We sinned in heaven and were cast out into the earth, the city of refuge. It is quite natural that we long for our own country. All of us fervently wish to go back to heaven, but we easily forget that we are sinners. Now, let’s see what is our duty as sinners who need to repent, so that we may return to the kingdom of heaven.
There are not many who know themselves. We, too, have not known who we are: What caused us to come down to this earth? Why do we go through hardships during our lifetime-70 or 80 years? Most people hope to occupy an important position and seize honor and power that others envy. However, it is not easy to achieve what they want. Against their desire, they are bound to continue a hard life. Most of them pay no attention to those fundamental problems until the end of their life.
The Bible teaches us that we are sinners. If we believe that, we will not have any complaints about our sufferings and pains in this earth. For sinners have no right to enjoy happiness and to exercise power. See how criminals are treated under the earthly system. They forfeit all their rights and liberty.
To make us realize we are sinners, Jesus gave us a teaching as follows:
“On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick . . . For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mt 9:12-13
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Lk 19:10
Here Jesus said that He came to seek the lost from heaven. So, we can understand that we are sinners, the lost from heaven. We are all sinners who long for salvation and eternal life. If we were the righteous, salvation would not be required. Considering that we are longing for salvation and endeavoring after it, it is certain that we are all sinners.
However, sometimes we forget that we are sinners. We know the fact, but we easily forget it. Forgetting is no better than not knowing. If we do know, we should not want or try to exercise any rights; for they are only for the righteous. When we forget that we are sinners, we want to reach a high position and exert some power and be served.
A prison officer says that when convicts are sent to prison, they feel guilty at first-some for about a week and some for about a month. While most repeaters have no guilty conscience, the first offenders feel pangs of regret for what they have done, not controlling themselves. However a month passes, two months pass …, and a year passes. As time goes by, they adapt themselves to their prison life and they come to lose the consciousness of guilt; they try to occupy a better position and struggle for power in prison.
We are now kept in this earth, the spiritual prison. Then, are we not following the same course as those offenders do? All of us sinned in heaven and were hurled down to the earth, the city of refuge. Jesus teaches us that when we realize we are sinners, God’s grace and mercy will come upon us.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector . . . But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God . . .” Lk 18:9-14
Those who consider themselves as righteous do not repent nor humble themselves nor serve others. How about those who realize that they are sinners? “O God! I’m a sinner. Have mercy on me, a sinner.” Such a prayer of repentance naturally rises to their lips.
This is the attitude sinners must have. Like the tax collector, they would not even look up to heaven and beat their breasts in repentance, giving thanks to God for having mercy even on sinners.
How can we be greedy for fine food? And how can we, sinners, exalt ourselves? We are merely sinners even though we make ourselves seem great. As sinners from heaven, we should not indulge in worldly pleasures. When we forget that we are sinners and consider ourselves as righteous, we will try to reign over others and extract obedience from them; we will try to be superior to others in everything. Are we the righteous? Not at all. Christ didn’t come to seek and to save the righteous, but sinners fearing God with the consciousness of sin.
If we do realize that we are grave sinners, we shall serve others through our life. That is the way to expiate our sins. Though we are rebuked, we have no right to get aggrieved or angry at our situation.
We are sinners. We must not forget that. How can we, sinners, complain about a given condition, whether it is bad or good? We have no right to get discontented with a place, position, duty and others’ expressions. During our lifetime, we should only give thanks to God for His grace and love. This is the whole duty of sinners. When our attitude is the same as that of the tax collector who would not even look up to heaven, standing at a distance, God has mercy on us.
How about the Pharisee? He stood up and looked up to heaven, speaking arrogantly and imprudently. If he had believed that he was a sinner, he would not have assumed such a presumptuous attitude. All such men try to put down others and wield power when they hold a high position. No matter how great their power and position may be in this world, they are nothing but sinners.
Whether they are high or low in position, they are all sinners. What’s the use of the sinners’ position and power? Let’s not cling to position, but thank God for this one thing, that He Himself came to save us who were destined to die because of sin; and let’s rejoice always and serve and love one another. This is the duty of all who are saved from sin.
If we do hope for salvation, we must not forget that we are sinners. Whatever position (pastor, elder, deacon . . .) we have, we should not think, ‘I’m an elder, and I can order a deacon,’ or ‘I’m a pastor, and I can order . . .’ We should always think, ‘How can I more serve my brothers as an elder?’ or ‘What shall I do for the flock as a pastor?’ This is the attitude of sinners who wish to be saved.
“Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.” Lk 22:24-27
Jesus enlightens our hearts through His words not in accordance with common sense. He says that the one who rules should be like the one who serves; for if anyone realizes that he is a sinner and keeps it in mind, he can be considered as the one qualified to rule.
Nobody can serve others unless he knows that he is a sinner. Rather, he would want them to serve him and cringe to him, for he considers himself higher than them. However, God teaches that the leader should be the servant.
When our Father was in this earth, He did everything personally though He could command His angels or children to do it. At that time, I didn’t understand and wondered, ‘Why did Father do it personally?’ Now I know that Father Himself set us an example that we should do as He had done for us.
As our Father taught us and gave us examples, we shall forgive, love and serve our brothers and sisters. Like the tax collector, who would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast, we should repent from the bottom of our hearts: ‘Father, I am a sinner. I am a sinner.’ Then we will get commended by our Father, “You are far more righteous than the Pharisees.”
“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mt 5:20
What does this word mean? This implies that when we realize we are sinners, we can surpass the Pharisees in righteousness.
Now we are just sinners, not qualified yet as the heavenly princes or princesses. If we forget that, we will fail to follow God’s teachings; no matter how hard we try to love, it will be like flowers without fragrance and before long we will grow sick of it.
“Lord! I am a sinful man.” When we thus put ourselves in a sinner’s place every day, we can do everything; if it is God’s will and command, though unpleasant and difficult, we will do it with joy and thanks. “To obey is better than sacrifice and the fat of thousand of rams.” When we fully understand this word, acknowledging ourselves as sinners, our obedience will be complete.
Whatever title or position we have, we must not forget that we are sinners expelled from heaven. If we forget it, we come to commit the same sin as we did in heaven. When we acknowledge that we are sinners, we come to repentance. If we don’t, we come to sin again.
“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Th 5:16-18
We keep this word in mind and meditate on it day and night. According to the word, we should rejoice always, pray at all times and give thanks in everything. However, if we try from a mere sense of duty-‘I must rejoice and give thanks because it is God’s command,’ without realizing that we are sinners, we will give up in less than a week.
If we do recognize ourselves as sinners, there is nothing for which we cannot give thanks; whatever may trouble us, we shall think, ‘There’s nothing more serious than my sin committed in heaven,’ and we shall bow down to God who has saved us and sing of His love and grace with joy and thanksgiving; before God tells us to be joyful, our hearts shall rejoice. Though we are now troubled under somewhat inferior circumstances, our present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the happiness of the forgiveness of our sins.
Our sin is forgiven only through repentance. God has offered us an opportunity to completely repent of all our sins. That is saving other souls by making them realize that they are sinners. Never give up the opportunity of preaching which is God’s sacred command and the way to receive the forgiveness of sins. All the days of our life, let’s get rid of our sinful nature: stubbornness, self-centeredness . . . Keeping in mind that we are sinners, not the righteous, let’s follow the way of sacrifice and service.
How dare we, sinners, look up to heaven and see the holy God with our own eyes? We might dare do that when we had no sense and lacked in understanding. ‘Lord! We are sinners. Take pity on us.’ With this humble mind, let’s obey God’s will and put our heart and soul into the gospel work; when our Father comes, we will be found to be pure and faultless, as beautiful ornaments on our Mother’s fine linen clean and bright.