HOW CAN WE MEET GOD?
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) Many people are wondering about this without knowing where or how to meet God. Whenever I ask church-goers if they have ever met God, they say that they met Him when they were cured of a disease, when they saw something strange in their dreams, or when they felt they had some kind of moving experience. They each met God in a different way. But, what is the Word talking about when it tells us how to meet Him?
John 1 says that the Word is God. All parts of the Word stand for the character and the will of God. That's why meeting Him in the Word is the best way to meet the true God. By analogy, when we make friends with someone, it is not possible to know everything about them. The more we meet and the closer we become, the more we come to know them. Without the first meeting, however, it is impossible to know them at all. The same formula could be applied to the relationship between God and us. We have to meet Him first in our hearts and get to know Him more and more through fellowship with Him. The first meeting should be also made through the Word because He placed the way in the Word.
Without knowing this fact, people are trying to meet Him in other ways. Through speaking with tongues, they try to believe that they have met God. When they shed tears over something that moves them, they think they have met Him. But all those things are only momentary and cannot lead to continuous fellowship with God. Only through the Word we can meet Him.
I met Him myself in the Word when I was an army officer. I taught and led the choir and Bible study at the camp church. One day on my way to work, I came across a man who asked me if I was born again. I had known him since I met him at the meeting of 'the night of a grain of wheat', where he had played the saxhorn. I said 'Yes' and told him how it had happened, but he said that I was not born again. Because he had spoken of something I had never heard about, I asked about him as soon as I arrived at my office. A friend of mine advised me to be careful of him, saying that he was going to the church of 'the righteous'. Those days I was teaching students that we were sinners, and used to sing the hymn 'A sinner thanks God'. I was all gooseflesh at the sound of 'the righteous'.
But I decided to discuss it with the man because I had gotten to know that the pastor of the church he attended also had a broadcast ministry. When I listened to his sermon on the radio, it shook my belief. At that time, I was troubled since I had heard in a sermon from my pastor that we should prepare for heaven. I was not sure if I could go to heaven. One of those days, I raised the courage to ask my pastor how I could go to heaven. To my surprise, he said to me, "I thought you, Mr. Kim, had such good faith." I had asked the question despite my shame, only to get such a meaningless answer. And I fell into even deeper doubt of my faith. I agonized over whether I could be lifted when Jesus came back, thinking the day was close at hand. About a month after the man asked if I was born, I visited his church with him. But because I couldn't still accept the word 'the righteous' I picked out verses saying there was no one righteous such as "There is none righteous, no, not one," and remembered all of them to make as my weapon when I argued with him. I wrote them down on a small pieces of paper in case I forgot. As soon as our argument started, I told him what I had been preparing for about an hour without giving him any chance to talk.
In the middle of my attack, I heard someone say, "He doesn't know what he's talking about. He should just be quiet and listen." I was so absorbed in my talking that I didn't notice anyone else there. One of two women who were peeling garlic nearby had spoken. The moment I saw them, I lost my train of thought and had to stop. Then the man, who had been listening to me without a word, opened his Bible and began to talk. He placed his Bible before me, upside down for him, and read from it, occasionally glancing at me, and not making any mistakes at all. It amazed me, because I used to stammer when I read the Bible even right side up. He even found the verses he wanted without flipping back and forth. He could, with such ease, found the verses that I had tried to find. I checked his Bible to see if he had marked only those verses, but there were lines all over the Bible. It doesn't seem surprising to me now since I have read the Bible so many times. However, it seemed something incredible, and I thought he was a 'doctor of the Bible'.
As the conversation went on, I kept saying, "My pastor taught me this, my church taught that, my denomination announced this, according to my knowledge," and so on. But he reminded me once in a while, "Look! The Word says this. You believe in the Bible, don't you?" I kept on talking about what I knew. But I felt that my argument was losing power and it struck me that he was a man who knew something about the Bible. Because my spirits were dampened, I started to listen saying, "I didn't know that. But you are right. The Bible says that."
From then on, I listened with an open heart to the gospel as it is written in the Bible. It was about the end of November, 1985. I was awe-struck that I finally understood the true meaning of the hymn that said, "Look at the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world." I had always sung it without knowing that the message was for my sin. At last I could be free of the bridle of sin, which I had thought impossible. Finally, God could settle down in my heart. God must be met in this way in the Word. Why? Because the Word is God.
THE FAITH OF ANDREW AND PHILIP
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)
It is Jesus Christ who became the Word in flesh and came to this world. He came here to accomplish what had been promised in the Old Testament. He lived as the Word says and died as the Word says. He was the Word itself. God sent us Jesus to let us find out about Him through Jesus.
Man has two kinds of eyes + one for the world of flesh and the other for the spiritual world. Since Jesus was the Word with flesh on, man could see the two kinds of worlds through Him. One is His flesh, and the other is the Word, the true nature of which resided within Him. If we believe in Him, He is God, the Word. In John 1:3, it is said that all things were made through the Word (Jesus Christ). Jesus, no less than the Creator Himself, having given up all the glory of heaven, came to this world to save us from sin.
That is why it is extremely important how we see Him and how we believe in Him. "One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messiahs, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus..." (John 1:40-42). This is the verse in which Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus. Peter said He is Christ. Andrew said that He is God, Christ who came in the form of flesh to this world to save men from sin.
Philip, however, was different. "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did writed, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?..." (John 1:45,46). He said to Nathanael that He is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. He was right when he said, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote." However, he also said at the last part that Jesus was the son of Joseph. Man took the place of God. Jesus was the Son of God, but Philip looked only at the flesh of Jesus because he saw Him through the eyes of flesh. Nathanael who heard of Jesus through Philip, also responded to his preaching in such a doubtful way that he asked, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" He doubted Jesus while Peter, who heard the gospel through Andrew, became a precious apostle later.In John 6, we can also find a similar case.
"When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little." (John 6:5-7)
Philip, when asked by Jesus, concluded that two hundred denari worth of bread was not sufficient for them. He always had a lack of faith due to the lack of God, the Creator, in his heart. David wrote in Psalms 23, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." This lack arises where there is no God. Lots of people think they believe in God, but actually they are pursuing their own thoughts. Whenever a believer says, "I am in lack of ..." when he is asked, "Do you live by faith?" he is a Philip.
Now let's check what Andrew said. "One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, saith unto Him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them what were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would ...Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten." (John 6:8-13)
Andrew tasted the work of 'left over'. Our faith should be like this. When Andrew took two small fish and five loaves of barley before Jesus, Philip must have thought Andrew stupid. On the other hand, Andrew, who believed that nothing is impossible with Jesus, could take small things to Him. He believed that Jesus can do anything without any difficulty. God works through believers like Andrew, and the work is always abundant and more than we can eat.
Like Philip who walked with Jesus but did not know Him because of his own thought, many people these days read the Bible without understanding its meaning. There is a way of salvation and of knowing God in the Bible. But people are far away from salvation even though they keep the Bible near them. Even long time believers have faith which is lacking something. Just as they think of Jesus as the son of Joseph, so they taste nothing but the surface of the Bible. Just before Jesus was crucified on the cross He said to His disciples, "...I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him." (John 14:6,7). When Philip heard this, we find that he asked Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus reproached him, saying, "...Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9). Here we see the lack of faith in Philip. Because he could not see the spiritual world that Andrew saw, he still felt that something was missing.
Now why could Philip not see the world that Andrew saw? It is because he could not find himself wicked and useless in nature, and could not deny himself. Unless one recognizes what one is, one cannot but believe the thoughts of the flesh + in Philip's case 'the son of Joseph' + and cannot escape these thoughts. Jesus loved him so much that He went so far as to dig up Philip's doubt as a test, and wanted to correct it. However, Philip didn't have the spiritual eye to see God's power.
BREAD OF FLESH AND BREAD OF LIFE
John 6 describes how Jesus went to a mountain when the multitude who had eaten the bread and fish tried to take Him by force to make Him their king. Why did He do that? Because He knew why they followed Him."Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6: 26)They thought they could satisfy their flesh by following Jesus. But he did not want to give them anything which belongs to flesh; rather, he wanted to give Himself, which is the bread of life. And so He did not make bread any more, but instead talked about the plan that He would be torn apart to sustain their lives.
"And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6:35)
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:51)
But nobody listened. Why? While people wanted to get 'the bread of flesh', it was 'the bread of life' that Jesus talked about. They judged Him through their own eyes of flesh.
"The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?" (John 6:41,42)
When I was working for a church in Yeosoo, Korea, there was a prayer house near my church. It was so close to my church that I could peep into the house when it was open. A female minister in a white robe was hitting the people or practicing acupuncture, a drum beating in the background. Many people these days are looking for Jesus for their flesh. There is something wrong in that while they should fill their minds with Jesus, they try to satisfy their flesh. That's why they cannot understand the Word, and say to themselves, "Is he the Son of God? I think he is a son of Joseph." Even His own disciples murmured, "Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6:60). They could not understand what Jesus said. People are inclined to think that He could have made bread and given it to us. Should He have made a speech that was so hard to understand? However, Jesus kept on saying, "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63). "From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him." (John 6:66) Eventually, not only the multitude who followed Jesus, but His own disciples did leave Him; and they followed Him no longer. Those who wanted Jesus as their king did not like Him saying that He was the bread of life. They did not follow Him for the Word of life. There was a difference between what they wanted and what Jesus wished to give. Finally, only twelve disciples remained. Today, those who say they want the Word do not believe in the Word. If we believe in the Word, we can accept it under any conditions. But many of them are trying to find God in absurd places. Their own thoughts prevent them from accepting the Word as it is.
"Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." (John 6:67,68)
When Jesus asked His disciples if they would go away, Peter gave Him the right answer. He was a man who had experienced the everlasting Word. When did he do that? Peter experienced that the word of Jesus is the word of the living God on the day when he met Jesus while he was fishing in the sea of Galilee. He was working hard for nothing, until Jesus made his net almost burst with too many fish. He experienced that His word is a living word of God. And he found himself a sinner before Jesus (His word). And he followed Jesus, leaving his boat and family behind.
One of His disciples was controlled by Satan, however. "Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil? He spake of Judas Iscariot the son of Simon: for he it was that should betray him, being one of the twelve." (John 6:70,71) Judas Iscariot was the man who was used to crucify Jesus on the cross. Why was he used for the job? Let's think of Mary who was used for the birth of Jesus. She could not at first accept His birth because she was a virgin, but she followed God after she heard, 'Nothing is too hard for the word of God.' What about Judas Iscariot? He was different. When Jesus gave him bread with saying, "The one to whom I shall give a piece of bread will betray me," he should have accepted the word, giving up his own idea as Mary did. But he left Jesus and sold Him.
The reason he had to be used to sell Jesus was that while he was following Him, he was not absorbed in what He did and the word of everlasting life. While Peter found himself a sinner and fell to His knees, and Mary accepted the word, Judas Iscariot kept a hard heart between him and the word.
God appears before us through the Word. He wants to carry out His work through it. So anyone, no matter how wicked he may be, can be born again and lead a totally changed life if only he would give up his own thoughts and accept the Word. But like Judas, many people will not accept the Word. They may find out who they are and get some prick through the Word but they normally close their minds and ignore it. They got minds like those of Judas.
True faith comes from the Word. That's why a man like Philip, who was caught in his own thoughts and calculation, cannot taste the world of God. Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent." (John 6:29). But, people try to do something good for God without thinking of, listening to, and accepting the word. True belief in God is to believe in the Word. When we believe in the Word, it will lead our lives regardless of what we are.
Now, we shouldn't search for God in the wrong places. We should follow the Word of life as the eleven disciples did, not the way five thousand did for the flesh. The way we can meet God is a narrow one, but it is the way to the truth.
When people pray, they say, "Holy God!" Holiness is one of God's characteristics, which means the complete separation from sin. Accordingly, holiness also means that He cannot accept any sin at all. We can not stand with sin before God. The Bible calls believers who will inherit heaven saints. That means they are holy people. As most of you know, the reason Jesus came to this world was to redeem our sin so that we can stand before God.
NOW FORGIVE US
"And they sent a messenger unto Joseph, saying, Thy father did command before he died, saying, So shall ye say unto Joseph, Forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin; for they did unto thee evil: and now, we pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him." (Genesis 50:16,17)
Now Joseph's brothers are begging forgiveness of Joseph. What kind of sin is it? Joseph was the eleventh son out of twelve. When he was a mere boy in Canaan and his brothers heard of his dream saying he would have dominion over them, they wanted to kill him. But some of them opposed the idea, and finally he was sold to Egypt for twenty shekels of silver. Joseph wept before his brothers who were begging forgiveness of their sin. Why did he weep when they were begging? Let's take a look at Genesis 45.
"Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life ... So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me ... a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt." (Genesis 45:5-8)
Joseph was sold to be a slave in Egypt, but he eventually became a governor over all the country by interpreting the dream of Pharaoh, the Egyptian king. As he had dreamed, there had been a rich harvest for seven years in a row, and then bad years for another seven years. In the cities he stored huge amounts of food gathered during the good years for the bad years to come. People outside of Egypt became short of food, so they came to Egypt to buy food. Among the buyers were Joseph's brothers, and they came to meet him.Genesis 45:5 is what Joseph said to his brothers when he met them. When he was put in control of Egypt as he had dreamed, he recognized that God had accomplished His will. He understood that it was not his brothers' but God's plan that had brought him to Egypt. He asked his brothers not to worry about their sin any longer because God had planned it.
But they came back and begged again when their father, Jacob, died several years later. While Joseph had forgiven their sin already, they still did not believe him. As soon as Jacob died, the sin rooted deep in their hearts came up again, and they had to ask for forgiveness again for fear that Joseph should avenge himself. Joseph wept. Why? He knew his brothers had lived with unresolved sin in their hearts for such a long time because they did not trust him. It is said these days that people believe in God with sin at the bottom of their hearts. They are hiding their sin behind their backs. Since we cannot see inside others, we sometimes say, 'Somebody is so faithful.' In many cases, however, they are living with wickedness and dirty things in them. They don't like to have their good acts looked into because of the dirty sin in their hearts. Like Joseph's brothers who had lived under the protection of their father, people depend on their good acts until the fear of sin falls on them.
They cannot get away from sin at all, unless they resolve the sin rooted in their hearts. If we paint a color on top of another without erasing the first, the old one will come out when the new color peels off. God is holy; He cannot accept sin, and sees our hearts, not our works. Our sins should be cleansed before we stand before Him.
Everyone knows that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. There are, nonetheless, many people who are begging forgiveness of sin without tasting of God's grace. They believe this is the best they can do. Most of them are not interested in what Jesus said, and are just asking for forgiveness of sin. Jesus cries for them. They are the men who are giving Jesus pain. They are unbelievers who don't pay attention to the Word. Too many people belong to this group.