Showing posts with label Savior. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Savior. Show all posts

Project: Juan Bible (Mark 1:4)


Marcos 1:4 

"At dumating nga sa ilang si Juan, na nagbabautismo at ngangangaral. Sinabi niya sa mga tao, 'Pagsisihan ninyo't talikuran ang inyong mga kasalanan at pabautismo kayo, upang kayo'y patawarin ng Diyos.'" 

At dumating nga sa ilang si Juan. Ang ebanghelyo ayon kay Marcos, kagaya ng kay Juan, ay walang kuwento tungkol sa kapanganakan ni Hesus. Nagsimula ito sa gawain ni Juan na Nagbabautismo. Maging si Pedro ay nagsimula kay Juan sa kaniyang pangangaral ng Ebanghelyo sa Gawa 10:37. Ang pangalang "Juan" ay nangangahulugang, "Magiliw o Mapagmahal ang Diyos." Karaniwan itong pangalan para sa mga Hudyo sa Bagong Tipan. Ito'y pangalang Griyego na ang katumbas sa Hebreo ay "Johanan" (cf. 2 Mga Hari 25:23; 1 Mga Cronica 3:15; Jer 40:8). Ibinigay ni Gabriel ang pangalang Juan kay Zacarias na kaniyang ama nang ito'y naglilingkod bilang pari sa templo (Lucas 1:13). Ang ina ni Juan na si Elisabet, supling din ni Abraham (Lucas 1:5), ay kamag-anak ni Maria na ina ni Hesus (Lucas 1:36). Si Juan ang huli sa mga propeta ng Lumang Tipan at ang napiling mensahero ng paparating na Kristo. Kay Juan nagsara ang kasaysayan at propesiya ng Lumang Tipan (Lucas 16:16) at sa kaniya rin nagsimula ang kasaysayan ng nasusulat patungkol kay Jesu-Cristo. Dahil dito'y hindi nagdalawang isip si Hesus na tawagin siyang "pinakadakilang taong" namuhay hanggang sa Kaniyang pagdating (Mat. 11:11) nagbabautismo. Naging kilala si Juan sa pagbabautismo ng mga taong lumalapit sa kaniya at nagsisisi sa kanilang mga kasalanan. Dahil dito ay tinawag siyang, "Juan ang Tagapagbautismo" o "Juan Bautista." ilang. Ito ang tigang at tuyong bahagi sa Kanluran ng "Dead Sea." pabautismo. Nangangaral si Juan ng bautismo ng pagsisisi. Ayon sa kaniya, kailangang may kalakip na pagsisisi sa buhay ng taong nagpapabautismo. Ang papabautismo ay resulta lamang ng tunay na pagsisisi (cf Mat. 3:7-8). Tanging ang Diyos ang nakakapagbigay ng tunay na pagsisisi (Gawa 11:18) Hindi bago ang pagpapabautismo para sa mga tagapakinig ni Juan. Alam nila ang tungkol sa pagpapabautismo ng mga Gentil na umaanib sa relihiyong Hudyo, subalit bago sa kanila ang katuruang maging ang mga supling ni Abraham (Hudyo) ay nangangailangang magsisi sa mga kasalanan at magpabautismo. Pagsisihan ninyo't talikuran. Nangangahulugan ito ng kusa o sadyang pagtalikod sa kasalanan at pagyakap sa buhay na matuwid. Ang pangangaral ni Juan ay kawangis ng mga turo ng mga naunang propeta (hal. Hos 3:4-5). Laging nagpapatwad ang Diyos kung may tunay na pagsisisi. Ang ritual ng pagbabautismo ay hindi nakakapag-hugas ng kasalanan. Sa halip, ito'y panlabas na larawan lamang ng pagsisising galing sa Diyos na nagaganap sa puso, at siyang nagkakaloob ng kapatawaran (cf. Lucas 24:47; Gawa 3:19; 5:31; 2 Cor. 7:10).

 ~*~
Sources:

Barker, Kenneth L., and Donald W. Burdick. Zondervan NIV study Bible: New International Version. Fully rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002. Print.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible English Standard Version.. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print.
~*~

Writer's Note:

I've been playing with the idea of a Filipino version of the notes found in the Zondervan NIV and MacArthur ESV Study Bibles. In this small project, I'm putting the notes from the two together and translating them into Filipino. I'm experimenting with the Gospel of Mark so we'll see what happens.

I'm doing this because I want to help Filipinos who may not be fluent in English have available resources for the study of God's Word.

PS. I am also researching if this will infringe on the copyright of the publishers. I'll update you as soon as I find out.

Project: Juan Bible (Mark 1:2)


Mark 1:2

"Nagsimula ito noong matupad ang isinulat ni propeta Isaias,'Narito ang sugo ko na aking ipadadalang mauuna sa iyo;ihahanda niya ang iyong daraanan...'" 

 1:2 ...ni propeta Isaias. Ang mga sumunod na sipi ay nagmula sa Malakias 3:1 (v.2b) at Isaias 40:3 (v.3). Tanging si Propeta Isaias ang nabanggit sapagkat nangunguna ang kaniyang isinulat sa mga propesiya, batay sa ayos ng mga aklat sa Biblia ng mga Hebreo (Lumang Tipan ng kasalukuyang Biblia). Kailangang magsimula si Marcos sa Lumang Tipan upang masmaunawaan ng mambabasa ang ministeryo ni Hesus. Ang mga sinambit ni Isaias patungkol sa Diyos ay tumutukoy din kay Hesus, na Kaniyang Anak (v.1). Ang mga sipi ay tumutukoy sa isang sugo o mensahero, ang ilang o disyerto at ang Panginoon. Lahat ng mga ito'y napagtuunan sa vv. 4-5. Sugo. Si Juan na Nagbabautismo ang tinutukoy na sugo. Ipinakilala ang ministeryo ni Juan sa apat na Ebanghelyo gamit ang Isaias 40:3 (cf. Mat 3:3; Luk 3:4; Juan 1:23). Si Juan ang ipinangakong mensahero na isinugo upang ihanda ang lahat sa pagdating ng Mesias. Noong sinaunang panahon, nauuna ang sugo ng hari upang siguraduhing ligtas at katanggap-tanggap ang mga dadaanan niya. Ang sugo rin ang nagbibigay-alam sa mga tao ng pagdating ng hari. 

 ~*~
Sources:

Barker, Kenneth L., and Donald W. Burdick. Zondervan NIV study Bible: New International Version. Fully rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002. Print.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible English Standard Version.. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print.
~*~

Writer's Note:

I've been playing with the idea of a Filipino version of the notes found in the Zondervan NIV and MacArthur ESV Study Bibles. In this small project, I'm putting the notes from the two together and translating them into Filipino. I'm experimenting with the Gospel of Mark so we'll see what happens.

I'm doing this because I want to help Filipinos who may not be fluent in English have available resources for the study of God's Word.

PS. I am also researching if this will infringe on the copyright of the publishers. I'll update you as soon as I find out
.

Project: Juan Bible (Mark 1:1)



Writer's Note:

I've been playing with the idea of a Filipino version of the notes found in the Zondervan NIV and MacArthur ESV Study Bibles. In this small project, I'm putting the notes from the two together and translating them into Filipino. I'm experimenting with the Gospel of Mark so we'll see what happens.

I'm doing this because I want to help Filipinos who may not be fluent in English have available resources for the study of God's Word.

PS. I am also researching if this will infringe on the copyright of the publishers. I'll update you as soon as I find out.

~*~
Mark 1:1

1 Ito ang Magandang Balita tungkol kay Jesu-Cristo, 
ang Anak ng Diyos.

1:1 Ito ang buod ng ebanghelyo (Magandang Balita) ayon kay Marcos. Ito ang Magandang Balita. Mainam na isalin bilang, “Ito ang panimula (Ἀρχὴ) ng Magandang Balita...” Kahalintulad ito ng pagbubukas ng Bibliya sa Genesis 1:1, at sa Juan 1:1, “Nang pasimula...” Magandang Balita (ebanghelyo). Nangangahulugan ding “Mabuting Balita o Kuwento.” Ito ang Mabuting Balita: Nagkaloob ang Diyos ng kaligtasan sa pamamagitan ng buhay, kamatayan at muling pagkabuhay ni Jesu-Cristo. Jesu-Cristo. Jesus (Hesus), ay Griyego ng Joshua (“Ang Diyos ang Kaligtasan”) na isang pangalang Hebreo. Ang Cristo (“Ang Napili”) ay salitang Griyego na katumbas ng salitang Mesias sa Hebreo. Jesus (Hesus) ang pangalan ng Panginoon nang Siya'y nagkatawang-tao (cf Mateo 1:21; Lukas 1:31). Cristo ang nagpapahayag ng Kaniyang katungkulan bilang tagapamuno ng Kaharian ng Diyos (Daniel 9:25-26). Anak ng Diyos. Nagpapakita ito ng pagka-Diyos ni Hesus, pati na rin ng Kaniyang malapit at natatanging relasyon sa Ama (cf. Mateo 3:11; 5:7; 9:7; 13:32; 15:39).

~*~
Sources:

Barker, Kenneth L., and Donald W. Burdick. Zondervan NIV study Bible: New International Version. Fully rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002. Print.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible English Standard Version.. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print.

The Purpose of Parables

Gospel Devotions

And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked 
him about the parables. And he said to them, 
“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, 
but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
    and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
(Mark 4:9-12) ESV

Now here is a rather difficult passage to understand. Jesus had just told the Parable of the Soils to a large crowd by the lake. After his preaching, His disciples (including the apostles) asked Him about the parable.

Comparing Mark's account with Matthew 13:10, I notice that Jesus' followers did not only ask about the meaning of the parable. They also wanted to know why Jesus taught using parables in the first place.

A parable (Gk prabole)"is a comparison of two objects for the purpose of teaching, usually in the form of a story." When Jesus uses parables, He usually employs common, everyday themes and stories that are easily understood by His audience.

In the Gospel of Mark, the Parable of the Soils is the second parable recorded. The first one is the "Parable of the Strongman" in Mark 3:23ff. In contrast, the Parable of the Soils is the first parable mentioned in Matthew (13:3ff), and it is the third one in Luke (8:9ff). There are no parables in the Gospel of John, nor is the word ever mentioned.

In the synoptic Gospels, Jesus' first method of teaching was discourse which, at times, was accompanied with miraculous signs and wonders. In Mark 1:14, for example, Jesus opened His ministry with a straightforward teaching, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel!" He used this method in succeeding episodes in Mark 1:21ff, 39; 2:1-28; 3:1-12, 31-35, before using parables beginning in Mark 3:23.

This is even more obvious in Matthew where I read Jesus' famous "Sermon on the Mount" (Matthew 5-7). He taught with direct teachings, with lessons that hit straight to the point. The apostles might have expected Him to teach this way until the end of His ministry. Thus, when Jesus began teaching in parables beginning Mark 3, they were moved to ask, "Why?"

Mark 4:9 is telling. As Jesus wrapped up His parable, He gave out a challenge to His listeners saying, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." He basically challenged His audience to understand and apply the parable to themselves. Jesus hid the main points in a story, but called out to the people to understand His message. At the same time, He challenged those who understood to apply it.  

Now, Jesus' followers were confused at their Master's new method of teaching. Perhaps they thought that the parables were difficult to grasp, and so Jesus was actually confusing the people. I can imagine them with question marks in their minds while listening to Him.

As I read further, it became apparent that not only were the audience confused with the message, but also Jesus' followers. This was the reason behind Jesus' disappointment in Mark 4:13.

He expected them to understand, for to these followers "has been given the secret of the kingdom of God…" With secret, Jesus meant that God has revealed to them the truth of His Kingdom. In this context, this truth may mean the nearing complete dominion and rule of God on earth through the coming of Jesus Christ.

This was the message Jesus first proclaimed in Mark 1:14. It was proclaimed to all, but understood only by those who believed. Here, I again encounter the reality that apart from the grace of God, no one will understand His truth (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And when Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:9-10 in part, He took on Himself the very ministry of the prophet. He used parables because like Isaiah, Jesus was to proclaim the truth of God to accomplish two things: 1) to instruct those who have faith on what they should do, and 2) to confirm the hardness of heart of unbelievers so that they have no excuse before God.

Because God's truth was preached to everyone through parables, it was as if Jesus was sifting the people. Those who have faith will understand. These are people who really went to Jesus because they were seeking God. Jeremiah 29:13 comes to my mind, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart."

This sudden shift in teaching method came because of the heightened harassment of a number of people following Jesus. He knew that there were those in the crowd who were not interested with God's truths. The Pharisees and Scribes are good examples. They appeared interested because of their many questions; however, Jesus knew that they were not really seeking answers.

He perceived that even if He were to answer all their questions, He would never satisfy them because they were not really seeking God. They were just there to cast doubt on Jesus' identity. As such, He chose to hide the message in plain sight so that only those who have faith will be able to see it.

The parables were Jesus' way of fulfilling Isaiah 6:10. Through these simple stories, the people who did not believe were all the more blinded, deafened and their hearts dulled. They had no faith, and so it was useless to give them the truth.

As testimony and judgment to their hardened hearts, God deliberately withheld the truth from them so that they cannot turn to Him to see, hear, understand and be healed.

This seemed harsh and cruel. However, remembering that the LORD had revealed the truths to them in countless ways in the past--through the prophets, through the Scripture and through Jesus' initial teachings--yet they chose not to believe, gives me a glimpse of their hardness of heart. They have earned their judgment.

I also believe, however, that God remained gracious. If they repented and believed, God would have opened their eyes to see.

Some may ask, "Because faith is a gift of God, is it not God's fault that these people did not believe?" Or in other words, "Is God not behind their unbelief?"

I am convinced that unbelief is a product of man's sinfulness (Hebrews 3:12). That is, people do not believe because their sinful nature chooses not to believe. It is not as if God gave them unbelief. No! They have unbelief because of sin and they exercise it, so their condemnation is their own doing.

My prayer is that God will always make me sensitive to His truths. May I be able to see and hear clearly, to obey swiftly and joyfully. And to my friends and loved ones who still do not believe, like Christ, I continue to call out, "repent and believe the good news."

Lord, be gracious to us all.

What does the Bible say about Homosexuality?

Borrowed from the University Student Council, UP Diliman

What exactly does the Bible teach about homosexuality?

I figured out these past days that so many people continue to ask this question, especially among college students. The issue is, of course, hotly debated even in our very own University of the Philippines, making it a very valid question to answer.

I do concede that my voice on this issue is but one among many. I'm not expecting this post to finally nail the coffin, but I want to provide students a balanced view on what the Bible teaches about homosexuality.

In dealing with this subject, we have to begin with God. We have to have at least some understanding of who He is in order to put homosexuality in a proper perspective.

The Holiness of God is Our Standard

I think the most important revelation about God on this topic is His holiness. In 1 John 1:5, we read that God is light and there is not a single hint of darkness in Him. What this tells us is that God's holiness is perfect. He is absolutely set apart from darkness or evil or sin. He cannot commit it, and He does not tolerate it (Habakkuk 1:13).

What does this mean for us? God has set the standard for all human beings. He commands us to be holy and perfect, for He is holy and perfect (Leviticus 19:2; Matthew 5:48). Whenever we fail to meet this standard -- and everyone certainly has-- we sin. After all, "sin," from the original Greek, means "to miss the mark." The imagery is like that of an archer missing the bull's eye.

We sin whenever we fail to meet God's standard, but this standard is certainly impossible to reach on our own. Here are a few examples to support my case.

In the 10 Commandments, we read about God's prohibitions against murder and adultery (Exodus 20). I believe that many of us think that these two are among the last that we'll do. Jumping to the New Testament, however, we see that the two commands are actually among the most commonly broken ones. How so?

In 1 John 3:15, murder and hate are treated as equals. That is, whenever we hate anyone, we already murder him or her in our hearts. Similarly, adultery happens not only when a married person develops an illicit affair. By simply looking at a woman or a man with lust in our eyes, Jesus says, we already commit adultery (Matthew 5:28).

And to put the bar even higher, James wrote, "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10)." When we sin even just once, we fail God's standard. If this is an exam, the only ones who will pass are those who get a perfect score. It's all or nothing. The truth is, on our own, we will never pass.

Such understanding of God's standard for our lives and this view of sin are necessary for us to see that Christians are NOT isolating the practice of homosexuality as a very special sin. Sin is sin. God is displeased with it because sin is an open rebellion against His holiness.

These truths are also necessary to understand that Christians are not perfect people seeking to judge and condemn "sinners." Christians are sinners also, considering God's impossible standard for righteousness. The only difference for them is that they've trusted in the only One who reached God's standard (Hebrews 5:15) and believed in His righteousness (1 Peter 3:18) that can reconcile them back to God-- Jesus Christ.

Thus, when Christianity talks about homosexuality as sin it means that giving in to it is consciously abandoning God's perfect standard and indulging in what He disapproves.

After all, we must look at God as a Father who desires to give us what's best through His righteous standards, and not as a grumpy old man waiting to punish anyone who fails to meet His demands.

Homosexuality and God's Standard

So, how does homosexuality square with God's standard?

Before answering this question, I think it's useful to note that Bible-believing Christians distinguish between people who struggle with homosexuality and those who give in to it. The former group seeks help. They are people who have same-sex attraction, are aware of it but still desire to uphold God's righteous standard in their lives.

The latter group, however, chooses to indulge in the homosexual lifestyle. They turned away from God's standard and chose to follow what they think is right, regardless of what the Bible or their conscience says.

Thus, a Christian condemns not the person but the act. This may sound absurd for some, but by experience, I know that it is possible. By God's grace, Christians are able to genuinely love homosexuals even if they disapprove of their lifestyle. This is the proper attitude because Scripture is clear that God alone is Judge over all.

It is not for me to judge the person struggling or indulging, but I can echo what God's Word says about homosexuality.

God's Disapproval

On plain reading, we can find several passages in the Old  and the New Testament talking about homosexuality. And each and every one disapproves it.

(Leviticus 18:22) Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

(Leviticus 20:13) If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

The story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19:1-11 

The story of the men of Gibeah in Judges 19:16-24

(Romans 1:26-27) Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

(1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

(1 Timothy 1:8-10) We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine...

(Jude 6-7) And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. 

I am aware that there are gay revisionist theologians who proposed alternative readings to the passages cited above. It's not my goal to answer their objections, but the book entitled, "The Bible, the Church and Homosexuality" may be of help.

God's Design for Sexual Relationships

Another way of understanding God's position on the subject is by looking at what He approves as the model and design for sexual relationships. This is found at the very beginning of the Bible, in the first two chapters of Genesis.

In Genesis 1:27-28, we read:

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

At the very beginning of time, God designed humankind as male and female. He also commanded them to procreate so as to fill and subdue the earth. Thus, sex is designed only between a male and a female. But more precisely, we read in Genesis 2:20-25 that it is reserved for the marriage bed.

So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The most suitable partner and helper for a man is a woman. This is true because by design, they are complementary. They complement each other not only physically but also emotionally.

Using both passages, we read that God's standard for sex is between a man and a woman in a loving and lifelong marriage covenant before God. Whenever we indulge in sex beyond this very limiting parameter, we fail God's standard, and so we sin.

Notice, however, that homosexuality is just one of the many ways this standard is broken. We also have fornication, adultery, orgies, solo-sex or masturbation, pornography, and bestiality among others. This coincides with my earlier point that God looks at sin as sin. There is no special treatment. They all fail His righteous standard.

What Jesus Has to Say

Right up to this point there is one person whom we have not yet heard-- Jesus Christ. Surely He has something to say about homosexuality, hasn't he? The Epistles in the New Testament would have not disapproved of the practice of homosexuality if Jesus Himself did not. But where did He say so?

To be honest, the Scripture does not record Jesus as saying something like, "Woe to those who practice homosexuality  for theirs is the wrath of God!" No. Instead, He opted to affirm God's design for sexual relations at creation. We read this in Matthew 19:4-6 when Jesus was challenged about the issue of divorce.

"Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

He basically joined both passages in Genesis 1 and 2. I believe that Jesus did this because He wanted to be more inclusive. As Apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, there are usually two ways of arguing one's case. The first one is by demolishing all counter-arguments in a the-last-man-standing strategy. The other, is by building a foolproof case that will withstand and prove false all counter-arguments thrown at it.

Jesus chose the second strategy when He re-echoed God's design way back at the beginning of time. This is the best course for the Scripture affirms that the wickedness in people's hearts is so great that they "invent ways of doing evil (Romans 1:30)." 

Pornography would have not been considered sinful because Jesus never once spoke against it. How could He when computers do not even exist during His time? But because He laid out what He approves, whatever comes along that is contrary to this standard, we know that He disapproves.

Reality of Change Through Christ

So we see from the Old Testament to the New, from the Father to the Son, that the Bible is consistent about homosexuality failing God's standard. It is sin.

It is frightening to think that there are people who choose that path still. But our fallen nature-- starting from Adam and Eve-- prevents us from actually choosing righteousness, even if God clearly laid out that He will punish each and every sin with spiritual and physical death (Romans 6:23a) to satisfy His justice.

This is why grace is necessary for a person's salvation. We cannot save ourselves through ourselves. We need the supernatural intervention of God. And in the case of the person struggling or the person indulging, grace from God is also the singular solution to break the chains of homosexuality.

The beauty of the Gospel is this-- grace has been freely given by God when He sent Jesus to die on the cross. Someone may say, "How on earth can He understand the struggles raging inside me? How can Jesus relate when He never struggled with homosexuality?"

2 Corinthians 5:21 proves this person wrong. Here we read that "God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." No one knows sin more than Jesus because on the cross, ALL of humanity's sins-- past, present and future-- were put upon Him. He took them all as our substitute so that when God crushed Him on the cross, He satisfied His justice without annihilating us, the actual sinners.

What did He accomplish with this death? Jesus put away sin once for all so that  He may be able to impute -- that is to credit to another person's account-- His very own perfect and righteous condition to all those who put their faith in Him as Lord and Savior.

We reach God's standard of righteousness not by our own flawed righteousness but by the righteousness of Jesus which we receive when we believe in Him. It is not by our works but by grace through faith in Him alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).

This is also the reason why a Christian can only go as far as delivering the message of the Gospel, including God's righteous standard. Transformation comes from God alone. This is true for struggling homosexuals as well.

Christians are not their judge; we are, instead, their messengers. We come to share Jesus as the answer to their struggles but leave the inner workings and the blossoming of faith to the Holy Spirit. To this end, we labor so that as many as would believe, they will also experience change.

Yes, change is real. This is affirmed by Scripture in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 which we read earlier.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Some of the Corinthians believers once indulged in the homosexual lifestyle, but the blood of Christ washed them, cleansed them and gave them the life that is truly life, a life to the fullest. They were able to turn away from it, perhaps slowly and painfully, all by God's grace and enabling. 

After all, God did not call us to be straight. He called us to be holy. So whether struggling or not, our aim must be to please God by offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We can do this first by turning from our sins and turning to Christ for salvation.

We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 )

Evangelism: An Overview

©CreationSwap/Rich Aguilar
Pastor Bel Magalit tackles evangelism during a council retreat of the Diliman Campus Bible Church. Here he shows us an overview of how the first-century believers understood Jesus' Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. I highly recommend this podcast for everyone engaged in ministry. May you be blessed!



Reconsidering Discipleship


Note: I shared this message at a fellowship among university students living in the dorms. May you be blessed! Click on this link if you want to hear the recorded message.


Discipleship is Worship

Let me begin by saying that discipleship is worship. Why worship? Because in discipleship, we give God the glory He deserves as we submit to His will of sanctification. Sanctification is that part of salvation when the Holy Spirit slowly transforms us into more like Jesus in speech, deeds, thoughts and actions.

Note that Justification is that moment when we cross-over from death to life, from being enemies to being sons and daughters of God because by God’s grace we are enabled to put our faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-10). It happens instantaneously. In a moment. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a life-long process of being transformed by the Holy Spirit to be more like Jesus.

Unless we are justified—we have entered into that saving relationship with Jesus—He will not sanctify us. Finally, when Jesus Christ returns, our salvation becomes complete! No more sin, no more corruptible bodies. We may adopt the word “perfect” as we describe the fulfillment of God’s planned salvation story in our glorification (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). All by grace. 

If we are to position discipleship, I believe that it falls mainly on the sanctification part of our salvation. Discipleship is one of God’s ways—if not God’s major means—of sanctifying us. It is worship because as we disciple or as we are discipled, we honor, obey and trust God by submitting to His ways for our sanctification.

Grace in Discipleship

Let us not forget that this whole idea of discipleship, and this process of sanctification still relies on the mercy and grace of God. It succeeds not because we have the best tools, nor the most trained staff, nor the most passionate people, nor the most innovative system. No. It succeeds because the God who began a good work in us “will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).”

The keyword here is grace, coupled by one of God’s most wonderful attributes, faithfulness. We are commonly admonished to be faithful to God, but by simply examining our lives, we can all admit that many times, we’ve failed on this. However, there is this “trustworthy saying” in 2 Timothy 2:13 that goes, “if we are faithless”—we do not believe, or we are in a state of unbelief—“he (God) will remain faithful for he cannot disown himself.”

God’s faithfulness is dependent on His character and not our circumstances. That’s why when Scripture says He will carry on the good work He began in us Christians and complete it, our assurance is not on our goodness, but on who God is. He is faithful because it is His nature.

Thus, if you know you are justified by grace through faith in Jesus, you will surely be sanctified one way or another.  
Discipleship does not make you more of a Christian

Now, discipleship is not a means of making us “more saved” or “more Christian” than other Christians. No. Scripture is clear in Acts 16:31 that when we believe in the Lord Jesus, we are saved. This means that when we trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, turning from sin and rebellion to complete submission to the Son of God, we are fully and wholly saved.

We are saved in whole and not in chunks. Thus, it is simply either you are saved or you are not. You cannot be in the middle. You cannot be saved today and doomed tomorrow. Once you are saved, once you’re in, you’re in (John 10:28).

In this regard, we see that though Christians are in varying stages of Christlikeness, they are all saved, provided that they’ve been truly justified, that they have “truly accepted Jesus into their hearts,” to borrow a modern way of saying it.

Thus, discipleship is not a means of making you more of a Christian, but a result of your being a Christian. Because discipleship is one of God’s ways of sanctifying us—our minds, hearts, attitudes, our whole being—into Christlikeness, it is and must be natural for all  and any saved individual to desire, hunger, long for Bible-based discipleship one way or another.

Salvation = Desire to know more of God

When Paul wrote, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17),” I see a miraculous transformation. In an instant, God puts in our hearts a sudden love for the things God loves and hatred for the things God hates. There is a sudden hunger and desire to know God, to understand everything about Him, to understand His Word.

Have you ever been with new believers? Have you felt their infectious and bursting passion for God? Or do you remember that moment when you first became a believer? I certainly miss that overflowing awe and wonder I felt when I first believed in Jesus. God literally drew me to Himself! I wanted to learn everything about Him overnight. I wanted to finish reading His Word the fastest way possible. I wanted to master all the doctrines and teachings I could master. I wanted to know Him. I wanted to experience Him daily. I wanted to hear His voice. I wanted Him so much! I could not describe the feeling. It’s far better than the feeling of being in loved.

I can distinctly remember that even before I became a Christian, a number of people already invited me to join their Bible Studies. I could remember, in fact, that when I was a freshman (I wasn’t a Christian yet, then), I attended three Bible Studies. I had so many not because I was so passionate for the Lord. I had so many because I didn’t know how to say, “No.”

Though I had three, I was clever enough to evade at least two in a week, and just go through the motions of the last one. My disinterest in God’s Word which is central in discipleship was clear evidence that I was not saved at all. But when I came to know Jesus, that’s the time I hungered for His Word. I genuinely desired Bible Studies. I sought disciplers and discipleship. I no longer evaded but longed to learn about and grow in God.

A Christian Not Being Discipled

How about the phenomenon of Christians not being discipled? If the person is a genuine believer and he or she evades discipleship for whatever reason, there is clearly disobedience to God. But remember that when I say discipleship I’m not thinking exclusively of structured discipleship processes. I use the word discipleship to mean avenues of learning more about Jesus and growing deeper in our faith relationship with Him and with fellow Christians.

If a genuine believer evades these discipleship avenues, then his or her sanctification is compromised. God will still be able to sanctify the person through other means, but it will take longer, more painful even. The elementary truths that would have renewed his mind and transformed his actions may be learned through painful experiences, as God sees fit.

And because he will learn more slowly, he will be limited in his service to God and fellow believers. He will miss out on the great joy of salvation here on earth—being able to give oneself fully in the service of the Lord (Psalm 100). And as a matter of warning, even if you’re already a Christian, assured of heaven and eternity, you will still stand before the Most Holy God. God says in 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

What will God judge us of? How have we lived our lives as believers?

But what do we do with these Christians who run away from discipleship? Never give up on them. Pray for them! Pursue them!

What if you are this Christian? Listen to what God says in Hebrews 6:1, “…let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…” May you not be contented with only what you know. When Jesus admonished us to love God with all our being (Luke 10:27), He specifically mentioned that we Love God…with all our mind. People have missed on the depths of God’s glory because they’re contented with milk and not the meat of Scriptures, and they never reach that stage when God’s Word is as honey to them.

When you hear God’s Word preached in fellowship or in church, you will learn a lot. But there are a lot more in stored when you make time for discipleship. In that small circle of believers, you can ask and challenge, you can share and care, you can open up and be accountable. You enter into a community, you journey together into knowing more about God. I tell you, this is one of the few experiences that I will never trade for anything else in the world.   

The Aim of Discipleship

But why are doing all these? Because we want to reach Col. 1:28 “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

Our goal must be to present everyone mature in Christ. By whatever means possible, let us strive and work to achieve this. And it is not easy, I tell you.

Discipleship should replicate Christlikeness—renewed minds, equipped hands for ministry, transformed hearts. This is a bit of a warning for all of us handling Bible Studies (T-Groups, Shepherding Groups, Small Groups). Discipleship is not a simple mentorship. You should not be producing disciples who are dependent on you, their discipler. You should not be producing disciples who are your clones—laughing at the same joke, frowning on the same movies, having the same mannerisms. No!

As someone involved in discipleship, it has always been my desire to point everyone I teach to Jesus and make them realize that we should all run to Jesus, we should all learn about Him, we must all depend on Him, we must draw strength and inspiration from Him, we must all be like Him. This is also the reason why I seldom or almost never call anyone my disciple, because we are all disciples of the one Great Discipler—Jesus Christ.

A Final Note

There is a reason why Paul told Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” The reason is continuity. God desires that every generation of believers will grow in their relationship with Jesus so that He can use them to lead and guide the next generation of believers.

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 is also very telling. We read, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up…”

I am actually overstaying if you may. In DCF, this is no longer my generation. My generation ended in 2010. But I stayed because I felt that I have not yet fulfilled Colossians 1:28 to the best of my abilities. I urge you, however, to take the lead, not to depend on me, but to take the bold strides of faith in discipleship.

Do not miss out on your generation’s great privilege of discipling the younger generation. And to the younger generations, be excited and prepare yourselves as the helm will be passed on to you very soon. Don’t worry, because all these will come to pass, by the grace and mercy of God. Amen.

Your Lord and King (Luke 18:18-23)

Writer's Note: I gave this talk to the graduating class of the UP College of Education during their graduation ecumenical service.

Image source: http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kuj0v0RcGN1qzlw80.jpg

I have discovered from the preaching of one influential Christian Apologist and Philosopher, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, that there is a very effective way of identifying Easterners (from a Eurocentric perspective this includes Asians, Middle Eastern People among others) from Westerners (Americans, Englishmen) if one is speaking to a multi-cultural group.

And I will illustrate this by means of his experience. One time, Dr. Zacharias was asked to speak in the United Nations before hundreds of representatives from countries all over the world. As he began his talk, he opened by saying, “I will tell you a story…”

From his vantage point he saw that representatives from the Middle East, East Asia, South East Asia, the Eastern half of the globe were suddenly leaning forward, concentrating  and looking more intently at him. This was as opposed to the almost unchanged expression and countenance of the Western representatives.

The key element there is the word “STORY.” We love stories as a people. And living in the context of the Middle East, it is not surprising that Jesus Himself used stories when He taught. We are all Easterners here, and so I choose to leave with you a story as you leave the walls of this university.  

But this story is not a product of my imagination. It is a historic narrative in the life of Jesus as recorded by Dr. Luke, the evangelist. For those of you who would want to read it after, it is found in Luke 18:18-23, in the Bible.

The Rich Young Ruler

Let me tell you the story… One time, a young ruler of the Jewish Sanhedrin, this is like a council or a court of justice during the New Testament Times, who was very rich went to Jesus and talked to Him. The Gospel of Mark notes that he ran up to Jesus and even fell on his knees as he spoke to Him, saying “Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus, standing there, looked at him and saw beyond the façade. He answered back, challenging the rich young ruler’s words, “Good Master…,” because He knew that the young ruler had neither the faith nor the understanding of Jesus’ identity to back the confession, “Good Master…”

And so He answered, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” That was Jesus’ way of saying, “You call me Good Master, but do you know who I am? Do you know that I am the Son of God (Matthew 16:16), the exact representation of God’s being (Hebrews 1:3), that the fullness of the Deity dwells in me in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)? 

But before the rich ruler had the time to answer, Jesus turns to his main question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And He quotes a very familiar set of commands as reply. “You know the commandments,” Jesus said, “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”

These are five of the 10 Commandments recorded in Exodus 20—Commandments number five through nine or the man-ward commandments. These deal with how one should treat his or her fellow human being in the sight of God.

Upon hearing this, the rich young ruler blurted out, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” His claim was that he never committed adultery, he never murdered anyone, he never stole anything, never gave false testimonies against anyone and he always honored his father and mother.

Interestingly, Jesus never disputed the young man’s claims. But the key to their conversation was what He left out from the 10 Commandments—the First, the Second, the Third, the Fourth and the Tenth. From Exodus 20, “(1) I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me. (2) You shall not make for yourself an image… bow down to them or worship them. (3) You shall not misuse the name of the Lord Your God. (4) Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. And (10) You shall not covet.”

Upon these, Jesus makes His reply and says to the rich young ruler, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

The connection between the five commandments that were left out and Jesus’ recommendation for the rich young ruler to sell everything he owned and give to the poor is a HEART ISSUE. Jesus was not concerned with what the man can do so that he will inherit eternal life. Instead, He was concerned with what his heart was running after for. Jesus was concerned with what or who was sitting on the throne of the man’s heart as Lord, and as King.

We get a glimpse of the rich young ruler’s heart when, upon hearing Jesus’ response to "sell all his possessions and give to the poor,” he became not only sad, but VERY sad. Why? Because he was “a man of great wealth.”

Lessons We Learn
What do we learn from the narrative?

First what or who occupies the throne of our hearts? You see the young ruler. What was in his heart? What was he running after for? What was King and Lord, sitting on his life’s throne? The answer is great wealth. 

Commandments one through four are God-ward commandments summed up by Jesus as, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).” That is, God should not just be number one, He should be the ONLY ONE occupying the throne of your life—not wealth or power, popularity or status, name, fame or beauty, politics, religion. No! God should be the only one.

Commandment number 10 has something to do with covetousness. And the Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to the Colossian Church that covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Incidentally, any form of disobedience to the God-ward commandments is basically idolatry.

Second, do we know the Jesus of the Scriptures? You remember that Jesus opened with a challenge that is summed up in the question, “You call me Good Master, but do you know me?”

If the young man knew Jesus, he would have gladly given up his earthly possessions because if he did, he would have given the throne of his heart to the King of kings, the Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 19:16), the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), the Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the End (Revelations 1:8, 22:13), the True God (1 John 5:20), the Bread of Life (John 6:35; 6:48), the Savior or Messiah (Luke 2:11), the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25), the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6), the Light of the World (John 8:12), the Good Shepherd (John 10:11, 14), the Lamb of God (John 1:29).

He would have given his life to Hims who died for our sins and rose again, overpowering death itself (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

A Challenge

As you leave the university, I challenge you to think about who or what is sitting on the throne of your heart. Because that will be your foundation, the rock upon which you will stand or fall in the face of life’s struggles. Will God see riches, fame, honor, glory, pride? Or will He see Jesus enthroned rightfully where He belongs?

And I challenge you to yearn for that which produces eternal fruit (Matthew 6:19-21). May you strive for a purpose that is beyond the here and now to what is there in eternity. May God through Jesus ever so fill your hearts so that you will find peace. In my own experience, Blaise Pascal was right when he said, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

When I was about to graduate in UP, I had the luxury of good grades, the distinct honor of graduating Magna cum Laude, valedictorian of my batch, best thesis in the College of Mass Communication, and a ready job at the Philippine Daily Inquirer. But between these things and Jesus Christ, only Jesus, having a personal relationship with Him, gave me peace, security, purpose and identity. 

That is why I can say with the Apostle Paul, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:7-8).”

May you come to that point when you will also see the radiance of God in the face of Jesus that you may surrender to Him as Lord and Savior by grace through faith alone in the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).”

Amen and Amen.

Enter Paradise: A Reflection


©CreationSwap/Micah Claycamp
I was moved by one of the songs sang during our Easter service at church. It essentially held the Gospel word per word, proclaiming our Savior's sacrifice to bring us peace and life.

Listening to the song today, I could not help but reflect on God's grace and mercy. Some made an acronym of the word grace that goes, "God's riches at Christ's expense." Grace is basically God giving us what we do not deserve. And mercy is the other side of the coin-- God withholding that which we deserve.

I will never forget these definitions. God gave His greatest treasures to us-- forgiveness and personal relationship-- at the cost of His precious Son. We do not deserve these gifts because we are sinners to the core (Isaiah 53:6). And by this I mean we do not meet God's standards of perfection (Romans 3:23).

Who can claim that he or she is righteous enough, holy enough, good enough to enter paradise on his or her own merit? If there were such a person, I tell you that his greatest sin is pride. And for this pride, he falls short of God's definition of righteousness (Matthew 5:3). For this pride, he accumulates for himself the wages of sin which is death, eternal spiritual death (Romans 6:23).

This death is what God withheld by His mercy. Instead of placing it upon us, Jesus received the punishment humbly in our place. Sheer love...unspeakable love (John 3:16).

Just imagine. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Maker of everything in the universe chose to be among us, to be one with us. He set aside majesty and glory and took on the humble estate of a man (Philippians 2). Why did He do it? Because only by becoming like us-- apart from our sinfulness (Hebrews 4:15)-- can He be accepted as our substitute.

No other faith system in the world proclaims a God who chooses to die in order to save His creation. You find this only in the Biblical Christian faith. Whereas world religions say, "Reach to your gods. Do your best so that your gods will accept you. Do good. Die a martyr," Christian faith says, "It is finished. Not by your works but by the grace of God can you be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9)."

One tells you to struggle heavenward. The other whispers, "God has come down to be with us." No wonder one of Jesus' names, "Immanuel," means God with us.

And as we hear in the song, mercy and grace's price is costly. It is the life of the Son. Yet, by His "wounds we are healed" from our spiritual sickness. Isaiah sums it up, "But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)."

No wonder that the only fitting response is faith-- to trust in Jesus, to turn to the Savior, to gaze at our Lord. The work has been done! God is not waiting for us to fill up what has already been finished at the cross. He is waiting for us to embrace His Son, for in so doing, His righteousness becomes ours. We are counted worthy at that very moment, and He begins to work towards our perfection until the Day Jesus comes again.

May this song minister to you. As you listen, I encourage you to reflect on your faith. Do you know facts about Jesus? Or do you truly know and trust Jesus?

May you be blessed!



In Christ,




Of Watermelons and Evangelism


Watermelons

For those who don't know, Watermelon is my favorite fruit, so I tried planting several seeds at the start of the year, hoping to harvest even at least a single fruit after three months or so.

I bought a pack of seeds of the "Gold Baby" variety at the nearby Robinson's Supermarket. After researching on the feasibility of growing Watermelons on pots, I decided to give the project a go using makeshift plastic pots from old water containers.

I actually tried growing melons last year, but they all died because I didn't have the time to transplant them. My enthusiasm also faded after losing patience with the entire planting and growing process. This time, however, I placed my heart into the  project. I am now actually more than halfway through and my watermelons now have flowers and buds everywhere.

The photo above was taken after I transplanted the seedlings to a bigger plastic pot. There was actually just one at first, but another seed suddenly sprouted. Thus, the odd positioning of the two. You can just imagine my excitement when I succeeded in transferring my young watermelons, something I failed to do with my melons in the past.

Fast forward to one and a half months after and my watermelons have grown a lot! (Refer to the photo below.) My housemate, Dado, gave me the two plastic pots as birthday gifts on February. I separated the two seedlings, one on each pot, for maximum nutrient absorption.


By the way, I placed my plants on our roof. I'm dreaming of having my own green roof someday! Somewhat similar to the Plants vs Zombies stage where potted plants lined the rooftop.

And if you're wondering, how watermelon flowers look like, refer to the photo below. That's the first ever flower that bloomed from my plant. Watermelons have male and female flowers. The male delivers the pollen while the female, when fertilized, turns into the fruit. You can easily distinguish the "gender" of the flower by looking at its stem. If it looks like an ordinary stem, it's a male flower. But if it has a bulge the shape of a vase, that's a female flower.


No female flower has bloomed to date, but I'm expecting two anytime this week. I'm praying that their blooming will coincide with a male flower so that I can fertilize them and finally have a watermelon fruit!

Evangelism

Up until this point, I had been talking about my watermelon plants. Through this simple experience, however, God made me understand the principle behind 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 more clearly.

Here we read:

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

When I bought a pack of seeds, I planted five, hoping that even just one would grow. I was anxious the first three days because I did not see any of the seeds germinating. I was faithful in watering them and I made sure that they were planted on good soil. However, whether the seeds would live or not was totally out of my hands.

Similarly in evangelism, as God's workers, we are called to be faithful in planting seeds of the Gospel and watering those earlier planted by other Christians. However, the blooming of the seeds or the coming to faith in Jesus of a person is out of our control.

Only the Holy Spirit can convict a person of sin and turn him or her to God (John 16:8). Regeneration or the giving of new life in Christ is wholly God's work. As evangelists, the heart of our duty is to faithfully and clearly proclaim Jesus as the only answer to sin and the only way to be reconciled back to God (John 3:16). We are also to urge people to believe this message and to repent from their sins that they may be saved or forgiven by God (Mark 1:15).

A person's response to this Gospel or Good News is entirely dependent on the grace or mercy of God. That is, apart from God's intervention, no single person can say "yes" to Jesus. The gravity of our depravity makes us unable to choose God on our own strength (Romans 3:10-12). The sinful nature makes us captive of the kingdom of darkness and blind to the truth about Jesus (Galatians 3:22; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

But praise God because the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of people. He enables men and women to respond to Jesus. As such, no evangelist can really claim glory for the salvation of people. Paul was right when he said that it was not him or Apollos who saved, but God alone.

This truth should also be an encouragement for us to never stop sharing the Gospel because God can use all our humble acts in drawing people to Himself (Galatians 6:9). Usually, ministers are discouraged because they do not see fruit in their work. However, if we realize that only God can produce fruit or salvation in a person, we should never use this as a measure for our success or failure.

Instead, we must seek God's strength that He may enable us to faithfully and clearly share the Gospel. Afterall, as Bill Bright of the Campus Crusade for Christ emphasized, (with some additions on my part) "Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to [faithfully and clearly] share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God."

May this encourage us all to keep on sharing Jesus! God bless you all!


Fall on Love before falling in love




Here is the outline of my talk at High Praise Sta. Rosa. We set out to understand love in its fullness at the post-valentine event of their youth fellowship. By searching through the Scriptures, we realized that love can only be understood fully when we know God, who is its author, and when we understand His Agape love expressed in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.

May you be blessed as you read this post!


Mateo 2 Komentaryo

Kabanata 2


VV 1-8 Ang Paghahanap ng mga Mago sa Kristo
Ang taong malayo sa mga kaparaanan ng grasya ay malimit pinakamasikap sa paghahanap ng mga ito. Dahil dito, siya ri'y ganap na natututo tungkol kay Kristo at sa Kaniyang kaligtasan. Subalit, hindi ang pagkamausisa niya o ang karunungan ng mundo ang umaakay sa tao palapit sa Diyos. Kailangan nating matuto ng tungkol kay Kristo sa tulong ng Kaniyang Salita na ilaw sa kadiliman, at sa katuruan ng Banal na Espiritu. Sa makatuwid buhay na ang pagsamba sa Diyos para sa mga taong pinagkalooban ng kinang ng Kaniyang bituin upang makilala nila ng lubos si Kristo.

Matanda na si Herodes nang dumalaw ang mga Mago mula sa kanluran. Magkagayon man at kahit na hindi siya nag-aalala para sa tagapagmana, at malamang ay di na abutan ang karampatang gulang ng sanggol upang maging bagong hari ay nangamba siya't kinatakutan ang isang karibal.

Hindi niya naintindihan na kahariang espirituwal ang pamumunuan ng Tagapagligtas. Si Herodes ay halimbawa ng patay na pananampalatayang  dapat nating iwasan! Ang isang tao ay maaaring mahimok ng maraming katotohanan ngunit kasuklaman lahat ng ito, dahil tinitignan niyang hadlang sa kaniyang mga ambisyon o sa makasalanang pamumuhay.

Magdadala lamang ng pangamba ang patay na pananampalatayang iyon na karunungan lang ng mundo. Dahil sa kalikuang ito'y lalo niyang nanaising puksain ang katotohanan at ang gawain ng Diyos! Subalit isang hangal ang maniniwalang maaari siyang magtagumpay laban sa Panginoon!

VV 9-12 Ang Pagsamba ng mga Mago kay Hesus
Anong kagalakan ang nadama ng mga Mago nang mamasdan nila ang bituin ng Diyos! Maiintindihan lamang ito ng mga taong inampon ng Banal na Espiritu upang maging mga anak ng Diyos pagkatapos ng mahaba't mapanglaw na mga gabi ng tukso at pagiisa sa ilalim ng espiritung mapang-alipin.

Maaari nating isiping sila'y nangabigo nang makitang isang kulungan ng hayop ang palasyo ng Hari, kasama lamang ang kaniyang mahirap na ina. Subalit ang mga mago ay hindi nataranta o inisip man lang na nagkamali ng napuntahan, bagkus ay inialay nila ang kanilang mga dalang regalo sa sanggol na siyang pinakahahanap-hanap nilang Hari.

Ang mapagkumbabang taga-usisa ni Kristo ay hindi matitisod kung matagpuan siya at Kaniyang mga tagasunod sa isang kubling kubo pagkatapos ng bigong paghahanap sa mga palasyo at matataong siyudad.

Lubos mo bang hinahanap si Kristo? Nais mo ba Siyang sambahin? O iniisip mo bang wala kang maipagkakaloob sapagkat isa ka lang hamak at hangal na nilalang? Wala ba?! Hindi ba meron kang puso? Kahit ito'y hindi karapat-dapat sa Kaniya, maitim, matigas at karimarimarim, ibigay mo ito at humanda kang magpagamit at magpasakop sa Hari ayon sa Kaniyang naisin! Kukunin Niya ang pusong iyon, gagawing mas mabuti at hinding hindi ka magsisi na ibinigay mo sa panimula pa lang. Gagawin Niyang kawangis ng Kaniyang puso ang iyong puso, ibibigay ang Kaniyang sarili sa iyo, kasabay ng pagbibigay mo ng iyong sarili sa Kaniya sa habang panahon.

Ginto, insenso at pabangong mira ang ipinagkaloob ng mga mago kay Hesus. Kalooban ng Diyos ang mga regalong ito na napapanahong magbigay kaginhawaan sa nakahahabag na kalagayan nina Maria sa kuwadra. Tunay ngang alam ng ating Ama sa Langit ang ating mga pangangailangan. Gumagamit siya ng mga tao upang magsilbi sa nangangailan, kahit na galing pa sila sa malayong silangan.

VV 13-15 Ang Pagtakas Patungong Egipto
Mahabang panahong inalipin ng Egipto ang Israel. Maliban dito, naging malupit ang Egipto sa mga sanggol ng Hebreo, subalit ito ang itinakdang kanlungan para sa banal na sanggol na si Hesus. Kung kalooban ng Diyos, kaya Niyang gamitin maging ang pinakamasamang bagay para sa pinakamabuting tungkulin.

Ang mga naganap ay pagsubok sa pananampalataya nina Maria at Jose na kanila namang napagtagumpayan. Kung ang ating mga anak ay maharap man sa panganib, ating alalahanin ang mga pinagdaanan ni Hesus bilang isang sanggol.

VV 16-18 Pagpapapatay sa mga Sanggol
Ipinapatay ni Herodes ang mga sanggol at batang lalaki hindi lamang sa Bethlehem kundi pati sa mga karatig bayan at siyudad. Galit na walang humpay kasama ng pang-aabuso ng kapangyarihan ang nagdulot ng labis na kasamaan.

Ang pangyayaring ito ay hindi pruweba ng kasamaan ng Diyos. Sa makatuwid, pagkapanganak pa lang sa ati'y wala na tayong karapatang mabuhay dahil hinihingi ng hustisya ng Diyos ang ating kamatayan bilang kabayaran sa kasalanan (Rom. 6:23a). Ang pagkakasakit at kamatayan ng mga maliliit na bata ay tanda ng orihinal na kasalanan, subalit ang pagpatay sa kanila ay kamatayan bilang mga martir. Tunay ngang napakaagang nagsimula ng pag-uusig kay Kristo at sa Kaniyang Kaharian!

Inakala ni Herodes na napigilan na niya ang mga propesiya ng Lumang Tipan, pero sa kabila ng kaniyang katusuhan at kalupitan ay nangingibabaw pa rin ang kalooban ng Panginoon.

VV 19-23 Ang Kamatayan ni Herodes at Pagpunta sa Nazareth
Maaaring maging kanlungan pansamantala ang Egipto subalit hindi tirahan. Isinugo ang Kristo sa mga nawawalang tupa ng Israel kaya dapat Siyang bumalik as kanila. Madalas nating tignan ang mundo bilang ating Egipto. Isa itong lugar para sa mga inalipin at ipinatapon. Sa kabilang dako'y pinagmamasdan natin ang langit na parang Canaan, ang ating tahanan at lugar ng kapahingaan. Kung tayo'y tawagin patungo roon, bumangon tayo't magmadali katulad ni Jose nang tawagin siya palabas ng Egipto.

Ang kaniyang pamilya ay dapat manirahan sa Galilea, sa Nazareth. Pangit ang reputasyon ng Nazareth at isa ito sa ginamit upang pagbintangang erehe si Hesus. Saan man tayo itakda ng Diyos manirahan, dapat natin itong tanggapin kasama ng lahat ng kasiraan, katulad ng pagtanggap ni Hesus. At ating alalahaning may karangalang naghihintay sa lahat ng tinawag sa Kaniyang Pangalan! Kung tayo'y magdusa kasama ni Hesus, luluwalhatiin Niya rin tayo kasama Niya.

~*~
Hinango mula sa:
http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-concise/matthew/2.html

How to Understand the Bible Correctly (3)

©CreationSwap/Aaron Dailey

In my previous post, we looked at the importance of understanding words, phrases and terms as the early believers understood them. This guards us from wrongly applying our modern eyes without considering the original hearer's worldview. Theologians call this "eisigesis" or reading into the Scripture.

Instead of letting God's Word speak for itself (exegesis), we put words into God's Word because of our preconceived biases as modern readers.

In this post, we're going to deal with the "literal" interpretation and its supremacy over the symbolical. We will also consider, however, when not to use the literal and the instances when both are acceptable in understanding the Bible.

May you be blessed as you read this post!



How to Understand the Bible Correctly (2)

©CreationSwap/Jessica Preskitt
In my previous post, we looked at what it meant to interpret Biblical passages in context. This is especially crucial owing to the fact that the Bible was not written in a vacuum. Instead, one must consider both literary and cultural contexts to fully understand its message.

In this post, we're going to see the importance of understanding Biblical words, phrases and terms as the early believers understood them. We may be tempted to "read into" the Scripture with our modern eyes. Doing so, however, opens us to the possibility of twisting God's Word to fit what we understand.

By God's grace and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, may we develop the habit of "reading from" the Scriptures lending our thoughts captive before God's.



How to Understand the Bible Correctly (1)

©CreationSwap/Robert Hafley
Reading, understanding and interpreting the Bible are among the most useful skills a Christian must strive to develop. I believe much of the disagreements in Biblical interpretation lie in the method employed by the Bible students. They simply aren't applying the same principles in reading and understanding God's Word.

In the context where I minister, I've noticed the need to guide younger believers as well as student leaders in this area of their faith. It is true that the revelations from the Bible come to us ultimately through the Holy Spirit. However, it is not true that we must divest our cognitive skills and rely solely on the supernatural in handling the Scriptures. There must be a balance of both. After all, the Bible came to us not as a magical artifact but as a book that can be read and understood through language and literature, with the leading of the Spirit.

In this series of blog posts, I'm going to share several materials that can help every believer in the area of Biblical interpretation. These materials are based on the book of Pastor Willie Girao, How to Understand the Bible Correctly.

You can download and personalize the article here.

Manasseh: An Evil King (2 Kings 21:1-18)

©CreationSwap/Nathan Furr

After discussing Hezekiah, one of Judah's few faithful kings, Pastor Bel Magalit invites us to learn about his son, Manasseh. Sadly, this heir was among God's wicked servants. His rule was marked by gross idolatry, rebuilding the shrines and reestablishing worship to the detestable gods of their neighboring countries.

As we listen to this heartbreaking account, may we be moved to reexamine our standing before God, especially our tendencies to lust after "foreign gods." May we be blessed!




Hezekiah: Judah's Righteous King (2 Kings 18-19)

©CreationSwap/Jeff Brown

Righteous kings were scarce in Judah and Israel. Most were far from the LORD, bowing down to foreign gods who were no gods at all.

Hezekiah, on the other hand, trusted in the Living God, revered and exalted Him as the only True God of Israel. Listen and be blessed as Pastor Isabelo Magalit discusses the life of this righteous king and the lessons we can draw from his example.





The Divided Kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-23)

©CreationSwap/Hunter McGee

Pastor Mark Gicain of the Diliman Campus Bible Church (afternoon service) talks about the history of Israel, focusing on the division of the once united kingdom. He traces the cause of the division as well as its impact both in the political and spiritual lives of the Israelites.

He wraps up the message with a reflection on God's heart for unity. He reminds us of this truth in our Christian life as well as in our ministries on campus and beyond. May you be blessed! 


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