Monday, July 3, 2017

Q: What is Decisionism? Is it Biblical?

Decisionism is the belief that human beings shape their own destiny ultimately by how they manage the course of their actions / decisions in this life. I emphasize the word "ultimately" to make it clear that you do not become a decisionist simply by believing that humans make decisions. We all believe that humans are capable of making decisions, but we are not all decisionists. Decisionism asserts more than just the fact that we make decisions; it insists that our decisions are inviolable, autonomous, and sovereign.

This philosophy has become very prevalent both in our society and in many "Christian" churches today. How many times have we heard preachers saying: “God has a wonderful plan for your life, but it is up to you to make it happen”? or that “God has done everything He could do to save you; now the rest is up to you to invite Christ in your heart”? The idea is that God has always wanted to break into our lives, but wouldn't do it unless He gets our permission. While “there are many plans in God's mind," yet "it is man's counsel which will stand,” 

The Bible, on the contrary, tells us that “there are many plans in a person’s mind, but it is the counsel of the LORD which will stand” (Prov. 19:21). We don't hold our destiny. God does; for “the LORD has made all things for himself: yes, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16:4).

Even in the economy of Salvation, the Bible says that “it is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy” and that, therefore, “God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:15, 16). In fact, our very conversion (faith and repentance)—which, as every one must admit, involves our “willing decision” to follow Christ—is itself a gift from God! (Eze. 36:26-27: cf. Acts 16:14).

Every Christian must understand that God's work of Salvation didn't stop at Christ's death and His invitation for sinners to come to Him. God Himself, by His sovereign Spirit, unfailingly converts the heart of whomever He wills! He demands faith and repentance (Mark 1:15), yet He also produces them in the heart of His elect (Jn. 6:29; Acts 13:48; 2 Tim. 2:25-26).

Don't me wrong though. I'm not suggesting that we never decided to receive Christ (or that it isn't necessary). Of course we did receive Christ, and we did so freely and willingly (John 1:12). To acknowledge this, however, is not necessarily Decision*ism.* It is one thing to grant that Salvation involves our will, and rightly so; but it's a completely different story to insist that our willing decision to receive Christ is a product of our own inherent ability apart from the sovereign operation of God's grace by His Spirit (Decisionism). God converts hearts, and He converts invincibly (see Eze 36:26-27 & Acts 16:14).

Therefore, if we take the Bible for what it says, we must affirm that the final decisive factor of our eternal destiny lies ultimately on God's Sovereign Decree, and that our decision to follow Christ is just a product of the mighty work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. It's not "up to us" in any way. Our decision to receive Christ (whereby we are forgiven) could never have been possible if it weren't for the grace of the Spirit that first quickened our rebellious, sinful, darkened, spiritually dead hearts (see 1 Cor. 2:14; cf. Jn. 6:44, 63-65). It isn't that God chose us because we chose him, but that we choose God because He has first chosen us (Jn. 15:16; Eph. 1:4-5, 11). Or as Christ puts it:
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up in the last day.” (John 6:44)
Salvation is by God's Sovereign Grace alone from first to last. Decisionism, then, is an affront to the Grace of God. Our churches need to be purged from this dangerous philosophy once and for all.

Monday, June 26, 2017

In Jesus' Name, We Pray... Amen


Praying “in Jesus’ name” means more than closing a prayer with that phrase. Indeed, mentioning “in Jesus’ name” at the end of every prayer is never a requirement.

When the Bible tells us to pray in Jesus’ name (Jn. 16:23-24), it means first and foremost that we must be mindful of the fact that we are able to approach the holy throne of the Father only through the mediation of our Savior Jesus and by virtue of our union with Him (Jn. 14:6; 2 Cor. 5:19; Eph. 1:3; Heb. 4:16); and, secondly, that our prayers must always be in line with the will of Christ (Jn. 15:7). Since Jesus is our Lord, His priorities must be our priorities, and Christ's main priority is summarized in this way:
"Our Father in heaven,
Hollowed be your name.
May your kingdom come,
And your will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven..."
All our subsequent supplications must be consistent with and subservient to this overarching priority. Our requests must be to the glory (hollowing) of God's name and for the propagation of the Kingdom of Jesus on earth as it is in heaven. We must therefore stop making self-serving requests sealed by superstitious mantras like “I declare in Jesus’ name!” To pray in Jesus’ name is to subject your will to Christ, not Christ's to yours. This is how we truly pray “in Jesus’ name", and there's a promise attached to it:
"If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it." (Jn. 14:14)


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Diyos at Agham

Sa pamamagitan ng sangnilikha ay ini-uulat,
Ang kaluwalhatian Niya sa paningin ng lahat.
Walang maika-katuwiran ang sinumang tao,
Pagka’t pagka-alam natin sa Diyos ay ‘di salat.

“Walang Diyos!”, wika ng mga tampalasan,
Na ang puso’y pawang inalipin ng kasalanan.
Hamon nila’y ganito: “Sige, inyong patunayan,
Na ang Diyos niyo’y ‘di isang kasinungalingan.”

Dagdag pa nila, “‘Wag kang gagamit ng Biblia,
Bagkus ay magpakita ka ng mga ebidensya;
Ang batayan ko ay walang iba kundi syensya,
At kung ika’y mabigo, bakit paniniwalaan kita?”

Paano tayo dapat tumugon, mga kapatid ko?
Paano ba natin sasagutin ang hamong ito?
Sa paanong paraan tayo makikipag-argumento?
Dapat ba nating isangtabi ang Salita ni Cristo?

O, huwag nawa itong mangyari, mga kapatid.
Hindi ebidensya ang sa kanila’y dapat ihatid.
May Diyos, at ito’y kanilang nang nababatid.
Ang problema’y nasa puso nilang makikitid.

Ano daw ang kanilang batayan ng kaalaman?
Ito daw ay ang mga kaparaanan ng agham.
Sa mga bagay na nakikita sila’y nananangan,
Upang sila’y makasumpong ng katotohanan.

Ngunit ang disiplina ng agham ay nakasalalay,
Sa pangangalaga ng Diyos sa lahat ng bagay.
Ang sangnilikha ay may pagkakaisang tunay,
Pagka’t sinusustina ito ng ating Diyos na buhay.

Posible lamang ang agham dahil sa “pagkakaisa,”
Ng lahat ng maraming bagay na magkakaiba.
Ang saligan nito’y ang banal na Trinidad lamang,
Na Siyang Manglilikha; mismong “Marami” sa “Iisa.”

Anong rason ang maibibigay ng mga tampalasan,
Upang ang “pagkakaisang” ito ay kanilang asahan?
Sa kanilang kathang-daigdig ay walang gano’on;
Ito’y hiram lamang nila mula sa Salita ng Panginoon.

Kung gayon, hindi ang syensya ang huling saligan,
Upang ang pag-iral ng Diyos ay ating malaman.
Bagkus, ang awtoridad ng Salita ng Diyos lamang,
Ang mismong basehan ng posibilidad ng agham.

-Jeph

Ang Tula ng Isang Tupa







O Diyos, puso ko noon ay kasing tigas ng bato;
Walang pag-asa at hindi kayang magbago;
Hinding-hindi lalapit sa Panginoong Jesu-Cristo,
Malibang ang pananalig ay ipagkaloob Mo.

Ngunit ang iyong pagibig ay napaka-dakila;
Sapagkat Kaligtasan ko'y iyo nang itinakda,
Noong bago pa man likhain ang langit at lupa,
Para sa kapurihan ng iyong habag at biyaya.

Kay Cristo Jesus nga ako ay iyong ibinigay;
Sa Pastol na para sa katubusan ko'y namatay.
Pagliligtas Niya'y tiyak na magtatagumpay,
At lahat Niyang tupa ay magtatamo ng buhay.

Panginoon, tinawag mo ako at iyong binago,
Sa pamamagitan ng iyong Espiritu Santo.
Ipinaunawa mo sa akin ang iyong Ebanghelyo,
Upang aking makita ang kagandahan ni Cristo.

Mayroon bang bagay na makapaghihiwalay,
Sa mga hinirang at sa kanilang Diyos na buhay?
Ang mga iniligtas ay patuloy Mong iniingatan,
Upang matamo nila ang lubos na kaluwalhatian.

—Jeph

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Solus Cristus and the Eternal Destiny of Dying Infants

One of the most difficult and tricky questions one could ask a Calvinist is whether or not babies who die as babies automatically go to heaven. To the non-Calvinist, the question itself seems very trivial. What an insanity it is to insinuate that such cute little "angels" could possibly go to hell! The thought of babies being burned in hell is for some reason intuitively unbearable. And yet, Calvinists for many centuries since the Reformation, have always been divided over this issue.

Before we move along, I must candidly confess that I personally hope that all babies dying in infancy are indeed saved, and I say "hope" because I also acknowledge the fact that the Bible is simply silent on the issue. I am convinced that in any attempt to answer the question"are all dying babies saved?", one necessarily enters into the realm of speculations. That being said, I would want to make it clear that it is beyond the intention of this blog to offer an answer to that particular question. My concern here deals with something way more important than the dispute over whether or not all dying infants are saved. What I'm concerned about is the preservation of the purity of the Gospel message in all this.

A few days ago, I had a discussion with a certain Calvinist who claimed that all babies dying in infancy are saved. Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with that assertion (note that I personally have that hope myself!). What made his position wrong, however, is the reason that has been provided to justify it. My Calvinist friend made a bold assertion that it would be unjust for God to send dying infants—who have never committed any personal/actual sins—to hell. To state it positively, what he implies is that God's justice requires the salvation of dying infants by virtue of their innocence from the charge of having committed any actual/personal sins. This is tantamount to saying that some people (i.e. dying infants) are bound to go to heaven by the merit of their own innocence and not by the gracious redemption of Christ! I am convinced this is an implicit affront to the Gospel of Grace that Calvinists are expected to hold dearly.

During our discussion, my Calvinist friend also insisted that while it is God's justice that requires the salvation of dying infants, such supposedly innocent infants would nonetheless still be saved by grace. But I could only imagine a snake eating its own tail when I read that statement. It is a fatal self-contradiction that ultimately reveals a serious misunderstanding of why is it necessary for us to be saved "by grace" in the first place. 

Saved by Grace Alone

Salvation is by grace simply because we don't deserve it.. God's justice condemns us (Rom. 3:19-23). If we deserved anything, as far as divine justice is concerned, it is only death: "for the wages of sin is death" (v. 6:23). Thus, grace presupposes our unworthiness before God. It presupposes our just condemnation. No sinner who is saved by grace can claim that God saved him because he justly deserves it. It also follows that God is never under any moral obligation to save any sinner. He could have thrown us all to hell in an instant and yet remain perfectly holy and just. If this isn't the case, then our salvation becomes a matter of legal obligation on God's part, and grace would no longer be grace (Rom. 11:6).  The mere mention of grace assumes that the recipient of such a bounty is justly condemned before God. In other words, the person who receives saving grace from God, left in himself, is a guilty sinner, and being guilty he is NOT innocent. So how can it be argued that dying infants are justly saved because they were innocent, and yet their salvation is still by grace? One can already see the absurdity of such a position.

Can a Christian hope that all dying infants will enter the kingdom of God? Sure! But let him confess that such little ones must enter the kingdom of God by grace alone; and if by grace, then it is not by any merit of their own (e.g. merit of innocence). Nobody is innocent before God—even infants (Psa. 51:5). "Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath" (Eph. 2:3, NIV). If dying infants are innocent and must be saved by virtue of their innocence, then they are saved by bare justice, and not by grace.

Saved in Christ Alone

At this point one may ask: If salvation cannot be acquired by anyone on the basis of God's bare justice (which can pronounce nothing but condemnation for our sins), does this mean that "grace" is unjust? No. God's grace has been made available because God's justice has been answered for in and by the Cross. "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). Justice is served by Christ's death on behalf of His people so that salvation may come to them by grace alone (Rom. 3:23-26). No Cross, no grace.

Our need for a Savior presupposes the reality of both our depraved condition and our just condemnation apart from God's mercy. So, do babies need Christ and His grace? If the answer is "Yes," then it follows that they, too, are not innocent and are justly condemned; for "it is not the healthy who need a Physician, but the sick" (Mat. 9:12). But if the answer is "No," then Jesus was lying when he said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn. 14:6, NIV).

Conclusion

As a closing remark, let me suggest that whatever position we take concerning the eternal destiny of dying infants (i.e. whether or not all of them are saved), we nevertheless ought to uphold the scriptural fact that heaven is a glorious place filled with people who are redeemed and forgiven by the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ. No human being can be found in heaven who is not redeemed by Christ. If this declaration is true, then how can we imagine babies in heaven without also accepting the fact that even those babies were—as far as God's justice is concerned—guilty and condemned, so much so that they were not less in need of Christ's forgiveness as we are? Do you imagine babies in heaven? I do. But I imagine babies in heaven who are saved not because they were innocent, but because of God's grace in Christ.

-Jeph

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Wag kang KJ!

Naisip mo na ba kung bakit tila kung ano pa yung mga bagay na kinahuhumalingan at gustong-gustong gawin ng maraming tao, yun pa ang tila palaging pinagi-initang ipagbawal ng Bibliya, ni pastor, o ng mga "konserbatibong Kristyano"?

Sino ba ang ayaw magkaroon ng maraming-maraming pera at magkaroon ng kakayahang bilhin ang anumang nais niyang bilhin? Sino ang ayaw magkaroon ng pangalan at sana'y mag-trending din sa twitter? Sino ba ang ayaw magkaroon ng maraming ka-tropa at magkaroon ng malawak na impluwensya at kapangyarihan? Sino ba ang ayaw sa kaligayahang idinudulot ng sex? Atbp.

Marami tayong gusto, at lahat ng yan ay bunga ng ating pagsusumikap na maging maligaya. Pero bakit ganun? Bakit parang halos lahat ng pinagkukunan natin ng kaligayahan, ipinagbabawal naman ni Lord? Wala bang karapatang lumigaya o maging masaya ang mga tao? Bakit napaka-KJ naman yata ni Lord? Ganun ba ka-self centered ang Panginoon na para bang napag-tripan lang niya tayong lahat na sundin siya sa lahat ng bagay na ipinagu-utos niya sa atin kahit labag sa ating kagustuhan?

Kapatid, kung isa ka sa mga may kinikimkim na ganitong uri ng sentimyento dyan sa puso mo, maniwala ka sakin: Hindi kill-joy si Lord. Ang totoo niyan, ikaw ang KJ---hindi si Lord. Paano ko nasabi? Simple lang: Ikaw ay KJ sapagkat ayaw mong kilalanin at luwalhatiin (i.e. itaas, dakilain, papurihan, parangalan) ang Diyos. O sa ibang salita: Hindi KJ ang Diyos dahil siya ay self-centered, kundi bagkus ikaw ang KJ dahil ayaw mong kilalanin ang pagiging self-centered ng Diyos.

Tama ang iyong nabasa. Ang Diyos ay self-centered. Napaka! Sa katunayan, ang pinaka-layunin ng lahat ng bagay na nilikha ng Diyos---ikaw, ako, at lahat ng nabubuhay, mga pangyayari, at hanggng sa kaliit-liitang mga alikabok sa sansinukob---ay nilikha para sa kaluwalhatian at kapurihan ng kanyang sariling kadakilaan. Sabi ni Pablo,
"Sapagkat ang lahat ng bagay ay nagmumula sa kanya, sa pamamagitan niya, at para sa kanya. Sa kanya ang lahat ng kaluwalhatian magpakailanman! Amen." (Rom. 11:36)
Ang pagiging self-centered ng Diyos (o ang kanyang matinding pagibig sa sarili niyang kapurihan at kaluwalhatian) ay alinsunod mismo sa sarili niyang katuwiran. Isipin mong mabuti: Kung ang Diyos ang pinaka-dakila sa lahat, sa tingin mo ba'y mananatili pa kaya siyang makatuwiran kung hindi niya itinataas ang sarili niyang kadakilaan nang higit sa lahat ng bagay? Syempre hindi. Hindi maaaring itanggi ng Diyos ang sarili niyang kadakilaan, samakatuwid nararapat lamang na siya'y maging self-centered!

Pero sa puntong ito siguro'y nais mong itanong sa'kin: "Ibig mo bang sabihi'y makasarili ang Diyos?"

Ang sagot ko'y depende sa pakahulugan mo sa salitang makasarili. Sa isang sentido, totoong makasarili ang Diyos, dahil ang pinaka-layunin ng lahat ng kanyang ginagawa ay para sa ikaluluwalhati ng sarili niyang pangalan. Sa gayong paraan, at gaya ng nabanggit na, hindi siya maaaring maging kontra - sarili; siya'y marapat lamang na maging maka - sarili. Hindi niya maaaring itanggi ang sarili niyang kadakilaan sapagkat hindi niya maaaring itanggi ang kanyang pagiging Diyos.

Ngunit ang Diyos ba ay makasarili sa sentido na wala siyang pake sa ikabubuti ng kanyang mga nilalang? Hindi gano'n ang ibig kong sabihin. Sa katunayan pa nga, ang nais kong patunayan ay ang katotohanan na ang pagiging maka-sarili ng Diyos ang siyang nagsisilbing tanging batayan ng kaniyang pagibig sa atin!

Pano nangyari yun?

Simple lang: Kung ang Diyos ang pinaka-dakila sa lahat, ano sa tingin mo ang pinaka-mahalagang kayamanan na maaari niyang ibigay para sa atin? Tama! Ang kanyang sarili mismo! At dahil ang Diyos mismo ang pinaka-dakilang Kayamanan sa lahat (na higit pa sa mga bagay na itinuturing na "kayamanan" ng sanlibutan), samakatuwid ay hindi labag sa kanyang pagibig sa atin ang kanyang masidhing hangarin na dakilain at itaas ang kanyang sarili sa pamamagitan ng paggawa ng mabuti sa atin! 

Iyan ang pinaka-dahilan kung bakit itilaga ng Diyos ang kanyang Anak na si Jesus bilang Tapagagligtas ng mga makasalanan; ito ay una't higit sa lahat para sa ikaluluwalhati ng kanyang pangalan (Jn. 12:27-28, 13:31-32, 17:1; cf. Isa. 43:25).

Kung gayon, maliwanag na hindi kill joy ang Diyos. Hindi kailanman ninais alisin ng Diyos ang likas na pagnanais nating maging maligaya. Sa katunayan, nais niya tayong maging maligaya at napatunayan niya yan nang kanyang tuparin ang kanyang hangarin na dakilain / luwalhatiin ang kanyang sarili sa pamamagitan ng pagparito ng kanyang bugtong Anak. Ang pagiging maka-sarili ng Diyos ang siyang naging batayan ng ating tunay at walang hanggang kaligayahan!

Bilang pangwakas sa maikling blog na ito, nais kong bigyang-diin muli na hindi ang Diyos ang kill joy, kundi tayo mismo. Ayon kay Jesus, kung nasaan ang iyong kayamanan, naroon din ang iyong puso (Mat. 6:21); at kung nasan ang iyong puso, naturamente doon ka rin humuhugot ng kaligayahan. Kung ang kayamanan mo ay ang mga bagay ng sanlibutang ito, sa sanlibutan ka rin huhugot ng kaligayayan (Eph. 2:1-3), at tiyak na magiging kill joy talaga si Lord para sa'yo (Jn. 5:44). Maaaring inaakala mo'y maligaya ka sa mga bagay na pinapahalagahan mo sa daigdig, ngunit ang totoo'y inilalayo mo ang iyong sarili mula doon sa tanging makapagbibigay sayo ng tunay na kaligayahan. At habang nananatili kang bulag hinggil sa kagandahan ng Diyos kay Cristo Jesus (2 Cor. 4:4), ika'y magiging katulad ng isang batang paslit na ayaw tumigil sa paglalaro ng buhangin sa park at ayaw sumama sa kanyang mga magulang patungo sa Enchanted Kingdom sapagkat wala siyang ideya kung gaano ka-"mas dakila" ang Enchanted Kingdom kumpara sa kinahuhumalingan niyang buhangin.

Kapatid, wag kang KJ.

-Jeph