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Subject 2 : The Law

[2-1] If We Do Things by the Law, Can It Save Us? (Luke 10:25-30)

If We Do Things by the Law, Can It Save Us?
(Luke 10:25-30)
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’ But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’”
 

What’s a human’s biggest problem?
They live with many mistaken illusions.
 
Luke 10:28, “Do this and you will live.” 
People live with many mistaken illusions. It seems that they are especially vulnerable in this respect. They seem to be intelligent but are easily deceived and remain unaware of their evil sides. We are born without knowing ourselves, but we still live as if we do. Because people do not know themselves, the Bible tells us that we are sinners. 
People talk about the existence of their own sins. And they are incapable of doing good, yet they are too inclined to characterize themselves as good. They want to boast of their good works and show off. They say they are sinners but act as if they were very good. 
They know that they neither have good in them nor the ability to do good but they try to deceive others and sometimes even deceive themselves. “Come on, we can’t be completely evil. There’s got to be some good inside us.” 
Therefore, they look at others and tell themselves, “Gosh, I wish he hadn’t done it. It would have been better for him if he hadn’t. He would have been much better off if he talked like this. I think it is better to preach the gospel in such and such a way. He was redeemed before me, so I think he should act more like one who has been redeemed. I was just redeemed recently, but if I learn more, I will do much better than he does.” 
They are sharpening the knives in their heart. “You just wait. You will see that I am not like you. So you think you are ahead of me now, don’t you? You just wait. It is written in the Bible that those who come last will be first. I know it applies to me. Wait, and I will show you.” People deceive themselves.
Even though he would do things the same way if he were in the person’s place, he still judges him. 
When asked if people have the ability to do good, most people say that they don’t. But they have the illusion that they themselves have the ability. So they try hard until they die. 
They think that they have ‘goodness’ in their hearts, that they have the ability to do good. They also think that they themselves are good enough. Regardless of how long ago they were born again, even those who have achieved greater progress in the service of God think, ‘I can do this and that for the Lord.’ 
But if we take our Lord out of our lives, can we really do good? Is there good in humanity? Can he live doing good works? Human beings do not have the ability to do good. Whenever humans try to do something on their own, they sin. 
Some push Jesus aside after they are redeemed and try to do good on their own. There’s nothing but evil in all of us. We can only practice evil. By ourselves (even those who have been saved), we can only sin. It is the reality of our flesh.
 
What do we always do, good or evil?
Evil
 
In our praise book, ‘Praise the Lord,’ there is a song that goes like this, “♪A worthless body that makes mistakes without Jesus, without you I’m like a ship without sails sailing on the sea♪.” Without Jesus, we can only sin. We are the righteous only because we have been saved. In reality, we are evil. 
The apostle Paul said, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19). If a person is with Jesus, it doesn’t matter. But when he has nothing to do with Him, he tries to do good before God. But the more he tries, the more he finds himself practicing evil. 
Even King David had the same nature. When his country was peaceful and prosperous, one evening, he went up to the roof for a stroll. He saw a tempting picture and fell for sensual pleasure. What was he like when he had forgotten the Lord! He was truly evil. He killed Uriah and took his wife, but David couldn’t see the evil in himself. He made excuses for his actions. 
Then one day, the prophet Nathan came to him and said. “There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him” (2 Samuel 12:1-4). 
David said, “The man who has done this shall surely die!” His anger was greatly aroused, so he said, “He has so many of his own, he could surely take one from them. But he took the poor man’s only lamb to prepare food for his guest. He should die!” And Nathan told him, “You are the man!” If we do not follow Jesus and not with Him, even the born-again can be like that. 
It is the same for all men, even the faithful. We always stumble, practice evil without Jesus. So we are thankful again today that Jesus saved us regardless of the evil in us. “♪I want to rest under the shade of the Cross♪” Our hearts rest under the shade of the redemption of Christ. But if we leave the shade and look at ourselves, we can never rest.
 
 

God Gave Us the Righteousness of Faith before the Law

 
Which one is earlier, faith or the Law?
Faith
 
The apostle Paul said that God gave us the righteousness of faith first. The righteousness of faith came first. He gave it to Adam and Eve, to Abel, then to Seth and Enoch... down to Noah..., then to Abraham, then down to Isaac, to Jacob and his twelve sons. Even without the Law, they became righteous before God through their faith in His Word. They were blessed and given rest through their faith in His Word. 
And time went by and Jacob’s descendants lived in Egypt as slaves for 400 years because of Joseph. Then God led them out through Moses into the land of Canaan. However, during the 400 years of slavery, they had forgotten the righteousness of faith. 
So God let them cross the Red Sea through His miracle and led them into the wilderness. When they reached the wilderness of Sin, He gave them the Law at Mount Sinai. He gave them the Ten Commandments, which contain 613 detailed articles of the Law. “I am the Lord your God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. Let Moses come up to Mount Sinai, and I will give you the law.” God gave Israel the Law. 
He gave them the Law so that they would have ‘the knowledge of sin’ (Romans 3:20). It was to let them know what He liked and what He disliked and to reveal His righteousness and holiness. 
All the people of Israel who had been enslaved in Egypt for 400 years crossed the Red Sea. They had never met the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. They didn’t know Him. 
And while they were living as slaves for those 400 years, they had forgotten the righteousness of God. At that time, they didn’t have a leader. Jacob and Joseph were their leaders, but they had died. It seems that Joseph failed to pass the faith on to his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. 
Therefore, they needed to find their God again and to meet Him because they had forgotten the righteousness of God. So God gave them the righteousness of faith first and then gave them the Law after they had forgotten the faith. He gave them the Law to bring them back to Him. 
To save Israel, to make them His people, the people of Abraham, He told them to be circumcised. 
His purpose in calling them was first to let them know that there is God by establishing the Law and second to let them know that they were sinners before Him. He wanted them to come before Him and become His people by being redeemed through the sacrifice of redemption that God had given them. And He made them His people. 
The people of Israel were redeemed through the law (the sacrificial system) by believing in the Messiah who was to come. But the sacrificial system had also faded with time. Let’s see when that was. 
In Luke 10:25, “A certain lawyer stood up and tested Him.” The lawyer was a Pharisee. The Pharisees were conservative people who tried to live up to His Word. They were the people who tried to protect the country first and then to live by His Law. And then there were the Zealots who were very impetuous and tended to resort to demonstrations to achieve their visions.
 
Whom did Jesus want to meet?
Sinners without a shepherd
 
There are people like them even today. They lead social movements with slogans like ‘Save the oppressed people of the country.’ They believe that Jesus came to save the poor and the oppressed. So, they learn theology in theological seminaries, take part in politics, and try to ‘deliver the deprived’ in every field of society. 
They are the ones who insist, “Let us all live by the holy and merciful Law. Live up to the Law, by His Words.” But they don’t realize the actual meaning of the Law. They try to live by the letter of the Law but they don’t recognize the divine revelation of the Law.
So we can say that there was no prophet, the servant of God, for about 400 years before Christ. In this way they became a flock of sheep without a shepherd. 
They neither had the Law nor a leader. God didn’t reveal Himself through the hypocritical religious leaders of that time. The country had become a colony of the Roman Empire. So Jesus said to those people of Israel who followed Him into the wilderness that He would not send them away hungry. He took pity on the flock without a shepherd. There were many who were suffering at that time. 
It was essentially the lawyers and others in such positions who were the ones who had the vested rights; the Pharisees were of the lineage of Israel, of Judaism. They were very proud.
And this lawyer asked Jesus in Luke 10:25, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” It seemed to the lawyer that there was no one better than him among the people of Israel. So this lawyer (one who had not been redeemed) challenged Him, saying, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
This lawyer is but a reflection of ourselves. He asked Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” 
So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 
Jesus told him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” 
He challenged Jesus not knowing himself to be evil, a lump of sin who could never do good. So Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

 

What is your reading of the Law?
We are sinners who can never keep the Law.
 
‘He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?” So he answered and said, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live”’ (Luke 10:26-28).
“What is your reading of it?” This means how do you know and understand the Law. 
As many people do nowadays, this lawyer also thought that God gave him the Law for him to keep. So he answered, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’” 
The Law was without fault. He gave us a perfect Law. He told us to love the Lord with all our heart and with all our soul, with all our strength and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is right for us to love our God with all our heart and our strength, but it was the holy word that could never be kept.
“What is your reading of it?” means that the Law is right and correct, but how do you understand it? The lawyer thought that God gave it for him to obey. But the law of God was given so that we might know our shortcomings and expose our iniquities completely. It exposes our sins, “You have sinned. You killed when I told you not to kill. Why did you disobey Me?” 
The Law exposes the sins in people’s hearts. Let’s suppose that on my way here, I saw ripe watermelons in the field. God warned me by the Law, “Don’t pick those watermelons to eat. It will shame Me if you do.” “Yes, Father.” “The field belongs to Mr. so-and-so, and therefore you should never pick them.” “Yes, Father.” 
The moment we hear by the Law that we should never pick them, we feel a strong urge to pick them. If we push down a spring, it tends to push up at us in reaction. The sins of people are just like that. 
God told us never to do evil. God can say that because He is holy, because He is complete, because He has the ability to do so. On the other hand, we can ‘never’ not sin and ‘never’ do good. We ‘never’ have good in our hearts. The Law says never (it was stipulated with the word ‘never’). Why? Because people have lust in their hearts. We act on our lust. We commit adultery because we have adultery in our hearts. 
We should read the Bible carefully. When I first believed in Jesus, I believed according to the Word. I read that Jesus died on the Cross for me and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. I was such an evil person and He died on the Cross for me. My heart ached so terribly that I believed in Him. Then I thought, ‘If I were going to believe, I would believe according to the Word.’ 
When I read Exodus 20, it said, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” I prayed in repentance according to this word. I searched my memory to see if I had ever had other gods before Him, called His name in vain, or if I had ever bowed before other gods. I realized that I had bowed to other gods many times during the rituals in honor of my ancestors. I had committed the sin of having other gods. 
So I prayed in repentance, “Lord, I have worshiped idols. I have to be judged for it. Please forgive my sins. I shall never do it again.” Therefore, one sin was dealt with. 
I then tried to think if I had ever called His name in vain. Then I remembered that when I first started to believe in God, I smoked. My friends told me, “Aren’t you bringing shame to God by smoking? How can a Christian smoke?” 
It was calling His name in vain, wasn’t it? So I prayed again, “Lord, I called Your name in vain. Please forgive me. I’ll quit smoking.” So I tried to quit smoking but continued lighting up on and off for a year. It was really hard, almost impossible to quit smoking. But at last, I managed to quit smoking completely. I felt that another sin had been dealt with.
The next one was “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” It meant not to do other things on Sundays; not to do business, nor earn money. So I stopped that too. 
Then there was “Honor your father and your mother.” I honored them when I was away, but they were a source of heartache when I was near. “Oh my goodness, I have sinned before God. Please forgive me, Lord.” I prayed in repentance. 
But I couldn’t honor my parents anymore because they were both dead by then. What could I do? “Lord, please forgive this worthless sinner. You died on the Cross for me.” How thankful I was! 
This way, I thought that I had dealt with my sins one by one. There were other laws, such as not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to covet... I realized I hadn’t kept even a single one. I prayed all night. But you know, praying in repentance is not enjoyable. Let’s talk about it.
When I thought about Jesus’ crucifixion, I was able to sympathize how painful it was. And He died for us who could not live up to His words. I cried all night thinking how He loved me and thanked Him for giving me real pleasure. 
My first year of attending church was generally quite easy, but the next couple of years or so became very difficult, because I had to think much harder for the tears to flow since I did it so often. 
When the tears still did not come, often I went to pray in the mountains and fasted for 3 days. Then the tears came back. I was soaked in my tears, came back to society, and cried in the church.
People around me said, “You have become so much holier with your prayers in the mountains.” But the tears inevitably dried up again. It became really hard the third year. I would think of the wrongs I had done to my friends and fellow Christians and cry again. After 4 years of this, the tears dried up again. There were tear glands in my eyes, but they no longer worked. 
After 5 years, I couldn’t cry, no matter how hard I tried. After a couple of more years of this, I became disgusted with myself and turned to the Bible again.
 
 

The Law Is for the Knowledge of Sin 

 
What must we realize about the Law?
We can never keep the Law.
 
In Romans 3:20, we read, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” I considered this a personal message to the apostle Paul and only believed in the words that I chose. But after my tears dried up I couldn’t continue my life of faith. 
So, I sinned repeatedly and found out that I had sin in my heart and that it was impossible to live by the Law. I couldn’t bear it. But I couldn’t discard the Law because I believed that it was given to be obeyed. In the end, I became a lawyer like those seen in the Scripture. It became so difficult to carry on a life of faith. 
So, to get away from the hardship, I prayed and sought the Lord earnestly. Thereafter, I encountered the Gospel of water and the Spirit through the Word, and came to know and believe that all my sins had been redeemed(Took away Sin).
Whenever I saw the words that I was without sin, it was like a fresh breeze blowing through my heart. I had so much sin that while reading the Law, I began to realize those sins. I had violated all the Ten Commandments in my heart. Sinning in the heart is also sin, and I had unwittingly become a believer in the Law. 
When I kept the Law, I was happy. But when I couldn’t keep the Law, I was miserable, irritated and sad. Eventually, I became haggard over it all. If only I were taught from the beginning, “No, no. There’s another meaning to the Law. It shows you that you are a lump of sin; you have love for money, for the opposite sex, and for things that are beautiful to look at. You have things that you love more than God. You want to follow the things of the world. The Law has been given to you, not to keep, but to recognize yourself as a sinner with evil in your heart.” 
If only someone had taught me back then, I would not have had to suffer for 10 years. Thus, I had lived under the Law for 10 years until I came to this realization. 
The fourth commandment is “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” It means that we should not work on the Sabbath day. It means that we should walk, not ride if we are traveling far distances. And I thought that I should walk to the place where I was to preach to be honorable. After all, I was about to preach the Law. Thus, I thought that I had to practice what I preached. It was so difficult that I was about to give up. 
As it is recorded here, “What is your reading of it?” I didn’t understand this question and suffered for 10 years. The lawyer misunderstood it also. He thought that if he obeyed the Law and lived carefully, he would be blessed before God. 
But Jesus told him, “What is your reading of it?” Yes, you answered right; you are taking it as it is written. Try and keep it. You will live if you do, but die if you don’t. The wages of sin is death. “You will die if you don’t.” (The opposite of life is death, isn’t it?) 
But the lawyer still didn’t understand. This lawyer is us, you and me. I studied theology for 10 years. I tried everything, read everything and did everything: fasting, illusions, speaking in other tongues... I read the Bible for 10 years and expected to accomplish something. But spiritually, I was a blind man. 
That is why a sinner has to meet someone who can make him see that the Savior is our Lord Jesus. Then he realizes that “Aha! We can never keep the Law. No matter how hard we may try, we only go to hell trying. But Jesus came to save us with the water and the Spirit! Hallelujah!” We can be redeemed by the water and the Spirit. It is the grace, the gift of God. So we praise the Lord. 
I was lucky enough to graduate from a desperate way, but some spend their whole life studying theology in vain and never realize the truth until the day they die. Some believe for decades or from generation to generation but are never born again. 
We graduate from being a sinner when we realize that we can never keep the Law, then stand before Jesus and listen to the gospel of the water and the Spirit. When we meet Jesus, we graduate from all judgments and all damnation. We are the worst sinners, but we become righteous because He saved us by the water and the blood. 
Jesus told us that we can never live in His will. He told this to the lawyer, but he did not understand. So Jesus told him a story to help him understand.
 
What makes men fallen in the life of faith?
Sin
 
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). Jesus was telling him that everyone suffered all his life, just as this man was beaten by thieves and almost died. 
A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jericho is the secular world and Jerusalem represents the city of religion, the city of faith, of the boasters of the law. It tells us that if we believe in Christ as our religion, we cannot but be ruined. 
“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” Jerusalem was a big city with a large population. There was a high priest, a host of priests, Levites and many outstanding men of religion there. There were many who knew the Law well. There, they tried to live up to the Law, but failed eventually and headed for Jericho. They kept falling into the world (Jericho) and met thieves. 
The man met thieves on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho and was stripped of his clothes. ‘To be stripped of his clothes’ means that he lost his righteousness. It is impossible for us to live by the Law. The Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:19-20, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” 
I wish I could do good and live in His words. But in “the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). 
Because they are in our hearts and continuously come out, we do what we will not to do and we do not do what we will to do. We keep repeating those evils in our hearts. What the devil has to do is to give us only a small impulse to sin.
 
 
The Sins within the Heart of All Humankind
 
Can we live by the Law?
No
 
It is said in Mark 7, “There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.”
Jesus is telling us that there are evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness in the heart of a man. We all have murder in our hearts. 
There is no one who does not murder. Mothers yell at their children, “No. Don’t do that. I told you not to do that, damn you. I said don’t do that.” And then, “You come here. I told you and told you not to do that. I’m gonna kill you for that.” That is murder. You may kill your children with your thoughtless words. 
But if we let out all our anger on them, children will die. We will have killed them before God. Sometimes we scare ourselves. “Oh my God! Why did I do it?” We look at the bruises after we hit our children and think that we must have been crazy to do that. We act that way because we have murder in our hearts. 
So ‘I do what I will not to do’ means that we do evil because we are evil. And it is so easy for Satan to tempt us to sin.
Let’s say that a man who has not been redeemed sits in a hut for 10 years, facing a wall and meditating like Sung-chol the great Korean monk. It is fine while he is sitting with his face to the wall, but someone has to bring food and take away the filth. 
Then he has to have contact with someone. It would not be a problem if it was a man, but let’s suppose it was a beautiful woman. If he happens to see her by chance, all his sitting will have been in vain. He thinks, “I should not commit adultery; I have it in my heart, but I have to shed it. I have to shake it. No! Get out of my mind!” 
But his resolve evaporates the moment he sees her. After the woman leaves, he looks into his heart. 5 years of hard work, all for naught. 
It is so simple for Satan to take away a person’s righteousness. All Satan has to do is give them a little push. When a person struggles without being redeemed, they keep falling into sin. That person pays the tithe faithfully every Sunday, fasts for 40 days, 100 days of dawn prayers... but Satan tempts them with the good things in life. 
“I would like to give you an important position in the company, but you are a Christian and you cannot work on Sundays, can you? It is such a great position. Maybe you could work 3 Sundays and go to church just once a month. Then you would enjoy such high prestige and have a big fat paycheck. How about it?” At this, probably 100 out of 100 people will be bought. 
If this doesn’t work, there are those who have a weakness for women. Satan puts a woman in front of him, and he falls head over heels in love and forgets God in an instant. That is how the righteousness of man is stripped. 
If we try to live by the Law, all we have in the end are the wounds of sin, pain and poverty; we lose all righteousness. “Went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” 
This means that though we may try to stay in Jerusalem by living by the will of the Holy God, we will stumble time after time because of our own weaknesses and we will be ruined. 
And then we will pray in repentance before God. “Lord, I have sinned. Please forgive me; I shall never do it again. I promise you that this will really be the last. I beg and implore you to forgive me just this once.” 
But it never lasts. People cannot live in this world without sinning. They may be able to avoid it a couple of times, but it would be impossible not to sin again. So sins are committed again. “Lord, please forgive me.” If this goes on, they will drift away from the church (the religion). They drift away from God because of their sins and they will end up in hell. 
To travel to Jericho means to fall into the secular world, getting closer to the world and farther away from Jerusalem. In the beginning, Jerusalem is still closer. But as the cycle of sinning and repenting is repeated, we find ourselves standing in the streets of Jericho, fallen deeply into the world.

 

Who can be saved?
Those one who give up trying on their own 
 
Who did the man meet on his way to Jericho? He met thieves. One who doesn’t even live in the Law becomes a lowly dog. He drinks, and falls asleep anywhere, pees anywhere. This dog wakes up the next day and drinks again. A lowly dog would eat its own shit. That’s why he is a dog. He knows that he should not drink. He repents the next morning but drinks again. 
It is like the man who met thieves on the way to Jericho. He is left behind, wounded and almost dead. There’s only sin in his heart. This is what a human is.
People believe in Jesus and live by the Law in Jerusalem but are left behind with only sin in their hearts. All they have to show for their religious life are the wounds of sin. Those with sin in their heart are thrown into hell. They know it but don’t know what to do. Haven’t you and I been there too? Yes. We were all the same. 
The lawyer who misunderstood the Law of God would struggle all his life but end up in hell, wounded. He is us, you and me. 
Only Jesus can save us. There are so many intelligent people around us and they are forever showing off what they know. They all pretend to live by the Law of God. They cannot be honest with themselves. They cannot straightforwardly say what is right or wrong, but are always bent on grooming their outer appearance to look faithful. 
Among them are sinners on the way to Jericho, the ones who are beaten up by thieves and the ones who are already dead. We have to know how fragile we are before God. 
We should admit before Him, “Lord, I will go to hell if You do not save me. Please save me. I will go wherever You want, whether it hails or storms, if You allow me to hear the true gospel. If You leave me, I will go to hell. I beg You to save me.” 
The ones who know that they are headed to hell, the ones who give up trying on their own and hang on to the Lord, these are the ones who can be saved. We can never be saved on our own. 
We have to know that we are like the man who fell among thieves.
 
This sermon is also available in ebook format. Click on the book cover below.
HAVE YOU TRULY BEEN BORN AGAIN OF WATER AND THE SPIRIT? [New Revised Edition]