And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:5~8)
The Path to the Next Level in Spiritual Life
Many people live spiritual lives, and there are many experts in many different fields, but it is difficult to find people who say, “I am confident in my spiritual life.” It always seems that people have no confidence in their spiritual lives.
Spiritual life does not just happen; it is achieved through the passing of different levels. When one first goes to church, it seems good and refreshing to him, living according to the words of the Bible and going to church on Sundays. For the most part, people think, “All I need to do is live according to the Word of God and zealously live my spiritual life.” But the real question is how long that period will last.
People must go through the following to enter the next level. People try to go to church on Sundays, keep the Ten Commandments, give tithes, and keep from sinning when they first begin to attend church. However, it does not go very well. Then they try again, saying, “I made mistakes, but this time, I will do well.” Yet, they fail again. As they fail twice, three times, four times, they say to themselves, “I failed this year, but from the New Year, January 1st, I will do well.” Or they make up their minds and become determined, saying, “I will do well following this time of fasting and prayer,” or, “I will do well following our church conference.” They endlessly make up their minds and become determined, but they fail. When they begin to think deeply about the Bible, they come to discover that they cannot obey or follow the Word of God because they are evil by nature.
Alchemists tried to make gold during the Middle Ages. When they mixed copper with tin, brass was formed and when they saw that, the said, “Wow, this looks like gold. If we try a bit harder, we’ll have gold.” Many alchemists sold their houses to invest money into making gold. However, no one today tries to make gold. It is because they know that gold is an element, and that it cannot be made through formulas.
The biggest obstacle to Korea’s economic advancement is petroleum. Korea pays tremendous amounts of money to buy petroleum each year. Korea exports cars and computers abroad and with that money it buys petroleum. A long time ago, Korea drilled for oil in its seas in search of petroleum. It hoped for petroleum and invested much into drilling, but no petroleum was found. Now Korea no longer drills but imports petroleum although it is extremely expensive.
Likewise, in spiritual life, when one discovers that he cannot do good, he puts his efforts to do good to rest.
To Will Is Present with Me, but How to Perform that Which Is Good, I Find Not
Genesis chapter 6, which speaks about the time of Noah’s flood, says, “I will destroy man from the face of the earth; both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air.” Why did He say this? If there was good or righteousness inside of man, God would not have to destroy man. However, God says in verse 5,
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
Man, in the eyes of God, is not sometimes good and sometimes evil, but the thoughts of his heart are only evil continually. Hence, no good can come from us. Nevertheless, Satan deceives us. As Apostle Paul said in Romans chapter 7, there is no good inside of us, but we have the heart to want to do what is good. Thus, we try to do what is good, and it seems to a certain extent that we are doing good things. However, that is only like the efforts of the alchemists trying to make gold.
God said that there is no good inside of man. Perhaps you feel full of complaints about this, but if God says that there is no good in you, then there is none. If He says there is no righteousness in you, then you do not have righteousness. Yet, Satan says, “No, you are good. You helped that person last time. You provided relief for those other people. If that’s not good, then what is? Just try a little harder. Then all will be well,” and deceives you. Therefore, people try and labor to do good.
In a certain village in the African jungle, a chief was passing by when he saw children playing with a baby leopard. The chief was stunned.
“Isn’t this a baby leopard?”
“Yes, Chief, it is.”
“It must be put to death!”
The chief picked up a spear to kill it, but immediately the children stepped in his way.
“Chief, don’t kill him! This leopard has never even tasted meat. It has only had porridge. He’s really gentle.”
The baby leopard was indeed gentle. The chief then simply stared at the leopard then walked away. Afterwards, the children fed only porridge to the leopard, and the leopard was still very gentle even though it had grown into an adult. It was wonderful because all other animals would run away from the children when they would enter the jungle with the leopard.
One day, one of the children was running in the jungle when he fell, cut his knee open, and started to bleed. The leopard quickly ran to wipe the blood away and began to lick the blood. But as he tasted the blood, he began to suck the blood. Then the look in its eyes changed, and with its paws it tore open the child’s chest. The children did not know why the leopard did so, and it leaped onto and killed the other two children who were following behind.
“Leopard, what’s wrong? Leopard, what’s wrong?”
The frightened cries of the children echoed out, but it inevitably became silent.
The leopard seemed to be gentle when it was fed porridge, but its true, the violent nature within was never gotten rid of. It was an illusion to think that the leopard was gentle. This is how it is with man. It seems that we have become good when we keep the law and do good things. On the other hand, the nature of sin that’s inside of us has not been eliminated. That is why filthy, evil, and lustful thoughts still come from us.
The reason God wanted to judge man with water at the time of Noah’s flood was that there was no good inside of man. If there was a way man could have become good, God would not have punished man. This is what Apostle Paul says in Romans chapter 7.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. (Rom. 7:18)
Because man commits evil things, he has the heart to long for goodness. All people have the heart to like good and do what is good. In addition, it seems at first that people are able to accomplish that which is good; however, at the core of their heart, they have no good inside and ultimately everything falls apart. You must know that if there are those around you who appear to be good, they are hypocrites. It is because the Word of God has said that there is no good inside of man.
The Reason We Seek the Grace of God
Spiritual life does not work out until this has been realized. Korea must import petroleum because it cannot produce any. Likewise, in spiritual life, you must receive goodness because there is no goodness inside of you. One incurs greater losses the more he tries to find petroleum in Korea. Likewise, the more you try to do good, the more the wicked image of yourself is revealed. Because there is no goodness in us, we must gain goodness. From where do we acquire it? We must gain the goodness of God, the righteousness of God, and the grace of God.
I was once riding in a car in India when it came to a stop at a red light. Then a person on crutches limped his way to me. I could not speak Hindi, so he gestured that he was very hungry and that he needed some money to buy something to eat. He sincerely signaled to me that he would like some money. But I gestured to him that I was sorry and that I did not have any money. Then he again entreated me to give him some money because he was so hungry. He entreated me about three times this way, but I could not give him any money. Right then a miracle happened. The begging man all of a sudden picked up his crutches and walked away. He was not a lame man. He was only limping to appear lame so he could beg from people. So I joked, “I made a miracle happen.”
Who would beg if they could make money? The reason beggars beg is for no other reason than the fact that they do not have the ability to make money. This is also true with us receiving the grace of God. Grace is exactly like begging. Grace is freely received. We seek the grace of God because there is no good or righteousness in us. Therefore, the people who think that they can do good, keep the law, and please God can never reach faith or grace.
There are two kinds of people who live spiritual lives. Those who zealously do good and those who have reached the level of saying, “I cannot do good. I cannot keep the law. I cannot please God. I can only be destroyed and cursed,” ending their efforts to do something themselves. When we do not have methods and when we end our efforts to do something ourselves, we can look to Jesus Christ and gain the righteousness of the Lord. Apostle Paul said, “The just shall live by faith,” and said that he had righteousness. In Philippians it says that although he himself had no righteousness, he gained the righteousness of God.
Why Could the Others not Receive Grace?
We may appear to be better than other people, but in the eyes of God, there is no good in us whatsoever. Then what are we supposed to do? We need to gain the righteousness of Jesus. The Lord loved us and during His 33 years of life on this earth, He gave us the righteousness He achieved and put upon Himself the sins we committed our entire lives. He exchanged righteousness for sin. Thus, we need to gain the righteousness of Jesus when we come before God; not our own righteousness. The righteousness of Jesus is not gained through your labor and effort but freely gained through grace.
There were two kinds of people at the time of Noah’s flood: those who were destroyed and those who were saved. Many people think that Noah was saved because he was good and obedient to the Word of God. Not so. The Bible says, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Then from whom did Noah receive grace while the others did not? The other people tried to do good by themselves, but Noah knew that he could not become righteous by himself and that he could only be destroyed. He knew that no matter what he did he could not become righteous. Therefore, he gave up early on his trying to do good himself and left his soul in God’s hands.
“God, I can only be cursed and destroyed. I am a wicked human being with too many sins.”
Then God bestowed grace upon Noah. He said, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood,” and guided Noah. Noah then thought, “Ah, I am a person who should be destroyed, so I should make the ark!” and made the ark. Noah himself did not build the ark, but God worked through him. Everyone else laughed at what Noah was doing. They had believed in their own thoughts.
“God is going to destroy the world with water? Sure, we commit many sins, but God only said that because He wants us to realize that we are sinning too much and wants us to stop sinning. So, all we have to do is stop sinning and obey God. All we have to do is please God.”
Everyone else also thought that way.
Today is exactly like the time of Noah. God knows that there is no righteousness in us and has given us the righteousness of Jesus. We need to receive that righteousness. Only through the righteousness of Jesus can we become righteous. There is no one who became righteous by not committing sin. The Bible says there is not one righteous person, but it also says that there are righteous people. You may think, “What is this? How am I supposed to understand the Bible if it says something like this?” But saying that there is none righteous means that there is not one person who has not sinned. And saying that there are righteous people means that there are people who have become righteous through receiving the righteousness of Jesus.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (Rom. 3:23-24)
Like it says in these words, we have been justified freely. This is the promise of God; the Word of God.
Give Us His Righteousness and His Holiness
Once again, spiritual life begins at the level where you try to do good things and obey God. Then, as you try to keep the law and be good, within a year, you come to realize, “I cannot do any good!” unless you were only trying on the outside. You come to realize that you cannot keep the law. You discover how accustomed you are to evil, filthy sins; then you come to throw that path away and seek the grace of God.
People who try to keep the law rather than seek the grace of God are trying on their own and are tired and in pain their entire lives. If we were told to make a car and drive it, we would be better off not driving at all. How could we make a car and drive it? It would be almost impossible for us to make a television and watch it. It is easy to drive a car that is already made and it is very easy to watch a television set that is already made.
That is how it is in spiritual life. I cannot make a car, but I drive one. I cannot make a television set, but I watch one. In the same way, I cannot create righteousness, but I become righteous through receiving the righteousness of Jesus. I become holy through receiving the holiness of Jesus. Although Jesus lived righteously and without sinning for 33 years, he was crucified. It was because He bore our sins to give you and me His righteousness and holiness. If Jesus was crucified for our sins, it means that His righteousness and holiness is already upon us. That is why you cannot say that you are good through the good that you have done. That is imperfect. You have committed filthy, dirty, sins, but you say that you are righteous and holy through Him because your sins have gone onto Jesus and His righteousness has come upon you.
Accept into Your Heart What Jesus Accomplished
Many people, during the time of Noah’s flood, tried to do good as they stood before the judgment of God. They were all destroyed. Noah had clearly realized that he himself could not do any good and could only deny himself before God.
“God, I am a human who can only be cursed and destroyed. I leave my spirit to you.”
Right then the path of salvation from God, which was not through Noah’s goodness, righteousness, or efforts, came upon Noah.
“Make thee an ark of gopher wood.”
Loving readers, are you still trying to come before God through doing righteous things yourselves? Do you feel confident before God when you tithe, do good deeds, or pray? Do you feel ashamed to go before God when you sin and do evil things? Then you are people who go forth with your own works. Such people receive destruction.
There are many good people in the eyes of man, but there are none in the eyes of God. Jesus said, “There is only one good; it is God.” There is no one good outside of God and Jesus. Therefore, by faith we accept as our own the goodness of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us everything; His righteousness, His goodness, and His holiness. We all have the righteousness, goodness, and holiness of Jesus. Now, say, “Ah, Jesus made me righteous! He made me holy!” And when you look not at your own image but believe in what Jesus has accomplished, the power of God works inside of us.
People were not destroyed because there was no ark. People are not destroyed because there is no path of salvation. People are destroyed as they try to do good themselves. There are so many people today who do not know that God has made them righteous, so they labor to become righteous all by themselves. All who come forth with such righteousness receive destruction. You must receive the power of God; then you can truly receive the gift of salvation.
Everyone, the goodness that you have done: your own greatness, your faithfulness to God, your keeping the Ten Commandments, your fasting and praying, your good deeds–throw them all away. Receive into your heart the work Jesus has accomplished. I hope that the true righteousness and holiness that Jesus has accomplished will be in your heart so that you may lack nothing in standing boldly before God.