Why good decent law-abiding non-believers won’t enter heaven?

I am most amazed with what John Calvin wrote about non-Christians who lead virtuous life, kind compassionate, generous, and helping the poor and needy, but not accepting Christ as personal Savior and Lord. He said their accomplishments in the world is considered as garbage in the sight of God because their good deeds were done without a worship unto the Lord who created them on the first place. All this boils down to ‘worship’. Truly without worship, awe and acknowledgement of the Almighty God who birthed you into the world, all the good deeds and virtues in the world will get you nowhere because you have not acknowledged and honored the God who has given you everything including your ability to do good deeds to others.

I am so blessed to better understand why good non-Christians won’t go to heaven. I am struck with that important, in fact, the most important facet of life, is about worship of the living God, not about how good a person you are. In all honesty and truth, it’s not about you, it’s about God. Nothing of the fragile weak fallen broken human and would get you anywhere in the holiness and sight of the transcendent God.

So doing good deeds just as a nice person, law abiding person, good heart on its own, though appealing, is not what will make the difference. What matters is doing good deeds, kind and law abiding as a worship unto the Lord. That’s the difference. You have to first put your faith in Christ as your Savior and Lord and then any good works will be as a result of that as a living sacrifice unto the Lord. Romans 1 explains the emptiness of people who refuse to honor the creator God, no matter how good they are as a person.

Romans 1:20-23 (ESV) 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

We all know that Christians fail God and even society as well. And the fact is it’s even more complicated by the fact that just because a person goes to church, it does not make him to be a real born-again Christian. The doctrine of teaching on ecclesiology is that only the elect will be saved into the Kingdom of God. And the odd thing is not everyone in the church are part of the elect. Theology calls it the visible church and the non-visible church. Non visible church consist of the elect.  Who are the elect?[1]

The invisible church consists of only the elect. The visible church consists of elect + non elect, and you will never really know until the end time. And that’s why, you would so much hypocrisy and some even apostacy in the churches today, because not all of them really belong to Christ.

The main point carrying forward is: Worship.

Good deeds ————(not equal) —-Worship

[1] John Calvin, Of the Eternal Election, Institutes of the Christian Religion Unconditional election (also known as unconditional grace) is a Reformed doctrine relating to predestination that describes the actions and motives of God prior to his creation of the world, when he predestined some people to receive salvation, the elect, and the rest he left to continue in their sins and receive the just punishment, eternal damnation, for their transgressions of God’s law as outlined in the old and new Testaments of the Bible. God made these choices according to his own purposes apart from any conditions or qualities related to those persons.

Psalm 27-King David’s Anchor View towards Life

I was stunned that David, while fleeing from his enemies, and being hunted by the power against him, and in the midst of crying out to God for help, he inserted an anchor verse that explained his meta-thinking of his life philosophy. I can see why the Lord loves David, favors him. Look at v2-3

Psalms 27: 2 When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall.

Evil doers assailed him to eat up his flesh, what a gross graphic of description in David’s words, and its canonized in the Psalms! (Talking about politically correct?)

Then he said that its they (his adversaries) who stumble and fall. I am not sure if this is spoken or written before or after the fact, if before, that shows his confidence in the Lord, or after, his celebration and thanksgiving.

Then v3-gives the theoretical upcoming threats and forces against him. Look at that:

3 Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident.

Where does his confidence come from? It’s a relationship he has with God that’s amazing. He knows his God. He pours out his heart to God. Like Augustine poured out his heart in The Confession book, I say that we need to bare our souls with the Lord every now and then. Read psalms and you will find how David gets it done, and beautifully.

Now, it comes to my key point of this blog. He actually not just asks the Lord to deliver him from his troubles, enemies who wanted to kill him, but above all, he says there is “One thing” that he has asked of the Lord, that he will seek after, that he may well in the house of the Lord all the days of his life.

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.

The house of the Lord is obviously the temple in his days or church gathering today, but he also above all, means the presence of God. He means he wants above all, to dwell in the presence of God, or in more contemporary words, to live in the presence of God.

That’s what I love about David. He is not asking for power, wealth, beautiful women, which he has them all, but above all he asked for the presence of God in his life. Not just in troubles.

What really intrigues me is that fact that, in the midst of all his struggles and faith in the Lord for protecting him and delivering from evil forces, he wants God’s presence. In other words, he loves the Lord and taking a cue from Tim Keller, he doesn’t just wants God’s blessings, but above all he wants the Lord.

That’s what makes David such a man after God’s heart, and how much God was with him in all he does.

The result is always amazing:

5 For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. 6 And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;

Doing what you want for God or doing what God wants you to do for him

As I prayed this morning, I got a sense of this. There is a difference between what you want to do for God and what God’s will for you to do. The problem is I put in what I want to do for God, maybe it’s self ambition , what I want to do, and what makes it spiritual is the words ‘for God’. But if you think about it, God may not want what you desire to do that even though you use it for God. Because that’s only a label, and anyone can do that. But it’s more important for me to humble myself and submit myself to God to do what God wants.

That brings up another problem, so we don’t know what God wants even though I could be dreaming of doing something great for God. How about I start doing nothing, does that please God? Because that will ensure I don’t drift off to my wonderland, trying to fill in what I want to do and asking God to fulfil it. But that doesn’t work either, because being dormant is bad too.

So this is a dilemma. I need to know God’s will first before exploring it? But most of the time we don’t know. All we can do is to pray and have a sense of God’s leading, and then put our heart into it and God will adjust it, or bless it, or reject it, and we will know for sure after a while. If it’s a status quo, we are moving into a mode of waiting, a time of maturing. Like Moses spent 40 years in the wilderness, can someone tell me exactly what he did? Did he continue to dream big for God? He was consumed with a passion to save his people, the Jewish people. Bravo to him, and he was humbled for 40 years in the wilderness looking after sheep in the cold or hot in the wilderness, a pretty lonely job, and also a non glamor job. But God came back to him and this time, it really happened, God called him out of a burning bush to deliver his people Israel out of Egypt. He was frightened, and insisted he can’t do it, he is slow of speech. What the heck? Where is the Moses who was brash, strong, young, even impulsively not able to wait to deliver Israel from the slavery to Pharaoh? He is a completely different man now, after 40 years in waiting. God will deliver in his time, in his way, and what I see here is God completely took out the pride, glamor of the Prince of Egypt and transplanted him to be a humble Jewish shepherd to do the job. Interesting thing is, it’s still the same man. Nothing has changed outside, but the inside of that man has changed drastically. God didn’t give up on Moses. I am not sure what went on on Moses.  But the fact that God came back and called Moses after that 40 years, is astonishing. If you look at the history, God called Abraham out of nowhere. God called David out of nowhere. ELijah, Elisha, Joshua, it goes on. You can only say it’s the sovereign will of God. He calls and equips at his will, and his only.

Conclusion: Our satisfaction in life is to do his calling, and we will know as we are in it. Do not fret, be patient, and follow him and love him with all our hearts, minds, souls. Amen.

What does binding and loosing mean in the Bible?

I think Pentecostal roots have gone too far misusing the term of binding the power of sickness, darkness and so on.

Recently I saw a tweet a below: Do not pray: “We bind this sickness in Jesus’s name!” Instead, pray: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”—Gabriel Hughes

What does Binding & Loosing Mean in the Bible?

1. Keys of binding & loosing given to Peter

Matthew 16:18-19 (ESV) 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

This is what Jesus spoke to Peter after Peter confessed that Jesus is Son of God & the Savior of the world. Then Jesus rewarded him and anointed him with the ‘keys of heaven. So what’s the keys of heaven?

In the context of these verses, and as per commentary: (WBC62Vol) 19 Peter, as the leader of the twelve, is the “rock” upon which the new community will be built. With this commissioning of Peter comes the authority symbolized by his possession of the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” For “kingdom of heaven,” see Comment on 3:2. “Keys” are above all a symbol of authority and, hence, a symbol of power over something. In the context of our passage.

Jesus gave Peter the keys of heaven. What are keys for? To open or to lock up. Jesus us referring to his new kingdom that Jesus has given to ‘you’ which is plural in Greek, meaning Peter and those who confess Jesus like Peter, will be given keys of heaven. What that means simply is that we have to power, or rather delegated power from God, to open door or close door for people to be admitted into the kingdom. Jesus said specifically I will give you keys of the kingdom of heaven. It’s the keys of the kingdom. That means folks like Peter hold that key now. That’s what Jesus means about bonding & loosing.

Peter’s possession of the keys of the kingdom grants him the right to admit or deny admittance into the kingdom, i.e., into the experience of the beginning blessings of eschatological salvation, as the following words confirm. This authority is expressed through the distinctive rabbinic idiom of “binding and loosing” (WBC)

2) Binding & Loosing in the context of ex-communicating unrepentant church members

Matthew 18:17-18 (ESV) 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

This is clearly binding & loosing folks to be part of the membership of the body. Binding & losing in Matt 18:18 must be explained in the context of v17 which is a guy who refused to listen to correctio in church by the leader, and eventually to the church, he will be released from church membership. That’s what Jesus really says. In a sense you bind the guy, he’s out of the communion of the church or body of the church. But if he’s loosed, he’s back right in. That’s what it means,

3) Binding the Strong Man as in Cosmic Warfare

Mark 3 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

This is an interesting passage on binding the strong man. This is definitely a spiritual warfare with the cosmic battle with the devil & his cohorts. In this particular case, we have the Son of God himself casting out demons, and it’s the scribes accusing Jesus as the prince of Beelzebul, which is also demonic, to cast out demons.

(WBC62Vol) Few would question the applicability of this parable to Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom. Many would trace it back to Jesus himself. Clearly the “strong man” (ἰσχυρός) stands for Satan; his “possessions” (σκεύη) represents those possessed; the “binding” (δήσῃ) of the “strong man” takes place in Jesus’ ministry; and the “plundering” (διαρπάσει) bespeaks Jesus’ own exorcisms of those “possessed.”

So its clear what transpired here is definitely a kingdom clash between God’s & the power of darkness. SO how was the strong man, who is referred as Satan himself, bound? Jesus has bound the strong man.

So when was the strong man bound? (WBC62Vol) Best also has taken 3:22-30 in light of the temptation scene but argues that the defeat of Satan in the temptation (1:12-13) represents the “when.” The exorcisms are but the plundering or “making real of a victory already accomplished” at the “very beginning of the ministry of Jesus” (Temptation, 15).

Remember Luke 10 17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. That’s another mark of clear defeat of Satan.

So some commentaries expounded that the plundering of the devil’s house really begun at the defeat of Satan in the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. I would agree that would mark the beginning of that ‘binding’ of the strong man. But that’s a continuing process with ultimate defeat of Satan & the power of death on the cross at Jesus resurrection from the death.


How to bind the strong man?

Consequently, this saying makes clear the ultimate or eschatological character of Jesus’ ministry of exorcism that has accompanied his preaching and teaching (1:21-27, 34; 3:11-12) as being a consequence of Satan’s being “bound” or having “met his end.”

I don’t see how Jesus has asked us to pray binding & loosing in prayers. There is no such indication all the 3 set of verses.

I would support the continual ministry of preaching, teaching of the Holy Scriptures that brings healing, restoration of souls in church ministry. In such way, we continue to bind the strong man & loose souls to the kingdom of God.

When & how does scripture become real to us? & God becomes beautiful?

Psalms 18:35-37 (ESV) 35 You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. 36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip.37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.

When you go through some pressure, and even hardship, trial, these kind of verses pops up really strong and real. I was going through some stuff I had to do and I missed something and feeling under, and I started reading my devotional psalms this morning. These verses are right in front of me and they mean much deeper to me now. I must have read many times before, and time like this, it just becomes much more meaningful & personal like God speaking to me.

The Lord’s given me the shield of my salvation! And his right hand supported me. A fresh breath of breeze just breezed through me. So refreshing.

Then it says ‘your gentleness made me great’, that is just so specific. How many of you know that when you face harsh jabs in life, this speaks of the God who is bigger than our problems, and much gentler than the forces against you, you feel like God has spoken to you again!

I really treasure it when God speaks to me through his scriptures, that you can know for sure, because it’s from the word of God, and you feel heat in your heart however way you may feel. That’s what I long for. Psalmist says in the morning I long for thee.

Psalm 63 1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 

Now let me turn into a theological question. When and how do you hear from God?

In the experience I had above, it’s when we go through some pressure, trials, fire, storms in life. God becomes more beautiful, if we hang into his power, refuge, shield, in ways that we may never have seen before. It’s the situation or circumstances around us that can bring out the beauty and majesty of God in our lives. If we sail through life easily without challenges hardship, we may miss the whole experience of God.

David wrote the most beautiful and prolific anointed psalms when he’s escaping from his son Absalom, or fleeing from his enemies or Saul. That made him thrust unto the Lord. One thing about David is he always throws himself unto the Lord, when he’s in troubles, and the Lord sees that and likes that, a soft heart before the Lord. That’s what we want to learn from him. St. Augustine of our early fathers in about 410 A.D. rose to the occasion of refuting and rebutting the false teaching of the Arians on the divinity of Jesus. That’s a massive moment a spiritual giant rising to the occasion in the person of St Augustine, who probably have influenced Christianity more than anyone else in history. And when Rome fell, Romans blamed Christians for the demise of the Roman Empire in all its glory. Augustine again rose to the occasion and wrote the book “The City of God” which not only refuted the Romans, but actually showed them the vary things they wish for like justice, shalom, peace, caring and so forth, are actually captured in the Bible. That book, incidentally not only influenced Christendom in such big way, but also the secular literature world today as seen even in colleges.

I can’t speak for real serious challenges, trials that many people have experienced. In fact, hardship tests our genuineness of our faith. Our faith not tested is not worthy.

1 Peter 1  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Trials, as seen from 1 Peter, tests the genuineness of our faith, which is more precious than gold, so that if and when we passed it, this will result in praise and glory and honor to our Lord.

I know many Christians do not like trials, and no one does, but we must never want or hope to live a life that doesn’t have trails, because that will be a fake journey. It has to be tested to see its genuineness, and in fact, refines us, and makes us stronger. This is true even for non-believers in their secular pursuit. Ask any man who climbs to the top of their corporate ladder, or business, everyone will say they learnt to be tough and taught them a lot when they went through trials in life and work or business.

James goes further in James 1: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Consider trials pure joy? What perspective is that? Remember to look at the discipline of your life for the goal God has for you, and that will and should settle it all, as in Hebrews.

Hebrews 12 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

God wants us to share in his holiness. No holiness without discipline.

Is God beautiful or useful?

Albert Ngu

You should never go to God because he’s useful. Go because he’s beautiful. And yet there’s nothing more useful than finding God beautiful. —Tim Keller

I have found this confusing and in fact struggled to find God beautiful? How? First, I can’t see God, second, Jesus was marred beyond recognition and he was not beautiful per se. The notion of beautiful is always tied to the physical look. That’s how we understand it. Of course, we can say, what he has done is beautiful, in that context everyone understands.

I would phrase that very famous teaching of Tim Keller this way:

You should never go to God because he’s useful. Go because he’s beautiful in character. And yet there’s nothing more useful than finding God beautiful in character. — (Revised by me)

This way, every body understands gets it. I bet even Christians and pastors will struggle at the face value of this quote. God is not beautiful in his look. He is majestic, glorious, but no one can see his beauty in physical form, but we all know God is beautiful in his grace, patience, mercy, compassion, righteousness, insight, wisdom, power, suffering and so forth. That will make it so much clearer.

Why do I write this? Because this is a major theology that many and countless Christians fall into of seeking as useful and not beautiful as a person in character in his being. Keller is right, too many of us seek God to find him useful, and that’s not acceptable, in fact, God will be upset and grieved with that!

Some preachers have out it this way: God’s not your vending machine. Lol. Of course not! But don’t we call upon God to find a parking spot in our prayer? So I don’t think it’s merely asking petty prayer requests that make us like seeking because he is useful. I would say whats most important is a pious heart towards God, and no matter how you ask God, he knows you reverence him and love him, they will all be acceptable. God is very relational. Exodus 6: 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. He wants us to have a sense of belonging. Not a usefulness. He wants us to have a fierce loyalty and love, not making him a gateway to heaven.

I would use the word, we seek God because He is our help. Now that hits home. Psalms is full of the Lord is my help. From where does my help come from?

Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

Psalm is full of verses like this. God wants to be our help. He is the Almighty God who created us and loved, and I would argue that to show that He is our God, our Father, He will have to express that love and concern. And of course he will want to help us his children. Tell me, which father would not help his children when they cry for help? So to philosophize somehow God is just beautiful and neglecting the fact that He is our help, will not be helpful in our journey with God. There is a big difference between “useful” and “help”. It sounds likes this: “He’s been a great help”, and “He’s useful”. Useful has a connotation of using someone, even manipulating someone.

So I would use say come to God not because he is useful but come to God because He is our help. Because He is beautiful in his being, and loving, just, righteous, compassion, and graceful. I love him.

Psalm 96: Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and glory are in his sanctuary.

Psalm 145

The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.


Human Flourishing in church

We want to see flourishing of all God’s people in our church. That’s really important, because that is the will of God for us to flourish. I love the term “flourishing” because it is holistic. It resembles “prosperous”. We have plenty of scriptures on these. Jeremiah 29: Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” This is a common theology especially by Tim Keller on living for the city, loving the city that God puts you in. Remember God doesn’t prosper you and stops there, but for showing his glory and touching lives. And then we have this famous verse that everyone loves to quote: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Sure, this is our God. He loves to prosper us but he wants us to be in his plan of loving the city. Reading the City of God by Augustine (difficult read) will open your mind to a thousand concepts of the city of God that you never had before. Chinese people love the word prosper, as we often say A Happy prosperous Chinese New Year. Why? Because it denotes finance, money. But God’s prosperous is multi-dimensional, goes far beyond money, but to the joy of our souls, and the well being of the community, the city.

First of all we need to define flourishing. My concept is it has to be God centered and not you centered. Actually, when you are God centered in your life, giving glory to him, and honoring and loving him first and foremost, we find we flourish in the midst of it. As Jesus says “I am the vine, you are the branches, abide in me and you will bear fruit”.  Without Christ, we will wither. John 15: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Now a really important statement is this” God is good”. This is fundamental to all human endeavors and human flourishing. That’s why it has to be God centered. Psalm 118: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:

15 Shouts of joy and victory
    resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16     The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
    the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”

Recognizing and remember that God is good is absolutely vital in our existential living, because that has to fill our hearts and souls. It’s the goodness of the Lord that sustains us, protects us, guides us, as we cry unto the Lord when we are in need, and book of psalm is full of that. Today, countless Christians can testify to the goodness of God in their physical healings, emotional healings restoration, financial deliverance and so forth. The danger is that we must not turn God into a vending machine, as in the prosperity doctrine. We must love the Lord with all our hearts and minds, and that becomes easy when we remember his goodness, faithfulness, and steadfast love. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

If you meditate on this statement, it brings smile to your face no matter how you feel at the moment. It’s actually very therapeutic. Why is that so? Because scripture says all good things come from the Father in heaven. The world may give you some good shots, but none of that is going to stay. They will evaporate real soon. But God’s goodness is eternal. Which one do you want?

Heb 1 (ESV) “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”

There are many hurting people in the world, and they need help. They need healing, emotionally, physically, spiritually as God does want us to flourish. We are not saying we will all be happy all the time, as there will be time for sorrows, repentance, mourning as well as rejoicing, exultation, and shouts of joy. But there has to be an internalization of scriptures in our hearts souls so as we can live out our theology, and the truths in scriptures. This will mean overcoming sins, persecutions, temptations and embracing community love and forgiveness. And also helping out folks facing problems in their lives in this broken world, by deeds and scriptural renewal of lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

What better environment we can offer to attract folks to join our church? Like in Acts 2 new ones are being added daily to the earliest church in Acts 2 because the presence of God is real, people love and are committed to the Lord and one another. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

When all these are happening we will see fruit, as we abide in our vine, our Lord Jesus. We look forward to building a flourishing God centered church.