It Is Not I But God
All of us in this sanctuary must either believe in God or have the desire to do so, each in our own individual ways. So I ask you a question, “Why do you believe in God? Why do you believe in Jesus Christ? Why does one sit through the worship service in this sanctuary while others are enjoying their leisure activities or travel? Why does one make offerings or tithe despite their financial difficulties? Why does one attend the morning prayer services? Why does one continue to volunteer for church work even when one feels tired or may have had negative experiences with fellow church members? What makes one do that?”
Some of us may be anxious to raise our hands to shout our earnest answers. Needless to say the answer is: to be saved! I believe we should spare no effort, sacrifice or dedication to earn redemption through Jesus Christ, and to keep and complete it. In fact, it is not hard to find Bible passages providing the answer in the Bible. Jesus Christ spoke of the reason why He came to the world in the following passage.
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
John summarized the reason why God sent Jesus Christ to the world as such:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
The Apostle Paul appealed to the Christians of the Philippian Church as follows:
“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,…” (Philippians 2:12)
We could endlessly quote such verses from the Bible, but we could easily figure out from these verses that we believe in Jesus Christ so that we can be saved. Some of us were brought up in a Christian family, but some were not. Some bring our exhausted souls to kneel before Jesus Christ to seek redemption. No matter what the circumstances are, we may say that the reason why we walk the path of faith is either to be saved or to preserve and complete our redemption.
But, do you know that answer is not enough? Some may wonder ‘Are you out of your mind? Why are you saying that the answer is not enough?’ Please don’t fret. I remain of clearer mind than ever since I have taken the Lenten spiritual journey.
Whenever we kneel at Jesus Christ, we earnestly hope for our redemption. There is no exception. However, as we meet the Almighty God through Jesus Christ and worship Him as our Father, the focus of our faith turns to God. The more we get to know Him, the smaller and trivial our being becomes; but God becomes big and important. We realize we are nothing in front of God. We come to realize that our faith is not for us but for Him from the moment when we realize we stand before God, and we realize who He is, the One in heaven.
Imagine you are in the Sistine Chapel seeing the Creation of Adam Michelangelo drew on the ceiling of the chapel. I didn’t see the real painting yet, but it is not hard to imagine what I would feel when I see the painting. As soon as we are captivated by the painting, we forget ourselves. As such, we would forget ourselves and only worship Him and thank Him when we know who He is and realize that His presence embraces us. Then we know the purpose of faith is not to save ourselves but to know God and praise Him and lift His Name high. This is a turning point in one’s faith that everyone must experience in the course of a faithful journey.
Thus, if anyone asks you “Why do you believe God?” we should be able to answer “I believe to exalt the name of Jesus Christ who saved me,” or “to honor God who made me.” If anyone asks “Why do you go to church every Sunday and spend time and efforts there? Why do you offer such big money as tithing?” you should be able to confess “this is nothing if I want to honor God who saved me.” We should realize and live by it not from our head.
The truth is contained in Lord’s Prayer. Saying ‘Our Father in heaven’ in the first line of Lord’s Prayer, Jesus sent six petitions to God. The first three petitions are about God. In English these are called as ‘Thou Petitions.’
1) Hallowed be Your Name
2) Your kingdom come,
3) Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Next three petitions are about the person who prays. In English these are called as ‘We Petitions.’ Jesus Christ who said ‘Our Father in heaven, not my Father in heaven’ keeps using ‘Our’ as the subject.
4) Give us today our daily bread
5) And forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors
6) And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
We are going to meditate these petitions one at a time, and we need to pay attention to the order of these petitions. Jesus teaches us to pray for God before seeking his or her needs. It means that God should be the most important concern in our prayers.
We need prayers to resolve our problems mostly. Most of those who pray hard still pray due to the situations they find themselves in. Whenever they have a problem, they don’t hesitate to pray; but they stop praying as the problems go away. To them, prayers are an SOS call to God. On the other hand, some always pray. But what they pray about is almost centered on their problems and needs. They pray to God only because of their problems.
Jesus Christ expects us to grow out of this stage. Our prayers should advance to the point that we pray for God, not for us. We need to face God with deep prayers if we were to reach that level. We ought to realize who He is. Then the focus of our prayers naturally changes. David confesses as such in today’s verses after realizing who God is:
Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory in the heavens (verse 1)
We come to praise God’s honor and majesty, and be immersed in worshipping Him when we meet God’s existence just as we lose ourselves and admire at the Michelangelo’s painting. As we praise Him and pray a worshiping prayer to Him, we find ourselves lifted from all the problems surrounding us. We realize God’s honor deeply immersed in our pitiful lives. Thus, David sings as follows:
What is mankind that you are mindful of them,
Human beings that you care for them?
When we meet God through prayers, we realize our being is so trivial in comparison to God, and become thankful for God, and admire God’s care. We rather praise God and give Him thankful prayers after setting aside all the petitions we bring to God. It is difficult to appreciate that very moment. That very moment, we could experience the lyrics of Hymn 204 ‘Watching and waiting, looking, above, filled with His goodness, lost in His love.’
After being immersed in God’s nobility, majesty and honor, we slowly turn our prayers to our problems. We then can see our problems from a different perspective. It is because being immersed in God’s nobility, majesty and honor makes the eyes of our mind lucid. We will be able to see our problems from God’s eyes. We now know what to ask of our problems. We pray at a level totally different from those prayers in which we throw all our problems from the beginning of our prayers.
The first petition for God is “Hallowed be thy Name.” Name has very important meaning in the culture of the time of Jesus Christ. In the western culture, when people meet first time, they exchange their names. They consider name like a sign or a symbol. On the other side, with the oriental culture, only after establishing a certain level of relationship they would exchange their names. Informing my name to someone means opening my mind to him/ her, trusting the person, because people think that one’s name is not a symbol or sign, but a part of themselves.
Among our church members, there is one who has been in jail due to regretful events. When I read his memoirs, I deeply sympathized with the part about “name.” When he was put behind bar, a prison number was given to him and he was told that he would be called by that number in the future. At the moment, he thought, “Ah, I am not a being human here.” To those who think of the name as a sign or a symbol, it wouldn’t be a big matter to be called by a number. However, it is a serious matter to be called by a number to those who think of their name as a part of themselves, because being called by a number, instead of a name, strips them of their personhood.
Jesus Christ taught people, who live in a cultural era where a name is regarded with importance as a part of their very being, to pray with the phrase of “Hallowed be thy name.” Therefore, this prayer is not different from praying with “Hallowed be God’s name.” There are passages about the name of the Lord in the Ten Commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God,
For the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Ex. 20:7)
In the Commandments, the “name of the Lord” indicates “God himself.” God, who is spirit, gave us, being human, his name. Among the things that belong to God, the only thing we cannot do anything about is his name. The name is a part of the Lord, our God. Therefore, misusing his name is the same as treating him indiscreetly. By this meaning, Jesus Christ prays with the phrase of “Hallowed be the Lord’s name.”
The word “Holiness” is “kadosh” in Greek. The original meaning of “kadosh” is to distinguish. The meaning of “God is holy” is “God is wholly different from human.” The creator, God, is wholly different from the created things. God is eternal, but the created things are limited. God is spirit, but the created things are material. God is transcendent in time and space, but the created things are limited with limitations. God is faultless in every good and truth, and beauty; but the created things don’t know what is good, what is truth, and don’t know how to realize the justice. Admitting the differences is revering God’s holiness.
If we think the phrase of the “Hallowed be thy name” differently or conversely, the meaning can be that “make people to hold God holy.” Therefore, this prayer is a prayer to be that all created things in the world, especially human beings, realize the difference of God from the created things, and so, God should be revered as God. Therefore, this prayer is for the Lord, our God and for the prayers themselves and all human beings. It is praying for all human beings to know that how is God different from the created things and how he is.
Let us listen to how others speak of God around us. How poorly is God being portrayed? I mentioned in last sermon about the video of “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” of Jefferson Bethke. When the video draw a lot of attention from many people, many different opinions, cons and pros, also were tagged bout the content. Among them, there is a video of “I Hate Religion, And Jesus Too.” I was curious about the video and watched it a little, but I turned it off soon. I couldn’t put up with the profane vulgarity I felt from the language and expressions of the people in the video.
In the Book of the Psalms, there is a passage, “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.” (Psalm 12:8) We can say that today we witness what is vile being honored among men. After turning it off, I sighed and asked myself, “What possible shortcoming would have caused someone to say, “I hate Jesus” without any hesitation? Truly, we should pray fervently against the vile being honored among men today.
Our Father, who is in heaven, fallowed be your name.
Let all people on the earth know who you are.
Let them know you are the Lord, our God, and revere you as our God.
Your name is revered on the earth, only your name.
Let people on the earth kneel before your name.
Only the holiness of God can save this world.
Only the holiness of God has the ability to cure the vileness that was seen on the faces of the people who say, “I hate Jesus, too.”
As we pray, "hallowed be your name" according to the teachings of Jesus, we must think of ourselves first. In this prayer we must first be saying "Heavenly Father, hallowed be your name in me". We must first recognize how different God is from the Creation. This is not a onetime event. With our limited understanding, it is impossible to know all of God. We must get to know Him better every day. More we strive to know Him, more we will be captivated by Him. As our understanding of Him deepens, our thoughts and actions will change. Then, God’s name will be exalted even more through us.
"Hallowed be your name" is also an intercessory prayer for all mankind on earth. It is a prayer asking that everyone come to know God for who He really is. It is a prayer for all to turn away from idols, be freed from false gods, and get to know the eternal and true God. When we pray for those who don’t know God, we can instead pray, “Father, let your name be hallowed in my son”, "Father, let your name be hallowed in my friend.” And, as our hearts go out to those countries that grew distant from God, we can pray, "Father, let your name be hallowed in North Korea." "Father, hallowed be your name on the land of Iran."
Last week, I said that 'evangelism' and 'mission' are our efforts to alleviate God’s pain for His lost children. In the context of today's scripture, evangelism and missions are our efforts to exalt the name of God. 'Evangelism' is an effort to make God known to those who do not know God. Once they truly come to know God, they themselves will come to exalt the name of God. ‘Mission’ is an effort to allow others to experience God’s love. When they experience God’s love through our love for them, they will exalt the name of God. As such, when we honestly pray, “hallowed be your name”, we must also be proactive in evangelism and mission.
In addition, we must continue to lift up the prayer of "hallowed be your name" for all Christians and churches. We must pray that those who call on the name of Jesus Christ break free from believing just for the sake of salvation and God’s blessings, but truly meet God and strive to live for God’s glory. All churches on earth must leap from struggling just for their own growth and revival, but move on to the level of striving for God’s glory. I don’t mean to say the growth and revival of the church is wrong. It should not be an end in itself but a result to come. The churches only need to strive for lifting up God’s name.
In one of the early mornings of last week, I interceded for all churches on this earth. The day before, I had heard two church related stories. One was through online newspaper. One of the pastors from a mega church resigned due to sex scandal but received a large severance package causing uproar in the church. The second story came from a fellow pastor. In Korea, a pastor was retiring after long ministry at a historic church. In order to retire with as much compensation as possible, he was taking high-handed measures without regard for the aftermath.
During the early morning prayers I was reminded of these stories and my heart broke. Believing means to glorify God. The churches exist to exalt the name of God. I could not help but wonder how things could have gone so wrong. I prayed with a heavy heart. I prayed, “May Your name be hallowed for all the churches on this earth.” At the same time, I prayed for myself and our church. I earnestly prayed that I may focus only on lifting up the name of God when I serve church. I prayed that through everything our church does, that God may be exalted.
Dear beloved sisters and brothers in Christ, what is the purpose of your faith? What primarily concerns your prayers to the Lord? How many of us church goers attend church for our own benefit? How prevalent are the market-type churches that cater to satisfy such egocentric pursuits? These market-type churches do not concern themselves with praising the name of God. They concern themselves with expanding the membership. How there are so many consumer-type believers who flock toward the best marketed church? How tarnished is the name of God by these acts!
Indeed, must we also take part in this mad rage? Must we indeed take part in the endless pursuit of increased membership? In this regard, I am overjoyed by the like consensus of the church general assembly. The consensus of the church assembly is to forsake the dreams of our own design, but to dream of ever praising the name of God. The dreams of our own design can be achieved if we empty our pockets to do so. However, dreams of uplifting the name of God can only come true through prayerfulness and the power of God in our suffering, sacrifices and dedication. I pray that today’s decisions of the church general assembly would be a cause for timeless celebration. I pray that this would be the turning point for spiritual uplifting to a new level for both the Centerville campus and the McLean campus.
At this point, let us be resolved in our hearts once again. The purpose of our faith is not for us, but for God. We pray that the name of God may be uplifted, not our reputations; that we are God’s instruments to uplift the name of God. God is not here to serve our own interests. Let us always be mindful of these and pray as such.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Through us let the name of the Father be exalted.
Through our church let the name of the Father be exalted.
Redeem all the churches of the earth,
That they may resolve only to exalt the name of the Father.
Bless all believers who seek the church
Let they live to exalt the name of the Father.
So all the people of this land
Would know who the Father is
That they may know the Father of their worship.
Oh, Heavenly Father,
Let the name of the Father be exalted by all on earth.