25 “And there will be strange signs in the sun, moon, and stars. And here on earth the nations will be in turmoil, perplexed by the roaring seas and strange tides. 26 People will be terrified at what they see coming upon the earth, for the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on a cloud with power and great glory. 28 So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!”
Parable of the Evil Farmers
The Rich Man
1 Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy. 2 The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 3 Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear!
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
This coming Friday will be March 17th. It is a special day, not just because it’s WonJun’s birthday, but also because it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Although, it has become a day when people wear green clothes, go to an Irish pub, and drink a lot of bear, originally it was the day to commemorate Saint Patrick.
Who was St. Patrick? And, what was so special about his life that people designated a day to remember him? People often mistakenly think that he was Irish, but he was actually born and raised in Great Britain in the late 300s. He grew up in a Christian family, but he was not an active believer. When he was just 16 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates from his home in Britain. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, and was force to look after animals as a shepherd. During his captivity, the Lord’s grace and mercy led him to repent of his sins and convert to Christianity. His relationship with God continued to grow during his slavery. After 6 years of captivity, the Lord revealed to him in a voice that he would soon go home and that a ship was ready. So, he escaped from his master and travelled 200 miles to a port, where he indeed found a ship that was getting ready to leave to Britain. He got on it and was soon reunited with his family.
After his return, St. Patrick continued to study Christianity and eventually became a priest. A few years later, God gave him a vision. In his vision, St. Patrick heard the voices of the Irish people calling out to him, "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” It was a signal from God to return to Ireland and minister to the people there. It was the land where he was enslaved for 6 years as a teenager! It was the land of his kidnappers! He must have cried out, “How could I go back there again!” But Saint Patrick loved God, so he obeyed. He packed up his bag and went back to Ireland as a missionary.
As the history goes, he became the founder of Christianity in Ireland. He built several churches, baptized thousands of people, and served the people as a bishop until he died on March 17th, 461. Today, Ireland's largest religious group is none other than Christianity.
Saint Patrick loved Jesus wholeheartedly. His life was completely geared toward Him. He regarded Christ as Lord, and considered Him to be everywhere he went. We can get a glimpse of his heart from his famous prayer, called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” In part, it reads:
“Christ be with me, Christ in the front, Christ in the rear, Christ within me, Christ below me, Christ above me, Christ at my right hand, Christ at my left, Christ in the fort, Christ in the Chariot seat, Christ at the helm, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”
Do you know of any Christian who is so dedicated to Christ like Saint Patrick? If so, how many are there? The sad reality is that many believers today follow Jesus half-heartedly. Jesus is more of nice insurance policy than the Lord of his or her life. For some Christians, school grade comes first. For some, video game comes first. For some, college comes first. For some, hobby comes first. For some, sleep comes first. For some, friends come first. For some, income comes first. And, for some, comfort comes first. But not many believers give their whole heart and life to Jesus. That is why Jesus said, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail (Luke 13:24).” Unless we work hard to keep our focus on Jesus, it is so easy to get distracted and lose passion for God. These days, we are seeing the fulfilment of Jesus’s prophecy, which is that many will turn away from Him and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold (Mt. 24:10-12).”
Why is it becoming like this? Why is it so hard to keep our attention on Jesus? Why is it so burdensome to give up our lives for Jesus? I believe one of the reasons is because the believers have forgotten about the awesomeness of being the followers of Christ. Many have forgotten how empowering it is to be His disciple. Many have forgotten the privilege of being His disciple. Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”
What are the great things that Jesus has been doing? Well, let’s take a look. We have been going through the gospel of Luke, and we are now at chapter 9. Up to this point, Jesus cast out a demon from a possessed man. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others in that village. He healed a man with leprosy. He healed a paralyzed man (who was lowered from the roof). He healed a man with deformed right hand. He healed the dying slave of a Roman officer. He raised a widow’s dead son. He calmed the storm of the sea. He healed another demon-possessed man. He healed a woman who had been bleeding for years. He fed the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. He healed yet another demon-possessed boy. And, throughout his ministry, Jesus was preaching about the Kingdom of God with power and authority.
And Jesus said to His disciples, “you can do even greater things than these.” How awesome is that! Jesus promised a supernatural life to those who dedicated their lives to Him. He promised to empower his disciples with the Spirit of God to do His ministry. He promised that his disciples could be like super heroes, rescuing the helpless with divine power. And, as if that’s not enough, God promised a great reward and the eternal life in His kingdom. Being a disciple of Jesus was pretty awesome.
So, it is not surprising that those who witnessed the works of Jesus really wanted to be His disciple. Some earnestly desired to be selected by Jesus. We see this example in Luke 9. In Luke 9:57, it says, “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This man was not even asked by Jesus to follow Him, but he voluntarily committed himself to follow Jesus wherever He went. He knew that if he could just learn from this rabbi (or teacher), he could take part in the amazing works that Jesus was doing, and lead a life that is meaningful, powerful, joyful, and influential. There was so much attraction to be His disciple.
But Jesus warned him in v. 58: “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” What is Jesus saying? He is saying that, if Jesus Himself is rejected by people and has no place to stay, then His followers will all the more be rejected by others. So, in essence, Jesus was asking, “Are you willing to be rejected by others for sake of the gospel and the Son of Man?” “Are you willing to give up your life for me?” That was the key question that Jesus asked that man, and it is the key question He is asking all of us today. To be a true follower of Christ means to place Jesus and His mission as the #1 priority in life no matter the cost.
In verse 59, this time, Jesus pointed out a guy from the crowd and said, “Come, follow me.” It was a highly privileged invitation from this super rabbi, so he responded positively, but added a condition, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” What he was saying was that he would like to take care of his elderly dad until he dies, and then follow Jesus. Jesus was clearly not the #1 priority of his life; his own dad came first. So, Jesus responds in v. 60, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” In other words, He was saying that there are unbelievers who will take care of the things of this world, even the work of burying his dad. This is the same principle that Jesus taught when He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison--your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).” Jesus is making it clear that nothing else and no one else comes first before Him.
In verse 61, we see another man coming up to Jesus and requesting to be His disciple. He also sees the desirability in being Jesus’s disciple. The man said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” At first glance, that sounds harmless rather natural, but Jesus did not approve of this either. Jesus responded, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” In other word, there can be no “but-first-let-me” before Jesus. Jesus always comes first. Jesus always must be the first. Those who put a hand to the plow and looks back are those who still desire the things of this world. And what does Jesus say about that? He said, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15).” This warning was given to us since Genesis when Lot's wife looked back towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and turned into a pillar of salt. The same warning is given to us today that we cannot look back toward our old ways of life. Born-again Christians cannot crave for the ways of this world. God must be utterly supreme over everything and everywhere in your life.
Indeed, following Jesus is costly. Yes, following Jesus requires sacrifice, and it requires going all in for Christ. But just like the man who found a treasure hidden in a field, and sold all his possession to buy that field, it is worth going all in for Jesus and following Him all the way into the Kingdom of God. Just like the merchant who discovered a pearl of great value, and sold all he had in order to buy that pearl, it is worth going all in for Christ. He is worth our sacrifice. Those who fully give up their lives for Christ can and will experience God to the fullest. It will no longer be a natural life, but a supernatural one. It will no longer be an ordinary life, but a divine one. And, it will no longer be a pointless life, but a significant one.
You may ask, “Pastor Daniel, what does it look like to go all in for Christ?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Imagine Master Yoda entering into this room, skillfully swinging his lightsaber without hitting anything in this crowded room. And imagine him presenting another lightsaber before you, and asking if there was anyone who would like to be his disciple to become a Jedi. How would you respond to such invitation? Would you say, “Nah, I got homework to do,” or “Nah, I just want to play some video games,” or “I’m busy with other fun things in life?” I sure hope that is not your response, because everybody knows how cool it is to be a Jedi! And if Master Yoda picked one of you and gave you his old and sacred training manual on how to become a Jedi, how much would you be devoted to reading it? How seriously would you take his training?
Now, you probably know where I’m going with this. If you can get so excited with the fictitious idea of becoming a Jedi, discipled by a fictitious Star Wars character, how much more should you be excited about the idea of becoming a real disciple of Jesus, who can do the miraculous things that Jesus did and even greater things than what He did? And if your eyes lit up about Master Yoda’s sacred training manual (and I don’t think there is such a thing even in the movie), how much more should you be thrilled about the real word of God that teaches you how to become a powerful disciple of Jesus? Wouldn’t you throw off everything that hinders and follow Jesus with perseverance? Well, that’s what many followers of Jesus did during His ministry. They devoted their lives to Jesus and closely followed Him. So, when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to do some crazy stuff in His name, they obeyed. And when they returned, they exclaimed, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!”
This is what I mean by going all in. Put Jesus and His work as your #1 priority in life. Devote yourself to His discipleship. When you come to church on Sunday mornings despite your lack of sleep, you are putting Jesus first. When you engage in the word of God during the Bible Study, you are getting trained by Jesus. When you come out to Friday Nights to read Christian books together, you are being equipped by Jesus. Do not skimp out on these gatherings. These are valuable training opportunities. And as you mature spiritually, some of you will have the ability to give wise advice. Some of you will have the ability to give a message of special knowledge. Some of you will have great faith. Some of you will have the ability to heal. Some of you will have the power to perform miracles. Some of you will have the ability to prophesy. Some of you will have greater discernment. Some of you will speak in tongues. Some of you will interpret tongues. And, some of you will preach the word of God with power and authority. When Christ becomes your all in all, God will do some mighty work through you.
St. Patrick understood this. That is why he was able to leave his family, go back to the country of his kidnappers, minister to the people there, and preach the kingdom of God. He put Jesus first, and, as a result, the whole country of Ireland became Christian. Wouldn’t you like to make that kind of impact in this world? Wouldn’t you like to leave that kind of legacy? If so, there is one person that you need to listen, pay attention, focus, cling on, and fully obey. His name is Jesus.
4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Before the United States declared independence on July 4th, 1776, there were 13 colonies ruled by Great Britain along the east coast of America. One of the first colonies was the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was established in 1628. Shortly after their settlement, in 1636, they built their first college, which became the very first university in the United States. It was Harvard College, or Harvard University today. Its emphasis was on literacy so that individuals could read the Bible. Its primary focus was on training young men for God’s ministry. John Harvard, who was the first donor and one of the main founders, said this:
“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main ends of his life and studies; to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all knowledge and learning and see that the Lord only giveth wisdom. Let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to see Christ as Lord and Master.”
Harvard College was not an isolated case that sought to bring up Christian ministers. Other Ivy League schools, such as Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth, were also established primarily to train ministers of the Gospel.
The U.S. Public School System also began with the Christian background. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony made “proper” education mandatory, and 5 years later, passed the Massachusetts General School Law, which is famously known as “Old Deluder Satan Law.” The law begins with the following words that indicate the reason why they are enacting this education law:
“It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures,”
In other words, the settlers recognized that Satan’s chief objective was to keep men from the knowledge of the Bible, so, in order to combat the devil, they passed the law that required all children to go to school and learn to be able to study the Bible. That was the beginning of the grammar school, which is now known as elementary school.
Our whole education system, from elementary school to higher education, was founded on the purpose of knowing God and Christ through the Bible. Our Founding Fathers knew how important it was for the society to be grounded on the truth of God. They knew that, without the biblical principles permeated in the community, their new settlement would be on shaky grounds.
Unfortunately, the education system today looks very different. Elementary and middle schools are teaching students without the goal of learning about God. High schools are primarily focused on sending kids to better colleges, and colleges are focused on producing students that will succeed in life through job placement, riches, or fame. Today, God is not the purpose of education. In fact, our education system has never been as anti-Christian as it is today.
To be fair, it is not just the school system that has departed from God. Many Christian parents and students have also neglected the Word of God and turned away from His purposes. Some of them have a clear purpose in life, but it is often to advance their own personal success, riches, and comfort in life. Very few Christians study or work primarily for the purposes of knowing God, serving others, or making Him known to the world. Many have ignored the command to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and instead chose to seek first the success in one's own life and business.
This kind of worldly mentality is not unique to our generation. It even existed in the times of Jesus. Jesus described this in His Parable of the Sower to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns. The parable recorded in Luke 8:4-15 goes as the following:
5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples didn’t understand what the parable meant, so Jesus graciously explained it to them. He said:
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
Jesus described that there are four different ways a person responds to the word of God. Their heart conditions are described as a footpath, rocky soil, thorny ground, and good soil.
Those who have the heart of a footpath are those who won’t receive the gospel at all even though the gospel was preached to them. They don’t call themselves Christians, and they certainly don’t see the need for a Savior. Therefore, their sins are not forgiven, and God’s judgement and wrath awaits them. For people in this category, John the Baptist, Jesus, and His disciples cry out “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Those who have the heart of a rocky soil are those who hear the gospel and initially receive it. But, they continue to have a hardened heart and neglect to grow their faith through spiritual disciplines, such as reading the Bible, praying, or being in discipleship in the church. So, when struggles or temptations come on their way, they quickly fall away from their faith and even renounce the existence of God. These are those who probably wouldn’t call themselves Christians, but even if they did, it would be a lie because they are not saved. The term “falling away” is frequently used in the Bible to indicate falling away from God. We must have a clear understanding that, when we are saved, it is NOT because of a one-time decision that was made in the past, but because of the continuing faith in Jesus.
Those who have the heart of a thorny ground are those receive the gospel, but continue to live a life that is self-focused. They continue to worry about their own life, and care about the treasures and pleasures of this life. Unfortunately, so many Christians today fall in this category. This is why many Christian students are studying NOT for the glory of God, but for their own glory and worldly success. This is why many Christian adults are working NOT for the glory of God, but for their own enjoyment, advancement, and comfortable retirement. These are those who straddle on the fence and attempt to reap the benefit of both sides. These are those who definitely call themselves Christians, but their heart for God is lukewarm at best. The Bible clearly tells us that, in the end, Jesus would spit out lukewarm Christian out of his mouth. He said that the fruitless branches, even if they were attached to the vine of Jesus, will be pruned, thrown out, and burned. He said that not everyone who says to Jesus, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of His Father who is in heaven. This is a sobering message. It is not enough to regard Jesus as your Savior; He must be the Lord of your life. You must be willing to give up the throne of your life. You must be willing to give up your life for the sake of the gospel.
Lastly, those who have the heart of a fertile ground are honest and good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. They are those who don’t take God’s word lightly, but stubbornly obeys His word whatever the cost may be. They are those who persevere under the temptations of this world and patiently produce fruit of their faith. The fruit denotes a noticeable manifestation of the Holy Spirit in them. In Galatians 5:22, Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those who live by the Holy Spirit undoubtedly bring glory to God and engage in ministries of the kingdom of God. They fervently worship God upwardly. They participate in fellowship and discipleship of the believers inwardly. And they evangelize and minister to others outwardly. These are the ones that Jesus will say “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, which category do you fall under? Do you have a heart of a footpath, rocky soil, thorny ground, or fertile ground? God forbid that you are in one of the first three, but if you are, do not be dismayed. The very reason why God has given you the breath of life today and to listen to this message is because God loves you so much, and He is willing to wait for you to change your heart and turn your life completely toward Him. God’s grace is renewed for you today.
Nevertheless, the challenges are clearly set before you. “Will you commit your life to Him today, or will you continue to live your life astray?” “Will you return to your Lord and Savior, or will you continue to be His traitor?” “Will you invest your life in your eternity, or will you waste your life in uncertainty?”
The decision is yours. If you have the heart of a footpath, I urge you to repent of your sins and come to the Lord in humility. If you have the heart of a rocky soil, I urge you sift out the rocks of distractions in your life and focus on deepening your root of faith. If you have the heart of a thorny ground, I urge you to clear out the thorns of care and pleasures of life, and put Christ as the primary reason for your life. Do not let this day pass without changing the soil of your heart.
For those who have the heart of a fertile ground, God bless you! You are blessed because God exposed you to His word, He gave you the desire to cling to His word, and He filled your heart with the Holy Spirit to produce divine fruit. I encourage you to continue to feed yourself with the word of God. Just like you eat food every day, attempt to eat your spiritual food every day. Let the word of God shape your heart, so that you would have a heart after God’s own heart. Let the word of God saturate your mind so that the Holy Spirit may speak through it. Let His word never depart from you.
But don’t just stop at reading the Bible. We are called to cling to His word and obey His word. Obedience is a sign of your love to God. So, meditate on the word of God, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Finally, be observant of the fruit that you are bearing in your life. Is it good or bad? Jesus said that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. He also said that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, check the fruit of your life and cut out those that shouldn’t hang on your tree. Let the goodness of God continue to grow and multiply in your life. And let the kingdom of God expand in your life.
May God bless us as we focus and dedicate our lives to Christ Jesus, our beloved Lord and Master!
It is February 19th, 2017. Exactly 428 years ago this day, a Greek woman named Philothei was martyred at the age of 67. She was born in Athens in 1522 to a very distinguished and wealthy family. At the age of 14, she was married against her will to a noble, who mistreated her. When her husband died just 3 years later, at age 17, she returned home and spent much of her time in prayer, even though her parents insisted on her getting remarried. Her family wealth gave her the opportunity to do many charitable works, and hence gained much respect and love of the community as a teenager.
At the age of 27, Philothei’s parents died, and she was left with an extensive asset. Instead of living happily ever after with the wealth that she inherited, she chose the monastic life as a nun. At age 29, she established a women’s monastery under the patronage of St. Andrew. She helped other women get trained in handiwork, weaving, farming and cooking.
Philothei is mainly remembered for her abundant philanthropy. Besides building another monastery, she built hospices, homes for the elderly, and schools for the children of Athens. She also put much of her energy and resources in freeing the Greek slaves, and especially women, taken by Ottomans of the Turkish Empire. She offered shelter, hope, and care to the freed women, some of whom were pregnant.
Naturally, Philothei became the prime enemy for slave traders of both Greeks and Turks. Her monasteries were often ransacked, and her farming and agricultural programs destroyed. At one point, she was tracked down by the slave traders, beaten, and imprisoned. She was released shortly thereafter, but the hostility against her continued to grow. On October 3rd, 1588, four Turkish mercenaries broke into her monastery during the evening vigil service and beat her severely. She was bedridden as a result and died of her injuries on February 19th, 1589.
Philothei had all the wealth needed to live a comfortable Christian life. She could have stayed in her parent’s mansion, go to church on Sundays, and do some charity work on the side. She had the option to live a very comfortable life. But to her, as a true follower of Christ, that was not an option. Why? Why did she choose to live such a difficult life and die a martyr’s death?
It’s because she not only believed that Jesus was her Lord and Savior, but she also knew that what Jesus taught was absolutely true. She believed that the last will be first, and the first will be last. She believed that whoever wanted to save their life would lose it, but whoever gave up their life for Jesus would save it. She believed that to live is Christ and to die is gain. She believed that there would be a “Great Reversal” just ahead of her, so enjoying life for her own sake was not an option.
This is the very message that Jesus started off with in His Sermon on the Mount. He said,
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.
23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25 Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
This was the word of Jesus recorded in Luke 6:20-26. There was no ambiguity in His message. There was no fine print in His terms and conditions. There was no uncertainty in His principle. Jesus’s message was clear: it was the Beatitudes, the “blessed sayings,” the principle that those who give up their lives for the sake of the Son of God are blessed now and for eternity. His principle also included that those who choose riches and comfort for one’s own sake will face eternal suffering, which can only be described as hell. It is Jesus’s guarantee that there will be a Great Reversal in the life of a person between now and the in the near future.
Philothei took His Word seriously. She didn’t just confess that Jesus was her Lord and Savior. She lived out her faith knowing that the Lord’s assurance of this Great Reversal is coming. That is why she didn’t choose to enjoy her wealth even though she could. That is why she didn’t choose to be fed well even though she could. That is why she didn’t choose to live a life of laughter and pleasure even though she could. And that is why she didn’t choose to live a life of fame even though she could. Instead, she chose to live a life of poverty, humility, hunger, weeping and rejection, all for the glory of God.
How a Christian lives out his/her own life matters! Faith without works is dead! Such kind of faith without works will not make a person right with God. We are justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24). This is not at all incompatible with the gospel. We can never reach the holiness of God through our good works alone. We can never enter into God’s presence through charity works alone. Jesus’s blood is absolutely needed for the forgiveness of our insurmountable sin. At the same time, faith that does not express itself in good works is no faith at all. Faith that neglects the Lord’s command to love and serve one another is no faith at all. Faith that causes one to sin without remorse is no faith at all. Faith must be substantiated with good works.
And the good works that Jesus requires from us is often costly. He said that, if anyone wants to sue us and take our shirt, we must hand over our coat as well. He said that, if anyone forces us to go one mile, we must go with them two miles. He said that we must give to the one who asks us, and not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from us. He ultimately said that whoever wanted to be His disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Him. There is a steep cost to following Jesus.
Such kind of lifestyle that puts God and others first before us can cause us to be poor, both economically and theological. It can cause us to get hungry, both physically and spiritually. It can cause us to weep, both inwardly and outwardly. It can lead to a life of persecution for standing up for God’s principle. The cost of following Jesus can mean much discomfort in life.
But Jesus gives us hope today that these struggles are temporary! He promises that there will be a Great Reversal for believers who follow His way. The kingdom of God is already present in the poor, and He will turn hunger to satisfaction, weeping to laughing, and persecution to great reward in heaven. He promises that the struggle for the sake of the gospel in this life is miniscule compared to the much great blessings of God.
The converse is also true. Jesus gave a stern warning to his disciples, and He gives us the same warning today, that those who live mainly for themselves will find themselves in hell at the Great Reversal. Those who enjoy the comfort of the riches for themselves will no longer be comforted in hell. Those who seek to fill their own stomach and not care for others who starve will go hungry in hell. Those who laugh and neglect those who suffer will themselves mourn and weep in hell. Do not be deceived. Not everyone who calls Jesus, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of the Father who is in heaven.
Church, are you taking this seriously? Your eternal life is at stake if you think this is an empty threat of Jesus. In the times of Prophet Jeremiah, the believers convinced themselves that, despite their sinfulness, they were invincible against Babylon just because they had the Temple of the Lord. They were deceived, they continued to neglect the word of God, and they were eventually destroyed and enslaved as a consequence. In the same way, you are being deceived if you think you will be blessed after continually leading a life of sin and disobedience. The Great Reversal is just around the corner and each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Church, it is time to refocus on our calling. It is time to refocus on the mission. It is time to refocus on God’s command, which is to love Him with all we got, and to love others as ourselves. The focus of our lives must be on God and others, not better grades for your own sake, not better college for your own sake, not better job for your own sake, and not better salary for your own sake. Those who sacrifice school work for the sake of the gospel will be blessed. Those who sacrifice their job for the sake God’s ministry will be blessed. And those who use whatever wealth they have for the glory of God, like Philothei, will be blessed. God’s eternal blessing completely outweighs the cost of our obedience.
As a church, we are participating in a fundraising called “Walk with Compassion.” The funds that we raise will be used to provide critical help to children with needs such as emergency medical care, surgery, clean water, toilets, hygiene, disaster relief, malaria prevention, and more. Participation in fundraisings like this is a chance for us to prove our loyalty to Jesus. Do you truly regard Jesus as your Lord, or do you just say it without following through? Are you going to deny yourselves and help the children through fundraising, or are you going to deny Christ and the needs of others? Are you willing to be obedient to your Lord? An opportunity is presented before you to help the children in need and glorify the name of Jesus.
So, let’s make a commitment. If you believe in the words of Jesus, if you believe that there will be a Great Reversal, if you believe that those who try to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for Jesus will find it, then I want you to say “Amen!”
And based on such belief, if you are committed to obeying Jesus through works of charity, I want you to stand up from where you are as a sign of commitment to the Lord. Stand up if you are committed to denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Him!
May the Lord bless us all, who are standing right now! May the Lord bless us all, who are committed to laying down our lives for sake of gospel! May the Lord bless us all, who pledge our allegiance to Yeshua Ha-Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords. To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! Amen!
Pastor Daniel Kim