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[John Series No.5] John the Baptist Who Made Straight the Way of the Lord

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And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. (John 1:19~23)

When the Heart of God Flows in Our Heart

When the heart of the book of John speaks of flows in our heart, the heart of God will flow in us. When the heart of God flows in us and we become one-hearted with God, special things begin to happen. I often say that electricity flows through electrical wires, running water flows through pipelines, and the work of God flows from heart to heart. But sadly, many people’s hearts are blocked from God through sin and through distrust. Suppose your heart is closed toward your wife or your husband. How miserable would your life be? Even though a couple is poor or in difficulty, they are truly happy when their hearts flow together. How great it would be if our hearts could flow with the heart of God! There is no peace in you, but you become peaceful when the peace in God flows in you. There is no hope in you, but you can live in hope when the hope inside God flows inside you. Even when you should be in pain, you can be joyful when the joy in the heart of God enters you. You become righteous even though you have many sins when the righteousness of Jesus enters you. And you become holy even though you are impure when the holiness of God enters you. In this way, spiritual life is not done through you zealously doing something. When that which blocks you from God is removed, spiritual life is automatically done and your life becomes joyful. But people do not deeply understand spiritual life and try to labor to do something well. This is the problem.

The Sadness of the Directing Pastor of an Orphanage

The book of John records Jesus Christ, but John the Baptist appears first. This is true with the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as well. John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus and always works before Jesus. Why is this? John the Baptist explained himself, saying, “I am the voice of the one in the wilderness who straightens the way of the Lord.” The way of the Lord here is talking about the path by which Jesus comes into our hearts. John the Baptist says that he came to straighten that way. Most people dream of change when they go to church. They read the Bible, pray, keep the law, quit smoking and drinking, and do good deeds. They think that if they live this way they will become good and happy. But when they actually do it, this is not the case. This happened quite a while ago. There was a pastor who I knew who saw that the children of an orphanage near his church suffered so much. He then became the director of that orphanage. There he saw that the previous director had done so many things wrong, and he thought, “I should do well.” This pastor had three sons, and he had his sons eat and live exactly like the orphans. Not long after becoming the director, one cold winter night, this pastor saw the room where children three or four years of age were sleeping and was completely shocked. The children were not wearing anything, not covered with anything, and sleeping on the wooden floor. The pastor yelled at the nurses. “What are you doing? How can you let the children sleep like this in the cold?” The nurses who watched the children answered. “Director, these children pee when they sleep. We do not have the clothes for them to change into, and the orphanage cannot afford diapers. We have no choice but to do this.” The pastor moved the kerosene furnace from his room to the children’s room, clothed the children, and covered them in blankets. To keep them from peeing at night, the pastor woke up the twenty children one by one and put them back to sleep. He was able to do this for one week. But he had so much work and he became more and more exhausted each night. Then he felt that he was becoming more and more like the previous director whom he had so hated and detested. He thought he could do well, but things were going otherwise. This was extremely disheartening to this pastor. Thirteen children graduated elementary school and had to enter middle school, but they distrusted the pastor. “You should start middle school.” “I am not going to go. I will find a job at a factory and make money.” No matter how much he explained and tried to convince them to go, they had the distrust, saying, “What pain are you gonna give me when you send me to middle school?” They were full of distrust and did not want to go to school. The pastor dreamt that the orphans would follow him and that the orphanage would become very beautiful if he would pour his heart into it, but he became exhausted after two years. He began to feel bitter toward the orphans. “I treated these children like my own sons. When I chastise and spank my children, they follow and trust me as their father. The orphans call me father, but they ultimately do not believe me!” He was grieved that the children did not believe him. He then became exhausted and ill and had no choice but to quit. Most people think of spiritual life like this pastor did. They think they can do well if they try. This pastor saw the previous director and thought, “How can a director run an orphanage like this?” But when he actually became the director himself, he, too, was powerless. He thought he could do well if he sacrificed for the children; he thought the children would follow him if he tried hard. However, when he did it in reality, he was no different from the previous director. As I was on the education committee at some prisons, I met many murderers and death row inmates. When I would meet them, I felt deeply that they are no different from me. But people do not know this very well. They say, “How could he be so evil?” without knowing the entire situation. Why do we judge others and condemn them? Because they think they are okay; they think they are different. They think they can be different. Just as Peter thought that he could not deny Jesus if he tried, people think they can keep the Ten Commandments if they try, and they think they can live spiritual life well if they try hard. Therefore their spiritual life does not work.

John Who Shouted to Repent

Why did John the Baptist come? He came to make straight the path of the Lord. Jesus was born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem in the land of Judea. That night Mary and Joseph went house to house knocking on the doors. Many people were waiting for the Messiah but when He actually came, they refused Him. They could not find a single room and Jesus had to be born in a stable. God has illustrated the heart of us people. It means that we have filled the rooms of our heart with the desires and ambitions of the flesh and there is no place for Jesus. In this state people say, “I only have to pray well. I only have to read the Bible, be faithful, and keep the law.” Why do they need Jesus if they can do all this so well? They say that they need Jesus but do not in reality. People not only have filled the rooms of their hearts with things other than Jesus, but also do not need Jesus. Therefore, John the Baptist came. He was sent to make straight the path of the Lord. John the Baptist shouted, “Repent! The kingdom of heaven is near!” Many people today repent. But they do it with their own method. I, too, went to church since I was young and was told numerous times at revivals to repent. I repented as I had been taught. “God, I lied. I hated others. I stole. Forgive me.” This is not true repentance. Therefore people repent and commit that sin again. “Repent,” means to turn around. The way they turn around changed. But if they go there and sin again after repenting, what kind of repentance is that? John the Baptist shouting to repent does not mean go sin and beg for forgiveness. It is pointing out the heart of thinking that you are good, thinking you can do well if you try, and trusting in yourself. We have to know ourselves precisely. The pastor I spoke about earlier saw the previous orphanage director as someone who did not care for the orphans and cared only for his own well being. He thought he could do well if he tried to. So did Peter. He said that though all other disciples would deny the Lord, he would not. Likewise, people think, “I am different from others. When I believe, I will believe well.” Having such thoughts is the spiritual life of trusting yourself. People who believe in themselves this way do the work themselves and Jesus has no opportunity to work.

But when we do it, it seems that it is going well when we read the Bible, give offering, and keep the law, but then it does not work out. The orphanage directing pastor later on realized, “I, too, am no better, and am a seed of sin!” Until realizing this, most people think their spiritual life will go well if they try. Thus they try and they labor. Likewise, people who try say that they believe in Jesus, but in reality they believe in themselves. Although they are truly useless, filthy, dirty humans, although they have everyday evil and lustful thoughts, people deceived by Satan think, “I am honest,” when they are a little more honest than others, and believe themselves, thinking, “I am truthful,” when they are a little more truthful than others.

Spiritual Life Begins with Repentance

Spiritual life is composed of two parts. First is repentance and next is faith. Why does spiritual life begin with repentance? First man, Adam, and Eve belonged to God’s side and one day heard the words of the serpent. They were tempted, “If you eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil you will not surely die, but your eyes will be opened to become like God.” Right then Adam and Eve’s heart left God and went to Satan. From then on, a channel of the heart was formed between Satan and man, and Satan endlessly put evil thoughts into the heart of man. From then on you think that it is you that are thinking and making decisions. But in reality, it is Satan that is putting in you endlessly the dirty, lustful, deceitful, and evil thoughts. How can man do good when his heart is evil by nature? It is hypocritical and evil to say that you love when your insides are filled with hatred. Loving because you have love in your heart is true, but saying, “I love you,” when you do not have love is hypocritical and fake. People have lustful, fake hearts but try to do good. God sees our hearts, and how can He see it to be good? The important thing is that John the Baptist came before Jesus. If Jesus just comes Himself, you all will refuse Jesus and go against Him. What kind of a person can meet Jesus? It is a person whose ways, methods, and self have crumbled down. People who are not so follow their own stubbornness and thoughts even though they meet Jesus. Therefore, they gain nothing from Jesus. People who try to witness and keep the law try to do so themselves; they do not try to receive the grace of Jesus. It seems that such people believe Jesus, but in reality they believe themselves. Therefore, God sent John the Baptist to this earth before sending Jesus to this earth. John the Baptist would point out our sin. We do not feel well when our stomach hurts or we have a fever. But what would happen if you felt nothing even though you were diseased? You will die from the disease. You have to know that you are sick and diseased for you to have the heart to be treated. Pain is necessary to know the sickness. Suppose the evil, dirty, and filthy heart arose in you and you sinned. It is not that you should labor to have those sins forgiven, but should realize, “My heart is filled with wickedness! I am full of lies!” You must know, “Such a lustful and deceitful heart arises in me because I live a life belonging to Satan! I cannot do good regardless of how good I try to be!” You then have to become freed from the illusion that you can do well if you try.

I Cannot Do it! You Have to Help Me!

When you do actually try hard, you realize deeply that you cannot do it. There is evil in you, hatred in you, dirtiness in you, and you feel that there is deceitfulness in you. If you precisely realize, “My heart is by nature evil, dirty, and lustful. How can I please God? It’s impossible!” the heart to do something yourself leaves you. You see you cannot do anything, and you have no ways. Right then you can truly seek the grace of Jesus. I am a pastor but cannot read the Bible well. Thus I often tell the Lord. “Lord, I cannot read the Bible well. Please lead me to read the Bible. I am so lost concerning the spiritual world. Allow me to see clearly the spiritual world. I cannot pray well. Help me to pray. I cannot minister . . . .” Although I am a pastor, I do not believe myself. It is because I precisely know that I am crooked, evil, and dirty. Therefore, I rely on God. I would have been ruined already if I had believed myself. Now, as a pastor, I can work because I do not believe myself and rely on God. One day I found out that the life of believing myself was a failure, that laboring to become good is not profitable to me. I found out precisely that my labor could not make my sins clean even in the slightest. Therefore, I completely took my hands off. When I used to believe myself, I tried to do all things myself. I thought I could do them well, but when I precisely saw myself, I was a dirty, filthy, evil, lustful, and a deceitful human being. Although I am a pastor, I could be this way because there was nothing I could do. If I needed goodness, Jesus had to do it for me; Jesus had to help me if I were to defeat sin. Therefore, I was able to have the faith to believe in Jesus. In my ministry or when witnessing, big and small things do not happen through me, but through Jesus. Therefore, I can rest. John the Baptist came to have us reach this level of spiritual life. If you do not meet John the Baptist, you will try to live spiritual life with your own zeal without knowing what true repentance is. Then you will ultimately fail and be in despair, but if you meet John the Baptist before meeting Jesus, John the Baptist will precisely teach you. “What you do is not good. Because you are dirty inside, even if you did good, it is deceitful in the eyes of God.” John the Baptist allows us to realize this deeply, then the faith to believe yourself crumbles down. You become empty and there is nothing to look to in yourself. Right then you will, with a truthful heart, not only with lips, seek Jesus. “Jesus, I cannot do it! You have to help me!” If you become a person who gives up on everything, but only waits for the hand of Jesus, no matter who you are, Jesus works powerfully in you. Everything man does is failure, evil, and dirty. Only the deeds of Jesus, the son of God, are holy. The whole book of John teaches this fact to us. When you precisely know this, you can throw away all of the good you have done and all of your righteousness. Right then you can have the spiritual life of standing before God with the good deed of Jesus dying and shedding His blood, the goodness of Jesus, and the holiness of Jesus. From John chapter 1 verse 19 it tells us about John the Baptist who came before Jesus.

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