Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pastor John Piper On Whether Christians Should Celebrate Xmas

"I sympathize with those who want to be rigorously and distinctly Christian, who want to be disentangled from the world and any pagan roots that might lie beneath our celebration of Christmas, but I don't go that route on this matter because I think there comes a point where the roots are so far gone that the present meaning doesn't carry the pagan connotation anymore. I'm more concerned about a new paganism that gets layered on top of Christian holidays.

Here's the example I use: All language has roots somewhere. Most of our days of the week—if not all—grew out of pagan names too. So should we stop using the word "Sunday" because it may have related to the worship of the sun once upon a time? In modern English "Sunday" doesn't carry that connotation, and that's the very nature of language. In a sense, holidays are like chronological language.

Christmas now means that we mark, in Christian ways, the birth of Jesus Christ. I think the birth, death and resurrection of Christ are the most important events in human history. Not to mark them in some way, by way of special celebration, would be folly it seems to me.

I remember I lived next door to somebody back in seminary who didn't celebrate birthdays for their kid. The idea was, partly, that all days were special for their kid. But if all days are special then it probably means that there are no special days. Yet some things are so good and precious—like anniversaries, birthdays, and even deaths—that they are worthy of being marked. How much more the birth and death of Jesus Christ!

It's really worth the risk, even if the date of December 25 was chosen because of its proximity to some kind of pagan festival. Let's just take it, sanctify it, and make the most of it, because Christ is worthy of being celebrated in his birth.

There is no point in choosing any other date. It won't work."

~ Pastor John Piper (Source)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Man's will has a role to play in Salvation — C.H. Spurgeon

C.H. Spurgeon | "Whosoever will let him come and take the water of life freely." According to this and many other texts the Scripture where man is addressed as a being having a will, it appears clear enough that men are not saved by compulsion. When a man receives the grace of Christ, he does not receive it against his will. No man shall be pardoned while he abhors the though forgiveness. No man shall have joy in the Lord if he says, "I do not wish to rejoice in the Lord." Do not think that anybody shall have the angels pushing them behind into the gates of heaven. They must go there freely or else they will never go there at all. 

We are not saved against our will; nor again, mark you, is the will taken away; for God does not come and convert the intelligent free-agent into a machine. When he turns the slave into a child, it is not by plucking out of him the will which he possesses. We are as free under grace as ever we were under sin; nay, we were slaves when we were under sin, and when the Son makes us free we are free indeed, and we are never free before. 

~ Excerpt from Spurgeon's sermon entitled "God's Will and Man's Will"

Friday, April 8, 2011

Paano Kinukuha ng Diyos Ang Ating Atensyon

Texto: Deuteronomio 1:42-44

Ang pito (whistle blower) ay sadyang inimbento upang umagaw ng atensyon. Ang tunog nito'y ginagamit sa pagsita sa mga pasaway, o sa pagbibigay ng mga senyales (halimbawa, sa mga larong isports). Karaniwan itong ginagamit ng mga pulis, traffic enforcer, at mga sports referee. Ang tunog ng pito ay senyales upang tayo'y tumigil at upang alamin kung bakit ito sinipol.

Paano ba kinukuha ng Diyos ang ating atensyon? Minsan inaalis niya sa atin ang mga bagay na pinaglalaanan natin ng lubos na pagpapahalaga. May mga pagkakataon na ginagamit niya ang ibang tao upang tulungan tayong maunawaan ang anumang nais niyang sabihin sa atin. Ang pagpapala rin ay ginagamit ng Diyos upang kunin ang ating atensyon (Rom. 2:4). Sa mga pagkakataong ganito, dapat tayong tumigil, manalangin, at itanong sa Diyos, "Panginoon, mayroon ka bang nais sabihin sa akin?"

Minsan ay pinahihintulutan ng Diyos na manatiling walang kasagutan ang ating mga panalangin upang nang sa gayon ay maging mas pokus tayo sa kanya. Maaari rin niyang hindian ang ating mga petisyon upang makuha niya ang ating atensyon. Ang mga kalumbayan, kahirapan, at pagkabigo ay ginagamit din niya sa gano'ng layunin. Ngunit kung tayo'y sensitibo, daglian natin siyang hahanapin. Sa mga trahedya, krisis pang-pinansyal, at problemang pangkalusugan, hinihintay lamang tayo ng Diyos upang itanong sa kanya, "Diyos ko, kinakausap mo ba ako?"

Dapat nating ibigay sa Diyos ang ating hindi nahahating atensyon, ngunit kadalasan ay abala tayo sa ibang mga bagay. Siya'y naghihintay lamang upang kausapin natin siya, subalit mas abala pa tayo sa mga bagay na ating tinatangkilik. Kaya naman, maging sensitibo tayo palagi sa pagsipol na ginagawa ng Diyos upang makuha ang ating atensyon. Tanggapin nating maluwag sa ating kalooban ang lahat ng bagay na nangyayari sa ating buhay--negatibo man o positibo--sapagkat ang bawat bagay ay "gumagawang magkakalakip sa ikabubuti ng mga taong nagsisiibig sa Diyos" (Rom. 8:28). Sa bawat pagkakataon ay mayroong nais ituro sa atin ang Diyos, at dapat natin itong tuklasin.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Prove your own selves!

"When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them,
and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice" (Jn. 10:4)
I feel deep sadness and dismay whenever I hear news of well-known evangelical preachers departing from the true gospel message that is once and for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). I feel a deep concern for their souls, especially for the souls of undiscerning people whose hearts their false teachings (heresies) might gain access leading to their sure destruction (Acts 20:29-30; cf. Matthew 7:15-16). Also, because they still claim themselves to be Christians (despite their crossing over the bounds of orthodoxy), the biblical testimony regarding the divine preservation of all the redeemed is brought into question. For if God truly preserves His children from finally repudiating the faith, why do we hear of Christians ending up being heretics? Did these apostates lose their Salvation? Were they ever saved?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Want your life to go well? Stay away from Jesus — John Piper

"For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you 
should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake." 
(Philippians 1:29)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

What are good works for?

Dr. Martin Luther, Reformer
Here's a frequently raised objection against the reformed doctrine of Justification by Faith and how Christians should respond to it:

If Salvation is attained through faith alone, and if works of charity are completely unnecessary and superfluous, why then does the Bible exhort Christians to be holy in all their conduct (1 Peter 1:15-16)? What for if it doesn't have any bearing to one's eternal destiny?

First of all, it is not true that doing service to God or performing acts of charity are completely unnecessary and superfluous. According to Jesus Christ, it is through our obedience to God's law that we evince our love for Him (John 14:21, 23). However, these works won't save us because no amount of human works can suffice to reach God's glorious standard of perfection (Matthew 5:48; Romans 3:20, 23; James 2:10; Revelation 21:27). The psalmist writes, "If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" (Psalms 130:3); and again, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you" (Psalms 143:2; cf. Romans 3:10).

Do we then by grace make void of free will?

St. Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)
St. Augustine | Do we then by grace make void free will? God forbid! Nay, rather we establish free will. For even as the law by faith, so free will by grace, is not made void, but established (Rom. 3:31). For neither is the law fulfilled except by free will; but by the law is the knowledge of sin, by faith the acquisition of grace against sin, by grace the healing of the soul from the disease of sin, by the health of the soul freedom of will, by free will the love of righteousness, by love of righteousness the accomplishment of the law. 

Accordingly, as the law is not made void, but is established through faith, since faith procures grace whereby the law is fulfilled; so free will is not made void through grace, but is established, since grace cures the will whereby righteousness is freely loved. Now all the stages which I have here connected together in their successive links, have severally their proper voices in the sacred Scriptures. 

The law says: "Thou shall not covet" (Exo. 20:17). Faith says: "Heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee" (Psa. 41:4). Grace says: "Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee" (Jn. 5:14). Health says: "O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou hast healed me" (Psa. 130:2). Free will says: "I will freely sacrifice unto Thee" (Psa. 54:6). Love of righteousness says: "Transgressors told me pleasant tales, but not according to Thy law, O Lord" (Psa. 119:85). 

How is it then that miserable men dare to be proud, either of their free will, before they are freed, or of their own strength, if they have been freed? They do not observe that in the very mention of free will they pronounce the name of liberty. But "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17). If, therefore, they are the slaves of sin, why do they boast of free will? For by what a man is overcome, to the same is he delivered as a slave (2 Pe. 2:19). But if they have been freed, why do they vaunt themselves as if it were by their own doing, and boast, as if they had not received? Or are they free in such sort that they do not choose to have Him for their Lord who says to them: "Without me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5); and "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?" (Jn. 8:36).

~ On the Spirit and the Letter, Ch. 52 [XXX]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Lord I did not choose You

This contemporary song by Matthew Smith is based on the classic Lutheran hymn "Lord, 'Tis Not that I did Choose Thee" by Josiah Conder (1789-1855). Became my instant favorite the first time I heard it because of its theological soundness. I'm pretty sure many reformed folks out there would love it, too. The song reminds us of whose choice is it that initiated and eternally secures our Salvation (Jn. 15:16; 1 Jn. 4:19), taking us back to the greatness of God's mercy.

Here's the video with the lyrics below:

My Lord I did not choose You
by: Matthew Smith

My Lord I did not choose You
For that could never be
My heart will still refuse You,
Had You not chosen me

You took the Sin that stained me,
Cleansed me, made me new
Of old, You have ordained me,
That I should live in You

Unless your Grace had called me
And taught my op'ning mind,
The world would have enthralled me
To heav'nly glories blind

My heart knows none above You,
For Your rich Grace I thirst
I know that if I love You,
You must have loved me first


Friday, March 25, 2011

The Arminian Prayer

C.H. Spurgeon | But I tell you what will be the best proof of that; it is the great fact that you never did meet a Christian in your life who ever said he came to Christ without Christ coming to him. You have heard a great many Arminian sermons, I dare say; but you never heard an Arminian prayer—for the saints in prayer appear as one in word, and deed and mind. An Arminian on his knees would pray desperately like a Calvinist. He cannot pray about free-will: there is no room for it. Fancy him praying,
"Lord, I thank thee I am not like those poor presumptuous Calvinists. Lord, I was born with a glorious free-will; I was born with power by which I can turn to thee of myself; I have improved my grace. If everybody had done the same with their grace that I have, they might all have been saved. Lord, I know thou dost not make us willing if we are not willing ourselves. Thou givest grace to everybody; some do not improve it, but I do. There are many that will go to hell as much bought with the blood of Christ as I was; they had as much of the Holy Ghost given to them; they had as good a chance, and were as much blessed as I am. It was not thy grace that made us to differ; I know it did a great deal, still I turned the point; I made use of what was given me, and others did not—that is the difference between me and them." 
That is a prayer for the devil, for nobody else would offer such a prayer as that. Ah! when they are preaching and talking very slowly, there may be wrong doctrine; but when they come to pray, the true thing slips out; they cannot help it. If a man talks very slowly, he may speak in a fine manner; but when he comes to talk fast, the old brogue of his country, where he was born, slips out. 

I ask you again, did you ever meet a Christian man who said, "I came to Christ without the power of the Spirit?" If you ever did meet such a man, you need have no hesitation in saying, "My dear sir, I quite believe it—and I believe you went away again without the power of the Spirit, and that you know nothing about the matter, and are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity." Do I hear one Christian man saying, "I sought Jesus before he sought me; I went to the Spirit, and the Spirit did not come to me"? No, beloved; we are obliged, each one of us, to put our hands to our hearts and say—
"Grace taught my soul to pray,
And made my eyes to o'erflow;
'Twas grace that kept me to this day,
And will not let me go."
~ Excerpt from Spurgeon's sermon entitled, Free Will - A Slave

The Peace and Harmony of the Universe

St. Clement of Rome (fl. 96)
St. Clement of Rome | The heavens, revolving under His government, are subject to Him in peace. Day and night run the course appointed by Him, in no wise hindering each other. The sun and moon, with the companies of the stars, roll on in harmony according to His command, within their prescribed limits, and without any deviation. The fruitful earth, according to His will, brings forth food in abundance, at the proper seasons, for man and beast and all the living beings upon it, never hesitating, nor changing any of the ordinances which He has fixed. The unsearchable places of abysses, and the indescribable arrangements of the lower world, are restrained by the same laws. The vast unmeasurable sea, gathered together by His working into various basins, never passes beyond the bounds placed around it, but does as He has commanded. For He said, "Thus far shall you come, and your waves shall be broken within you" (Job 38:11). The ocean, impassable to man and the worlds beyond it, are regulated by the same enactments of the Lord. The seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, peacefully give place to one another. The winds in their several quarters fulfil, at the proper time, their service without hindrance. The ever-flowing fountains, formed both for enjoyment and health, furnish without fail their breasts for the life of men. The very smallest of living beings meet together in peace and concord. All these the great Creator and Lord of all has appointed to exist in peace and harmony; while He does good to all, but most abundantly to us who have fled for refuge to His compassions through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and majesty for ever and ever. Amen.

~ First epistle to the Corinthians, Ch. 20

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The wolf underneath the sheep's clothing

It is still under dispute whether or not Martin Bashir's a "devout Christian", but he sure did an excellent job in this interview with Rob Bell concerning the latter's controversial new book entitled Love Wins. Bashir gets right to the core and heart of the issue in his questions. I love the part when Bashir frankly told Bell that he's amending the Gospel to make it palatable "to contemporary people who find, for example, the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach." Here's the video from youtube:


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Naiwala ba ni Judas Iscariote ang Kaligtasan niya nang ipagkanulo niya ang Panginoon?

Ayon kay Jesus sa talata 47 ng ika-anim na kabanata ng aklat ng Juan, "Katotohanan, katotohanang sinasabi ko sa inyo, Ang sumasampalataya ay may buhay na walang hanggan" (Jn. 6:47, TAB). Isipin itong mabuti: kung tunay na nananalig si Judas kay Cristo bilang kanyang Panginoon at Tagapagligtas, disinsana'y mayroon siyang buhay na walang hanggan, at siya'y isang anak ng Diyos alinsunod sa Juan 1:12. Ngunit bakit tinawag siyang "diablo" ni Cristo sa talata Juan 6:70? "Sinagot sila ni Jesus, Hindi baga hinirang ko kayong labingdalawa, at ang isa sa inyo ay diablo?" (Jn. 6:70, Ibid.). Ito ay sapagkat ang totoo, hindi naman talaga tunay na nananalig si Judas kay Cristo. Ergo, hindi siya tunay na ligtas. Ang katibayan ko sa bagay na yan ay makikita sa talata 64,
"Datapuwa't may ilan sa inyong hindi nagsisisampalataya. Sapagka't talastas na ni Jesus buhat pa nang una kung sino-sino ang hindi nagsisisampalataya, at kung sino ang sa kaniya'y magkakanulo" (Jn. 6:64, Ibid.).
  • Deklarasyon: Datapuwa't may ilan sa inyong hindi nagsisisampalataya...
  • Dahilan ng deklarasyon: Sapagka't talastas na ni Jesus buhat pa nang una kung sino-sino ang hindi nagsisisampalataya, at kung sino ang sa kaniya'y magkakanulo.
Dyan makikita at hindi maitatanggi na inihanay si Judas sa mga hindi sumasampalataya. Heto pa: Sa talata 39 at 40 ay ganito ang sinasabi ng ating Panginoon,
"At ito ang kanyang kalooban: huwag kong pabayaang mawala kahit isa sa mga ibinigay niya sa akin, kundi ibangon sa huling araw. Sapagka't ito ang kalooban ng aking Ama: ang lahat makakita at manalig sa anak ay magkaroon ng buhay na walang hanggan. At sila'y muli kong bubuhayin sa huling araw." (Jn. 6:39-40, MBB).
Ano daw ang kalooban ng Ama na nagsugo kay Jesus? Ito ay ang mailigtas niya nang lubusan ang mga "ibinigay" sa kanya ng Ama. Sino-sino ba ang mga "ibinigay" sa kanya ng Ama? Sila ang mga taong hinirang ng Diyos bago pa man likhain ang sanlibutan (Rom. 8:29-30; Efe. 1:3-5, 10-11), at ang kalooban ng Ama ay 'wag pabayaan ni Jesus na mawala ang sinuman sa kanila. Si Jesu-Cristo ang Mabuting Pastol ng kawan ng Diyos (Juan 10). Hinahanap niya ang mga naliligaw na tupa, at iniingatan niya sa kanyang piling ang mga tupang nasa kawan na. Bilang ang Mabuting Pastol, hindi niya pinababayaang mawala kahit isa man sa mga tupa (i.e. hinirang) na ipinagkatiwala (i.e. ibinigay) sa kanya ng Ama. Samakatuwid, kapag sinabi nating si Judas ay minsang naligtas ngunit kalaunan ay nahulog nang tuluyan, para na rin nating sinabing naging pabayang Pastol si Jesus. Kung magkagayo'y hindi na siya karapat-dapat na tawaging "Mabuting" Pastol. Ito ay sapagkat kung ang kaisa-isang tupa ay hindi niya nagawang pangalagaan, bagkus ay tuluyang napahamak at naagaw ng kaaway, paano pa kaya niya mapangangalagaan ang buong kawan? Hindi ganyan ka-pabaya si Cristo sapagkat siya mismo ang nagsabi: "Binibigyan ko sila ng buhay na walang hanggan, at kailanma'y di sila mapapahamak; hindi sila maaagaw sa akin ninuman" (Jn. 10:28-29, Ibid.). Isa pang katibayan na makikita natin sa Kasulatan na nagpapatunay na si Judas ay hindi kailanman naligtas ay makikita natin sa Juan 13 kung saan hinugasan ni Jesus ang mga paa ng kanyang 12 alagad upang magpakita ng isang dakilang halimbawa ng pagpapakumbaba. Sa mga talata 11-12 at talata 18 ay ganito ang sinasabi:
"Sinabi sa kaniya ni Jesus, Ang napaliguan na ay walang kailangang hugasan maliban ang kaniyang mga paa, sapagka't malinis nang lubos: at kayo'y malilinis na, nguni't hindi ang lahat. Sapagka't nalalaman niya ang sa kaniya'y magkakanulo; kaya't sinabi niya, Hindi kayong lahat ay malilinis... Hindi ko sinasalita tungkol sa inyong lahat: nalalaman ko ang aking mga hinirang: nguni't upang matupad ang kasulatan, Ang kumakain ng aking tinapay ay nagtaas ng kaniyang sakong laban sa akin." (Jn. 13:11-12, 18, TAB).
Pansining mabuti:
  1. Talata 11-12, Ang lahat ng mga alagad, maliban sa isa (na siyang magkakanulo kay Jesus), ay lubusan nang malinis ayon kay Jesus. Kung si Judas ay tunay na nananalig kay Jesus, disinsana'y kasama siya sa mga lubusan nang nilinis sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya (Gaw. 15:9).
  2. Talata 18, Sa Juan 6:70 pa lang ay nagpahiwatig na si Jesus sa kanyang mga alagad na mayroong isang latak sa kanilang grupo. Sa Juan 13 ay isiniwalat na ni Jesus kung sino ang tinutukoy niyang "diablo" sa Juan 6:70, palibhasa'y nalalaman niya kung sino ang kanyang mga hinirang, at kung sino ang pasaway na magkakanulo sa kanya.
At matapos ituro ng Panginoon kung sino ang magkakanulo sa kaniya, dagliang pinasukan ng kademonyohan si Judas at tuluyan nang tumiwalag sa samahan ng mga apostol:
"Yaong aking ipagsawsaw at bigyan ng tinapay ay siya nga (ang magkakanulo sa akin). Kaya't nang maisawsaw niya ang tinapay, ay kinuha niya at ibinigay niya kay Judas, na anak ni Simon Iscariote. At pagkatapos na maisubo, si Satanas nga ay pumasok sa kaniya... Nang kaniya ngang matanggap ang subo ay umalis agad..." (Jn. 13: 26-27a, 30a, Ibid.).
Isiping mabuti:
  1. Ang pagpasok ni Satanas kay Judas ay isang malaking senyales na hindi siya totoong ligtas. Ayon kay apostol Juan: "Alam nating ang mga anak ng Diyos ay hindi nagpapatuloy sa pagkakasala, sapagkat iniingatan sila ni Jesu-Cristo, at hindi sila maaaring anhin ng diablo" (1 Jn. 5:18, MBB).
  2. Ang moralidad ni Judas ay isa ring patotoo na hindi siya tunay na ligtas. "Makikilala ninyo sila nang lubos sa pamamagitan ng kanilang mga bunga" (Mat. 7:16, SND). Makikita natin sa mga bunga ni Judas na ang pananampalatayang taglay niya ay patay. Ayon kay San Tiago, "patay ang pananampalatayang walang kalakip na gawa" (San. 2:17, MBB). Hindi ibig sabihin nito na namatay ang kanyang pananampalataya, kundi bagkus ay patay na ang kanyang pananampalataya sa mula't-mula pa man. Sa kabilang banda ang mga tunay na anak ng Diyos ay "hindi nagpapatuloy sa pagkakasala, sapagkat iniingatan sila ni Jesu-Cristo" (1 Jn. 5:18, Ibid.).
  3. Ang tuluyang pagtiwalag ni Judas sa samahan ng mga banal ay isa ring malakas na katibayan na siya'y hindi tunay na naging ligtas kailanman. Noong panahon ng sinaunang iglesia, maraming nagpapakilalang "mananampalataya" ang natalikod sa dalisay na aral at naging mga anti-Cristo. Dati silang kasa-kasama ng mga banal, kagaya rin naman ni Judas na palaging kasa-kasama sa bawat lakad ni Cristo. Gayunpaman sa bandang huli sila ay nahiwalay at tuluyan silang napahamak. Nawala ba ang Kaligtasan nila? Hindi. Sapagkat hindi naman sila naligtas kailanman. Ayon sa apostol: "Bagamat dati silang kasamahan natin, hindi natin tunay na kaisa ang mga taong iyon. Sapagkat kung sila'y tunay na atin, nanatili sana silang kasama natin" (1 Jn. 2:19, Ibid.).
Kung gayon, totoo ba ang haka-haka na naiwala ni Judas ang kanyang Kaligtasan nang ipagkanulo niya si Jesus? Hindi. Ito ay sapagkat kailanma'y hindi naman siya naligtas, kaya paano niya mabibitawan ang Kaligtasang hindi pa naman niya nahahawakan?


Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami in Japan and God's Justice

An earthquake of 8.9 magnitude has hit Japan today, unleashing huge walls of water that swept away everything in its path in the north-eastern coastal area of the said country all the way to its capital city, Tokyo. As of 9:00 am, 200 to 300 poor souls were reported by the Japanese police to have been found dead and the toll is expected to rise enormously considering the vast effects left by the devastating calamity. A picture paints a thousand words, but a video paints millions:

As soon as I heard the news this morning, my initial response was that I got worried for the safety of one of my elder brothers in Japan. I immediately rushed into my facebook account to check if he's safe, and to my relief, he seems so. He admitted to have felt some shaking but thank God he wasn't hurt. I was more appeased when I learned that the place where he stays at (which is in Nagoya City) is considerably far from the epicenter of the quake and from the horrifying tsunami attack that followed it. Praise the Lord!

God is good, indeed. All the time He is (Psa. 145:17).

But wait. If God is good and infinitely merciful to all mankind as preachers in the pulpit project He is, why did God, in the first place, let these catastrophes to occur? Tomorrow, dead people in Japan will be scattered over and under the rubble and shreds of their own properties destroyed by the tsunami. Stinking corpses will be filling the streets (if ever there were any streets left), and those who managed to survive will have to go through countless days and nights of emotional torment over their lost possessions and loved ones.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

This is God's hand, not ours, that we depart not from Him

"What will separate us from the love
Christ has for us?" (Rom. 8:35, GW)
St. Augustine | This grace He placed “in Him in whom we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things” (Eph. 1:11). And thus as He worketh that we come to Him, so He worketh that we do not depart. Wherefore it was said to Him by the mouth of the prophet, “Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, and upon the Son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself, and we will not depart from Thee” (Psa. 80:17-18). 

This certainly is not the first Adam, in whom we departed from Him, but the second Adam, upon whom His hand is placed, so that we do not depart from Him. For Christ altogether with His members is—for the Church’s sake, which is His body—the fulness of Him. When, therefore, God’s hand is upon Him, that we depart not from God, assuredly God’s work reaches to us (for this is God’s hand); by which work of God we are caused to be abiding in Christ with God—not, as in Adam, departing from God. For “in Christ we have obtained a lot, being predestinated according to His purpose who worketh all things.” 

This, therefore, is God’s hand, not ours, that we depart not from God. That, I say, is His hand who said, “I will put my fear in their hearts, that they depart not from me” (Jer. 32:40).

~ St. Augustine of Hippo, On Perseverance of all Saints, Ch. 14

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"Soli Deo Gloria" sa buhay ng mga anak ng Diyos

  • "Sa ganitong paraan pagliwanagin ninyo ang inyong ilawan sa harap ng mga tao upang makita nila ang inyong mabubuting gawa. Sa gayon ay luluwalhatiin nila ang inyong Ama na nasa langit" (Mateo. 5:16, Ang Salita ng Diyos).
  • "Mangagingat kayo na huwag magsigawa ng katuwiran sa harap ng mga tao, upang kanilang makita: sa ibang paraan ay wala kayong ganti ng inyong Ama na nasa langit" (Mateo. 6:1, Tagalog Ang Biblia).
Ang mga talatang nasa itaas, sa unang tingin, ay tila nagsasalungatan. Dapat nating ipakita ang ating liwanag sa ibang tao sa pamamagitan ng ating mga mabubuting gawa, ngunit dapat tayong magingat na huwag gumawa ng katuwiran sa harap ng mga tao upang kanilang makita. Paano natin mapagtutugma ang dalawang talata? Siyempre, alam ni Jesus kung ano ang kanyang sinasabi sa dalawang talatang iyan. Ang layunin natin sa pagpapakita ng ating liwanag ay upang madakila ang Ama sa pamamagitan ng ating mga buhay, hindi upang tayo'y makatanggap ng pagkilala o papuri mula sa mga tao.

Ang ating puso ay likas na makasarili, na naghahangad ng mga pagkilala at papuri, lalo na kung tayo'y nakagagawa ng mga mahuhusay na bagay na sa tingin natin ay karapatdapat lang purihin at bigyang-pagkilala. Gayunpaman, tayo ay pinaalalahanan ni Jesus na dapat tayong maging kagaya ng isang mapagpakumbabang alipin, na gaya rin naman niya. Hindi dapat ipagmalaki ang mga mabubuting bagay na ating ginagawa sapagkat ang Diyos ang siyang nagtalaga at tumawag sa atin sa ganoong gawain (Efeso 2:10).

Si Cristo ay naparito sa pagpapakumbaba, hindi upang siya'y paglingkuran, kundi upang maglingkod (Mateo 20:28; Filipos 2:3-8). Bilang mga tagasunod ni Cristo, dapat tayong matuto mula sa kanyang halimbawa, at maglingkod sa ating kapwa na may pagpapakumbaba (Colosas 3:12). "Upang ang iyong paglilimos ay malihim: at ang iyong Ama na nakakikita sa lihim ay gagantihin ka" (Mateo 6:4, Ibid.).

Yamang pagaari ng Diyos ang ating mga buhay, dapat nating ibigay sa kanya ang buong kapurihan sa lahat ng bagay. Ayon sa apostol, "Sapagka't kayo'y binili sa halaga: luwalhatiin nga ninyo ng inyong katawan ang Dios" (1 Corinto 6:20, Ibid.). Tayo'y namatay na kalakip ng kanyang Anak at binuhay na maguli sa panibagong buhay sa pamamagitan ng kanyang Espiritu; samakatuwid, lahat ng pagkilala, papuri, at kaluwalhatian hinggil sa ating mga pagpapagal ay nauukol lamang sa Kanya na nagbibigay sa atin ng pagnanais at kakayahang tuparin ang kanyang mabuting kalooban (Filipos. 2:13).

Soli Deo Gloria! (Sa Diyos lamang ang kapurihan!)


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Calvinism's rightful place in the Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., current
president of SBST
I can preach anywhere all day about my Calvinistic convictions on predestination, grace, freewill, atonement and everything -- but not in my very home church. I hate to admit it, but my mouth zips when my church superiors are around.

Two years ago when I was yet new to Calvinism (or a "cage-stage Calvinist", as they call it), the fire for reformation burned in heart. The doctrines of grace so astounded me that I couldn't help voicing out to everybody in our church my new-found belief. I have desired to see our church reformed as that of C.H. Spurgeon's Metropolitan Tabernacle. However, it wasn't until last year when one of my superiors confronted me of my somewhat radical view on the sovereignty of God in salvation that I began to lie low in my endeavor. I was told that my views are going somewhat beyond the doctrinal norms of our denomination (i.e. Southern Baptist) and that my insistence to impose those strange doctrines to my church-mates might tear the church apart. Of course, I  tried to prove my case from Scripture, but all to no avail. I was advised to keep silent. Avoiding further arguments and possible heated discussions (being aware that I'm under their divinely appointed leadership), I humbly complied.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why did Christ have to be righteous & sinless?

"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened
not his mouth..." (Isaiah 53:7)
Jesus Christ was a good man. I mean a really, really a good man in an exceptional sense. St. Peter says He has never committed any sin, and neither was deceit found in his mouth (1 Pe. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9). St. Paul made it plain that He has led a life of consistent submission to His Father's will and has known no sin (1 Co. 5:21; Php. 2:11). St. John says the same thing to that effect (1 Jn. 3:5). Our Lord himself admitted that He's sinless (Jn. 8:29, 46). Old Testament prophecies speak of Him as the "holy One" of God (Psa. 16:10; Isa. 49:7). It was announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she would conceive in her womb God's holy Son, and indeed Christ was (Luk. 1:35). There are plenty of other evidences throughout Scripture that proves Jesus' sinless perfection.

But why did Christ have to be righteous? Why did He have to be sinless? Some may respond and say: "Well, he didn't really have to. Being God, He is by nature holy. So if He lived righteously, it's because that's just what He is in the first place." I am in full agreement that Christ is divine and is by nature holy, but the Lord himself testifies that one purpose for which He came into this world was to fulfill God's holy precepts (Mat. 5:17). In short, He had to. It was His mission (Jn. 6:38). So the question remains: What for?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Open Prayer Of A Disheartened Man

Heavenly Father, I thank you for moving me to make this prayer. I call upon you in the name of your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and beseech you not to close your ears to this man's desperate cry for relief!

Father, you know everything (Mat. 6:32). You are fully aware of what I'm going through right now. I'm now in pain and it consumes me all over. I'm losing hope. The emotional torture is too heavy that my focus for the things that are vital for my spiritual well-being has been digressed. Lord, I don't wanna be here. Please take me out this dark room. Grant me the sufficient strength I need to get over all this for I only got a few drops of hope and motivation left to press on. The devil at this point is working double-time to destroy me (1 Pe. 5:8). He is sucking all my faith off me so that I'd be forced to end up all these with my own hands. That opportunist. I know that he's powerful than me, Lord, but you are far more powerful than him (Jn. 16:33)! Strengthen my faith, therefore, so that I won't fall over his lies (Eph. 4:27; 1 Jn. 5:4-5). Preserve me from all acts of unrighteousness and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me (Psa. 51:12; 119:107). I am yours, Lord. Protect me!

Lord God, please always remind me of the sufferings of Jesus Christ and his terrible death on the cross, compared to which my own agony is just a piece of cake (Heb. 12:1-4). You have said in your Word that you have granted me for the sake of Christ not only to have faith in him but also to suffer for his sake (Php. 1:29). Please help me live with it. I know that you've got plans for me. You told me that you are making all things work together for my own good and that nothing, even the greatest trials, can ever separate me from your love (Rom. 8:28, 31-39). You are greater than all and nothing can snatch me out of you and your Son's custody (Jn. 10:28-29) so I put my trust wholly in your mighty hand. I'm casting all my sorrows, pain, and hurts upon the cross of Christ, trading them for your joy which transcends all understanding (Php. 4:7).

I praise you Lord for your goodness and faithfulness from the bottom of my aching heart. Please take over. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Los Angeles Archdiocese to Dismiss Priest Over Admission of Molesting Girl

(This is taken from http://www.nytimes.com, published Feb. 12, 2011.)

Rev. Martin P. O’Loghlen
LOS ANGELES — A priest accused of having a long-term sexual relationship with a teenage girl, writing her decades later to ask for forgiveness and declare that he was a sex addict, is being removed from ministry in a parish, and the diocese’s vicar of clergy has also resigned, officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Friday.

The priest, the Rev. Martin P. O’Loghlen, was once a leader in his religious order and was appointed to an archdiocesan sexual abuse advisory board, although officials at both the order and the archdiocese knew at the time about his admission of sexual abuse and addiction. He served on the board, which was meant to review accusations of abuse by priests, for at least two years in the late 1990s, according to church and legal documents.

Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said church officials planned to announce the removal of Father O’Loghlen from his current parish in San Dimas on Sunday. Church officials decided to act after being contacted by a reporter about the priest’s history of sexual abuse.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Spurgeon On Humility

From his sermon Pride and Humility, delivered at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, 1856:
“Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility? The best definition I have ever met with is…to think rightly of ourselves. Humility is to make a right estimate of one’s-self…
Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all cometh from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.”
From his sermon A Mournful Defection, delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, 1877:
“Remember, dear brethren and sisters, if you would be preserved from falling, you must be schooled in humility, and keep very low before the Lord. When you are half-an-inch above the ground, you are that half-inch too high. Your safety is to be nothing. Trust Christ, but do not trust yourself. Rely on the Spirit of God, but do not rely on anything that is in yourself.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jesus In Every Book Of The Bible

Just a while ago, a facebook buddy shared me this video which really had me blown away. It is about our Lord Jesus Christ being present in every book of the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. We all have an idea that Jesus is indeed the prime focus of God's Word, but I haven't came across any presentation of that truth as powerful (yet concise) as this one:

And to someone like me who has a mind like a sieve, the kid sure did a great job memorizing all that. Praise the Lord for that edifying presentation.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Why Should We Hate The 'Prosperity Gospel' - John Piper

This John Piper video goes out to all prosperity preachers today who misrepresent God as something like a Ginnie-in-the-bottle who is bound to make people materially prosperous in exchange of their service. It should serve as an eye opener to all of us that we should be aware of how dangerous this gospel (which is no true gospel at all) is. A must watch indeed.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Can Anyone Be Ignorant Of The Doctrine Of "Sola Fide" And Be Saved?

St. Augustine's ordination as bishop of Hippo
My answer to the question depends on how the person rejecting Sola Fide understands his own moral standing before his Maker and the nature of the redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe (and please take note of this) that if one completely relies upon the finished work of Christ alone for his Salvation, being entirely convinced of his own utter inability to merit God's favor by his own efforts because of sin, that person is undoubtedly saved whether or not he affirms the doctrine of "Sola Fide."

Some dogmatic guys may ask: "But how is it possible for a person to trust in Christ alone as His Savior while at the same time believing that good works should be added with faith as means to attaining Salvation?"

It is worth noting at this point that in the Old Testament the doctrine of justification by faith is not explicitly taught as it is in the New (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:8-9; Col. 1:25-26). While hints of the doctrine can be found in the OT Scripture such as seen in Genesis 15:6 and Habakkuk 2:4 (which Paul will use centuries later in support for his teaching on justification by grace), these texts must've been somewhat vague to the ancient reader (2 Cor. 3:14-16) because of the strong emphasis of the same Scripture on law-keeping and righteousness (Deut. 27:26; Lev. 18:5). Yet, Scripture reveals to us that the saints of old were justified exactly the same way as how saints in the present covenant were justified, that is, by the grace of God through faith alone (Rom. 4; Heb. 11:13). But how could that be? Paul laid it down this way:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom. 4:18-22, NIV)

What can we learn from this? How was Abraham justified? Against all hope, says Paul, that Abraham in hope believed in the promise of God that he'll be a father of 'many nations.' In other words, Abraham didn't rely upon his own powers knowing the fact that he's incapable, but instead he completely put his trust in God, looking forward with confidence to the fulfillment of what has been promised to him (see also Heb. 11:13). This is how saints of old were justified, and this is how also we in the present dispensation are justified (except that we are not looking forward to the promise, but looking backwards to the fulfilled promise concerning our Savior). Abraham didn't have to know the doctrine of justification by faith; he just trusted in God and was saved.

The thief on the cross is another example of someone who is saved through faith alone without having any doctrinal seminars regarding Justification, Imputation, etc., or having memorized at least a single sentence, say, from the Westminster Confession of Faith. Again, he just trusted in Christ and was saved.

We should also take into consideration that most of the ancient fathers of the Church are not sola fideists. I would contend that the blessed fathers understood justification very differently from how the reformers did. St. Augustine of Hippo, the 'doctor of Grace', is a fine example. To him, justification is a continuous process by which the righteousness of Jesus Christ is infused (or made actual) in the life of the baptized sinner through faith. This has been the consensus of understanding among the ancient church concerning the nature of justification from about the 4th century up until the time of reformation. Yet despite this fundamental disparity of the church fathers with the reformers about how the benefits of Christ's redemptive work is applied upon a sinner, the Christian testimony of those fathers remained unquestion among most  (if not all) Christian scholars in the past and until today. Why is that? Perhaps it's due to the profound position of the fathers on man's total depravity in Sin (affirmed and reinforced in the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD and Council of Orange in 529 AD) and the absolute necessity and sufficiency of Christ's redemptive work for man's salvation [though they were all wrong in their understanding as to how it is applied].

Let's turn to St. Augustine once more. In his book On the Spirit & the Letter in which the role of the law in Salvation is explained against the heresies of Pelagianism, St. Augustine contended that the primary purpose of God's law is not to serve as means for man to be saved, but to make man realize his sinful condition and unworthiness before God's holy presence "in order that by faith he may flee for refuge to His mercy, and be healed" (cf. Ch. 15 [IX]; see also To Simplican, Ch. 2). This faith, or the complete dependence upon the grace of Christ, is what leads Christians to obey the commands of God which at the end of the day will merit their entrance to the glory of eternal life. However, to avoid the impression that he is promoting works-salvation, the old Bishop of Hippo is always careful to explain that those merits are actually a product of God's grace at work in the lives of Christians, without which "they do absolutely no good thing, whether in thought, or will and affection, or in action" (cf. On Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 3-ii) -- thus leaving no room whatsoever for human boasting.

Moses smashing the tablets of the law
Consequent to his views on merits and grace, St. Augustine maintained that eternal life is both a reward and a gift simultaneously (cf. Enchiridon, Ch. 67, 107). It is a reward because it will be given to the elect as a recompense to their faithful perseverance in holiness and piety; and at the same time a gift because the very willingness and ability to perform these merits are themselves works of God's effectual & exclusive grace upon them (1 Cor. 2:14; Php. 2:13). Their righteousness, therefore, is ultimately not theirs but of the Savior, so God gets all the glory. He abhorred all forms of self-reliance because it is God's grace which produces these merits unto eternal life. This separates the blessed doctor from the damnable heresy of works-salvation promoted by the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians. St. Augustine may not have been an adherent of the Evangelical doctrine of Sola Fide, but his strong emphasis on the necessity of completely depending on God's mercy for forgiveness, sanctification / justification, and perseverance in holiness, makes his Christian testimony unquestionable.

Thus, while to many radical evangelicals the adherence to sola fide passes for somewhat a gauge to determine who's saved and who's not, I completely depart from that idea. IMHO, one can be saved through faith alone without being aware that he was actually saved that way as demonstrated in the examples I've presented. One is not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. One is justified by believing in Jesus, with or without any acquaintance to the doctrine. It is reliance to self-efforts which primarily condemns a person to hell (Jer. 17:5), not the rejection or ignorance of Sola Fide. Correspondingly, rejection or ignorance of sola fide is not always tantamount to self-reliance. However, if one is Pelagian or semi-Pelagian (i.e. one who believes we come and turn to God on our own) and he rejects the doctrine of justification by faith, his Salvation is suspect (for the reason that Pelagians have strong tendency to rely in themselves for Salvation). Yet of course we're not in position to judge because only God searches the hearts.

Now let me hear what you guys think.

*Disclaimer: I'm not saying here that the the proclamation of the doctrine of sola fide is totally superfluous in evangelism, nor am I saying that the doctrine is completely inessential. Far from it. I'm just merely acknowledging the possibility of salvation for those who truly trust in Christ but do not adhere to or ignorant of the doctrine of justification by faith. I believe that every fundamental tenets derived from the Bible must be vigorously taught and defended against false teachings (Jude 3). Also, I fully acknowledge the danger of holding to the idea that we should work for our Salvation. Such erroneous teaching (which is prevalent to false religions) tends to lead people to trust in their own efforts in an attempt save themselves instead of having Christ as their Savior, all the way to hell. Thus, a  church that does not grasp it and teach it is heading for serious trouble. This is the reason why Christians, in evangelizing to unbelievers, should stress with clarity and conviction the problem of Sin and the inadequacy of human works to earn God's favor (Rom. 3:10, 19-20, 23; Jm. 2:10), the Salvation provided by Christ for those who believe (Rom. 3:24-25, 5:8, 19; Gal. 4:4-5), and the importance of a wholehearted reliance upon His finished work on the cross alone for Salvation (Rom. 4). I just hope I'm being clear on this point.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

St. Augustine On The Hardening Of Pharaoh's Heart

St. Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 AD
St. Augustine of Hippo | But why do we ask such a question? The apostle himself goes on. "The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be published abroad in all the earth." The apostle adds this as an example to prove what he had said above, that, "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy." As if some one had said to him, 'What is the source of this doctrine of yours?' His reply is "The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh" etc. Thus he shows that it is not of him that willeth but God that hath mercy. And he concludes with these words: "So then he hath mercy on whom he will, and whom he will he hardeneth." Earlier he had not stated both of these truths. He said: "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy"; but he did not say "It is not if him that is unwilling, nor of him that contemneth, but of God who causeth the hardening of the heart." 

So by putting both sides--He hath mercy o whom He will have mercy, and whom He will hardeneth--we are given to understand that the new statement agrees with the former one, viz., the hardening which God causes is an unwillingness to be merciful. We must not think that anything is imposed by God whereby a man is made worse, but only that he provides nothing whereby a man is made better. But if there be no distinction of merits, who would not break out into the objection which the apostle brings against himself? "Whou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he still find fault? For who withstandeth his will?" God often finds fault with men because the will not believe and live righteously, as is apparent from many passages of Scripture. Hence faithful people who do the will of God are said to walk blamelessly, because Scripture finds no fault with them. But he says, "Why does he find fault? Who withstandeth his will" through "he hath mercy on whom he will and whom he will hardeneth." Let us look at what was said above and let it direct our interpretation as the Lord himself gives us aid. 

~ To Simplician–On Various Questions, Chapter 15

Sunday, January 9, 2011

John's Gospel: The TULIP Garden Of God

(All passages are quoted in King James Version, unless otherwise noted)

Total Spiritual Inability - That all of Adam's posterity are infected with the corruption of his original sin and have lost all ability of will to savingly believe the Gospel apart from the divine aid.
John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (Jn. 3:27, KJV)
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them. (Jn. 12:48, KJV) 
Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.  (Jn. 8:43) 
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God... That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Jn. 3:3, 6, KJV) 
It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. (Jn. 6:63-65, KJV)    
John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. (Jn.  3:27, KJV)  
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (Jn. 1:13, KJV) 
Unconditional Election - That God has beforehand chosen certain people whom He will effectually call and grant saving faith and the final perseverance therein, based upon His mere good will and mercy.
 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me. (Jn. 13:18, KJV) 
Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. (Jn. 15:16, KJV) 
 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.  (Jn. 15:19, KJV) 
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me... (Jn. 10:26, KJV)
Limited Redemption - That Christ's atonement for sin is intended to provide and secure Salvation only for those who will put their faith in Jesus Christ alone as Savior and Lord, namely, the elect.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16, CEB) 
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. (Jn. 10:11) 
I’m praying for them. I’m not praying for the world but for those you gave me, because they are yours.  Everything that is mine is yours and everything that is yours is mine; I have been glorified in them. (Jn. 17:9-10, CEB)
Irresistible Grace - That God effectively (or unfailingly) draws unto Himself those whom He has chosen for Salvation, so that they will freely put their trust in the finished work of Christ alone and thus be saved. 
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out... It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. (Jn. 6:37, 45, KJV)
 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. (Jn. 10:3-4, KJV)
Preservation of the Saints - That none of God's elect will totally fall away and perish. All those whom God has chosen for Salvation will be drawn to faith in Christ, and all who are drawn to faith in Christ will persevere in their faith to the end and will be admitted to God's glorious kingdom in the last day.
 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. (Jn. 10:28-29, KJV)
For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jn. 6:38-40, KJV)

Friday, January 7, 2011

St. Augustine On How To Eat The Bread Of Life For Salvation

"Don't go after the food that spoils..." (Jn. 6:27)
How do we eat the Bread of Life that came down from heaven so that we shall have eternal life as Jesus Christ promised in John 6:26-33? St. Augustine answers the question:
And, consequently, he that hungers after this bread, hungers after righteousness — that righteousness however which comes down from heaven, the righteousness that God gives, not that which man works for himself. For if man were not making a righteousness for himself, the same apostle would not have said of the Jews: "For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and wishing to establish their own righteousness, they are not subject to the righteousness of God." (Romans 10:3) Of such were these who understood not the bread that comes down from heaven; because being satisfied with their own righteousness, they hungered not after the righteousness of God. What is this, God's righteousness and man's righteousness? God's righteousness here means, not that wherein God is righteous, but that which God bestows on man, that man may be righteous through God. But again, what was the righteousness of those Jews? A righteousness wrought of their own strength on which they presumed, and so declared themselves as if they were fulfillers of the law by their own virtue. But no man fulfills the law but he whom grace assists, that is, whom the bread that comes down from heaven assists. "For the fulfilling of the law," as the apostle says in brief, "is charity." (Romans 13:10) Charity, that is, love, not of money, but of God; love, not of earth nor of heaven, but of Him who made Heaven and earth. Whence can man have that love? Let us hear the same: "The love of God," says he, "is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us." (Romans 5:5) Wherefore, the Lord, about to give the Holy Spirit, said that Himself was the bread that came down from heaven, exhorting us to believe in Him. For to believe in Him is to eat the living bread. He that believes eats; he is sated invisibly, because invisibly is he born again. A babe within, a new man within. Where he is made new, there he is satisfied with food. (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 26:1)
This is hardly an interpretation coming from a Roman Catholic. No Romanist today would offer the same line of understanding John 6 the way St. Augustine did. The blessed Doctor makes it clear that the Bread of Life should be eaten by believing in Christ for Salvation. Thus we do not eat Christ literally as what Rome insists we should; we receive him by faith. St. Augustine elsewhere states in the same compilation of tractates:
"They said therefore unto Him, What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" For He had said to them, "Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that which endures unto eternal life." "What shall we do?" they ask; by observing what, shall we be able to fulfill this precept? "Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." This is then to eat the meat, not that which perishes, but that which endures unto eternal life. To what purpose do you make ready teeth and stomach? Believe, and you have eaten already. Faith is indeed distinguished from works, even as the apostle says, "that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law:" (Romans 3:28)
This goes out to those who insist on the literal interpretation of the eating of the Bread of Life mentioned in John 6. Well, which else it is but Rome?


Thursday, January 6, 2011

St. Augustine's Teaching On Free-Will Grossly Misrepresented By The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia

In discussing the position of St. Augustine on the condition of man's will after the fall, the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia states:
...Thus, when he [Augustine] says that we have lost freedom in consequence of the sin of Adam, he is careful to explain that this lost freedom is NOT the liberty of choosing between good and evil, because without it we could not help sinning, but the perfect liberty which was calm and without struggle, and which was enjoyed by Adam in virtue of his original integrity. (epmhpasis added)
In the above quotation, man is portrayed as merely weakened, by his fall, in his natural ability and inclination of will with regards to righteousness. He didn't become totally depraved in Sin. In and of himself he can still choose good over evil but with struggle. As an implication, grace is viewed only as something like a crutch given/offered to man so he might perform his duties more easily and thus be saved. This is how many Catholics explain grace & free will today, and their online encyclopedia claims this was St. Augustine position, too.

Now I'm absolutely sure the New Advent is not being truthful to us here. The truth is that the position on free will which the New Advent would have us to believe to be advocated by St. Augustine is actually the position that was held by those whom St. Augustine had vigorously opposed during his days regarding the subject, namely the semi-Pelagians! In his treatise Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, the blessed doctor states (emphasis mine):
...But this will, which is free in evil things because it takes pleasure in evil, is NOT FREE in good things, for the reason that it has not been made free. Nor can a man will any good thing unless he is aided by Him who cannot will evil—that is, by the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. I, Ch. 7)
In another book he states:
For the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord must be apprehended—as that by which alone men are delivered from evil, and without which they do absolutely no good thing, whether in thought, or will and affection, or in action; not only in order that they may know, by the manifestation of that grace, what should be done, but moreover in order that, by its enabling, they may do with love what they know. (On Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 3-ii)
And again,
For either they lie under the sin which they have inherited by original generation, and depart hence with that inherited debt which is not put away by regeneration, or by their free will have added other sins besides; their will, I say, FREE, but not freed—FREE FROM RIGHTEOUSNESS, but ENSLAVED TO SIN, by which they are tossed about by various mischievous lusts, some more evil, some less, BUT ALL EVIL; and they must be adjudged to diverse punishments, according to that very diversity. (On Rebuke and Grace, Ch. 42)
This doesn't sound like St. Augustine being "careful to explain that the lost freedom is not the liberty of choosing between good and evil." It actually appears to be the contrary. The blessed father explicitly taught that the fallen sinners are free only with regards to evil things, but not to good things. They couldn't help but sin because it is in their corrupted nature to sin. In other words they are not sinners because they sin; they sin because they are sinners. It is only when God gives a depraved sinner a new nature that he is able to choose life over death, to choose light over darkness. St. Augustine puts it this way:
But what good would ye evil men  do, and how should you do those good  things, unless you were yourselves good? But who causes that men should be good save Him who said, "And I will visit them to make them good"? And who said "I will put my Spirit  within you, and will cause you to walk in my righteousness, and to observe my judgments, and do them"? Are ye thus not yet awake? Do ye not yet hear, "I will cause you to walk, I will make you to observe," lastly, "I will make you to do"? What! Are you still puffing yourselves up? We indeed walk, it is true; we observe; we do; but He makes us to walk, to observe, to do. This is the grace of God  making us good; this is His mercy preventing us. (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. IV, Ch. 15)
To put it simply, saving grace--as viewed by St. Augustine--is absolutely necessary for sinners to be able and willing to perform what is good, and not merely a crutch sinners must grab a hold (synergism) in order for them to win the "struggle" more easily. Sinners in the first place do not struggle with sin; they delight in it. Such idea that man's freedom of will (with regards to righteousness) is only weakened and not totally destroyed as a consequence of his fall was condemned by the 5th century church as aberrant and heretical. At the 113th canon of the fourth Council of Carthage (AD 419), we read:
Canon 113. It seemed good that whosoever should say that the grace of justification was given to us only that we might be able more readily by grace to perform what we were ordered to do through our free will; as if though grace was not given, although not easily, yet nevertheless we could even without grace fulfil the divine commandments, let him be anathema. For the Lord spoke concerning the fruits of the commandments, when he said: "Without me you can do nothing," and not "Without me you could do it but with difficulty." 
Not to mention that the pronouncement above is actually an affirmation to the Augustinian position in opposition to the heresies of semi-Pelagianism.
For Pelagius says that what is good is "more easily" fulfilled if grace assists. By which addition— that is, by adding "more easily"— he certainly signifies that he is of the opinion that, even if the aid of grace should be wanting, yet good might be accomplished, although with greater difficulty, by free will. But let me prescribe to my present opponents what they should think in this matter, without speaking of the author of this heresy himself. (St. Augustine, Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians, Bk. II, Ch. 17)
Now compare all these evidences with how the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia portrays St. Augustine's view. Notice how they falsely attribute to the doctor of grace an erroneous teaching which the blessed doctor himself rejected as heresy! I've once heard a prominent Catholic apologist arrogantly claiming that to be deep in history is to cease being a Protestant. Were the NACE writers too deep in history that they deliberately misrepresented St. Augustine? Lol.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mary's (Supposed) Impeccability And The Catholic Objection On Irresistible Grace

I remember engaging myself in a somewhat fierce discussion with an online Roman Catholic apologist concerning Irresistible Grace some time ago. The guy insisted upon the typical anti-Calvinist objection that if Reformed theology is true that God is absolutely sovereign in Salvation (i.e. that God effectively leads to saving faith and repentance those whom he chooses to be saved by His free grace), then men are no better than puppets who have no freedom of choice. 

On the contrary, however, Calvinists insist that God's sovereignty is perfectly compatible with man having a free will. St. Augustine of Hippo, the greatest post-apostolic church father of the Christian religion and a distant mentor of Martin Luther and John Calvin, puts it this way:
"We maintain," says he, "that men are the work of God, and that no one is forced unwillingly by His power either into evil or good, but that man does either good or ill of his own will; but that in a good work he is always assisted by God's grace, while in evil he is incited by the suggestions of the devil."  To this I answer, that men, in so far as they are men, are the work of God; but in so far as they are sinners, they are under the devil, unless they are plucked from thence by Him who became the Mediator between God and man, for no other reason  than because He could not be a sinner from men. And that no one is forced by God's power unwillingly either into evil  or good, but that when God forsakes a man, he deservedly goes to evil, and that when God assists, without deserving he is converted to good. For a man is not good if he is unwilling, but by the grace of God he is even assisted to the point of being willing; because it is not vainly written, "For it is God that works in you, both to will and to do for His good  pleasure," (Philippians 2:13)  and, "The will is prepared by God." (Proverbs 8:35) ~
 Source: St. Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, I, Ch. 36-XVIII

Now here's what interests me. There are plenty of Romanist apologists today who falsely accuse Calvinism of doing away man's freedom of choice and human responsibility; all this while affirming Mary's supposed lifelong perfection in holiness by the sovereign preservation of God. They view Mary as someone who has been purified from every stains and corruption of original sin the very first moment of her conception, and was constantly  and effectually moved by God's grace unto all holiness throughout her entire life.

Does this make Mary a puppet, too? Well, obviously, the anti-Calvinists of Rome won't apply to themselves the same line of objection they use against Calvinists who hold to Irresistible Grace. Why the double standard?


Monday, January 3, 2011

Mga Dakilang Benepisyo ng ating Pakikipag-isa kay Cristo

Ang ating pakikipag-isa kay Jesu-Cristo ay maraming magagandang benepisyo sa ating mga buhay bilang mga Cristiano. Unang-una sa listahan ay ang pagpapawalang-sala na natamo natin sa pamamagitan niya: "Ngayon nga ay wala nang kahatulan sa kanila na na kay Cristo Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). Tayo'y inaring-ganap (o ibinilang na matuwid) sa paningin ng Diyos batay sa kabanalan ni Cristo, at ang bagay na ito'y naging posible nang tayo'y nakipag-isa sa kanya sa pamamagitan ng pananalig.

Ikalawa, sa kalasakan ni Cristo, tayo'y nakatayo at nabubuhay: "Ako ay may sapat na lakas na gawin ang lahat ng mga bagay sa pamamagitan ni Cristo na nagbibigay ng [kalakasan] sa akin" (Php. 4:13; cf. Gal. 2:20). Nang si Pablo ay nakibaka sa taglay niyang "tinik ng laman" (na malamang ay isang kapansanan o sakit), napagtanto niyang bagamat hindi ipinagkaloob ng Panginoon na alisin ito sa kanya, binigyan naman siya ng Diyos ng sapat na biyaya upang mapagtiisan niya ito. Kaya nga ang wika ng apostol,
"Sinabi niya sa akin: Sapat sa iyo ang aking biyaya dahil ang aking kapangyarihan ay nalulubos sa kahinaan. Kaya nga, lalo akong magmamapuri sa aking kahinaan upang manahan sa akin ang kapangyarihan ni Cristo." (2 Cor. 12:9)
Ang kapangyarihang nagmumula kay Cristo ay hindi lamang natin nakukuha sa pamamagitan ng kanyang mga halimbawa at katuruan. Nagbibigay din siya ng konkretong tulong upang ating maisagawa ang kalooban ng Diyos na sa atin ay tumawag.

Ang ating pakikipag-isa kay Cristo ay nangangahulugan din na tayo'y magdaranas din ng mga paguusig ng sanlibutan dahil sa ating kaugnayan sa kanya. Bago pa man ipako si Cristo sa krus ay sinabihan na niya ang kanyang mga alagad na iinuman din nila ang saro na iinuman ni Cristo, at tatanggap sila ng bautismo kagaya ng bautismong tinanggap niya (Mark 10:39).

Kung tama ang sinasabi ng tradisyon tungkol sa sinapit ng mga alagad noong unang siglo, marami sa kanila ang namatay na martir alang-alang sa pananampalataya kay Cristo. Ngunit bago pa man sila nakibaka para sa kanilang pananampalataya ay pinaalalahanan na sila ni Cristo na kapag dumating ang mga paguusig ay hindi na dapat sila magtaka:
"Alalahanin ninyo ang mga salitang sinabi ko sa inyo. Ang alipin ay hindi nakakahigit sa kaniyang panginoon. Yamang ako ay kanilang inusig, kayo rin naman ay uusigin nila. Kung tinupad nila ang aking salita ay tutuparin din naman nila ang sa inyo." (Jn. 15:20)
Hindi ito nawaglit sa isipan ni Pablo, at nakasisiguro akong isa mga layunin niya sa pagsunod kay Cristo ay upang makibahagi din sa mga paguusig at pagdurusa na dinanas ng Panginoon. Ayon nga sa kanya,
"Oo, sa katunayan itinuturing kong kalugihan ang lahat ng bagay para sa napakadakilang pagkakilala kay Cristo Jesus na aking Panginoon. Dahil sa kaniya, tinanggap ko ang pagkalugi sa lahat ng bagay at itinuring kong dumi ang lahat ng mga ito, makamtan ko lamang si Cristo. Sa ganoon, ako ay masumpungan sa kaniya, hindi sa pamamagitan ng sarili kong katuwiran na ayon sa kautusan kundi ang katuwiran sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya kay Cristo, at ang katuwiran na mula sa Diyos ay sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya. Ito ay upang makilala ko siya at ang kapangyarihan ng kaniyang muling pagkabuhay at ang PAKIKIPAG-ISA SA KANIYANG MGA PAGHIHIRAP, upang matulad ako sa kaniya, sa kaniyang kamatayan." (Php. 3:8-10)
Gayunpaman, hindi dapat ituring na isang negatibong bagay ang pakikipag-isa sa mga paghihirang ni Cristo sa pamamagitan ng pagtitiis sa mga paguusig at iba pang kahirapan. Ganito ang naging payo ni Pedro sa kanyang mga kapwa mananampalataya,
"Magalak kayo na kayo ay naging bahagi sa mga paghihirap ni Cristo. Kapag nahayag na ang kaniyang kaluwalhatian labis kayong magagalak." (1 Pe. 4:13)
Ang mga pagdurusa at pagsubok ay hindi maituturing na benepisyo para sa atin sa oras na ito'y ating maranasan; ngunit ang sekular na kasabihang "mayroong magandang bahag-hari pagkatapos ng bawat unos" ay totoo rin sa Cristianismo. Sa tuwing nagtatagumpay tayo sa gitna ng mga pagsubok, paguusig, at kahirapan alang-alang kay Cristo, tayo ay nagkakaroon ng di-maipaliwanag na ligaya.

Ang huli sa mga benepisyong dulot ng ating pakikipag-isa kay Cristo ay ang katiyakan natin na tayo'y maluluwalhati ring kasama niya. Ang dalawang alagad ni Cristo (Santiago at Juan) na humiling sa kanya ng pulitikal na posisyon at awtoridad ay sa halip pinangakuan ni Cristo ng pagdurusa (Mark 10:35-39). Ngunit sinabihan din ng Panginoon ang buong grupo ng mga alagad na dahil sila'y nagtiis na kasama siya sa bawat pagsubok, sila ay kakain at iinom na kasalo siya kanyang maluwalhating Kaharian (Luk. 22:30). Ganoon din ang wika ni apostol Pablo sa kanyang sulat para kay Timoteo,
"Kung tayo ay maghihirap, tayo rin naman ay maghaharing kasama niya. Kung ipagkakaila natin siya, ipagkakaila rin niya tayo." (2 Tim. 2:12)
Bagamat tayo'y ligtas na mula sa kahatulan ng Diyos, tayo'y dumaranas parin ng mga pagsubok at paghihirap, ngunit sapat ang tulong na ibinibigay ng Diyos upang mapagtagumpayan natin ang mga ito. Tinutulungan tayo ng Banal na Espiritu sa ating mga kahinaan (Rom. 8:26). Hindi rin magbibigay ang Diyos sa kanyang mga anak ng pagsubok na hindi nila kakayanin. Bagkus, sa bawat pagsubok ay naglalaan ang Diyos ng daan palabas upang tayo'y magtagumpay (1 Cor. 10:13). At sa mga nagtitiis alang-alang kay Cristo, isang maluwalhating kinabukasan ang naghihintay.

Sa Diyos lamang ang kapurihan!