I want to begin by telling you all my story. I met Jesus personally when I was in high school. My school was a mission school, though I didn’t know that until I started my first day of school. I was raised in Buddhist and Confucianist home. My grandmother, who loved me dearly and took care of me a lot because my parents were busy, was strong Buddhist. I went to Buddhist temple several times a year with her and saw my grandmother worship Buddha and bow to him several hundred times. And my family had at least four ancestral rites a year because my father is the first son among relatives. When my family had a rite, 30-40 relatives came to my house and made lots of food together. We gave thanks, remembering our ancestors and bowed to them. I can still remember, when the ritual began, I could smell some kind of incense burning and hear the oldest male of the family speaking an incantation. You may think it could be very weird or mysterious but it was one of the memorial services and traditional culture that I participated in, even though I didn’t believe in spiritual things. I just liked these things because the adults I loved were really proud to do this and taught the kids to do so as well.
I just guessed that there was something more hidden behind what I could see, but I wasn’t very interested in it. That was why when I became high schooler, I was angry towards my school because it was required to attend chapel and Bible class every week. I thought it was a waste of time and utterly meaningless. But God thought differently, of course. I cannot explain everything that happened to me in this short time but many difficulties and depression from my family plagued my life. So many things I couldn’t understand happened so suddenly and I couldn’t do anything to change them. I could only accept the situations but I really didn’t want to. I felt so helpless. So I continued running away from God, but as I went further away from Him, God’s calling became stronger.
Little by little I began to admit how weak I was and how I needed God’s help. I prayed to God saying, if He was really there, if He really existed then please answer my prayers. I would say things like, “If You answer this prayer, I will go church and try to believe in You.” But, isn’t that really arrogant? If my kid has huge hardships and comes to me after trying everything, then of course as his mother I would help him. But if he approaches me saying, “If you solve this problem then I try to meet you and believe you are my mother”, then isn’t it really sad for the mother? In the same way, God hears and feels this way, yet He still listened to my prayers. Although the situations didn’t change the way I expected them to, God knocked on my heart every time I knelt down to pray and He awoke my spirit. During that time, I cried a lot whenever I prayed. I can’t say it was because of grace or a loving confession. I just cried and I thought to myself, “Why am I crying again?”. Later I realized that my soul was really thirsty and desired His love and truth. My spirit already knew that my life was in His hands and that I can only find true peace in Him.
However, my faith was just a seed and grew really slow. I still had so many doubts and disbeliefs. When I felt everything was going according to me plan, I was very thankful and happy. But, if something goes bad or wrong, I tested God and doubted Him again and again. I confessed I believe in Jesus but no, he was not my Lord at that point. He was just my guest and I was still the owner of my life. He was just a helper. God was a fearful God in my eyes. I was afraid of Hime even though I heard about God’s love and sacrifice many times. I tried to love God but I couldn’t.
I struggled with my small faith as it grew among the rocky places and the thorns for several years. I felt real emptiness and meaninglessness of my life. I looked good outwardly, but I was almost dead spiritually. Every Sunday, I tried to find the reason why I couldn’t go to church. Sometimes, I volunteered to do some church work or hung out with Christians, but I was just living my life fearing God. It was a different fear from honoring him as the only God. I was afraid of His wrath and punishment. Then I began going to my first home church within the same denomination as this one. One of my friends evangelized me. I wasn’t close friends with her at that time, but she prayed for me for several months. Another one of my best friends prayed for me too.
When I started to learn about the Bible and God, little by little my eyes were opened and I could see what my purpose in life was; what God really wanted me to do. And most of all, I was really happy. I didn’t want to go home sometimes because I wanted to learn receieve more Bible study from my leader. I could understand the reason why I was so lost, even though things seemed perfect. It was because I didn’t let God guide me. It was the first year of my college. God changed my whole life. Nothing changed outwardly, but inwardly, everything was different. I finally accepted God as my Father. I started to cry again when I prayed, this time because I was really thankful. God always comforted me when I brought my burdened heart and guilt. I confessed to Him just how great a sinner I am. I confessed that I was not good enough before Him, but His answer was always the same. ‘It is okay, you are my true, loving daughter.’ I felt like He never really listened to the reasons of why I am such a sinner and so weak. He’s just happy when I come to Him and gives me His wisdom and strength.
When I go out to invite people to church or Bible study, I can see some of them are not interested in God at all. They just want to follow what this world shows them. But many of them are looking for God’s truth and are thirsty for an unchanging, unconditional eternal love, they but misunderstand God so much. The most heart breaking thing to me are the people who know God but still stay in fear of Him. They know Jesus, the Bible and pray, but they’ve never experienced God’s true love.
1 John 4:7-10 says:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
God already showed His love among us through his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. Why Jesus called Christ? Because Jesus showed us and in lived God’s love. He didn’t just said ‘serve others’ but he took action and served the most out of everyone. He did the work of a slave and washed His disciples’ feet. He, Son of God, became a slave, not of others or the world, but slave of love. This is the love God gave us first.
I have a strong belief in my path of faithcthat true authority comes from true love. As a leader or adult, we can easily force followers or younger people obey. I think there is some differences between Asian and Western culture about an obedience, but obeying authority is still important, right? Among the relationships based on faith in the church, it is more important to obey to leadership. Yes, we should have the great faith to say ‘Yes Lord’, even if we cannot fully understand or don’t want to do, but there’s something missing in this action. We call Abraham an ancestor of faith, because he showed his absolute faith and trust in God by leaving his father, family and region. He obeyed the order from God to kill and sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac. He didn’t do all of these things grumbling and questioning God, but he did these things out of love and trust in his Father. You may have more questions about the sacrifice of Isaac. If so, I invite you to come to our church and ask our leaders to have Bible study together. We have a very systematic and deep Bible study program, so if you learn one by one about almost every questions you have, it will be answered.
Anyway, as I look back my path of faith and service within this church, I realize again and again that true authority comes from true love. I follow and obey Jesus as my shepherd and Lord, because His love changed me. His love is perfect and there is no fear in Him. His love drives out fear. We love because He first loved us. Love cannot be forced, right? For example, I love my child so much and can sacrifice myself for him/her but I cannot force him/her to love me.
“Because I love you this much, you should love me at least this amount.”
No, this is not true love. Love should be built on free will. That is why God is waiting your love. Sure, He could force us to love Him. He is an almighty God and He created everything and everyone. But He waits until you realize His true love and begin to love him back. He could make us like robot, automatically programmed to love Him all the time. But, is that really true love? God gave us free will so we would love Him willingly and with all our own hearts. If you really realize His love, all of your fears towards Him will disappear. Satan always tempts us and gives us guilty feelings.
“You are not good, how you can say you are Christian?”
If we fall down again and again, stay in despair and torture ourselves, it is so sorrowful to God. He already sent His son and sacrificed Him on the cross to save us, but we choose not to believe it when we torture ourselves with guilt. We become afraid of punishment. And then we come to fear God.
Then how can we know we are staying in God’s love? First, we can know by looking from within ourselves. Then we can know by loving each other. In verse 20, it states:
20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen,cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
This love of God, should not stay only within you. If you have deep, familiar relationship with God, and you have this overflowing love, then you cannot help but share it with your brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the amazing relationship in Christ. We are all brothers and sisters.
I confess that at the beginning of this ministry, I tried to find many reasons why I couldn’t do this ministry successfully. I am different from the surrounding community ethnically, language-wise, culturally and so on. I can write more than hundred reasons why I don’t fit in. But when I prayed about these problems very seriously…and told the Lord how I am not the right person to do this and about how we are so different this and that, God didn’t answered me. He just listened and continued to watch what Pastor and I were doing. We kept making many mistakes and felt so tired sometimes or disappointed. When those times came, I went to God and said again, “Look Lord, I told you”. I said we are not good for this church.
But later, God revealed to me that His word and His love can overcome everything, every boarder and weakness. Only thing we should do is obeying him sincerely, with His love overflowing in my heart. You know, sometimes I still have difficulties with the cultural differences between myself and the members. But, it is not my fault or their fault. It is just differences between people. Even a husband and wife have arguements because they are different, even after 30 years marriage. So now my prayers have changed. God opened my eyes that how this community needs His love, His healing and unconditional serving. I don’t mean all this to say that we are doing great and there’s no problem, no. We are still very insufficient and have many obstacles. But because of these reasons, we pray more and show God’s love as much as we can. When I feel I cannot love, God always pour out His love and grace endlessly.
Let’s conclude this message today with verse 7:
7 Dear friends, let us love one another,for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Loving Father, thanks for allowing us to be here today worship you and glorify your name through this time. And I thank You for allowing me to share how great your love is. Please let us remember your unconditional eternal love through Jesus Christ, and follow you every day more and more. Let us be in Your true love that drives out fear, so we can stay in Your peace and have abundant life. We thank you and pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.