Friday, December 31, 2010

Ang Kahalagahan ng Biblikal na Apologetics

Ano ba ang Apologetics?
  • Sa kunteksto ng Teolohiya, ang Apologetics ay ang paraan ng paglalatag ng mga argumento o paliwanag bilang depensa o patunay sa [isang] pinaninindigang doktrina. Ang terminong ito ay hango sa wikang Griego na apologia, na ang kahulugan ay "verbal defence / speech in defence / a reasoned statement or argument" [reperensya].
Mahalaga ba ang Apologetics?
  • Ang salitang apologia ay mahigit 19 na beses ginamit ng mga manunulat ng Bagong Tipan. Isa na diyan ang talata sa 1 Pedro 3:15 na ganito ang sinasabi: "Kundi inyong ariing banal si Cristo na Panginoon sa inyong mga puso: na lagi kayong handa ng pagsagot (apologia) sa bawa't tao na humihingi sa inyo ng katuwiran tungkol sa pagasang nasa inyo, nguni't sa kaamuan at takot" (TAB). Ito ay utos hindi lamang sa mga apostol, o sa mga pastor ng iglesia, kundi sa lahat ng mga mananampalatayang Cristiano. Ayon kay F.F. Bruce, mahigit 47% ng Bagong Tipan ay ukol sa pag-depensa sa pananampalataya. Hindi dapat isawalang-bahala ang Apologetics; ito'y mahalaga.
Dapat ba tayong maging masigasig sa pagtatanggol sa Katotohanan gaya ng mga sinaunang Cristiano?
  • Dapat! Sapagkat wika ng apostol, "Mga kapatid, kayo'y mangagkaisang tumulad sa akin... ayon sa halimbawang nakikita ninyo sa akin. Sapagka't marami ang mga... kaaway ng krus ni Cristo" (Filip. 3:17-18, Ibid.).
Saan natin makikita ang halimbawang pinakita ni Pablo?
  • Ang isang "halimbawa" na pinakita ni Pablo hinggil sa pagtatanggol ng Katotohanan ay makikita natin sa Gawa 17. Sa kabanatang ito'y makikita natin kung paano ipinagtanggol ng apostol ang ebanghelyo upang hikayatin at akayin ang kanyang mga tagapakinig sa pananampalataya kay Cristo.
Bakit kailangan nating sawatain at punahin ang mga aral ng mga kaibayo natin sa pananampalataya?
  • Sapagkat iyan ay ipinaguutos ng Diyos: "Ipangaral mo ang salita; magsikap ka sa kapanahunan, at sa di kapanahunan, sumawata ka, sumaway ka, mangaral ka na may buong pagpapahinuhod at pagtuturo. Sapagka't darating ang panahon na hindi nila titiisin ang magaling na aral; kundi, pagkakaroon nila ng kati ng tainga, ay magsisipagbunton sila sa kanilang sarili ng mga gurong ayon sa kanilang sariling mga masasamang pita" (2 Tim. 4:2-3, Ibid., cf. 1 Ped. 3:15). "Mga minamahal, samantalang ako'y totoong nagsisikap ng pagsulat sa inyo tungkol sa kaligtasan nating lahat, ay napilitan akong sumulat sa inyo na inaaralan kayong makipaglabang masikap dahil sa pananampalataya na ibinigay na minsan at magpakailan man sa mga banal" (Jud. 3, Ibid.).
Nakakalungkot isipin na maraming mananampalatayang pinoy sa panahon ngayon ang may mababa at negatibong pagtingin sa Apologetics. Sa tuwing naririnig nila ang salitang "debate", ang unang pumapasok sa kanilang isipan ay pakikipag-away, sigawan, murahan, etc. Marahil ito ay sapagkat nakikita nila sa media ang lantarang bangayan ng mga relihiyon na umaabot na sa personalan, demandahan, at minsan ay patayan (!). Dahil diyan, nagkaroon ng masamang kahulugan ang Apologetics sa isipan ng mga tao.

Pero likas bang masama ang pakikipag-debate? Hindi. Nagiging masama lamang ito kung ito'y humahantong na sa pagkakasala [gaya halimbawa nito]. Bagamat ipinaguutos ng Kasulatan na tayo'y dapat "makipaglabang masikap dahil sa pananampalataya", binabalaan din naman tayo nito na huwag tayong makilahok sa mga "walang kabuluhang pakikipagtalo sapagkat ito’y hahantong lamang sa awayan" (2 Tim. 2:23, MBB). Ano ang mga walang kabuluhang pakikipagtalo? Ito yung mga uri ng pakikipag-debate na ang layunin lamang ay ang makipag-pataasan ng ere sa kausap. Hindi ganyan ang layunin ng biblikal na pagtatanggol sa ating pinaninindigang katotohanan.

Dapat tayong maging masigasig sa pagtatanggol ng Katotohanan ng Diyos, "ngunit sa kaamuan at takot" (1 Ped. 3:15, TAB). Sabi nga ni Jesus, "Sinusugo ko kayong katulad ng mga tupa sa gitna ng mga lobo. Kaya nga, magpakatalino kayong katulad ng mga ahas at maging maamong katulad ng mga kalapati" (Mat. 10:16, SND). Kung tama ang pamamaraan at motibo sa pakikipag-argumento, ito'y kalugod-lugod sa Diyos.
  1. Ang Pamamaraan - Sa kaamuan at takot. (1 Ped. 3:15)
  2. Ang Motibo - Upang akayin sa Katotohanan ang tagapakinig. (Kaw. 11:30)
Mahalaga ang Apologetics, at ito'y obligasyon ng bawat mananampalataya (1 Ped. 3:15; Jud. 3). Ito ay isang napaka-halagang ministeryo na dapat bigyan ng kaukulang pansin sa bawat iglesia sa ikatitibay ng pananampalataya ng mga kapatiran, at sa ikasisiwalat ng katotohanan upang maakay ang mga naliligaw ng landas--na sa huli ay makapagbibigay ng luwalhati sa Diyos na ating Panginoon.


~~~~~
"A dog barks when his master is attacked.
I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth
is attacked and yet would remain silent."
~John Calvin~

~~~~~

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Martin Luther's Account Of His Own Conversion

The following selection is taken from the Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther's Latin Writings. It was written by Luther in Wittenberg, 1545. This english edition is availble in Luther's Works Volume 34, Career of the Reformer IV (St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1960), p. 336-337. In the first few lines of this selection, Luther writes, "during that year;" the immediate context indicates he is refering to the year of Tetzel's death (July, 1519). This puts the date for Luther's conversion, in his own view, two years after the posting of the ninety-five theses.
Meanwhile, I had already during that year returned to interpret the Psalter anew. I had confidence in the fact that I was more skilful, after I had lectured in the university on St. Paul's epistles to the Romans, to the Galatias, and the one to the Hebrews. I had indeed been captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. But up till then it was not the cold blood ab out the heart, but a single word in Chapter 1, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed," that had stood in my way. For I hated that word "righteousness of God," which, according to the use and custom of all the teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically regarding the formal or active righteousness, as they call it, with which God is righteous and punishes the unrighteous sinner.
Though I lived as a monk without reproach, I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience. I could not believe that he was placated by my satisfaction. I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God, and said, "As if, indeed, it is not enough, that miserable sinners, eternally lost through original sin, are crushed by every kind of calamity by the law of the decalogue, without having God add pain to pain by the gospel and also by the gospel threatening us with his righteousness and wrath!" Thus I raged with a fierce and troubled conscience. Nevertheless, I beat importunately upon Paul at that place, most ardently desiring to know what St. Paul wanted.
At last, by the mercy of God, meditating day and night, I gave heed to the context of the words, namely, "In it the righteousness of God is revealed, as it is written, 'He who through faith is righteous shall live.'" There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous lives by a gift of God, namely by faith. And this is the meaning: the righteousness of God is revealed by the gospel, namely, the passive righteousness with which merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live." Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me. Thereupon I ran through the Scripture from memory. I also fount in other terms an analogy, as, the work of God, that is what God does in us, the power of God, with which he makes us wise, the strenght of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God.
And I extolled my sweetest word with a love as great as the hatred with which I had before hated the word "righteousness of God." Thus that place in Paul was for me truly the gate to paradise. Later I read Augustine's The Spirit and the Letter, where contrary to hope I found that he, too, interpreted God's righteousness in a similar way, as the righteousness with which God clothes us when he justifies us. Although this was heretofore said imperfectly and he did not explain all things concerning imputation clearly, it nevertheless was pleasing that God's righteousness with which we are justified was taught.
(Source)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Brief Response To Those Who Say Christmas Is Pagan

"he was laid in a manger" (Lk. 2:7)
CHRISTMAS is a joyful season when families gather together to commemorate the incarnation of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. It is a celebration of God's love for giving us (sending) His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh so that sinners might be saved through Him (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 8:3). It is the Gospel which is (or which should be) the essence of Christmas.

Sadly, however, most people today who celebrate  the season don't take what it means by heart. Worse, there are people out there who repudiate the celebration altogether, saying it is an evil tradition which is of pagan origin meant to worship Satan. These people I call the "anti-Christmas Gang." The gang offers three basic arguments against the tradition:
  1. We are told nowhere in the Bible to celebrate Christ's birth.
  2. The belief that Christ was born on December 25 is a myth. There is not a single concrete evidence that can prove Christ was born exactly on December 25. In fact, bible references points us to a different date which is most probably in the month of March.
  3. The feast of Nativity was placed by the early Christians in ancient Rome on December 25 to correspond with the official feast day of a prominent pagan god in Rome named Sol Invictus. Thus when you celebrate Christmas, you are actually worshiping Satan.
Based on these assertions, they conclude that those who celebrate Christmas are not really honoring Christ but the Devil. But is that true? Can they prove that objectively? We shall see.

First, they argue that the Bible never commands us to celebrate Christmas. But I ask, is there any prohibition in the Bible against it? or perhaps indications that it is sin to do so? How many times can we read Paul commemorating the birth of Christ in his letters (cf. Rom. 8:3; Gal. 4:4-5; Php. 2:5-8), yet isn't this what Christmas is all about? The funny thing is most (if not all) of the anti-Christmas Gang would still celebrate their own birthdays and wedding anniversaries without even asking themselves if they were ever told by the Bible to do so!

Second, they say that December 25 is not really Christ's exact birth-date. But who cares? How is it a big deal? They could quote hundreds of references all day to prove their, but it won't make any sense to an objective person. I myself am convinced that nobody knows exactly the date when Christ was born, but this doesn't automatically mean it is ungodly to celebrate His birth on any chosen date. After all, we must commemorate Christ's birth everyday, aren't we? 

Lastly, the gang have this old chestnut that the choice of Dec. 25 as the official birthday of Jesus Christ was influenced by the pagan celebration of the feast of 'sun god' named Sol Invictus. Now in fairness to these anti-Christmas folks, it is somehow true that the feast of Sol Invictus had something to do with the choice of December 25; yet again, it cannot be proven that the early Christians had chosen the date to purposely identify Christ with the pagan god. Their intent was most probably to divert attention away from idolatry to the worshiping of the True God (which is indeed an admirable tactic to propagate the Gospel), not to paganize Christianity. But whichever the case, it is still an invalid reason to insist it is sinful to celebrate Christmas just because it corresponds to a pagan feast. Otherwise, those who were born on December 25 are also sinning if they celebrate their birthdays on that cursed date!

In conclusion:

Romans 14:4-6 (NIV): "Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers very day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God."

Peace out and Merry Christmas!

- Jeph

 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Kamusta Ang Puso Mo?

"Kayong mga mapagpaimbabaw, mabuti ang pagkahula sa inyo ni Isaias, na nagsasabi, Ang bayang ito'y iginagalang ako ng kanilang mga labi; Datapuwa't ang kanilang puso ay malayo sa akin" (Mat. 15:7-8, TAB).

Mga 2 taon na ang nakakaraan ay binigyan ako ng tiyahin ko ng isang magandang relos na medyo may kamahalan. Luma na ito, ngunit mukha parin namang bago at maayos. Nang inabot sa akin ang magandang relos, nagpasalamat ako at agad itong isinuot sa aking kamay. Ngunit napansin kong hindi gumagana ang relos. Ang sabi sa'kin ng tiyahin ko, baka baterya lang ang problema. Bumili ako ng baterya para naman magamit ko nang kaagad ang magandang relos na ito. Nang mapalitan ko na ang baterya, hindi parin ito gumana. Hindi na ako nagtaka. Walang duda na ang problema nito'y hindi ang baterya, kundi ang piyesang nasa loob nito.

"Marami" (hindi ko po sinasabing lahat) sa mga nagpapakilalang 'Cristiano' ngayon ay katulad ng relos na ito. Sa labas ay mukha namang maayos at walang sira: relihiyoso, aktibo sa mga gawain ng simbahan, ngunit ang totoo'y hindi sila nakapagbibigay-lugod sa Diyos. Mayroon silang depekto na hindi nakikita ng mata ng tao, at ang depektong ito'y nasa kanilang mga PUSO.

Hindi ko maaaring ituro sa pamamagitan ng aking mga daliri kung sino ang tunay na naglilingkod sa Diyos, at kung sino ang nagpapakitang-tao lamang. Ito ay sapagkat hindi ko naman talos ang nilalaman ng puso ng aking kapuwa. (Sa katunayan, maging si Satanas ay wala ring kakayahang bumasa ng puso ng tao! - 2 Chro. 6:30). Ngunit isang bagay ang nasisiguro ko: maraming nagaangking Crisitano ngayon ang nalilinlang ng sarili nilang puso (Jer. 17:9). Inaakala nilang sila'y ligtas na, ngunit ang totoo'y alipin parin sila ng kasalanan. Gayunpaman, "nakikilala ng Panginoon ang mga kaniya", at hindi kayang linlangin ng sinuman ang Diyos (2 Tim. 2:19, Ibid.).

Kamusta ngayon ang puso mo? Sino ang nakaupo ngayon sa trono ng iyong puso? Ang sarili mo? o si Cristo? Siyasatin mo ang iyong puso: "Suriin ninyo ang inyong sarili kung kayo ay nasa pananampalataya, subukin ninyo ang inyong sarili. Hindi ba ninyo kinikilala ang inyong sarili, na si Cristo ay nasa inyo, maliban na lang kung kayo ay mga itinakwil?" (2 Cor. 13:5, Ang Salita ng Diyos).

Kung hindi ka pa nakatitiyak sa iyong sariling Kaligtasan at nais mo itong malaman ngayon, basahin mo ito.

-Jeph

Friday, December 17, 2010

When The Enemy Strikes


Yesterday I dropped by the OMF Lit. Bookstore at Boni to browse for a book I could buy for myself as an advance Christmas gift. It was a good timing because the bookstore is now on a Christmas 20% discount sale, and I thank God for that. 

They have many new good books, really, but there's a particular one (not a new one, though) that really caught my attention. The book is entitled "When The Enemy Strikes: The Keys To Winning Your Spiritual Battles" by Charles F. Stanley. I did a little peeping through a couple of pages of the book and was made convinced this one's really for me. In short, I didn't hesitate to purchase one.

The book is about identifying who our spiritual adversary is (if you think you know him already, think again), the tactics he is using to bring us down and destroy our joyous fellowship with the Lord, and the defenses and offenses we must make to counter the enemy's constant assault. Here's what its jacket has to say regarding its contents:
Fear, discouragement, loneliness, anger, temptation. These struggles are common to every human. Yet not all circumstances or negative emotions originate within. They could be the result of a willful, coordinated assault of Satan.
In When The Enemy Strikes, best-selling author Dr. Charles Stanley explores the often-overlooked reality of spiritual warfare--the tactics used by Satan to taunt, confuse, slander, and harm. Your adversay wants to crush your will, delay your promise, hinder your destiny, destroy your relationships, and lead you into sin. Dr. Stanley reveals how you should respond.
The most important component of warfare, says Dr. Stanley, is the supremacy of God--both His sovereignty and His power. Practically, this means the battles you face are ultimately allowed by God to bring you to a place of greater reliance on Him. His strength crushes the enemy.
This is a world of conflict between good and evil, of powers beyond the merely human. The battle is unavoidable, but take heart! God has given you the strength to stand.
-Jeph

Refuting Anti-Evangelical Isahel Alfonso On Faith & Works (Part 2)

(The article which I seek to refute can be found here. The first part of my response is here.)

Mr. Alfonso's words are in maroon, mine in black:
_____________

Through good works we are putting our faith into action.

Amen.


Jesus Christ himself condemned the belief that salvation can be attained by faith alone in Mat.7:21. This passage in Matthew is unmistakable in its condemnation of faith alone, Christ said "not everyone who calls me Lord, Lord shall enter to the kingdom of heaven but he that does the will of my Father"...

Mr. Alfonso is making a serious distortion on God's Word here. The passage is not a condemnation of "faith alone", but in fact a condemnation of "faith+works"-salvation as we can see in the next two verses:

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity!" (Mat. 7:22-23, KJV)

Notice how these unfortunate people appeal to their good works to convince the Lord to save them. Apparently, these people whom the Lord will cast away in the last day were not "Sola Fide" believers as Mr.  Alfonso would have his readers to believe. They are most likely to be Catholics who believe one can be saved on account of his faith and good works, not "sola fide" believers who rely on Jesus Christ alone for Salvation!


...therefore not everyone that confessed that Christ is the Lord and savior will enter heaven since some of them did not put their faith into action by doing the will of the Father.

Here I am one with Mr. Alfonso in saying that simply confessing that Christ is the Lord and Savior will not make one heaven-bound. James says mere profession of faith is not enough (Jam. 2:14, 19). One needs to have a wholehearted and complete dependence upon the finished and sufficient work of Christ on the cross in order to be saved (Rom. 10:9-11). Nonetheless I would disagree with his assertion that Christ teaches works-salvation in Matthew 7:21 because it is crystal clear in its immediate context that the converse is true: Jesus will drive away to eternal damnation those who rely upon their goods works to earn God's favor! (see also Jer. 17:5).


In Romans 2:7 Paul stresses that eternal life is a reward for those who patiently do good works. Does this mean that we are saved by doing good works alone? Certainly not! Paul here tells us the importance of good works because God will judge us on the basis of our works not on our faith (cf. Mt.25:32-46, Rom.2:6).

Romans 2:6-7 does NOT in anyway nullify the doctrine of Sola Fide but in fact establishes it. In this passage Paul acquaints us with the glorious standard of God we ought to reach for us to be deemed worthy in His sight and thus be saved from the divine wrath. The Greek word used for "patient continuance" (KJV) in verse 7 is hypomonē, which, according to the dictionary, is "the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings" (see Greek lexicon). Now that's perfection! Jesus and his apostle, John, are saying exactly the same thing: 

"Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." (Mat. 5:48, KJV) 

"Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life." (Rev. 21:27, NIV)

At this point I'd like to ask Mr. Alfonso if he had been perfect and pure a man, not swerved by anything from doing good from the day of his birth up to this very moment that God should recompense him with eternal life. If he would ever say he is, he deceives himself and the truth is not in him (1 Jn. 1:8). The Bible tells us that all men are unworthy to present themselves before God because of their sins and that all their attempts to earn God's favor by their works are of no avail (cf. Psa. 130:3, 143:2; Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16; Jam. 2:10). If there's anyone who had been perfectly sinless throughout his entire life from birth to the death, it was Jesus Christ, the "Just and the Justifier" of all who has faith in Him (Rom. 3:24-26, cf. v. 5:19; Gal. 4:4-5; 1 Jn. 3:5).

True, God will one day judge all men according to their works and will recompense them what is due them (Rom. 2:6). Those who will be found innocent will receive eternal life (v. 7, 10), but the guilty will be disposed to eternal doom (v. 8-9). Sinners who put their trust upon Jesus Christ alone for Salvation are the ones that will be found innocent because Christ has made an atonement for their sins by his death on the cross and has met the demands of God's law by fulfilling it perfectly on their behalf (Rom. 3:24-25, 5:19). The Lord himself declares: 

"People who believe in God's Son are not judged guilty. Those who do not believe have already been judged guilty, because they have not believed in God's one and only Son." (Jn. 3:18, GW, cf. Rom. 5:1, 8:1)


The theology of Paul harmonizes the cooperation of Faith and Good works and he summarized it in his epistle to the Galatians 5:6 "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing nor uncircumcision: but faith that worketh by Charity." (Douay-Rheims version) 

Gal. 5:6 does not say Salvation by grace comes through faith and works. It is true and I fully agree that saving faith is a kind of faith which expresses itself through love, but the good works it produces are just a result of the inner working of the Holy Spirit in the believer after justification, not a requirement unto justification since it is a free gift of God. (Rom. 3:24-25, 11:6).


Paul said faith that work by Charity which clearly means that through good works we put our faith into action.

Amen!


Putting our faith into action does not mean that people who are engage in charitable works has a higher chance of getting to heaven than those ordinary people who is not engage in charitable works. Putting our faith into action does not mean that people who are engage in charitable works has a higher chance of getting to heaven than those ordinary people who is not engage in charitable works. God will judge us on the basis of our personal capability of doing good hence a priest and an ordinary person has an equal chance of getting to heaven since a priest will be judge on the standard of his vocation (Priesthood) and the ordinary person will also be judged on the standard of his chosen vocation (single life or married life).

Wrong. God will judge all men from all walks of life equally according to His perfect law as His measure-stick (Rom. 2:13, 3:19). "For there is no respect of persons with God" (v. 2:11).


Some would argue that Good works is an effect of our faith in Jesus Christ but this is contrary to what the Holy Scripture is saying.

It seems that Mr. Alfonso doesn't really understand what Galatians 5:6 is saying.


In Acts 16:30 the jailer asked Paul and Silas "sirs what must I do to be saved?", scrutinizing the words of the jailer it appears that good work is not an effect of faith. The jailer said "what must I do" this phrase denotes an action a work. And that action or work is to believe or to have faith hence to have faith and to believe is an act of good work.

On the contrary, the true reason why the jailer asked the disciples the question "what must I do to be saved?" is that he presumed he could save himself by his works (see also Jn. 6:27-29). Paul and Silas corrected that presumption with their simple response: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Act. 16:31, KJV). Now did the disciples tell the jailer to submit to the pope? or to join or be an official member of any religion? or to obey the sacraments of the church? or be a devotee of Mary? No!!! Salvation comes through faith alone in Jesus Christ, and this faith is not of ourselves; it is a gift of God! (Eph. 2:8-9, cf. Jn. 6:44, 65; Php. 1:29).


Does Ephesians 2:8-10 proves that good works is not needed? No it doesn't says that. In Paul's epistle to the Ephesians it states "for you have been save by grace through faith", Catholic agree with this one that it is by God's grace that we are saved since it is by God's initial act that saves us He is the first one to make a move in order to save us. "through faith" but what kind of faith? Faith alone? No! It must be a living faith, a faith that is put into practice by doing what is good. It is by our living faith that we accept God's invitation of salvation."through faith" but what kind of faith? Faith alone? No! It must be a living faith, a faith that is put into practice by doing what is good. It is by our living faith that we accept God's invitation of salvation.

God is the sole initiator of Salvation (Rom. 11:35), but that's not the point in Ephesians 2:8-9. The passage is speaking about the gratuitousness of justification that is attained through faith, and that this saving faith is a free gift of God, not dependent upon any human works, thus leaving no room for boasting (1 Cor. 4:7). This consequently negates the idea that one must do good works in order to have a saving faith or to keep his faith from dying. The vitality of a tree is not dependent upon its fruitfulness as much as the vitality of saving faith is not dependent upon the good works it produces. To state otherwise is to put the cart before the horse.


"not of works lest any man should boast" in the Bible there are two kinds of work, good works and works of the law. In Romans Chapter 3 Paul discuss about the Jews who boast that they are fulfilling the works of the law. In Ephesians chapter 2 Paul is telling us that it is by God's grace that we will be saved and not by the works of the law. 

Why all the desperate attempt to get away with Eph. 2:8-9 by trying to make an absurd distinction between the "works of law" and "good works"? Isn't obeying the commands (law) of God good works? And how would Mr. Alfonso explain Romans 4:5-6 where Paul says that God justifies the "wicked" through faith? How can good works be added to faith (as means for justification) if the person being justified is "wicked"? Or why didn't the apostle rather say that God justifies the "believing nice guy" (i.e. faith plus good works) so it would perfectly fit with what Rome is teaching? I firmly believe it is Christ's finished work on the cross that saves sinners through faith (Rom. 1:16-17, 3:24-24, 5:19). If in the end it is still our own works that will save us, why the need of Christ dying on the cross? (Gal. 2:21). I'd really like an answer to all these.

-Jeph

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Refuting Anti-Evangelical Isahel Alfonso On Faith & Works (Part 1)

I came across this article written by a certain Catholic apologist named Isahel Alfonso discussing the importance of faith & good works in Salvation in accordance to the teachings of their church for the purpose of discrediting the Evangelical position that sinners are saved by grace through faith alone. I feel compelled to give a response to the said article as I see plenty of flaws in Mr. Alfonso's arguments and biblical hermeneutics that makes him end up with erroneous conclusions.

A dog barks when he sees his master being attacked. I would be a coward if I saw that God's truth is attacked and yet would remain silent, so here's my rebuttal.

(Mr. Alfonso's words are in maroon; my response are in normal color black)

Mr. Alfonso begins with a mini lecture about what he calls the "three basic schools of thought" in relation to the subject matter. He listed the three as: Pelagianism, Protestantism, and Catholicism.

One of the controversial and disputed topic on the salvation of man is the relationship of Faith and Good works. There are basically three school of thoughts that is involve in this controversy the pelagians that believed that a person can attain salvation by his own personal work without the assistance of God's grace (Good Works Alone Salvation), the Protestants that believed that man is totally deprived and can do no good hence he must only have his faith alone in order to be saved (Faith Alone Salvation) and lastly the Catholic belief that Faith and Good works must come together.

Then he proceeds on scrutinizing each schools that he mentioned (of course with an obvious aim to aggrandize the position of his church). Commenting on Pelagianism and Protestantism he wrote:

Pelagianism is clearly a heretical belief since the Bible is clear that without faith it is impossible to please God Heb.11:6 and the Protestant belief is also unbiblical and heretical since it is clearly stated in the Book of James that a man is justified not by faith alone but by his works James 2:24.

Though I am no fan of Pelagius, I don't exactly know where did Mr. Alfonso get the idea that Pelagianism is a system that promotes Salvation through good works alone. I have read many of St. Augustine's treatises against Pelagianism, and their contention was apparently never on the question whether faith is necessary for Salvation or not, but on whether or not Grace is necessary for man to have faith (or be able to do good works). But in fairness to Mr. Alfonso, he is correct in saying that it is heresy to say that a man can be saved by good works alone even without faith. Unfortunately the Roman Catholic Church have this doctrine that even those who do not know or reject the Gospel--whether they be atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, or pagan--can still be saved by simply leading a good life. So we see how Mr. Alfonso condemns as heretical the same view his church holds concerning the salvation of non-Catholics and non-Christians.

Mr. Alfonso goes on to assert that the Protestant view of Salvation is unbiblical and heretical because St. James tells us that man is not justified by faith alone but by works (Jam. 2:24). Upon close examination of James 2, however, we shall see that the apostle is not really teaching any form of works salvation. He is stressing the importance of good works in the lives of professing Christians as outward evidences of their saving faith in Christ for other people to see (v. 18, cf. Mat. 5:16), not as means to be made right with God. I have already posted in this blog a two-part exegesis of James 2, and you can read it here and here.

The Bible is unequivocal in its teaching that sinners cannot justify themselves in God's sight by anything they do since "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23, KJV, cf. Psa. 130:3, 143:2). It is through faith that God "justifies the wicked," not by works, but as a free gift of grace (Rom. 4:4-6).


The Catholic position is the only right and Scripturally founded belief that there is a cooperation between God's grace and man's work. In order to grasp this truth we must look back into the Old Testament. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God sin enters the world Romans 5:12, as we can clearly see that sin enters the world through the cooperation of man through the disobedience of Adam and Eve thus it is fitting that salvation comes through the obedience of one man Romans 5:19. Clearly it is by God's design that man will also cooperate in his salvation...

Mr. Alfonso's reasoning goes like this:
  1. Because Man fell through his cooperation (sinning),
  2. thus he could be saved by his own cooperation (obedience) as well.
A fine example of a non sequitur argument. He based this flimsy reasoning on two verses: Romans 5:12 & 19. Unfortunately, again, the verses he appeals to does not support his claim. In Romans 5:11-19 Paul is discussing how all men fell unto Sin and became subject to death and condemnation by the disobedience of one man, Adam, and how the now fallen mankind can be justified and restored into fellowship with God by the obedience of another, Jesus Christ. So through whose obedience men will be justified before God? Does Paul say by "our" obedience? No! It is by the obedience of Jesus Christ that sinners are justified! (Rom. 4:4-6). Christ's perfect righteousness is exceedingly sufficient for sinners to be considered as righteous before God through faith, and that's why justification is said to be a free gift from God and not something that can be earned by works (Rom. 3:24-25). If it is by works, it is no longer by grace (v. 11:6); but it is through faith so that it may be by grace (v. 4:16).


In James 2:24 it is obvious that salvation is not by faith alone but rather it should be accompanied by good works otherwise faith without good works is a dead faith...

Wrong. As I've already briefly explained above, James 2 has absolutely nothing to do with how one is justified before God. James is criticizing those who falsely assume they have faith (and are thus saved) on the ground of merely having an orthodox confession of faith (see James 2:14 & 19). What these false professors lack is a wholehearted trust/reliance in Jesus Christ alone for Salvation (Rom. 10:9-11), and that's what makes their faith dead, incapable of bearing good works (v. Jam. 2:17).

Moreover, James is not teaching that faith dies with the absence of works. No. He is rather telling us that dead faith is recognized by the absence of works. It does not produce good deeds because it is not alive and real to begin with. It's all in the head.

And to add beef in my case, the word "justify" (Greek, dikaioo) which both Paul and James used in their letters can vary in its meaning depending on how it is applied in a given context (see Greek lexicon). It could mean:
  1.  to declare or pronounce one to be just / righteous (like that of a judge acquitting the accused: see Rom. 3:20, 24-25, 4:3-6), 
  2. or  to show or exhibit one to be just / righteous (as a consequence of an evident actual moral uprightness: see Luk. 7:29 & Jam. 2:18, 24).
Paul couldn't have used the second usage, say for example, in Romans 4:5-6 where he says that God "justifies the wicked" (or "the one who does not work") through faith based on an imputed alien righteousness (Rom. 5:19). You wouldn't expect any actual moral uprightness from "wicked" people, but God justifies them through faith. Why? Because God does not await sinners to evince their good deeds before He can say, "Ah! This guy really believes in me!"; He looks directly at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7, cf. Rom. 10:9-11). Thus, "dikaioo" in the Pauline usage is purely judicial in nature pertaining to God's declaring the sinner as righteous in His sight "freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus... through faith in his blood" (Rom. 3:24-25, KJV).

James, on the other hand, couldn't have used the first usage (i.e. to declare or pronounce one to be just / righteous), or else he'd directly contradict the teachings of Paul. The meaning of "dikaioo" in the second chapter of James' epistle is evident in its very context particularly on verse 18 which says:

"But someone will say, 'You have faith and I have works.' Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." (Jam. 2:18, ESV)

Please take note that it is not God the apostle says to whom he will show his faith by his works. He says he will show "you" - pertaining to human audiences who, unlike God, cannot see through the heart of another. So when James said that "by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (v. 24) - he is (as context dictates) simply saying that Christians are 'shown to be righteous' (dikaioo) in the sight of other people by what they do and not by simply claiming to have faith or merely assenting to an orthodox confession of belief (see v. 14, 19).

(Proceed to the second part here)

-Jeph

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Whether Predestination should be publicly taught and Preached? WE AFFIRM (by Francis Turretin)

Francis Turretin (1623–1687)
Occasion of the Question

I. Some of the breathren of Gaul in the time of Augustine started this Question: For since he in his books against the Pelagians had inserted and inculcated many things concerning Predestination, so as in this way to defend the truth against their Impious doctrines, many were disturbed by it., as appears frost the two epistles of Prosper, a disciple of Augustine and of Hilary, bishop of Arles, prefixed to the book de Predestinations Sanctorum, et bono perseverantiae, (Tom. vii. Oper. August.). The reason was, not that they judged it to be at all false, but because they thought the preaching of it was dangerous, and invidious, better to be suppressed, than brought into prominence.

II. There are some of the same opinion at the present day, who wearied with the contentions arising from this doctrine in almost every age, think that it is best for the peace of the Church and the tranquility of conscience, to let these Questions alone, since by them scruples are suggested, and doubts generated, calculated to weaken the faith of the weak, and to drive men to desperation, or into carnal security. But this opinion is more honest than true, and cannot be readily received by those who have known the richest fruits of consolation and sanctification to believers from this doctrine properly understood.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Did James Teach Salvation By Works? (Part II)

 (Read the first part here)

Sinners are justified (or counted as righteous) before God the moment they begin to trust in the promises of the Gospel with all their heart. Paul used Abraham as an example:
"What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.'" (Rom. 4:1-3, ESV)
According to Paul, Abraham wasn't made right with God by his works but by faith. However, James seems to contradict this idea when he said that Abraham was justified by his works. In James 2:21 to 24 we read:
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness'—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone." (ESV)
Here we are confronted with an apparent contradiction of statements between two divinely inspired New Testament writers. Was Abraham justified by works or by faith? How do we reconcile the seeming contradiction? Again, the key is in the respective context of the verses in question.

While both Paul and James use the same Greek word dikaioō (G1344) for "justified," they don't however make the same application of the word because they don't address the same subject matter (see the illustration below). Paul is discussing how a sinner is declared righteous before God through faith alone (Rom. 3:20). James, on the other hand, talks about how believers are shown to be righteous in the sight of other people by what they do. This is very evident in verse 18:
"But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I WILL SHOW YOU my faith by my deeds." (Jm. 2:18, 24, NIV)
Notice the "your" and "you" in the verse. James is not saying he will show God his faith by his deeds. Rather, James will show his faith to other people who cannot see through the heart of another (see also Mat. 5:16). There is no need for God to look over our deeds for Him to determine whether we have faith or not. He looks directly at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7, cf. 2 Chr. 6:30). This is why Paul says in Rom. 4:1-3 that if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but NOT BEFORE GOD.


When God saw Abraham's wholehearted trust in Him, He considered him as righteous in His sight right then and there (Rom. 4:1-3). Then prompted by his faith, Abraham obeyed the Lord as an outward confirmation that he was really made right with God through faith (Jm. 2:21-24). Here we see the teachings of Paul and James perfectly in harmony with each other. Paul is looking at the root of our salvation, while James is looking at the fruit of our salvation.

Conclusion:

James 2:14-24 is just one of the many passages in the Word of God detractors of the Evangelical faith are quick to take out of context in their desire to disprove the God-glorifying, biblical doctrine of Sola Fide. James is not saying here that we can earn our way to heaven by our works. No. Salvation is by grace alone, that is: "it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:6, ESV).

True, James is concerned with the importance of good works, NOT as means to attain Salvation, but as necessary evidence of our saving faith in Christ to the glory of God who saved us gratuitously (cf. Mat. 5:14-16; Eph. 2:10).

Saving faith (Eph 1:11-14), the kind that results in following Christ’s example, comes from God (Phil 1:29; 2 Pet 1:1; John 6:44). If we have true, saving faith then we are heaven-bound (Heb 10:19-22; John 5:24; John 6:37; John 10:27-28; Rom 8:38-39). Whatever works come after that, whatever commands are followed, are because of a transformed heart (Deut. 30:6; Eze. 36:26-27; Eph 3:17), a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and a spirit-filled life (Romans 8:9) all of which are indicative of the saving faith, not a contribution towards it (Eph 2:10; Phil 1:6; Phil 2:13).

To God be the Glory!

-Jeph

Did James Teach Salvation By Works? (Part I)

As an Evangelical Christian, I firmly believe that sinners are saved (justified or made right with God) as a free gift through faith alone in Jesus Christ. The Bible is crystal clear in affirming this doctrine:
"However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:..." (Rom. 4:5-6, NIV-UK)
"...he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,.." (Tit. 3:5, NIV-UK)
(See also: Jn. 1:12, 3:15-18, 36, 5:24, 6:27-29, 40, 47, 11:25-26, 40, 20:31; Acts 10:43, 13:39, 15:9-11, 16:30-31, 26:18; Rom. 1:16-17, 3:22-28; 4:1-4, 16, 24, 5:1, 9:30-33, 10:4, 9-11, 11:5; 1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 2:16, 3:6, 8-11, 22, 24-26, 5:6;  Eph. 2:8-10, 3:12, 17; Php. 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:10; Heb. 4:3, 11:6; Jm. 2:23; 1 Jn. 5:1, 12-13; 1 Pet. 1:9)

If we are to pursue working our way to heaven, we need to be completely sinless in God's sight for us to be saved. The Bible explicitly tells us that "nothing impure will ever enter" God's kingdom (Rev. 21:27, NIV; cf. Rom. 2:7; Mat. 5:48). Why? Because God is a just and holy God. His eyes "are too pure to look on evil" (Hab. 1:13). Being just and holy, He will not let any sin go unpunished (Rom. 6:23). 

The question now is whether our works (good deeds) would be enough for us to attain the perfection that God requires. The answer, obviously, is NO because: "Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard" (Rom. 3:23, NCV; cf. Ec. 7:20). King David realized this and wrote in his psalm: "If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?" (Psa. 130:3, NIV; cf. 143:2). In other words, no one can be saved by doing good or by obeying God's precepts (Rom. 3:20). It is through faith in Christ that sinners are made right with God on the sole basis of Christ's atoning death and perfect obedience to God's law (Mat. 5:17; Rom. 3:24-25, 5:19, 10:4; Gal. 4:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:21). This doctrine is widely known as Sola Fide (Latin meaning "faith only").

However, opponents of the Evangelical faith (who believe we can be saved by our own efforts) will quote James 2:14-24 to try and refute this doctrine. From this passage they conclude that faith is not sufficient to save sinners unless coupled with works. They put emphasis on verse 24 which says:
"You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone." (NIV)
As Christians we are bound to believe that the Bible, in so far as it is divinely inspired (2 Tim. 3:15-16), never contradicts itself. That being said, the idea that James 2:14-24 teaches salvation by works must be immediately repudiated as we have already shown above how the Bible affirms overwhelmingly that we are saved through faith alone in Christ. The key to a correct understanding and sound interpretation of this passage in James must be sought from an honest exegetical examination of the passages in question.


What James is really up to

The apostle is not discussing how to attain salvation, but he is addressing the problem of people who falsely profess to have faith (and thereby claims they are saved). In verse 14 we read:
"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?" (NIV)
These people (who are most likely Jewish converts to Christianity) profess to have faith but their claim is not supported by concrete evidence in their works. The apostle asked them a very important question, "Can such faith save him?" The answer is obviously negative: such faith won't save anybody. Why not? Because such faith is nothing more than a mere confession of faith or "mental assent" over theological facts as we can see in verse 19:
"You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder." (NIV)
Can you imagine how the Jewish Christians reacted when they read these words? When they saw the words, "You believe that there is one God," they might have immediately recalled Moses' proclamation in Deut. 6, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!" That was foundational! James says, however, that having a good theology is in itself unprofitable because even the demons believe, and shudder. The demons know the truth, and perhaps have a far better theology than all of us combined. But are they saved? No.

Paul wrote: "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Rom. 10:10-11). Saving faith is not merely assenting to the truths of God, but it primarily involves a wholehearted trust in Jesus Christ alone for Salvation (Psa. 37:5-6). Unlike the kind of faith which James criticizes in his letter, saving faith is living and active; it produces good works! (Eph. 2:10;1 Thes. 1:3). Thus, a true believer of the Gospel, being a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17), is expected to exhibit outward manifestations of his saving faith through his works (Gal. 5:6).

Some have argued that James taught that faith dies (or ceases to be genuine) with the absence of works, or that we should work in order for us to have a living (saving) faith when he said: "faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (Jm. 2:17, NKJV). But this is not what he was trying to say! The Greek word used for "dead" is nekros, which always denotes uselessness, insensitivity, and inability like that of a rotten corpse. It is the same word used in Rom. 4:19 to describe Abraham and Sarah's inability to bear a child. Now it would sound completely absurd to say that the couple became barren because they don't bear children when it is the other way around. Correspondingly, you don't tell dead people in the cemetery to get up on their knees and work their fingers to the bone so that they could once again live! That's absurd.

James, therefore, is simply telling us that dead faith is recognized by its lack of works for "a tree is known by its fruits" (Mat. 12:33). It is not the vitality or existence of saving faith which depends upon good works; it is the converse. True believers do good works because they have a genuine, living faith in Christ.

(End of part I. Click here to read the second part)

-Jeph

Thursday, December 9, 2010

St. Augustine Of Hippo On Effectual Calling

The Doctor of Grace, St. Augustine of
Hippo, 354-430 AD
St. Augustine of Hippo | Accordingly, our only Master and Lord Himself, when He had said what I have above mentioned,— "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent,"— says a little afterwards in that same discourse of His, "I said unto you that you also have seen me and have not believed. All that the Father gives me shall come to me" (John 6:36). What is the meaning of "shall come to me," but, "shall believe in me"? But it is the Father's gift that this may be the case.

Moreover, a little after He says, "Murmur not among yourselves. No one can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all teachable of God. Every man that has heard of the Father, and has learned, comes unto me." What is the meaning of, "Every man that has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes unto me," except that there is none who hears from the Father, and learns, who comes not to me? For if every one who has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes, certainly every one who does not come has not heard from the Father; for if he had heard and learned, he would come. For no one has heard and learned, and has not come; but every one, as the Truth declares, who has heard from the Father, and has learned, comes.

Far removed from the senses of the flesh is this teaching in which the Father is heard, and teaches to come to the Son. Engaged herein is also the Son Himself, because He is His Word by which He thus teaches; and He does not do this through the ear of the flesh, but of the heart. Herein engaged, also, at the same time, is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; and He, too, teaches, and does not teach separately, since we have learned that the workings of the Trinity are inseparable. And that is certainly the same Holy Spirit of whom the apostle says, "We, however, having the same Spirit of faith" (2 Corinthians 4:13). But this is especially attributed to the Father, for the reason that of Him is begotten the Only Begotten, and from Him proceeds the Holy Spirit, of which it would be tedious to argue more elaborately; and I think that my work in fifteen books on the Trinity which God is, has already reached you. Very far removed, I say, from the senses of the flesh is this instruction wherein God is heard and teaches. We see that many come to the Son because we see that many believe in Christ, but when and how they have heard this from the Father, and have learned, we see not. It is true that that grace is exceedingly secret, but who doubts that it is grace?

This grace, therefore, which is hiddenly bestowed in human hearts by the Divine gift, is rejected by no hard heart, because it is given for the sake of first taking away the hardness of the heart. When, therefore, the Father is heard within, and teaches, so that a man comes to the Son, He takes away the heart of stone and gives a heart of flesh, as in the declaration of the prophet He has promised. Because He thus makes them children and vessels of mercy which He has prepared for glory.

~ On Predestination of the Saints (Book I), Chapter 13.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Conviction or Accusation?

This one and a half year-old post at Ray Ortlund's blogsite came to my attention. It is about how a Christian can discern if he is being convicted by the Holy Spirit or being accused by the Enemy. Ray offers these helpful guidelines:
1) The Holy Spirit puts his finger on a specific sin I have committed, something concrete I can own and confess, but the accusations of Satan are vague and simply demoralizing.

2)The Holy Spirit shows me Christ, the mighty Friend of sinners, but the devil wants me spiraling down into negative self-focus.

3) The Holy Spirit leads me to a threshold of new life, but the devil wants to paralyze me where I am.

4) The Holy Spirit brings peace of heart along with a new hatred of sin, so that I bow before Jesus in reconsecration, but the devil offers peace of mind with smug relief, so that I fold my arms and say, “There, that’s over with.”

5) The Holy Spirit helps me to be so open to God that I allow him to control the conversation, but the devil tempts me to take off the table certain questions I just don’t want God to talk to me about.
    (Source)

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Is Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) Wordly/Evil?

    I was surfing the net when I came across this interesting article by Mike Shaw in which he discussed the typical tactics (or arguments) fundamentalists use against the Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). The article was very informative, and so I really had fun reading it through. Here's a snippet:
    Often attackers will quote studies that claim that music can have an effect on humans. They overstate the obvious. Music is an incredible gift from God with great power of expression. Who hasn't soared in the proclamations of the Hallelujah Chorus or rested in the soulful arms of It is well with my soul? Who isn't affected by the militaristic beat of Onward, Christian Soldiers, and the proclaiming key of the last verse of Amazing Grace? 
    Where these studies (most of questionable sources and methods) go wrong is that they imply a subconscious and irresistable mind control over the listener. Attackers reason that since the world writes songs using these insidious techniques, and since much of Christian music today contains these 'evil sounds', we are unknowingly unleashing the subliminal songs of satan on millions of unsuspencting listeners. Now, I sincerely wish this were the case, not because we'd be releasing 'satan sounds' but because then all we would have to do is write songs with 'Christian sounds' and zing!--instant evangelism! There would be no more revivals, no more missionaries, no more altar calls, no more fundamentalist web pages, and no more lyrics. Instead, we'd have busy recording studios pumping out disc upon disc of 'christian sounds'. People would mysteriously show up for Church. They would be saved in their cars without even knowing it. Forget preachers: "listen to todays sermon, played by organist John Smith...."
     (Source
    Nailed it. I couldn't have said it better myself. :))

    -Jeph

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    I Have Cartooned Myself On Facebook, Too!

    Son Goten
    A facebook buddy sent me a private message just recently inviting me to support a certain campaign against child abuse by changing my profile picture into my favorite childhood cartoon character. After reading the message, I was like: Ano nanaman kayang pakulo ito!? I thought it was just another typical non-sense pauso (like the jeje-mania thing) which will eventually wane soon, so I just ignored it.

    But upon further browsing on facebook I was surprised at how many people have actually involved themselves in the craze. Most of my friends have already cartooned themselves, posting in their walls invitation for others to do the same. This got me very curious, so I did some google search about it.

    In fairness, the craze was for a good cause--namely, to raise social awareness against child abuse by honoring our childhood memories. (It is also, in a way, beneficial for our peace of mind because pictures of ugly people in facebook will somewhat lessen. Isn't that great!?)

    So in short, I have decided as well to cartoon myself. (Thankfully, I didn't have a hard time choosing my cartoon character). I picked the one which reminds me of my childhood days the most: Son Goten of the classic cartoon series, Dragonballs Z. He is the one in the picture above. Cute, isn't he?

    How 'bout you? Have you gotten into the action? And which cartoon did you choose?

    Post Script:
    The meme officially ended Monday, December 6.


    -Jeph

    The Spiritual Condition Of A Spiritually Dead Sinner

    Most Christians think the main reason why people don't respond positively when we share to them the good news of Salvation is either we present the gospel poorly, or the prospect was just an idiot. The truth is: it is not the evangelist's job to convert sinners, nor is it on the sinner's power to convert himself, and here's the reason why:
    1. Sinners are dead (spiritually) in trespasses and sin / incapable of doing any spiritual good (Eph. 2:1; Rom. 3:9-12):
    2. Sinners are slaves under the power of Sin (Jn. 8:34; Ac. 26:17-18; Rom. 3:9, 6:20)
    3. Sinners were taken captive by Satan to do his will (Jn. 8:44; 2 Tim. 2:25-26)
    4. Sinners cannot/does not come to God (Jn. 6:44, 65; Rom. 3:11)
    5. Sinners cannot obey God's law (Rom. 3:9-12, 8:7-8)
    6. Sinners cannot understand spiritual things (Mat. 13:14; Rom. 3:11; Eph. 4:18; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4)
    7. Sinners cannot savingly believe the Gospel (1 Cor. 2:14, cf. Job. 14:4)
    8. Sinners cannot change/convert on their own (Jer. 13:23)
    9. Sinners do not seek after God (Rom. 3:11, 10:20)
    10. The sinner's heart is hardened and unreceptive (Ezek. 36:26-27; Eph. 4:18)
    11. The sinner's heart is desperately wicked and beyond cure (Gen. 6:5; Ec. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Mr. 7:21-23)
    We, Christians, were once dead in our trespasses and sins and are by nature children of wrath like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3). But by God's own will and mercy he quickened us by His Spirit through the word of truth so that we may choose Him and be saved (Jam. 1:18, cf. Eze. 36:26-27, 37:2-6). So it is not our own doing that we are saved. Salvation is of the Lord alone. Even faith through which we are saved is God's gift!
    "He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.'" (Jn. 6:65, NIV)
    Soli Deo Gloria!

    -Jeph

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Why Modern "Evangelism" Is Not Evangelism At All

    "The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day “evangelist.” He announces a Savior from hell rather than a Savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness." ~ Arthur W. Pink


    * * * * * *

    Youth Fellowship @ LVCBC: "Celebrating God's Goodness & Faithfulness"

    It was a blessed experience for the young people of Living Grace Baptist Church (including me) to be part of last Sunday's youth fellowship at Living Vessel Christian Baptist Church (Nov. 28, 2010). It sure was a fun trip!

    Young people of LVCBC and its daughter churches singing songs of praise unto the Lord


    Roselyn & Tiffany as they lead the crowd in worshiping the Lord in spirit & in truth
    Connect the dots and don't move a muscle! A very tough game indeed.
    Unlikely as it may seem, but I was the one invited by the LVCBC leaders to be the main speaker of this event, and I thank the Lord for giving me that privilege. The theme of my message was "Celebrating God's Goodness & Faithfulness" which was delivered after the icebreakers and games we have enjoyed. In my exhortation I emphasized the constant recognition and remembrance of God's goodness and faithfulness in the lives of everybody as a motivation for revival, transformation, and service (text: 1 Chro. 16:8; cf. Rom. 2:4, 1 Pet. 2:9).

    Ate Joy (at the center) and THUMBAY (LVCBC youth ministry)
    Ate Joy as she introduce me as the speaker of God's Word in the event
    It is truly a nice feeling to remember our Creator in the days of our youth!
    After the short message of exhortation, the young people of LVCBC presented a glowing-in-the-dark hands interpretation of the song, "Thank You For Loving Me." Personally, I was amazed in their presentation because I know it takes a lot of teamwork to do that. I don't have the video coverage of that actual performance, but Ate Joy has given me a video of an identical presentation they did in their church anniversary a week before the youth fellowship. The video is embedded below:


    Right after that somewhat surprising, and I should say "captivating" performance, Ate Joy was given, unexpectedly, a special tribute from the LVCBC young people for her hard work in the ministry. She was given a special gift (which I don't exactly know what it was since it was gift-wrapped) and was told that they couldn't have done what ever they had done that evening without her assistance. Tears of joy streamed down at Ate Joy's face as she thanked them back for expressing their gratitude towards her. She sure was touched. I congratulate her for having such grateful colleagues in the ministry. 

    We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength. Yes, even eating!
    After that "Ate Joy tribute," the youth participants of the fellowship all gathered together to eat the miryenda. (The event was officially over at this point). Then we all went outdoors and took pictures as we swarm streets. And lastly, the departure which is inevitable in every meeting.

    If you think we're doing a whaky take on this one,.. Eeeenggg! You're wrong. Haha!
    Can you find me?

    I thank the Lord for the lives of those who have worked behind the scenes of that wonderful event: Pastor Nick and his wife, Ate Joy, LVCBC young people, those who have prepared our snacks, and those whose names I've not mentioned, may our heavenly Father bless you all through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

    Until next time! To God alone be the Glory!

    (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Anne Codrilon & Roymark Luna)