are angry and mad. What are they mad at? Why are they so angry with Jesus? It is because of their spiritual sickness. Karl Barth tells us a story about people who live in a wilderness alongside a canal. The canal was there to bring them water and life, and it was with great effort and cost that the project was built for their place in time. Great sacrifices were made, and many died as the canal was cut through mountain and desert. But the great irony is that the canal has become dry, and while its walls still convey evidence of the coursing of water, there is nothing there that can give life to anyone. Nevertheless, the people continue to service it, to defend it, to name their children after its architects and engineers; but it is only an historic thing. A canal meant to convey something— water and life— now has become static, an end instead of a means. Something for the museum. People tell stories about it instead of drink from it. And no one has a memory of what water in the canal really looks like.[2]

Taste and See!
Empty canals! Empty religion! But the Bible says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps 34:8a) And Jesus also says, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38). Jesus is all-knowing, compassionate, and powerful. And most importantly, Jesus is equal with God. Do you believe this? Come to Jesus and be healed! Come to Jesus and drink! Come to Jesus and taste and see the fountain of living water! Do not just tell stories about it but drink from it. Let rivers of living water be up to your ankles, your waist, your neck, and go over your head! Let this water fully control you, empower you, and revive you! And your life will flourish wherever this water flows! (Ezekiel 47:1-12) Amen.

[1] Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus Storybook Bible (Zonderkidz: Grand Rapids, 2007), 241-42.
[2] Gary M. Burge, The NIV Application Commentary: John (Zondervan, 2000), 137.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

“The Jesus Chasers” (John 4:43-54) - Seven Signs of Christ II -



The Authority of God’s Word

How much authority does God’s word have over you? Suppose you have a regular physical check-up today. You go to see your doctor. You undress yourself to show your body, even your private parts, so that the doctor can examine whether you have any symptom of cancer, such as testicular cancer, color-rectal cancer, and so forth. We give that much authority to a doctor, because we trust their knowledge, skill and experience. For some, God’s word is powerful and uncovers everything. Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” These people allow God’s word examine their soul and spirit. They uncover themselves before God’s word. But for some, God’s word is just the old saying and basically powerless. They hear it, but they don’t understand. They see it, but they don’t comprehend (cf. Isa 6:9). They don’t disarm themselves before God’s word. They don’t allow God’s word examine their heart and mind. How much authority do you give to God’s word?



Welcoming Without Welcoming?

Jesus Christ is God’s living word. How much authority does Jesus have over you – your thoughts, your time, and your decision? In today’s scripture we find some strange things that need to be explained. Now Jesus goes to Galilee, his hometown, from Samaria. Verse 44 begins with the word “for”: Jesus departed for Galilee because he knew he has no honor in his own hometown. In other words, Jesus intentionally goes where he is less honored and more misunderstood. That’s strange logic. It seems strange and against all common sense to us – go to a place because people will don’t understand you and don’t honor you for who you are. But as for Jesus it was not strange at all. In fact, that was his mission from the beginning – go to a dark place and offer himself to his own people. And he knew that his people would not receive him; instead, he would be rejected and killed.



Jesus goes to Galilee, his own people, because he expects no honor there. Then, verse 45 says, “So [therefore] when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” That’s another strange logic. According to verse 44, the people of Galilee are supposed to dishonor him. But John basically says, “A prophet has no honor in his own hometown, therefore they welcomed him”??? So what is this? The answer is that the “welcome” was not a kind of receiving Jesus that he has true honor for who he is. People’s welcome was just superficial welcome, welcoming without welcoming. They had already seen miracles performed by Jesus in Jerusalem during the feast (45). So they welcomed him. But it was just an interest in his signs and wonders. It was superficial welcome, superficial honor for what he has and what he does rather than who he is.



Obstacles to Seeing Jesus’ Glory

In today’s passage John helps us to overcome obstacles to seeing the glory of Jesus. The greatest obstacle is “pride.” The people must have felt proud, because Jesus was from their own hometown. They would say, “Yes, this great miracle-worker grew up in our town!” The more Jesus became famous, the more proud of themselves they felt. Jesus’ power and fame became their pride. So they welcomed him. They expected more miracles from Jesus, because they fed their pride. Pastor John Piper rightly expounds this story as follows: “We can be attached to a church, or a movement, or music style, or a person, or a ministry in a way that starts to feed our ego. And it will seem justifiable because it’s Christian. And subtly we begin to want this Christian thing to thrive not for the glory of Christ, but because it feeds our ego.”[1] When that happens, it clouds us to see the glory of Christ.



Another aspect of the danger of pride is a sense of over-familiarity with Jesus. Familiarity breeds pride. Probably the people thought, “We know this Jesus. He is one of us. We know his mother and his brothers. We used to live right next to his place. So let’s see what he claims to be.” In the same way, many of us grew up in the church and Christian culture. We may have that same mindset within us: “I know Jesus. I know the Bible. I know Christianity.” Jesus is too familiar to shock us and blow our minds. He is too familiar to be powerful in our lives. That over-familiarity with Jesus clouds us to see Jesus and honor him for who he really is, even though we think we are.



An Official from Capernaum

Today John gently invites us to grow deeper in faith in Jesus Christ by telling us the story of one man in today’s passage. Verse 46 says, “… and at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.” So who is he? The word “official” is literally “royal one” who works for a king in some way. So probably, this man was a high ranking officer in Herod Antipas’ service. He got nothing to envy in this world. He got fame, power, wealth, health, and family. But then, something happened. His beloved son got seriously ill. He must have exhausted all means available. He must have gone to the famous doctors. He must have tried good medicines whatever it cost. But it was no use. And his son got worse and was at the point of death (47). He was so desperate. Then he heard the news that miracle-worker, Jesus, was coming to Cana. He ran all the way down from Capernaum to Cana, about 15 miles. And he asked Jesus to come down and heal his son. Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” (48). Here in verse 48 both times “you” are the second person plural. Jesus was not just speaking to this man, but also to the whole group of people in Cana, and to us. Here Jesus was saying, “You say you believe, but your belief is not real belief that honors me. You are sign-seekers. You are miracle-worshipers. You must increase your faith!”



This man must have taken aback, but he didn’t give up. He said, “Sir, come down before my child dies” (49). He had faith. But his faith had to meet two conditions – space and time: Jesus, I believe but you have to come with me and pray for my son (spatial limitations). Jesus, I believe but you have to do something before my child dies (time limitations). But for Jesus, there is no “too far” or “too late.” For Jesus, it doesn’t matter the boy was either 15 miles away or 150,000 miles away. For Jesus, it doesn’t matter whether it is before or after the death. The power and authority of Jesus’ word surpass time and space. His word is all powerful and almighty. Jesus could go and heal this child. But instead, he challenged him to increase his faith, “Go, your son will live.” Surprisingly, the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went back all the way home, another 15 miles (50). When he encountered Jesus personally, he saw something more than a miracle-worker in Jesus. And he believed the word and did act.



Then the miracle did happen. His son was healed. And the father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And verse 53 says, “And he himself believed, and all his household.” His belief now in verse 53 is much deeper than the one in verse 50. In verse 50 he believed in Jesus as a miracle-worker. He believed in miracles and healing. But in verse 53 now he believed in Jesus as the Son of God, the Savior of the World. He saw the beauty and glory of Christ who stands behind miracles and healing. He asked for healing, but by the grace of God he received the greater gift, Jesus Christ himself. He and all his household believed in Jesus. And by believing they had real and eternal life in his name (cf. John 20:31).



Capernaum to Cana

Many of us in this room have our own “Capernaum,” the place where we suffer and struggle – It might be economic difficulties. It might be family troubles. It might be physical weaknesses. It might be salvation for our spouse or our children. So what is your Capernaum? Suffering itself is not a blessing. But it can be a blessing in disguise when we suffer in Christ and with Christ. In Psalm 119:71 David says, “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (NLT). Our suffering can bring us closer to Jesus. It can cleanse the eyes of our souls and spirits to clearly see the glory of Jesus Christ. So let us come to “Cana,” where Jesus is standing and opens his arms to us.



The Apostle Paul was once a blasphemer and a persecutor. But even that time, he thought he knew God. He thought he was working for God. He was too familiar with God to pray, too familiar with God’s church to think, and too familiar with religion to study. But God is gracious and powerful. Paul encountered Jesus. Something like scales fell from his eyes. Then, he clearly did see the glory of Jesus. After this, he proclaimed Jesus in this way: “He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!” (2 Cor 5:15-16, NLT) May all the scales fall from our eyes! May the Lord remove all pride and reveal to us the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



[1] John Piper, “Go, Your Son Will Live,” Desiring God, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/go-your-son-will-live

Sunday, January 22, 2017

“God Still Speaks Today” (1 Samuel 3:1-10; John 10:22-30)


My Story
Do you believe God still speaks today? Do you believe God speaks to you? I don’t know about you. But as for me, God was something more abstract concept. I was born into a pastor’s family. My dad is a Methodist pastor in South Korea. One of my uncles is a pastor, and my maternal grandfather is also retired pastor. I was surrounded by pastors and Christians. They were all good and real Christians, but for some reason I didn’t have a personal relationship with God. I didn’t feel close to God. Like I shared, God was something abstract. But then, I went to the army. I found out that army life was very tough. In order to survive in the army, I began to read the Bible every night right after my night-watch duty. I read the psalms one chapter per day. For the first time, I experienced the Word became alive and personally meaningful to me. Then, New Year’s Eve of year 1999 came. I attended New Year’s Eve service. It was during the pastor’s benediction, for the first time, I experienced God did speak to me. It was not an audible voice. It was an inner voice – gentle but clear. It was Jeremiah 33:3: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” I was so thrilled and amazed.

About a month later, God sent me to the place I had never heard before. I was sent to East Timor, tiny island nation next to Indonesia and Australia, as UN Peace Keeping Forces. East Timor was a spiritual barren land. Most of the time, I stayed with Korean, Philippine and Thai soldiers. There was no church, no mentor, or Christian club. Instead, sexual temptation and debauchery were lurking all around. God gave me the burden to set up a Christian Club for regular Sunday service in barracks. But, I didn’t want to stand out. So I ran away from the mission like Jonah when God told him to go to Nineveh. Then, I fell seriously ill with an endemic disease, called ‘Dengue Fever.’ At that time I was in a very remote area for special operations for three weeks. There was no way to be properly treated. I went to medical center. The military medical officer gave me some aspirin. But it didn’t work. I had a high fever and red rashes all over my body. My condition seriously got worse. On that night I could not eat or sleep. I even could not lie down. I became delirious from a high fever. Intuitively, I knew that I was walking through the valley of death. I knelt down on a camp bed and repented my sins before I died, and at the end of my prayer I said something like this: “God, if you save my life, I will humbly serve you with all my heart for life.” After that, I could fall asleep in peace. Early next morning I woke up. The fever was gone. The red rashes were complete gone. I went out and literally leaped for joy. That was my spiritual turning point. I was healed spiritually as well as physically. Because of that healing experience, I became curious about God, and for the first time I read through the Bible carefully from cover to cover. And I encountered the person Jesus Christ who speaks through the Bible. Since then, he has spoken to me for 17 years.

Samuel’s Story
In today’s passage we meet a man of God, Samuel. He was raised as God’s servant by the priest Eli since he was very young. He was taught and trained very well. He was a good student and worker. But the Bible says “Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord” (v. 7). He was a good servant of God, but he didn’t know God. He was a faithful worker of God, but he didn’t know God. He was literally living in God’s temple, but he had never heard God’s voice by that time. Samuel had to learn how to recognize God’s voice. The priest Eli had to teach him how to listen to God. God called Samuel, “Samuel, Samuel!” But Samuel thought Eli was calling him. So he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “No, I didn’t call you; go back and lie down.” It happened three times. After this, Eli realized it was God who was calling Samuel. So he taught Samuel how to recognize God’s voice and how to respond to it. So next time when God called Samuel, he didn’t run to Eli. Instead, he said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Since then, Samuel became a prophet of the Lord. 1 Samuel 3:21 says, “The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”

Our God is the God who speaks. But we need to learn how to recognize God’s voice. The Bible says there are at least three voices – the voice of God, the voice of self, and the voice of Satan. Some people underestimate or deny Satan’s voice. But it is real. For instance, John 13:2 says, “During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s Son, to betray him” (ESV). Satan puts his evil thoughts into our hearts. Have you experienced all of sudden evil thoughts, such as sexual immorality, hatred, anger, envy, discord, came to mind, and you felt embarrassed? That’s Satan’s voice (cf. Galatians 5:19-21). We must resist that voice right away and submit to God. But sometimes, actually oftentimes, Satan disguises himself as an angle of light and uses God’s word to tempt us. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan actually quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to prompt Jesus to throw himself down and show miracles. Jesus defeated the enemy three times by proclaiming the word of God. That’s why it’s so important to know God’s word in depth, not just superficially. That way we are able to distinguish God’s voice from others.

Your Story
Some Christians think that listening to God’s voice is just for certain special people or the chosen ones. Yes, it was true in the time of the Old Testament. God chose certain people, such as priests, prophets, and kings, and spoke to his people through them. But now it is every believer’s privilege to listen to God’s voice because of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility that separated us from God in his own body on the cross. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and believed in his name? Then, you are children of God. For children, it is so natural to listen to their father’s voice. In John 10:27, Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” One day one of my colleges shared his story of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the trip a heavy rain began to fall while he was in the wilderness with his guide. They found a cave and sheltered themselves there, and several other local Bedouin shepherds also came to take refuge in the cave. So now different flocks were all mixed up together. The pastor was curious and even concerned about how each shepherd would separate his own sheep from others. But for some reason, the shepherds didn't seem to worry about the mix-up at all. After the rain had stopped, suddenly one shepherd got up, went out, and started sing a song. Surprisingly, that shepherd's sheep withdrew themselves from the crowd to follow their shepherd home. How is it possible? It’s possible because those sheep learned how to recognize their shepherd’s voice from their daily experience. Sheep hear their shepherd’s voice. Jesus’ sheep hear his voice and follow him.  

Are you listening? When is the last time you heard God speak? This morning I exhort all of us in this room to actually take time to listen to the voice of our Shepherd daily. In most cases, we don’t listen to God’s voice, not because he is silent, but because we are so preoccupied and distracted by many other things, although he constantly speaks to us. Let us set aside even five minutes on our knees in silence before God to listen to him before starting our day. If you are already doing this, increase time to 15 minutes, to 30 minutes, to an hour. During his ministry John Wesley, founder of the Methodism, rode over 250,000 miles on horseback, a distance equal to ten circuits of the globe along the equator. He preached over 40,000 sermons. On average he preached three times a day. Though he died more than 225 years ago, he still powerfully affects the world for Christ. So what is the secret of his fruitful ministry for Christ? The answer is that he spent two hours daily to listen to the Shepherd’s voice. He began at four in the morning to commune with God before starting the day for 60 years. One of his close friends said in this way: “He thought prayer to be more his business than anything else, and I have seen him come out of his closet with a serenity of face next to shining.”[1] But first, let us start with five minutes. No agenda. No request. Even no other devotional books for this particular time. Just sit still to listen to his gentle voice and say, “Speak, Lord, for I am listening.” Amen.



[1] E.M. Bounds, Power through Prayer (Christian Classics Remix: Kindle Edition), 28. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

“The First Sign” (John 2:1-11) - Seven Signs of Christ I -


Christmas Miracle
How was your Christmas? This Christmas I’ve got a very special email from one Christian family. This man had bladder cancer three years ago. He is a cancer survivor. But a week before Christmas his urologist found a tumor on his bladder. He heard the news that his cancer came back. Right before Christmas he was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor. Many people had been praying for him all over the country. Finally, the day came. The surgeon looked into his bladder and the tumor was gone! His cancer was gone! It was Christmas miracle indeed. And he and his wife shared this testimony with many people, and by this, the name of Jesus Christ was exalted!

God did many miracles throughout the Bible, and in the four Gospels there were many miracles performed by Jesus. One of the common words for miracles used in the New Testament was dynameis in Greek. Unlike Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Apostle John intentionally used another word semeia, which literally means “signs.” A sign is something indicating the existence of something else. For instance, if we follow “Houlton” traffic sign though you don’t see it right away, eventually you get to Houlton. In the same way, John carefully chose 7 signs that point us to Jesus. In John 20:30-31 he tells us the reason why he wrote the book, saying “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” From today we will explore seven signs one by one each week. My prayer is that as we see each sign, we may clearly see that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God!

The first sign is written in today’s passage. Jesus turns water into wine. In Jesus’ time a wedding celebration could last as long as a week. The bridegroom and his family were responsible for preparing and serving a variety of food and wine, which stands for joy. The fact that the wine ran out was very embarrassing and shameful situation. In this time of family crisis Jesus intervened and revealed his glory as the Lord. We say, “Jesus is the Lord.” But what does it really mean? What is the practical application of the Lordship of Jesus Christ? In today’s story we meet three different individuals and groups of people who truly live out Jesus being lord of their lives.

Trust: The Mother of Jesus (2:1-5)
The first one is the mother of Jesus. When the wine ran out, Mary didn’t turn to the bridegroom. She didn’t go to the master of the banquet. Instead, Mary turned to Jesus. When a storm sweeps into your life, when the need is great, who do you turn to? Mary turned to Jesus, because she did trust Jesus most. She said, “They have no wine!” But Jesus’ response was certainly abrupt, although the tone was not rude. He said, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem. My time has not yet come” (NLT). The answer was basically “No.” But Mary didn’t not give up. She didn’t know what Jesus would do, but she committed the matter to him and trusted him. She believed that he would do something. She went to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary was the mother of Jesus. She had borne him, nursed him, and taught him. But Mary didn’t approach Jesus as his mother. She did approach him as a believer (cf. 2 Co 5:16). she didn’t try to manipulate Jesus, but she responded as a believer and encouraged others to do the same, “Do whatever he tells you.”     

Many people, many Christians believe in “imaginary” Jesus. In other words, they pick and choose what they like from Jesus. For some, Jesus is merely a human teacher. For some, Jesus is a social liberator. John Owen, the old puritan, warned people in his day: “You have an imaginary Christ and if you are satisfied with imaginary Christ you must be satisfied with imaginary salvation.”[1] Thomas Jefferson was one of the founding fathers and a brilliant mind. But unfortunately, when it comes to faith, he didn’t believe Jesus just as the Bible says. He didn’t believe the Trinity. He didn’t believe miracles in the Bible. He defined his own Jesus and Christianity. So he was determined to reconstruct a Christianity. In fact, using scissors and paste, Jefferson produced his own edition of the gospels, from which all miracles had been eliminated and contained only Jesus’ moral teaching.[2] But the Bible says there is only one true Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord. I want you to think about who do you say that Jesus is.

Obey: The Servants (2:6-8)
The second group of people who live out Jesus being the lord of their lives is the servants. In today’s story there were six stone water jars, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. We can easily calculate that the total amount of water would be approximately 120 to 180 gallons. We don’t know how many servants were there. But still, it is not a small amount of water. However, the Bible says that the servants filled them up “to the brim” when Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” It signifies “complete” obedience. Jesus also asked them to draw some out and take it to the master of the feast. And they took it. Again, it signifies “immediate” obedience. The servants give us a good example of what it means to obey. They had a clear identity about themselves: “servanthood.” They didn’t regard Jesus as one of the guests, but as their master. There is a clear limit and boundary for guests. They are not allowed to get involved in our private matters. Christians are the people who have invited Jesus to our lives. But for some, Jesus still remains as their guest. He might be a special guest, but still he doesn’t have full access to a primary decision-making. Is Jesus your guest or master? Does he have full access to your family matters, marriage, finance and every area of life? Or is he just a good adviser only for the well-being of your soul?

Commit: The Disciples of Jesus (2:9-11)
The third group is the disciples of Jesus. The Bible says that they saw the first sign and believed in Jesus. Based on today’s passage we can easily assume that there were probably many people either saw or heard about the sign that Jesus had performed, but not all believed in Jesus. For instance, the master of the feast tasted the wine turned from water. He got benefit from it, but nothing changed. For him, the sign was a one time interesting event. But as for the disciples, it was spiritual transformative experience that changed their lives forever. By faith they perceived Jesus’ glory behind the sign, and they put their faith in him. In the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his disciples were kind of “loosely” following Jesus. In John 1:35-42 Jesus called the first disciples, including Andrew and Peter. But if we read the other gospels, Jesus had to visit them again and call them personally (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). It is believed that at first Jesus’ disciples loosely followed Jesus. In other words, one day they were with Jesus, and another day they stayed with their family and did their work. However, today’s sign, the first of Jesus’ signs, became transformative experience for them to make a total commitment to Jesus Christ. To believe the gospel is to believe in the person Jesus. To believe in Jesus is to follow him 24/7. Jesus still calls us today. How do you respond to his call? How do you walk with Christ today?  

The First Sign
All of us are fearfully and wonderfully made. When God made our ancestors Adam and Eve, God said it was very good! Humankind was like the choicest wine – beautiful color, taste, and aroma – in God’s eyes (cf. Isaiah 5:2). But then, sin came to the world, and our life became like “insipid” water – no taste, no savor – and even messy and ugly. But this is not the end of the story. God never gave up on us! God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to make everything new. Jesus is God’s method. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Co 5:17). When we receive Jesus as the Lord and live under his lordship, the insipid water of our old life has gone and the richness of new life in Christ has come! And just like the best wine, as time goes by, our life becomes more beautiful, tasty, fragrant and give joy to many people. Let us remember three marks of Christians who live under the lordship of Jesus Christ: trust, obey, and commit. Are you a follower?



[1] A. W. Tozer, Total Commitment to Christ: What Is It? (Chariot eBooks), Kindle Location 45 of 131.
[2] John Stott, The Incomparable Christ (InterVarsity Press, 2001), Kindle Location 1719-1720 of 4607. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

“Have You Been Baptized?” (John 1:29-34)

The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter is a famous fiction in a historical setting – 17th century Puritan Boston, MA, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850. It tells the story of Hester Prynne, who conceives a daughter through an affair and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. She is required to wear a scarlet "A" ("A" standing for adulteress) on her dress to shame her. Her lover, Arthur Dimmesdale, remains unidentified and is wracked with guilt and finally falls ill and dies of guilt and his inner turmoil. Hester experiences with the extreme legalism of the Puritans and chooses not to conform to their rules and beliefs. She begins to believe that her sin has been paid for by her penance and good works and to establish her own different moral standards and beliefs. But at the end, she realizes that her sin constantly condemns her and resumes wearing the scarlet letter.[1]

Why Sin Matters
Although the Scarlet Letter is a fictional story, it tells us the truth about sin. Sin never goes away by itself. It only accumulates. That is the gravity of sin. Probably, many of you have seen the buildings and roofs that collapsed under the weight of snow. Sin is just like that. We don’t feel the difference. We don’t feel like we are accumulating sins. But the day will come like a thief. Romans 2:5 says, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” Whether willing or not, each of us will face up to this gravity of sin. What are the consequences of sin? The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death – separation from God” (6:23) and “after that we have to face judgment” (Heb 9:27).

Be Cleansed 
What can wash away our sin? Our sin is like the scarlet letter that permanently engraved on the tablet of our heart. It condemns us constantly. It never goes away. Leviticus 16 helps us understand the seriousness of sin. On the Day of Atonement once a year Aaron chose two goats to bear symbolically the sins of the people – one for a sin offering (a blood sacrifice for atonement) and the other for a scapegoat. Aaron laid both his hands on the head of this living scapegoat, confessing all the Israelites’ sins. He put their sins upon the head of the goat and sent the goat into the wilderness. The goat vicariously carried the sins away. But here, we need to remember. This goat did not completely take away their sins, but it just delayed judgment until next year. That’s why they had to do this act of atonement year after year (cf. Heb 7:27).

So what can wash away our sin? In today’s passage John the Baptist gives us the answer. He saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Jesus is the only one who is able to take away our sins. In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress the main character Christian enters the narrow gate and arrives at the Interpreter’s house. The Interpreter took Christian into a large hall full of dust because it had never been swept. The Interpreter called for a man to sweep. As he swept, the dust rose in such clouds that Christian was almost chocked. The Interpreter told the maiden, “Bring water and sprinkle the room.” The room was then swept clean. “What does this mean?” Christian asked. The Interpreter answered, “This hall is the heart of man; the dust is the sin that has defiled him. The first one is the Law, and the second one is the Gospel. The law only revives and increases sin in the soul instead of cleansing the heart from it. But when the gospel of Christ comes in, sin is vanquished and the soul made clean!”[2] “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” So repent and believe in the gospel and be cleansed!

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit 
The Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin. Jesus came to take away our sins. But there is more! Not only did he come to take away sin, but also Jesus came to make us live the victorious life over sin by baptizing with the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist cried out, “Jesus is the one who will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (34). On one occasion evangelist D.L. Moody held up an empty drinking glass and asked, “How can I get the air out of this glass?” One man said, “Suck it out with a pump!” Moody replied, ‘‘that would create a vacuum and shatter the glass.” After numerous other suggestions Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. “There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then went on to explain that victory in the Christian life is not accomplished by “sucking out a sin here and there,” but rather by being filled with the Holy Spirit.

In Acts 19 Paul asked some disciples at Ephesus, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” At that time almost 20 years had already passed since the Pentecost Day. But they were still living as believers without knowing the Holy Spirit for 20 years! How about you? Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? In John 3 Jesus said to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (8). Yes, we don’t know where the wind comes from or where it is going. But when the wind blows us, we do know for sure there is a wind. People around us also can tell at a glance. In the same way, we don’t fully understand the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit is a mystery. But when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, we know what it is. And people around us also notice about this.

Be Filled 
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is for everyone who believes in Christ. Before he was ascended into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5). Then, what is the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit? The sure evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit is “power.” Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you” (8) — power to be an effective witness for Christ, power to serve Christ, power to do God’s will, power to overcome sin, power to endure suffering, power to love the unlavable, and power to bear the fruit of the Spirit. Before we were born of the Spirit, we didn’t have the power to choose not to sin. We were slaves to sin (John 8:34). We didn’t have control over ourselves. But when we believe in Jesus’ name, by the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we are set free from the power of sin and now have the power to choose not to sin.

As I close, I want to share a story of an old Cherokee chief. One day an old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life. He said to the boy, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil. He is anger, resentment, envy, greed, self-pity, inferiority, guilt, lies, arrogance, pride, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.” Actually, this parable is quite biblical. According to Galatians 5 every Christian fights the same battle – the battle between sinful nature and the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is not a once-for-all experience. It’s a daily walk with Jesus. The evil wolf needs to be starved and the good wolf needs to be nurtured day by day. As beloved children of God, as disciples of Jesus Christ, let us crucify the sinful nature and keep in step with the Spirit day by day. Let us resist the devil and submit to God moment by moment. Then, we will be filled, guided, empowered with the Holy Spirit, and Christ will be exalted in our lives. Amen.

[1] The Scarlet Letter, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Letter
[2] John Bunyan, Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress (The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1960), 61-2.