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Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:17~19)
True Repentance; an Absolute Necessity in Spiritual Life
Upon Discovering that My Nature is Dirty and Evil
I often saw God changing my heart in my spiritual life. In the past, I considered all of my thoughts to be correct and pursued whatever I judged and decided upon. However, there is one thing that has changed since I have come to know God: I deeply realized how wrong my thoughts, which I had once deemed to be correct, actually were when reflected upon the Word of God.
True spiritual life is only achieved through “repentance” and “faith.” It is important to say, “I have committed theft. I have committed adultery. I have lied. I have hated others,” and turn from such sins. However, even more important than this is to discover the fact that your heart, itself, is dirty and evil. And you must turn away from your own heart.
I could not open my heart to others because I always lived with dirty, filthy, and evil thoughts in my heart. Because I thought of myself as a great person, although I was deplorable, I constantly had to hide myself. In reality, I was a filthy, dirty, and evil person, but I thought I could do good if I tried. I labored and toiled to live honestly as a good person. However, I failed time and time again. I thought, “Why doesn’t it work? This time I’ll do well,” and I put my heart into doing well. But I failed. Amidst all this, I discovered that my nature was dirty, filthy, and evil. Therefore, trying to do good was just an act to cover up my deplorable heart and appear to be good. I came to know that, in reality, I cannot help but sin. The various sins I have committed in my life were not the actual problems. I realized that I could not live according to the will of God with this wicked heart. In turn, the grace I received when I threw my thoughts away and received the heart of God was tremendous.
My Heart and Jesus’ Heart
I once was invited by the church of a leper colony to preach the Word of God there. I had never been to a village where only lepers lived. It was to be my first time staying in a leper colony and preaching the gospel for an entire week. But as the date of the conference neared, I began to become worried in my heart.
“How will I eat and sleep when I go there? Will they ask me to eat with them? Will they want me to sleep in a room with lepers?”
One day, I woke up early in the morning and as I prayed to the Lord, I thought about the problem of going to the leper colony. The Lord then gave me these words:
Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper . . . . (Matthew 26:6)
These words came to my mind, and then I thought, “The precious and holy Lord went to the house of a leper. Then why should a pitiful and lowly person like me hesitate to enter a leper colony?” My heart changed. Worrying and being afraid was my own heart. I could feel that this new heart was not my heart but the heart of Jesus.
In addition, I thought, “Lepers are not special people. You will have a cold if you catch a cold. You will have tuberculosis if you catch tuberculosis. Likewise, I will become a leper if I catch leprosy.” Before this I had thought that I was clean and the people who lived there were dirty lepers. But that difference vanished and it felt as though I could hug and kiss the lepers without hesitation. I visited the leper colony with this heart and the conference turned out wonderful. The doors of the gospel were opened to about ten churches in the leper colony and I continued to hold many conferences. I saw many lepers receiving salvation and I received much grace in my heart.
My original heart was to be distant from lepers, but the heart of Jesus was to be completely free with lepers. I, too, was able to freely stay with the lepers when that heart of Jesus entered me.
Before this happened, I labored for a long time to be good with my original heart. For a short time, it seemed as if goodness was appearing. Then, my original dirty and lustful hearts would arise. Thus, my life was always striped and spotted with filth, and I lived my life as a churchgoer feeling guilt in my conscience. I would then continue to tearfully confess my sins to God. However, one day God showed me my heart:
The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: (Jeremiah 17:9)
That was how my heart was in the eyes of God, but it was not so in my own eyes. I would acknowledge that my heart was a little filthy, dirty, and evil, but I could not acknowledge this to the extent of me being called deceitful above all things and desperately wicked by the Word of God. One day, when I took a good look at myself, I discovered that this was truly the kind of person I am. It was then that my heart and the way that God saw me became the same.
“I am indeed dirty, deceitful, evil, and lustful. And because this is my nature, with my heart, I can never live as a goodly person, nor can I please God!”
After having this heart, I was able to deny myself. As I completely denied the heart to believe in myself and all of my thoughts, I was able to simply believe in the Word of God. Then the Word began to enter me. From then on, I lived being led by the Word.
Abraham, Who Trusted in Himself
I was able to discover the clear reasons behind how the people of God became powerful people when I read the Bible. Abraham, David, Elijah, Daniel, Paul, Peter…. They all went through the process of their hearts of believing in themselves crumbling down, and they then moved into the position of trusting God throughout their lives. We can see that God began to work in them from that point onward.
God sincerely wants to work upon each and every person, but most people dwell within the frame of their own thoughts, and thus, they cannot accept things that are outside of their thoughts, although it may be the Word of God. Then one day, when they realize that they are dirty and evil and throw their thoughts away, they can enter the Word of God. God can appear and work through them because now their hearts are the same as God’s.
The scriptures we are talking about today have recorded in detail such a change in Abraham. Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees according to the Word of God. Abraham did leave his country, his kindred, his father’s house, and had entered Canaan, but his thoughts always remained within the frame of his own mind.
God appeared to Abraham when he was 99 years old and said, “I am the almighty God. Do not call yourself Abram but Abraham. I will multiply you greatly, and I will bless you so that your wife Sarah may bear you a son.”
What did Abraham do upon hearing this? He thought having a son would be impossible because he had yet to be freed from the frame of his mind. He was 99 years old, and his wife was 89 and it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. When thinking about this, not from God’s perspective, but from his own frame of mind, this was something that made no sense at all:
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! (Genesis 17:17-18)
This was purely Abraham’s thought.
Isaiah chapter 55, verse 8 tells us, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, saith the Lord. The thoughts you have now are different from the thoughts of God. If so, is it your thoughts that are wrong or God’s thoughts? Your thoughts are wrong. Nevertheless, people do not think that their thoughts are wrong. It is because those thoughts have come from what they have perceived, known, and experienced.
In his own eyes, Abraham’s answer was the only reasonable one. How could a person 100 years old have a child? Sarah was ninety. It scares us to think that a 90-year-old woman would have a son. In our congregation, from time to time, there are women who become pregnant late in their lives or give birth for the first time in their 40’s. These sisters all worry about their child’s birth. Giving birth is difficult even for young women in their 20’s and 30’s. Having a first child in their 40’s is extremely difficult. In light of that, isn’t it scary to think that a 90-year-old woman would have a son? How could she endure the difficult labor?
Abraham’s answer was very fitting when looked upon through the standards and judgments of man. This is the exact problem. Even though the thoughts you have may be normal and within the boundaries of common logic, they cannot be the same as the Word of God. Thoughts different from the Word of God are wrong.
There are many such cases when God was meeting man. It was so when God met Moses.
“Moses, I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people of Israel out.”
“No, I cannot do that.”
Moses thought of his circumstances.
“I cannot do that. I am not eloquent. Send the one whom you will send.”
“I will accomplish this work. I will send you to do this.”
No matter who it may be, Satan pulls the current of our thoughts in the direction of not being able to accept the Word of God since we have been under the dominion of Satan from the time of Adam and Eve. However, God can easily be free of the rules of man and work because God is omnipotent. God can change the laws of the seasons. He can change everything in our lives, and if He does something, then it is accomplished. But we are unable to accept the Word of God because we are not freed from the frame of our thoughts. There, the problems in our spiritual lives begin.
True Repentance Must Absolutely Come About
If the story were to end here, for the duration of his life, Abraham would not have been freed from the frame of his thoughts and he would still be living within them. However, God loved Abraham and approached him again, saying, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:19)
Right then and there, Abraham changed his heart: “This was what I thought, but I will have a son if God allows it!”
Abraham’s heart changed. That is the “repentance” which becomes the basis of spiritual life. Confessing that you have stolen, committed adultery, lied, or committed murder and turning from those things can be called repentance, but the most important thing in repentance is to turn from the heart to believe in yourself to the heart to believe in God.
In reality, we are not worthy of being trusted, but people trust in themselves because they love themselves. If you could see into your neighbor’s heart like you can your own, you would feel so disgusted that you would not want to see that person again. But since it is you, you believe in yourself again and again. You are very understanding with yourself even though you make mistakes, and you trim your outward appearance to be good even when you sin. That is why you can go on living believing in yourself. Since everyone lives this way, it is very difficult for people to see their true image. And because they cannot see their own true image, they feel that they are right and follow their own thoughts. That is why they are unable to have faith.
Repentance must occur if true faith is to be formed in you. Not merely confessing the sins you have committed, but finally realizing, “My nature is so filthy and dirty. How could good ever come from me?” Because people do not know this, they deceive themselves and think that they can do good if they make the effort. They deceive themselves into thinking that if they try to follow the truth with their dirty, filthy, and evil heart, they can follow the truth. Thus, they try repeatedly, but it never works. And every time they fail, they repent again. Then they try once again, and of course they fail. Then they try again and fail again. Even though they continue to try until the day they die, they fail. In order for true faith to come to us, there has to be repentance not just from the wrong you have done, but repentance from yourself, as a whole.
People who are conned often are conned so because they believe the conmen. Conmen speak to gain people’s trust, and their words seem credible; however, one will not trust a conman if the person knows his identity. He will not be deceived. We are being deceived by a conman named, “Me.” Although you are a liar, you believe in yourself. Although you are dirty, you think that you can be good. Although you are evil, you think that you can believe in God well. Spiritual life cannot be formed in such states.
When you one day discover yourself, no matter who you are, you can distrust and be freed from your filthy and evil self. When you have the faith to believe in yourself, you will believe in your thoughts more than the Word of God when they differ from each other. On the other hand, when you distrust yourself, you can believe in the Word of God.
You Also Need Genesis Chapter 17
When Abraham threw his thoughts away and entered the faith to believe in the Word of God, he was circumcised and changed his name from Abram to Abraham. From then on, God began to work inside of Abraham. Sarah gained faith as well. When the words that she will have a son took root in her heart by faith, the power of God was delivered, and this old woman gained new strength to conceive and bear a child.
Our spiritual life is exactly the same. You cannot create the earth with man’s wisdom. You cannot create a human being with man’s wisdom. A woman can have a child, but she cannot create one. All of this was done through the wisdom of God. When the wisdom and heart of God, which are beyond man’s wisdom, take place in you, you can have a new heart of God that you have never had before. And when you have the same heart as God, He accomplishes His will.
Even with receiving the forgiveness of sin, we cannot crawl out from the pile of sin through our own strength.
“We eat and live amidst sin. How can we be as white as snow? How can we be clean?”
With your own thoughts, you can never become freed. However, God can free us from sin. People are unable to have faith in the forgiveness of sin because they only think at their level.
“Jesus was crucified, but I sin every day. How can I be righteous? I cannot say that I am clean.”
But everything changes when they become freed from their own thoughts and reach the level of God’s thoughts. They then have the heart that God has cleansed them.
“No matter how filthy I am, who is greater: God, who washes sins, or I, who commits sin? No matter how many sins I have committed, I am clean because the power of God is greater than my sins. My sins were all washed away at the cross. I am sanctified.”
This is the heart they are able to gain through faith.
Abraham believed his own thoughts and judged everything. However, there came a time when his heart had changed. This was in Genesis chapter 17. You also need such an incident.
“I was wrong! My judgment was wrong! I cannot trust in myself! I should believe in God!”
Right then, no matter what you think, you can believe in God. The heart of God and your heart must become one in order for you to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit working powerfully.
Abraham was a man just like us. And just as he received the grace of God to become the father of faith, when you become freed from your thoughts and accept the Word of God, you, too, will become a person of faith. Then the power of God will overflow in your life.