Subject 21 : The Gospel According to MARK

[Chapter 8-3] A Christian’s Life Is All about Self-Sacrifice (Mark 8:27-38)

A Christian’s Life Is All about Self-Sacrifice
(Mark 8:27-38)
“Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do men say that I am?’ So they answered, ‘John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’ Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him. And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.’ When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.’”
While Jesus was on this earth, it seemed as though He was also conscious of what people thought of Him. Perhaps for this reason Jesus asked His disciples while traveling to various towns to preach, “Who do men say that I am?” So the disciples answered, “Some say Elijah, others says John the Baptist, and still others think you are one of the prophets.” Jesus then asked them again, “Then who do you say that I am?” Peter then responded and said, “You are the Christ.” The word Christ here means that Jesus is the King of kings, our Savior and our God, but at the same time, He is also the Son of God Almighty.
After hearing Peter confessing his faith in front of the other disciples, Jesus openly told them that He would soon be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He would be killed but rise again in three days. He told them, “Soon I will be rejected by the elders, scribes and chief priests of the day. But I will rise again after my death.” Peter, being an impatient and hot-tempered man, objected when he heard this and said to Jesus, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” (Matthew 16:22)
Our Lord told the disciples what He would do, and what sacrifices He would make for the sake of every soul in the world. He told them that He would sacrifice Himself in order to save the entire human race, enduring suffering and giving up His body on the Cross. Although Peter loved Jesus very much, his love was still too fleshly, and so he tried to dissuade Jesus without thinking about the reason why He had come to this earth, saying to Him, “Teacher, You must not die, nor should You suffer. Why must You do this? This shall not happen to You!” Peter could not understand why his beloved Jesus would have to be rejected by the people and crucified to death. This is because Peter didn’t have a full understanding of the exact reason why Jesus had come to this earth. And even though Jesus promised that He would not just die but would also rise up from the dead for sure, Peter just could not believe this, and he was gripped only by the fact that Jesus would die. Of course, our Lord rebuked Peter for this.

Our Lord Came to This Earth to Fulfill His Work

The Lord’s work was to offer His own body to God the Father as the propitiation of atonement for the sins of mankind, as everyone’s sacrificial offering. It was to thus blot out all the sins of mankind that He had come to this earth. This was His work. Our God had come incarnated in the flesh of man in order to carry out His work. It was to sacrifice Himself, and thereby blot out the sins of all the people in this world and enable them to obtain a new life.
To do His work, our Lord came to this earth incarnated in the flesh, and once He came, He completed this work to perfection. By being baptized in the Jordan River, He bore all the sins of everyone in this world, by giving up His body on the Cross, He paid off all the wages of sins that He had accepted; and by sacrificing Himself like this, He completed His work of salvation to give eternal life to everyone. It is by sacrificing Himself like this that Jesus has saved you and me.
It’s only natural for anyone not to want his loved ones to die. Why did Jesus rebuke Peter? The answer is found in what Jesus said to Peter: “For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mark 8:33). Peter was mindful of the work of man rather than the work of God.
What is the work of man? It is about avoiding suffering, neither losing its loved ones nor making any sacrifices. Just getting along with the neighbors, enjoying earthly prosperity, and living in comfort—this is all that everyone is concerned about. Rather than thinking of the real reasons why Jesus had come to this earth, Peter probably also wanted Him to just continue to be with the disciples, showing them miracles and healing the sick. Like this, the disciples just wanted Jesus to be with them for a long time to come, rather than being mindful of the salvation of mankind.
However, God’s work was different from man’s work. God’s work was for Jesus to accept the sins of mankind through the baptism of John the Baptist and to save us by sacrificing Himself on the Cross to death. Those who have been born again in the gospel of the water and the Spirit also carry out God’s work. This does not mean that the born-again should actually die on their crosses for someone else, but it means that they should work hard to serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit that has saved every human being, and to spread it to the ends of this world. The challenge, however, is that we are constantly struggling between God’s work and man’s work.
Between seeking one’s own comfort and sacrificing oneself, the former is a much easier course to take. That’s because no one wants to sacrifice himself. In fact, even those who have received the remission of sins do not like to sacrifice themselves. After all, anyone who is even marginally intelligent has no wish to do anything that’s detrimental to his own interest. However, God’s work is all about making sacrifices. This is also what God wants from us.
How do we then sacrifice ourselves? We do so by trying our utmost to bring life to others and help them obtain it, even though this may entail suffering and hardship for us. This is how the righteous who have received the remission of sins must lead their lives. Just as our Lord had come to this earth to do His work, so must we who have received the remission of sins first also carry out the Lord’s work. The work of God that all of us must do is none other than sacrificing ourselves to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to others, and helping them to receive the remission of sins.
Those who have been truly born again by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit are in fact not adverse to self-sacrifice. The Bible says, “The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives” (Psalms 37:21). Because the Lord dwells in righteous people who have been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, it is natural for them to be infinitely giving. That’s because the Lord dwelling in them wants them to give. In contrast, the wicked do not have the Lord dwelling in them, and so they like to borrow rather than to give, and they don’t repay even after borrowing. Further in Psalms chapter 37 as quoted above, we read in verse 26, “He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed.” This means that even though the righteous continue to give, they are blessed and lack nothing. Such are the blessings received for making sacrifices for the Lord’s work.
Our Lord, who has entered into us and dwells in us, came to this earth to do His work, and He has given the Holy Spirit to those who have been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has come into our hearts to dwell therein, and our Lord still continues to work to give life to everyone until the day He returns. And He does this work through you and me, who have received the remission of sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit. That is why our sacrifice is necessary to spread the gospel.
The sacrifice that Jesus made on this earth to fulfill our salvation and to blot out all our sins was the first real sacrifice made on this earth. All the previous biblical figures who were martyred for righteousness were actually shadows to Jesus Christ. God had shown through them that Jesus Christ would come to this earth, carry out His righteous work for the sake of mankind, and endure suffering to give us the remission of sins, new life, and Heaven. Put differently, the sacrifices made by the righteous in the Old Testament were the antitypes of God’s work that was actually realized by Jesus.
Just as many prophets had sacrificed themselves, and just as Jesus set a personal example for us, likewise those of us who have receive the remission of sins in the gospel of the water and the Spirit must also make sacrifices. We must be giving. Just as Jesus had worked hard for the entire human race, so must every true Christian work hard for others. All of us are capable of doing this. Since self-sacrifice is only natural for all whose hearts are dwelt in by the Holy Spirit, and since this is what our Lord who is inside us desires from us, we cannot help but to sacrifice ourselves.
To this day, we have made many sacrifices in our lives while following the Lord. However, whoever has received the remission of sins in the gospel of the water and the Spirit must sacrifice his everything. In other words, it’s not as though you can sacrifice some things and leave the rest out for yourself. Having met our Lord, we sometimes wonder, “Now that I have received the Lord, will I prosper more or will I have to make more sacrifices? What will happen to me?” Such questions come to our minds because we realize that although we had lived just for ourselves before the Lord came into us, now that we have met the Lord, we have to do God’s work first rather than our own work.
This is true for both you and me alike. Now that we have received the remission of our sins, we are not doing own our work but we are carrying out God’s work. Nothing is done for ourselves, just as the Bible says, “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8). Everything is done for God. For those who have been truly born again of the water and the Spirit and have been remitted of all their sins, anything that’s done just for themselves makes their hearts extremely uncomfortable. That’s because it would turn them into the Devil’s servants once again. So it is impossible for the born-again Christians to live only for themselves. Is this true for you as well? I certainly hope so.

For Whom Are You Laboring?

When you labor just for yourself, it may please your flesh for a while, but does your heart not feel that there is something wrong, something empty? I am sure that you all had experienced this once or twice. In contrast, when you sacrifice yourself and follow the Lord, and labor hard for His sake, you feel that there is much to be gained. That’s because the focal point of a Christian’s life is sacrifice. None other than self-sacrifice is the defining characteristic of the life of every Christian.
Exodus 29:18 says, “And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.” When the Day of Atonement came, the altar of burnt offering in the Tabernacle exuded the aroma of burning flesh throughout the whole day, morning and evening, and God accepted this as a sweet aroma. This is what a Christian’s life is all about. When Jesus Christ came to this earth, He put His body on the altar of burnt offering to become our own sacrificial offering. Accepting His death, God the Father blotted out all our sins. For us the born-again as well, our lives must also be sacrificed to be a sweet aroma to the Lord. This is the life of every Christian.
Those who have truly been born again in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and met the Lord do not have a life of their own. They lead their lives entirely for Christ and not for themselves. If you think of this in a fleshly way, such a life may seem rather stupid and idiotic. You may also resent it, wondering, “Why must I live like this?” However, if we sacrifice ourselves to spread the gospel, it will be preached to everyone in this world. We must therefore sacrifice ourselves.
Having come to do His work, the Lord said that He would have to be forsaken by the elders, scribes and chief priests. Why did Jesus have to be forsaken? Did He commit sedition? Did He do anything unethical? Did He go into politics? No, He did none of these things. Why did He then have to be rejected by the scribes and politicians? Why did He have to be forsaken by the chief priests, the religious leaders of the time? Why did He have to be forsaken by lowly human beings when He was the Son of God? Jesus had absolutely no reason to be rejected. Although He had neither any fault nor any sin, Jesus still had to be forsaken because He had to pay off the wages of everyone’s sins, because He had accepted these sins. It’s because everyone committed sin for himself and only thought of his own human affairs that Jesus sacrificed Himself, even though He was rejected by the people of His days and treated as their enemy.
As those born again in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we are also persecuted by many people as we carry on with our lives on this earth and do the righteous work of God. It’s not unusual for us to be called stupid and foolish, and sometime even idiots. Of course, if you live an ordinary life without doing God’s work even as you claim to have been born again, you won’t face any persecution. That’s because you would be approved by others. But is this life that’s led just for yourself without any sacrifice really the kind of life that God desires from you?
We believe that everything we do is God’s work, from planting churches to carrying out this literature ministry, working for world mission, taking care of God’s Church in Korea and beyond, and praying for all these things. And we are convinced that serving the Lord in this way is sacrificing ourselves. Just as we believe, none of these works is done for ourselves. If we had done them just for ourselves, then we would have sought to receive some sort of compensation. We would have expected God to reward us for our labor, and we would always have thought that our rewards are not enough to compensate for our hard work.
Carrying out God’s work is all about giving and sacrificing oneself. In particular, world mission cannot be achieved without sacrifice. We have heard from many brothers and sisters abroad requesting us to send our missionaries to them. But it’s not so easy for our missionaries to travel to a faraway country where both the culture and the language are completely foreign to them. It requires a great deal of sacrifice. Like this, when it comes to carrying out the Lord’s work, sacrifice is indispensable in all aspects.
Yet some saints still think mistakenly, “Our missionaries must be having fun traveling to all these different places. I wish I were sent out as a missionary.” But is any missionary ever sent out to the mission field on a vacation? If you think our missionaries are out in the field on a vacation, you should put yourself in their shoes and see it for yourself. Some places have such poor water quality that it’s not drinkable at all. Take the case of Yanbian in China. The tap water is so bad that when you let it stand for a while, you can actually see sediments at the bottom. Would you be able to drink this water? Furthermore, it’s not easy to be all by yourself cut off from your loved ones in a place where you cannot communicate with anyone of your own culture. It requires sacrifice.
Our literature ministry also entails a lot of sacrifice. Seeing our books published, some of you may think, “It’s no big deal. Pastor Jong’s books are not that great anyways, and so why do we keep publishing more and more books? Just one publication should be enough; anything more is simply a waste of time.” But this is not the case. Do you have any idea just how difficult and stressful it is to publish even one book? Everyone involved in this work is facing so much pressure and stress. If you say something wrong, you can easily correct it right away, but once a book is published, that’s the end of it. It can’t be revised right away. Moreover, it’s not so easy to transcribe sermons and edit them into a published format because every context of a sermon must flow smoothly. However, our literary ministry is being carried out well because everyone involved is putting in a great deal of sacrifice.
Whether it comes to your job, your family, or serving the Lord being united with the Church, nothing can be done without sacrifice. Is there anything that’s done without any sacrifice? Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do, and sometimes you have to forsake your social life to attend church gatherings. All these things entail sacrifice. We can become one only if we sacrifice ourselves like this in various ways and serve the Lord being united with the Church. Even your daily social life requires sacrifice. You can’t participate in any social groups unless you sacrifice yourself. As simple as getting involved in the Parent-Teacher Association of your child’s school requires some self-sacrifice, and so it’s only a matter of course that you should sacrifice even more for God’s Church.
It is never an easy thing for you to serve the Lord and live your life united with the Church when you have a job to attend to. Without self-sacrifice, it’s absolutely impossible. That is why the Lord said, “Whoever wants to follow Me must deny himself, pick up his cross, and then follow Me.” So even when it comes to your job, a great deal of sacrifice is required.
I had also worked in a job for a couple of years, and while holding down this job there were several times when I felt like quitting because of my boss. As a man, my boss was not any better than me, but just because he was the employer, he showed little respect and treated me like an object, ordering me around to do this and that. It was only natural for me to get angry. I was expected to show up at the work on time, but I couldn’t leave for home on time. It goes without saying that I couldn’t even dream of having any private freedom. When I tried to listen to some sermon tapes or even read the Bible when I had some free time, my boss got on my case and berated me. On average I worked eight hours a day at least. I spent all those eight hours working hard for someone else’s business.
But how much did I get paid in return? I just got a pittance, barely enough to make a living. When the payday came around, I felt like ripping up my paycheck, thinking to myself, “Did I work so hard just for this lousy pay? It’s an insult!” I felt that I could make that much money just by working for an hour elsewhere. I also thought that I should devote all my effort to winning a soul rather than working to death only to make a pitiful sum of money; a soul is more precious than anything else under the heavens and winning it is far more rewarding than any gains to be made on this earth. Since it was such hard-earned money, I also struggled with how to spend it, wanting to put it towards something worthwhile.
I am sure all of you had such experiences before. Money also must be spent wisely. It should be invested appropriately, or otherwise you will end up losing all your hard-earned money. I myself experienced this several times while working at a job. It’s never easy to serve the gospel while you are working at a job, attending school, or raising a family, but it’s even more challenging to get fully involved in the ministry of the Church. In some ways, you may feel that it’s more comfortable to be in the ministry on a full-time basis. Depending on who is looking, it may seem as though our full-time ministers are not doing much else other than raising a racket in the Church and enjoying themselves, but once you step into their shoes, you will realize that it’s not so easy as you think. Their ministry is something that can never be done without self-sacrifice.
Our lives are all about making sacrifices. We have been able to serve the gospel and follow the Lord until now because all of us have sacrificed ourselves, from our Sunday school teachers to our brothers and sisters in training and all our saints in the Church. Such sacrifices are continuously necessary in the years to come.
We should not think of the work of man. The work of man is all about worldly prosperity. It’s to become a pig with a full stomach. The life that’s led in vain without any sacrifice, one that is led not for what is right but for one’s own fleshly prosperity only to perish meaninglessly—this is what man’s work is all about.
In contrast, those of us who have been born again in the gospel of the water and the Spirit desire to do the righteous work rather than the work of man who die in vain. And we do this righteous work. What righteous work do we do? We do God’s work. Small though our sacrifices may be, we sacrifice ourselves to follow the Lord in faith. God does not let these sacrifices go unrewarded. He fills them with blessings without fail. The Lord said in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” This means that if we try to live for ourselves, we will lose even more, but if we decide to sacrifice even our own lives for the Lord, He will add more blessings upon blessings.
Even when it comes to the work of man, which is all about fleshly prosperity, sacrifice is necessary. But this work only entails sacrifices and no rewards. In contrast, though it may require self-sacrifice for us to carry out God’s work, there is a reward for it, and our sacrifices are worthwhile. That is why we are living a life of sacrifice to follow the Lord. The Lord made it clear to us, “If you lose your life for Me and My gospel, you will live, but if you live only for the work of man, you will lose everything.” What does it mean when Jesus said that one must deny himself and follow the Lord in his life? It means that one should follow the Lord even if it entails a great deal of costs. He will then gain many things.
However, if one does not sacrifice himself and gives up following the Lord, he will lose many things. It’s written, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31, 33). If we are mindful of God’s work first, He will provide for all our needs.
All of us must carry out God’s work. This means we must all sacrifice ourselves. That’s because following the Lord inevitably entails self-sacrifice. Through our sacrifice many people are able to receive the remission of sins. Much is gained even with a small sacrifice. Think about it. We have only made small sacrifices, and yet how much more have we gained? On account of our sacrifice, churches are being planted throughout Korea and more and more souls are being born again. Have we not seen with our eyes just how many souls are saved through the God-established Church and His servants and saints? Although it takes a great deal of sacrifice to plant just a single branch church, we have seen with our own eyes how God blesses us so much more as a result of this.
A great deal of sacrifice was made when Wonju Church was planted, not to mention when the New Life Church was planted in Seoul and another church in Incheon. Many brothers and sisters and God’s servants labored very hard, and they made a lot of sacrifices and investments with their material possessions, their bodies, and their hearts, all by faith. That is how they established these branch churches. Even when we planted the Chungju Church, our servants of God invested in many areas. When God’s servants minister, they offer there everything to the Lord regardless of how much they own. When we were looking for a place for the Chuncheon Church, we were able to find a building thanks to the Evangelists Jung and Choi and their families, as they offered their material possessions to the Lord. At that time, we had to put down a deposit of around $20,000 and make a monthly payment of around $250. Where else would we have found all this money? It was made possible only because our brothers and sisters and God’s servants had offered there everything and sacrificed themselves. It wasn’t just our brothers and sisters who made sacrifices. God’s servants also made sacrifices and they all served the Lord together.
Sacrifice is necessary for us to follow the Lord. The sacrifices that you have made to follow the Lord, was not made with a conscientious effort, but you nevertheless did this without even realizing them. The very fact that you have followed the Lord to this day is in itself a sacrifice. You could have never followed Him without any sacrifice. Unless one denies and sacrifices himself, it is not possible for this person to follow God’s Church, nor can he follow the Lord. Following the Church is following the Lord.
What is the will of the Lord? What is God’s work? What’s the work of the Lord that He did when He came to this earth? Sacrificing Himself by accepted all our sins in the Jordan River, by being condemned on the Cross in our place, and by thus sacrificing His own body, He saved you and me. This was the work of God. We are now of those who are carrying out God’s work. God’s work is carried out by those who have received the remission of sins through the gospel of the water and the Spirit.
My fellow believers, the remission of sins is not something that we should receive just for ourselves, but it is something that everyone must receive by hearing the gospel of the water and the Spirit, from those around us and to our families, our fellow countrymen, and everyone else throughout the whole wide world. In China, people are so innocent that most of them receive the remission of sins as soon as they hear the gospel. They are so receptive to the Word. If we work hard just one more year and preach the gospel diligently, God will save many souls there. I also know it takes some time before the gospel is planted firmly in China. But I believe that in a couple of years, the faith of the Chinese saints will become much stronger.
When we planted a church here in Daejeon City, our families and the souls around us will also receive the remission of sins. Planting a church in Daejon to serve the gospel is not only for the sake of the Lord, but it is also for the sake of our own relatives and those around us who have not yet been born again. Just as Jesus sacrificed Himself for everyone’s sake, so we must also sacrifice ourselves and serve the Lord in our lives for the sake of other peoples salvation.
I know very well that it’s very difficult and hard for you to make sacrifices, and as a result, you sometimes feel like giving it up. I know that you sometimes think, “Can’t I now just stop sacrificing so much? Can’t I just live my remaining life in ease until the Lord either returns to take me away or I go to His presence?” Even though there is a desire in our hearts to be complacent and indulge ourselves, it is still the will of the Lord for us to sacrifice ourselves. This is what pleases the Lord. And that’s why we must have faith. Let us then, we who know the will of God, trust in this will and obey it.
The Bible says that He who is to come will come soon. As the world is so evil, unless we serve the Lord, sacrifice ourselves for Him, and labor for His work, we cannot help but be swept away by the deep undercurrents of sin. The more wicked the times are, the more we must devote ourselves to serving the Lord and follow Him.
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