“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone 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 will find it. For what profit is it to 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 the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.’”
Today I removed the wood-burning heater used in our church and put in a new wood-burning heater. So I tried the new heater as a test run and it turned out to be excellent in thermal efficiency without producing a lot of smoke. Is it warm and cozy in here now? Should I turn the heater up? Isn’t it nice to be so warm in the middle of winter? As far as the winter times are concerned, the best deal is to find warmth at as little cost as possible. As the Korean saying goes, “What else could be nicer than to have a full stomach and a warm back?” It is best to be warm in this winter. We took out the large heater and put in a smaller one, but its thermal efficiency is so good that I am confident to say that we’ve met one of our long-cherished desires for this winter.
Whenever the winter is upon us, we tend to feel cold both in body and mind. Lately I’ve noticed that many of you are spiritually stagnant. Nonetheless, we are still laboring with one heart to spread the gospel all over the world and we also know that the gospel will indeed be preached to every corner of the world. Many souls throughout the whole world continue to request us to send our books to them and the work of God continues to be carried out.
Today, I delivered the file containing the original manuscript of one of my books to an electronic publishing house. I was told that if the people at the publishing house stay up late to work, they would be able to finish the job in a few days. We should then be able to upload e-books on our web site shortly. The first volume of our gospel series is also being translated into the major languages of the world, and once this work is finished, we would be completing our ministry for 2000. Next year, we plan to publish three more titles in English and continue to preach the gospel energetically all over the world. I hope to do even more work next year than this year. I pray to God to strengthen us and bless us, so that we may be able to preach the gospel to every major nation in the world within the next couple of years.
In two year’s time, Korea will host the FIFA World Cup 2002. We will co-host the World Cup with Japan, and by then the eyes of the whole world would be focused on Korea. I believe that we will be able to preach the gospel to many nations throughout the entire world until the end of 2002, even though it won’t be 100 percent complete. Many people from all over the world will visit Korea for the World Cup. If we share our books with these visitors at that time, the gospel will be preached to a considerable extent. And soon, we will preach the gospel to our families and souls in Korea. We will prepare our faith for the last days and until the Lord returns, we will live united together no matter what, warming ourselves, breaking bread together, and preaching the gospel to the end. If God permits, we will do whatever needs to be done. The Lord will then return meanwhile, won’t He? When the Lord comes, all that we have to do is just go with Him.
This year is now passing. How does your heart feel now that this year is passing? Are you happy? Do you feel sentimental? Do you have mixed feelings? I am sure that you are all happy. I, too, am happy. Perhaps it’s because we have carried out many burdensome tasks this year, but I am also glad that this year is now passing. In the English-speaking world, we have distributed many copies of our books to those who wanted them, from pastors to theologians to Christians at different organizations. Through the Internet, we are now advertising our books to Christians all over the world, and we are sending our free books to whoever wants them.
As I look back this year, I feel that we’ve accomplished many things. The gospel was preached considerably through the first two volumes of our English books and the third English volume was also translated. Since its initial translation is now complete, and the rest will be taken care of with some more revision, the third English volume is nearing its completion and its electronic version has already been published. In the days to come, everyone in the entire world will be able to access the gospel through our e-books. We should send out emails to people and let them know that we’ve uploaded our e-books on our web site. We will send mail informing them that we’ve put up such e-books on our Internet homepage and recommend them to take a look. If these people want to read our books, they can just download those e-books and read them. The gospel will then be planted in them. We can then preach this gospel of the water and the Spirit to every soul all over the world even more quickly.
Nowadays, we are preaching the gospel not only to the English-speaking world, but also to Christians in Japan. My desire is to preach this gospel to everyone all over the world before I go to the Lord. I will carry out God’s work together with you, not by myself. You and I are those who have received the calling of God for the spreading of this gospel. Although our number is small, I am sure that we will, like Gideon’s 300 warriors, raise this gospel torch high to fight our battle and we will indeed preach the gospel completely so that it will prevail all over the world in the end.
Today, I would like to share the Word with you drawn from Matthew 16:24-27. In this passage, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” This is a passage that we all know quite well. Of course, it’s also important to know the Word. However, unless the Word of God is actually applied in your life, this passage has nothing to do with you, as it is said in John, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We have to really understand what this passage is saying and what kind of faith we should have.
To everyone alike, from His disciples to every born-again saint and all those who have not been born again, the Lord said that if anyone wants to come after Him, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Him. The first step that we need to take in order to follow the Lord is to deny ourselves and the second step is to take up our cross and follow Him.
What Does It Then Mean to Deny Oneself?
Is the need for self-denial applicable only to certain, special conditions? Is it only when we have wrong thoughts, make mistakes, or are improperly minded that we must deny ourselves? Or is this passage a truth that must be applied to every aspect of our lives? This passage should be applied to every aspect of our lives. The Lord made it absolutely clear that if we want to follow Him, we must deny ourselves always. That we must deny ourselves anytime and anywhere is the irrefutable truth.
My fellow believers, everyone has his own merits, unique characteristics, and flaws as well. It’s said that one man has a thousand faces. One person can change himself into various personalities. Let me illustrate with a short story. Long ago, there was a certain artist that wanted to draw Jesus, and so he set out looking for the most gentle and kind-looking man in the world. He eventually found someone who looked like this and painted a portrait of Jesus based on this man. Later on, the artist wanted to draw another painting, but this time he wanted to draw a portrait of someone utterly evil. So he looked around for his model, and after much search he came across an extremely violent and vicious man in prison. He could see that this man was horribly vicious just by looking at him. After finishing his painting based on the man, the artist discovered an amazing and shocking fact. The gentle and kind man who had looked like Jesus and the one who now looked like the evilest and most vicious man were the same person. This man, who had modeled for Jesus, had now become a model of the evilest of all. That is the nature of mankind. Human beings have a thousand images. They change easily according to their circumstances, and for various reasons, they keep changing themselves.
Jesus said that anyone who wants to follow the Lord must deny himself. We have too much pride in ourselves. So we tend to boast and brag about our merits even after being born again, and as a result we are told by our predecessors of faith to deny our merits and humble our hearts. We then struggle greatly to break ourselves down and lower our hearts. In reality, human beings have at most one or two things that deserve any merit or pride and the rest is just filled with shortcomings. Yet we are told to give up even these small merits and that’s why we get so upset. We think, “If I have to forsake even this little thing, then there will be nothing left to me, except for this completely worthless body of mine, worse than everyone in the world!”
People are prone to think they are better and more righteous than even Jesus Himself, and so they judge Him, judge His followers, and criticize the Truth. How can they ever follow Jesus like this? It’s impossible! If this is the case, then these things must be denied. By the way, overblown merits are actually quite easy to deny. What’s far more difficult is to deny one’s weaknesses. Everyone has weaknesses and so they must all be denied. If anyone does not abide in this truth and does not stand firmly in the dominion of faith, then his heart, thoughts, and sense of values are all bound to be corrupted. Mankind is full of shortcomings and weaknesses. When we are told to deny our merits, it’s relatively easy to do so; but when we are told to admit our flaws, it’s a tremendous struggle for us. Admitting our flaws is the first step to denying oneself by faith. That’s because we think to ourselves, “I am already flawed enough, and so I was trying to turn my weaknesses into my shield and at least get some pity, but I am now told to deny even this. What am I supposed to do?” Nevertheless, if we want to follow the Lord, then it’s a precondition for us to deny ourselves no matter what. Unless we deny ourselves, we cannot follow the Lord.
When it’s too hard to deny yourself, people may think, “What’s the difference between denying myself and following the Lord, and not denying myself and not following Him? Since it’s so hard to deny myself, I might as well not follow the Lord.” But it does make a huge difference. Our lives are at stake here, as we will lose life if we do not follow the Lord, but gain life if we do. It is, therefore, very important for us to follow the Lord, and we must put a great deal of emphasis on this since our lives are at stake here.
To follow the Lord, we must deny two things. We must deny both our insufficiencies and our merits. Although self-denial may seem as hard as death itself at first, it’s actually quite easy once you let go of and deny yourself and break down your will and thoughts for the first time. We have to deny our shortcomings as well.
Don’t you often feel that you are too insufficient and as a result fall into despair in your life of faith sometimes? As we carry on with our lives of faith, there are many times when we feel that we ourselves are insufficient. So we sometimes think, “Someone like me can’t carry on with a life of faith anymore,” and we feel that it’s better for us to stop leading this kind of life of faith. There are times when we think, “Others are not the problem, but I am the problem. I don’t think I can carry on anymore.” Jesus said that we must deny this if we want to follow the Lord. No matter how hard it is, only when we deny ourselves can we follow the Lord.
Can we then really follow the Lord if we deny ourselves? If we deny both our merits and shortcomings, then it is indeed possible for us to follow the Lord by faith without being bound by such things. Because the Lord is the Truth, just as He said, “The Just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17), there is nothing but faith that enables us the born-again to follow the Lord. When it comes to living by faith, our own merits and demerits mean nothing. Whether we are virtuous or flawed does not matter, such things are only to be denied.
We also have to admit our shortcomings and flaws to God, deny them as well, and have faith to tell ourselves, “The Lord is still my Lord. He has surely blotted out all the sins of the world. It’s through me that He works.” Just like the saying in Korea that goes, “Even though all dogs in a town may bark against the sound of a train, but the train still runs,” the Truth is immutable. No matter how insufficient, flawed, and weak we may be, the Lord still loves us. He has saved such people like us and He also works through such people like us. Moreover, the Lord has absolutely no regret for having made us God’s people. Because the Lord always loves us unchangingly and has made us forever sinless by saving us, when we believe in this Lord, we can both deny our weaknesses and follow Him as well.
However, denying oneself like this is never so easy. So only those who have actually applied the Word in their lives when following the Lord can deny themselves more easily. Whereas it’s easy for us to just deny our merits, it’s hard to deny our flaws and shortcomings, as we are afraid that doing so would make us feel like idiots. That’s how our minds think until we admit our shortcomings. Although in reality, once we admit to God just how flawed and insufficient we are, we can actually move further by faith and we will also discover that it is not so difficult after all. While we have both merits and demerits, we tend to fall into despair more easily when our insufficient selves are exposed while following the Lord. However, the way of life for the righteous does not depend on our own virtues or flaws.
The Righteous Live Solely by Trusting in the Lord
There is no other way for us to live but by faith. Only faith saves us. Only faith enables us to follow the Lord and stand upright before God. Faith also shapes us into upright workers before God, makes saints out of people who were doomed to hell, and perfects us as well. We must all have the belief that the Lord has blotted out all our sins and that He loves us all. Because we have the faith that the Lord is the Truth, we can hold onto this Truth, serve the Truth, and follow the Truth. It’s because the Lord Himself is the Truth that it’s possible for us to follow Him. Since the Lord Himself is the Truth, even if we are insufficient and conceited, the Lord Himself does not change. For the Lord Himself is the Truth, He does not change. Having immutably blotted out all the sins of the world, He still wants to spread the gospel all over the world and He still works with us and leads us unchangingly.
Our Lord said, “I will be with you until the end of the world,” and since everything the Lord said is true, we are able to follow Him by faith. And by believing in the Lord, we can deny ourselves. As we carry on with our lives of faith, we do not remain the same all the time. Sometimes our hearts are so rejoiced and delighted that it lifts us off the ground, sometimes we are so happy that we feel like we are walking on the clouds, and sometimes we struggle so much that we feel we are mired in a swamp up to our necks. Yet even in times like this, we can still follow the Lord by believing in the Truth, by believing in the Lord. That is why Jesus told us in today’s Scripture passage to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.
Are we then unable to follow the Lord when times are rough? We often think that we can’t follow the Lord when our circumstances are too difficult. When faced with trials, we are prone to think that it’s impossible to follow the Lord. We think to ourselves, “How can I follow the Lord when I am having such a tough time? It’s complete nonsense! Anyone who says otherwise hasn’t gone through such hardships. How is it possible to follow the Lord under this much difficulty?” However, contrary to such carnal thoughts, it is still possible for us to follow the Lord by believing in His Truth. Because the Lord has come by the Truth of the water and the Spirit, we are able to follow Him by faith. No matter what kind of hardship may come our way, we can still deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord.
The cross here actually refers to pain and hardship. When you and I face hardship, we sometimes feel as if we would die from it. Some of us may indeed die from this hardship. But in reality, no one actually dies from hardship per se. In other words, people stumble when faced by trials only because they do not wholly believe in the Lord, who is the Truth himself. By not relying on Him entirely or following Him, no one really gives up his life of faith because of the trials. One gives up his life of faith because he does not believe in the Truth. We are not the Truth, but the Lord Himself is the Truth. Yet because people do not believe that everything the Lord has spoken is true, they cannot follow Him when faced with hardship. For us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow the Lord, we must believe in the Word spoken by the Lord, who is the Truth. We must believe that it is only by faith that we can live and it is only by faith that we can follow the Lord.
The Lord made it clear that anyone who wants to follow Him must deny himself, take up his cross, and then follow Him. Whenever we struggle with hardships, instead of just staring at these hardships, we should look toward the living Lord of Truth who has become our true life. And it is when we entrust these trials to the Lord, ask for His help, and taste His power that we can overcome our difficulties. It’s because we are unable to deny ourselves and we keep staring at only our difficult circumstances and situations that our faith may go astray. However, the way to follow the Lord by faith is not actually that difficult. That’s why the Lord said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Since the Lord is far superior to anything in this world, our success is far more certain if we trust in and rely on the Lord rather than just trying on our own. Even at this very moment, the Lord is working in our lives. I, too, sometimes have faithless thoughts creeping on me. There is so much work to do, but our abilities are limited, and so I get irritated, frustrated, and even worrisome, telling myself, “Oh my gosh! There is so much to do! I have to work with the entire world in mind, but I am just a man!” Of course, it is by the Lord’s strength that we are carrying out His work, but our own abilities and financial resources are nowhere near sufficient to meet the needs of the work of the Lord. On top of this, my health has deteriorated lately and when things get too complicated and frustrating I find myself sighing.
When a pheasant detects danger with a hunter after him, it tries to hide itself by sticking only its head into a bush, while leaving its body fully exposed. Likewise, there are times when I also climb into the bed and bury my head under the pillow, trying to turn off the whole world and refusing to see anything. However, I cannot flee from God’s presence, for it is written,
“If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9-10).
Whoever believes in the Lord will live spiritually and whoever trusts in the Lord will be able to follow Him. But those who do not look toward the Lord and do not trust in Him, but instead look toward their own merits and demerits will never be able to deny themselves nor overcome their struggle and will ultimately end up perishing away.
Why would anyone lean on himself? What could anyone find anywhere in himself to lean on, when he himself is not the Truth nor is he so perfect? Yet even so, people still look toward themselves and that is why they are bound to perish. We must never look toward ourselves. Instead, we must look toward the Lord who abides in us, and whose presence fills the whole universe. It’s because we believe that the Lord is the Truth itself that we can do all things by believing in this Lord and follow Him as well. Therefore, we shouldn’t place too many expectations on ourselves, nor should we be too disappointed in ourselves, but instead we must deny all these things. “Are you so virtuous?” “No, I’m not.” “Are you so flawed then?” “No, I’m not.” “Are you so hopelessly incapable of following the Lord?” “No, that’s not true.” We have to deny like this.
And we must follow the Lord by faith. Those who believe that the Lord is the Truth, that He is alive, that this Lord is perfect, that He has blotted out all their sins, and that He is with them, can receive new life for their bodies, follow the Lord, and accept everything that He has given them. The Lord said: “If anyone 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 will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
This means that a life of faith is contingent on following the Lord. What will happen to us if we are unable to follow the Lord even after being born again? If we can’t follow the Lord even after being born again, then we are as good as dead. There is nothing else. If we can’t follow the Lord, then we will come to leave the church and end up destroying ourselves. We will die on our own, renouncing ourselves, “Someone like me does not deserve to abide in the church.” That is how one ends up leaving the Lord on his own to embark on the way of destruction. Is this what you want for yourself?
The way of life for the born-again is only possible, first and foremost, by faith. And the object of this faith is the Lord. It is by believing in the Lord that we live; it is by believing in the Lord that we enjoy blessings; it is by believing in the Lord that we overcome the world; it is by believing in the Lord that we receive new life; and it is by believing in the Lord that we attain eternal life. The object of our faith is not ourselves, but it is the Lord. Do you realize this? Don’t you find this to be true when you apply it to your everyday life? Although our total number is less than 300, our strength is incredibly powerful. Right now students are being trained at our Mission School. All the saints of our church will be made staff workers of His mission. The Mission School is where our saints are trained to devote their entire lives to the Lord and here, students read the Bible, listen to the Word, bear witness, and carry out the Lord’s work. Of course, some of our saints serve the Lord diligently, support the gospel ministry, and follow the Lord diligently even though they have not been trained in the Mission School. The reason why we are trained despite this is to apply faith to every aspect of our actual lives and experience it for real.
We are now living through the last chapter of the history of mankind. So I often have mixed feelings. The entire world is going through abnormal climatic changes due to global warming. Some countries have suffered devastating floods, inflicting many casualties and property damages, while other countries have had to declare national emergency over massive, out-of-season snowfalls. It’s so gloomy when I hear this kind of news and see how the world is turning out. There is hardly any good news. All the news that we hear in this age and time is depressing. Our educational system is marked by corruption, our political system is plagued with politicians bickering in partisan politics over their own selfish interests, and our economic system is buckling under the weight of the massive layoffs triggered by the structural adjustment program implemented under the IMF. Throughout the whole world, we see no sign of peace, but only of war, and many economists are predicting a global depression. Everything looks so pessimistic. Living under such circumstances, even you and I can’t help but feel depressed also. However, we still have hope that the Lord will return one day.
One of these days, the Lord will return and lift us up in rapture. But there is something that we must face before the Lord returns and that is the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation will come not only to us, but it will come to everyone living on planet Earth, whereas those who have not been born again will be faced with tribulation after tribulation. For us, the born-again, we will be transformed into eternally, incorruptible bodies amid the tribulation and live in the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven. That day is now not that far away. My fellow believers, the day when you will be demanded to receive the mark of the Beast is not so distant. The whole world is now falling into chaos. In Korea alone, recently there have been so many crimes committed with credit card counterfeiting and forgery. So to prevent the potential damage that may result from the loss of credit cards, plans are being made to implant electronic chips in people’s bodies. In fact, this technology has already been applied to livestock and shipping, but now conditions are turning quite conducive to apply it to human beings as well. When we consider these things, we can see that the end times will indeed arrive sooner than later. Soon there will be many disasters on their way, but even so, the born-again still look ahead with optimism. We the born-again are optimistic because amid this Great Tribulation plaguing everyone, our Lord will come and take us away.
At that time, however, God will stomp on everyone living on this earth who has not been born again. Imagine huge hailstones about a hundred pounds each falling upon men from the sky. Think about billions of these ice chunks falling, fire raining down, people suffering from boils all over the body, and strange diseases breaking out. I heard that lately mad cow disease has spread to elks in Canada, and that many of them are now dying. Such strange diseases that are beyond our comprehension will be endemic in the end times.
Even if these things were to happen on this earth right now, there is still hope for us. That’s because the Lord, who created this universe and everything in it and who has saved us from sin, will come and lift us up from this tribulation. And the Lord will transform our bodies into the same spiritual bodies as His and make us reign in the Millennial Kingdom for a thousand years. After this, He will then allow us to live in the Everlasting Kingdom. Indeed, we have many hopes. If we look toward the Lord, then we will see that we actually do have many hopes. However, if we look toward this world and ourselves rather than the Lord, then we will only see too many depressing things. As we are now living in these end times, we must look toward the Lord.
People look at things from their own points of view, and so they usually consider their thoughts to be correct. In reality, however, one’s own thoughts are all invalid, as they are filled with useless clutters, with more thoughts that are false than true. Your own thoughts are nothing more than completely useless thoughts of the flesh. Whether pessimistic or optimistic, all the thoughts of the flesh are nothing. Believing in the Lord truthfully—that is, believing that everything the Lord said will be fulfilled—is to have spiritual faith and it is those who have this kind of faith that are followers of the Lord. And it is such people who serve the Lord in their lives to meet Him face to face in the end. Only those who have such faith can meet the Lord. In contrast, those who lack this kind of faith cannot deny themselves, will stumble in the end, and be unable to meet the Lord in joy. The problem for the virtuous is that they are too meritorious for their own good, boiling over with their own merits, while the problem for the flawed is that they fall too deep into a slump. But we must remember that in reality our salvation has nothing to do with our own virtues or flaws.
Our merits and demerits are also irrelevant for us to lead our lives of faith. The belief that only the Lord is the Truth, that He alone is perfect, and that He alone will fulfill everything He said—this belief forms the core of our lives of faith. Therefore, whoever believes in the Lord can live every aspect of his life by faith. If we do not want to lose our lives, then we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord. All that we have to do is just follow the Lord by faith. He will then bear your burden and mine on our behalf.
In contrast, those who do not believe in the Lord will perish away under the weight of their burdens. Anyone who cannot deny himself is bound to die. If you want to live, then you must deny yourself and trust in the Lord. Even in your difficult trials, you must still follow the Lord by faith. Although we complain about how tough life is, it’s in fact difficult only when we look at ourselves. If you deny yourself, look toward the Lord, and trust in Him, then there is nothing hard. The Word of God is very simple, but even a passage with only a few phrases is still relevant to our lives, and therefore we must believe in this Word. If we believe in the Lord, we will gain life, but if we do not believe, then we will lose life. In other words, if we trust in the Lord then we can deny ourselves and follow Him, but if we do not trust in the Lord then we cannot deny ourselves and cannot follow the Lord either. Isn’t the Word of the Lord marvelous then?
The Lord asks us to deny ourselves because whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for His sake will find it. We should not allow ourselves to lose our own lives by foolishly refusing to believe in this Truth that is so critical to our lives. Instead, we should believe in the Truth and thus save our lives. Peter was rebuked by Jesus for thinking of Him too carnally, and was told, “Get behind Me, Satan!” As you know very well, we have to believe in no one else but the Lord. If we believe in the Lord, we will surely live. But if we do not believe in the Lord, we will die. Furthermore, if we believe in the Lord, then our own merits and demerits do not present any problems at all, but if we do not believe in the Lord, then our virtues are problematic just as our flaws are also problematic. As well, if we do not believe in the Lord then our difficulties and our comforts all constitute problems for us. That is why we must believe in the Lord and follow Him. Just as our first priority is faith, so is our second priority faith, as our third priority is also faith.
It is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Only the righteous can live by believing in all the Word spoken by the Lord, who is the Truth. No unrighteous man can ever live by faith. But a righteous man, someone who has been remitted from all his sins, someone who has received his redemption from sin, believes that God is his God and his Shepherd. And such people live by believing in the Word spoken by the Lord: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place” (Luke 21:32). Those who believe will live, but those who do not believe will perish.
Just as there are four seasons in nature, people have joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure, and they also have more negative attributes than positive attributes. However, if we believe in the Lord, then no matter how a storm may rage on in our lives and tidal waves may hit us, all will be calmed under the Lord’s command to stay still. When your heart is stirred up by a storm of the mind, I ask you to also subdue your thoughts by placing your faith in the Lord. Dispel your worries, put down both your virtues and flaws alike, believe only in what the Lord will do for you, and by this faith wait in hope.
We must live by faith. There is no one else whom we can believe but Jesus Christ. Every word that Jesus Christ spoke is all true. All the things that He promised to fulfill for us will indeed be completed exactly as promised. Do you believe in this? We must live by faith. That’s why I am telling you this. You and I must live the rest of our lives by faith. I admonish you not to allow your life to be dictated by your circumstances and not to remain incapable of denying yourself, but instead follow the Lord with self-denial, saying to yourself, “You are not right, but the Lord is always right.”
Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Do you now understand this Word? And are you now actually following the Lord with self-denial? Have you really denied yourself? Do you deny yourself from the bottom of your heart? Do you deny yourself both when you are virtuous and when you are flawed? Or do you know this passage only as a matter of theory? Is self-denial something that you’ve never done before? When you were first saved, it’s because you had denied your thoughts that you were saved. “I had thought like this, but I was wrong. Oh! So that is what the truth is all about. Why not accept it then?” Just as you were saved by denying your thoughts like this, now that you’ve received your salvation, you are to live out your faith by denying everything that is untrue, and believing in everything that is true. From now on, we will deny ourselves in every aspect, serve the Lord by faith, and follow Him by faith in our lives. That is how we will live. Just as we will go through many hardships, those of us who have not experienced self-denial will also come to experience it many times. The Lord will make sure to bring this about.
My fellow believers, I beseech you all to deny yourself. Do you have many things to deny or nothing to deny? Don’t you have many things to deny? What did the Bible say will happen to you if you don’t deny yourself? It said that you will be unable to follow the Lord. And this is critically relevant to your life. That’s why you have no choice but to deny yourself. I, too, go through such experiences in my life all the time. Sometimes my thoughts seem to be right but they are different from the Word. Because of this, often a battle wages inside me. But in the end, because only the Lord is right and worthy of following, all that I can do is just trust in Him and follow Him. In our everyday lives also, we must do whatever the Lord wants us to do. The soldiers of the Lord must please Him who enlisted them as His soldiers, not pursue the works that please themselves (2 Timothy 2:4).
Right now it seems as though I’ve been working on one thing for over a month. Even when I come to our church, instead of meeting with you, the first thing I do is go up to the third floor and continue on with my previous research on an energy-saving heating and cooling system. After spending the whole day on this work, my nostrils and clothes would be blackened. So I would think to myself, “My wife will give me a scolding again when I get back home. I should go home when it’s dark. How can I set a footstep into the house under the broad daylight when my whole body is so black?” Yet this makes no difference, since my wife already knows all about me.
It’s actually to save money and for the benefit of our saints that I’ve been working on this so devotedly. So I am now trying out all kinds of different things just to save even a little bit of money and to ensure that our saints would be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Yet even while doing so, when things don’t go too well and I fall into weaknesses, I say to myself, “Jesus once said to His disciples to just catch fish and pay their tax with the money that came from the fish. So why am I going through all this trouble, when I should just preach the Word and ask the saints to contribute their offerings? I am so stupid!” Sometimes I go through all kinds of antics by myself, judging myself one minute, calling myself stupid the next minute, and then forgiving myself on my own. In times like this, I, too, admit my insufficiencies, deny myself by faith, and once again resume following the Lord.
Our books still have not made their way into Russia. Even though we’ve printed 10,000 copies of our books in Russian, not a single copy has yet made its way into Russia. We did send 2,000 copies to Russia, but the government refused to allow entry. While our books did get there for sure, we were told that to recover them from the customs office, we had to pay upwards of $4,000 just for duties alone. So we told the officials there that we would rather forfeit our books. You are probably wondering what will happen to all these books. I was told that the customs office would store our books for a while and then auction them off cheaply later on. So we just left our books at the customs office, so that they would be sold to Christian bookstores. After all, we were going to distribute these books in Russia for free anyways.
It’s easy to just say in words that we are carrying out a world mission, but to be quite frank, it makes little sense for such a small gathering like ours to attempt evangelizing the whole world. Don’t you also think the whole project is quite ridiculous? Standing here behind my pulpit, I keep calling for the spreading of the gospel throughout the entire world, but you may think that this is all rather preposterous. If you really think about it, our endeavor does seem outlandishly out of place. Can we speak every language of the various nations in the world? Can we even go to where they are? Are we even close to them? It doesn’t take just an hour or two to reach some of these places, but it takes ten, sixteen, and even eighteen hours to fly there, so how could we go and even if we went, what could we really do? Can we speak even one simple sentence in their language such as “Please accept this book?” Just thinking about it is enough to make me frustrated. When I think about it, it seems like such a suffocating, difficult task.
So after agonizing over what should be done, I gathered all our ministers around and we prayed together and consulted each other. I then reached a decision and told them, “There are many missionaries from advanced Christian countries working throughout the whole world. Why don’t we send them letters and ask them if they would like to receive our books? If they agree, then we can send them our books. And if they like them, we can ship out more books and ask them to distribute those books to others as well.” So lately we’ve begun working on this and have now sent out about 300 official mission letters so far. Since we’ve sent 300 letters to missionaries alone, soon we will hear some news. We should get their answer by the middle of January, whether be it yes or no. If even just a half of them would agree to our proposal, we will preach the gospel to them.
Although these missionaries would ordinarily have their own doctrines, if they know how to deny themselves, then once they know the gospel of the water and the Spirit that the Bible says is the Truth, they will accept this gospel. I am sure of this. Even though we are preaching the gospel all over the world, this work is not something that can be done by our own strength of the flesh. As the Lord said, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6), that is indeed the case. The spreading of the gospel is achieved by God Himself, not by the strength or the strategy of man. Even though there is so much work to do, we do not have the strength to carry it out all on our own, and that is precisely why we only trust in the Lord.
That is what faith is all about. It is about believing only in the Lord. Believing in another human being is not what faith is about, but it is about believing in the Lord. Do you believe so? Human beings are so insufficient. Mankind is so weak that we have no one else to trust but only the Lord. For the Word spoken by the Lord is the Truth, the Lord Himself is the Truth, and we must believe only in the Lord. Those who believe in the Lord will live, but those who do not believe will die; those who believe in the Lord can follow the Lord, but those who do not believe cannot follow Him.
Whether we are smart or not, has nothing to do with our faith. That’s right. Do you also believe so? I hope and pray that none of us would ever lose faith in these end times no matter what. You have now come into God’s church, but if you fall away from the church, then you will lose your life. There should be no one among us who ends up losing his life.
For me also, all that I can do is just trust in the Lord. So, you have to likewise believe only in the Lord. It is by believing in the Lord that you and I can live out our faith. Do you agree? Do you believe in this? Although I am sure that you are all facing many problems, I ask you to look toward only the Lord.
And I ask you to deny yourself. Then take up your cross, trust in the Lord, and follow Him alone. You will then enter into the dominion of the Lord and He will protect you and guide you; you will realize that you are now abiding in the Lord by faith and you will witness His work with your own eyes.
Live in the Lord. As the days of this present age are numbered, let us all live by faith, trusting in the Lord, and then see Him face-to-face and live with Him forever.