[Romans 12: 3]
“For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
If a baby does not grow up after he is born, it is a very big problem.
How frustrating it would be if his parents have to feed him and wash him, and cannot even converse with him because he stays as a baby even after such a long time!
A normal baby would grow up quickly, become sensible, understand the heart of his parents, and also become a complete man in the society to please his parents. It is the same with the believers who are born again with faith.
It is not the end to believe in Jesus Christ and receive salvation. Since one soul is born again by faith, that person has to grow up from that time.
I hope you, through this message, will have spiritual faith with which you can receive salvation, and also grow up to have more mature level of faith.
I pray in the name of the Lord, the author and perfecter of faith, that you will quickly reach the full, mature measure of the Christ and please God.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the fifth session of the measure of faith, and I will talk to you about the first level of faith.
Dividing all the measures of faith into five levels according to each one’s characteristics, I am beginning with the least measure of faith. The 1st level of faith is ‘faith to receive salvation’. It can also be called, ‘faith to receive the Holy Spirit’.
According to 1 John 2:12 that we talked about last time, it is the faith of little children. In Acts 19:2, we can find a question of the apostle Paul, saying, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
The disciples believed in God and also received the baptism of John the Baptist, but they did not receive the Holy Spirit.
So, when Paul testified to Jesus Christ and laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came down upon them. Many gifts of the Holy Spirit were manifested such as speaking in tongues and prophecy.
Then, did you receive the Holy Spirit? You can become a child of God only when you receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one of God the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
God sends the Holy Spirit to the heart of those who heard the gospel and accepted Jesus Christ. In order to receive the Holy Spirit, you first have to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Romans 10:17 says, “So faith [comes] from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”
Namely, we can believe in the Lord only when we understand who Jesus Christ is why He is our Savior. Of course, this is just faith as knowledge at this level.
You know well why only Jesus Christ is our Savior, don’t you? Since the Fall of Adam, all mankind were born with the original sin.
Also, they commit sins for their whole life, obeying the devil, the ruler of sins. All man had to fall into hell because they were sinners who had original sin and the self-committed sins.
There are many people who are said to be good, but by the light of the truth, they are also certainly sinners. Just as the minutest dust is revealed with very bright light, even the hidden evil will be revealed in the light of God’s word.
As said in Romans 3:10, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;” nobody is sinless according to the righteousness of the Law. But Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Sinners must receive the punishment of death, but Jesus paid the wages of sin for the sinners by taking and dying on the cross. But because Jesus is sinless, he overcame the authority of death and resurrected on the third day.
Those who believe in this fact can receive the forgiveness of sins and salvation by the power of the blood of the cross. In Acts 2:38-39, we can see Peter advising people after he preached the gospel.
It says, “Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
Likewise, if you hear the gospel, open your heart, repent that you are a sinner, and receive the forgiveness of sins, then, God will send the Holy Spirit in your heart.
If you accept the Lord and receive the Holy Spirit, then, your name will be recorded in the book of life as God’s child, and you will receive the citizenship of the heavenly kingdom.
Just as we register a baby’s birth in local government office, your name is recorded as a heavenly citizen who is saved.
As John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, [even] to those who believe in His name,” you receive the right to become a child of God. if you receive the Holy Spirit, you will not just have faith as knowledge, but you will believe from your heart.
You will believe Jesus came through a virgin, and that He died and resurrected. You will believe Jesus is your personal Savior, that He will come again to take you, and that the believers will resurrect on the last day.
We cannot believe these things with human knowledge and thoughts, but we can believe them from our heart by the help of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, this faith is not perfect faith yet; it is just faith as small as a mustard seed. Just as a mustard seed will grow and become a big tree, you have to increase your little faith to great faith by leading a good Christian life.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in the 1st level of faith, you have received the Holy Spirit and your name is recorded in the book of life, but you haven’t done anything for God yet.
You haven’t struggled and cast off sins hearing and obeying the word of God or worked faithfully for the kingdom of God, taking some church duties.
For example, the criminal who was saved in Luke chapter 23 belongs to the 1st level of faith.
When Jesus was being crucified, there were two criminals who were being crucified at both sides of Jesus’ cross.
One of the criminals criticized and mocked Jesus along with other evil people, but the other criminal rather rebuked the first criminal and confessed his faith to Jesus.
Luke 23:42 says, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” He committed his spirit to Jesus. Then, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
This criminal accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and received the promise of heavenly kingdom at the last moment of his life. When one is barely saved like this, the heavenly dwelling place for him will be paradise.
I already explained that by saying, ‘you shall be with Me in Paradise,’ Jesus did not mean Jesus was dwelling in paradise but He had said it because Jesus is the master of whole heavenly kingdom.
But if this criminal had led a life in faith after he received salvation, the result could have been different.
He would have lived a life following the desires of the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit was moving his heart. He would have cast off sins, circumcised his heart, and worked faithfully for the kingdom of God preaching the gospel and serving others.
So, he would not have stayed at the 1st level of faith but have grown up to 2nd and the 3rd level. Then, he wouldn’t have got into paradise but better dwelling places in heaven.
It’s the same with you. If you have received the Holy Spirit and salvation with faith, you shouldn’t stop there but your faith has to keep on growing.
You shouldn’t stay as a person who confesses, “Lord, I believe,” but is not different from the worldly people. Your life itself has to change into a life of a Christian.
Namely, you should hear and learn the word of God and obey and practice what you learn to make your heart holy.
You should preach the gospel, serve the church, and pray, working faithfully to accomplish the kingdom of God. You should long for better heavenly dwelling places and take hold of it by force.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I already told you those who are saved with the 1st level of faith will dwell in paradise.
Then, what kind of place is paradise? Paradise is the lowest dwelling place in the heavenly kingdom, but it is so happy, beautiful, and peaceful that it cannot be compared to any place on this earth.
Even on this earth there are many famous sight-seeing places and beautiful places. Some of you have been to those places or at least you have seen them on TV or by pictures.
From now, why don’t you imagine the most beautiful, pleasant, and happiest place that you can think of with all your memories and imaginative power? The sky is shining clear and blue, and white clouds float like in a picture.
There is a beach with very soft sand that is shining. The sea is so clear that you can see the inside clearly. Many kinds of fish with various beautiful colors swim among the coral reefs.
There are beautiful plants and trees. Beautiful flowers are blooming wide, and you smell the fragrance of the flowers from all four sides. Soft lawns are stretched out endlessly.
In a pleasant weather, neither hot nor cold, you hear happy laughter of people here and there.
If you see such a beautiful and peaceful place on earth, even unbelievers say, ‘it’s like heaven,’ or ‘this is paradise on earth’.
But even the most beautiful place on this earth or any kind of your imagination cannot compare to paradise in the heavenly kingdom.
One leaf and one plant are just so different from that of this earth. Even one feather of a bird has different color, softness, and brilliance.
So, if one goes to the paradise, in such a beautiful scene like in a dream, he cannot but be moved by the love of God saying, ‘how could a person like me receive such grace?’
The clear water of life originating from the throne of God go around New Jerusalem, the 3rd kingdom, the 2nd kingdom, and the 1st kingdoms of heaven, and flow into paradise.
At either side of the river of the water of life are trees of life, and they bear twelve different fruits every month. Those who have seen paradise with their spiritual eyes must have seen many gardens that are well decorated with lawn in a wide place that is well maintained.
Many birds’ singing sound like music, flowers bloom and give out beautiful scents, and you can eat the fruits on the trees as much as you want.
There are no diseases, death, or harmful animals or disasters. There is no sorrow or pain. Since there is no sin or evil, people do not give hard time to each other. There is nothing painful.
Then, do you want to live in this paradise forever? Of course paradise is a good place.
We are so thankful that we are saved and just for that we did not fall into the eternal punishment of hell.
But we should not be satisfied with this. We should definitely advance to better heavenly dwelling places.
No matter how good paradise is, its happiness is so different from the happiness felt in the 1st kingdom of heaven. And there are greater differences compared to higher dwelling places in heaven.
Let me give you some examples. I just asked you to imagine the beauty paradise, and other than those things, what can you think of when you hear the word ‘heaven’?
You may think of splendid houses like castles built with pure gold and various jewels. Or you can think of yourselves wearing glorious crowns in gorgeous dresses like princes and princesses.
You can also imagine angels serving you as masters. But these things are not about paradise.
Those who dwell in paradise do not have any heavenly rewards, crowns, or personal houses.
If you just pass the 1st level of faith and possess the 2nd level of faith, you will have your personal house. But in paradise, there is no personal space or house.
Why is it so? It is because heavenly rewards are given only when we act with faith and do something faithfully for the kingdom of God.
With the 1st level of faith, one is barely saved, so he could not store up his heavenly rewards.
He is just thankful that he did not fall into hell, and he cannot expect to receive any reward from God. Of course, although they do not have personal houses, they do not stay on the lawn all the time.
Even on this earth, we have some kind of village assembly hall or settlement house, and many people use them together.
Likewise, there are places that people can use together, so they can gather at those places or take a comfortable rest there.
Also, they do not harm others or make others uncomfortable although they use thing together.
Because there is no evil in heaven, they yield to each other and serve others, so they are just happy.
But however happy paradise is, I hope none of you will say, “I am satisfied with going into paradise.”
You have to get rid of your desires to take and enjoy more physical things on this earth, but you should have spiritual desire to receive rewards before God.
If you truly have faith, you will definitely long for better heavenly dwelling places. Having spiritual desire is not just to say with words, “I will go to better heavenly dwelling place,” but you should have the qualifications to enter into better dwelling places.
The qualification is that you have to keep the word of God, cast off evil from your heart, and you change yourself into a holy person. If this good fight of taking hold of better heavenly dwelling place begins, it is the beginning of the 2nd level of faith.
We will learn about the second level of faith in the next session.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, some say, “I will enjoy the world for now and attend church later after I become old.”
They heard the gospel and know it as knowledge, but they still love the world and do not want to live a life in Christ. But who knows the day when they will die?
Also, even if they know how soon they will die and try to live a life in Christ, is there any guarantee that they will be given the faith to receive salvation?
The Holy Spirit is the gift of God given with His grace. We cannot receive it as we want.
Even though we confess we believe, we cannot enter into heavenly kingdom unless faith is given to us and we receive the Holy Spirit.
In some cases, at the death-bed, there is fierce spiritual battle about the salvation of that spirit.
With spiritual eyes opened, some can see two angels and messengers of hell come at the same time and struggle to take the soul to their side.
This kind of case happens when one has received the Holy Spirit, but has not led a proper Christian life, or when he has little faith left because he has built up walls of sin against God committing serious sins.
In comparison, if you make fire, the fire has to ablaze. But in this case, it is like you just left the fire or put some water on it, so the fire hardly remains.
In this case, people around him should plant faith in him and let him hear hymns about heavenly kingdom to give him hope.
So, if God’s grace falls on him, he will repent and receive the assurance of salvation. Then, he will have peace in his heart and breathes his last with bright face.
But in this kind of case, if he does not receive faith until the last moment, how dangerous it is since he is going to fall into hell?
The most important matter in this world is the salvation of our spirit. You should not just hope for luck saying, “I will be saved somehow.”
You should lead a Christian life with fullness of the Holy Spirit having assurance of salvation and hope of heavenly kingdom.
If any of you have not received the Holy Spirit yet, I urge you to ask for God’s grace and the Holy Spirit and receive the Holy Spirit.
Also, if you have received the Holy Spirit already, I urge you not to stop there but lead a more diligent Christian life so that you will enter into better heavenly dwelling places.
Now is the time when the door of salvation is opened for you and you are given the chance to enter into better heavenly dwelling places.
As said in Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near,” I pray in the name of the Lord that you will catch this chance, make the most of your time, and take hold of heavenly kingdom by force.