Eugene Cho

the dilemma of self-glorification

Things are going well in the movement and then suddenly, two people drop dead.  That’s the story in Acts 5:1-11 and the dramatic death narrative of Ananias and Sapphira:

“When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened… About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened…At that moment she fell down at his feet and died…”

Let me be honest and say that prior to these recent Sundays, I’ve always managed to avoid preaching on this narrative but this is one of the reasons why I’m a fan of expository teaching.  Whether we like it or not, we are occasionally confronted by such awkward, weird, and uncomfortable passages.

Most of you who were at Quest the past two Sundays have heard all the points so there’s no need to go over all of them.  If you want, you can listen to the two sermons below and subscribe to the podcasts:

Acts 4:36-5:11 | The Dilemma of Self-Glorification Part I [2/24/08]

and here’s Part II  of The Dilemma of Self-Glorification [3/2/08]

But for this blog community, this story exemplifies both harshness and grace.  It all depends on our perspective.  What happens to Ananias and Sapphira is harsh.  Period.  What happens to us is a story of grace.  Because if deception, manipulation and self-glorification is what Ananias and Sapphira are guilty of, we should all be dead.  End of sentence.  Period.  But we’re not and it is a testament of God’s grace.  Why Ananias and Sapphira are judged with physical death [not spiritual damnation] is a mystery to us as the Scriptures are unclear.  We obviously know of their sin but why them and not us.

Ananias and Sapphira saw the response that Barnabas received in Chapter 4.  They envied him; coveted the attention he was receiving and thus conspired to deceive not only the church community but God.  The difference was that Barnabas was convicted by the Holy Spirit but Ananias and Sapphira were deceived by an Unholy Spirit.

But before we applaud the judgment against Ananias and Sapphira, [if we are all honest with ourselves], we should all admit that – to a certain extent – we enjoy being liked, looked upon with respect, elevated, celebrated, etc. But if we’re not careful, we’ll sacrifice our integrity and humility to bring glory for ourselves. The reason why this hypocrisy is so much more devastating and deceiving in the church or in the Christian life is that we use the name of Jesus to bring glory – not unto Jesus but to ourselves. This is why I believe God was so harsh with Ananias and Sapphira. This is the worse hypocrisy.

All of us are susceptible.  But leaders who are visible are especially in danger.  This =  me.

And this is why the last two Sundays have been especially “good” for me.  While I hope and pray that many were blessed and convicted, I was certainly convicted.  

In small but increasing ways, Quest Church and my name is “getting out” – newspaper articles, interviews, photos, inquiries about book possibilities, teaching classes, speaking at small conferences, etc.  Coincidentally, a photographer from the Seattle PI showed up last Sunday to shoot pictures which was awkward esp. in light of the message.  [I was scared I might get struck down.]

And while this is not meant to sound arrogant, I believe that our “deeper years” are only ahead of us.  And so, I write this entry to simply confess that I need to be careful.  I don’t ever want to compromise the process for the product; to exchange Christ for celebrity; to increase so that Jesus decreases; and to allow hypocrisy to seep through my life that I can’t be honest with my shortcomings.

In short, I need Jesus.  Thank you Jesus for your mercy and grace.

Filed under: religion

5 Responses

  1. KL says:

    Eugene,
    I just appreciate your heart. I think as long as we remain honest and humble, the Lord will be honored.

  2. Peter Choi says:

    Eugene,
    after reading that, i want to take you out for a round of golf. thank you for your constant risks in being real and vulnerable. it ministers to me very much.

  3. dennis says:

    You arrogant jerk!

    Just kidding. Seriously, thank you for your honesty, Like you said, if we’re all honest, we all want to appear “more” than we are.

    Keep pressing on.

  4. justin says:

    are you considering writing a book? i have a good friend who’s an agent. she’s the wife of the pastor that married jeannie and me. anyways, we can talk more about it tonight if you want. i just didn’t want to forget.

  5. Pastor Eugene, thanks for your honesty and humility.

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One Day’s Wages

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Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer. Seattle. 7:00pm. Desperately holding on to summer. #goldengardenpark #nofilter Happy Birthday, Minhee! I'm so grateful for you. You radiate faith, hope, and love.  No...you don't complete me. That would be silly and simply humanly impossible but you keep pointing me and our family to Christ who informs and transforms our lives, marriage, family, and ministry. Thanks for being so faithful. I love you so much. (* And what a gift to be in Korea together.)

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