• 5. I Really Wanted to Receive Salvation

  • Even though I attended church, my conflict with sin became more severe with each passing day, unable to part from the human status on earth as sinners. "Can I really go to heaven? Am I a truly saved person?" If I asked myself these questions, there was never a time I had confidence in myself. At that time I felt that, "the Lord would soon come," but as I knew that if God were to arrive, even today, it wouldn't be impossible for me to evade the gates of hell. Therefore, my mind was never at ease. Although I tried to repeatedly cleanse my sins through repentance, it continued to remain in my heart, and brought me embarrassment.


    Once during a revival, I went to the speaker and sincerely took the time to receive spiritual counseling. I asked, "Pastor, I am a sinner, what should I do?"

    "Repent," was all he said.

    "Pastor, I have already confessed and repented from the heart, but I still lie in conflict due to the sin in my heart."

    "Then you have to bear the fruits of your repentance."

    "Pastor, how do I bear such fruits of repentance?"

    "Go to those you lied to and confess to them. Also, go to those you stole from and compensate them, as well as to go back and apologize for all the wrong you have done."


    As soon as I heard this, I thought, "Ah, there is no hope for me. I had lied to so many people. How can I ever go back and find everyone I need to apologize to? I really cannot do this. I have deceived so many to get what I wanted; I can't possibly know where they all are. It seems as if I'm headed for hell. I guess I'm not one of the chosen."


    There was no real way for me. I often asked myself, "Since I'm going to hell anyway, should I just live my life drinking and sinning with the rest of the world?" Even though I considered this, I was too scared to do so. There was no way, no path, and plenty of matter how much I tried to escape from all this, I didn't know what I had to do to cleanse my sins.


    While struggling in such a state, I started to volunteer at church. My church was very small, located in the country, and was always in need of a couple of helping hands. Every chance I had, I would wash the rags, and with them mop the church floor. The light went out so often due to bad electrical connections, and so we used a lamp. I would sweep away the soot that had gathered on the lamps, as well as the windows, and I got rid of spider webs from the ceilings, and organized the flower beds... I continued to do all this whole-heartedly.


    One day the bathroom toilet was overflowing at church, and there wasn't a single person who attended to it. I had never scooped up dung before in my life. I thought, "If I scoop this up, I'll be blessed by God," and so that bitter winter morning after service, when no one was around, I secretly went and cleaned up all the dung and threw it away. After doing something like that, I often felt a bit more peaceful and happy about myself, but only for that moment. It was because of what I had done that I was happy, but the trouble in my heart wasn't solved. And so, my heart would return to its previous troubled state.


    There was a time someone had set up a metal belfry in the service area. However, it had to be painted after it was assembled and set up for display. There was no one who would climb to the top of the statue to paint it. I had volunteered to do so. Thinking that if I were to fall off the belfry while painting it, God would probably view me in a more favorable light, because I died doing His work. Due to this one thought, I climbed to the top of the bell house, holding it with one hand, while I painted with the other. I spent the whole day painting that bell house. As I painted, I looked down and saw the firm cement floor below, and many times I wondered, "If I were to jump from here and die, would I go to heaven? Wouldn't it be better to die in this manner, while doing God's work, than to die doing evil things? Should I just let go and die?"


    Even though I volunteered at church a lot, I still didn't have peace in my heart; and I was unable to obtain the assurance of my salvation from sin. I couldn't help but sigh and lament as I saw myself sink deeper and deeper into sin, no matter how much I cried and repented. Then one day I said to myself, "I should stop going to church. There's no use. If I am to go to hell anyway, I might as well stop attending church!"


    With this in mind, I went to see my pastor for the last time. I remember it being a late Saturday afternoon. "Pastor, I really want to be saved from sin. As I attended school in Seoul, I committed these sins and these kinds of wicked acts. Pastor, what do I have to do to clean the sin I have?" I sincerely asked the pastor. His response... I can still remember it till this day.


    "Mr. Park, everyone is like that in their youth. I have two daughters attending school in Taegu, and I don't even know what they might be doing there. I can't tell you that my daughters, who are away from home, aren't committing the same sins as you have. Therefore, Mister Park, as much as you sin, the more diligently you should believe in the Lord. And as you do this, when the time comes for you to grow out of this stage, that is when you will become a more notable person."


    That night as I left the pastor’s house, I decided, "It's no use; I'm going to stop attending church." The pastor treated me well, and was always there for me, but when I went before him with my troubles of sin, he didn't give me the slightest help as to how I may be free from my sin. He never once talked about the blood of Jesus Christ nor the sin offering. All he tried to do was to comfort my heart as a friend does, and to keep me relying on the church. The pastor never once talked of the words that would enable my heart to escape from and be cleansed of the sin in my heart. I was discouraged. The disparity I felt was different from the disappointment many churchgoers today feel when they see the irrationality in their ministers. When I attended church, we didn't find a single absurdity or wrong in them. Back then, pastors were very moral and possessed sincere hearts. They sacrificed their lives, living in difficult situations, helping the poor. They were pastors who lived very clean and respectable lives. However, not a single one of the pastors could present before us 'the words which revealed the way to clean our sins and become born again,' to awaken us and connect us with Jesus Christ.


    So I simply believed, and if I sinned I repented...I had been led to believe in the teachings, and that if I accepted God in this manner, my faith would grow. That is why, without the aid of a pastor, I attempted to resolve my spiritual problems on my own. I once again prayed to God. That is when I realized something. I came to realize that the blood that Jesus had shed on the cross was poured out for us.


    But it was during this one revival, where the pastor who spoke said, 'If you become saved from your sins, you no longer remember them. To be able to remember them is because they weren’t forgiven.' After hearing those words, I once again fell into sin. Jesus had died on the cross for my sins and had pardoned them, but I still remembered them. Were my sins really forgiven or not? Of course back then I didn't know much about the Bible, but if I look back, I realize I had been very ignorant. It's for certain that I had committed sins, but how can one no longer remember them just by receiving salvation? But it was the Lord who no longer remembered, not I. The pastor, who had said that in order to be saved you shouldn't be able to remember your sins, was irresponsible with the words he preached, and I just naively accepted it. So even though Jesus had already died on the cross for my sins, I was still in pain because I remembered them.


    I wanted to resolve this problem, so I decided to attend church and pray. At our church we had Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday gatherings; Saturdays were choir practice and training for Sunday School teachers. The service area was empty on Tuesday and Thursday evenings when I would turn off all the lights and pray to the Lord till late at night. "Lord, forgive me of my sins. If my sins have been forgiven, reassure me with even just a single word." I prayed to the Lord with a sincere heart. As I prayed, I would tilt my ear towards the ceiling, hoping to get a hint of His voice, but all I heard was the drumming of paws, as the mice scuttled across the ceiling. Each time I thought, "God has forsaken me. Even though I pray sincerely, even though I seek Him, God doesn't listen to the prayers of a sinner such as I. He has forsaken me!"


    I fell deeper and deeper into despair. It was 1962 and I was nineteen years old, and I had reached the last straw. If I think of that period in time, it still gives me a headache. I had gone through so much hardship, that I don't even want to look back. God had loved me, and so He blocked all my ways to lead me to salvation. Not only could I not continue to study, I couldn't get a job, and as a last resort I enlisted in the army, but failed the physical. Nothing went according to plan. As I did things believing I could accomplish them, I found myself continually failing, and thought, 'Oh, I'm so stupid! I'm such a blockhead!' I began to hate myself. I hated myself for trying to seem smart in front of others, when there really wasn't a single thing I could do right. I hated my filthy, wretched, boorish self. I really did spend my days despising myself. Looking back, I understand that it was all just part of the labor pains within the process of receiving salvation. Not knowing this back then, I had spent each day in despair. But one day, the incredible grace of God was waiting for me.


    It was October 7, 1962, on a Sunday morning. As always, I got up that morning and went to the chapel and repented of my sins before the Lord.

    "Lord, how did I commit such sins? Please forgive me. I am but a filthy human being. Please have mercy on me."


    It was rare for young people like me to be attending morning prayers. Most of those who came to church early in the morning were the elderly. But my sins prevented me from getting a good night’s sleep, and so I came to church earlier than others and rang the church bells. After ringing the bell, I kneeled and repented till others arrived. As the people shuffled into the chapel, I stopped praying, embarrassed to repent before others, and went to notify the pastor that it was time for service to begin.


    Back then, there weren't any alarm clocks, and the pastor usually slept late at night, making it difficult for him to wake up in the mornings. However, he would wake up when I beckoned him to service. After the prayer meeting was over and all had left, I lagged behind and continued to confess my sins. After I sinned, I confessed, I sinned then confessed, over and over again. I couldn't hold face before God. It came to the point where I was so embarrassed that I couldn't even pray. However, I had no other choice but to continue to pray.


    That morning, as always, I started to confess my sins one by one. "God, I committed a sin. This is the evil I had done. I lied in such and such a manner..." As I confessed my iniquities one by one, the number of sins I had committed multiplied as I drew them to memory. That is how I came to realize I was a greater sinner than I could imagine. The guilt within me grew. 

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