“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
‘Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’
So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
I’ve already spoken on many occasions about the meaning of Christmas, but I still want to continue to preach about the significance of Christmas. It’s probably because Christmas hasn’t gone by yet. I took some rest yesterday. I watched a video while resting, and the movie was about the melting of the glaciers around the world and the events triggered by this. This movie was made with fictional imagination, of course, but it got its material from the global warming and climatic changes occurring on the planet earth today. In one of the scenes, the surging seawater swept away the Statue of Liberty in New York City and flooded the whole city. Only a few skyscrapers remained standing above the water, and big ships floated around downtown. It was a typical blockbuster movie from Hollywood.
Long ago, when I watched an old movie titled Rapture, I thought it would be nice if we the born-again could have made this kind of movie. Perhaps it’s because the movie was very old, but the screen was not clear and the soundtrack also had a lot of noise. But even so, while watching it, the movie was quite grappling and I thought it was a really well made movie. Nowadays, though, hardly anyone watches this kind of movie anymore. Nonetheless, I was quite impressed by this movie when I watched it, and as I recall, it was not only fun to watch but it also sent a wake-up call to the viewers. In the movie some people were lifted up to the air in rapture while others were left behind to suffer at the hands of the Antichrist and his followers. It was very educational and quite heart-warming to watch. After watching this movie, I even thought about making this type of movie to preach the gospel.
Of course, I’m sure many of you will be laughing again then, thinking, “Gee, now Rev. Jong wants to make a movie! He wants to do everything now!” But even this work is no different from others. While it’s difficult to start, once we begin, we can finish it in little time. There are plenty of sisters here who can act as the main actress, as there also are plenty of brothers who can play the role of the main actor. We also have more than enough people for extras. Everything is ready. The only requirement to ensure the movie’s success is that I am not in there. When taking group pictures, I often tell people to take them without me. Whenever I see myself in a picture, I never fail to be disappointed. I don’t’ know why my face is such a disappointment to me.
As usual, there were a few movies on Jesus shown on TV this Christmas, but I got offended from watching them. One of them showed John the Baptist. But in this movie he was depicted like a homeless man. Even though John the Baptist was humble in his outside appearance, before God, he was a faithful servant with an upright heart filled with the Spirit. The makers of this movie had reduced John the Baptist to a worthless man, and they had also interpreted the Word of God to their own liking to shoot their movie. It was very upsetting to watch this movie, as it was made by those who obviously had no understanding of the Word of God at all. Among the recently published books, there is a book that claims that Jesus got married to Mary Magdalene, and I heard that over a million copies were sold in Korea alone. Its seems there is no limit to how far some people are willing to go to reject Jesus and insult Him.
It’s true that when Jesus came to this earth in the image of man, His outside appearance was humble, and there was little that was attractive about Him physically other than being tall. However, His heart, His authority, and His power were not so lowly, for the Lord is the Creator and the Almighty God. Even if someone is unattractive in his physical appearance, one is bound to take another look at him if he has a strong mind. Anyway, nowadays there are a lot of movies and books putting Jesus down and degrading Him tacitly or otherwise.
The movie Ten Commandments was an excellent movie. This movie was made based on the Bible. But in these days, people are just corrupting the contents of the Bible all in the pretext of making something new. I think that’s why the Lord said, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Actually, those on this earth who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit are really fortunate; but there are so many more faithless people who don’t believe in this gospel. The divine status of Jesus is often demoted to where He is either depicted as half human and half divine, or downgraded below God the Father. All this is the Devil’s work.
The Lord said, “The just shall live by faith,” and I believe this. It’s written here in today’s Scripture passage, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.” When was Jesus Christ born? He was born during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus, when he issued a decree requiring the entire population under his rule to be registered. Emperor Augustus had issued a decree to his subjects and ordered all the inhabitants in the colonies of Rome to be registered. At that time, Rome was ruling supreme over virtually the whole known world. Israel was its colony, as were the neighboring countries. At any rate, according to this decree, Joseph and Mary also had to go to their hometown and register in the census. This census took place because everyone had to be registered in order to find out the exact size of the population.
Because Jesus Christ actually came to this earth, from then on many people were able to have their names registered in the Book of Life in the Kingdom of Heaven. This means that your name can now be written in the family register of the Kingdom of God. The Book of Revelation says that people’s names are written in either the Book of Life or the Books of Deeds, and those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be cast into the fire of hell to face the second judgment of their sins. However, the Bible says that those whose names are written in the Book of Life will live together with the Lord enjoying everlasting glory in the eternal realm of everlasting life. It is of such utmost significance to us that the Lord came to this earth.
In the age of the Old Testament, the objects of salvation were limited to just the people of Israel, but once the Lord came to this earth in the age of the New Testament, everyone all over the world is now able to be saved from sin to become a citizen of the Kingdom of God. Words cannot express just how grateful I am that the Lord came to us and accepted us to be the people of the Kingdom of God.
The Lord Came to This Earth
The day set aside to commemorate the coming of the Savior is Christmas. Who, then, is this Jesus who came to this earth? Although He came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man as the Son of Mary and Joseph, He is fundamentally God Himself. Moreover, He is not just a lowly god created by man, but He is the Creator and the King of kings.
It’s written in today’s Scripture passage, “So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.”
As seen, Jesus Christ was born in the city of David. What does this mean? God manifests His will through the history of mankind, and that Jesus was born in the city of David means that Christ is God Himself. As it’s also written in the Bible, it means that Jesus Christ was born as the King of kings. It shows that He is the King of kings and God Himself. He is God Himself, the supreme Ruler of all. He is the Creator God who made the universe. In His fundamental essence, Jesus is the sovereign God Himself. Nothing in this universe is higher than Jesus Christ.
For us to believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit and live out our faith, it is extremely important to realize and believe that Jesus is fundamentally the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20). We all have received the remission of sins in the same way; by hearing the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit and believing in this Word of Truth. However, after we receive the remission of sins, the power of the Lord is manifested either greatly or barely, depending on how exactly we understand and believe in Jesus Christ. It makes a huge difference whether you live out your faith believing that Jesus Christ is God Himself and the King of kings, or you lead your life of faith without believing in this. Whether or not God’s power is manifested abundantly in your life of faith and mine is determined by this faith.
The Lord came to this earth as the King of kings and God Himself. He is also the One who has made us God’s people by saving us from sin. If, in spite of this, you think that Jesus is just your Savior and nothing more, then the power of the Lord will not be manifested in your life of faith. It’s because of the lack of faith that the Lord’s power is not manifested. In this case, when the Lord’s power is not manifested in your life, it will be inevitable for you to be abused and trampled on by the people of the world, and you will cower before the difficulties of your circumstances. However, if the power of the Lord is with you, then no matter how utterly weak and inadequate you may be, you will be able to live out your faith in full force, for your strength will be renewed every day.
If you have the faith to believe that Jesus is God Himself, then you can rise up to any challenge with confidence. You can pray to God: “Lord, I am having a really hard time. Please empower me to lead a true life of faith. Help me not to be cowardly. Because I am so inadequate, on my own I can’t help but live my entire life as a coward. So I need Your help not to live a cowardly life. Help me, Lord, so that I may lead a vibrant and victorious life like a brave warrior winning the battle. You have saved me. So I have truly become one of Your people, and I am indeed Your child who will enter the Kingdom of God. Empower me, Lord, so that even though I am still a lowly man with many shortcomings, with Your help I may not surrender to the people of this world nor be trampled by them.”
In carrying on with our lives of faith, you and I must have a clear understanding of who exactly the Lord our Savior is, and what our status is. This faith must be the anchor that holds your heart steady, and it must rule your life and mine.
People Today Are Living in a Difficult Age
Today’s church ministers and religious leaders in this world are trying to comfort their congregations claiming that God will bless them all unconditionally. This is all an exaggeration and a lie. People today, Christians and non-Christians alike, and our saints also, do actually face many difficulties while living in this world.
My fellow believers, if someone believes only in the Cross, or professes to believe in just the blood of the Cross without having faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then his sins still remain in his heart as his faith is mistaken. This is a false, man-made method of salvation, and through such a method no one can be remitted from his sins. Such people draw a caricature out of Jesus and believe in Him according to their own thoughts, as though they were worshiping Jesus as an idol.
Does God help anyone just because he prays to Him blindly? No, that’s not true. Many pastors in this world teach their sinful congregations that they shouldn’t worry about their hardship, and that God will help them unconditionally if they just pray to Him. But this is all a lie. God has nothing to do with the prayers of sinners (Isaiah 59:1-2).
Who then has really received the remission of sins? It’s those who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Who has then saved us from sin and made us God’s people through this gospel Word of the water and the Spirit? It is none other than God Himself. It is Jesus Christ, our Savior and the King of kings. Jesus Christ is the Judge, the Savior, and the Creator who made us. It’s none other than Jesus who blesses us, and He is the One who sits on the throne of judgment to punish and condemn the wicked. Jesus is the supreme King. He is the living God who works in our lives.
The religions of the world are nothing more than products of man’s own making. So you should never believe in Jesus merely as a worldly religious practice. Our Savior is not some icon painted in a picture, but He is the immortal God, alive and working in our lives even at this very moment. It’s because He is the living God that He can protect our saved saints and renew their strength when they are really struggling with their hardship. Even when you feel unsure of yourself thinking that you are too insufficient to carry on with your life of faith, and you feel that you need some special help to continue on, if you trust that Jesus Christ your Savior is God Himself, the almighty Creator who made the whole universe and the King of kings, then He will answer your prayer, lead you, help you, and bless you. That Jesus Christ was born in the city of David, the greatest king of Israel in the age of the Old Testament, entails precisely such significance. It means that Jesus is the sovereign King.
However, even if someone claims to have been saved by believing in Jesus Christ, and if this person just thinks of Him as merely one of the four great sages like Confucius or Buddha, then it’s inevitable for him to fall into false faith, be trampled by Satan, and live an accursed life. The Jesus who has saved you and me through the gospel of the water and the Spirit is not one of those sages—that is, He is not a mere creature, but He is God the Creator Himself. As the One who exists by Himself, He is the King of kings. He is sovereign over everything and rules over everything, and He is also the Judge who bestows His grace of salvation on those who deserve it, and pours curse on those who deserve it.
When we first received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, we all worried about how to make a living, what to eat and what to wear. However, if you really believe in this gospel of the remission of sins, the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then you have to make sure to grasp exactly who your Savior is, and what kind of power He has. What’s important is not your own power or mine, but His status and the power of the One who has saved us from sin and made us God’s people. The question to ask is whether He is fundamentally King or subject, whether He is indeed omniscient and omnipotent or limited in His power.
Our faith springs forth depending on how we perceive Jesus’ power and status, and depending on whether or not we properly understand them. An accurate understanding of all these things means that you believe that Jesus is the Almighty God, and therefore you can pray to Him and receive His help. In other words, you can lead a proper life of faith. Jesus Christ was born in the city of David. Both Jesus and David are from the house of Judah. This means that as Jesus Christ was born from the house of David, and His lineage is that of royalty.
According to the traditions of Israel, only the members of the tribe of Judah could inherit the throne and become kings. For the priests, only the descendants of Aaron from the tribe of Levi could be appointed into priesthood. Only this tribe had the privilege to serve God in the Tabernacle. This was a rule established by God. Not just anyone could be king. Whose descendant was King Solomon? He was the son of David, from the tribe of Judah. What was David’s lineage? His lineage was of the house of Judah. Jesus Christ was also born in the lineage of the house of David from this tribe of Judah. He was, in other words, born in the lineage of kings. This underscores the fact that Jesus is the heavenly King. It means that He came to this earth as the King to save His people from their sins and lead them. So my heart is deeply saddened and offended when I come across people who believe in Jesus merely as a matter of religious practice without any real knowledge of the Bible, or who underestimate Jesus and relegate His authority. I even feel like swearing at them sometimes, saying to them, “You bastards! It’s because you believe like this that you do all these nasty things!”
My fellow believers, if we were not saved from sin, God would not listen to our prayer. He listens to our prayers precisely because we have received the remission of sins. However, there is one condition, and it is that our prayers must first be congruent to and in unity with His Kingdom and His righteousness, offered to seek the righteousness of God. It’s for this that we should ask for His help. Only then does God hear our prayers, answering us and guiding us. God made this clear to us. That’s why you and I must live by faith, just as the Bible says, “The just shall live by faith.”
You may then ask, “But how can I live by faith when I’ve never done so before?” It’s easier than you think: All that you have to do is look at your predecessors of faith, follow your church leaders, and seek their counsel. Do you think your pastor’s job is just to preach? No, a pastor is more than just a preacher; he is also your leader.
My mind is filled with ideas on how we could preach the gospel all over the world through this Church. Though this is no easy task, I rise up to such challenges because I believe in God and follow Him. It’s because I believe in God, and God is my God and my King, that by faith I take on such a difficult and exacting endeavor to create something out of nothing. Even when I can’t see ahead clearly, I still rise up to the challenge by faith and plow ahead. That’s how I carry out God’s work.
How about you then? Is this also how you do your work? Yes, you also do everything by faith. This is what is meant by living by faith. All of you must learn to live like this. I am convinced that once you learn to have this faith, realize that the One who has saved you and me is the Almighty God Himself and the Absolute King of kings, grasp that He has such power, rely on Him by faith with this understanding, ask for His help and seek His righteousness, the Lord will surely open your way. We must all abide in the Word like this, looking at the things of the world and the things to come through faith. The Lord will then teach us what will happen to the world. Through faith, we must be able to see and realize what will happen in the coming years, and we must prepare ourselves for these events now, even though they are not visible to our eyes at the present.
When Joseph was the prime minister of Egypt, he knew that a seven-year famine would come, and he stored up grain for seven years while the harvest was abundant. He filled up the storages across the land. After seven years, Egypt was indeed visited by a famine. What did Joseph do? He released the grain saved up in the storages and fed all the people of Egypt as well as His own family. Like this, faith is all about believing in the Word of God and following it, and making preparations according to it. You must learn to do this. If you act on your own according to your merits with your own man-made methods and means, then neither your endeavor nor your faith can flourish and grow, for this is not the faith that’s placed in God.
A while ago, to one of our sisters whose business was altering garments, I gave the following advice: “Since you are so gifted, why don’t you expand into the more lucrative business of designing and making your own line of clothes instead of just fixing and altering them? You may struggle a bit at the beginning, but I am sure you will eventually succeed.” At first, she seemed to heed my advice, but soon she told me that she just couldn’t do it. She didn’t trust my advice. If she can’t rise up to her challenge by faith, then she will have to spend the rest of her life fixing and altering garments. Even someone who just fixes garments for a living can also become the most renowned designer in the world. This is all possible as long as the person is someone who has received the remission of sins, is led by God, and embarks on this road by faith. Although I know nothing about design and I can’t do anything with a piece of cloth, if I am determined like this, then even I can do it. Everything is possible if I rise up to my challenge by faith. This is all because I believe in God. For those who believe in God, their power comes from God. In just a year, I will be able to surpass even the most experienced designers. All this is actually possible.
Do you think it’s out of delusion that I’m saying such things? No. If money is needed to spread the gospel, the Lord will give you such abilities. All that you have to do is just take on your challenge by faith. You can achieve your goal if you begin and promote your work by faith step by step. Money doesn’t just pile up all at once as if by magic. However, if you rise up to the challenge by faith, make the necessary preparations step by step, and give all your effort to your endeavor, then your will reach your goal and beyond. The faithless realize this only after they fail. The faithful, in contrast, believe that they will succeed without fail even as they have nothing at the beginning, and they work diligently to bring this about. We must live by faith.
Jesus Christ was born in the city of David. Joseph was living in a town called Nazareth. So it was quite possible for Jesus to be born in Nazareth also. Of course, Jesus is sometimes called Jesus of Nazareth in the Bible, but this refers to the town where He grew up. The city where He was born is Bethlehem, the city of David. At that time, Joseph and Mary had no choice but to go up to the city of David according to the decree issued by the Roman emperor. This was God’s providence. Everything came to pass according how God had prepared. God Himself had prophesied that Jesus Christ would be born in Bethlehem, and that is why, to fulfill this prophecy, God had raised Augustus to be the Roman emperor, allowed Israel to turn into Rome’s colony, and made the Roman emperor issue such a decree.
Like this, God moves world history. He moves in this history of the world. We must learn to have faith. The gospel of the water and the Spirit can be learned by anyone, and anyone with an honest and humble heart can accept it and believe in it. In other words, anyone can be saved. However, faith is not something that you learn by yourself.
When children learn to ride a bike, they first ride a tricycle and then move onto a bicycle. But they don’t always learn it directly from their parents, but from their older siblings. Some of them also learn from their friends. “How do I ride this?” “I’ll teach you. I’ll push from behind.” “What if I fall?” “Don’t worry. I will hold the bike from behind. Keep pushing the pedals.” Although they usually fall and tumble a few times during the course of learning to ride a bike, in the end they all master it. They learn from their siblings or friends teaching them, “This is how you ride a bike. There is nothing to worry about. Look straight ahead, hold the handle firmly, and just pedal away. If you are worried about going too fast, press here. It’s the brake.” Similarly, faith must be learned from the predecessors of faith in the Church.
In times of troubles, prayers must be offered. You can experience the Lord’s help firsthand for yourself only if you ask Him for it. If instead you do everything by yourself before God helps you, before you ask for His help and pray to Him, then there will be nothing for God to help you, and your prayer will be just formal. It’s akin to saying to God, “Lord, I will take care of everything by myself. Why don’t You just get some rest?” Against this, what is there for God to do? How could God work in your life? When you are struggling, you should let God know and ask Him for His help, and do everything that you can. It’s then that you can experience Gods’ help coming on your way.
Do you now understand? Faith is something that you learn. Many people jump with joy when they first receive the remission of sins, but in reality, that is not the end of what is meant by having true faith. Real faith starts from then on. This means that you have to continue to learn to lead an upright life of faith from the Church and the predecessors of faith from the moment you are born again by the gospel of the water and the Spirit. Put differently, you have to obey your church leaders in order not to be fooled by Satan’s schemes only to perish.
Shortly after Jesus was born on this earth, when King Herod learned of the birth of Jesus from the wise men from the East, a great commotion arose in Jerusalem. As the wise men from the East tricked King Herod and did not report to him the birthplace of Jesus, he got angry and ordered his underlings to kill every child born in the vicinity of Bethlehem who was under the age of two. So a massacre took place in that area. This happened because the wise men from the East had deviated from the star guiding them and gone to see King Herod. Like this, unless you are led by the Lord, you will perish away. Even if you have received the remission of sins, it will be unavoidable for you to face death.
Despite digressing, however, the wise men from the East were ultimately led to Bethlehem by the star and they were able to meet Jesus there. What did God to say to them when they were about to return after offering gifts to Jesus? He told them to not to take the same road but take another route. So they took a different road according to God’s order, while King Herod was grinding his ax. He was waiting for their return, ready to kill both the Lord and the wise men alike as soon as he found out where He was.
God led these wise men to safety. He told them not to return on the same road but take a different road, and they did as they were told. Joseph and Mary also fled from Bethlehem after giving birth as they were told by an angel. All of them were spared from death because they were led by the Lord and followed His guidance faithfully.
It’s Extremely Important for You to Be Led by the Servants of the Lord
However, many people refuse to be led by God’s servants. Even after receiving the remission of sins, do you really like to hear your predecessors of faith giving advice to you, or do you feel they are just nagging you? Most people hate it. It’s not just a handful of people who gave up their lives of faith over their pride, saying, “Do they think I am a kid? Do they think they are better than me, when they aren’t any more virtuous than me? It’s so irritating to attend this Church! I hate how they order me around as if I were their little brother, telling me to do this and that. I quit! It’s all good to receive the remission of sins, but I am too offended to continue attending this Church.”
You must cast aside your human thoughts and pride. Everyone who has received the remission of sins is now a new creature in Christ. The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). My fellow believers, your faith is new just as you are living a new life. You are no longer living your old life. Everything is new. So you must also learn everything anew. You must follow your predecessors of faith from a new beginning. You must be humble. Even for those who received the remission of sins long ago, if they judge and decide on their own, they will also perish. Everyone needs to be led by the Church. Everyone needs to be instructed. Everyone must ask if he has any questions. This is not something that can be done in words alone, but it is something that you must do in your everyday life.
For example, let’s say that you ran out of food. It’s not that you ran out of just groceries, but you don’t have any money to buy any groceries at all. There are times in your life when you really need money or some other things, and although it is okay for you to try to find some human means and ways to meet your needs, you should first pray to God asking for His help, trust in Him, and then look for a solution. It’s then that God works in your life. This is what walking with the Lord is all about. Unless you are led by the Lord, you will perish for sure.
When you follow your own thoughts while carrying on with your life of faith, your predecessors of faith will advise you not to do this. But if you ignore their advice and don’t heed it, then it will be inevitable for you to give up your life of faith and ultimately fall into death. If anyone who has received the remission of sins gives up his life of faith, this is not all that he is giving up, but he is giving up his life itself. For the newly born-again to give up their lives of faith is akin to giving up their own happiness. Some of you may wonder how I can say such blunt things, but I am not being too blunt here. Far from it; I am saying these things very carefully, simply because they must be said. What I am saying here is absolutely indispensable to you.
The life of faith that you lead after receiving the remission of sins is closely related to your happiness. If someone who has received the remission of sins cannot lead an upright life of faith, then everything else is also ruined. That’s why you must learn to lead your life of faith properly, learn about faith, and move forward step by step. Although you may not be able to take giant steps from the beginning, you must still learn to take at least small steps and make progress in your life of faith. Little by little, you should get the problems you are facing solved by faith, and you should experience the Lord’s help in your life. This is what the true life of faith is all about.
In the days gone by when I had nothing to call mine, I prayed to God and asked Him as the following: “Lord, I have nothing. I have no wealth. I don’t even have any money to buy groceries, far less any appliances. I am penniless. I don’t even have $30 to pay the rent for my small room. But am I not Your servant, Lord? How can I be so wretched when I am Your servant? Still, I believe that You are allowing this to happen to me because You have prepared Your will for me. Lord, even though I am lacking, I want to carry out Your will. I will obey Your will. Lord, right now I have nothing to eat. I’m too ashamed to beg and too weak to do manual labor, so give me something to eat. Help me find a job.” So the Lord came to my assistance, and I was able to find a job and make a living. Then the Lord allowed me to establish His Church and preach and serve the gospel of the water and the Spirit to this day.
My fellow believers, your life of faith is not a mere theory. It is real. It is your actual life. Are you not also facing actual hardship in your life? Your struggle is not imaginary, but it is real. When you hear about some other people struggling, it may not seem so real, but it is very real when it comes to your own difficulties. In times like these, you have to pray earnestly to Jesus who has actually saved you and become your Shepherd for real, and not just in your imagination. The Lord will surely solve all your problems if you let your life of faith be led by the Lord and move forth one small step at a time, coming before His presence and praying to Him, “Lord, these are my circumstances. Please help me. Deliver me from these difficult circumstances and solve my problems, so that I may live out my faith diligently and vibrantly.”
When one of our current ministers was a layman, he had some debts. He had a job, but he could barely make ends meet month by month, and it was nearly impossible for him to pay back all his debts. So I advised him to do the following: “You should go into business even though you don’t have much capital. You can’t improve your lot unless you go into business. The salary you are making at your present job is hardly enough to make a living. So go into business.” Although his expectations were not great at the beginning, when he actually followed my advice, his business prospered and he was able to pay off all his debts and make a good living. Now he is living as a servant of God and His worker.
I am telling you this story as an example to underscore how it is so indispensable for all of us to be led by God in our lives like this brother. When it comes to being led by God, you and I must believe with all our hearts that Jesus Christ is indeed our King, the King of kings and the King of power. Jesus Christ is our true King. “Immanuel” means that Jesus Christ, God Himself, is with us. “Christ” refers to the King of kings. It means the anointed One. This King of kings came to this earth as the Savior who would deliver His people from their sins, and He fulfilled this salvation to perfection. Coming to this earth to save us, He has blotted out all your sins and mine, and He is now leading and helping us, His saved people.
Did the Lord say to us, “You are all on your own; live however you want to live. I don’t’ care what happens to you”? No, of course not! The Lord has not only saved us but He is also our Shepherd who walks before us and guides us to the right path, to the way of happiness, to the way of blessings, and to the way of Truth. How does the Lord achieve this? He achieves it through God’s Church.
What If the Lord Finds No Room to Stay in Our Hearts?
Let’s turn to Luke 2:6-7 here: “So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
When Joseph and Mary arrived in the city of David, Mary was near her delivery date. Pregnancy usually lasts about nine months before the baby is delivered. So as Jesus Christ was about to be born, Mary needed a place to deliver Him. Although a lot of shameful things take place in hotels or inns nowadays, in the old days, they had a positive meaning. The inn was a place where weary travelers found a place to rest and get some food. Anyway, all the inns in the small city of David were filled with guests. There probably were a lot of visitors in the city because of the Roman emperor’s decree.
So, as there was no room at the inn, Mary went into a stable and gave birth to the Baby Jesus there, and she laid Him in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. A manger is a trough used to feed livestock. This means that Jesus was born in a stable, a dwelling place of livestock. The Bible also says here that Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.
What is implied by the word “firstborn Son” here? It means that Jesus is Mary’s first Son. In other words, it was her first time giving birth. The Bible says that the Virgin Mary conceived the Baby because she believed in the Word, and she did not sleep with Joseph until this Baby was born. The Bible also records that Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son. The disciples of Jesus were well aware of His family background as they accompanied Him everywhere. What then, is the significance of the fact that these disciples, who knew Jesus’ family very well, wrote of Jesus as Mary’s firstborn Son? It implies that Mary bore six or seven more children from Joseph after giving birth to Jesus. So I cannot help but laugh at the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the other children of Mary and Joseph, insisting that they were Jesus’ cousins in order to deify Mary.
It’s written here in today’s Scripture passage that Mary gave birth to the Baby Jesus, her firstborn Son, and laid Him in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. What does this tell us? It tells us that God had borrowed the body of the Virgin Mary for a short while in order to come to this earth as a Man. That’s why God said, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” The name “Immanuel” here indicates that God was born on this earth by borrowing the flesh of man in order to be with us. In other words, God Himself actually had dwelt with us humans on this earth. It means that the Lord has made such lowly people like us His own children, and He is now dwelling with us. So Mary also called herself a lowly maidservant before God and His angel, and you and I can’t help but confess to God that we are also lowly beings. Yet the Lord came looking such wretched beings like us, bore our sins on His body, was crucified to death, rose from the dead again, and has thereby blotted out all our sins. Having made us God’s own people, sinless and holy, He has embraced us in His arms.
Just as God had used Mary as an instrument for His righteous work, so is He also using us as the instruments of His righteousness to spread the gospel all over the world. God had used Mary here just like us, as an instrument of His righteous work. So one must never exalt Mary as high as Jesus and God.
When today’s Catholics give rosary prayers, they say, “Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us sinners.” They also pray to Saint Peter and a myriad number of saints to intercede on their behalf. But they shouldn’t do that. Although Mary was a woman who found grace from God, ultimately, she was still a mere creature used by the Lord. She is not someone who should be exalted so highly. It is wrong to deify her like this.
Jesus Christ had borrowed the body of Virgin Mary for a short while and was born in the city of David through her in order to fulfill His promised Word to save us. Mary did not conceive Jesus because she had somehow become the wife of God the Father. Mary is just someone who found the grace of God just like us. When the angel appeared before her, he called her “highly favored one,” and said to her that she was blessed “among women.” This means that just as we received the remission of sins when we heard and believed in the Word of God, and we are now being used by God, so is Mary one such person.
However, many people today exalt Mary even more than Jesus, and they deify her and worship her as a divine being. This actually originated from pagan religions. Primitive religions used to worship their respective goddesses such as the goddess Asherah. It was because agrarian societies attached religious significance to female fertility and regarded this fertility as a heavenly blessing. Even today, people still come up with similar notions, such as the goddess of fortune. For instance, when Brazil and Germany are playing in a match in the World Cup, they talked about whom the goddess of fortune would show her favor. They deify a woman and worship her as a goddess.
By the same token, Catholics elevate Mary above Jesus, praying, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” This prayer implies that Mary is somehow capable of bestowing grace and salvation. The grace in the phrase “full of grace” refers to the love of God and His gift. It refers to His mercy, in other words. But does any human being have any mercy on any other human beings? Human beings may have the tiniest inkling of mercy received from God in His likeness, but they are incapable of bestowing mercy as God does. Their hearts and minds may desire this, but they don’t have this ability.
As you know very well, many people today are revering Mary way too much. But in reality, Mary is not someone who deserves such exaltation. Jesus is her Savior, even though He was born as her Son. But it seems as though Mary sometimes forgot this. When we turn to the Gospel of Luke, we see that when Jesus was twelve, the whole family had gone to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, and on the way back home Mary and Joseph had lost track of Him. So they went back into the Temple in Jerusalem looking for Jesus, and there they found Him conversing with the Jewish rabbis. Jesus was teaching them. Seeing this, Mary said to Him, “Why are You here? I was looking for You all this time thinking that You were lost.” Jesus then said to her, “Why did you look for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?”
This means that even though Mary was Jesus’ mother in the flesh who had given birth to Him and nurtured Him, in Jesus’ sight, she was ultimately a lowly creature. Jesus had just borrowed her body for a short while for His use; just because Mary was His mother in the flesh, she was not someone who was higher than Jesus or His guide. If Mary had given birth only to Jesus and kept her chastity, then we may have some more respect for her. We would have respected her in the same way that we respect Catholic priests and nuns for not getting married and trying to do good deeds in their lives. However, Mary bore many more children, all siblings to Jesus in the flesh. One may then rebut this by saying that it’s no sin to bear children, but I am only saying this to point out that no one should exalt Mary as high as Jesus or turn her into the wife of God the Father.
People are very prone to think of Jesus and God the Father in carnal terms based on their own standards. Let me illustrate this with a funny story. Long ago, there were two brothers, but the older brother died one day, and so his younger brother took care of his son. Seeing how his nephew might feel lonely, the uncle suggested to him that he attend church. So the nephew began to attend church, and at his pastor’s admonition, he took his uncle to his church. The uncle, having come to the church at his nephew’s suggestion, sat there and saw his nephew praying to God, calling Him his Father. So seeing this, the uncle thought for a while, and he figured that since his nephew was calling God his father, and he himself was the child’s uncle, he and God were brothers. But he also thought that it was unlikely for God to be his little brother, and so he concluded that he should call Him his big brother. So he said while praying, “Thank You, my big brother Jesus. I’ve tagged along my nephew to this church today, and so I ask You to be nice to us.”
Like this, everyone is prone to look at God and His spiritual realm with his own fleshly and instinctive thoughts. What a blunder this is. The uncle in our story called God his brother because he was ignorant, and like him, many people today revere Mary calling her Mother of God. Catholics routinely pray, “Holy Mary, Queen of Heaven, pray for us sinners.” What does the Queen of Heaven imply? Doesn’t it imply that Mary is the wife of the Father of Jesus Christ—that is, God the Father? Wouldn’t this then mean that Mary is more exalted than Jesus? At least when viewed in terms of the flesh, we should consider a mother to be above her son, since the mother is equal to the father. Isn’t this true?
It’s quite true, at least when thought in fleshly terms. It is then a matter of course to exalt Mary even more than Jesus Himself. That is why Catholics pray, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” They keep praying to Mary time after time. This is completely wrong. It is to think only in carnal terms. To continue to believe like this and pray like this is to blaspheme against God. It is a short-cut to hell. Catholics say that although they believe in Jesus, they also believe in Mary, and they pray to Mary as well as Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. But is this right? No, it is totally wrong!
That is why it’s so important for you to have the right knowledge and learn to lead the right life of faith. Before, when I was trapped in the world, I used to also think that I was a smart man. I then found the Lord and came to live in the realm of faith, but I struggled with this as it was a road that I had never walked on before. If it were just leading a religious life, then I would have had no problem since I was quite experienced with this, but I had never really lived by faith.
So God trained me, and this training was extremely tough. He put me in the spiritual wilderness all by myself to discipline me. That is why I am now able to teach you about the upright life of faith like this. If I had lived in luxury without any hardship after meeting the Lord, then I would have nothing to say to you about your life of faith. However, because I realized who the Lord was and believed in Him, I rose up to my challenge by this faith, and I came to live a true life of faith and grasp its meaning. As I followed the Lord by trusting Him, He actually opened my way.
Let us therefore all rely on Jesus our Savior, trust Him, pray to Him, and live in unity with Him, realizing that He is our King and our Shepherd, and that He is always alive.