A very successful guy told me that he doesn’t go home for holidays. He is only in his thirties but already has made over a hundred million dollars income and is on track to become a billionaire. He doesn’t go home because each time he goes home, his friends and relatives would still treat him like he used to be.
Growing up, everyone had done mischievous things, and people who know your past love to remind you of those stupid moments and make you feel like the naughty little boy you used to be. To maintain a hundred-million-dollar business, he needs to keep a mindset worthy of it. He can not afford to regress mentally.
I thought he was making a big deal out of it when I heard it, but after some research, I found out he has a point. You have to give up to go up. Even Jesus felt powerless to make any progress when he was in his hometown. Jesus said,
“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” (Luke 4:24).
It reminds me of each time I visited Burma, where some people and places did take me back to my foolish days and made me feel like an imbecile. It’s fine with me on the surface because the past is past. What’s insidious is the subtle influences toward regression. Every time I left Burma, I told myself with tears in my heart that I would never return there, even though I would miss the folks.
The Chinese use two birds to describe people—pheasants and phoenixes. Some golden pheasants are extremely beautiful if you have seen them, and when they fly, they look exactly like the phoenixes you see in the Chinese paintings. However, the Chinese regard a pheasant as a wild, rustic hillbilly bird, but a phoenix, a divine heavenly bird. They may look similar, but their lives are heaven and earth apart.
When I was first called to serve in the church in New York City, I told people that I was a pheasant from the hills of Southeast Asia pastoring a congregation of phoenixes. I did not feel I deserved the position, but God has a sense of humor and mysterious reasons that we cannot comprehend except surrender.
Now, when I visited Burma for the first time, after over a quarter of a century living in the United States, I felt like I was no longer the pheasant I used to be. However, the folks there still treated me as a pheasant, and I felt the pull to regress. It was not their fault. It was my choice to return to the pheasant state or stay a phoenix.
I am using this as an analogy to talk about the second step to living in heaven on earth. Last week, I talked about the first step: you must have an empty spirit like a child to receive the blessing of living in heaven on earth. Jesus said,
“Blessed are the poor (empty) in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3).
I believe that is an important message. You can review it on our church website. Some important messages need revisions to remember. Some profound messages need many revisions to understand deeper. Even I often forget what I have preached because they are not my words, but the message from the Head Office given for me to deliver.
Since our topic is about living in heaven on earth, it means we are still on earth. Jesus said we are in the world but not of the world. So we live like phoenixes in the pheasant country. There is a strong gravity of regression if we are not careful. So, we need to structure our lives to prevent regression so that we can constantly live in heaven on earth.
Every week, we come to church to gather with fellow phoenixes to rekindle our phoenix spirit. That’s good, but some of us might resume the pheasant life as soon as they leave the service unless we have developed a discipline to prevent it.
So, today, let us explore the second step to living heaven on earth—abandonment. You must abandon the things that cause regression from living in heaven on earth. Let’s begin.
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone—the Lightkeeper! You are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you, and you are satisfied in God.]
Today, I want to focus on the second verse in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s from the Gospel According to Matthew 5:4. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4).
[This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God!]
Now we are dealing with another encrypted statement. We can’t understand this verse without the context of the entire Bible. What does it mean to mourn? It sounds like mourning the death of someone dear to you.
The word “mourn” is translated from Greek, πενθέω (pentheō), meaning “to lament over.” It has a complex meaning. When we put it in the context of the entire teaching of Jesus, it’s about lamenting over the things you abandoned to live in heaven on earth.
Jesus repeatedly says that you cannot live in heaven and love the world, you cannot live in the Spirit and love the flesh (which is the biblical term for the ego), and you cannot walk in the light and love the darkness.
You have to pay the price to live in heaven on earth. You must abandon the things that pull you back to worldly living, the things that cause regression, but you are blessed for doing that because God is there to comfort you since you are in God’s presence.
Now, let’s dive right into the three abandonments that we must sacrifice to live in heaven on earth.
1. Abandon the Ego
The first thing Jesus did after his baptism was forty days of fasting.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.” (Mat 4:1-2).
There were three temptations, and all of them had to do with testing his ego. Jesus would fail his mission if he did not abandon his ego. Even though he is God’s beloved Son, he must still pass the ego test to have a successful mission.
So the Spirit of God took him to the testing ground. There Jesus prepared for the exam by fasting for forty days before the tempter came to test him.
Fasting is a proven spiritual discipline to eliminate the ego. It has been practiced by all major religions all over the world for thousands of years. Nowadays, many people cringe when they hear about fasting because our generation has been overfed.
I have discovered that the human body is not made for three meals a day. Ever since we began eating three meals a day, which is just about a hundred years ago, all kinds of diseases have appeared. It profits the medicine and pharmaceutical industry significantly.
I have diabetes, and my father died of diabetes complications. So I have dug deep into the cause of this disease. Over the years, I have learned a great deal about how corporations have kept critical information from us and brainwashed us to fatten their pockets.
For thousands of years, if not millions of years, our body has adapted to starving, not for constantly eating. A Japanese biologist recently won the Nobel prize (2016) for discovering the amazing benefits of autophagy from fasting.
The point is fasting is not a big deal. We used to think fasting for forty days was a miracle only Jesus could perform, but today, I have seen people who have fasted longer than forty days.
I fasted 24 days during Lent last year, and I planned to fast for forty days this coming Lent. However, please don’t do it alone at home. Fasting is like a muscle that needs training. You have to start with baby steps.
Jesus was able to fast for forty days because he was raised in the tradition of fasting weekly and seasonally. Now, Jesus was thirty years old, and he had already toned his fasting muscles to fast for forty days and forty nights.
Physical benefits aside, here is the primary spiritual benefit of fasting. Based on my research and experiments and the testimonies of those who have done long-term fasting, we feel our ego disappear after about seven days of fasting and enter what the scientists call “euphoria”—a state of calm, peace, and profound happiness.
I won’t go into the details of fasting because it’s beyond the scope of this message. For now, I want to remind you that our Lord, Jesus Christ, fasted for forty days to enter the world of pheasants, which would tear the phoenix apart.
His ego could have become a major obstacle for him to maintain his phoenix state and fulfill the mission God has assigned him.
Here’s a good question. We do everything Jesus did. He prayed; we pray. He healed; we heal. He worshiped; we worship. He got baptized; we get baptized. He fasted, but why don’t we fast?
I don’t know what spiritual discipline other than fasting can effectively tame our ego. In any case, if you want to live in heaven on earth, abandon your ego whatever it takes. You can mourn and lament over it, but you cannot surrender. You will be blessed for taking that step.
2. Abandon the Company
After returning from forty days of fasting, Jesus started preaching in his hometown. People were impressed by his words, but they did not appreciate his teaching when they found out he was the carpenter’s son in town.
According to some passages, they insinuated him as a bastard because rumors spread that Mary was pregnant before she officially married Joseph. They couldn’t accept someone like him whom they secretly dispised to become a prophet. They even tried to kill him by pushing him off the cliff. Jesus said,
“Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown.” (Luke 4:24).
That explains why the hometown folks could be toxic. They are good folks as long as you are like them. If you have risen up to a higher level, they might not accept your new identity. They are pheasants, and they want to keep you a pheasant. If you have become a phoenix, they will tear you apart.
Normally, we might think that they would be proud of you. I am sure some do. Your parents and siblings would be proud of you, but not everyone. Therefore, you must be aware of the company you keep and know whether they are pulling you down or lifting you up.
How do they lift you up? By believing in you. Their unbelief could stifle your success and cripple the miracles you could do. The hometown folks of Jesus did not believe in him, and the Bible said,
“And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” (Mk 6:5–6).
Did you hear it? Even God could not do anything among the unbelievers. Even the Son of God was “amazed” at their unbelief. You might think nothing could surprise the Son of God.
If God cannot do any deed of power among the unbelief, what do you think you can do. You become powerless among the unbelievers. You find yourself regressing from a phoenix to a pheasant, like a frog in the pot story.
There was a time when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to take Jesus home to stop him from preaching because he was embarrassing them. Jesus renounced them by saying only those who did God’s will were his mother, brothers, and sisters. It sounds harsh and disrespectful, but Jesus taught us by setting an example of leaving no room for regression.
You know the story of Abraham, who was tested by an order to sacrifice his precious only son that he waited 100 years to have. Most people did not understand it thinking it was barbaric, but it was much deeper than it seemed.
Abraham was commissioned to establish the next civilization of heaven on earth. He would be disqualified to be the founding father of the Judeo-Christian nations if he was reluctant to abandon anyone, anything, or any land, no matter how precious they were for him. Imagine his lament in his heart as he walked up the hill with his son for sacrifice.
I am sure Jesus mourned as he left his hometown and preached in other towns and villages. That’s the price you have to pay for a life of heaven on earth. You will burn painfully like a phoenix into ashes, but God will comfort you and raise you up again to continue living a phoenix life.
3. Abandon the Possessions
Any possessions that keep you from living in heaven on earth must be abandoned. The Christian practice of offering is to show that we control our possessions instead of letting our possessions possess us.
In ancient times, it was called sacrifice. God wants people to sacrifice their first fruit from the crop and firstborn from the flock to show that we can abandon the best of the best to move on. The story of Cain and Able teaches us an important lesson of sacrifice.
God accepted Able’s sacrifice but not Cain’s. Even though the record was not clear, it seemed Cain’s sacrifice was not very willing. Abel offered the firstborn of his flock—the best of the best, but Cain offered only some of his crops—not the best. It means his attachment to his earthly possessions kept him from heaven. The Bible says,
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain’s.” (Heb 11:4a).
Cain’s sacrifice of the less than top quality product proved his lack of faith. Then he murdered his brother out of jealousy and became the first murderer of human history.
We all have read the story of the Rich Young Ruler who came to Jesus and asked him how to attain eternal life, which is a life of heaven on earth. Obviously, he was not satisfied with his life despite his abundant possession, power, and prestige.
Jesus asked him to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow him. It was like a litmus test on whether he controlled his possessions or his possessions controlled him. He failed the test and left with a heavy heart.
The more possessions you have, the harder it is to abandon. That means the more possession you have, the more mental muscles you need to give them away. Again, it’s like fasting that needs practicing. If you haven’t practiced offering in a small amount when you have a small income, it becomes harder and harder as you possess more.
In conclusion, I hope you can take your second step to heaven on earth by abandoning the ego, the company, the possessions, and anything that makes you regress. You will be blessed with God’s presence, power, peace, and comfort.
I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound happiness.