If you live after the flesh, you shall die

Living in this very sexualized society today in America, or any big city, men facing worldly lustful temptations is very real. No one is exempt from this. We are continually bombarded by the sensual media of the world in the media. It’s a well-known fact that Christians struggle with purity in this world, and porn has been a real destructive force among millions of men and a lot of Christians are not spared. A very good book to read is “Mortifying Sins”- by John Owens.

One day I felt stirred in my heart to read this famous book by John Owens, and I started reading it, and as I was reading chapter one, he quoted this verse in Romans 8.

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Romans 8 KJV

I was hit by this verse that says it as it is, so in your face kind of tone “If you live according to the flesh, you will die”. There is no negotiation. No reasoning. No further explanations. It just hits me in my head. I was alarmed by it, and thought to myself, I don’t want to die. Therefore I should not live after the flesh.

You know how as Christians we often play with such words. It’s like negotiating with God’s word. It’s like we don’t take God’s word seriously. We love the verses of God for blessings, but we take it with a grain of salt for those verses with warnings. And the reason we don’t take them seriously enough is that it doesn’t hit us in the heads, so to speak. It’s kind of head knowledge. Actually you can apply that to verses of promises too. So the key is to let it hit you on the heads.

I can describe my own experience. A sense of fear, Godly fear, dawned upon me, after I read that verse in Owens’ book. I immediately paused and meditated over that verse. It really sank it in. So when I face temptations, I recall that verse, it hits me again. It’s like the Spirit of God brings it alive. This makes me appreciate more what the Holy Spirit is working with the bible.

12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4)

That’s the word of God. Sharper than a double-edged sword! It’s cutting. It divides soul and spirit. What happen is a lot of times, the word of God is blunted by our soul, spirit, and also the circumstances around us. It take us to calm down and spend time meditating through the logos to become rhema, quickened word of God. But that still doesn’t cut it sometimes, it is those special moments God really wants to communicate something to us. Its precious, and you won’t forget it. The thing is this, the more you spend time meditating and praying through God’s words, the more you will be getting revelation. This should motivate us pray more. Lets take a look at these verses:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12)

That “renewal of the mind” is the key. How does that happen? Mind can only be renewed when we read the bible verses, meditating upon them, and prayerfully letting Holy Spirit convict us, touch us. Its just like what I described earlier experientially how I felt hit in my head when I read that “living by the flesh, you will die.” That’s renewing happening right away. And that happened to me when I was actually reading a renown author’s book “Mortifying your sins” by John Owen who quoted Romans 1 on this. God can do it in a thousand ways, and He is sovereign. What we should be concerned is that we need to seek the Lord in reading books, bible & prayer.

We all need a special revelation of the Lord like weekly.

The Sacredness of Life

I am wonderfully and fearfully made in my mother’s womb. I began to reflect upon this one time when I was jogging to catch my early morning shuttle bus last week, and my foot got caught on an uneven road surface, and I stumbled and almost fell. My reflex action, a built in mechanism that God has endowed to all of us, kicked into action and stabilized my body after a brief fumble. At that moment, it dawned on me how wonderfully I am made by God and that verse came into my mind. Then it hit me there is another portion of that verse that’s hardly caught by me, and that’s ‘fearfully’ made.

13    For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139)

I want to talk about the verse that says we are “fearfully” made by God. I think we are wonderfully made, of course, just look at the complexity of our bodies, the muscles, tendons, blood vessels, the heart that’s constantly pumping, the kidney that’s constantly filtering, the liver that filters our blood to cleanse our blood, and the intestines as long as a football field. All these are too amazing for my mind to comprehend, and we have breath & spirit and emotion & feelings. Who and how is all these put together that’s called my body? I am just amazed. To say it’s wonderful doesn’t do the job; it has to also include the second portion that says we are “fearfully” made by God.

I totally get it. We are fearfully made by God. It’s a holy fear. I tremble and being amazed in awe at the amazing complex functionality and organism’s balance in the most amazing way that modern robot and artificial intelligence can only gaze from a distance. It’s fearful. It’s awesome.

Ephesians 1:4 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

That is another mind boggling thing. God chose us before the foundation of the world. That’s before Genesis 1. God had already chosen us to be holy before him. That’s sacred. Our life was not created randomly. But it was purposeful to be holy and sacred even before God created this world! Think about that! That’s how much God had thoughts about us. He loved us even before the world was created. It’s like David who said it’s just too wonderful for my thought.

If we only catch a glimpse of the awesomeness and fearfulness of our bodies creation by the Almighty God, we would start to appreciate life more, and more thankful to God and families. Mre awed by God. It’s an incredible feat that God put us all together in this world. The silent heart pumping away, the silent liver filtering away, the silent kidney filtering it away, we have taken all these sacred acts of God for granted. There needs to be an awakening to such appreciation of the beauty and wonder of the creation of God, that Genesis 1 must come alive again and again.

Genesis 1: then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

That verse that says, “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” is sacred to me. That’s sacredness, holiness, glory & power of God. God breathed into Adam the breath of life. God didn’t breathe into Adam hot air, or cool air, but breath of LIFE. His personal breath. I love that our God is a personal God. He breathed into us. That’s personal. Which idol or god you have heard that their god breathed into their nostrils. Its almost too intimate. Our life came from the breath of God, and we are now the descendants of Adam & Eve. Its very important for me that the God that I love & follow is a personal God. Not a cosmic force somewhere, but one who feels with me & for me.

There is a lot of implications. First we should treasure life. All that we have comes from God. We may not have a lot, but a sense of thankfulness must fill our hearts every day. Whenever we lose sight of that, it’s time to remind ourselves of how wonderfully and fearfully made by God. The whole concept of identity has to come from the very hands that knitted us together. No one else can give us the identity. Not the culture, not the inner desire of our hearts, which often are deceitful.

Life begins at conception. Gender begins at conception. Our identity begins at conception. God’s hands knitted us in our mothers’ wombs. Wonderfully & fearfully made. We cannot question the wonderfulness and fearfulness of how God created us. There is no way for us to point our fingers back to God and say hey God you made a mistake. Our naturally born gender is determined by God. Do not change that or challenge that. We are not the creator; we are the creation.

Until we recognized the hands that knitted us in our mothers’ wombs are the same hands that were nailed to the cross, we will never experience the joy of true freedom & liberty through the redemption of God. And unless we are redeemed, we will always remain a creation of God that has never known our maker.

Modernism criticism of the real Jesus & historical Jesus

What is it & why do we need to understand it

Modern Criticism of 19th century basically centered in Germany the Gospel has, in my understanding, perpetuated the modern critical interpretation by the liberalism thinkers of today. Some of the tangible effects today are like liberal Christians love the kindness and compassion of Christ but reject his resurrection and virgin birth and even the historicity of Christ!

Most average church goer Christian would probably respond so what? It hardly affects my life. But the reality is, it has affected millions of people especially the millennial generation with this being taught in colleges, being the liberalism colored lens. If we want to reach out to the educated mass today, we must understand better the liberalism Modern Criticism of the Gospel.

This is very problematic because essentially, they the liberals refuse to back down from being called a Christian, while rejecting the miraculous and the virgin birth f Christ and the resurrection of Christ, because they are amazed with the person Jesus Christ, and loving his virtuous deed and teachings, like the sermon on the Mount, the good Samaritan, stop being judgmental, feeding the poor, kind and compassionate, indeed Jesus is a par excellence moral character to them, but alas, nothing divine. And why? Because in their mind, this doesn’t fit into or congenial to their scientific minds and worldview! So they actually dissected the gospel and divided as they wish to try to “fit” into the science driven worldview.

A famous liberalism thinker scholar in Germany called Rudolf Bultmann in the 19th century has impacted much modern liberalism. Robert Strimple wrote:             While he actually summarized the theology of the New Testament that is set in that mythical cosmological framework:

            The aeon is held in bondage by Satan, sin, and death and hastens to its end. That end will come very  soon, and will take…a cosmic catastrophe. The Judge will come from heaven, the dead will rise…”In the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son, a pre-existent divine Being, who appears on earth as a  man. He dies the death of a sinner on the cross and makes atonement for the sins of men…. The risen           Christ is exalted to the right hand of God in heaven and made “Lord” and “King”. He will come  again on the clouds of heaven to complete the work of redemption, and the resurrection and judgment of  men will follow.”[1]

This all fit into the biblical gospel very well, and we rejoice. But no! But Bultmannn insisted, it is impossible for any modern person to receive in such a message: “Man’s knowledge and master of their world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New testament view of the world-in fact there is no one who does. [2]

What catches my attention is this line: “The mythical eschatology is untenable for the simple reason that the Parousia of Christ never took place as the New Testament expected. History did not come to an end,…it will continue to run its course.” This is a wrong exegesis statement from Bultmann and it has such huge significance, because that is the breaking point for him to turn away from true Christianity sadly. For a brilliant mind to land in such dark philosophical thinking, is very grieving as he and a lot of other liberalism scholars impacted the books and syllabus we read in colleges today and for the past centuries. Why blame it on the return of Christ (parousia) not happened yet? And that caused Bultmannn to conclude the mystical eschatology as untenable?? That means the supernatural miraculous, and the final judgment. So sad. Maybe he should have exegete the timing of the parousia, like a day is a thousand years to the Lord, and a 1000 years like a day.

He tried so hard to reconcile the mythical side of the bible to the reality of science of his days. He even tried to call to delete the mythological (supernatural for us) in the New Testament as “husk”, so that the “kernel” of truth might remain (as Harnack had suggested)? But he said that one couldn’t delete the husk because the truth (kernel) is actually embedded in the so-called husk. Therefor his conclusion is not to delete the mythological elements of the NT, but to transform that kerygma into the conceptual framework with which modern people operate. You see the attempts of these philosophers go deep. In my view these folks have just put science onto a pedestal that’s idolatry. Ironically, science can’t explain conclusively the black hole and tons of stuff including the evolution in our 21st century, let alone their 19th century.

So Bultmannn went ahead and reconstructed the whole Gospels, calling it to decontextlaization and recontextualization. Bultmannn teaches that we must understand the Gospel mythology, not cosmologically but anthropologically, or more specifically, existentially.

Christian’s response

The biggest problem is the definition of human nature, Being. Their problem can be summarized in Boltzmann’s question: “Must we understand it as the cross of Jesus as a figure of past history? Must we go back to the Jesus of history?”

Strimple writes: Christ’s death and resurrection saved all who believed in him because Jesus is God’s Son, whom he appointed as heir of all things, and through whom God made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb 1:2-3) This is the one whom the angels worship (1:6) and who is addressed as “God” (1:8), but “who was made a little lower than the angels…so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone, “ and who “ is not ashamed to call” those whom he makes holy “brothers” and who “shared in their humanity”. (2:9,11,14) In other words, the significance of his work is grounded in the significance of this person as the God-man. [3]

The question that confronts us today is that whether we are willing to understand ourselves as one crucified and risen with Christ.

[1] Strimple, Robert   The Modern Search for the Real Jesus    P&R Publishing 1995, New Jersey  p120

[2] ditto

[3] ditto

Theistic Evolution

John Piper has a very good teaching on this very important subject albeit very challenging as we pit Bible Vs science ie. evolution as necessitated by the argument from our scientific driven society that was started in the Enlightenment age in the 19th century. A lot of Christians are not even bothered about this subject, and ask why? Pastors rarely touched on it too, but the liberals including the liberal Christians and scholars have a swinging time knocking down our creation narrative, and replacing it with evolution with books and talks. To me, this is very troubling and disturbing, and definitely needs to be examined and taught well so our folks in churches will respond well to the outside world, especially with our kids in schools facing evolution syllabus and books.

Tim Keller in a talk in TGC that scientists had concluded humans cannot be all from a single set of parents, ie Adam & Eve genetically. They are supposed to be from a group of homosapiens in the sub-Sahara desert in Africa. Now my question is, genetically where do these group of “early fathers” in Africa come from? The early group of humans in Africa can’t be direct creation from God or evolution from Garden of Eden?

Piper has taught that theoretically it is possible that God used evolution to create the mankind and animals called Theistic Evolution. Exegetically, you can’t reconcile that to the death of one man, brought death to the one man, etc. To believe in the historical Adam, it’s impossible to believe in Theistic Evolution. Hermeneutically, with the historical Adam & Eve, and that God breathed into the first man’s nostrils to give him life, this doesn’t compute with the billions of years to develop mankind. Looking at the spider coming out of the pond, with its ability to make web for its offspring, the question is such intricacy & complexity ability, where do they come from? Theistic evolution is a no go.

Just because Galileo made a mistake claiming from the bible that the earth is flat, does not mean science has triumphed over the bible. I would say Galileo made an exegetical mistake. Sola Scriptura.

Pentecostalism is an antidote to the Desupernaturalism of Christ or Gospel historical Criticism

Al Ngu, New York                                          June 23, 2019

The historical criticism or gospel criticism started in the mid eighteenth century started by philosophers like Immanuel Kant and his cohort propelled the teaching that all supernatural acts and deeds of Christ are to be removed from the Bible because if you can’t explain it by rationalism and science, it cannot be true. They purported that the present must explain the past. If you don’t see it in present days, it couldn’t have happened in the past. 
I feel like these scholars need a plague of Egypt to wake them up. First of all, the entire Christianity anchors upon the supernatural works of Jesus. To take away the supernatural, you might as well join a Boy Scout or Red Cross or Soup Kitchen. 

There is a real sense of frustration among the Pentecostals that evangelicals would even spend time to deal with those what we call as unbelief. Those folks pushing denial of the miracles of Christ simply are not Christians. In the scholastic world we are engaging their minds because we will have to answer the atheist worlds challenge about the identity of Christianity . The reason now I know is as follow:

            Robert Strimple wrote: The so-called quest of the historical Jesus has seemed to grip the imagination of modern men and women the way it has. The modern, post-Enlightenment readers of the Gospels have not been willing to accept and follow the supernatural Jesus presented there. They found that the religious role for Jesus as written is uncongenial to their naturalistic mind-   set, and yet they find it hard to cut off all religious relationship with Jesus. Therefore they seek to find one, compatible with their unbiblical worldview.[1]

I find this astonishing that they rejected the miraculous Jesus which is the core of the very divine being of the Son of God incarnated into this world, and yet wanted to cling on to the same Jesus in some way and fashion. They really wanted their naturalistic mind to triumph over the super naturalistic legend Jesus. You see the naturalistic doesn’t go well with supernatural. That’s precisely the point. They wanted to convert or relabel Jesus to be naturalistic. Like the modern liberals wanted to relabel marriage, sexuality and the power is in the tongue they said. This is the potent weapon of the devil, from the Pentecostal background, my perception of this, is nothing less than spiritual warfare. It is nothing short of the highest warfare in the intellect. You see casting out demons may be dramatic & spooky & compelling, but that’s nothing compares with the relabeling of Jesus, the Son of God, by way of their intellect & writing books. That is far more powerful and darker as it affects a generation and more!

Interestingly this unbelief of the supernatural of Christ in some ways echo’s or mirrors the unbelief of the reformed teaching that embraces the cessationist view which is the supernatural gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing etc. have all ceased because they were to be used in the apostolic time only. Essentially the gospel criticism group merely extends the cessation backward to Jesus himself, claiming that the miracles of Christ never happened on the first place. 

And to argue against them in stuff like the historical Adam and Eve, we could just invite them to a Pentecostal meeting where supernatural healings happen, where prophecy happens, and where the palpable presence of the transcendent God is felt. The experiential aspect of the supernatural trumps any theological debate in a way that theology teaching has not known. This is what is called living my theology. You get what you believe. What one learns in the mind and what one learns in the heart and senses is vastly different and the latter is more compelling. Having said that, however, the supernatural can only go so far and indeed the teaching of the kingdom and the gospel must go for the long haul like how Jesus did it himself. Like how Paul and Peter did it in the epistles. The teaching of the kingdom of God and the gospel respectively.

[1] Robert Strimple   The Modern Search for the Real Jesus   p 10-11 P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ

Gospel being challenged in 21 Century

This is my reflections from the book “A Continuing Church” by Dr. Sean Lucas, my History Professor in Reformed Theological Seminary, NYC). PCA, a conservative Bible believing section of the original PCUS, was split from PCUS in 1973 after a turbulent sad and mastering display of the progressive minds and theologians over 50 years. In that 50 years plus, it is heartbreaking, as an orthodox conservative believer evangelical myself, to read the evolution and the progress of the liberal progressive movement in PCUS. It is hard to read and the indecision of certain leaders like Nelson Bell who strongly led in advocating and fighting for conservative teaching in PCUS, suddenly pulled out of conservative movement, clearly displays a hypocrisy and coward-ness unheard of for decades. It is due to leaders like these, who turned from hero to traitor, church must stand ready to disavow any supposedly godly conservative church leader who may flip on God in the last minute, and our constant source and only source of strength and hope must be in God and God alone as Calvin has taught in his Institutes.

The story of Presbyterian Church breakup from 1920-1973 is an eye opener and warning and lesson to modern day evangelical Christians today. The first thing that drives the whole narrative and really stands up is the power of progressive thinkers, scholars, in the church. The whole liberal teachings in PCUS started from a professor in the seminary and a few pastors that also echoed the same liking for such teaching, which I would call apostasy. The troubling thing is that it’s always a mixed bag, and it’s not an outright bad apple so to speak, but it’s all mixed with some supposedly good but some eternally bad and stinking doctrines. The whole debate goes to bring the doctrine of “social gospel” to the forefront, overshadowing the gospel of salvation in Christ atoning act on the cross. You see, to a lot of people, inside and outside the church, this may sound rather appealing, because it is about helping the poor, and bringing about the social justice that’s part of the very heart of God. But what they got wrong is the order. Augustine calls it a disordered love, for example. I call this doctrine of the progressive as the “disordered doctrine”. Nothing wrong for social gospel indeed we need that. But what’s wrong with that is it is elevated above the gospel of redemption, which is the most important, and core message of the incarnation of the Son of God into the world. It must be the redemption first, and the outworking of that redemption off shooting into social justice, visit the prisons, helping the widows, and orphans as Christ himself has taught too.

This progressive teaching of PCUS in 1920 has eerie resemblance of what the liberal progressive churches in America are teaching today. They affirm and emphasize more on social gospel over and above the redemption story of Christ. Now what’s more apostasy is the PCUS progressive professors, pastors, synods, presbytery also went to deny the virgin birth of Christ! That on its own should be dispelled and excommunicated from church as instructed by our dear beloved apostle Paul in Gal 1:  “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel……As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” PCUS professors and pastors were clearly teaching and writing deviant teaching from the original gospel in the Bible, and strictly, they should have been brought under discipline and if continuing despite rebuke, should be ex-communicated. Although the PCUS conservative leadership did not expel the liberals, they in actual fact did not have the power to do so; in fact they were simply overwhelmed. It should be noted at the speed of the spreading of the liberal theology within PCUS within a few years from 1920, and that’s frightening how fast false teaching can spread. And it’s no different from today’s. If our churches are not soaked in orthodox teaching rooted in the orthodoxy inerrant word of God and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we will face being wiped out in the future. Inerrancy of Scripture holds the key to everything in the story of PCUS. It is indeed the story for all of us evangelicals who love our Lord Jesus Christ. The troubling source of these entire progressive started with the seminary in PCUS, and the key to saturate the minds of the presbytery is through teaching, preaching and writing. In the case of PCUS, it was through the journals publication, and the seminaries, the liberal prof began to fill the minds of the presbyteries with the social gospel message that he was driving in seminaries too.

The heroic part of the story is the brave emergence of conservative leaders who had the conviction of the inerrancy of Scripture well grounded into them, rose up in unity to begin to fight the liberal progressives. They were the hero’s of the story. They went through many trials, disappointments year after year, being simply overwhelmed by the power and voice of the liberals. But they didn’t give up, even some of their own leaders called it quit when they were about to enter the Promised Land. It was through a lot of heart sharing and prayer; they formed their new church in 1973 in their First General Assembly.

Conclusion: What’s not really mentioned in the book, and I will add is the factor of spiritual warfare. I can attest to the most potent weapons of the devil against the church of Jesus Christ, is the wave of progressive liberal theology in denying the deity of Christ, and disputing the inerrancy of Scripture. These two alone can destroy any church in the future. I believe that’s the most powerful weapon of the forces of darkness today, and evangelicals today, must take note of that, and begin to rise as one man in Christ, and be like the what Jesus says, the Kingdom of God is advancing, and strong men shall take it by force. Not taking it by weeping, but rising with courage and conviction and the unction and anointing of the Holy Spirit to take this land.

My reflection on History I from Seminary

I think going through Ancient and Medieval church History has impacted my life in a way that is unprecedented. I love the ancient church history the most, going through the lives of Augustine, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Aquinas, the Councils creed like Nicene creed, Ephesians Creed, Chaldecan’s creed, etc. and how they were martyred for the Name of Christ in early churches are just too powerful and inspiring to me. It’s a real eye opener for me to see all the work and thinking on theology that has gone in in the early church because of necessity like false teachings Arianism, Gnosticism, the dual nature of the divinity/humanity of Christ, the trinity of the Godhead which are all so fundamental to our faith that we have taken for granted. I for one, have not plodded deep into Trinity, the homoousia and the homoiousia, the same or similar substance between Christ and the Father has just blown me away. I confess that I have always believed in Trinity but never known such intricacy thereof. I love the fact that Augustine said we need a God-Man to save the human race, as human savior must be a savior, and yet we can’t find a perfect human on earth to save us. But God came up with an amazing idea that is He sends his own Son Jesus Christ to incarnate into our human world by taking up the dual nature of God-Man, which is simply the most amazing mysterious breakthrough of human history. For the creator of the universe to step into our universe to walk and cry and laugh with us and teach us the gospel and the Father, is beyond any words can describe. Only Jesus is qualified to take up this task to redeem mankind, by living a perfect life we should have lived, and offering up his life as a sacrifice, substitution, for us, is the biggest act of love we have known. I am so thankful for Christ to step into our world to reveal who God is and his affection for us is transforming. Without Christ incarnated into this world, I would have been so lost trying to figure out the God of the OT and any relevance for our modern days. I have always been thankful for that, but after this semester, I am more pumped and closer to my savior who incarnated in my world and saved me. I am so thankful.

Looking at the martyrdom of the early bishops like Justin the Martyr, and the really powerful woman Perpetua and Felicitas is such a daunting challenge and inspiration to me of the extent they sacrificed for the Name of Jesus. I am humbled and grateful.

Looking at the monasteries that sprung up and produced almost all the most formidable thinkers, theologians in the early church is a phenomenal success that I have not known before. They asceticism, and their pursuit of God is really something inspiring and stirring in the material comfort world in our 21st century New York city. What a contrast. I have learnt that material comfort actually brought down the downfall of the monasteries, and indeed a big lesson to be learnt. I love that they chant the psalms –whole book like once a week or so. This has impressed in my heart too that I want to be a more psalm filled Christian and also an awe towards tradition and the council I never had before. I greatly respect the early fathers of their theological understanding when every time they met in a council they voted for the biblical doctrines, kicked out and exiled the false teachers. Such one accord is amazing and such intellectual power of Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, etc. is truly inspiring. I am thankful for this semester on the early church especially.