Christmas week greetings to each and every one of our BYM young people. May His special joy attend everyone of us as we anticipate our Savior come to earth to share our lot and save us from our sins.
Pastor Daniel Hyeon spoke to us for the first time as a member of our congregation and pastoral staff this last Lord's Day. He immediately referred to trends these days in social media discussions. On Facebook, Instagram, and elsewhere people ask each other: was 2020 a complete disaster? We all are familiar with seeing restaurants obliged to close their doors, with public parks being closed, with jobs held by neighbors, friends, and family being lost left and right due to the Covid-19 induced economic recession. We all remember the two wildfires that threatened many homes recently in Irvine and forced many church members to seek shelter for the night elsewhere, even at church!
So, why did our loving God let all this happen in 2020? What is in store for our personal lives for 2021?
Pastor Daniel proceeded straightaway to address these concerns. He took us back 2000 years to the Gospels that warn of tumultuous events:
We read from the Gospel of Matthew chapter 24 verses 6 through 8: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”
We also read Luke 21:10-11, 25 “Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven....There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”
So, why would our loving God allow all this? Pastor Daniel warned us that God allowed it not that we should be crushed by judgment, but because our sins are growing and growing. The sinning in the home, the sinning outside the home...even sinning in church. Not is not just the sin of unbelievers but also the sin of believers.
Our God is a just God and being a just God He must judge the world accordingly. Heedless of this, many trample on the cross without fear in their eyes.
We read from 2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
Reread the above verses. Really now: doesn't that situation look and sound too familiar to each of us from our daily experiences of the world all around us today – right now?
But Pastor Daniel cautions us that we, each of us, are called to be different...growing not in sinfulness but in godliness. Yes, it is hard to keep faith in these worldly sinful surroundings but...if we cherish Jesus Christ and His word we will be completely excluded from the coming judgment. God will deliver us as He delivered Daniel's friends from Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace . Jesus came the first time 2000 years ago to save us and in so doing to demonstrate God's love. He is coming again, as we know from Scripture. In His second coming He will be as judge not as savior. He will, as it were, segregate sheep from goats, wheat from chaff. Non-believers and fake believers out will be segregated from the small minority of mankind who are true believers. As we read in Matthew 22 verse 14 “many are called (to the “wedding feast), but few are chosen” (actually make themselves presentable to attend through their belief and matching conduct.)
What of each of us, then?
If we truly, believe, keep on believing, and continually behave as if we really do believe, then the caution we receive about the elect few of God is our confidence...not of our time in this world but from the Word. We read in Ecclesiastes 7:1 “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.”
Since we know from Scripture above that in God's good time all will be destroyed, we ought to live holy lives not fearful but confident of deliverance from whatever may come. We repose no confidence in anything of this world, a place of temporary sojourn for each true believer.
Remember the part of the Gospel of John where Jesus has His interview with the Samaritan woman? Let us listen again to the conversation already underway in John 4: 21-41 “'Woman,' Jesus replied, 'believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.' The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.' Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 'Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?' They came out of the town and made their way toward him.....Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, 'We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world'”.
The Samaritan woman was completely changed. Obviously a very strong-willed, independent character, she put aside all of her past assumptions and believed. Her strength of conviction brought many of her fellow Samaritans along with her in belief.
Pastor Daniel cautioned us: though we know about Him, too often we don't really know Him. And we wind up worshipping things created by men in this world – if not jewel-encrusted figurines of wood or metal as in the ancient world, then their sophisticated, but just as false, equivalent idols (objects of fascination and desire) of today. How many there are - "must have" items - right?
The better to sum it up in stark black and white, Pastor Daniel read to us from Paul's Letter to the Galatians, chapter 5 verses 19-21 and 22-24 “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
So, we must see in this the stark need to fully renounce sin, and to recommit to a holy life by praying to God for His strength. For the primary fight we each of us must wage is not a battle against others - but a struggle against our own fleshly SELVES. In daily keeping up that struggle we each will be prepared for whatever tumultuous events have yet to come our way.