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

Itinuturo ba ng Romans 9:5 na Diyos si Hesus?

Romans 9:5 “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (English Standard Version)
Image Source: http://www.sovereigngrace.net/articles/god-flesh-part-i


Sa kasalukuyan ay may dalawang naghaharing katuruan sa Pilipinas tungkol sa kalikasan ni Hesu Cristo. May ilang naniniwalang Siya’y tao lamang. Sa usaping teolohiya, sila’y tinatawag na mga “Arian,” na hango sa isang mangangaral na nabuhay noong bandang AD 300, si Arius. Pinasikat niya ang paniniwalang nakahihigit ang Diyos Ama kaysa kay Hesus.

Sa kabilang banda naman ay ang mga naniniwalang si Hesus ay hindi lamang tao kundi buo ring Diyos. Sila’y tinatawag na “Athanasian,” na hango sa katunggali ni Arius, and mangangaral na Obispo ng Alexandria, si Athanasius. Itinuro naman ng obispo na ang Ama at Anak kabilang na rin ang Espiritu Santo ay pantay-pantay sa pagka-Diyos, sa kalikasan, at maging sa kapangyarihan.

At siyempre may iba’t-ibang bersyon pa sa pagitan ng dalawang kampo, pero bibigyang pansin lang natin ang nagtutungaliang katuruan. Ano nga ba ang katangiang taglay ni Hesus? Tao lang ba Siya? O buong tao at buong Diyos?

Parehong ginamit nina Arius at Athanasius ang Bibliya upang suportahan ang kanilang katuruan. Pero siyempre, hindi puwedeng dalawang magkasalungat na katotohanan ang itinuturo ng Banal na Kasulatan.

Maaaring tama si Arius at mali si Athanasius, o kabaliktaran. O kaya nama’y mali silang pareho. Pero hindi pwedeng parehong tama ang magkasalungat nilang katuruan. 

Pansinin natin na may “common ground” ang dalawang panig. Pareho silang naniniwalang buong tao si Hesus. Ang pagkakaiba lang ay ang salitang “lang.” Para sa mga Arian, buong tao “lang” si Hesus. Sa mga Athanasian naman, Siya’y “hindi lang” buong tao, kundi higit pa rito.

Mahalagang obserbasyon ito dahil kung makahanap tayo ng kahit isang bahagi lang ng Bibliya na nagtuturong Diyos si Hesus ay guguho ang pundasyon ng mga Arian.

Sa artikulong ito, iyon nga ang susubukan nating gawin. At ang bibigyang atensyon natin ay ang Romans 9:5.

Para sa mga walang Bibliya, heto ang nilalaman ng nasabing verse sa iba’t-ibang salin ng Bibliya:

“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (New International Version)
“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” (English Standard Version)
“whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” (New American Standard Bible)
“Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” (King James)
“Na sa kanila ang mga magulang, at sa kanila mula ang Cristo ayon sa laman, na siyang lalo sa lahat, Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man. Siya nawa.” (Ang Dating Biblia, 1905)
“ang kanilang mga ninuno’y mga pinili ng Dios; at nagmula sa kanilang lahi si Cristo nang siya’y maging tao—ang Diyos na makapangyarihan sa lahat na dapat purihin magpakailanpaman. Amen.” (Ang Salita ng Dios Biblia)

Para sa mabilisang konteksto, sa Chapter 9 ng Romans ay mababasa natin ang hinagpis ni Pablo para sa mga Judio. Nais niyang sila ri’y makakilala sana sa Panginoon kahit na kapalit noo’y siya mismo’y mapasailalim sa sumpa ng Diyos.

Ganoon na lang ang panghihinayang niya dahil sa mga pribilehiyong ibinigay ng Diyos sa mga Judio. Sa panulat ni Pablo, “na sa kanila ang pagkukupkop, at ang kaluwalhatian, at ang mga tipan, at ang pagbibigay ng kautusan, at ang paglilingkod sa Dios, at ang mga kapangakuan… (Romans 9:4)”

Dagdag pa niya sa v. 5, “Na sa kanila ang mga magulang, at sa kanila mula ang Cristo ayon sa laman…” Kung baga’y nasa kanila na ang lahat at mula pa sa kanilang lahi ipinanganak ang Cristo, pero ayaw pa ring paniwalaan ng mga Judio si Hesu Cristo bilang Panginoon.

At bilang bahagi ng pagpupuri ni Pablo kay Cristo, idinagdag niya ang mga sumusunod na pang-uri sa huling bahagi ng verse 5, “...na siyang lalo sa lahat, Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man. Siya nawa.”

Ayon sa ating nabasa, ang Cristo ay 1) “lalo sa lahat,” na nangangahulugang pinakamataas Siya, pinakamakapangyarihan, ang rurok ng buong sanlibutan.

Maliban dito, ang Cristo rin ay 2) “Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man.” Sa simpleng basa, wala na tayong ibang maiintindihan kundi si Hesu Cristo ay Diyos na nagtataglay ng luwalhati (glory) sa habang panahon!

Kung nanamnamin pa nga ang unang bahagi, makikita rin ang katagang, “Cristo ayon sa laman,” na nangangahulugang ang Cristo ay may katawang tao o na Siya’y tao.

Ito nga ang kinatatayuan ng mga Athanasian. Si Hesu Cristo ay buong Diyos at Siya rin ay buong tao. Makikita ito sa loob ng Romans 9:5.

Pero nasabi ko nga kanina, kailangan lang nating makakita ng kahit isang bahagi ng Bibliya na nagtuturong Diyos si Hesus at sapat na upang mangibabaw ang katuruan ni Athanasius. Ito nga ang natagpuan natin sa Romans 9:5.

Kung ganoon, bakit mayroon pa ring naninindigan na tao lang si Hesus? Paano nila ipinapaliwanag ang nasabing verse? Nakalalungkot isipin pero ang pinakaginagamit ng mga nagtuturong tao lang si Hesus ay “mistranslation.”

Kung baga, ipipilit nilang isalin ang Bibliya mula sa orihinal na wika sa paraang umaayon sa kanilang itinuturo. Ganito nga ang makikita natin sa isang salin ng Bibliya na ginawa ng mga naniniwalang nakaaangat ang Ama kaysa sa Anak, ang New World Translation (NWT).

Ganito ang kanilang salin, “To them the forefathers belong, and from them the Christ descended according to the flesh. God, who is over all, be praised forever. Amen.”

Kapansin pansin ang malaking pagkakaiba sa kahulugan kumpara sa mga naunang salin kanina. Sa NWT, hindi na si Cristo ang tinatawag na Diyos. Kundi, inihiwalay nila ang dating dalawang paglalarawan at ginawa na lang papuri sa Panginoon.

Paano natin malalaman kung alin sa dalawang salin ang tama? Hindi ako iskolar ng Griyego na siyang orihinal na wikang ginamit sa Romans. Pero maaari nating suriin ito gamit ang isang “Interlinear Bible,” o isang uri ng Bibliya kung saan pinagtatabi ang orihinal na wika at ang wikang salin.

Ito ang Romans 9:5 mula sa isang online Interlinear Bible sa biblehub.com


Kung ating kukunin ang “word-for-word” na salin, ganito ang kalalabasan mula sa Griyego papuntang Ingles, “whose the patriarchs and of whom the Christ according to flesh being overall God blessed to the ages. Amen. (nasa kanila ang mga magulang at sa kanila ang Cristo ayon sa laman na lalo sa lahat Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man. Siya nawa.)" 

Madaling masusuri na kahit sa orihinal na Griyego ay nananatiling paglalarawan ng Cristo ang “lalo sa lahat (being over all)” at “Dios na maluwalhati magpakailan man (God blessed to the ages).”

Dagdag pa rito’y ang bahaging “be praised” sa NWT ay isang pandiwa (verb). Subalit ang orihinal na salitang isinalin nito, “eulog├ętos,” ay isang pang-uri (adjective) na tunay na tumutukoy kay Cristo. Sa makatuwid, mas tama ang mga naunang salin kumpara sa ginawang NWT.

Makikita nga natin mula sa Romans 9:5 na Diyos si Cristo. Ito lang ang kailangan upang gumuho ang katuruang tao lang Siya. Ang mas kagilagilalas pa ay hindi nag-iisa ang Romans 9:5. Sa katunayan ay punong puno ng mga talata at verses ang Bibliya na nagsasabing Diyos si Hesus.

Titigil muna tayo rito. Pero sa mga nais pang makita ang mga bahaging nagtuturo ng pagka-Diyos Niya, heto ang isang maliit na listahan. Sa ibang pagkakatao’y susuriin din natin ang mga sumusunod:

Juan 1:1,14
1Sa pasimula pa ay naroroon na ang Salita. Ang Salita ay sumasa Diyos at ang Salita ay Diyos…14Nagkatawang-tao ang Salita at nanahang kasama natin. Namasdan namin ang kaniyang kaluwalhatian, ang kaluwalhatian ng bugtong na Anak ng Ama. Ang Salitang ito ay puspos ng biyaya at katotohanan.
Juan 5:18
18Dahil dito ay lalo ngang naghanap ng pagkakataon ang mga Judio na patayin siya. Ito ay sapagkat hindi lamang niya nilabag ang araw ng Sabat kundi tinawag pa niyang sariling Ama ang Diyos, na ipinapantay ang kaniyang sarili sa Diyos.
Juan 10:30-33
30Ako at ang Ama ay iisa. 31Muli ngang dumampot ng mga bato ang mga Judio upang siya ay batuhin. 32Sinabi sa kanila ni Jesus: Maraming mabubuting gawa ang ipinakita ko sa inyo mula sa aking Ama. Alin sa mga gawang iyon ang dahilan para batuhin ninyo ako?33Sumagot ang mga Judio sa kaniya na sinasabi: Hindi ka namin binabato dahil sa anumang mabuting gawa kundi dahil sa iyong pamumusong. Ginagawa mong Diyos ang sarili mo, ikaw na isang tao.
Juan 20:26-29
26Makalipas ang walong araw, ang mga alagad ay nasa loob muli ng bahay at kasama nila si Tomas. Kahit na nakapinid ang mga pinto dumating si Jesus at tumayo sa gitna nila. At sinabi niya: Kapayapaan ang sumainyo. 27Pagkatapos noon, sinabi niya kay Tomas: Ilagay mo ang iyong daliri rito at tingnan mo ang aking mga kamay. Iabot mo ang iyong kamay rito at ipasok sa aking tagiliran. Huwag ka nang mag-alinlangan, kundi sumampalataya ka.  
 28Sumagot si Tomas at sinabi sa kaniya: Aking Panginoon at aking Diyos.
 29Sinabi ni Jesus sa kaniya: Tomas, sumampalataya ka dahil nakita mo ako. Pinagpala sila na hindi nakakita ngunit sumampalataya.
Colossians 2:8-9
 8Mag-ingat kayo, na baka bihagin kayo ng sinuman sa pamamagitan ng pilosopiya at ng walang kabuluhang panlilinlang, na ayon sa kaugalian ng mga tao, ayon sa mga espiritwal na kapangyarihan ng sanlibutan ito at hindi naaayon kay Cristo.
 9Ito ay sapagkat nananahan sa kaniyang katawan ang lahat ng kapuspusan ng kalikasan ng Diyos.
Hebreo 1:8
8Ngunit patungkol sa Anak, sinabi niya:
      O Diyos, ang iyong trono ay magpakailanman.
      At ang setro ng katuwiran ang magiging setro
      ng iyong paghahari.



What Kakashi got right in the Gospel

Kakashi with his signature Lightning Cutter
Image from http://bs1.imghost.nu/images/1/103343.jpg

For Naruto Shippuden fans, there is one particular episode in the Madara arc that hit the core of human problem as described in the Bible.

This is a scene found in the tensed fight between Kakashi and Obito—friends-turned-rivals because of the death of one woman.

But first, a background. Naruto Shippuden is the sequel to the hit anime series, Naruto. It is the story of an orphaned boy’s journey from being despised to being adored as hero by his ninja village. Naruto became a powerful ninja in Konoha, defeating several villains and defending his home and people from destruction.

The story continues until we meet the antagonist, Madara, a powerful ninja who wants to place everyone in a grand illusion, believing that this will end all the pain and suffering in the world.

To achieve this plan, Madara teamed up with another ninja, Obito, a contemporary of Naruto’s teacher, Kakashi. Everyone thought Obito died because of a failed mission a long time ago, but he was secretly nursed back to health by Madara.

And unknown to Obito, Madara slowly brainwashed him into believing that the ninja system, the political structures and everything in the world they lived in caused all the pain and suffering of existence. This culminated in the death of Rin, the woman he loves, allegedly at the hands of Kakashi.

Left to right: Obito, Madara
Image from comicvine.com

Obito witnessed this with his very eyes. It fueled an intense hatred against his friend and cemented his allegiance with Madara and his plan to trap the world in an illusion, supposedly to end all strife.

Kakashi, Naruto and a host of other ninjas banded to stop this plan. After all, who wants a perfect world if this means ceasing one’s existence in exchange for utopia, but only in one’s imaginations?

Obito and Kakashi were naturally drawn to fight each other with all their unfinished business and baggage. And in their faithful battle, we witness the Bible’s diagnosis of man’s very problem in the very words of Obito.

As the two fought, Kakashi managed to corner his foe with his signature Lightning Cutter. But Obito placed him in a Gengutsu or an illusion where our protagonist relived the final moments of Rin’s life, only this time, it was Obito who thrust himself into Kakashi’s lightning weapon.

This move left a hole on Obito’s chest, right where his heart should have been. It didn’t hurt him because everything was just an illusion. Then, came a very telling conversation between the two.

I’m quoting the middle part of their exchange and edited out the non-essential details:

Obito: Look! There’s nothing in my heart! I don’t even feel pain anymore. Don’t feel so guilty, Kakashi. This hole was opened by this hellish world… Kakashi, enough already. You don’t have to suffer anymore… You can have anything you want in this Gengutsu (Illusion) World. The hole in your heart can be filled immediately.

Kakashi: Rin is gone. You are still alive! Do you really think something like this (Illusion Word) can fill that hole in your heart?... You can try and fill that hole with delusions all by yourself but that hole will never be filled.

Obito shows his empty heart.
Screenshot from Naruto Shippuden Episode 371

The famous quote of Blaise Pascal immediately comes to mind, “In the heart of every man is a god-shaped vacuum that cannot be filled by any created thing but only by the Creator, made known through Jesus Christ.”

Obito certainly has that hole in his heart which he tries to fill up with the illusion that his beloved Rin is still alive. Kakshi also has this hole, aggravated by the guilt of failing both Rin and Obito to their graves.

Believe it or not, we all have this hole in our hearts. It manifests uniquely for each individual. To some, it is a hole of pain brought by painful experiences and trauma. To others, it is a hole of loneliness because of broken relationships among loved ones and friends.

Still to some, it is a hole of confusion about one’s identity and personhood. It is a hole of purpose, a hole of acceptance, a hole of fear, indulgence, pressure, vices... the list goes on.

And like Obito, we struggle to fill that void with something, anything just to muffle the pain and give us a sense of peace and wholeness once more. But Kakashi is right. If we try to fill our holes with delusions, no matter how real they look like, “the hole will never be filled.”

This hole exists because God placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). We are made ultimately for the eternal. Right at the very beginning, the human spirit tasted what it meant to be full with an unrestrained relationship with God, with a life of bounty and joy at the Garden of Eden without death, pain, and suffering (Genesis 1-2).

Yet the enemy deceived Adam and Eve, and so sin entered the world. With it came death, pain, suffering and ultimately, separation from the only One who can truly satisfy the human heart—God Himself (Genesis 3).

What we now have is a faint memory, a faded photograph, a blurred vision of that intimate walk with
God in the Garden.

Sadly, the enemy distorts even this longing for the eternal by masking it with temporal desires—the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and pride of life. And we run after these things!

C.S. Lewis is correct when he wrote, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too
easily pleased.”

Yet not all is lost. For the God who walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden has not abandoned us. He
said, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).” Though sin has hidden His face from us (Isaiah 59:2), He can still be found when by His grace, He allows us to seek Him with all our hearts.

But how can we find Him if, to begin with, our hearts are empty? Apparently, God willed that we not just fill up the void in our hearts with the right things. He takes the empty heart, the broken heart, the heart of stone and changes it with something new—a heart of flesh that knows how to love Him (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Why can He do this? Because one person came to “bind up the brokenhearted (Isaiah 61:1).” One person came to defeat sin once for all to bring us back to God—He is Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18).

In our own strength we are unable to understand what we truly long for. But God came here on earth, became human just like us, to point us back to Himself (John 1:14). His very presence emphasized our true longing for the eternal, drawing us once more to what or to who can truly fill us (John 1:4-5).

I once had a hole of affirmation, among others. I tried to fill it with high grades, achievements, awards and honors. But when I was already on top, when I have achieved all I ever wanted, I realized that I was still empty.

Yet, God is gracious. He opened my eyes and showed me that He can change my heart if I will fully entrust it to Jesus. And I did. From that moment on, there is no turning back.

Maybe some of us are still like Obito, attempting to fill our void with things of this world. Or worse, denying our emptiness by plunging into earthly pleasures.

Wherever we are right now, listen to what Kakashi said, “You can try and fill that hole with delusions all by yourself but that hole will never be filled.” You know why? St. Augustine has the answer, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”

May God grant all of us open eyes and make His light shine in our hearts so we can see “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).”


6 Beliefs Filipinos need to double check with Scripture

Roughly 90 million Filipinos claim to follow Jesus. Whether their profession of faith is true or not is beyond my power to determine. However, true followers of Jesus are bound by one thing—God’s Word.

Christ said it Himself, “If you love me, keep my commands (John14:15).” True Christians live by Jesus’ commands found in the Bible. Even more, those who truly desire to obey Him search the Scriptures to check that their teachings, actions, beliefs and lifestyle do not violate His Word.

This was demonstrated by the Berean Christians who double checked the Scriptures every day to make sure that Paul’s teachings are true (Acts 17:11).

As Filipinos, we have several beliefs that warrant closer inspection in light of the Bible. Let us quickly look at six in this article. The discussions are not exhaustive and are here to encourage readers to study them further.  

1. Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus' birth
L' Annonciation de 1644, Philippe de Champaigne.jpg
Many Filipinos assume that because Mary conceived Jesus as a virgin, she remained in this state even after His birth. That is, she never had sexual relations with Joseph, her husband.

But a simple reading of the Bible will prove otherwise. In Matthew 1:24-25 we read,

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus (New International Version)."

The term "consummate their marriage" is simplified in other Bible translations as "have sexual relations with her (New Living Translation)," "did not know her intimately (Holman Christian Standard Bible) and “sinipingan” in the Magandang Balita Biblia.

If this is not enough, we can even read in Mark 6:3-4 that Jesus had biological half-brothers and half-sisters. This is what Mark wrote,

“‘Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’”

2. The 10 commandments

Most Filipinos read the 10 Commandments not in the Bible but on giant stone tablets that adorn many places of worship. They are supposedly simplified versions of Exodus 20:1-17.

But a simple comparison of the 10 Commandments in the Bible and the commandments on the stone tablets reveals a key difference.

This is a photo of the 10 Commandments at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Iloilo taken by historicphilippines.com


Now, this is the actual text of Exodus 20:1-17

And God spoke all these words:
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The Bible specifically prohibits worship of graven images or statutes and religious icons. Thus, we have a unique second commandment based on Exodus 20:4-5, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them…"

This is written distinctly from the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” which is based on verse 3.

If one doubts this prohibition, we need only to supplement this with Psalm 115:2-8 that tackles the issue of idol worship graphically. In this Psalm we read:

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
 Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
 But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

The sad omission of this vital commandment has led many Filipinos to believe that praying to statues and adoration of images are Biblical. A closer look at the Bible, however, reveals that these practices go against God's Word.

How about the two commandments against covetousness in the stone tablets? These should rightfully be combined because they are written as one in Exodus 20:17. Why split what was originally written together in the Bible?

3. Salvation by doing good

1timothy2four.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/good-deed.jpg
When heaven and hell and the salvation of one's soul are discussed, majority of Filipinos mistakenly think of a scale. Borrowing from the idea of “karma,” they believe that people’s destiny is dependent on whether or not they can do enough good to outweigh their sins and tip heaven on their favor.

They think that as in a balance, when God weighs a person's deeds, the good acts should overcome the bad so that he can have eternal life in heaven.

However, a plain reading of Ephesians 2:8-10 reveals God's will on this matter. Paul writes,

"8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

A person is saved NOT by good works but by God's grace which is received through faith in Jesus. By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone can one gain eternal life. If, by God’s grace, we believe in Jesus as personal Lord and Savior, we are saved!

So what are good deeds for? Notice verse 10. The good that we do have been prepared beforehand as evidences of genuine faith. That is, good works are the result NOT the prerequisite of salvation.

4. Having a religion equals faith in God
Immaculate Concepcion church at Oslob, Cebu
Many religious Filipinos equate their devotion to a certain religion as faith in the Living God. They think that because they are members of a certain church and attend to their religious obligations, they already have genuine faith.

However, faith in the Bible is richer than this simplistic view. When we read Romans 10:1-3, we find that genuine faith involves knowledge or understanding of the truth.

Paul writes,

“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. 2 For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. 3 Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.”

One cannot just follow something blindly. To say that faith exists, a person needs to understand what he believes in. In the case of Biblical Christianity, he needs to understand the Gospel message.

The Gospel tells us that all human beings have sinned and are now separated from God (Romans 3:23), condemned to suffer eternal death (Romans 6:23). But by God’s grace, He sent Jesus to take the death penalty (Romans 5:8) and provide a way to reconcile people to God (1 Peter 3:18). He died on the cross as our substitute but rose again (1 Corinthians 15:2-4), promising eternal life to everyone who believes in Him as personal Lord and Savior (John 3:16).

But not everyone who knows the Gospel message possesses genuine faith. James 2:19 even tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” Demons believe, in the sense that they know God’s Word, but instead of faith, they shudder in fear.

This is so because the second element of genuine faith is persuasion. Knowing something is not enough, we have to be convinced that what we know is true. We have to believe that we are sinners, that we are separated from God, that we will one day suffer in hell for our rebellion.

And if we’re convinced by these, we must naturally be persuaded of the need for a Savior and that this is no other than Jesus.

Finally and most importantly, as in Apostle Paul’s experience recorded in Acts 26, genuine faith entails personal trust in Jesus. We do not just know, we’re not just convinced, ultimately, we surrender our entire lives to Jesus.

This is how genuine faith looks like in the Bible—intellectual knowledge, intellectual persuasion and whole-hearted trust in Jesus.

5. Who becomes a saint
http://sanpedrocalungsod.com
The country rejoiced in 2012 when another Filipino was declared a “saint” after meeting the strict criteria laid down by religious institutions. This set of criteria makes people believe that being a saint is reserved only to the holiest and most pious followers of God.

However, we can read throughout the New Testament that all true believers in Jesus are called saints. Two telling examples are read in Acts 9:13 and Acts 9:32 where Luke called Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem and Lydda “saints,” “believers” or “holy people.” Notice that the terms are interchangeable.

And perhaps none is more telling than 1 Corinthians 1:2 where we read,
 “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…”

Paul makes plain that those who belong to the Church of God in Corinth are called to be “saints,” “believers” or “holy people” together “with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” Does “every place” include the Philippines? Certainly! Even Filipinos who consider Jesus as Lord are saints of God.

The Bible shows from these examples that being a true follower of Jesus, believing in Him as personal Lord and Savior, makes one a saint in God’s eyes. After all, to be a saint (Gk. hagios) means to be set apart (holy) for God’s work and for the expansion of His Kingdom.

No one fits this description but God’s people, true followers of Jesus.

6. We lose nothing when we believe in swerte or luck
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Many times we hear Filipinos say, “Wala namang mawawala kung maniniwala sa swerte.” Thus, every new year, we watch several TV segments about feng sui and astrology in an attempt to improve our luck.

But this seemingly innocent tradition and hobby, actually attacks the very character of God. The concept of luck is foreign in the Bible because it presupposes the absence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, benevolent and sovereign God.

Luck, after all, leaves our lives to chance. There is no assurance about anything because the universe operates randomly.

But in the Bible, we see that God is in control of the universe. In Psalm 115:3 we read, “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.”

No knowledge escapes His mind, be it about the vastness of the universe or our personal lives. These are demonstrated clearly in Psalm 139:2-4,

“You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.”

and in Psalm 147:4, “He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”

All these are true because God created everything there was, is and ever will be. God bares this in Job 38 where He challenged Job,

“6 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone….
“Who shut up the sea behind doors
    when it burst forth from the womb,
9 when I made the clouds its garment
    and wrapped it in thick darkness,
10 when I fixed limits for it
    and set its doors and bars in place,
“Have you ever given orders to the morning,
    or shown the dawn its place,
13 that it might take the earth by the edges
    and shake the wicked out of it?
“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
    or walked in the recesses of the deep?
17 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
    Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness?
18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
These six items are but some of the beliefs Filipinos need to be more critical of. If we truly desire to obey God and His commands, the best place to start is in the Bible. Why don’t we spend more time reading and understanding it so that we can see for ourselves whether the things we practice are true?

Let us not depend on the media or other people or even this article to tell us what to believe. Instead, let us immerse ourselves in God’s Word, studying it diligently, to find out “if these things were so.”

Saitama and some ministry reminders



Upon the recommendation of a housemate, I started watching a new anime series entitled, 'One Punch Man.' This is about a hero named Saitama who defeats his enemies with a single powerful punch.

Throughout the first season, we see him frustrated with the lack of worthy foes who can match his strength.

We also witness his journey up the ranks as he defeats one monster after another. Though undeniably the most powerful of all the heroes, he started at the bottom (Class C) for getting poor marks in the essay exams of the Hero Association.

Unlike other heroes, however, Saitama's unaffected by his rank. While others fight monsters to increase their popularity and rankings, he does  so for the sheer passion of being a hero.

He has defeated several powerful enemies, saving millions of civilians and other heroes ranked much higher than he was.

Sadly, many people branded him a cheat because they couldn't believe that a Class C hero outperformed the elite Class S.

But amid the slander emerged Saitama's most admirable quality-- selflessness. In one episode, a vicious sea monster knocked out several Class S and A heroes after rampaging in a city.

Even Saitama's own disciple, Class S cyborg Genos, nearly died at the hands of this beast. But as expected, Saitama killed the monster with one punch.

At first, the people were in awe, then disbelief, finally contempt. One survivor even bashed the other heroes for being weaklings because a mere Class C outshined them!

Desiring to protect the other heroes from shame and feigning recognition, Saitama pretended that the monster became weak after fighting all the other heroes earlier.

He even acted arrogant just to divert the people's criticisms from the defeated heroes to himself. Saitama fueled the rumors that he cheated his way in the rankings by taking credit of other heroes' work.

Genos understood his master's motivation. He didn't care about his reputation. What's important is that the other heroes don't lose the people's trust.

Saitama didn't care about greatness as long as he can faithfully fulfill his duties at all costs.

This quality reminds me vividly of John 3:30. When Jesus' ministry began overshadowing John the Baptist's, the prophet only had one answer: "Jesus must become greater, I must become less."

As a minister, I always battle the temptation of fame and honor whenever great feats are accomplished in God's ministries.

I constantly remind myself that all glory and honor belong to God so I must always ask the Spirit to check my heart's motivations in all I do. False humility has no room in God's ministry, because everything is dependent on His grace.

The temptation of pride also rears its ugly head whenever my heart quietly demands recognition in the work I do, forgetting that I must please God not men.

Pride causes me to feel this entitlement when the fact is I should be doing my share of God's ministry out of love for Him. If I only run after the praises of men I am no different from the hypocritical religious leaders during Jesus' time.

They pray loudly and ensure that their good deeds are seen by everyone to gain people's admiration. In condemnation, Jesus said that the only reward they receive is the hollow praise of man. They do not have the affirmation of God.

The Lord reminded me that He alone is my audience as I dispense my calling as a Christian worker among students. False humility and pride do not sit well with God's grace.

Instead, all of my days, I should strive to please and serve my only Master, Lord and Savior-- Jesus Christ! How I long to hear Him say one day, "Well done my good and faithful servant..."

PS. I find it interesting that God reminded me these things using an anime! Truly, if we're sensitive to God's Spirit, we'll find Him speaking to us even in unconventional ways.

Ang Kahulugan ng Pasko sa Pangalan ni Hesus


Ano nga ba ang Pasko? Bakit natin ito ipinagdiriwang? Napanood ko sa isang balita na ang diwa raw ng Pasko ay ang pagbibigayan ng regalo.

Ang ilan naman ay naniniwalang mga reunion o pagsasalo-salo ng mag-anak ang tunay na kahulugan ng Pasko. Madalas din nating makita sa mga patalasatas na mga kainan, pamamasyal at party ang sentro ng selebrasyon.

At habang ako’y lumalaki ay tradisyunal ng sagot ang kapayapaan, pagpapatawaran, pagmamahalan bilang tunay na mensahe ng ika-25 ng Disyembre.

Pero kung nais talaga nating maintindihan ang mensahe ng Pasko, mabuting bumalik tayo sa simula, sa orihinal na kuwento. At ito’y mababasa natin sa Bibliya, ang Salita ng Diyos.

Ang Pasko sa Biblya 

Mayroong dalawang tala ng unang kapaskuhan sa Bibliya. Mababasa natin ito sa aklat ng Matthew chapters 1 at 2, at sa Luke chapter 2. Upang mas maintindihan natin ang kahulugan ng kapanganakan ni Hesus ay bibigyang pokus natin ang Matthew 1:18-25.

At habang binabasa ito, nais kong ibalin natin ang atensyon sa mga pangalang ibinigay kay Hesus. Nakakatuwang malaman na kahit sa pamamagitan lamang ng mga pangalang ito’y maiintindihan na natin ang tunay na diwa ng kapaskuhan.

Para sa mga walang Bibliya, heto ang Matthew 1:18-25 na halaw sa salin ng Bagong Magandang Balita Bibliya:

18 Ito ang naganap nang ipanganak si Jesu-Cristo. Si Maria na kanyang ina at si Jose ay nakatakda nang magpakasal. Ngunit bago sila makasal, nalaman ni Maria na siya'y nagdadalang-tao sa pamamagitan ng kapangyarihan ng Espiritu Santo. 19 Subalit dahil isang taong matuwid si Jose na kanyang mapapangasawa, at ayaw nitong malagay sa lubos na kahihiyan si Maria, binalak niyang hiwalayan si Maria nang palihim.

20 Ngunit habang pinag-iisipan ito ni Jose, nagpakita sa kanya sa panaginip ang isang anghel ng Panginoon. Sinabi nito sa kanya, "Jose, anak ni David, huwag kang matakot na pakasalan si Maria, sapagkat ang sanggol na dinadala niya ay mula sa Espiritu Santo. 21 Magsisilang siya ng isang batang lalaki at Jesus ang ipapangalan mo sa sanggol sapagkat ililigtas niya ang kanyang bayan sa kanilang mga kasalanan."


22 Nangyari nga ang lahat ng ito upang matupad ang sinabi ng Panginoon sa pamamagitan ng propeta,


23 "Tingnan ninyo; 'Maglilihi ang isang birhen at magsisilang ng isang sanggol na lalaki, at tatawagin itong Emmanuel.' " (Ang kahulugan nito'y "Kasama natin ang Diyos").


24 Nang magising si Jose, sinunod nga niya ang utos ng anghel ng Panginoon at pinakasalan niya si Maria. 25 Ngunit hindi niya sinipingan si Maria hanggang magsilang ito ng isang anak na lalaki. At Jesus nga ang ipinangalan ni Jose sa sanggol.

Bakit mga pangalan?

Bakit ang mga pangalan ni Hesus ang ating bibigyang pokus? Ito ay dahil may kahulugan ang bawat pangalan. Halimbawa, ang pangalan ko’y Frederick Paulo. Ang Frederick ay nangangahulugang mapayapang pinuno habang ang Paulo naman ay maliit.

Ganoon din sa panahon nina Maria at higit pa! Ito ay dahil naniniwala ang mga Judio na ang pangalan ng isang tao’y nagpapakita ng kaniyang katangian, maging ng kaniyang kapalaran.

Isang halimbawa si Jacob na ang pangala’y nangangahulugang nakahawak sa sakong o kaya’y manlilinlang. Para sa mga pamilyar sa kaniyang kuwento sa Lumang Tipan, alam nating noong ipinanganak si Jacob ay hawak hawak niya ang sakong ng kaniyang kuyang si Esau. Maliban dito’y makailang beses ding nilinlang ni Jacob si Esau na nagbunsod ng hidwaan sa pagitan ng magkapatid.

Isa pang halimbawa ang pangalan mismo ng Diyos sa Bibliya. Sa Exodus 3, tinaong ni Moses ang Diyos kung anong pangalan Niya nang sa gayo’y  maniniwala ang mga Israelita na isinugo nga siya ng kanilang Diyos. Mababasa natin sa Exodus 3:14 ang pangalang Yahweh o kapag isinali’y, Ako ay si Ako nga.

Ganito ang pangalang ibinigay ng Diyos dahil walang isang salita ang kayang sumakop sa kabuuan ng Kaniyang katangian at pagka-Diyos! Mapagmahal ang Diyos, mahabagin, makatarungan, kagalang-galang, makapangyarihan, banal, alam Niya ang lahat, manlilikha, hukom at marami pa.

Ganito ang ibinigay Niyang pangalan dahil para Niyang sinasabing, “Ang pangalan Ko ay kung ano ang katangian Ko. Ang pangalan Ko ay kung sino Ako.

Nakita natin mula sa dalawang halimbawang ito ang kahalagahan ng pangalan para sa mga Judio. Sa pagdako natin sa mga pangalang ibinigay kay Hesus ay makikita rin nating nakahabi ang kabuuang plano ng Diyos sa likod ng kuwento ng Pasko.

Ang Pasko at ang mga Pangalan ni Hesus

May tatlong pangalan o titulong ibinigay kay Hesus sa kabanatang ating binasa. Sa verse 18, tinawag siyang Cristo, sa verse 21 ay Hesus at Emmanuel naman sa verse 23. Ating himayin ang tatlong pangalang ito upang maintindihan ang tunay na diwa ng kapaskuhan.

Hindi apilyedo ni Hesus ang Cristo. Bagkus, isa itong titulo na puwede nating ihambing sa Dr., Engr. o Atty. sa kasalukuyan. Galing ito sa salitang Greek na Cristos at salin ng Hebrew na Mesias na parehong nangangahulugang  “Ang Napili” o “Ang Nahirang.” Sa madaling sabi, ang ibig sabihin ng Cristo ay  “Napili o Nahirang ng Diyos.”

Ang Jesus o Hesus naman ay salin mula sa Hebrew na “Yeshua” o “Joshua.” Nangangahulugan itong “Nagliligtas ang Panginoon.” Ito nga ang ipinangalan sa anak ni Maria kasi ayon sa anghel ng Panginoon ay “ililigtas niya ang kaniyang bayan sa kanilang mga kasalanan.”

Kung ating susuriin, makikita na natin dito pa lang ang pagka-Diyos ni Hesus dahil sabi ng pangalan Niya’y, Siya ang Panginoong nagliligtas mula sa mga kasalanan.

Panghuli ang pangalang Emmanuel na galing sa isang propesiya sa Isaiah 7:14. Ayon sa propetang Isaiah, “Dahil dito si Yahweh mismo ang magbibigay sa inyo ng palatandaan: Maglilihi ang isang dalaga at magsisilang ng isang sanggol na lalaki at tatawagin sa pangalang Emmanuel.”

Ibig sabihin ng Emmanual ay “kasama natin ang Diyos.” Malinaw na malinaw mula sa ikatlong pangalan ang pagka-Diyos ni Hesus dahil sinambit ng Biblya na sa Kaniyang pagdating, makakasama natin ang Diyos.

Ito ang tatlong pangalang nakasulat sa Matthew 1:18-25. Kung hiwa-hiwalay, hindi natin makikita ang mensahe ng Pasko. Pero kung pinagsama-sama natin sila, madaling maiintindihan ang dahilan ng pagparito sa mundo ni Hesu-Cristo.

Paghahabi-habi at pagintindi

Ito nga ang ating gagawin ngayon—ipaghahabi natin ang mga pangalan ni Hesus sa pagnanais maintindihan ang Kapaskuhan.

Ang Pasko ay isang kagila-gilalas na pangyayari sa kasaysayan, na kung saa’y ang Diyos ay nag-Emmanuel, o pumarito sa lupa upang manahan kasama natin. At habang Siya’y naririto’s niyakap Niya rin ang pagiging tao habang nananatiling buong Diyos. Kaya nga ang Pasko ay kuwento rin ng Incarnation, o ng pagiging tao ng Diyos.

Hindi lang dito nagtatapos ang kuwento. May dahilan ang Diyos kung bakit Siya pumunta sa lupa upang mamuhay kasama ng sangkatauhan. Ang dahilan Niya ay para i-Jesus tayong lahat!

Ano nga ang Hesus? "Nagliligtas ang Panginoon." Pumarito ang Diyos at niyakap ang pagkatao upang iligtas tayo mula sa ating mga kasalanan. Kaya ang Pasko ay kuwento rin ng kaligtasan mula sa kadiliman, dahil pumarito na sa mundo sa isang sanggol ang Panginoon na nagliligtas.

Napakahalagang buong Diyos at buong tao ang Tagapagligtas upang magsilbi siyang tulay sa pagitan ng Langit at Lupa, para mailapit niya ang tao sa Diyos at ang Diyos sa tao.

Paano tinupad ng Diyos ang pagpunta sa lupa at ang pagliligtas sa sangkatauhan? Ginawa niya ito sa pamamagitan ng pag-Crist sa paghirang sa Kaniyang nag-iisang Anak, pagpili sa Diyos Anak upang isakatuparan ang kaligtasan ng lahat ng maniniwala o magpapasakop sa Kaniya.

Sa makatuwid, ang Pasko ay higit sa mga regalo, pagdiriwang, kasiyahan o pagbibigayan. Tama nga na ito ay tungkol sa pagmamahalan at pagpapatawaran pero higit sa pagitan ng mga tao. Ito ay tungkol sa pagmamahal ng Diyos at pagpapatawad Niya sa mga kasalanan ng mga naniniwala kay Hesus bilang  Tagapagligtas!
Ang Pasko ay kuwento ng kagandahan loob ng Diyos, ng grasya Niya na kahit tayo’y karapat dapat na mamatay dahil sa ating mga kasalanan ay ibinigay Niya ang Kaniyang Anak bilang regalo upang maligtas ang lahat ng mananampalataya.

Ngayong Pasko, dalangin kong magkaroon tayo ng panahong mag-reflect tungkol sa ating kalagayang espiritwal. Magbigay oras tayo upang pag-isipan kung tunay nga ba tayong naniniwala kay Hesus. Hindi lang ito impormasyon na naririnig natin mula sa ibang tao, napapanood o nababasa, pero paniniwala na mula sa puso—pagtitiwala na Siya lang ang tunay na makapagliligtas sa atin mula sa kasalanan.

Nawa ngayong Pasko’y tumawag tayo sa Diyos at humingi ng grasya upang maging ganap ang relasyon natin sa Kaniya! At kung tiyak naman ang ating kaligtasan, maging panahon nawa ang Kapaskuhan upang magpasalamat sa Diyos para sa lahat ng Kaniyang kabutihan at walang sawang paggabay sa ating buhay!

Maligayang Pasko sa ating lahat!

Sharing Jesus with Strangers



Is sharing the Gospel to strangers Biblical? YES! In fact, a simple reading of the book of Acts shows us that the followers of Jesus usually shared with strangers. Paul preached to crowds in synagogues (Acts 17:1-5). They also spoke to groups of people who just happened to be gathered in a place (Acts 16:13-14). Philip shared to an official he only met along the road (Acts 8:26-40). Even amid persecution, the early believers preached the Good News everywhere they went (Acts 5:41-42; 8:4).

There are undoubtedly many methods of sharing the Gospel. Some may espouse friendship evangelism, open-air preaching, tract or literature evangelism, apologetics and many more. We thank God for the many approaches we can use to fulfill the Great Commission of Making Disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).

At the end of the day, I pray that we can all agree that regardless of the approach, what remains central is that “the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16). That is, clear, complete and Biblical presentation of the Good News of Jesus is our God-given tool in leading people to the cross.

Whatever the method, it remains true that only by God’s grace through faith can a person be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). So, the method that best glorifies God is not really the one that yields the most results, but the one that fully conforms to His standards as revealed in Scripture. After all, the God who predestined is also the God who justified and will glorify (Romans 8:30).

Lastly, there are truths and promises we often miss when dealing with evangelism. We can find them in Jesus’ very words to Peter, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch (Luke 5:4).” This simple command is teeming with evangelistic truths.

First, the sender for every evangelistic activity is Jesus Himself. He left us with the Great Commission and sends us to fulfill it. This would have meant nothing except that Jesus is the God of the universe who holds every authority in heaven and on earth. With this kind of Sender, what is there to fear, especially that He promised to be with us until the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).

Second, there is a promise that when we “put out to deep water, and let down the nets,” there will be a catch. This is consistent with 1 Cor. 15:58 that tells us, “our labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

What is this catch? We must be careful, however, to equate catch only with decisions for Jesus. Many times in the book of Acts, we see people coming to Christ and people rejecting Him whenever the Gospel is preached. This catch may be in the form of people believing in Jesus, but it can also be as simple as sowing seeds of truth that will later bloom to faith.

Remember that our duty as Christians is to clearly and faithfully explain the Gospel and the right response to it. God is the only one who can make people believe in Jesus and repent of their sins. We sow the seeds and water them, but God makes things grow (1 Cor 3:6-7).

If there is anything God will measure, it is the faithfulness and obedience of His children. Because He is the God who chose people before creation to be holy, every person who believes does so because of His grace alone, not by our works or performance (Ephesians 1:4-5). He saves people in spite of our utter powerlessness and unfaithfulness.

Third, and corollary to the second, is the question, “Are we trusting Jesus enough to go into the deep and cast our nets for a catch?” Could it be that we’re not really letting down our nets that’s why we don’t have a catch? Fish are attracted to light, that’s why fishermen prefer to fish during new moon. Now, Jesus is a greater Light (John 8:12) than the moon or even the sun, and His very person attracts many. Yet, even if the fish swim around the boat because they’re attracted to the light, the fisherman still has to let down his net for a catch. This is the same for us, fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).

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 Image taken from http://strangerdanger101.weebly.com/uploads/1/7/7/5/17752719/4586944_orig.png 
 

I tell people to repent and believe




I follow Puritan evangelism. What the term fully means is a discussion for another time. But essentially, when I say this, I mean that I evangelize differently from those who follow the modern evangelistic methods. How so? For one, I do not end my sharing by asking people to pray a prayer. Rather, I try my best to explain how my audience should respond to the Good News of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and challenge them to do so.

This response, in Bible language, is a response of faith (believing) and repentance or faith-repentance (Mark 1:15). Both terms are two sides of the same coin.

Many of my friends find this odd. I do not blame them because I also grew up learning that after the Gospel message comes the prayer response. This prayer is now known as the Sinner’s Prayer.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not about to start a campaign to stop all people from using this modern method of evangelism. I will joyfully share Jesus with anyone, whether they ask people to pray the sinner’s prayer or not, provided that the Gospel is clearly presented and the response of faith-repentance adequately explained. I will also happily evangelize with anyone who asks people to pray the sinner’s prayer so long as he never uses that as basis for salvation.

I am saddened everytime I hear of Christians proudly declaring this or that number of people becoming believers after praying the prayer. I believe the Bible’s words that all who call to Jesus will be saved. But the dilemma here is on the proclamation of a person's spiritual condition. The fact is, only God can see people’s hearts, so He alone can declare who is saved.

A person may have parroted back the prayer without sincerity. He or she may have just been polite as most Filipinos are. We have no capacity as humans to know this, because we have no eyes that can see a heart of stone turning into flesh. We also do not have the ability to see faith as Jesus exhibited when He healed the paralytic brought by four friends (Mark 2:1-12).

Herein comes another distinction of Puritan Evangelism—the call to examine one's faith if it truly brought transformation. Generally, we cannot see faith instantly. But in time, the one with genuine trust in Jesus will show transformed life. This is the evidence of salvation which we can measure. This is the evidence John referred to when he said, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).”

Thus, after sharing the Gospel and instructing my audience how to respond, I patiently explain that genuine salvation brings transformation. They know that their faith is true when they see change in their life.

I say something like, “Only God can see if your faith-repentance is true. But His Word says, ‘A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit (Matthew 7:18).’  If you have truly trusted in Jesus, you will see change in your life. You will see that a new love for God emerges in your heart. This love draws you to read His Word, pray, fellowship and even share Jesus to others. To some, the transformation is more evident, but to others, it is more subtle. But the important thing is, you MUST see consistent change in your life. You begin to love God more and hate sin more and more.”

This transformation is seen over and over again in the Bible. One of the examples is the Apostle Paul. He was once a murderer and a great persecutor of Christians. But when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, God worked in his life and saved him. There is no account of him praying a sinner's prayer or responding to an altar call, but we know that Paul placed his faith in Jesus because a great change happened in his life. The once great persecutor became one of the most faithful evangelists to non-Jews, proclaiming Jesus to people high and low at the cost of his very life (Acts 26).

I also experienced this transformation and continue to experience it in my life. When I first heard the Gospel, the one who shared to me also invited me to pray the sinner’s prayer. I prayed it and he said I was already a Christian after I prayed.

On hindsight, however, I believe his declaration to be premature. Why? Because even after hearing the Gospel and praying, there was no conviction of sin in me, no new love for God, not even a desire to read His Word.

But praise God because He called me to faith more than a year later. It was in a training camp. The interesting thing is, the messages were for believers. It was not an evangelistic camp, but God's message in my heart was clear, "I am a hypocrite."

Up to that point, my Christianity was only lip service. There was nothing to prove my faith-- no transformation. In fact, I was unable to let go of a secret sinful relationship at that time. But the Holy Spirit convicted me of my hypocrisy.

Early on the second day of the camp, I went out and truly cried out to God. My simple prayer went something like this, "Lord if you want me to follow you, please help me to do so because I could not do it on my own..." I know that He answered because from then on, I saw how God slowly changed my life. He has taught me to love Him truly.

I am not discouraging people from sharing the Gospel. But I am discouraging fellow believers from taking God’s role by prematurely declaring salvation to a person on the basis of a single act. That is not our work. Even the Bible says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).”

Genuine faith is shown outwardly by transformed lives, and inwardly by a testimony of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart.

I am on the side of caution on the issue of evangelism because it is painful to see so many people being given false assurance. Instead of helping unbelievers, we deceive them and further bury the wonderful message of grace, faith and salvation.

Response is crucial in the Gospel. This may come in the form of a prayer uttered verbally or in the secret depths of one’s heart. This may come in tears or silent conviction. It may come in sudden joy or great remorse. But all these—the responding in faith-repentance—are but the products of God’s grace.

We may not know exactly how God works and operates in our hearts. Grace is the God-side of the salvation equation (if there is such a thing because God is sovereign over all). There is nothing in our capacity to coerce or even bribe Him to grant us grace. But the side of the equation that we can understand (I am tempted to call it the human side) is God’s call to repent and believe for our forgiveness and salvation.

The believing and repenting is something an individual will do. It is, in a sense, a decision we have to make. Yet, in the grand mystery of God’s design, the Bible declares that God is behind them all. Amazing! We decide to believe and repent, yet, not on our own power but by God’s grace! I’m glad this is God’s design because I have no capacity to believe and repent using my own sinful heart.

As I end, I just want to share that I wrote this article more as a personal affirmation of what I believe is  an accurate representation of God’s working in our salvation. This was also prompted by a question raised by a student during one of our Bible studies.

Her question was, “If grace is all up to God, what can we do so that He will give us that grace so that we can repent and believe?”

My answer is this: Nothing. Grace is His domain. YET, we know for a fact that when we believe and repent, then God’s grace has been granted to us. The reality is, the fruit of grace that we see is repentant-faith, that’s why I can confidently affirm that at the moment of our faith and repentance, grace exists. I don’t claim to understand this fully. But I rest on what God’s Word has revealed so far.

Having said all these, I end with the same exhortation for all, whether they use the sinner’s prayer or not. God’s Son is the only answer to our sin problem. He came here on earth to bear the death penalty of everyone who believes. He died but rose again to give eternal life to those who will put their trust in Him.

I exhort everyone, then, “Believe in the Lord Jesus! Repent of your sins and turn back to God!” In doing so, you receive salvation! But before we become proud of our own faith and repentance, remember that we are able to do these only because God graciously enabled us!    

God bless us all!

Romans 9 and God’s Sovereignty over Salvation

from: http://images.rapgenius.com/48uc0vm9s4l8y239tg1mvm739.640x480x1.jpg

Salvation is wholly in the hands of God. God is in control from the choosing, to regeneration, to the quickening of our hearts so that we may believe and repent, to our justification, sanctification and glorification. This rests on His sovereignty on all creation, including our salvation and free will.

Romans 9 is actually a very good passage for this discussion. I wouldn’t embrace and rest on God’s sovereignty over our salvation if not for this chapter. But I admit that it involved wrestling and struggling with the difficult truths that are laid plainly in it.

The most troubling ones include questions on God’s justice and human freewill and responsibility. Surprisingly, both questions are raised and then answered in this chapter. And the more I study it, the more I am convinced that God is indeed sovereign and just, and that we are still responsible when we reject Him.

Is God unjust in His choices?

Beginning verse 9, tension arises. God promises to Rebekah that she will bear children through Isaac and that her older son will serve the younger. There is no problem with the first promise, but the second one immediately shows God’s sovereign choice.

The tension comes from the fact that God chose or “loved” Jacob and rejected or “hated” Esau even before they were born. And God’s choice was not based on any action or work done by either, but solely on His character as the “one who calls” for the fulfilment of his “purpose of election.”

With this reality laid bare, the first objection naturally springs up. In verse 14, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” In modern times, this question is usually framed as, “Is God unjust for choosing to save some and not others?”

Interestingly, the answer is a quick, “By no means!” No! God is not unjust in this action! How so? In verses 15-17, the Scripture appeals not to human logic or reason but to the very character and purposes of God.

First, God is not unjust because he “has mercy.” This is the reason He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Paul’s point is, we can rest in God’s actions relating to salvation because we know that it is motivated by His perfect mercy and not on anything else, especially “not on human will or exertion.”

That is, whatever God does, He calls us to trust Him because He does so as a merciful God.

Second, God is not unjust because His purposes, even if we do not understand them completely, are always good and they are for the glory He deserves (v.17). Thus, His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, though at first seems illogical (How will Pharaoh let God’s people go if God hardened his heart?), served to show God’s power (through the 10 plagues), so that His “name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

God is not unjust because His actions are motivated by mercy. And He is not unjust because His purposes are always good, for the glory of His Name. With both answers, Scripture affirms God’s justice in His actions towards people’s salvation. Paul punctuates this part of the discussion by reaffirming that God “has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills (v.18).”

Now, what can I do with this very difficult conclusion? It is written in His Word and I can only trust His mercy and His good purposes, while acknowledging the glory He deserves even if I still cannot fully comprehend His actions.

Is God ultimately responsible for sin?

Starting verse 19, the second objection is addressed, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist His will?”

Put in modern terms, “If God is the one who wills a person to believe and not to believe, then is He not responsible for my sins?” “Doesn’t this eliminate my free will and so I am not accountable for rejecting Him?” “Where is justice if God willed that I do not believe in Him?”

Again, Paul gives an interesting answer. He appeals first to the sovereignty of God (v.20-21), then he gives a fine distinction between God’s relationship with His elect and the non-elect (reprobate). Finally, he caps the discussion with God’s purposes once more (v. 22-23). 

First, verses 20-21 lay down God’s sovereignty in all things. As the Potter, He has every right to mold the clay into His liking. At first this may seem frightful. Is God a tyrant? Are we but automatons? But earlier we have seen that God is merciful (v.16) and His purposes are good and for His glory (v.17). Thus, we can trust that His actions are not evil despite His sovereignty.

Paul even reminds us of our place in v.20. We are creatures and He is the Creator. As such, God is not indebted to us in anyway. He is only indebted to Himself. Thus, we are in no position to judge His choice or actions as wrong only because we cannot fully comprehend them.

Second, Paul, moves to lay down a fine distinction between God’s relationship with the elect and the non-elect in verses 22-23.  A common misunderstanding is that God symmetrically works with the elect and the non-elect in bringing about His purposes.

That is, He works to produce righteousness in the elect to bring them to salvation. And in the same way and manner, works evil or causes the reprobate to sin in order to bring them to destruction. This is not how God works. If we accept this, then God becomes the Author of evil and sin. He becomes unjust in the sense that He punishes people for sins which He caused them to do. This is not the God we worship.

Instead, when we examine verses 22-23 we see that He “endured with much patience” the vessels of wrath (non-elect) and “prepared beforehand for glory” the vessels of mercy (elect). What these verses show is that God’s relationship with the elect and non-elect is not a symmetrical one but a positive and negative relationship.

That is, God actively works in the hearts of the elect to bring them to faith and salvation, and He passively works with the non-elect by not intervening in the sinfulness of their hearts. In short, God works righteousness in the corrupt hearts of the elect, but He allows the corrupt hearts of the reprobate to continue on the chosen path of sin.

The negative relationship is made more obvious in Romans 1:18-32. Three times we read that the people who chose sin despite God’s revelation of His eternal power and divine nature (the reprobate) experienced being “given up” to the “lusts of their hearts,” “dishonorable passions,” to a “debased mind” to continue on their sinning.

The passage shows a passive negative action from God, a non-intervention, in that He “gave them up” to continue on their default sinfulness. It’s not as if these people are neutral and God infused sinfulness into their hearts as in the symmetrical relationship. Instead, they are already sinful by choice and the only thing God did was that He let them be. He “gave them up” in their sinfulness. He did not “make them” sinful.

The reason this positive-negative relationship is true is because it rests on the revealed truth that humans by nature are sinful. “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5).” We are not neutral beings. Our default condition is sin.

Having this clarified view of God’s relationship with the elect and non-elect eliminates the problem of human responsibility for sin. God is not the author of evil or sin and He is not unjust in punishing those who sin, because by virtue of His passive negative relationship with them, ultimate accountability still rests on the people who chose to continue in sin.

The diagram below is helpful to differentiate the Symmetrical and Positive-Negative Relationships:



Finally, to cap this lengthy discussion, Paul goes back to the purpose of God in all these things (vv.22-23). We see that He has chosen some for righteousness and left others to their sinfulness to show His justice in His wrath, His power and the riches of His glory.

It’s a full circle. This entire passage dealt with the heavy implications and questions of God’s sovereign choosing by beginning and ending with His character. In the final analysis, we see that even if we cannot fully comprehend God’s actions, we can fully trust in Him because He is a just, merciful, powerful and glorious God. We know for a fact that He will never do anything evil and will always do good for the glory of His Name.

His sovereignty necessitates that everything in the universe be under His divine control. Yes, that includes our free will. This is not a problem because God gave us enough freedom within the bounds of His sovereignty.

It may seem that this is not free will, but the fact of the matter is, unrestricted freedom is anarchy. Even our practical experience of freedom shows that it has limitations. This is also the case in the spiritual realm. We are free so long as we do not cross God’s divine control.

At the end of the day, I would rather that my free will be under God’s sovereignty because I trust His character more than mine. Afterall, one of the worst things God can do is to leave me to my sinful state. Because if He does, I can never muster enough power from my will, heart, mind or being to turn from sin and turn to Him. All I can do is to call out to Him to give me grace, for only by it can I truly believe, repent and be saved. 

Pictruth: Comparing the OT books of Protestants, Jews and Roman Catholics

Did you know that there are books in the Roman Catholic Old Testament (OT) that are not in the original Jewish OT?

Protestants followed the Jewish OT but Rome added seven books and a number of chapters in their version. Here's a simple infographic dealing with the issue. But perhaps the greater question is, "Which of the two versions did Jesus read?"

We can answer this simply by saying, "Well, Jesus grew up in a Jewish context, so the OT He read is most probably the one used by the Jews."

Or, we can consult Jesus Himself. In Luke 11:50-51, Jesus says, "...so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation."

It is interesting to note that He mentions Abel as the first martyred prophet and Zechariah as the last one. If we consult the Old Testament chronology, this corresponds to the narratives in Genesis, ending in 2 Chronicles. Interestingly, the Jewish order of the OT corresponds neatly Jesus' words.

The first book in Jewish Torah is Genesis while the last book in Kethuvim corresponds to the present 2 Chronicles. This is a good case showing that the OT Jesus read is most probably the Jewish OT which was adopted (but reordered) by the the Protestants.

As for the other books in the Roman Catholic OT, they do not fit nicely inside Jesus' earlier statement because their contents happened or were written beyond Zechariah's time.


The Cost of Following Jesus


What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus? What will this cost me? Are there things I need to leave behind when I believe in Jesus?

Christianity offers salvation to everyone who puts their faith or trust in Jesus. Some people mistake this for "easy believism." In reality, to be a follower of Jesus demands all of life. The idea of trusting or believing in a Savior means that I should die to myself and surrender to my Savior's rule.

Listen as Kuya Arbie Magno shares the cost of following Christ from Luke 9:57-62. May you be blessed!



God's entry into history and invitation to eternity



In a single verse, Luke gave us a snapshot of the first Christmas. “And [Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).”

This is the image we have grown up in the Philippines. Mary and Joseph were watching over their newborn son lying on a manger, a trough, because they could not find a room in Bethlehem. Nothing could be simpler than that.

There was no food, no celebration, no gifts nor decorations to adorn their temporary shelter. They were in the company of animals who cared less that a baby boy “appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:34)” was born.

God could have arranged the boy's birth in pomp and abundance. Yet, He directed His birth to be as lowly and humble imaginable. Joseph was a carpenter and they could definitely afford a room in the inn. God, however, chose that stable or cave, together with the smelly animals, as the perfect place for the Savior's entry into human history.

What does He want to tell us? God wanted us to see that Jesus lived up to His title, Immanuel (Mat. 1:23), which meant, “God with us.” Christmas marked the beginning of the journey of the Lord of the universe literally alongside His creation.

Though He had been journeying with them from the beginning of time, His entry into their world as the Father's only Son meant that He chose to journey as one of them-- a Divine clothed in humanity. This is what John meant when he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... (John 1:14).”

God dwelt among us with the birth of Jesus. It was a brief 33 years or so but enough to alter the course of human history forever. The Christ walked among us, ate with us, was thirsty just like anyone of us, cried at the death of a loved one, made friends, and loved unconditionally.

In the midst of the brokenness and misery that defined life on earth, that child was “The light [that] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).”

Lying on the manger, Jesus entered into our history. Yet this was just the beginning of the story that led to the final victory at the cross where He opened an entry for us into eternity.

God made His dwelling among us and He invites everyone to make a dwelling with Him. This was made possible by His Son who is “...the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).” This Christmas, He reminds us of this invitation: “...everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day (John 6:40).”

God entered our history. He invites us to dwell with Him in eternity. God's only way is Jesus, when we look to Him and believe. Merry Christmas!

Henry and Calvin in Filipino



For those who have been following my project on the "Juan Bible," I finally got a response from the publishers. I can't continue translating the footnotes without infringing on the copyright of the owners. I've been expecting that answer from the start, but there's no harm in trying.

However, I am still determined to continue with my project. I may not be able to use the notes from the most recent Study Bibles, but I still have the classic works of early reformers which are now in the public domain. I am going to use John Calvin and Matthew Henry's commentaries for my project. Because the two works vary in their presentation of their notes, I'll be merging their ideas whenever necessary.

My desire to help the Filipino church remains. As such, I'll begin my humble attempt to translate Calvin and Henry's Bible commentaries for the benefit of Filipino pastors and workers in the provinces.

I know that the Filipino church was gifted with the English language, that's why it benefits from the numerous resources from our brothers in the English-speaking world. However, God has placed a desire in my heart to remember my Tagalog-speaking brothers and sisters who can benefit much from resources in their native language. I believe that this desire grew slowly from the missions trips I've joined in the Southern Luzon, a largely Tagalog-speaking area in the Philippines. I'll write more about this next time.

I myself come from the Northern Luzon, a place where Ilokano is the main language. Though I was educated in English, I figured that there are things that I understood most clearly in my native tongue. I believe that this project can also have the same effect. Because Filipino is the national language of the Philippines, I believe that resources in this language can greatly help in the maturity of the Philippine church. I'm offering all my work for the Glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom!
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