God’s Work is Done Through the Church
There is something that is very important, but is neglected because it is so close to us – this is the church we dwell in. The church was set up by Jesus. When Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Jesus said to him, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Mt 16:18). The church was built on a foundation – this is the faith which acknowledges that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of living God.
What does the church do? The answer to this question can be found in Jesus’ words to Peter, “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19). When we apply these words to today’s circumstances, we understand that Jesus gave the keys of heaven to the leader of the church, and in a broader sense, to all churches.
Jesus entrusted the matter of heaven, eternal life, and salvation over to the church. He promised to actively support the decisions the church makes on earth about these problems. According to the principle Jesus laid down, the church’s decisions are heaven’s decisions, and the church’s judgments are seen as heaven’s judgments. Likewise, the role of the church is absolute in regard to God’s work. God’s work does not belong to an individual, and it cannot be done by one person either. Salvation is given to each person, but God’s work is certainly done by the establishment known as the church.
Each Saint Works in the Institution Known as the Church
Many people have a misunderstanding about the church. This misunderstanding causes a lot of problems: it is the idea that the church should be run by the idea of democracy. It is easy for people to misunderstand this because salvation depends on an individual’s choice, and the reward each person gets in heaven depends on his or her deeds. But if an individual believes that his or her emotions and ideas are the priority in church life – this is nothing but a misunderstanding about God’s will.
The fact that we are saved means we are free from sin. Some people say, “Since I am free from sin, I’m going to live as I please.” But we must realize that though we are free from sin, we are simultaneously slaves of righteousness. The Bible says, “For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.” Likewise, we received the chance to offer our bodies for the church’s work and fulfill holiness (Rom 6:17-21).
As slaves of righteousness, we do not do God’s work to please ourselves, nor can it be done as we wish. Nevertheless, God’s work deserves to be done with joy, and voluntarily. This is because this work originally needed to be done in heaven. Consider how sanctified a person will become if he takes up the work of heaven? Furthermore, the fruit you gain by this work does not belong to the world but belongs to heaven, and the final result is eternal life (Rom 6:22-23).
When we do God’s work, we should not assert our own ideas. God’s work is done systematically within the institution and order called ‘the church’. In a narrow sense, it is done within each church, and in a broader sense, it is done within the larger group and association of churches. In a larger perspective, we can say that all churches in the world work under the umbrella called ‘Christ’.
As members of the church, we must be very careful with something to do the Lord’s work. Each of us should assess our positions objectively according to the faith God gave us, and not consider ourselves higher than we actually are. A body has many parts, and they must coordinate without conflict if the body is to function as a whole. Likewise, we must cooperate with each other with the gifts God gave us to make the work of the church succeed. To do this, we have to first love and respect each other (Rom 12:3-8).
Let’s Act in Love
Saving souls, building up people’s faith, healing the sick, and driving out demons are all the work of heaven. The Lord entrusted all of this to the church. Therefore, the church’s work itself gives us spiritual fruit. If we know clearly this, we must quickly act and not merely raise our voices. We should not delay the work God entrusted to us, and start bearing fruit by our deeds.
If the fruit is to be more than just an empty head of grain (which is an outer layer), we must act in love. Even if others do not think you are great or think you have outstanding spiritual power -you must not abandon love. Acting in love means giving your sacrifice. Some people may not be used to a life of sacrifice. But this does not justify a fruitless life of faith. We must fulfill the work God entrusted us – even if we have to forcibly learn how to act in love.
Sungrak Church achieved growth in its early days, which can easily be called “explosive”. What was the secret of this growth? Church members at the time considered finding individual souls and taking care of them as a part of their lives. This was very different from how modern people lived. Modern people say, “If you do not follow me, only you will suffer loss” and only look forward to their own lives. But church members did not mind laughing and crying with others in adverse circumstances to save just one soul. If a soul was saved this way, the rest of his family ended up attending church. But church members had to pour unimaginable amounts of energy to do this.
Healing the sick was never easy. Church members first listened to believers’ complaints and then soothed their bitterness. People who were hurt in the outer world opened their hearts when they saw that church members listened to their circumstances and cried with them. So they finally gave themselves to Christ and experienced great change in spirit and body. This was only possible because church members shared their spiritual and fleshly burdens.
God is with Families who Devote Themselves to the Church’s Work
None of the church’s work is fulfilled by itself. It was the same with the events in the Bible, and this easily escapes our attention. One example is when Israel came out of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. Israel did not seek the Red Sea just to go on a vacation. They were exhausted from leaving the homes they were accustomed to, and walked a long distance without eating or sleeping. Since the Egyptian soldiers chased them and the Red Sea blocked their path, all the people trembled with fear. Their suffering before the Red Sea opened was by no means ordinary.
What about our Lord? He did not suddenly die from an accident after living a comfortable life. As soon as He entered public life, people began to hate Him; and as time passed, this hatred became violent. He always felt the threat of death and suffered all kinds of grief. Even the people who welcomed Him with shouts of “Hosanna!” later abandoned Him and chose the murderer Barabbas instead. He had to be flogged until His flesh tore, go up the hill of Golgotha while carrying the cross, and shed all the blood and water from His body until His last breath. We are those who gained faith by this sacrifice. The faith we gained did not appear by itself after we decided to live uprightly. It is the faith given by God, it is the faith exchanged for Christ’s suffering.
When Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?”, Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, even though he did not know that Jesus would suffer. We have a greater faith than what Peter had at that time. This is because we have the faith which knows Jesus, who suffered. Since we have this faith, the church became a member of heaven and became a spiritual domain delivered by God – just like a mother’s womb. In the same way, the Lord’s suffering resolved our burdens. It is now our turn to resolve the burdens of many people, since we are the church of Christ. Shouldn’t we work hard for this until our body breaks, suffer as much as possible to fulfill it until we can no longer be healed, and finally leave this world in peace?
In a busy environment like today, when apartment doors are closed shut, selfishness is at a high, citizenship is low, and everyone attacks each other by their own standards, it becomes much harder to maintain our faith life – not to mention doing the Lord’s assigned work. The sacrifice and efforts asked of the church is greater than ever.
What the whole church must first do is unite and pray. There is no special trick to having your prayers answered. Families who often have their prayers answered have something in common. It is that they serve the church with all their heart, like they made a blood alliance with the church. Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (Jn 15:16). If we want to be answered for anything we ask, we must always bear fruit. Then what is this fruit? When we consider that Jesus said this while emphasizing love between saints, this is none other than the act of love.
Of course, families who sincerely love and serve the church sometimes do not have their prayers answered and they go through troubles. But we should not give up when going through the gloomy tunnels of life. On the contrary, this is when we must patiently wait in faith. God may decide to pay us back with something greater. Even if your prayers are not answered – if you stand firm in faith – you will experience God working in a way greater than you expected.
Even in the outer world, people who does not take responsibility for themselves and only seek to gain things from others do not have a good reputation. How much more is this so for God’s work, since He examines people’s hearts. We should not just try to gain things from God, but should have holy deeds. The prayer of the person who has holy deeds is so powerful that it not only brings abundant answers, but it strengthens the faith of the one praying beside him. The more people there are like this, the stronger the church will be, and the more God will support our work.
Though strong organization and a faith life based on love and spreading encouragement – the Lord’s church should save souls, heal the sick, fight against poverty and overcome hardships. To do this, people must lower themselves and rush to help weaker families. We must serve people sincerely to the point that we can touch their hearts. When someone is being tempted or suffering from sickness, we might not be able to cast out demons and heal the sickness. Then we should at least help them go to the hospital. We must bear other people’s suffering in our actual lives. When we do this, God will also support us from heaven.
All the Saints Must Become One
We must join together in prayer and completely fulfill the work the Lord gave to the church. Though we only used to pray for ourselves and our families, we must now pray first for the church. We must pray so that issues bringing trouble to the church can collapse, and also pray for the overseer, who nurtures and guides the church of God. Even if you do not have time to pray for yourselves and your family, do not stop praying for the church and its overseer. God will surely remember such people and lift them up at the right time.
We must share our love and encouragement with the saints so that they can gain strength to overcome the world. When the saints love each other, worldly people will realize that God loves those who are in His Son, just as God loves His Son. They will also want to enter His love. Therefore, all of the church’s saints must become one (Jn 17:22-23).
We need discipline to do this. We must control ourselves when talking with others at church. When we talk to others, we must give up the secular habit of lifting ourselves up, and practice humbling ourselves and comforting others. Those who are used to salty food need constant practice to adjust to less salty food. It is the same with humbling yourself when talking to others. The best place to practice humbling yourself is when you talk with your family. So you must not ignore your husbands, wives, parents and children. You must realize that your wife or your child can be vessels that God choses to bless your family, and cherish them.
Let us surely believe in the Lord, who helps our faith and lives. We are the church. We are people who have been assigned duties from heaven. We have the keys of heaven. Let us fight together with all of our strength.