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05.05.24 "Beyond a Flickering Faith" (깜빡이는 신앙을 넘어서려면)

  • What is the flicker effect? It refers to the continuous fluctuation in the brightness of lights or displays, much like a flickering light bulb. Similarly, in the realm of faith, there exists what we might call a 'flicker faith'—a kind of faith that flickers intermittently. This denotes a religious, habitual, and event-driven faith. In essence, it describes those who claim belief in God yet do not maintain a close relationship with Him.

  • Conversely, there are those whose goal is a deep relationship (fellowship) with God—Christians who strive to live in intimate fellowship with God. We must move from a flicker faith to a fellowship faith. Are we truly in a close relationship with God? Am I actively nurturing my relationship with God?

  • Imagine there is a light bulb that illuminates the room of my soul. What does it signify if this bulb begins to flicker irregularly? It usually indicates that the bulb's life is nearing its end. Similarly, what should be at the center of my soul's space is the light of God. Isaiah 60:19 states, "The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory."

  • The Bible describes the human condition without God's presence as darkness, which occurs when light disappears. Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned." What is sin? Sin separates us from God. It is not the list of sins themselves but the separation they cause between God and humanity that constitutes sin. This separation is filled with fear, loneliness, and selfishness.

  • Saint Augustine said, "There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of each man which cannot be filled by any created thing but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus." Where God's presence is separated from my existence, there is fear. Thus, every human being has a sense of religiosity—a primal fear that leads us to depend on a being greater than ourselves, to create religions, and to engage in religious activities. Christians who engage in flickering faith are those who participate in religion to alleviate fear.

  • The closer the relationship, whether with God or people, the more continuous, genuine, and voluntary it becomes. However, flickering faith is characterized by irregularity in one’s relationship with God, fluctuating with circumstances and emotions. Flicker Christians may seem loosely committed to their faith, yet ironically, this group also includes those who are excessively zealous. It's not that all dedication, loyalty, or passion towards God is wrong, but the motivation behind the zeal may not stem from a close relational intimacy with God.

  • Reflecting honestly on my past, I realize that despite my many commitments to God from a young age, I never enjoyed a close relationship with Him. Even though I poured all my passion into it and experienced both minor and significant accomplishments, my heart always returned to feeling empty and dark. I was a flicker believer. Ministry should be a tool for a close relationship with God, not the other way around.

1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

  • God is not just good at loving; He is love itself. The opposite of fear is not merely the absence of fear but perfect love. We experience the power of love partially when we love someone or when we are loved perfectly by someone else. This is the power of love.

  • The loving God came into this dark world as light throughout history. Wherever Jesus went, darkness found no place. Jesus came as light to bring heavenly hope to those living in fear and loneliness, separated from God by sin. He did not come so we would worship a fearful God but to pave the way into a close relationship with Him.

  • The fear and loneliness within me are not eliminated through religious devotion, obligation, or passion. Darkness disappears only when the light of God shines within me. Fear disappears when love prevails. True freedom comes when the Spirit of the Son is upon us.

  • Our church spent a meaningful Lenten season in 2024. During this period, we engaged in numerous programs to awaken our dormant spirituality and clarify our identity as pilgrims on this earth. It was a significant time that allowed us to rekindle the passion of our faith and the warmth of our worship, which had gradually diminished during the COVID period. What next, then? If we have prepared a large vessel, what should it contain? Passion is important, and commitment is important. But there is something even more crucial—fostering intimacy in our relationship with God. We must become closer to God. This should be our goal.

  • There are several barriers that make it difficult for us Koreans to become close to God, stemming from Korea's hierarchical culture. Our elders related to God in a king-subject dynamic, thus for them, the value of faith was loyalty and dedication. Even the prayer language of our elders, phrases like "Please, Lord," reflects this familiarity. But do we realize that we can relate to God not just as sovereigns and subjects but as friends?

John 15:15 says, "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you."

  • Jesus calls us not servants but friends. This is the gospel. Servants regard their master with fear, but friends are different. Friends share and want to share good things with each other. Some friends are called because it is boring to eat alone; here, the food is the goal, and the relationship is the tool. On the other hand, some friends come to mind because it is too good to eat alone; with close friends, the relationship is the goal, and the food is the tool.

  • Close friends share even secrets because they are close in existential distance.

Ephesians 3:9 states, "And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things."

  • Also, with close friends, you can show your pain. Jesus shows His wounds. He empathizes with my pain and wounds more than anyone else.

  • Moreover, He has given us the keys that can open the doors to His most sacred places, the sanctuary. We rely on His light to advance all the way to the sanctuary.

Hebrews 4:16 urges, "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

  • We no longer need to worship a fearful God. All our fears have been resolved in Jesus. We do not need to live trying to earn value before God or to elevate our worth in the world. We already have as much value as the life of Jesus Christ Himself, because He proved it by dying for us.

Romans 5:8 affirms, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

  • The book title "We Do Not Worship Worship services” comes to mind. Yes, worship is very important. We exist to worship God. However, worship and worship ministry are different. Why does worship ministry exist? Why do discipleship, small groups, next-generation ministry, and local missionary work exist? They are necessary tools for the completion of our relationship with God, not the goal.

  • A child learning to swim uses a flotation device to avoid sinking due to tension in the body that makes it harder to stay afloat. Would an Olympic swimmer enter a race with a flotation device? Tools are part of the process to move towards freedom, not the goal itself. Everything we set up to meet God is a means, not an end. Just because we manage these well and achieve them does not mean we are intimately close to God.

  • Of course, there are those who plan and execute good spiritual routines to live in awareness of God's presence. I want to bless these people. How pleased must God be? However, we must ask ourselves again today and check: Why does our church shout to do 10/10/10? Why do we need to read the Bible? Why do we need to wake up at dawn to worship? Why do we need to offer hard-earned money to God?

  • All church activities and hard work are certainly valuable. However, at the heart of it all, am I truly close to God? Am I constantly searching for God? Do I deeply desire a relationship with God? Do I find peace and comfort in God?

  • Recently, I told my wife, "I still have a romance with you," to which she replied, "It's not romance; it's senility." I think this is a meaningful statement. We often think of love as a state of passionate emotion. However, true love involves heart-to-heart intimacy.

John 15:9-12 says, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."

  • When God's purpose of creation is fulfilled, we can be happiest. This involves union with the Trinity's complete, perfect, and endless love. I pray that the existential unity of 'God in us, and us in God' begins among us. May the joy of God flow within us. We should aim for a relationship with a familiar, not a distant, God. Fostering a close relationship with God should be our goal. When God's existence and ours are united, we will taste joy that the world cannot provide. Our lives will then be filled with His joy and become a light in the world.


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