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2. How Can I Receive the Grace of God?

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Reading from John chapter 5, verses 1 ~ 9: After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.  And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.  When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?  The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.  Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.  And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

Because Jesus Came 

A long time ago, I tried to live a clean life.  However, since my heart was not clean, I could not do it.  One day, after my heart changed through Jesus, I no longer tried to live a clean life, but I could feel that my life had become clean.  When alcoholics, gamblers, and people who live prodigal lives come to know the world of the heart, they can easily be freed from such lives.

After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. (John 5:1)  This is how John chapter 5 begins.  Jesus went to the pool of Bethesda, near the sheep market.  Many people who were diseased and in pain were there.  If Jesus had not gone there, the man with the infirmity for 38 years would have continued to live with his pain.  After Jesus came, however, he was healed of his disease and was able to begin a new life.

Many people were in a field and were going to starve, if Jesus had not gone there.   But He went and made them full by giving them bread.  If Jesus had not gone to her, the woman taken in adultery would have been stoned to death.  She was able to live, however, because Jesus went to her.  If Jesus had not gone to him, the blind man would have had to live sightless the rest of his life.   He met Jesus and was freed from his blindness.  In this way, many things are accomplished in your lives as well.

My Father Who Stood Before Death

My father passed away when I was 31 years old.  I remember that time vividly.  My father did not believe in Jesus, but he took a lot of pride in the life he had lived.  I often urged him to accept Jesus, but he always refused.

When my father was 70, his stomach ulcer worsened and he became anemic because of the bleeding in his stomach.  His hemoglobin levels dropped to 5.7, and he was always in need of blood, even though he continually received transfusions.  One day, he vomited the blood that had pooled in his stomach.

Three of us, my father, my wife, and I, were in his room.  None of us said anything.  We were all thinking the same thing, “This must be the end.”  I spoke to him carefully.  “Father,” I said, “before you pass away, if there is anything you would like to say to us, please tell us.”   I set up a tape recorder and he uttered his last words.  “When I die, don’t fight over the little wealth that I have.  Place my tomb next to your mother’s.”  I then asked him, “Father, when you die, we will hold the funeral as you have told us to.  That is how we will care for your body, but Father, where will your spirit go?”  For a long time, Father had no answer.  He then let out a deep sigh, and began to speak.  “I want to go to heaven, but it is too late.  I have done nothing that would make me worthy to enter into heaven.”

My father was standing before death.  He did not know that death would come to him so quickly.  Death was before his very eyes, but he was not ready to face it.  He wanted to enter heaven, but he believed that he could not.  “It is too late.”  His voice was deep in despair.  He would be leaving this world in a few hours.  What could he possibly do to enter heaven?  Even if he had one more year remaining in his life, there was nothing he could do to enter heaven.  Even if he were to live 10, no, 100 years more, Father could not meet the necessary conditions to enter into heaven.

The Impossible Standard of the Lord

There are many people who think that praying zealously, tithing, keeping the law, and doing such things will help them to reach a level of goodness necessary to enter heaven.  People who believe in their own abilities try very hard, but there has never been a single person who through his or her own effort has been good enough to enter heaven.

When people fail in their lives, they try to make a comeback.  There are people who have had cancer, but faced it, fought it off, and came back.  There are people who were athletes and have broken their limbs, but have had them treated and have come back to compete.  Such things make it appear that human effort is an amazing thing.

However, no matter how zealously one lives, there is no one who can live perfectly enough to satisfy the standard set by God.  That is why people who think they can do well through their own zeal can never come to have true faith to believe in Jesus.  This is because true faith in Jesus comes about only when there is no way other than to believe in Jesus.

The Lord Who Wants to Bestow Grace

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.  In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.  For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had. (John 5:2~4)

There were many invalids lying alongside the pool.  They were waiting for the rare coming of the angel from heaven to trouble the water.  They believed that when the water was troubled, the first person to enter the pool, regardless of what disease he had, would be healed.  What does it mean to be the first one to enter?  It means that that person must excel above others.  He must be able to outperform all others, a person who has better hearing or eyesight than others to first detect the troubling of the water and then to enter in.  All the invalids had gathered at a place where they are awarded according to their abilities.

From Genesis through Revelation, God said that He wants to bestow grace upon us.  In Numbers chapter 6, verse 24, it says, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee.

Grace is not received according to one’s abilities or worth.  It is received freely.  God gave us the sunlight.  Does He give more to those who have special abilities and less to those who do not?  Does he give larger rays of sunlight to the people who work hard and smaller rays to the people who are lazy?  When God gives us light, He gives everyone the same amount whether we are good or evil.  When God gives us air, He allows anyone to breathe it.  God wants to bestow grace upon us.  He does not want to give things to us according to our abilities.  Grace is never received through ability or by doing well. The word “grace,” itself, means having compassion upon someone who is unworthy and the bestowing of things upon that person.

Jesus came to the pool of Bethesda.  There were many ill people lying alongside the pool.  Why were they there?  They believed in their own abilities.  They thought, “Although I am lame, and although I have a bad stomach disease, I can be healed if I am the first one to enter into the pool when the angel troubles the water.”  Jesus wanted to bestow His grace upon the invalids there, but there was no one who could receive that grace.

Bestowing Power Only by Grace (Grace vs. Wage)

Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the diseased, for the pitiful, and for the sinners.  The Lord has power.  The Lord has the power to defeat disease and the power to defeat death and save lives.  He also has the power to defeat sin and deliver man from sin.  However, the Lord bestows that power only by grace.

There were many diseased people by the pool of Bethesda.  The Lord went to the pool because He pitied them.  The Lord had the power to heal all the diseased people there, but there was no channel he could deliver that power through.  The Lord wanted to bestow His power by grace, but the only people who were there were people who wanted to be healed by being the first to enter the water when it was troubled by the angel.  The crowd beside the pool were all people who sought to effect some kind of result through their own effort and ability.  That approach was incompatible with God’s channel of grace.  In radio terms, they were on a different frequency.  The Lord was truly disappointed and saddened.  He wanted to heal them, but He could not.  It broke His heart that He could not heal the multitude of diseased people.

On His way back, the Lord met a lone man.  He had suffered for 38 years from an infirmity.  Jesus was pleased to come upon this lone, diseased man.  Because there was nothing the man could accomplish through his own effort, he had no desire, whatsoever, to be healed of the disease by doing something on his own.  Jesus went close to him.

Wilt thou be made whole? (John 5:6)

Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. (John 5:7)

What does this mean?  It means, “Even if the angel were to trouble the water, there would be nothing I could do.  I know that I would be healed if I were to go in, but because there is no one to put me into the pool, it has nothing to do with me.”

Many people ask me to pray for them.  Some people say to me, “Pastor, pray for me.  If God heals this disease, I will offer half of my wealth.”  Whenever anyone tells me this, I tell them straight away that their disease cannot be healed in that way.  People are surprised.  God is not a salesman.  He does not heal for the wages of doing good deeds, nor does he keep from healing in response to a person’s failure to do good deeds.  God wants to bestow grace upon us, without wages.  If a person labors to receive grace, that person will be operating on a frequency different from the one God operates on.

The Right Heart to Receive Grace 

Regardless of the diseases the people at the pool of Bethesda might have had, the Lord had more than sufficient power to heal them.  This is true not only with regard to diseases.  No matter what sin you may have committed, or what troubles or diseases you may have, our Lord Jesus can resolve all of your problems.

Jesus does not bestow grace upon us because we live our lives following the Word, nor does He do so because we are faithful, keep the commandments, or pray fervently and read the Scriptures.  Instead, we need to have the faith, “God, I cannot keep the commandments.  I cannot tithe and keep Sunday services.  If I die like this, I am a pitiful human being who can only go to hell.  God, have compassion on me.”

Today, Jesus is waiting outside the door of your heart because he wants to bestow His grace upon you.  Sadly, many people try to do well on their own, in a mistaken effort to become blessed.  They do not have a heart to receive grace, as people who are unable to do anything on their own behalf to receive salvation.  Today, in this generation, many people say that they believe in Jesus, but there are so many people who make it impossible for Jesus to do anything for them.  Ultimately, with a regretful heart, Jesus can only walk away from those people.

I cannot accomplish a spiritual life through any effort of my own.  Likewise, I will not be denied grace and my spiritual life need not go awry because I have done something wrong.   If we truly become unable, powerless people, we will come to rely on Jesus.  If I fail, I can cast aside my effort and my thoughts and place myself in Jesus’ hands.

Through the Power of Jesus

Jesus spoke to the man who had an infirmity for 38 years, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”  There was no way he could walk.  He knew he would live if he saw the troubling of the water and entered the pool.  However, no matter how much he struggled, he could never go in.  He could not walk, crawl, or roll in.  Nevertheless, Jesus said, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.”

The man thought, “What?  Are you telling me to take up my bed, rise, and walk?  I can’t walk.”  Because he was an invalid, and because he could not do anything for himself, he gave himself over to Jesus.  He pulled his leg to stand up.  Amazingly, he was able to move his legs.  He bent his back, gripped the ground with his hands, and began to stand. How was that so?  It is because the power of Jesus had taken over the man’s life.

The Two Ways of Receiving Forgiveness of Sin

Loving folks, we have all sinned. There are two ways of receiving forgiveness of sin.  I can receive forgiveness through my own effort and behavior, or if I accept that I am helpless, like the man with the infirmity for 38 years, I can be forgiven by the Lord.  The first approach is through our own effort and ability.  The second is through the grace of Jesus.  As regards receiving the grace of Jesus, not even the least bit of effort or ability on my part should have any input.  Indeed, if I am capable of effecting my own forgiveness, then I should do everything from the start.   If I am unable to do it, I should not lift a finger, but leave everything to Jesus.

If you can avoid committing sin and if by your own effort you can keep the commandments, then go ahead – be my guest.  On the contrary, however, if you are unable to live such a life, then leave everything up to the Lord and receive His thoughts, grace, and blessings as your own.

“You Must Let Go of the Mast to Live.”

A certain captain from Spain took his son to sea on board his ship.   The child had a pet monkey.  One day, the boy and the monkey were horsing around on the deck, when all of a sudden the monkey took the child’s hat and ran away.  The boy chased after the monkey, but the monkey ran back and forth.  The monkey then climbed to the top of a mast.  The captain’s son watched as the monkey as it climbed and soon followed after it.  Then he too found himself at the top of the mast.  He thought he had finally cornered the monkey, when the monkey suddenly jumped down.  Only when he looked down did he realize how high up he was, and suddenly he became afraid, started to tremble, and clung tightly onto the mast.  Soon, however, he began to lose strength.  He was too afraid to come down.

A sailor saw this.  He shouted, “It’s the captain’s son!” but there was no one to rescue the boy from the top of the mast.  The boy was pale with fear as his strength slowly failed him.  Another sailor quickly found the captain and explained the situation to him.  The captain appeared and looked up at his son.  He pulled out the pistol he had on his side and called out to his son, “Son!” “Yes, Father,” replied the son.  The father aimed his pistol toward his son and yelled out, “Jump into the ocean by the time I count to five.  Otherwise, I’m going to shoot.”

The son knew his father well.  If the father said he would shoot, then he would surely do so.  Because he would be shot if he did not jump, the son decided he had no choice.  He counted, “One, two, three,” as he held to the mast.  Then, with all of his remaining strength, he jumped off.  As soon as he fell into the ocean, the sailors immediately pulled him out and he was rescued.  The son thought that he would die if he let go of the mast, but his father knew better.  “If you hold onto it, you will die. You must let go and jump into the ocean.  That is the only way to survive.”  Through this, the father was ultimately able to rescue his son.

The same approach applies to us in receiving salvation and becoming born again.  It is not that we have to labor zealously to receive forgiveness of sin.  Even with all of our effort we cannot wash away even the least bit of sin.  That is why we must leave our lives entirely in the hands of Jesus.  Jesus does all the work of washing away our sins, and we, by faith, accept that.  The captain’s son threw his thoughts away and accepted his father’s words.  The man with the infirmity for 38 years could not walk according to his thoughts, but walked through accepting the word into his heart.  Likewise, if the blood of Jesus forgave our sins, we must throw our thoughts away and accept that by faith no matter how it appears to be in our eyes.  The devil will plant thoughts in you, such as, “You don’t have faith.  You are not saved.”  Yes, you will have many such thoughts, but throw them all away and believe in the word of the Lord.  Believe that through His blood you have been forgiven all your sins.  Believe that His death ended the punishment of our sins.

Only Through Jesus’ Works

I quietly preached the gospel to my father who was facing death.  “Father, don’t worry.  It is true, you have done nothing to go to heaven.  Jesus has done everything for you.  It is not by our works that we enter heaven.  We enter only through Jesus’ works.  Because Jesus has placed upon us all that He did, we need only accept what Jesus has done as ours.  Jesus was crucified and died for your sins.  You have only to accept the death of Jesus as your own.  Father, this you have to believe.”

As he was dying, my father heard the gospel and believed it.  He prayed, “God, thank you.  I thank you that Jesus unburdened me of all my sins and forgave them on the cross.”  The worried look on my father’s face disappeared and was replaced by happiness.  I felt that Jesus was in my father’s heart.  Shortly thereafter, my father passed away and is now with the Lord.

Everyone, believe in Jesus who was crucified for you.  Believe that all of your sins have been forgiven.  Be thankful that the Lord has forgiven all of your sins.  If you accept the work that Jesus has done and if you put an end to all of your effort to wash away your sins, the grace of God will overflow in you.

 (Pastor Ock Soo Park’s sermons are ran in the Main News Section of the L.A.Times every second and fourth Monday of each month. The page number may vary.)

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