John 3:5

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

This is the fifth article of the discussion on the differences between Judaism and Christianity. The fifth difference as shown in the next paragraph is extracted from an article published in a Judaism website. If you read carefully, you will see that Judaism stresses that human effort and mental determination are the keys to a relationship with God and rewards. Again, a deeper answer to the quest of building a good relationship with God and blessings can be found in the conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and Jesus who said that spiritual cleansing and rebirth by the power of God is the only answer (John 3:5).

Judaism teaches that the righteous of all the nations will have a place in the World to Come. That means that all people who try to have a relationship with God, and to serve him and live rightly go to “heaven" (to use a Christian concept). Whereas, Christianity teaches that ONLY those who believe in Jesus will go to Heaven, no one can have a relationship with God without Jesus, no matter how much they love God and try to serve Him.

Common Human Frailty

It is a very noble goal to pursue righteousness and have a good relationship with God. In reality, this good and ideal goal has failed to realize for all people of the world. This includes even the elect nation Israel which experienced the special guidance of God: liberation with the strike of ten plagues in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, feeding of manna in the desert, leading with pillar of fire and pillar of cloud and more. Israel was also blessed with great leaders and prophets who led and spoke according to the words of God. Moreover, Israel received the written laws of God. Yet, the nation failed to have a good relationship with God. Therefore, the warning given through Moses came true (Deuteronomy 30:15-18), the nation of Israel was conquered and its people scattered throughout the world. It is purely the faithfulness and grace of God that Israel returned to its own land to re-establish as a nation on May 14th, 1948 (see article the Valley of Dry Bones for more details).

What about the Gentile world? Do the gentile nations fare better than Israel in terms of seeking God and His righteousness? I invite you to look for the answer in multiple levels: international level, national level, community level, and individual level. Look at these levels with reference to historical books and documents, news from newspapers, radio, television and the Internet. Verify these information with your own personal contacts, experience and evaluate these findings fairly with critical thinking. You will see that world history is knitted together with wars, violence, injustices of nations against nations and people against people. Most people we encounter do not know God or superficially possess certain deity concepts obtained from different cultural religious practices, let alone pursue a rightful relationship with Him. Individual morality and values are shaped by the world views and peer pressures rather than the words of God. Therefore, it is not surprising to see struggles and violence in the macro levels which are simply a reflection of the lower component levels of groups of individuals representing their own selfish interests rather than the teachings of God. On the other hand, although we may not be the causes of these injustices and violence directly, it does not mean that we are good by our non-participation in evil acts. It is good to shun evils according to the Scriptures. But, the Scriptures also teach us actively to take action to do right, seek justice and defend the oppressed (Isaiah 1:16-17; James 4:17). To illustrate this point, a young and religious man went to see Jesus with a very humble heart and asked what good things that should be done to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16). Since the religious person asked what good things to do to exchange for eternal life, Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man asked what commandments to observe. Jesus listed a few commandments dealing with interpersonal relationship: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, love your neighbor as yourself. The young man was so confident about his own righteousness, he answered that he kept all these commandments. Jesus then asked him to sell his wealth, give it to the poor and follow Him. The young man realized that he could not do this for he was a very rich man and went away sad (Matthew 19:22). This story illustrates that even a diligent, religious person could not fulfill all the requirements of the laws when examined closely. Can anyone say that he or she is righteous before God in light of the essence of the laws: love God and love your neighbours to the maximum extent without reservation (Deuteronomy 8:5, Leviticus 19:18)?

Matthew 19:16

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

Matthew 19:22

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Leviticus 19:18

18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Disqualification to a Good Relationship

No one should disagree to the fact that we have done wrong in thoughts and behaviours in light of the holiness of God who created us in His image. The very fact of committing a single sin disqualifies us to approach God to build up a good relationship with Him even we may have a good intention. To help us to understand our disqualification, let us consider the ceremonial laws which emphasize and teach the holiness of God and the separation of man and God because of sin. For example, in order to eat the Passover meal, the participants have to be ceremonially clean (Numbers 9:6-7). Conversely, being ceremonially unclean signifies the state of sinfulness: a disqualification to approach God. In other words, the participants are acceptable to God because they are ceremonially clean which symbolizes their state of righteousness and are therefore justified before God. Of course, we are not talking about the face value of ceremonial cleanliness but the significant meaning it represents that is the acceptance by the God of holiness. The fact that the participants may enjoy the Passover meal teaches that the participants are deemed righteous and accepted by God. The question is how do the participants become qualified to eat the Passover meals? To answer the question, we should look at the very first Passover which took place in Egypt when the Israelites were under the bondage of slavery and oppression. In addition to following the instructions given by God of how to prepare and eat the Passover lamb, the key to the answer is the blood of the lamb which God commanded the people to put on the top and sides of doorframes (Exodus 12:7). When God saw the blood, the people inside the houses were spared from destruction (Exodus 12:13) where they could eat the Passover meat. Therefore, it is not the righteous things the participants have done that earn them the merit of acceptance but the shedding of the blood of the sacrificial lambs. Moreover, the animals used in Passover should be without defect (Exodus 12:5). A defective animal would also be disqualified to be used in the Passover because defect signifies the state of sinfulness. This is a significant teaching that the Messiah who is without sin became the sacrificial lamb for us, the sinners who become justified because of His shedding of blood and death (Isaiah 53:4-5). It is the sacrifice of the Messiah that removes our disqualification to approach God. We should take note carefully also the importance for the Israelites in following the instructions revealed by God to Moses and Aaron to put some blood of the Passover lambs on the sides and tops of the doorframes in order to escape God’s judgment. The Israelites in Egypt would not be saved from the plague had they prepared the Passover in their own creative way. By the same token, we cannot obtain salvation today by our own inventive ways no matter how excellent we thought our ways are sincerely, but to trust and obey God’s way: the sacrifice of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:7-8).

Numbers 9:6-7

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the LORD’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?"

Exodus 12:7

7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

Exodus 12:13

13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Exodus 12:5

5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.

Isaiah 53:4-5

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:7-8

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

The Futility and Deceit of Religions

According to statistical surveys, atheism is of minority in the world population (see Demographics of atheism). In other words, most people have religious beliefs or some awareness of deity and spirituality. If the world is so religious, why is the world filled with all kinds of evils. The answer is quite obvious: most people are not worshipping the true God truthfully and spiritually. In other words, there are many people worshipping false gods and there are people apparently worshiping the true God but not in a truthful way. To illustrate the first case, the Bible has records of people being lured into worshipping false gods by their lusts for sex and food (Exodus 34:15). Some people were so deceived that they even sacrificed their children to idols (Ezekiel 3:37). These false gods worshippers were motivated by illicit lusts and fell into the trap of deception. Nowadays, human sacrifices to false gods are not common or at least not openly practised in the more civilized societies, but the fact that many people are attracted to religious practices that provide satisfaction of self-seeking desires, pleasures and lusts is still true today. For example, there are gangsters who are religious and worship regularly and even offer significant amount of money in temples for their gods. The reasons they worship because their businesses and lifestyles are acceptable to those gods and they may pray for their selfish success and security for themselves for their engagement in illicit operations. There are also religions that teach nice social codes of conducts or morality, but lack of power to actually change human behaviours because the gods and teachings of these religions are merely created objects of human thoughts.

Exodus 34:15

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.

Ezekiel 16:20

“‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough?

Religious Camouflage

Perhaps the most deceiving situation about religions is when people are worshipping in disguise. There are countless number of people past and present wearing religious clothes, doing religious rituals, and speaking about Scriptures but inside their hearts are far from God they claim they worship (Isaiah 29:13). They approach God without a true heart of worship and sometimes even with hidden agenda of various types: social, business, or political motivations. These worshippers do not have a true personal relationship with God let alone obey the words of God (2 Timothy 3:5). Some of these people possess special charisma and energy such that they become ringleaders and establish organizations or even new religions to deceive others in followings their invented ideas. Usually, they themselves are deceived and become the instruments of Satan (2 Timothy 3:13). Many people join these organizations or religions because their ideas are appealing to their values and thoughts. Some join these organizations or religions simply for the benefits these religious systems provide: economical, social, political. They engage in the religious activities because of the requirements of the religious systems not because of their personal commitment and love of God and His words. As a contrast to these religious followers, the Bible commends a group of people who lived in Berea during the early church history who would not blindly accept religious teachings even though they were taught by the great and well-known apostle Paul. But they would examine the Scriptures, the written revelation of God, to see if Paul was communicating the truth (Acts 17:11). For they knew that God would not contradict Himself by communicating inconsistencies with new messages conflicting the writings of the prophets. They knew that God would not lie and would not make mistake when He revealed the truth to the prophets. Therefore, any new messages were false if they were inconsistent with the Scriptures already revealed to the prophets.

Isaiah 29:13

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

2 Timothy 3:5

5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:13

13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Acts 17:11

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Examples of Religious Deception

To be more deceiving, these religious systems may say and do things that are legitimate and commendable from the outside such that they look more attractive and real. Praise be to God, that our great teacher Jesus Christ has taught us a simple way to discern the truth and falsehood: by looking at the fruits (Matthew 7:17). If a tree is really a good tree, it will bear good fruit and cannot bear bad fruit. If a tree is really bad, it will bear bad fruit and cannot bear good fruit. A classic illustration is the People’s Temple which appears to be a Christian church with a heart for the society. They even set up soup kitchen, provided housing, food, and job assistance to the needy people in the 1960. Eventually, the real hidden agenda of the leader Jim Jones was revealed especially after the murder of an American Congressman Leo Ryan and the church members committed mass suicide by drinking poison (and some members were coerced to do so). Their leader was actually an atheist used the church as a platform to push his political agenda (please refer to the Wikipedia article “Peoples Temple" for details).

Matthew 7:17

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Another classic example of religious deception is Adolf Hitler. Some people think that Hitler was a Christian. In fact, I came across a web site which posts a collection of many writings, speeches and photographs of Hitler appearing in churches and shaking hands with church leaders as evidence to support the view that Hitler was a Christian. However, there is a fundamental fault of the whole argument that this web site represents: the conclusion is drawn without reference to the fruits that Hitler actually produced to see if his actions were compatible to the teachings of Jesus Christ. As we know we cannot tell a person purely by his talks and even writings because many people do fall into the category of liars and hypocrites for various reasons. According to the Scriptures, the essence of all the laws may be distilled into two statements: 1) love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, 2) love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-28). As we know, when Hitler was in power from January of 1933 to May of 1945, it is estimated that 11 millions people were murdered because they were deemed undesirable in the eyes of Hitler and the Nazi party. Of the 11 millions, 6 millions were killed simply because they were Jewish. The persecution and killings were carried out systematically and deliberately in the forms of unjust laws, tortures, inhuman concentration camps, and dead camps over a period of more than12 years. Anyone with a fair mind and conscience should see that these were not acts of a person loving God and his neighbors. What does Jesus really teach? Jesus teaches that we should not be hostile even to people who do not accept you or accept the Gospel (Luke 9:52-55, Matthew 10:14). In fact, Jesus demonstrated His love and forgiveness on the cross even to people who falsely accused Him, insulted and tormented Him (Luke 23:34, Acts 13:26-28). It is God who will exercise judgment on all people at a proper time in a fair manner. Therefore, Hitler’s acts were sufficient evidence to the conclude that he was not a Christian. In fact, Hitler’s murderous acts and phony words tell that he was more of an instrument of the devil who is a murderer and liar (John 8:44). If anyone thinks that Hitler is a Christian, then he or she is deceived like many Germans living under Hitler’s reign and political manipulation of the Nazi Party. By the way, to see this deception of Hitler and the Nazi Party from the perspective of a true Christian living in this particular era, I recommend reading the article about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Luke 10:25-28

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher," he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 “What is written in the Law?" he replied. “How do you read it?" 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" 28 “You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live."

Luke 9:52-56

52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.

Matthew 10:14

14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

Luke 23:34

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Acts 13:26-28

26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.

John 8:44

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Analysis of Religious Camouflage

Religious systems appearing as Bible believing are deceptive when the religious leaders twist the true meanings of the Bible in order to mislead and manipulate the audience such that they become supportive to their cultic ideologies. Many people are deceived because they do not study and critically evaluate the messages communicated to them in light of the Scriptures. Do you know that even the devil knows the Scriptures but applies it in a deceptive way? Before commencement of His earthly ministry, Jesus was tempted by the devil in various ways. One temptation was the quote of Psalm 91:11-12 by the devil to support its suggestion to Jesus to jump down from the pinnacle of the Herod’s temple in Jerusalem as a test of the special protection and caring of God (Luke 4:9-12). Correctly using the words of God, Jesus answered the temptation of the devil by pointing out that testing God was an violation of the basic truth of trusting God (Deuteronomy 6:16).

Psalm 91:11-12

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Luke 4:9-12

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God," he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’" 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"

Deuteronomy 6:16

16 Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.

To illustrate this type of deception using Hitler again as a modern day example, let us review an extract of a speech that Hitler made in Munich on April 12th, 1922:

“In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison."
Adolf Hitler, April 12, 1922

Hitler quoted the Biblical stories of temple cleansing by Jesus (John 2:13-16, Luke 19:45-46 ) as a support to his action of oppressing the Jews to the extent of eliminating the Jewish race under his power. Let us analyze how Hitler twisted the true meanings of the Scriptures:

1. Jesus did not address the whole Jewish population as brood of vipers, adders or poison but a specific group of religious hypocrites who were willing to unjustly persecute the righteous, in this case Jesus Himself, in order to protect their positions and religious systems (Matthew 23:33-34). In fact, Jesus showed tremendous compassion to the general Jewish population by teaching them the words of God such that they might receive blessings (Mark 6:34). Moreover, Jesus did not eliminate even the religious hypocrites plotting against Him by His divine power which He could certainly be capable (Matthew 26:53). But instead, Jesus gave them a sharp reproach in words for their good. Had they repent, they too would receive forgiveness and salvation from God.

2. Temple cleansing was an assertive action to stop the trading activities in the temple. Merchants and animals were driven out. The terms “vipers and adders" were not used in the story but in a different scenario (see 1. above). The people that were driven out of the temple were not targeted because they were Jews but because of their engagement in trading activities inside the temple regardless of their races. On the other hand, Hitler’s speech clearly targeted against the Jews.

3. Although Jesus used a whip in temple cleansing, the Bible did not mention that He used the whip to scourge people as Hitler suggested in his speech. The whip was used as a visible tool to establish authority and drive out sheep and cattle. Jesus used only verbal communication to people in the story. For example, Jesus ordered the people selling doves to take the doves out of the temple with a clear reason (John 2:16). The merchants could certainly come back to the temple for normal worship had they want to. On the other hand, Hitler’s speech was to justify his crime of genocide of the Jewish race.

4. The reasons of temple cleansing were absolutely right because the merchants had no regard to the place of worship and prayers and they turned the temple court into a market place — imagine the noises, wastes, smell and congestion that these selling activities created in the temple. Moreover, merchants engaged in unfair and greedy business tactics to take advantage of worshippers especially those who came from afar. Jesus’ action was to preserve the reverence of the temple which represented the holy presence of God. Jesus’ action pointed out the merchants’ indifference to the holiness of God and their practice of greed blatantly in the temple. On the other hand, Hitler’s speech reflected only his hatred towards the Jewish race and had nothing to do with teaching people to honor and revere the holiness of God.

John 2:13-16

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!"

Luke 19:45-46

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written," he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’"

Luke 19:45-46

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written," he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’"

Matthew 23:33-34

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.

Matthew 26:53

53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Mark 6:34

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Psalm 91:11-12

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Deuteronomy 6:16

16 Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.

Seeking and Knowing the One True God

People are deceived by cults when they do not evaluate messages received in light of the Scriptures but are attracted to the charisma of the cult leaders, their claims and offers. On the other hand, God will reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). An illustration is the story of an Ethiopian eunuch who was an important official in charge of the treasury in Ethiopia. He went to Jerusalem to worship. On his return trip, he was reading a passage in the book of Isaiah about the prophecy of the Messiah being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of all people (Isaiah 53:7-8 see above) but did not understand it. God honored the eunuch’s heart in seeking the truth and sent Phillip, one of the twelve apostles, to explain the passage to him (Acts 8:34-35). The eunuch not only understood the prophecy about the Messiah he was reading, but believed the gospel with great joy. The story of the Ethiopian eunuch teaches three things that God values: a heart to seek and come near to God, an interest to know Him through His words and the faith in response to His words. We all face problems and dissatisfaction in life. The correct reaction for all of us is to seek and come to God for His help and salvation, know Him through His words and respond to His words with faith. God is faithful, merciful and graceful, He is inviting us to come to Him: the source of salvation, living water and life (John 7:37, Matthew 11:28). God’s bona fide invitation written in the Scriptures is meant to be extended to all people: first to Israel then to all nations.

Deuteronomy 4:29

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Acts 8:34-35

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

John 7:37

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.

Matthew 11:28

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Seeking God Should Mean Seeking God

As king David says in Psalm 24:3-6 and Psalm 119:105, we should seek God according to His words with a pure heart. To illustrate this important point but in a negative sense, consider the familiar story of Jesus’ performance of the miraculous sign to feed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish. After this multitude of people enjoyed a delightful dinner, they looked for Jesus the next day. However, the reason they looked for Jesus was not because they realized that Jesus was the Messiah who would give salvation and eternal life, but merely for food itself (John 6:26). Sadly many had listened to the words of God and seen the miraculous sign which substantiated who Jesus really was yet could not find the Messiah and went away empty (John 6:66). If people with impure objectives could not find God and receive His blessings even when the Messiah was right in front of them, then it should not be difficult to understand that many people do not know the one true God today. Some are downright atheists, many are religious merely for different reasons: cultural, social, business, or political.

Psalm 24:3-6

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. 5 They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

John 6:26

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

John 6:66

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

But How Can We Start?

Now the question is since we do not have a pure heart to begin with (Proverbs 20:9), how do we even start to seek God in a right way, know Him and have a relationship with Him? If you know that you do not have a pure heart, congratulations! For you are already on the right track. People who really seek God will cry out to God for mercy and help to have a pure heart (Psalm 51:10). For we know that we have failed and we are not worthy to have a good relationship with God and need God to heal us and to create a pure heart in us (Psalm 51:1-2, 10). Therefore, the prerequisite to approach God is to realize our spiritual corruptness and be sorrowful for our iniquities and ask God for forgiveness and cleansing. Do not try to approach God merely with religious rituals which are meaningless and are not genuine worship. True worship should originate from and reflect our broken spirit and contrite heart which are acceptable to God (Psalm 51:16-17) for God desires a genuine heart of repentance. God is faithful and will honor His promise and gives us salvation through the Redeemer and a new heart through washing and rebirth of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:20-21, Ezekiel 36:25-26, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26, 1 Peter 1:23 ). Then we may have a good relationship with God — the relationship God originally desires when He created us.

Proverbs 20:9

9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?

Psalm 51:10

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:1-2

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:16-17

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Isaiah 59:20-21

20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD. 21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever," says the LORD.

Ezekiel 36:25-26

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Titus 3:5

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Ephesians 5:26

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

1 Peter 1:23

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

After All It Is God Who Seeks the Lost Sheep

When we come to God, we should understand that while the response to come to God is absolutely right and wise, it is the grace of God that He prepares salvation and sends mankind the invitation and enable them to come to Him. For by sinful nature, all humans are like lost sheep that have gone astray and do not know God (Isaiah 53:6). Salvation is God’s grace that He uses various means to draw us to Him to have life (John 6:44). The negative aspect of hardship in life and its short duration that we all experience reflect our iniquities and the wrath of God. But, the positive aspect reflects the loving will of God for they motivate us to seek Him for salvation and satisfying life (Psalm 90:9-10, Psalm 90:13-14). Moreover, God even uses supernatural means to draw people to Him. The conversion of the Pharisee Saul who became apostle Paul is a good example. Before conversion, Paul was a devoted Jew who was so confident in the flesh that he called himself a Hebrew of Hebrews. From his birth to adulthood, he followed the law faultlessly and he was so zealous for God that he persecuted Christians thinking that he was serving God (Philippians 3:3-6). On his way to obtain letters from the high priest and Council in order to arrest Christians for punishment, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Paul near Damascus and he became blinded. Paul was then instructed to go to Damascus. A believer sent by God to open the eyes of Paul and told him that he was chosen by God to witness to the unbelievers (Acts 22:14-15). Indeed, Paul repented and became a great apostle in the early church.

Paul was so antagonistic to the early Christians and yet God showed mercy in a miraculous way to give him salvation. A question may arise concerning the impartiality of God. How about the religious leaders who persecuted Jesus to death? Did God show mercy miraculously to save them? To answer the question, it is best to study the Bible a little more.

1. The religious leaders persecuted Jesus unjustly based on falsehood. They attempted to look for false evidence and false witnesses in order to put a righteous person even to death (Matthew 26:59). This collaborative act of false persecution reflected their lawlessness in the core covered with a facade of religious righteousness. In comparison, Paul did not resort to this kind of illegal means but legally followed the rules of a faulty system.

2, In fact, the religious leaders were also given the opportunity to witness an even bigger miracle: resurrection. Moreover, the resurrection was foretold by Jesus and specifically when it would happen. Well aware of this prediction, the religious leaders asked Pilate, the appointed Roman Governor, for help to seal and guard the tomb with Roman soldiers to make sure no one might steal the body of Jesus away lest the disciples might spread the “lie” that Jesus was resurrected (Matthew 27:62-64).

3. After learning the fact that Jesus did resurrect as He foretold, they decided to cover the fact up by giving money to the soldiers and asking them to spread the lie that the body was stolen by the disciples while they were asleep. In other words, they decided to exchange falsehood with truth. In comparison, upon knowing the fact, Paul repented sincerely and embraced the truth wholeheartedly.

Isaiah 53:6

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

John 6:44

44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Psalm 90:9-10

9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Psalm 90:13-14

13 Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Philippians 3:3-6

3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Acts 22:14-15

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.

Could these be the reasons that Paul was saved by God while those religious leaders were not? The facts seem to suggest that those religious leaders were victims of their own mind and decision: the love of falsehood rather than truth. We should say for sure that God is sovereign and He made decisions according to His own accord. By the way, when we study Matthew 11:23, Jesus delivered a judgment on Capernaum for people living there rejected Jesus’ message even many miracles had been performed there. The judgment hints that Sodom , a wicked city destroyed by God with fire, might be saved had the miracles performed in Capernaum were performed there (Matthew 11:23). We know that Sodom was destroyed rather than saved by God. Therefore, the judgment of Sodom illustrates the sovereignty of God and even the opportunity of repentance is a gift of God. We must admit the limitation of human mind and we do not fully understand all the biology, physiology, biochemistry, and physics of even a single cell of our own body, do not expect we fully understand the thought and wisdom of God who created all things. But, we can trust that whatever He does is right and good for He is a God of righteousness, justice, faithfulness and love (Psalm 89:14).

Matthew 11:23

23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.

Psalm 89:14

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.


We know that the world is under the influence of Satan while humans are susceptible to temptations and falling into sin. Therefore evils abound everywhere with varying degrees in different nations and communities including the land of the elects, Israel. As prophet Isaiah says that truth is nowhere to be found and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey of evil people. In other words, the world system is corrupted and broken. Mankind cannot save themselves and survive from this corrupted system and no one may intervene the situation (Isaiah 59:15). Although a noble goal, it is hopeless to expect anyone to live a godly life and establish a good relationship with the God of holiness by one’s own efforts. Many religions have been established to address the spirituality problem and answer the question of life destiny. Unfortunately, religions are man-made institutions and are deceptive under the influence of Satan and are mixed with human thoughts and impure agenda. They give a false sense of security and will not help us to build a good relationship with the one true God. To make mattes worse, religions have been used as vehicles to assert human manipulation and control.

We should all be grateful to the only one true God for He has prepared salvation to save people from sin in the beginning according to His foreknowledge and grace. God Himself accomplished salvation by His power and righteousness (Isaiah 59:15-16). God came to Israel as a person called the Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20) to bring salvation first to Israel and then to other nations (Genesis 22:18). The blessings of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God is too costly to be earned by anyone but are given as a gift to anyone who will answer His invitation to come to the Redeemer. Only by God’s power, Israel and the whole world can be saved. Salvation and reconciliation with God are not our efforts but God’s work and power to redeem and transform sinners by His Son and the Holy Spirit respectively. The way of salvation prepared by God Himself is the only way (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Isaiah 59:15-16

15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.

Isaiah 59:20

20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.

Genesis 22:18

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

As a note to this article, we also know that the majority of Israel as a nation is not willing to accept Christ as the Redeemer and Messiah (Isaiah 49:7). But, the Scriptures have prophesied that there will be a time when Israel will come to the end of the rope and the Messiah will come for the second time to save Israel from her many enemies (see Time of Trouble for Jacob). It is the second advent when Israel will receive Christ as the Messiah and the whole house of Israel is saved (Jeremiah 31:33-34). As I am writing this article, the world is like setting the stage for Israel to be surrounded by unfriendly nations and left alone. However, God said through prophet Jeremiah that Israel will never cease to be a nation (Jeremiah 31:35-36). But friends, do not waste one more minute without a good relationship with God. Now is the opportunity, do not delay in accepting God’s grace of salvation.

Isaiah 49:7

This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

Jeremiah 31:33-34

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Jeremiah 31:35-36

35 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name: 36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me."