My Journey to Christ

During my elementary days, I was very religious, coming from a Catholic school. I was even a member of the Knights of the Altar and served in our school Masses. However, due to the influence of my dad who is still an agnostic even up to now, I became an agnostic from my college days until my second year in law school. I did not believe that the Bible was the Word of God, instead, I formed my own worldview from the different philosophical systems and ideologies that we studied in college. For me, pre-marital sex was normal and not sinful.

My sister was invited by Ms.  Roca Cruz, the manager of pop rock musician Kitchie Nadal whom she was a fan of, to their group Bible study meetings (they were still called cell groups at that time) at Greenbelt 3. After several weeks of driving her there, they invited me to join them and just listen. At first, I was still doubtful of the veracity of the Bible, but then, I decided to give it a chance and “tried” to believe what it says. My interest was especially piqued when I first attended a worship service at Victory Christian Fellowship-Fort Bonifacio after being fed up and bored of going around the mall while waiting for my sister. The sermon series then was on the Ten Commandments and the sermon topic on that particular Sunday was “You shall not commit adultery.” The same was explained quite well by Ptr. Steve Murrell, the preacher on that fateful day, and thus, I began my search for the Truth. Then, by God’s mercy and grace, I surrendered to the Lord and got saved at the age of 23.

Being a law student at that time, I continued my study of Scripture in order to be able to explain and defend my newfound Faith “to those who would ask me for the reason for the hope that I had” (1 Peter 3:15). I continued doing that until my passion for theology and apologetics was ignited by the Holy Spirit. Even while I was reviewing for the bar exams in 2007, I felt God’s call to be a minister of the Gospel, although when the right time was, I didn’t know yet. Now as a lawyer, as more opportunities to teach, speak, share and lead came my way, together with my personal devotions and study of the Word, I knew that the time has come for me to formally equip myself and pursue full-time ministry for the purpose of making disciples and equipping the saints for the work God has prepared in advance for them to do.

My personal involvement in the ministry started about a year after I became a Christian. The first ministry I joined was the Music Ministry for the main services. I thought of joining the same because prior to surrendering my life to Christ, I was doing the vocals for an alternative rock band wherein we had gigs in bars and restaurants. Moreover, I really enjoyed singing in weddings, parties and family reunions as singing karaoke used to be a weekly thing in our home due to my dad’s insistence. After passing the auditions, I started joining the worship team practices before the service in which I was assigned to. My first role therein was doing back-up vocals, then after some time, I started doing some solo stanzas and leading for entire songs. I then took a break from ministry when I started reviewing for the 2007 bar exams, which, by God’s grace, I passed. The results were released on March 29, 2008. I served in the music ministry from early 2006 to late 2007.

In 2008, I volunteered in the Every Nation Campus Ministry (now known as “LifeBox”) for the outreach at the University of Makati (UMAK) lead by Ptr. Robert Gonzalez. I was one of the pioneer volunteers. At our first youth service at UMAK, I served as the worship leader. During that year, I decided to apply as a faculty member therein in order to reach more students for Christ. I got hired and taught business law for two semesters. I also enrolled in its Master of Public Administration program. During that time, I was able to lead some students to Christ and invite them to our campus services or “LifeBox Events” as we called it. After successfully raising up local leaders therein, I resigned as an employed faculty member but continued to teach Personal Development and Public Relations at UMAK as a LifeBox volunteer while pursuing my masteral studies therein.

The next ministry I joined was the Kids Ministry-Primary (Ages 7-9 years old). I started therein as a “door man” or the guy who serves as an usher and at the same time in charge of accompanying the kids to the toilet. After about two weeks, I assisted in leading children’s small groups after the preaching. About a month after I started leading the children’s praise and worship. That went on for around two and a half years or from 2009 to early 2011, at which time I got married.

From 2010 up to the present, I have been a volunteer teacher at our Victory Weekend Retreats speaking on the subject of Victory Over Spiritual Error, being an aficionado of apologetics. Meanwhile, I have also been invited to speak or preach by other churches, ministries, clubs and schools on topics such as leadership, apologetics and hermeneutics. In fact, one of them was even a Roman Catholic parish church, namely, Holy Cross Parish in Makati. It was during one of their seminars about Sacred Scripture wherein I lectured on the topic of Bible Reading and Interpretation. Their pastor at that time was Msgr. Dennis Odiver, who was recently succeeded by Fr. Jason Laguerta in 2011.

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Regeneration

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NLT)

Is it really possible to be born again? How is a person born again? The phrase “born again” has been misused and abused by a lot of people. Most people think that being born again means that one is a member of a certain religious sect instead of a state of being in God.

Jesus explains that just like the wind, we do not and cannot know who will be born again nor when it will be. To be born again means to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit in Christ. The apostle Paul tells us that “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Just as we did not choose to be born or to exist in this world, so it is with regeneration. Our existence in this world is usually the result of our parents’ choice or of God Himself. Scripture teaches that we were dead in our sins (Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:13).and dead persons are unable to do anything. Indeed, it is only through the work of God in making us alive in Christ that we are able to exercise our faith because left to ourselves, there is nothing we can do. Hence, for us to be able to accept God’s saving grace through faith, we first must be made alive by the Holy Spirit. This is why regeneration is essential to our salvation.

Can religions other than Christianity be paths to revelation and salvation?

The two theologians—Jaques Dupuis and Joseph Ratzinger, now pope Benedict XVI—we studied in our class in Theology of Religious Pluralism gave us an idea of where most Christians are in relation to the question stated above. Currently, there are three views on how a person can be saved from eternal damnation in relation to Jesus Christ, i.e. exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism.

While both of them ruled out exclusivism as an option, Ratzinger’s book, Truth and Tolerance, was basically a response to Dupuis’ position in his book Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism. The latter on the one hand, posits the idea that all religions other than Christianity may facilitate salvation to their believers. He alleges that other religions also have salvific value in that God can work through those religions. According to him, the salvation of non-Christians however, is still due to the work of Christ on the cross and that it is still only because of Christ that they are saved even without them knowing. The former on the other hand focuses on the importance of knowing the Truth, which is Jesus Christ, as the only way to salvation. He considers other religions as stepping stones or means of preparing people to accept the message of the Gospel, which is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He calls non-Christians pre-believers rather than non-believers. Both theologians recognize the presence of elements of truth in all religions, albeit, not the ultimate and complete truth.

I concur with the position of Ratzinger except that I take a strictly exclusivist stance on the issue. The bible says that to be saved, we must confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead (Rom. 10:9-10). Jesus Himself said that “He is the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through him” (John 14:6). Therefore, it is truly necessary that a person comes to personal faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved. This, of course, takes into account the sovereign will of God in deciding whom to give this grace and to whom to deny it (Rom. 8:28).

With regard to religion’s clash with culture, instead of inculturation, Ratzinger prefers what he calls interculturality, or the meeting of cultures:

“For ‘inculturation’ presupposes that, as it were, culturally naked faith is transferred into a culture that is indifferent from the religious point of view, so that two agents that were hitherto alien to each other meet and now engage in a synthesis together. But this depiction is first of all artificial and unreal, because—outside of modern technical civilization—there is no such thing as religion-free culture.”

For missions to be effective, missionaries must realize that Christianity’s culture has itself developed and is still in the process of development. As history unfolds and the Christian religion comes into contact with many and various cultures of the world, Christianity has assimilated and therefore has been affected by the same.

Why is this important? Because if we truly believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation, then, effective missions should be our top priority as Christians. In fact, Jesus commissioned us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

Leading Like Jesus

There are lots of leadership models out there taught by various leadership gurus. However, there is only one true Teacher from whom we will be able to learn what true leadership is like, and that is none other than Jesus the Messiah. As the ultimate leadership role model of all time, we would be well-off to follow his example.

During one of my devotions, I came across the story of Nehemiah and how he led the remnant of Israel in rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem. I noticed how Nehemiah exhibited the characteristics of Jesus as a leader in that he was primarily a servant-leader not lording it over his fellow Israelites. Nehemiah’s godly leadership characteristics include: (1) he pays attention to details; (2) he has a heart for the people; (3) he has a heart for his country; (4) he has a heart for his God; (5) he is a person devoted to prayer; and (6) he has great respect for the Lord. These characteristics and habit somewhat reflect the Habits of a Servant Leader in the book Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges.

Realistically though, it is not easy to lead lie Jesus. Why? That is because as fallen humans, our sinful nature draws us to always “look out for number one”. Unchecked, we usually tend to return to being self-serving leaders. In fact, before doing anything for others, people would usually ask the question “What’s in it for me?” Unless we constantly ask for grace and wisdom to be like Jesus, we will fail to put others ahead of ourselves.

Personally, in my life role leadership function in my family, my wife tells me that I still have a selfish attitude when it comes to some things. That I fail to put the welfare of others before my own. Alone, I would not have known nor noticed this in myself. It really takes another person to point out my faults to me. I thank God for giving me my wife even of course there are times when my pride gets in the way of me listening to her. Lead Like Jesus has given me a principles of leadership from the perspective of God Himself in the person of Jesus.

God’s Children

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13 NIV)

In the movies, when someone suddenly finds out that he or she was “only” adopted, we usually find that person angry, hurt, and depressed. They either rebel against their adoptive parents or set out to search for their biological parents. However, the apostle John reminds us that as Christians, God has given us the right to become His children.

One thing we have to consider is that unlike natural or biological children whom we cannot even choose the gender thereof, adopted children were chosen by their adoptive parents. In spite of our shortcomings and sinful nature, God still chose to adopt us as His children even before the creation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6). Our right standing with God as His children is by God’s grace received through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross. We have nothing to do with it whatsoever (Eph. 2:8-9). Even our faith itself is a gift from God and not of human decision (John 1:13). In this, we should rejoice with a thankful heart!

Does that mean that we are therefore on equal footing to Jesus? Yes and No. While our Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God; we, on the other hand, are God’s legally adopted children. This means that although we do not share the divine nature of Jesus Christ, we share in His inheritance. The same rule is observed in our civil law on adoption. As Christ’s brothers and sisters, we are co-heirs with Him “if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory” (Rom. 8:17).

Therefore, as children of the Most High God, we should act accordingly…“let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1-2).