ANG PAGBIBIGAY NA KATANGGAP-TANGGAP SA DIOS

(basahin 2 Cor. 9:1-15) Ako’y naniniwala na ang susi sa lahat ng pagbibigay-espiritual ay ang biyaya ng Dios. Pinakadakila ang pagbibigay ng Dios sa atin ng ibinigay Niya ang Kanyang Anak bago pa man tayo humingi ng anomang bagay sa Kanya, anupa’t kinakailangan na ito’y tanggapin sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya at pagsisisi. Wala tayong paguusapan tungkol sa pagbibigay kung ito’y hindi magsisimula sa di-karapatdapat at di-mineritong biyaya ng Dios. Ang tamang pagbibigay ng Kristiyano ay ang umaapaw na pasasalamat at utang-na-loob sa Dios, at ang anumang dahilan o’ motibo ay hindi angkop. GRACE IS THE GIFT OF GOD, AND GIVING IS THE RESULT. Ang chapters 8 at 9 ng 2 Corinthians ay magka-ugnay na mga kabanata na tuwirang nagpapahayag tungkol sa ating mahalagang tungkulin bilang mga katiwala ng Panginoon. Nararapat po nating maunawaan kung sino tayo sa ganang Kanya. Hindi tayo may-ari. Tayo’y pawang katiwala lamang at hindi may-ari. Hindi natin pag-aari ang ating mga buhay. Hindi natin pag-aari ang ating mga anak. Hindi natin pag-aari ang ating kinabukasan. At hindi natin pag-aari ang mga tinatangkilik. Tayo’y mga katiwala ng biyaya ng Dios. Ang isang mananampalataya, bilang binanal ni Kristo ay bahagi ng malaking kalipunan ng mga mananampalataya – bahagi ng pamilya ng Dios. At bilang mga anak ng Dios nararapat tayo na maging handa sa magkasamang paglahok (koinonia) sa gawain ng pagbibigay para sa gawain ng iglesia. “Ang naghahasik nang bahagya ay mag-aani rin nang bahagya, at ang naghahasik nang sagana ay mag-aani rin nang sagana” Tila ito’y hango sa Proverbs 11:24-25 at 19:17. Malimit din na ipinangaral ni Hesus ang prinsipiyong ito ng paghahasik sa Luke 6:38. Ang paghahasik ay isang pangkaraniwang talinghaga sa Bagong Tipan at ito’y makikita nyo sa Gal. 6:7, mababasa ninyo ito sa Matthew 13. Ang ibig sabihin lamang nito ay kapag tayo’y nagtanim, nagpunla ng buto ng halaman, ito’y magbubunga ng mas marami pang mga buto o’ dili kaya naman kapag tayo ay nangangaral ng isang katotohanan, ito ay magbubunga ng mas malawak na katotohanan. Sa kontekstong ito, kung magbibigay tayo sa Dios nang kung ano ang nasa iyong pagtatangkilik, itoy pararamihin ng Dios, at pasasaganahin Niya sa iba, at pati na rin sa atin. Ang mga pagpapalang ito ay hindi lamang material na bagay kundi pati na rin mga espiritual na bagay. “Ang bawat isa ay magbigay ayon sa ipinasiya ng kanyang puso, hindi mabigat sa kalooban, o dala ng pangangailangan, sapagkat iniibig ng Diyos ang nagbibigay na masaya.” – tila ito ay hango sa Proverbs 22:9. Ang sinasabi nito ay hindi lamang tunay na iniibig ng Dios ang kusang-loob na mga handog, kundi iniibig din Niya ang malaya, boluntaryo, at masayahin na pagbibigay ng ating mga kaloob. Sinasabi ko sa inyo, kung posible na magbigay hanggang sumakit, mas lalong posible na magbigay hanggang ito ay maging isa sa mga dakilang kagalakan ng ating pagsamba sa Dios. Marami na akong napakinggan sermon kung saan ang pakinabang ang motibo ng pagbibigay. Wala namang masama dito, ngunit kung ang pakinabang ang nagiging panguhaing motibo ng iyong pagbibigay, sinisira mo ang tunay na diwa ng pagbibigay ng isang Kristiyano. Totoo na ibinabalik ng Dios ng isang-daang ulit yaong ating kaloob, ngunit ang layunin ng kasagaan na yaon ay hindi para sa personal na kagalakan at personal na gamit ng mga biyaya nayaon. Nais kong sabihin sa inyo na ang kagalakan ng pagbibigay ay walang kaugnayan sa kung ano ang mapapakinabangan natin, kundi ang ating kagalakan ay may kaugnayan sa katotohanan na tayo ay bahagi ng Kaharian ng Dios. “At kaya ng Diyos na pasaganain ang lahat ng biyaya sa inyo, upang sa pagkakaroon ninyo ng sapat sa lahat ng bagay ay palagi kayong sumagana sa bawat mabuting gawa.” – Isa sa mga pagpapakilala sa ating Dios ay Siya ang Dios na May-kaya sa lahat. Basahin ninyo ang Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:20; at Jude 24-25. Hindi ba kayo nagagalak na magbigay sa isang Dios na may-kaya, kahit na hindi kayo magbigay? Pinaguusapan natin dito ay ang Kanyang biyaya at ang Kanyang pagbubunsod ng bawat pagpapalang espiritual na sumagana sa inyo ng sa gayon sa tuwina’y sa bawat pagkakataon kayo ay magkaroon ng buong kasapatan at umapaw sa bawat mabubuting gawa. Ang salitang kasapatan sa Griyego ay may kahulugan na self-contentment. Philippians 4:11 – “sapagkat aking natutunan ang masiyahan sa anumang kalagayang aking kinaroroonan.” Tingnan nyo rin ang 1 Timothy 6:6. Ang Dios ang nagbibigay sa atin ng bawat bagay, anupa’t walang bagay tayong maibabalik sa Dios na siyang naibigay nang una sa atin. Imposible tayong magbigay sa Dios. Tayo’y mga katiwala lamang ng mga bagay na naibigay na sa atin. Hindi natin maibabalik ang anumang bagay na hindi na naibigay sa atin, kaya’t ako’y nababagabag sa karamihan ng mga Kristiyano ngayon na nag-aakala na kapag naibigay na nila ang kanilang ikapo, natapos na ang kanilang obligasyon, at magagamit na nila ang nalabing 9/10 sa kanilang sariling kalayawan. Ang ating buong pagkatao at lahat ng kung ano meron tayo ay pag-aari ng Dios. Wag po natin kalilimutan yan. Harinawa’y ang ating pagbibigay ay hindi nasusukat sa por siyento, nawa’y ang ating attitude ay boluntaryong paghahandong ng ating mga sarili, higit pa sa ating kakayahan, higit pa sa ikapo, pagbibigay ng may kagalakan. Ipagkakaloob ng Dios ang kasaganaan upang ikaw ay makapagbigay din para sa kabutihan ng iba. Hindi ibig sabihin na payayamanin ka ng Dios upang lustayin mo sa kalayawan, upang magkaroon ka ng mas malaking bahay, mas maraming kotse, at gawin ang sariling gusto. Ako’y naniniwala na pagkakalooban ng Dios ng mas higit pa ang taong mapagkakatiwalaan Niya sa pag-iingat ng mga kayamanan ng Dios. Gagamitin Niyang alulod ang taong yaon upang dumaloy sa pamamagitan ng taong yaon ang kasaganaan para sa gawain ng Dios at para mga anak ng Dios. Naghahanap ang Dios ng daluyan ng Kanyang pagpapala para sa pagpapalaganap ng Ebanghelyo sa buong mundo. Mas matimbang sa Dios ang saloobin (attitude) ng ating pagbibigay kaysa sa halaga ng ating kaloob. Palagay ko nais ng Dios na ang lahat ng kanyang mga anak ay magbigay, ngunit ang saloobin natin ang mas mahalag sa Kanya. Basahin ninyo ang Mark 12:41-44 tungkol sa pagbibigay ng babaeng balo. Ang ating pagbibigay ay magsisilbing patotoo sa mundong nahulog sa kasalanan patungkol sa ating pagtitiwala sa mga pangako Ng Dios at sa Kanyang mga nagawa sa pamamagitan ng Kanyang Anak. Ito ay magiging bukas na kapahayagan ng pagibig na sa gitna ng kahirapan at paguusig ay bukal sa loob ang pagbibigay ng may kagalakan. Ang pagpapahayag ng Ebanghelyo ay mabibigyan ng daan sa pamamagitan ng ating pagbibigay ng maluwat. Ang modelo ng ating pagbibigay ay ang pagbibigay mismo ni Hesus, na bagamat Siya’y mayaman, Siya’y naging maralita na iniwan Niya ang kaluwalhatian ng langit upang maging isang hamak na lingkod upang makamtan natin ang Kanyang kayamanan. Ang tunay na pagbibigay ay ang pagbibigay ng Dios ng Kanyang kaloob sa atin – si Hesu-Kristo. “Sapagkat gayon na lamang ang pag-ibig ng Diyos sa sanlibutan na ibinigay niya ang kanyang tanging Anak, upang ang sinumang sa kanya’y sumampalataya ay huwag mapahamak kundi magkaroon ng buhay na walang hanggan.” We ought to give like Jesus gave – sacrificially. We ought to give according to our means and beyond. We ought to give not only of our time and talents and possessions, but we ought to give of ourself. As Jesus came for the joy set before Him, we ought to give for what our gifts are going to do not for our glory but for the glory of God. As Jesus focused all that He did to the glory of the father, we ought to focus all that we do for the glory of the Son.

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BIBLE TRUTHS IN TENSION

In order to understand inspired Scriptures correctly, i submit to you it is crucial to realize that the Bible is an eastern book, and the Holy Spirit addressed an eastern culture (Palestine) with hyperbolic overstatements of truth in paradoxical or dialectical tension with another hyperbolic overstatements of truth. In other words, the Bible seems to speak out of both sides of its mouth. On one hand, the ‘Parable of the Sower/Soils’ takes seriously its responsibility for fruit in the life of the believer. The absolute necessity of fruitfulness as an evidence of a true salvation – not the means to that salvation. On the other hand, John 10:28; Ephesians 2:8-9 and a whole lot more teach believers grace as a bedrock on which to base their assurance of salvation. Here is an obvious tension created by perseverance on one hand and faith assurance of grace on the other, and both truths are divinely inspired. Therefore, we need to take these scripture texts to a balance by living our Christian lives within the tension created by these seemingly opposing truths.

I realize this is difficult for us, because we are so influenced by western thought which establishes truth through syllogistic logic. A major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion all in short phrases; and therefore we’ve turned truth into small propositional truths usually based on one and only one verse, usually taken out of context. And we preface it by saying, “If the Bible says it, then that settles it!”. And with that mentality, we come to the Bible like chickens picking up certain kind of grain on the ground, and we find a piece of grain, and it becomes the only grain in the barnyard. Of course that’s not true. We must attempt to let all Scriptures speak. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that “all Scripture is inspired…”, and if you take the Bible seriously you will realize you have no right to let one inspired text damage, depreciate, relegate to second importance another inspired text. None of us has the right as believers to put inspired texts subservient to our denominational emphasis or our particular theological grid. We must hold in tension these powerful over-simplistic statements about the nature of spiritual reality and live in the tension in faith, without trying to let our minds, our churchs’ distinctive creed, our experience, our culture become lord over Scriptures. Because what happens is whenever Scriptures seem to violate what we are comfortable with, we let our personal preferences, and what we’ve always been taught easily crush inspired texts so that they cannot radically speak to us.

I have grown a passion for the Bible, but please do not misinterpret this passion for dogmatism. I realize my frailties and lack of knowledge, but i also recognize the shallowness of how the vast majority of Christians today interpret Scriptures; the imbalance and proof-texting method of modern-day believers and how they use the Bible for their own agenda.

#truths-in-tension

Elijah – A Man Of Like Passion As We Are

In contrast to what majority of people think, that the Prophet Elijah was a mighty prophet of God, that he was a mighty miracle worker, and we somehow have managed to wrap Elijah in a mantle of supernaturalism that makes him seem to be someone unapproachable, someone who belongs to a different league, but that is not how the New Testament remembers him. The Word of God does not say that Elijah was a mighty prophet of God. It does not say that Elijah was mighty worker of miracles. It says, “Elijah was a man of like passion as we are. And he prayed earnestly…” (James 5:17). He was cut out of the same bulk of human cloth. He had problems. He had fears. He had perplexity. He had doubts. He had frustration. He even had a bout of depression, but he prayed! He prayed with earnestness and expectancy. Elijah was a man of prayer. At the outset of his narrative, we learn that he prayed that it might not rain, and there came a severe drought in the land of Israel for 3 years and 6 months. Prayer preceded his encounter with King Ahab. We notice that in Mt. Carmel, it was prayer that brought down the descending fire. It was also prayer that brought the descending flood ending the drought in the land. I think the most distinct characteristic of Elijah’s prayer life which the Spirit of God wants to weave into our experience is the earnestness of his prayer life. While the LORD promised Elijah that He would send rain (1 Kings 18:1), yet Elijah went up to Mt. Carmel, and cast himself down upon the earth and put his face between his knees and prayed. God promised to send rain. They why pray? Because Elijah knew existentially that prayer is the hands of faith that translate promise into performance. God not only ordains the end, but He also ordains the means. It is not a question of coming to a reluctant God in an attempt to persuade Him to do what He really does not want to do in the first place. It is a matter of coming to God with a consciousness that we are dependent individuals. You see, prayer is the realization that your need is not partial, Its total. It is the realization that when we try, we fail, but when we trust, God acts. The Christian life is not a matter of trying, it is a matter of trusting. It is a recognition that the believing life is not difficult – in fact, it is impossible apart from supernatural intervention.

INARING-GANAP NG BIYAYA SA PAMAMAGITAN NG PANANAMPALATAYA

Ang mga saligang talata sa Biblia na pinagbabatayan ng konsepto ng “Justification by grace through faith” ni Martin Luther noong panahon ng Protestant Reformation ay ang Romans 3:21-31. Kung babasahin natin ang unang bahagi ng aklat ng Romans, doon sa chapter 1:1-20 ay narito ang pagbibigay-diin ni apostol Pablo ng pangangailangan ng buong sangkatauhan ng kapatawaran sa kasalanan. Papaano ito ginagawa ng Dios? Ginagawa Niya ito sa pamamagitan ng pagsugo ng Kanyang Anak dito sa sanlibutan upang mamatay para sa sa atin. At inaakit Niya ang tao na personal na tanggapin itong Kanyang kaloob. Kaya’t sa Romans 3:21-31 ay nakalatag ang buod ng Protestant Reformation samakatuwid baga’y ang katotohanan na tayo tinanggap ng Dios, hindi dahil sa ating merito o’ mabuting gawa, kundi dahil sa karakter ng Dios at sa sakripisyong ginawa ng Kanyang Anak na si Kristo Hesus. Kahit sino ka man, tanggap ka ng Dios dahil sa bisa ng sakripisyo ni Kristo. At upang ipakita na ito ay hindi bagong konsepto o’ isang bagay na inimbento ni Pablo, sa Romans chapter 4, kanyang ipinakita na ang prinsipiyong ito ay umiral na noon pa man sa tipan ng Dios kay Abraham (sa Genesis 15:6), na kung saan si Abraham ay nanampalataya sa Panginoon, at ito’y ibinilang na katuwiran para sa kanya. At upang pagtibayin pa ang kanyang argumento, inihalimbawa ni Pablo si Haring David, na bagamat inabuso ang kanyang mga kaloob at kapangyarihan bilang hari para sa kanyang makasariling kapakinabangan, na siyang naging dahilan upang bumagsak ang buong bayan ng Israel, ay tinawag Niya itong “isang lalaking kinalulugdan ng Aking puso”.

Mula sa Matandang Tipan, tayo ay pumunta sa chapter 5 ng Romans. Nais kung balangkasin muna ang buong bahagi na ito ng Bagong Tipan, pagkatapos ay balikan ang bawa’t talata ng Romans 5:1-11. Ang verses 1-11 ay isang mahabang pangungusap sa Griyego, at bagama’t ito’y isang pangungusap, malinaw na mayroon itong ipinapahayag na tatlong pangunahing katotohanan. Ako’y umaasa na sa paglalatag ko sa inyo nito, ay pagaaralan din ninyo ng personal ang bahagi na ito ng Romans, sapagkat kinakailangang suriin nating maigi ang nilalaman nito. Nararapat na tanungin natin ang Biblia upang maunawaan natin ang konteksto ng liham na ito ni Pablo sa mga taga Roma. Ano ba ang pagkakahulugan ng salitang ito kay Pablo? Ano ba ang nilalayon ng liham na ito, partikular sa kabanatang ito? Papaano niya ginagamit ang salitang ito sa iba nyang mga aklat? Ano ang pagkaunawa ng mga tao na pinaguukulan ng liham na ito? Ganitong mga katanungan ang dapat nating itanong sa ating pagaaral, at ang dahilan ay sapagkat napakaraming mga tao ang nangangaral sa atin tungkol sa Biblia, ngunit taliwas naman sa tunay na ibig sabihin sa atin ng Biblia. Itong mga taong ito ay matatalino, edukado, mataas ang pinagaralan, at sila’y tumatayo sa likod ng pulpito at ang mga Kristiyano ay ‘intimidated and are forced to accept things which are not really taught by the Bible’. Alam ko walang eksperto sa atin, ngunit kinakailangan na matutuhan natin itong aklat na ito, upang alam natin kung papaano natin ipagtatanggol ang ating mga sarili laban sa mga huwad na mangangaral sa ating kapanahunan ngayon.

Kaya’t sa pagbasa ninyo ng verses 1-11, ako’y umaasa na makita natin ang 3 natatanging katotohanan sa pag-talakay ni Pablo tungkol sa ‘Justification by faith”. Sa verses 1-5, pinaguusapan dito ang karanasan ng pagiging matuwid, at ang mga bagay na idinudulot nito sa mga mananampalataya, at mamaya ay tatalakayin natin ito isa-isa. Sa verses 6,7 at 8, ay ang batayan ng ‘Justification’; papaano natin tinatanggap ito; saan nangagaling ito; at ano ang layunin o pakay nito. Kaya’t ang nauna ay ang ‘subjective experience’ at ang pangalawang bahagi naman ay ang ‘objective truth’. Ang huling bahagi naman ay kung papaano natin ipapamuhay ito; ang buhay kristiyano. Itong mga talata na ito ang mga saligang talata na ating tinitindigan bilang mga mananampalataya sa Panginoong Hesus. Ito’y isang napakahalagang batayang ‘biblical’ na pagkaunawa kung papaano ibinibilang na matuwid ang makasalanang tao sa harapan ng banal na Dios. At palagay ko kung hindi malinaw sa iyo ang katotohanan na ito, maguguluhan ang iyong isipan sa iba pang bagay tungkol sa iyong pananampalataya. Ito ay isang batayang doktrina sa ating pananampalatayang Kristiyano na hindi natin uubrang ikompromiso o’ ipagwalang bahala. Kaya’t samahan ninyo ako sa pagtalakay natin ng liham ni apostol Pablo sa mga taga-Roma, at sinasabi ko sa inyo kung nabasa na ninyo ang Romans o nais ninyong matutuhan ang konsepto ng ‘justification by grace through faith’, palagay ko ay magaling na unahin ninyo ang Romans, at kung gumugol kayo ng 3 taon pinagaaralan ito ng personal, binabalangkas, habang tinitingnan ninyo ang inyong mga sarili sa liwanag ng mga katotohanan na nakapaloob dito, kayo ay magiging matatag at malakas sa paraang walang anumang bagay dito sa mundo ang makakaagaw sa pagasang nasa inyo. Ngunit ako’y nag-aalala sa buhay ng mga Kristiyano na dumadadalo lamang tuwing linggo upang makinig at tanggapin ang anumang naipapangaral sa likod ng pulpitong ito ng hindi man lamang sinusuri sa kanyang sarili ang mga katunayan ng mga ito.

Yung salitang ‘yamang’ (therefore, since), malimit na gamitin ni Pablo ang salitang ito bilang isang; ‘transition marker to a new summary point’. Ginamit niya ito sa Romans 5:1; 8:1; at 12:1, kung saan tila sinasabi niya “batay sa lahat ng mga sinabi ko nung una, samakatuwid bagay ang pagiging makasalanan ng lahat ng sangkatauhan, Roma 3:23 “yamang ang lahat ay nagkasala, at hindi nakaabot sa kaluwalhatian ng Diyos;”, ang konsepto ng ‘justification by grace through faith’ na umiral na noon pa sa panahon ng Matandang Tipan, sa chapter 4, ngayon dito naman sa chapter 5, ay ilalatag ito ni Pablo ng buong linaw. ‘Paul lays this out more in a Greek thinking way’, gumagawa siya ng mga panukala (propositions) at pagkatapos ay inuulit o inilalarawan niya ang mga ito, katulad ng nakasanayan natin sa ating kultura (syllogism).

“Kaya’t yamang tayo’y inaring-ganap sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya,” – ito ang katotohanan na ang Dios ang Siyang gumawa, at ginawa niya ng minsanan at lubusan. Ang katagang ‘Justified’ o inaring ganap ay isang napakahalagang salita na na kung saan ang katuturan nito, kung hindi tayo maingat, malamang magkamali tayo sa pag-unawa lalo na’t kung gagamit lamang tayo ng Webster’s Dictionary, ‘we might read English definitions into thousands of year old Greek and Hebrew words. Paul is a Hebrew thinker writing in street Greek’, kaya’t kinakailangan na gamitin natin ang Septuagint, ‘the Greek translation of the Old Testament’. Ang salitang ito sa Matandang Tipan ay ginamit ng Dios upang ilarawan sa atin ang Kanyang sariling karakter. ‘Righteousness’ ay salitang galing sa salitang river reed (tambo o’buho) na kung tawagin natin, ay isang panukat sa ‘construction, with which we measure the horizontal straightness of walls’. Ginamit ng Dios ang katagang ito para sa Kanyang karakter. Kaya’t kapag nakita ninyo ang salitang ‘righteousness’ o ‘justification’ saan man sa Matandang Tipan, ito ang konsepto na mayroong isang pamantayang panukat sa tao bago siya makakalapit sa Dios, at ang pamantayan na iyon ay sakdal na katuwiran. Ito ang kagimbal-gimbal na katotohanan ng Matthew 5:48, “Kaya’t kayo nga’y maging sakdal, gaya ng inyong Ama sa langit na sakdal”. Ang tanong ay, sino ang uubrang tumindig sa ganoong sakdal na pamantayan? Sino ang uubrang mapailalim sa ganoong pagtasa (scrutiny)? ‘Who can measure up to that kind of measuring stick? Absolutely no one!!!’. Maging mga taong relihiyoso, animo’y matuwid na dumudulog sa Dios sa sarili nilang katuwiran sa pamamagitan ng pagsunod sa kautusan ay mabibigo sa pamantayan ng Dios. Maalala ninyo yung sinasabi sa Galatians 3:10-12 na “Sapagkat ang lahat na umaasa sa mga gawa ng kautusan ay nasa ilalim ng sumpa; sapagkat nasusulat, “Sumpain ang bawat isang hindi sumusunod sa lahat ng bagay na nasusulat sa aklat ng kautusan.” Ngayon ay maliwanag na walang sinumang inaaring-ganap sa harapan ng Diyos sa pamamagitan ng kautusan, sapagkat “Ang matuwid ay mabubuhay sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya. Subalit ang kautusan ay hindi nakasalig sa pananampalataya; sa halip, “Ang gumagawa ng mga iyon ay mabubuhay sa mga iyon.” At maliwanag ang sinasabi ng Biblia, “sapagkat ang lahat ay nagkasala at kapos sa kaluwalhatian ng Dios”. At yan ang malaking problema; Walang sino mang tao uubrang lumapit sa Dios sa pamamagitan ng kanyang sariling gawa.

Kaya’t ang kagimbal-gimbal na istorya ng ating buhay, ay Ang Dios na may likha sa atin ayon sa kanyang anyo at wangis ay nagnanais na makipagsalumbuhay sa atin (cf. Gen.1:26-27) ay nahulog sa kasalanan at sinasabi ni propeta Ezekiel (18:20), “Ang taong nagkasala ay mamamatay”, at lahat tayo ay nagkasala sabi naman sa Romans 3:23. Ano ang gagawin nating mga makasalanan? WALA! Ang Dios sa Kanyang kahabagan sa pamamagitan ng Kanyang Anak ay pumarito sa lupa upang bayaran ang isang halaga upang tayo’y maging matuwid sa Dios, at kinakailangang tanggapin ng tao ang biyayang ito sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya. Ito ang puso ng Ebanghelyo. Nandirito tayo hindi upang magpahanga sa Dios, nandirito tayo sapagkat tayo ay pinahangang lubusan ng karakter ng Dios. “Kaya’t yamang tayo’y inaring-ganap sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya,…” – Muli kong sasabihin upang sadyang mabanat ang inyong kaisipan – Walang sinoman ang maliligtas ng pananampalataya. Kailanman hindi makakapagligtas ang pananampalataya. Sapagkat ang pananampalataya ay nakabatay sa tao. At nais kong balikan ang palasak na talata Ephesians 2:8-9, “Sapagkat sa biyaya kayo’y naligtas sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya, at ito’y hindi sa pamamagitan ng inyong sarili, ito’y kaloob ng Diyos;” Ang pananampalataya ay ang kamay na tumatanggap sa biyaya ng Dios. Kung gaano ka man umiyak, kung gaano kataas ka tumalon, kung gaano man karami ang ‘goosebump’s mo ay walang kinalaman sa biyaya ng Dios na ito. Ako’y po’y naaawa sa mga Kristiyanong dumadalo sa gawain tuwing linggo, galak na galak sa pagpupuri at pag-awit sa loob ng bahay sambahan, ngunit paglabas naman ay walang nakikitang pagbabago sa kanilang buhay. Wala namang masama sa ‘emotional high that you experience in worshiping the Lord, you can shout, and cry, and jump, and weep and whatever you want to do in here, but i want to know what difference it makes when you leave this place’.

Dumating na ako sa yugto ng aking buhay na napag-alaman ko na mayroong at least 4 na pamantayan sa kaligtasan ng tao: pag-sisisi, pananampalataya, pagka-masunurin, at tiyaga o’ pagsisikap. Minsan, mayroong nagtanong sa akin, sa apat na yan, ano ba ang ubra kong laktawan at makarating pa rin sa langit pag namatay na ako? ‘See, that’s exactly the wrong question. Because the goal of Christianity is not me getting to heaven but Christlikeness now so that others can go to heaven with me’.

Ako’y naniniwala na mayroong 4 na bagay, 4 na kaloob na kaakibat noong ikaw ay inaring-ganap ng Dios: 1. “mayroon tayong kapayapaan” – Naaalala nyo pa ba nung araw na hindi pa kayo mananampalataya? Naaalala nyo pa ba yung mga gabing hindi kayo mapagkatulog? Naaalala nyo ba ang pangamba na kayo’y haharap sa Dios na matuwid? Naaala nyo pa kung ilang tao ang sinagasaan nyo upang makamit lamang ninyo ang pita ng inyong laman? Naaalala nyo ba ang mga araw na iyon? Sariwa pa sa aking mga alaala ang nga bagay na yaon. Ngunit nakalimutan ko na talaga yung mga bagay kung papaano ako naligtas. Nakalimutan ko na lahat. Kung anong petsa ako nabautismuhan sa tubig. Ngunit ang hindi ko malilimutan ay isang araw nung ako’y teen-ager pa, noong ako’y nakaranas ng kawalang pag-asa, walang kahulugan sa buhay, walang direksyon sa buhay, at sa bingit ng pagpapatiwakal, ay nagpahayag sa akin ang Panginoon. ‘For the first time in my life i felt the love of God, i felt that i was important, i felt i had a purpose in life. I felt the peace of God like a stream of cool water enveloping my entire being. For the first time in my life, not being afraid of God. The peace of God that passeth all understanding’. Kung tayo’y maghahanap ng mga parallel passages tungkol sa kapayapaan ng Dios, ito’y lubhang magdudulot sa atin pagasa at kagalakan. John 14:27, pakinggan nyo ito, “Kapayapaan ang iniiwan ko sa inyo, ang aking kapayapaan ay ibinibigay ko sa inyo. Hindi gaya ng ibinibigay ng sanlibutan ang ibinibigay ko sa inyo. Huwag mabagabag ang inyong puso, o matakot man.”; Ano ba ang iyong ikinakatakot? Malugi sa negosyo mo? Mawalan ng hanapbuhay? Ito sinasabi ko sa inyo, Walang anuman bagay dito sa mundo ito na maaaring magdulot ng takot at bagabag sa isang mananampalataya. Kung ang iyong kapayapaan ay nakabatay sa mga sirkumstansya sa mundong ito, ilang saglit lamang at maglalaho yang kapayapaan na yan. Ngunit kung ang iyong kapayapaan ay nakabatay sa Panginoong Hesus na Siyang namatay para sa iyo, walang sinoman ang makakaagaw sa kapayapaan mo, kahit na sino ka man o ano man ang mga sirkumstansya mo sa buhay. Sa John 16:33, pakinggan ninyo, “Ang mga bagay na ito ay sinabi ko sa inyo, upang sa akin ay magkaroon kayo ng kapayapaan. “Sa sanlibutan ay nahaharap kayo sa paguusig. Ngunit lakasan ninyo ang inyong loob, dinaig ko na ang sanlibutan.” Uubra din natin basahin ang Colossians 1:20, o’ Philippians 4:7, “At ang kapayapaan ng Diyos, na hindi maabot ng pag-iisip, ang mag-iingat ng inyong mga puso at mga pag-iisip kay Cristo Jesus.”

Ngayong hapon, saan ba nakabatay ang inyong kapayapaan? Sino ba ang nag-iingat ng inyong puso at isipan? Nakatali ba ang inyong kapayapaan sa inyong negosyong palugi? Nakabatay ba sa sinabi sa inyo ng doktor na meron kayong stage 4 cancer? Meron ba kayong asunto sa husgado dahil sa meron umaagaw sa lupa ninyo? Real peace, kapayapaan, Hindi ko maipaliwanag sa salita kung gaano kasarap na matulog sa gabi na wala kang pakialam kung magising ka pa sa umaga? Kilala mo bang tunay si Hesus? Wala itong kinalaman sa nagawa mo o hindi mo nagawa. Kilala mo ba ang Dios? Mayroon ka bang kapayapaan sa iyong puso dahil sa ginawa ni Hesu-Kristo para sa iyo? Mayroon ka ba noon? Kung wala ka ng kapayapaan na iyon, nakakalungkot naman sapagkat iyon ang isa sa mga katangian ng tunay na mananampalataya. Alam nyo marami tayo masyadong gayak o partikular sa pagiging relihiyoso, mga panlabas na anyo ng ating relihiyon. Kung minsan naitatanong ko sa aking sarili, tunay nga bang tayo’y kristiyano? Mayroong tao nagtanong sa akin, “ang mga catholics ba ay ligtas?” Ang sagot ko ay, “tiyak mo ba na ang lahat ng kaanib mo ay ligtas? Ang ating kaligtasan ay hindi sa pag-anib sa anumang relihion. Ang tao ay ligtas lamang kung ang kanyang tiwala ay tanging sa Panginoong Hesus lamang. Sa pamamagitan ng pananampalataya, mayroon tayong pakikipagsundo sa Dios sa pamamagitan ng Panginoong Hesu-Kristo. “At sa pamamagitan niya’y nakalapit tayo …”, “through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith”. Itong salitang ‘introduction’ ay mayroong 2 pagkakahulugan. Una, maaaring itoy mangahulugan ng isang barkong puno ng mga kalakal, mayroong isa o dalawang maliit na barko ang papalaot upang hilahin ang malaking barko na ito sa daungan, sapagkat hindi batid ng malaking barko kung saan ang mababaw na bahagi ng daungan, kayat siya ay inihahatid ng ligtas sa daungan. Isang posisbilidad na interpretasyon yan. Ngunit sa palagay ko ang mas angkop na ilustrasyon dito ay ang ‘personal introduction to royalty’. Sa palagay nyo ba basta-basta kayong makakapasok sa Malakanyang at sabihin na nais mong makipagusap sa Pangulong Duterte? Hindi uubra. Ngunit kung kakilala mo yung panganay na anak ng pangulo, ay uubra kang ipakilala sa pangulo. Sa ganitong paraan, Ang anak ng Dios na si Hesus, Siya ang naghahatid at nagpapakilala sa atin sa harapan ng banal na Dios, at Kanyang sinasabi, Ama nais kong ipakilala sa iyo si_____, siya’y isang miyembro ng ating pamilya. ‘Personal introduction to deity by faith through Christ.’ “…personal introduction into this grace in which we stand…”. Naaalala ko ang 1 Corinthians 15:1, pakinggan nyo, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand,”. Ito ang kabalintunaan ng ‘predestination’. Tinatanong ako ng mga tao, “naniniwala ka ba sa predestination? ‘Of course’, naniniwala ako sa predestination. Sapagkat ito’y tinuturo ng Biblia, at ang lahat ng mga bagay bagay ay nagsisimula sa walang hanggang kapangyarihan ng Dios (Sovereignty of God). Magsisimula ka ba sa Creation? o sa Humanism? o sa Rationalism. Ngunit, bagama’t itinuturo ito ng Biblia at maraming verses tungkol sa predestination, marami din naman mga verses katulad ng John 1:12, “Subalit ang lahat ng tumanggap sa kanya na sumasampalataya sa kanyang pangalan…”, “…upang ang sinumang sa kanya’y sumampalataya…” John 3:16, at sa talatang katulad ng 1 Cor 15:1, “…na siya naman ninyong pinaninindigan,”. ‘There is a covenant tension and balance between the initiation of a sovereign God and the sovereign God’s demand that human beings made in His image respond and continue to respond in appropriate covenant ways. This is the commitment balance. This is the “yes we must”.

Totoo na walang mabubuting gawa ng tao ang uubrang maghatid sa atin sa Dios. Walang merito ng tao ang uubrang pumasa sa kabanalan ng Dios. Ngunit ang mabubuting gawa ng tao, pagbabagong buhay pagtapos na makilala ang Dios ay ang ebidensya ng ating kaligtasan. Hindi mga gawa ng tao ang batayan ng kaligtasan, ito ang bunga ng ating kaligtasan. Kung sinasabi mong kilala mo si Kristo, ngunit walang pagbabagong nangyari sa buhay mo, Biblically, meron malaking ‘question mark’ sa iyo. Hindi sa Bible, sa iyo.

Pansinin nyo yung mga bagay na ikinagagalak ng isang Kristiyano. Tatlong ulit na ginamit ang salitang “nagagalak” or exult sa English. Kung pagaaralan at susuriin ninyo ang mga salita na ginagamit sa Bible, hahanapin ninyo ang balangkas, hanapin ninyo ang mga salitang inuulit, hanapin ninyo ang mga ‘keywords’, at mga ‘parallel passages’ sa mga katotohanan sa Biblia, magugulat na lamang kayo at unti-unti ninyong mauunawaan ang nilalayon ng orihinal na may-akda at magiging makabuluhan sa inyo ang pagaaral ng Biblia. Una, “nagagalak tayo sa pag-asa ng kaluwalhatian ng Diyos”. Ito yung sinasabi sa Titus 2:13, “habang hinihintay natin ang mapalad na pag-asa at ang pagpapakita ng kaluwalhatian ng ating dakilang Diyos at Tagapagligtas na si Hesu-Cristo” – Darating ang isang araw bubuka ang kalangitan sa silangan, at bubulaga sa lahat ng mga nilalang ang kaluwalhatian na hindi pa nila nakikita sa tanang buhay nila, Si Hesus, Hari ng mga Hari, Panginoon ng mga Panginoon lilitaw sa mga ulap upang kunin Niya ang lahat ng sa Kanya, at ito ang ikinagagalak ng lahat ng mga Kristiyano.

Pangalawa, 3“nagagalak rin tayo sa ating mga kapighatian” (tama ba ang aking binasa?) kapighatian? Hindi kaya mali ang pagkakasalin? Meron kayang manuscript problem? Hindi! ang mali ay ating kultura. Ang problema ay ang maling pananaw ng mga Kristiyano sa kanilang pag-aakala na ang kaligtasan ay, hindi ka na magkakasakit at aahon ka na sa hirap. Ito’y ang problema ng Ebanghelyo na naka focus sa ako, tayo, akin, atin. Naaalala ko ang Romans 8:17, where Jesus said “you will reign with Me if you suffer with Me”. Naaalala ko rin ang 1 Peter 4:12-16, “huwag kayong magtaka tungkol sa mahigpit na pagsubok na dumarating sa inyo upang kayo’y subukin, na waring may isang kataka-takang bagay na nangyayari sa inyo…” Hindi ba ninyo batid na kung inalipusta ng mundo si Kristo, tayong mga tinawag na maging katulad ni kristo ay aalipustahin din ng mundo? Ngunit ang problema talaga ay niyayapos tayo ng mundo. ‘The tragedy is the world embraces us. The problem is, we’re one of them, and not one of His, and wonder why we don’t see power in the church, because of our selfish lifestyle. Ang problema ay, sadyang umiiwas ang Kristiyano sa kapighatian, na siya mismong maghuhulma sa atin na maging katulad ni Kristo. Hebrews 5:8, “Jesus was perfected by the things that He suffered”. ‘Now if Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God, and God used problems to make Jesus what He wants Him to be, now why do you think you want to get out of it? I submit to you the church will go through the same thing Jesus went through which is rejected by a lost world.’ Ito ang palatandaan ng tunay na mananampalataya – nagagalak sa kapighatian. Bakit tayo nagagalak sa kapighatian? Ano ba idinudulot ng kapighatian sa atin? Sapagkat “ang kapighatian ay nagbubunga ng pagtitiis, 4 at ang pagtitiis ng pagpapatibay; at ang pagpapatibay ng pag-asa. 5 At hindi tayo binibigo ng pag-asa, sapagkat ang pag-ibig ng Diyos ay ibinuhos sa ating mga puso sa pamamagitan ng Espiritu Santo na ibinigay sa atin.” Ang Banal na Espiritu na ibinuhos sa ating mga puso.

Ang salitang pag-asa ay isang kahanga-hanga, kagila-gilalas na salita. Hindi ito tumutukoy sa pangkaraniwang pagkakaunawa natin katulad sa Ingles, “Oh i hope so”, “maybe”, “could be”, “Oh i wish so much”. Ang salitang ito ay nagpapatungkol sa katuparan ng ating pananampalataya. Ang muling pagbabalik ng Panginoong Hesus. Ito ay tiyak na mangyayari at hindi nagdudulot ng takot o’ pangamba sa puso ng mananampalataya. Nais nating lahat na matupad ang pag-asa na yan sa lalong madaling panahon. Ngayon na sana! Sa oras na ito! Sapagkat ang lahat ng ating pag-asa ay nakatali sa kung sino Siya. “At ang pag-asa na ito ay hindi kailanman bumibigo sa atin.” So number 1 meron tayong kapayapaan, number 2 meron tayong personal introduction, at pangatlo meron tayong konsepto ng kagalakan sa gitna ng kapighatian. Mayroon tayong kapayapaan sa gitna ng mundong nahulog sa kasalanan at ang lahat ng problema kaakibat ng kasalanan. At pang-apat ay ang Banal na Espiritu bilang kaloob sa atin. Banal na Espiritu ang tanda ng bagong tipan. ‘Believers have the gift of the Holy Spirit, and people keep saying to me, “You need more of the Holy Spirit” Is this true? Or is it the Holy Spirit who needs more of us? Because Romans 8 says you either got the Spirit or you don’t got the Spirit. We don’t need a second blessing of the Holy Spirit, we need to walk in the first blessing.’ Ang problema sa karamihan sa atin, ang gusto natin ay pananampalataya na makasarili (selfish) – Anong makukuha ko diyan? Anong mapapakinabangan ko dyan? Malimit na ang sarili ang pinaglalaanan nating mga Kristiyano.

Verses 1 to 5 ay ang karanasan ng kaligtasan. Ngayon paano natin maiaangkop sa ating buhay? Ano ang batayan ng kaligtasan? Pansinin nyo ang grammatical parallelism sa verse 6 at verse 8 at theological parallelism sa verse 10. “Sapagkat noong tayo’y mahihina pa”. that’s in verse 6. Ngayon sa verse 8, “na noong tayo’y mga makasalanan pa,”. Now look at verse 10, “Sapagkat kung noon ngang tayo’y mga kaaway,“. Obviously, yaong ‘mahihina’, ‘makasalanan’, at ‘kaaway’ ay mga parallel na konsepto. ‘What did God do when we were helpless, sinners, and enemies of God? He sent His Son at the right time to die for the ungodly. Christ died for us’.

Ang susi sa Kristiyanismo ay ang kung sino si Hesus. Kung si Hesus ay hindi Anak ng Dios at isang hamak lamang na anluwagi sa mga lansangan ng Jerusalem, mag-suicide na lamang tayong lahat. ‘But if Jesus is what He claims to be, the promised Incarnate Son of God, then we have hope’. Ito yaong Isaiah 53 “All of us like sheep have gone astray. Each of us had turned unto his own way, but God has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him”. ‘It’s the principle of substitutionary atonement. You’re alive, and happy, and healthy, and in relationship with God, because God was willing offer His Son as a ransom for us all!’

Yung huling talata, verse 11, kung saan sinasabi, “na sa pamamagitan Niya’y tinamo natin ngayon ang pakikipagkasundo.” Ang salitang ito sa Griyego ang salitang “to exchange” o ipinalit. Ipinagpalit natin ang ating kasalanan sa Kanyang katuwiran. ‘Oh what an exchange! What a quid pro quo!’ At dahil dito tayong mananampalataya ay nagagalak sa ating Dios sapagkat sa pamamagitan ng Panginoong Hesu-Kristo natanggap natin ang pakikipagsundo sa Dios! Purihin ang Dios!

SLOTH DULLS THE SENSES

“There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word.”

Heb. 5:11-12 (NLT)

The opening chapters of Hebrews deal with comparing things, the superiority of Jesus over the prophets, over the angels, over Moses. And eventually it talks about the priesthood: the comparison between the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood of Jesus. Along this analogy, Jesus is not of the Levitical line, but He’s of the line of Melchizedek. This is a very, very important Biblical concept especially to the Jews who have a problem about the priesthood of Jesus Christ, because He was not a Levite; He was of the tribe of Judah. It’s a very important Biblical concept that focuses in on the uniqueness and the superiority of Jesus over sacrificial system. Now the author knew, these Jews were going to have a problem with a very deep, and very involved subject like this. So, in chapter 5, verse 11, he stops his argument about Jesus is of the line of Melchizedek. He just stops it, and from verses 11 through 20 of chapter 5 is a giant parenthetical clause about the spiritual dullness of the Jewish Christians, that he’s writing. So, it’s kind of like he just stopped the argument and said, ‘I know you, that it’s going to be hard for you to understand this, but it’s important for you to understand it’. Thus, the need for this parenthesis number. It’s a very stern warning, and I think it’s the sternest warning anywhere in the New Testament, except possibly Matthew 7.

“There is much more we would like to say about this (subject of priesthood), but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen.” – now, the verb tense here is perfect: they have become dull in the past, and the dullness that crept into their spiritual lives now abides as a settled condition. They have gradually become dull, and they have remained spiritually insensitive to the truth. We’re talking here about Jews who have become Christians, but who have not fully made a break with the synagogue. So, they have come to a certain standard, a certain level of Christian maturity, but they have not taken any position that would ‘ruffle the feathers’ of their Jewish friends. The author knew that when he brought up the issue of the ‘Melchizedek priesthood’, there’s going to be trouble, so he’s trying to prepare them for that. Now, the word ‘dull’ here is used for an animal whose limbs, arms, and legs have just gotten numb and unusable. It’s a picture of someone who has grown spiritually insensitive; incapable of understanding because of the prolonged non-use of the faculty. They have become dull in their spiritual senses. Notice in verse 12, “You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.” (cf. 1Co 3:1-2) – now, what he’s saying is, there should be a co-relation between length of time knowing Jesus and maturity. There should be a link. The longer you’re a Christian, the more you read your Bible, the more years you’ve walked with the Lord, you ought to be more mature. So, it’s logical to say, that older Christians should be more mature Christians. However, the author seems to say that longevity and spirituality are not equated. It’s very possible for a very young Christian to be a mature Christian, and a very old Christian to be immature and dull spiritually. Therefore, length of time is not the primary criteria in spiritual maturity. It is an aggressive discipleship and follow-ship of Jesus. And the way He’s saying this is, ‘you’ve been Christians for a long, long time. And by the very length of your being in the faith, you ought to be teachers, but you still have needed someone to teach you after all these years”. It’s rather a poignant rebuke to these people, like slapping them in the face to wake them up. It seems like he’s saying, ‘you have to go back to kindergarten because you’ve failed kindergarten over and over, and you’re still in kindergarten, and someone’s got to teach you repeatedly about the ABCs of your faith, and unless you learn, it’s going to be hard for you to understand something here about the Melchizedek priesthood of Christ’.

I believe two-thirds of the Church of Jesus Christ today are baby Christians. And they come to church sucking from their feeding bottles. And they come Sunday after Sunday, and they’re content with that milk, and that’s all they want to drink, and all they want to deal is those ABCs and nothing more. That’s a tragedy, the Church of Jesus Christ for the most part, is an infant crawling around a sinful world, inept and ill-equipped to deal with the spiritual problems the world offers. That’s a tragedy! The author says, ‘you still need milk instead of solid food”. They have teeth now. They can eat meat. Their stomachs are ready, but they will not take it. It’s available, but they will not take it. And that’s the dismal spiritual picture of too many people in our churches today.

“ABIDING IN JESUS” – PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”

John 15:4 (NASB 1995)

Some Christians have not realized in their lives all that God wants them to be, that somehow, they have compromised themselves with their own culture, and consequently, left the faith. I am sincerely concerned about these believers. But this text screams to me of the radicalness of the call of Christ, and carnality and periphery are no part of this call. Some denominational groups have so emphasized the ‘assurance’, that they have ignored ‘perseverance’. They have put so much hope in an initial salvation experience, that they have forgotten the Biblical thrust that salvation is primarily, daily Christlikeness. It’s not some religious ritual, no matter how meaningful that ritual may be somewhere in the past. “Abide in Me, and I in you…” – it’s an awesome thing. You know, John’s literary style is like he’s weaving a tapestry; it’s like a mosaic put together – the themes are woven together. Verse 1 of John chapter 15 is one of the great ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus. He’s made a lot of them. These ‘I Am’ statements seem to go back to chapter 4 verse 26, where, in speaking to the woman at the well, He uses the covenant name for God, ‘Yahweh’, and its English translation – ‘I Am’. And if she knew anything about Judaism, she knew that Jesus had unveiled Himself claiming to be deity. These ‘I Am’ verses continue through the chapters of John, and here in 15 verses 1 and 5, Jesus said, “I Am the True Vine”. What is He talking about, claiming to be the ‘True Vine’? You know, there are numerous places in the Old Testament where Israel is identified as the vineyard. As a matter of fact, in the Temple of Jesus’ day, was a huge gold grape vine symbolizing the nation of Israel. Every place in the Old Testament, Israel is identified as a vineyard, or grape vines. It’s a judgment passage, and the one that sticks to my mind the so strongly is Isaiah chapter 5 verses 1 through 7. You might want to look at it. It tells about the story of a man who bought the most expensive kind of hill available; a hill that faced the sun, a hill that was graded just the right way as the water would cascade. He built a guard fence and a guard tower, got all the rocks out, got all the weeds out, built a vat to collect the wine, and bought the most sarek grapes available in his day, planted them in this perfect hillside, sunlit and watered vineyard. He fertilized the plants and set back to wait for the grapes that were surely to come. But instead of the wonderful, sweet grapes of the sarek vine, came the wild stinking grapes of the wild olive branch. And the Prophet says to the people, ‘What shall the vineyard owner do with this hill?’ And the people cried out, ‘he should tear down its walls, and let the animals come in. Don’t water it, don’t prune it’. And the Prophet whirled on them and said, ‘you are the vineyard of the Lord’. ‘I’ve done everything for you’, he said. ‘I’ve sent you my prophets, I’ve given you my word, I’ve done everything for you. And instead of the people of God that you ought to be, you’ve become like disobedient pagans calling Me by My Name’. We see the same trend in the New Testament. And in Mark 12 verses 1 through 10 is the parable of the wicked vine tenants. Again, God is depicted as the owner of a great vineyard, where he buys the best field, and does everything just like Isaiah 5. And then he leases it out to a group of men, and he goes on a vacation, and they are to pay him from the grapes. But they won’t pay him and won’t pay him. And he sent servant after servant, and they beat the servants, and they even killed one servant. And then the landowner said, ‘I know what I’ll do; I’ll send my son, surely they’ll respect my son’. And these wicked tenant farmers said, ‘here comes the heir, if we kill him, the vineyard is ours’. So, they killed the son of the owner. And God’s judgment falls on Israel for that, which obviously is a reference to their rejection of the Messiah. Now the question is, when this text begins to talk about pruning and cleansing, and some branches not bearing fruit and being burned, who in the world is it talking about? Is it talking about Israel? Real possibility it is. The thing about the analogy that hits me so firmly is, these Jewish people, you ask them, they would say, ‘certainly, I’m right with God. I’m a descendant of Abraham, I’m of the tribe…, I’m a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I follow the Mosaic Law, certainly, I’m right with God’. And they were not. Some say, this ‘pruning’ and ‘cleaning’ has a play on the word, here on verse 2. Basically, it’s the word ‘cleanse’, not the word ‘pruned’. You don’t use the word ‘cleanse’ for pruning grape vines. It’s obviously a word play here; He’s not talking about grape vines anymore. Some would say, because of the context, particularly verse 6, that He’s talking about Judas Iscariot. Remember John 1 3:10, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” It’s obviously a word play here, and He’s talking about Judas. It’s a way of encouraging them that only Judas s going to fall away. Earlier in chapter 15, which is the same context, and same discussion, Jesus talking Peter said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you”. Maybe He’s talking to Christians about ‘continuing sin’ in their life (cf. 1 John 1:9). I’m not sure about that, but it’s possible. Or maybe it’s a warning to believers, and it’s scary. You know, I do believe in ‘assurance’, but ‘assurance’ was never meant to be a license for godless living, apathetic living, indifferent living, and lazy living on the part of blood-bought children of God. God’s mercy is meant to cause our lives to overflowing gratitude, and we use it so that we can live godless lives, and hope to get to heaven when we die, because we did some little something, somewhere, sometime.

1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us;” ‘they were in there, but they went out, which really shows they were not of us.’ The Parable of the soils in Matthew 13, talks about seeds that fell on 4 kinds of soil; 3 of them germinated, only one of them bore fruit. And this passage seems to imply that even though those other 2 received the word with joy, that when problems and pressures of this world came, the plant died. That’s scary for us! It looks like that fruit-bearing is the evidence of salvation, and not germination. This text is exactly that same basic metaphor and motive expression, ‘fruit-bearing is the evidence, not profession’. You see, I think we have preached to people, “only believe, only believe, only pray this prayer, only do this little act”, in such a manner that we have neglected the concept of ‘abiding’ in Christ. I am not, in any way, depreciating the initial need of response, but for God’s sake, the need for initial response must be matched with an ongoing response of faith and repentance. It’s hard for me to come to grips with this text, as I’m not exactly sure who it’s talking to. I’m not exactly sure what ‘abiding’ is, but this is a serious text. And it cannot be blown away from our lives easily. It swirls around us in haunting melodies, that somehow, we’ve not just got it yet. What does ‘abiding’ do? You know, the word ‘abide’ is a major word of John. While the word is used 112 times in the whole New Testament, it’s used 40 times in John’s Gospel, and 26 times in John’s letters. He likes this word. He talks about Messiah abiding, he talks about all kinds of things abiding, and now, he comes that we must abide. “I Am the real vine…” – implication, Israel is not the real vine. I think this a strong text on the Church being the spiritual Israel (I am not in any way espousing Replacement theology). If we are spiritual Israel, we have an awesome responsibility of ministry (cf. Eph. 2:12-13; Gal. 3:7).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” – Every cultivator of plants and trees will tell you about the necessity of trimming and pruning so that plants will blossom more, and trees will grow big, and bear more fruit. Of course, this whole idea of pruning and trimming looks like it’s hurting the plant. Oh my, does God do that to His children? Does God prune that we might bear more fruit? Was Jesus perfected by the things that He suffered (Heb. 5:8)? Why are we surprised when fiery ordeals come upon us, as though some strange thing s were happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12)? Those verses tell me that God does prune us, hence, we only enter the kingdom of God through suffering.

THE ABUNDANT LIFE

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10b (NKJV)

John 10:10b (NKJV)

What is the abundant life? What can I realistically expect from God in Christ on a day-to-day basis? How can He impact my life? Not when I die and go to heaven, but how can He impact my life Monday through Sunday, beginning in the morning until I go to bed? In other words, what are the benefits of the Christian life? I have heard this passage preached all my life, and it always frustrates me as it is invariably misinterpreted and taken out of context. They say that if you become a Christian, God will give you everything your heart desires. You’ll have money, prestige, and wealth overflowing. You’ll never have any problem, and you’ll never have any need in your life. If you study the passage carefully, you’ll be surprised that this has absolutely nothing to do with what we normally think abundant life is. The abundant life that Jesus talks about is linked to all His “I Am statements” scattered all around the book of John. ‘’I Am the Bread of Life, I Am the Door, I Am the Good Shepherd, I Am the Light of the world, I am the Resurrection and the life” etcetera are all linked to this one message of John – the Abundant Life is Jesus Himself. What is the abundant life? The Abundant life is not material possessions, it’s not your Mercedes in your garage, it’s not your fat bank accounts. The abundant life is not what we possess; the abundant life is who you know; it’s Jesus. There is nothing that the world can offer that comes anywhere near the overflowing, super abundant life in Jesus. But what can we realistically expect from this abundant life that Jesus gives? Number one is peace: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Peace that passes all understanding, peace that comes from knowing that you have been forgiven by God. Internal peace: peace that only the Prince of peace can provide. Another benefit we can expect from this abundant life is trouble; yes, you heard it, trouble. If you can expect internal peace, you can expect external problems because Jesus Himself promised, “in this world you will have trouble.” Do not wonder because if the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” Frankly, expecting major social, vocational, lifestyle problems aren’t exciting to me. Is it exciting to you? I sure like to talk about super abundant overflowing stuff. But the fact of the matter is, we’re going to have problems because we are Christians. We’re going to face some things that we would not face if we were not Christians. I don’t much like to get kicked in the face, do you? I don’t much like to be put down and personally be rejected, do you? But I submit to you if we bear the name of Christ, we are going to cause ripples wherever we are that’s going to reap persecution in the world. The problem with the church today is, we don’t look enough like Jesus to cause a ripple anywhere. If we are truly His, there ought to be a continuing ripple from our life and witness and we will suffer persecution from this world. But Jesus said, “in this world you will certainly have tribulation but take courage, I have overcome the world (Jn. 16:33). We have an Overcomer on our side. And that means He wasn’t beaten up; that means He wasn’t crucified; it doesn’t mean one of His closest friends didn’t betray Him. It doesn’t mean He had days when He didn’t chide His followers for lack of faith. It simply means He’s an overcomer. Why do we think that abundance is going to be any different from the life of Jesus and His apostles? Why do we think because we are Christians we are going to be insulated from life’s problems? CHRISTIANITY IS LIVING THE LIFE OF CHRIST wherever we physically may be. What can we expect from being a Christian? We can expect peace, and we can expect problems. Those 2 are mutually exclusive and dialectically Biblical. Those are both true. So, what is the abundant life? Let me tell you several things: Primarily, it is salvation in the Person and work of Jesus. Two, It’s a new relationship with God. Three, it’s a new perspective on life; we no longer look at life through the eyes of the world, but through the eyes of faith. And when you finally look at life through the eyes of faith, what a different picture it would be. Abundant life is not health, wealth, (prosperity, good cheer, and lack of problems. Christ doesn’t promise us an extended physical life, nor an increase in material possessions (read 2 Cor. 11:23-27). CHRISTLIKENESS IS WHAT THE ABUNDANT LIFE IS! It’s a new relationship with God, and a new perspective on life. Abundant life is what you are in Christ; not what you possess. Abundant life is a responsibility of service, not a place of privilege.

SALVATION – DAILY CHRISTLIKENESS

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” – John 15:4 (NASB 1995)

John 15:4 (NASB 1995)

Some Christians have not realized in their lives all that God wants them to be, that somehow, they have compromised themselves with their own culture, and consequently, left the faith. I am sincerely concerned about these believers. But this text screams to me of the radicalness of the call of Christ, and carnality and periphery are no part of this call. Some denominational groups have so emphasized the ‘assurance’, that they have ignored ‘perseverance’. They have put so much hope in an initial salvation experience, that they have forgotten the Biblical thrust that salvation is primarily, daily Christlikeness. It’s not some religious ritual, no matter how meaningful that ritual may be somewhere in the past. “Abide in Me, and I in you…” – it’s an awesome thing. You know, John’s literary style is like he’s weaving a tapestry; it’s like a mosaic put together – the themes are woven together. Verse 1 of John chapter 15 is one of the great ‘I Am’ statements of Jesus. He’s made a lot of them. These ‘I Am’ statements seem to go back to chapter 4 verse 26, where, in speaking to the woman at the well, He uses the covenant name for God, ‘Yahweh’, and its English translation – ‘I Am’. And if she knew anything about Judaism, she knew that Jesus had unveiled Himself claiming to be deity. These ‘I Am’ verses continue through the chapters of John, and here in 15 verses 1 and 5, Jesus said, “I Am the True Vine”. What is He talking about, claiming to be the ‘True Vine’? You know, there are numerous places in the Old Testament where Israel is identified as the vineyard. As a matter of fact, in the Temple of Jesus’ day, was a huge gold grape vine symbolizing the nation of Israel. Every place in the Old Testament, Israel is identified as a vineyard, or grape vines. It’s a judgment passage, and the one that sticks to my mind the so strongly is Isaiah chapter 5 verses 1 through 7. You might want to look at it. It tells about the story of a man who bought the most expensive kind of hill available; a hill that faced the sun, a hill that was graded just the right way as the water would cascade. He built a guard fence and a guard tower, got all the rocks out, got all the weeds out, built a vat to collect the wine, and bought the most ‘sarek’ grapes available in his day, planted them in this perfect hillside, sunlit and watered vineyard. He fertilized the plants and set back to wait for the grapes that were surely to come. But instead of the wonderful, sweet grapes of the sarek vine, came the wild stinking grapes of the wild olive branch. And the Prophet says to the people, ‘What shall the vineyard owner do with this hill?’ And the people cried out, ‘he should tear down its walls, and let the animals come in. Don’t water it, don’t prune it’. And the Prophet whirled on them and said, ‘you are the vineyard of the Lord’. ‘I’ve done everything for you’, he said. ‘I’ve sent you my prophets, I’ve given you my word, I’ve done everything for you. And instead of the people of God that you ought to be, you’ve become like disobedient pagans calling Me by My Name’. We see the same trend in the New Testament. And in Mark 12 verses 1 through 10 is the parable of the wicked vine tenants. Again, God is depicted as the owner of a great vineyard, where he buys the best field, and does everything just like Isaiah 5. And then he leases it out to a group of men, and he goes on a vacation, and they are to pay him from the grapes. But they won’t pay him, and won’t pay him. And he sent servant after servant, and they beat the servants, and they even killed one servant. And then the landowner said, ‘I know what I’ll do; I’ll send my son, surely they’ll respect my son’. And these wicked tenant farmers said, ‘here comes the heir, if we kill him, the vineyard is ours’. So, they killed the son of the owner. And God’s judgment falls on Israel for that, which obviously is a reference to their rejection of the Messiah. Now the question is, when this text begins to talk about pruning and cleansing, and some branches not bearing fruit and being burned, who in the world is it talking about? Is it talking about Israel? Real possibility it is. The thing about the analogy that hits me so firmly is, these Jewish people, you ask them, they would say, ‘certainly, I’m right with God. I’m a descendant of Abraham, I’m of the tribe…, I’m a Hebrew of the Hebrews. I follow the Mosaic Law, certainly, I’m right with God’. And they were not. Some say, this ‘pruning’ and ‘cleaning’ has a play on the word, here on verse 2. Basically, it’s the word ‘cleanse’, not the word ‘pruned’. You don’t use the word ‘cleanse’ for pruning grape vines. It’s obviously a word play here; He’s not talking about grape vines anymore. Some would say, because of the context, particularly verse 6, that He’s talking about Judas Iscariot. Remember John 1 3:10, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” It’s obviously a word play here, and He’s talking about Judas. It’s a way of encouraging them that only Judas s going to fall away. Earlier in chapter 15, which is the same context, and same discussion, Jesus talking Peter said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you”. Maybe He’s talking to Christians about ‘continuing sin’ in their life (cf. 1 John 1:9). I’m not sure about that, but it’s possible. Or maybe it’s a warning to believers, and it’s really scary. You know, I do believe in ‘assurance’, but ‘assurance’ was never meant to be a license for godless living, apathetic living, indifferent living, and lazy living on the part of blood-bought children of God. God’s mercy is meant to cause our lives to overflowing gratitude, and we use it so that we can live godless lives, and hope to get to heaven when we die, because we did some little something, somewhere, sometime.

1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us;” ‘they were in there, but they went out, which really shows they were not of us’. The Parable of the soils in Matthew 13, talks about seeds that fell on 4 kinds of soil; 3 of them germinated, only one of them bore fruit. And this passage seems to imply that even though those other 2 received the word with joy, that when problems and pressures of this world came, the plant died. That’s scary for us! It looks like that fruit-bearing is the evidence of salvation, and not germination. This text is exactly that same basic metaphor and motive expression, ‘fruit-bearing is the evidence, not profession’. You see, I think we have preached to people, “only believe, only believe, only pray this prayer, only do this little act”, in such a manner that we have neglected the concept of ‘abiding’ in Christ. I am not, in any way, depreciating the initial need of response, but for God’s sake, the need for initial response must be matched with an ongoing response of faith and repentance. It’s hard for me to come to grips with this text, as I’m not exactly sure who it’s talking to. I’m not exactly sure what ‘abiding’ is, but this is a serious text. And it cannot be blown away from our lives easily. It swirls around us in haunting melodies, that somehow, we’ve not just got it yet. What does ‘abiding’ do? You know, the word ‘abide’ is a major word of John. While the word is used 112 times in the whole New Testament, it’s used 40 times in John’s Gospel, and 26 times in John’s letters. He likes this word. He talks about Messiah abiding, he talks about all kinds of things abiding, and now, he comes that we must abide. “I Am the real vine…” – implication, Israel is not the real vine. I think this a strong text on the Church being the spiritual Israel (I am not in any way espousing Replacement theology). If we are spiritual Israel, we have an awesome responsibility of ministry (cf. Eph. 2:12-13; Gal. 3:7).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” – Every cultivator of plants and trees will tell you about the necessity of trimming and pruning so that plants will blossom more, and trees will grow big, and bear more fruit. Of course, this whole idea of pruning and trimming looks like it’s hurting the plant. Oh my, does God do that to His children? Does God prune that we might bear more fruit? Was Jesus perfected by the things that He suffered (Heb. 5:8)? Why are we surprised when fiery ordeals come upon us, as though some strange thing s were happening to us (1 Pet. 4:12)? Those verses tell me that God does prune us, hence, we only enter the kingdom of God through suffering.

#christlikeness

WE ARE IN A BATTLE TO BE DIFFERENT

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;…”

1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)

What grabs me as I study the New Testament is this recurrent theme of ‘submission’. I want you to know that I’m not drawn to the word ‘submit’, because that is diametrically opposite of everything in my cultural upbringing. Our culture has sharpened our physical appetite for self. We had been trained from the crib to do our own thing; to do it well, to compete in doing it, and to do it for material rewards. We had been trained and geared socially to strive for possessions; to look for one’s self-actualization in the abundance of what one owned. That’s the craze of young people, and that’s exactly the opposite of the Bible’s message. The Bible talks about submission and the purpose of submission: For we “have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps,” (i.e. 1 Pet. 2:21). What purpose is Peter talking about? Well, it’s got to relate back to verse 18, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect,…”. It even goes back to verse 13 where it says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” because we are aliens and strangers in this world, and this world is not our home. But the tragedy of the modern church is, we’re trying to drive down tent pegs into the soil of a foreign land, and we wonder why we’re so unhappy and all that. We’re trying to build houses on sand, and find meaning in it. It was never God’s purpose for us to focus in this world; focus in on this life, focus in on me and mine. But really it goes back earlier than this. It goes back to the call of God on Israel, when He “brought them out of Egypt on eagle’s wings”, because Israel is a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (cf. Exodus 19:6). God was well-pleased to do something to His people, so radical, so different, so other-worldly, so supernatural, so holy, that when the world sees it, it will be drawn to God. That was the purpose of Israel, but she failed miserably. Theologically, what it’s saying to us is that we (New Testament Church) are the ‘called out’, chosen, gifted, equipped people of God, and we’re using the exact same words that were used for Old Testament Israel. But God didn’t give up on that purpose, He sent One Israelite To fulfill the purpose of bringing the whole world to Himself. Then He began to change His people (church); changed them so radically, so differently, that all the world would see the Gospel lived out in their lives, and thereby be changed. And so the purpose of submission is a wholly changed, godly, Christlike people; to be a kingdom of priests to bring all the world to God. So the Apostle Peter urges us, “…as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation”. Our problem is, we do not see ourselves as aliens and strangers. Our problem is, we feel so ‘at home with this world. We focus on all things that would satisfy our lusts. We are molded into the shape of the society in which we were born, instead of into the family in which we were reborn. The Bible says there’s a war going on in our bodies (cf. Romans 7:24-25), and we don’t even know there’s a war going on. We just think we’re psychologically depraved, not quite educated enough, or we just had some maladies, or our genes are somehow off. True, and the Bible calls it sin. The truth of the matter is that we are really in a battle to be different. We are in a battle to be the ‘called-out’, unique kind of people whose whole world view has been changed whose focus is no longer on himself, but because of Christ, the focus is now on others – to attract them to God through the Gospel lived out in our lives.

INERRANT OR INFALLIBLE?

Does the Bible being ‘inspired’ mean that every account of a situation like the account of the blind man in Mark 10:46-52 (cf. Luke 18:35-43) getting healed is the same? Well, if your definition of ‘inspiration’ includes word by word agreement, you’re in a bad light when you read Matthew’s account (Matt. 20:29-34). Matthew had two blind men while Mark and Luke had one blind man. Also, if you will notice Mark and Luke have the idea of “…when they came to Jericho,” or “…approaching Jericho” while “…when they were going out of Jericho” is what Matthew has. Now is it one or two? “Coming into Jericho” or “Going out of Jericho? I think we have to deal with this question. If one of them recorded this account in an inappropriate manner, does that mean the Bible has errors?

A group from the conservative school of Princeton led by B.B. Warfield has emphasized on what they call the inerrancy of the Bible; in other words, they have majored on the fact that every word is ‘inspired’, and every word is chosen by God, and that the essence of inspiration is in the words and in the form. However, that is not the position of historical Christianity. Christianity beginning with the early church fathers has not used the word ‘inerrant’, rather it has used the word ‘infallible’, and it has not focused on the form. It has focused on the content. You say, it’s just a semantical difference. But it is all the difference in the world if you’re going to say that every word is inspired by God, and every word was chosen by the Spirit. I think the validity of the Word of God is proved by the fact these men (Matthew, Mark and Luke) are recording every remembrance of this event to the best of their ability, and they don’t feel threatened by saying, “Let’s make everything mechanically fit. No, they’re not worried about that. It seems that the characteristic of Matthew’s Gospel is to see a wider group of people, and the characteristic of Mark’s Gospel is to pinpoint in on the reaction and on the details of one particular individual in this account.

Well again, does that make one wrong and one right in this seeming incoherence in one and the same event? I don’t think those are appropriate terms to describe the Bible. We tend to be so literalistic that we force the Bible into a mold. I feel much more comfortable saying that the message of the Bible is completely Spirit-filled and completely infallible than saying that every word is inerrant, and majority of Christendom uses the word ‘infallible’ and not the word ‘inerrant’. We must remember when you’re dealing with people’s remembrances and recording them up years later, we’re not talking about right and wrong; we’re talking about Spirit-directed remembrance, and I think the trustworthiness of the Bible is not compromised on the differentness of eyewitness accounts. What is crucial is not so much in the Bible’s mechanical unity as it is in its Spirit-directed message. [Compare also Matthew’s account of Jesus healing two Gadarene Demoniacs (Matthew 8:28) with Mark’s of the same event in Mark 5]