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And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof. (Genesis 19:5~8)
Man Who Trusts in Himself
I have attended church ever since I was young. Back then, I did not know anything about the Bible, yet with the small Bible knowledge that I had, I just assumed that keeping the law and living honestly was doing well in spiritual life. But eventually, I felt the limits to that as I lived spiritual life. It did not work out no matter how hard I tried to do good, and I came to realize that my heart was dirty and evil. Afterwards, I received the grace of God and received salvation. I became born again not because I did good deeds or was sincere, but actually because I was evil and wicked. “I cannot keep the law anymore. I cannot do anything good anymore. I cannot please God.” This truth came strongly upon my heart one day. In other words, the heart to believe in myself came crumbling down, and amazingly, I was able to believe in God. For a long time I had a strong heart to trust in myself and I decided everything by my own standards. Thus, when the words of God and my thoughts differed, my thoughts took priority over the words of God. There was no problem when the Word of God and my thoughts were the same, but when they differed, it seemed that I would fail if I followed the Word of God. It would have been nice to follow the Word of God, but it seemed that I would go through difficulties and be ruined so I followed my thoughts. Even so, I labored to be good. I thought, “I can go to heaven if I pray, read the Bible, and live as a good person. God will look favorably upon me.” This was how I had thought. In the Bible are many conversations between God and man. Abraham, Noah, Moses, and many others spoke with God. The unique elements in all these conversations between God and man is that God always speaks as God and man always speaks from the human-centered perspective. Because man cannot see God and lives only in his own world, man appears to himself to be big. It is apparent to man that he has more power than he actually does, causing him to have unrealistic expectations on what he does.
People Intoxicated with Themselves
There were not ten righteous people in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, rather than leading more people to receive salvation, was falling more and more into sin with his family. There was no need for Lot to remain at a place where people are not receiving salvation. Therefore, the angels went to that city to destroy it and save Lot. But when the angels arrived, the people of Sodom saw that some new people had come and went to Lot’s house at night. They shouted for Lot, saying, “Lead those men out. We will know them.” It means that they wanted to have sexual relations. Lot went out and closed the doors behind him and spoke to the men of Sodom. “My brothers, do not do this. These people have come to me, but I have two daughters that have not known men. I will give them to you and you do with them as you please. But do not do this to these men.” Lot knew that they had come from God. When I first read these words I thought that Lot was very good. I saw him going as far as to sacrifice his own daughters to protect the angels and I thought, “Wow, Lot has such a blessed heart. That was why he was saved.” That was what I thought. However, as time passed and I reexamined those scriptures, it was not so. Did Lot indeed save the angels? No, he did not. It is God who is supposed to save Lot. How could Lot save the angels of God? People are self-indulgent and think of themselves as being great. They say, “I preached the gospel for God. I built a church for God,” and they live being indulged by doing something for God. There are so many people like this. This is why they cannot receive what God has done for them. This is a big problem in their spiritual life. I, too, for a long time thought that I did many things for God. I read the Bible, woke up early to pray, taught Sunday school students…. Although I had many sins, I thought that if I did even more and better works, God would look upon these good deeds and receive me into heaven. However, later on, as I read the Bible, I came to know that God does not accept anything from man because we are dirty sinners. I also came to realize that anything I do for God is absolutely useless. I came to realize that I was such a shameful and foolish being before God. You think that you do good and that you do many things for God. Anyone who thinks that he can work for God is completely intoxicated with himself. Drunken people lose their sanity and cannot think logically and think of themselves as being great. People not only get drunk with alcohol, but they often become intoxicated with themselves. People who are intoxicated with themselves think that if they try to do something, they can do well; and if they do something, that thing will go well. They feel that if they get involved, then God’s things will go well and the church will go well.
Why Was Uzzah Killed?
When David was bringing the ark into the city of David from the house of Abidanab in Second Samuel, it was carried on a new cart. As they arrived at Nachon’s threshing-floor, the oxen shook the cart and Uzzah held on to it. God struck and killed Uzzah on the spot. Many people ask me about this. “The ark would have fallen over had Uzzah not held onto it. Uzzah held the ark to serve God. Why did God then strike Uzzah?” I always give the same answer. If there is one thing that could most dent God’s pride, it would be that God survived through the help of man. If that were the case, then God would not be God. If the falling ark was preserved through Uzzah’s holding on to it, it means that man upheld God. Each time this happened, God coldly struck down the arrogant man. “I did something for God; I did something for the church; I built this church; what would happen to the church if I’m not here?” All of these are cursed thoughts.
God Is Not a Salesman
I once went to a hospital and a person there who was terminally ill said this to me: “Pastor, pray for me. If I am healed of this illness, I will give half of my wealth to God.” I replied to him, “Sir, if you do that, God will curse you.” “What? What do you mean?” “Do you think God is a salesman receiving money if He heals you? This is what God hates the most. When God gives something to man, He does not do so through wages but He wants to bestow grace freely.” Man is not qualified to receive the grace of God. God gave us our bodies, the rain, air, sunlight…. We do not pay $50 for a pretty nose, $30 for a flat nose, $20 for a pig-shaped nose like we pay extra for an air conditioning option on a car, do we? We have received our bodies through grace. God sent His son, Jesus Christ, to this earth to be crucified in order to forgive our sins. This was given to us through grace. We did not pay any kind of wage whatsoever. God is not a salesman. “I did this, so help me. I gave a tithe, so bless me.” This is what offends God the most. When a beggar is asking for alms, he must say, “If you do not bestow grace upon me, I can only starve. Have compassion on me and bestow grace upon me. Please give me some money.” This is the attitude of a beggar. If a beggar says, “I will pay you $1,000 later, so give me food right now!” That person is not a beggar but an extortionist. When we go before God, we are people who could only have been cursed and who do nothing well. Even if there is something you do well, it is nothing before God. There is nothing good you can present. That is why we must simply receive the grace God gives through His compassion for us. “God, my life ended here because I was sick, but I will be thankful if you will bestow your grace upon me and heal my disease.” Saying this is the correct attitude. “Heal me because I will pay this much money.” This is paying a wage, not receiving grace. Grace can only be grace when it does not require any sort of wage. I said to the ill man, “Sir, God is not pleased with that. Do you think God is in suffering because He has no money? I think it is good that you are offering a large sum of money, but God isn’t happy about that. God hopes that you would say, ‘I am a person who can only be destroyed. Have compassion on me and bestow Your grace upon me and save me.’ God is pleased with that.” God hates it the most when we say, “Save me since I have done good.” “Help me since I have been loyal to you.” “Bestow your grace on me because I have done this and that.” Therefore, when we come to God, we must come empty-handed, seeking grace and mercy.
There Is No Path to Salvation Other than Grace
When God was about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gommorah, He went there to save Lot and his family. Foolishly, Lot tried to save God himself. He tried to protect God. This is what God hates the most. He wants to teach us this. When God saves man, He does so without receiving any help from man. It is this way in each salvation story. The prodigal son did not become clean through doing something himself when he returned to his father. He was wearing filthy rags and returned as a starving beggar. But the father cleaned him up, sanctified him, and made him whole. There is nothing the prodigal son added whatsoever. It was 100% of the father. The filthy rags were removed and new clothes were put on him, a ring was placed on his hand, new shoes were put on his feet, the fatted calf was killed and fed to him. All of this was through the father. This is also true with the parable of the man who fell among thieves. There was a certain man who fell among thieves as he was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. A Samaritan happened to be passing that way, saw him, and had compassion on him. The Samaritan approached him, poured oil and wine over the wounds, bound him up, put him on his beast, took him to an inn, and took care of him. Then the next day, he gave two pence to the inn keeper and said, “Take care of him. If you spend more, I will repay you when I come again.” There is nothing the man who fell among thieves did to receive salvation. All he did was realize that he was a man who could only die and left himself to the Samaritan. What did the man who fell among thieves think? “The priest passed me by and so did the Levite. Unless he bestows his grace upon me and saves me, I can only die!” He only had hope in the Samaritan and looked to him. Likewise, there has to be no way other than the blood of Jesus and the grace of the Lord for us to receive the grace and mercy of God. However, people are foolishly deceived by Satan and think that if they do good and work for God, God will save them. There are so many people who, in this way, put hope in themselves. Lot’s trying to save God was all vain labor. Lot offered his daughters to the men of Sodom, but they still tried to tear his door down. Lot failed in trying to save God and God began to work from that point on. He blinded all the men who were outside. Then He told Lot to escape quickly. As soon as Lot escaped, God held his hand and led him to a safe place. Lot’s attempt to save God failed, but the salvation accomplished by God was achieved. Everyone, we are truly dirty sinners who can only be destroyed. That is why we have to receive grace. The person who has the most faith is the person who seeks the grace of God and leaves himself to God to be led by Him.
I Served for 14 Years in Prison, so Why Can’t I Go to Heaven?
I once went to Vietnam and met a pastor from an underground church. He was a person who had been imprisoned for 14 years for Jesus. I wondered how, for 14 years, he could keep his faith and not betray God. He was very admirable. However, as I spoke with him, I was startled. He believed that he could go to heaven because he kept his faith in prison for 14 years. It is something tremendous to serve 14 years, but how could that compare to the cross of Jesus? However, in his heart, his service in prison for 14 years was greater than the blood Jesus shed. “I suffered and was in anguish for the Lord here in prison. My family suffered so much. Of course I am saved.” He was zealously loyal, but he did not know the Bible. I explained it to him in detail. “Salvation is not achieved through our works. We are not saved because we do something. It is through the grace of Jesus.” He did not want to accept this. “You! Have you been imprisoned for 14 years? Try it! Do you know how hard it is? I kept my heart through this. Why can’t I go to heaven?” “No. We can never be saved by works no matter what our works are. If we could be saved through some work one hundred times, one thousand times greater, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to be crucified. However, because we cannot do it, Jesus was crucified. We are evil by nature and God has already scored us as ‘evil.’ Now we need to receive the righteousness of Jesus in order to be righteous. It cannot be through our own actions.” I saw how disappointed he became as he listened to what I said. The rich young man went away in anxiety upon hearing the words of Jesus, and this man, too, went away in anxiety because he felt he had done so much for God.
Out from Lot’s Foolishness and Hoping in God
You must have nothing when you come before God. In reality, we have nothing. However, Satan makes it seem that if we bring forth a few things we have done well and our goodness, God will accept them. Satan makes us believe in this to keep us from trusting in Jesus. Everyone, we have been categorized as evil before God. There is none righteous, no not one . . . (Romans 3:10) God is the only one who is good. That is why we must become a part of Jesus. You are good when you have the things of Jesus. Our goodness seems good in our eyes, but it is nothing in God’s eyes. Lot foolishly tried to save God by himself, but God saved Lot instead. Now let us stop foolishly trying to do something for Jesus, like Lot, in order to be rewarded. I hope that we will realize that our actions are nothing before God but are empty and deny everything of ours. Jesus said, “Whosoever will follow me should deny himself.” A person who denies himself must deny every action of his as well. This is denying yourself. You must deny yourself and accept into your heart what Jesus has done for you. Then when you put hope and faith in what Jesus has done and come before God, you can receive the grace of God and gain eternal life.