Sunday, September 20, 2009

By Al Gist

I surrendered to the call of preaching the Gospel of my Lord Jesus on the last day of revival services in our home church, July 21, 1985. My "Daddy in the Ministry", Bro. Jamie Coleman, had preached a fiery message that Sunday and God's call was more than I could possibly resist. So, with a truly broken and contrite spirit, I fell at the foot of the cross that morning and cried out, "Okay, Lord. I'll do it!"We had "dinner on the grounds" after church and after the meal, when almost everyone had left, Bro. Jamie called me and Sandy aside to pray over us and ask God's blessings on our ministry. In an empty sanctuary, in front of the pulpit, he had us kneel as he placed his hands on our heads. Then, with words from deep within his soul, he poured out his heart to God in an agonizing tone as he interceded in our behalf.I wish I could remember all of what he prayed that day, but I can't. I remember the sincerity with which he prayed. I remember the solemnity of the moment. I remember the overwhelming presence of God and the feeling of the huge responsibility that I had just accepted. But I can only remember the closing words of Bro. Jamie's prayer. And I will never forget those words!After crying out for God's greatest blessings to be upon our lives and ministry, this "Hellfire and brimstone" preacher said in a thundering voice,
"And Lord, if he ever compromises on Your Word... kill him!"Needless to say, you don't soon forget a prayer like that!Bro. Jamie was very serious in what he asked from God that day. As much he loved me, he would have rather had God call me home, than to allow me to compromise on the truth of God's Word in my preaching and teaching, and thereby hinder the Kingdom work. When it comes to our stand on what we KNOW the Bible teaches, there is no room for compromise!According to an Aug. 25 WorldNetDaily article by Joel Richardson1:
"This year, a group of emergent Christians led by one of the United States most influential pastors, Brian McLaren, has announced that it will actually be "observing" the Muslim holy month, along with a Muslim "partner." Ramadan is the month that Muslims thank Allah, their god, for revealing the Quran to Muhammad, their prophet. On McLaren's personal blog, he recently announced his intentions: 'We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.'2"Let's be perfectly clear about something here...Islam is a false religion that follows an unholy document (the Quran) in its worship of a false god! Allah, the Muslim god, is NOT just another name for the true God of this universe, as some would tell us. And their unholy writ, the Quran, is NOT just another rendering of "the truth" from God that is on equal footing with the Holy Bible! Islam is idolatry... plain and simple!So why would anyone calling himself a Christian want to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan, a month that is set aside to celebrate their false prophet's revelation of his false god's instructions to mankind? The answer is found in McLaren's own words. It is being done as an "expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness", which he calls "God-honoring". But since when is God honored by condoning, accepting, or participating in idolatry? Certainly, we are to reach out to all people with the love of Jesus. But we do NOT try to reach them by participating in their sinful ways!When Paul said "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (I Cor. 9:22), he did not imply compromise. But in order to more effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus, the apostle was careful to be considerate of other's beliefs and traditions. He did not want to offend them and run them away before he could share the Gospel with them.He said, "unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as [though I also was] under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;" (I Cor. 9:20) But his acting in obedience to the law when he was around Jews who placed such a high importance on observing the law, was not sinful or idolatrous or showing approval of sinful ways. Indeed, if it were possible for us to live in perfect obedience to the law, we would all want to serve God so perfectly.So, even though Paul knew he had been set free from the "bondage" of the law, he was not deceptive or hypocritical in his approach to those Jews who placed such a high importance on observance of the law. He just tried to be careful and considerate of their ways so that he might have the opportunity to tell them about a more perfect way through faith in Jesus Christ.The essential part of Paul's actions was his motivation, which was to bring people to salvation in Christ. He was not doing it as simply an "expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness" like McLaren. Nor was he participating in sin in order to reach the sinner. But the liberal left in Christendom have a different motivation. They are all about "peace, fellowship, and neighborliness".Over and over again, the expressed motive of this godless ecumenism is world peace and brotherly love (which sounds very good on the surface). And along with apostates like McLaren, the Roman Catholic Church is leading the way. Pope Benedict XVI, at the World Youth Day in Australia last July, "called on around 50 Christian leaders to fight for unity within the broader faith.
'...My dear friends, I have come to Australia as an ambassador of peace. For this reason I feel blessed to meet you who likewise share this yearning and the desire to help the world attain it.' The pope later met leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and other faiths, telling them religions had a special role in maintaining peace."3For sure, desiring a peaceful existence (Heb. 12:14) and loving all people (Matt. 5:43-44) are Christian attributes. But in doing so, we are to NEVER compromise on our stand for the truth of God!Because of His unyielding stand on the truth, our Lord Jesus said, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." (Matt 10:34) And He went on to say that because of Him, people would even be at variance with members of their own family!Love people with the love of Jesus? Yes! But disregard or participate in their sin in an effort to have peace and acceptance from them? Never! We don't even do it to "reach" them! Should we drink with the drunkard to reach him? Are we to gamble at the casino to reach its patrons? Are we to dabble in sexual immorality to be more accepted and at peace with the world? Of course not!And neither do we legitimize idolatry in order to have peace with the idolaters. The Bible is perfectly clear on this:
"...for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?... Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord..." (2 Cor. 6:14b, 17a)We are to be sanctified (set apart) from the sinful world. And it is through that holiness in us that the lost are drawn to Jesus.Satan has so sugar-coated and disguised his poison with "peace and brotherly love" that people, even "Christians" are swallowing it in mega-doses. They don't understand their Bible well enough to even know better. As God said through the prophet Hosea, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:" (Hos. 4:6a).Today, the doctrine of "tolerance" has become the theology of the world, which should come as no surprise to us since... "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Tim. 4:1). And it is this devilish doctrine of "tolerance" that is melding all the religions of the world into one giant conglomerate that the False Prophet will eventually place at the feet of Antichrist. Each religion will be allowed to keep its own individual doctrine, but united by and subservient to the overall umbrella of "tolerance and brotherly love"... a one world religion that will eventually worship the Antichrist.As for this preacher, there is no room for compromising on the truth of God's Word. As Paul said, "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16) lest the closing request of Bro. Jamie's prayer be answered!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Judaism Part 2

In the last post, we looked at the differences in Judaism- from the more traditional Orthodox to the more liberal Reformed and Conservative Judaism.

Obviously, as I touched on the last time, Christians do have some things in common with Judaism. We share the Old Testament and it's teachings. We believe in the same Holy. Righteous God. Both faiths share the same view of Deuteronomy 6:5,4 "The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."

Both faiths accept the Law given by God the Creator. We share the same need to worship God, the importance of a strong family unit, and loving others. The difference of course is our view of Jesus Christ.

Many Jews do believe that Jesus was a good man, and rabbi. Many believe His teachings are good, but that's as far as they believe. Jewish people view the Gospel as something only for Gentiles. It is considered to be our religion only, and many don't believe they have any need for Jesus anyway. If a non religious Jewish person is considering a religion, it would be Judaism. Most Jews do not see Jesus as their Messiah because He claimed to be divine, and He did not deliver Israel from their oppressors. Jews of Jesus' time were looking, and many are still looking for more of a political leader type of Messiah, where they will finally be free from oppression. What they fail to understand through many of the prophecies, is that while Jesus came the first time as a servant and a sacrifice- He will come again to deliver His people.

Anther belief is that because Jews are Jewish by birth, then Christians too, are Christian by birth, not understanding the personal faith commitment made by people of all ages to have a relationship with Jesus. They don't see Christians as people from all backgrounds becoming Christian, because anyone who is not a Jew is a Gentile- no matter where that person is from. They don't seem to understand that no matter our heritage, once a person comes a believer in Jesus, we are following the Messiah. We have not changed our earthly heritage, but we have been adopted into the family of God- and we, through our belief in Jesus, believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The same of the Jewish roots.

One main objection that many Jewish people have by placing trust in Jesus as our Savior, is that they will no longer be Jewish if they do this. They believe that to become a Christian is to "lose" their Jewishness and turning their backs on their heritage, traditions and family. Whether a Jewish person is religious or not- they are still Jewish, and they have their own "Jewishness", or ways of doing and thinking and celebrating things. They see most Christians as being more quiet and subdued, more conservative in both political and religious life. Many don't understand that the early Church was made up of mostly Jewish converts. They have not read the New Testament, so they have not had the chance to read Books such as Hebrews, which clearly show the Jewishness of Christianity. They do not know the ancestors of Jesus, which includes King David. They do not know the Jewish roots and family of Jesus or His apostles. They do not know that Paul, who was once Saul, was also Jewish- being raised in a very religious home and one of the Pharisees, and that he was still a Jew after his "conversion". They don't understand that all the apostles and Jesus Himself observed all of the Holy Days and celebrations.

Jewish people also assume a standing with God. They don't speak of salvation because they don't believe they have anything to be saved from. If there is a God, then Jewish people already have a relationship with Him. As far as sin goes, Jewish people believe that everyone is born free to choose whether to be good or evil- that no one is born that way.

Christians believe that God is One as well, but uniquely Three persons in One. We believe that Jesus was who He said He is, and that He came to save ALL mankind. We can only have a personal relationship with God through Jesus the Son. We believe that all are born in sin, and all fall short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:10,23; 5:12) and it is only through Jesus that we are able to stand before God.

Jewish people believe that anyone, no matter Jew or Gentile can be saved through commitment to the true God and through living a moral and virtuous life. Christians however know that we are only saved through grace and by the sacrificial death of Jesus- the passover Lamb of God.
Many Jews find the salvation message as offensive. Many who live in Israel are under the belief that Christians are only interested in trying to convert Jews, and that we don't care about their homeland. Many have heard enough of the Revelation prophecies to believe that they will all go to hell if they don't believe in Christ. While there is some truth to this belief, there is so much more to the whole of prophecy (more than I can fit here) but they don't understand that Bible believing Christians know that God is still looking over and caring for His people. Many Jewish people don't understand the term "savior", but they know the word "redeemer", so if you are ever talking with a Jewish friend, it would be good to talk about Jesus as Messiah and redeemer.

One last thought here. Many Christians, knowing how the Gospel message is many times offensive to a Jewish person, will be hesitant to bring it up when talking with a Jewish friend. Many times, they will use the same "plan" of "loving someone to Christ" instead of witnessing. While loving people is certainly something we should do, and sometimes it will help in witnessing to people of other or no religions- it will not help in bringing a Jewish friend to a relationship with Christ.

First of all, most Jewish folks are already kind, loving and upstanding in character. Most are very charitable- giving to many good causes. Therefore, doing things such as acting right and loving, giving to Godly ministries and charities doesn't show any difference in Christian behavior or their own, and it will not show the message of the Gospel. Another topic is that of missions and missionaries. While these are worthy and spreading the Gospel message, to a Jew, it is offensive if they perceive you are acting as a missionary to the Jewish community. To the Jewish person, missions are for rescuing and helping derelicts, and missionaries are those who work among primitive people. Definitely not something Jewish people view themselves as!Even though not many Jewish people accept the truth of the Old Testament, they hold the Book in high respect. It is good to have the Old Testament ready when talking with Jewish friends, so you can show them the whole Gospel from the Word of God.

Don't ever think you can't witness to a Jewish friend. After all, Messianic Judaism is gaining a huge movement all over the world. Messianic Jews from all walks of life are believing in Yeshua- and that He is the promised Messiah who will be Israel's and the world's savior and redeemer!
Next time, we'll look into the major differences of the Christian "cults"- Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses.

Scriptures to review: Isaiah 49:5-26 (redemption for Israel) , Isaiah 53:4-6, (Prophecies about Jesus) John 1:10-12, (Jesus not recognised) 1 Peter 2:24,25, (Salvation through Jesus) Isaiah 53:7-9, (prophecies about Jesus) Matt. 27:57-60, (the burial) Luke 23:32,33, (crucifixion) Romans 10:12, (all in the Body- no Jews no Gentiles) Matthew 3:13-17, 28:19, (Baptism by immersion and the Trinity) 2 Corinthians 13:14 (Trinity), Romans 3:10,23,24,5:12, (on sin) Ephesians 2:8,9 (Salvation through grace not works) The Book of Hebrews (Paul's writings concerning the Jews)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

So What's the Difference- Judaism

Judaism has a history beginning around 200 B.C. begun by Rabbis, or Jewish Teachers. Around the time of the 2nd Temple's destruction is when Judaism really broke off from the traditional religion of Israel which was written about in the Old Testament. The destruction of the Temple meant there were no more Temple worship, no more sacrifices and no more priestly duties- therefore no more need for priests. New practices and institutions such as synagogue, rabbinical training and the office of the Rabbi came about, and the Rabbis were those who now set the laws, authority and practices for the Jewish people.

While Christianity and Judaism are similar in their both being shoots of the Old Testament religion of Israel, there are many differences between the two which we'll look at in the next post. In this post, we'll look at Judaism and the different beliefs.

From the start of Judaism until the early 18th century, Judaism really didn't change much, and there was really only one form practiced. After the 18th century, Modern Judaism broke into 3 main branches. The different branches were more of a personal choice of association, family roots and tradition, and where the nearest synagogue was, and if you liked the rabbi's message.

While there are 3 main branches, many people don't adhere to any particular doctrine, and many times, they come to their own version of what Judaism is all about.

The three branches are Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Judaism.

Orthodox is the closest form of the Judaism which was practiced around the time of the Temple's destruction. It's emphasis is on tradition and strict observance of the Law of Moses as instructed by the Rabbis. Orthodox Judaism can be almost compared to Roman Catholicism, in that they both have heavy Traditional based teachings. There view of the Torah, or the first Five Books of Moses is that they are true. Faith is an essential part of belief in the Torah, and they believe in the divine origin of oral and written word of the Torah. It is given a higher authority than the rest of the Hebrew Bible. Their belief is that God is in spirit. He is to the Orthodox Jew, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal and loving. They believe humans are basically good, but with an equal portion to be capable of evil. They believe that people can have self control over their evil nature and be perfected by their own efforts to be good and in following the Laws of Moses. The Law is the basis for Judaism, and gives structure and meaning to life, which leads to a closer relationship with God. They do not believe in original sin, but that people commit sin by breaking any of the Laws. Repentance, prayer and obedience of the Law are needed for a relationship with God but salvation is not necessary. The Messiah is a human, and not divine. He will restore the Jewish kingdom and rule righteously over the earth, and give judgement and make things right. The Orthodox Jew believes in a physical resurrection, and the righteous will be with God forever. Evil people will suffer after death, but many people have different thoughts on whether a literal hell exists or not. They attend synagogue for teaching and prayer, as well as social reasons. Men and women sit apart from each other, and the teachers usually face the same direction as the congregation.

Reform Judaism had it's beginnings in Germany around the time of the Enlightenment during the 18th century. Reformed Judaism focuses more on ethics and ideas of the prophets. Reformed Judaism can be compared to Unitarianism in that they both have emphasis on humanism. The Reformed Jew's belief is that the Hebrew Bible is a human document which has passed on and preserved the history and cultures of the people. It's an important book for learning moral and ethical ways to live. They have different interpretations of God, which includes mystical, natural and humanist philosophies. They do not believe that anyone holds the truth. They believe in the basic goodness of humans, and their approach is more humanistic, in that with education, evolution and encouragement, people can tap into the potential within self. Their view on the Laws, are that the law is basically evolving and changing, and it adapts to each age. In their view, if the law or observance of Judaism comes against societal demands, they must be dropped in favor of society. They do not believe in original sin, and i is actually a product of society. Salvation is by human effort, and brought about by a better society and education. Reform Jews do not believe in a Messiah, but more in with the liberal ideas of a utopia or perfect world to come where humans have evolved enough to be perfected and good. To the Reformed Jew, this is called the Messianic Age. They have no beliefs of life after death, although some believe in a Eastern Mysticism where souls will all merge into one huge impersonal life force. Their synagogue is called Temple, and the services are totally modern, and men and women sit together. They have choirs included in their worship services.

Conservative Judaism started around the 19th century, again with roots in Germany, and is considered "middle of the road". They can be compared with modern liberal protestants, which focuses on form and social issues rather than on doctrine. Their views of the Hebrew Scripture is that they are both from God and man. It's not considered inspired by God, and it's revelation is an ongoing process. The more popular thought is that God is impersonal- much to the belief that God created the world, and us, but He has left us to "do our own thing". They have similar views as the Reformed Jew, more humanist, that people can become perfect by enlightenment, and that Humanity is in a "partnership" with God. Truth and the law are relative, in that they change with the time, and must adapt to societal changes. There is no belief in original sin, but that people can sin by actions or immoral choices. Conservative Jews identify closer with the Reformed views of salvation, but they include the necessity of keeping their Jewish Identity. They also have similar views as Reformed Jews concerning Messiah. They also have more humanist views of man creating a utopia. Similar views as well on life after death, although they are not as involved in Eastern Mystic ideas. the Synagogue is seen as a basic part of Jewish life, and their services are more to the Reformed views than that of Orthodox.
Out of each branch, there is no real comparison to Bible believing Christianity. Neither do any of the branches really practice having a personal relationship to God, as they are more focused on living according to traditional understanding and ethical behavior. In Judaism, there is no real official religious principal, or doctrine, except to reaffirm that God is One from Deut. 6:4

All Jewish people, no matter which branch of Judaism they practice, observe at least some of the Jewish Holidays. They don't look at Holidays as celebrations, but more of observance. More practices of all Judaism include circumcision of sons on the eighth day, which is followed by a ceremony called brit milah. Bar mitzvah for boys and occasionally bat mitzvah for girls, which are coming of age ceremonies at the age of 13. There is usually a synagogue service followed by a fancy reception or party. Jewish weddings are usually celebrated under a canopy, which is called the chuppa, and the smashing of a glass wrapped in cloth to symbolize the destruction of the Temple.

Other observances are practiced mostly by the Orthodox Jews, but to a lesser extent, other branches who wish to get in touch with their Jewish roots include things such as observing the Sabbath. Traditional Jews will not do any work on Sabbath, but others may at least cook a family meal at the beginning of the Sabbath, on Friday nights.Some Traditional Orthodox Jews wear small black boxes, called phylacteries, which contain portions of Scripture. These must be wrapped around the arm and forehead according to a set time and pattern. Many Jews of all branches will have a mezuzah on their door post of their home. These are little boxes which contain various Scripture verses. This isn't really related to Religious beliefs, but more a way to maintain Jewishness.The last, most well known practice is to keep kosher laws. One of the most well known is the prohibition of mixing meat products with dairy at one meal. After high school, I worked for a Jewish family who owned a summer camp, and became accustomed to a lot of these practices- especially getting used to drinking juice at meals which contained meat. Many Jews will keep kosher laws more out of tradition than Religious reasons. Even among non religious Jews, who don't believe in the dietary law will keep most kosher practice. I have to say, I loved working at that camp, and I loved the people there- but I sure missed bacon!

In the next post, we'll look more at the differences between the Scriptures of Judaism and Biblical Christianity.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

So What's the Difference- The Roman Catholic Church Part 2

In the last post we started on looking at the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and Bible believing Christians. While I have no doubt on the sincerity of many Catholics on their love of Jesus as their savior, there are enough differences between the Church teaching and the Bible, that I thought it deserved mention in this series on Religious comparison.

Just as Bible believing Christians rely on the Bible alone for our authority on the truth of God and faith alone (sola fide) in our salvation, the Roman Catholic Church relies on faith plus good works and God's grace mediated through the Seven Sacraments for salvation. While I won't list the seven here, it is important to note that two of the main differences are in the Catholic Holy Eucharist and Penance.

The Holy Eucharist, which in Protestant Church is the Lord's Supper, Catholics believe that when the priest consecrates the bread and wine during Mass, the bread and wine are "transformed" into the actual body and blood of Christ. This is called transubstantiation.Many Catholics attend Mass several times a week, or even daily. In the Catholic Catechism, the Eucharist is explained as a memorial and a sacrifice of Christ's passover and death on the cross. It is sacrifice because it re-presents or makes present the sacrifice of the cross, and the Eucharist is the offering not of the bloody sacrifice of the cross, but the unbloody. This means that during Mass, the Catholic believers can take part in the sacrifice of Christ.

Bible believing Christians believe there is no reason to continuously re-present Christ's sacrifice. He has already made us righteous though His sacrifice, and His one time offering of Himself has given us all His forgiveness. Hebrews 9:27- 10:14
To offer Mass as an ongoing sacrifice so people can "feel" closer and a fuller experience is a contradiction to what the Scripture says.

One of the other Sacraments which is doctrinally different is the act of Penance. These are acts which a Catholic must do for forgiveness. There are different "grades" if you will of sin to the Catholic Church. These are mortal and venial sins. Mortal sins are those which are serious and done with "full knowledge and deliberate consent". These end up in the loss of sanctifying grace. If mortal sin is not confessed and forgiven, the sinner faces eternity in hell. Mortal sins can range from adultery, fornication, stealing or lying, blasphemy, harmful religious discrimination, and hateful or lustful thoughts.Venial sins are minor which can weaken a believer's faith, but do not result in loss of sanctification. These include small lies, overeating or drinking, small stuff. Catholics are encouraged to confess these sins, especially when they "pile up"- to keep the believer from weakening their love for God or their families and neighbors.After confessing to a priest, he has the sinner do an act which fits the crime so to speak. This might include repeating a number of prayers, acts of self discipline such as fasting, or good works such as volunteering.

While there is nothing wrong with confessing of one's sin- all Bible believing Christians must seek forgiveness continually, but to the Bible believing Christian, our only confessor is Jesus Christ. Yes, it can also help to have someone who can help you stay accountable, but this person can not give forgiveness for sin. There is only one mediator between man and God- and that is Jesus Christ. (1Tim. 2:5)
And again, Jesus has already "done the work" by dying on the cross for our sins. No amount of what we can do to "atone" is not enough and is no match for what Christ has done for us already.This is not to say we should not do good works- but it is because of our faith in Jesus, which allows the Holy Spirit to impart His gifts and talents in us, to where we can do things for God's kingdom. It is not to do these things out of fear we are not quite saved without them.

I have heard from some people who are disappointed with Christians because when doing such services as working with the poor or homeless, the Christian seems rude, impersonal and/or uncaring in their work. I find this sad and it does a disservice to the purpose of loving one's neighbor as Christ asks us, and it sets a bad example of Christian discipleship in front of non believers. While it is not always the case, I believe some of the reason may be the person's perspective of their work. Obviously, if one is working out of a sense of duty, because they want to serve Christ, they will love, be kind and show a enthusiastic sense of giving. If they have the attitude of having to serve because they have to "make up" for their sanctification, they will feel a sense of having to be there, but not really wanting to be there. It's hard to show love and compassion when your heart is not in it.

We'll look at one more difference in this post to finish our comparison on the Roman Catholic church. This is the practice of Marian worship. We know that Scripture calls Mary favored and blessed among women. She was chosen by God to bear the Son, which is a huge and awesome responsibility. However, Mary was a woman, specially chosen, but not worthy of veneration and honor. Veneration and honor belong to God only- not one of His creations.

Catholics have different levels of worship. These are latiria, which is the adoration of the triune God alone, dulia, which is veneration given the angels and canonized saints. Then there is hyperdulia, which is super veneration given to Mary alone.
Early in the 4th century, it was taught that Mary's virginity continued after the birth of Christ. Out of that, grew the tradition of immaculate conception, which meant that Mary was born without sin and led a sinless life. This was proclaimed dogma by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and the doctrine of Assumption was proclaimed dogma by Pius XII in 1950. Assumption meant that Mary was taken bodily and soul directly to heaven. Other popes have referred to Mary as Mediatrix, which means she is the "co-mediator" with Jesus between God and man. Redemptrix, which means she is Christ's "associate in redemption". Pope Leo XIII though, proclaimed in 1891, that "As no man comes to the Father but by the Son, so no man goeth to Christ but by his mother."

Vatican II documents claim that special titles to Mary have no effect on the belief in Christ as sole mediator, but it is impossible for a Bible believing Christian to note the above proclamations by those in the Church to see anything but encouraging followers to place Mary equal with Jesus or even covering His function of our savior and mediator.Bible believing Christians respect Mary as the woman chosen by God, but that is where the similarity ends. Scripture is clear on the subject as the relationship between Jesus and His earthly mother, and more importantly, there are no scriptures which supports the Catholic beliefs about Mary, or the dependence on Mary and the canonized saints in our daily walk with Christ. The Bible is clear that ALL believers in Christ are His Saints. We don't need a Papal decree to state who is a Saint. We do not believe in the infallible man, whether he be the Pope or any other, as the Bible says ALL have sinned and NONE is righteous.

Bible believing Christians know God justifies the believer by declaring us righteous, and sanctification is a life long process as God works in us. Jesus has paid for all sin already, there is nothing we can add by good deeds. We believe we go straight to heaven where sanctification is completed in Christs presence. We do not believe in a purgatory, a place where the dead are still working through the sanctification process. We are either saved by the Grace of Christ by faith, or we are not saved because we do not believe. Once we die, there is no more chance to "make things right". We will not be benefited by prayers of others, nor of lit candles, nor of indulgence. Jesus Christ alone is the only way to God the Father, no one on this earth has ever been perfect except for Jesus Christ and no one on this earth has ever been sinless except for Jesus Christ. He is all we need!

Scripture References on Christ as head of the Church, searching scripture for yourself, Grace through faith alone in Jesus, the sinfulness of ALL men, righteousness through Christ alone- not through our own efforts, God working through us for His purpose, living by faith, immediate life after death with no purgatory, Jesus Christ as sole mediator.

Next time, we'll look at the differences between Judaism and Biblical Christianity.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So What's the Difference - The Roman Catholic Church

For a review on this series, please see Part 1 below.

In order to compare the Roman Catholic church and Biblical Christianity, we need to explore the Catholic Church's belief that they are the true church- that is with the sole and exclusive authority and ability to interpret the Scriptures for believers, and how they view doctrines such as salvation- how a person finds justification from his/her sins.
One of the biggest divisions between the Roman Catholic Church and Biblical Christianity is based on Sola scriptura (scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone). Back in the early days of the reformation, the reformers rejected many of the Roman Catholic traditions because they believed the church should only base it's doctrine on what the Bible teaches. At the council of Trent (1545-63) the Church rejected this, and kept the right to interpret the Scriptures according to what they believed the Bible taught.
During the Vatican Council II (1962-65) the rulings made at Trent were upheld. Among documents from the Vatican Council II was something called Dei Verbum, which showed the Roman Catholic Church believes the apostles passed on their authority to succeeding bishops in the churches during the first century and all the centuries since. The church added certain teachings over the centuries based on what is called Sacred Tradition. Because bishops were supposedly successive apostles, the traditions they began and passed on were given the same authority as the Scriptures. Instead of Sola Scriptura, the Roman Catholic Church assumed and claimed the the teachings of scripture plus tradition, as both are believed to be equal sources of spiritual authority.

Bible believing Christian belief in Scripture alone as our authority is directly opposite to the Roman Catholic teaching of scripture plus tradition. To Bible believing Christians, we believe the Bible alone is our spiritual authority, that it is through the Holy Spirit that we understand what is written. All the things we need to know, believe and practice are clearly written in the Bible, which as we looked at earlier, are God inspired writings. The Bible does not however, include teachings on religion. This doesn't mean that the Bible is incomplete as the Roman Catholic Church believes- just because it doesn't mention other things Jesus did.

Bible believing Christians believe the Scriptures are complete as they need to be to teach the truth of Jesus, how to be redeemed and saved from sin. The Bible plainly says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
Scripture alone doesn't mean that anyone can read the Bible and believe whatever they want about it (as so many liberal churches do these days). It is the church which must teach the truth of the Bible, (very important here- which so many mega churches and feel good theologians do not do) as long as they stay true to the Bible in whatever they teach. A Christian can trust any church as long as they stay true to the Bible- the whole word.

The Roman Catholic Church continues to believe that the Bible is a "church based book" because the church wrote (the apostles letters) or determined what made up the New Testament. Bible believing Christians believe that the church discovered the New Testament through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that He determined which writings were divinely inspired. The Church has never been without scriptures! In the beginning days of the church, it had the Old Testament- which points to the New, which is why so many of the New Testament authors pointed to the Old! (2 Peter 1:20,21)

The Dei Verbum document from Vatican Council II says "All that has been said about the manner of interpreting scripture is ultimately subject to the judgement of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God." This shows that the Church encourages the people to read the Bible, but interpreting it is the sole authority of the church. They are insistent that it is the only accurate and authoritative source of interpretation of scripture is through the Catholic Church because of what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asks the disciples who they believe He is. Peter replies that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus tells Peter that only the Father in heaven could have revealed this truth, then made the famous speech about building the Church on "this rock". According to Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jesus named Peter "the rock" and gave him the keys and made him the shepherd of the flock. From this, comes the belief that "This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope" who "as vicar of Christ and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered."

Biblical Christians believe that the Holy Spirit guides each person in learning what God has to tell them about the Scriptures, and that believers are to search the scriptures for themselves as stated in John 16:13 and Acts 17:11.
As for Peter being the rock upon which Jesus built the church, Bible believing Christians do not agree with this at all. Jesus did not say "Upon you Peter I will build my church". He said upon this rock. In Greek text, Peter is referred to as Petros, which means small stone. "This rock" is referred to as petra, meaning very large rock.

At the Vatican Council I (finished in 1870) in addition to the doctrine that the Pope is infallible, Catholic bishops proclaimed that their interpretation of Matthew 16 showed "clear doctrine of Holy Scripture as it has been ever understood by the Roman Catholic Church." However Bible believing Christians believe that Jesus was talking about Himself as the Church's foundation. (1 Corinthians 3:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Peter 2:4-8) Even Peter never assumed the authority of anything other than an elder in the Church and talked about his fellow elders as being the shepherds of God's flock. There is no proof in the Bible which claims what Rome believes about Peter. This is where tradition comes in to the Catholic belief, that traditionally it has been believed about Peter, so it is as authoritative as Scripture.

Since the Church has claimed to be the only infallible authority on Scripture, they have over the years interpreted many scriptures to support their different traditions. It's not that they have no scriptural basis for their teachings- they do in so many areas, however they find scriptural base either by directly interpreting certain passages to mean what they believe it means or by finding their doctrines to be taught in Scripture. Dogmas such as the "immaculate conception", the bodily assumption of Mary and Papal infallibility are implied in scripture only, and when viewed according to the teachings of the Pope, they make perfectly good sense to Catholics.

Another doctrine believed by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church is that of apostolic succession. This grew out of the move by the Church to an episcopal type of government in the first and second centuries. Bishops became the most important officials in the Church and by the late second century, they were considered the supposed successors to the apostles, complete with powers, wisdom and authority.

Bible believing Christians don't believe this. It is our belief that the very foundation of the church was built upon the apostles and prophets- with Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. The apostles were unique and had powers through the Holy Spirit, but those Powers didn't and do not get passed down throughout the ages from the apostles. They never had their own power- only what they were given through the Holy Spirit. We believe the apostolic age ended with the death of John- the last of Jesus' apostles, and that others appointed yes, by the apostles rose up and took their places within the local congregations, but they could not give these new leaders power to be apostles, because only God can do that.

In the next post, we'll look at the Roman Catholic traditions of being saved by works plus faith, purgatory, Marion worship, sainthood and other major differences between Roman Catholics and Bible believing Christians.

All information contained in this post was based on Fritz Rindenour's So What's The Difference- Chapter 2

Saturday, March 21, 2009

So What's the Difference?

It's been a long time since I have posted anything new here. I've missed it, but stuff has a way of piling up! I'm not sure still how often I will be able to post anything new, but will try at least to be a little more regular!

I left the last post quite a while ago, but at the end, I said we would go on to exploring the differences between Christianity and other religions. Most religions are pretty straight foreword in the different beliefs and philosophies, but it is still important, I believe, to understanding the major world religions and worldviews. As non Christians, it helps to understand what it is that people of religion base their world views or thinking and beliefs on. It is a help to people who may be searching for something more than life happening without a faith or belief, but who aren't sure of what it means to follow a particular religious belief. There are so many different beliefs in the world- some have a larger following than others, some are more definite about life changes than others, some have more rules, others have strange beliefs and are more "radical" than others, so understanding differences can help a person come to a more broad understanding of what they may want to follow. For Christians, it can help develop a deeper faith in the Bible, and can also help by allowing more open conversations with people of different beliefs. I know people of other faiths are a little more open to discussion if a person has taken the time to study their beliefs and religious background. For me, religious studies and apologetics has strengthened my beliefs and shown me so many ways in which Christianity is true.

It has taught me that even among other Christian denominations, there can be huge differences in the way the Bible is interpreted, if it even is studied as the Book of God at all. It has shown me that there are many groups and religious people in the world who call themselves Christian, but by what their religion teaches, the books they teach from and their view on Scriptures, shows very little of the True meaning of being a Christ follower- a disciple of Christ, which is what the Christian "religion" is all about.

This is where I would like to start my next series- on those denominations and other groups which are or claim to be Christian.

It is NOT my intention here at all to put down, or denigrate anyone else's beliefs. It is only my purpose to share what I have learned in my years studying- the differences, and how some ideas or rules placed in those other denominations and sects are contrary to the Bible.

I will be basing much of the series on a select few books of many which I have studied from the past decade, and whenever I use a particular book- I will include the author, book and chapter.
These books have valuable resources for anyone wanting to study world religions, and many of the authors are highly respected individuals. That said, if any mis information is posted here, please let me know, and I will do my best to rectify or look into it. I want all the information to be honest and up to date, so as to not misinform anyone, but I will investigate any complaints for validity. I repeat, that I will never intentionally write anything which is misinformation or meant as a put down of anyone or their beliefs. This is only to show the differences in a Biblically based Christian life and other beliefs.

The first part of the series will focus on the differences between The Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Christianity. Most of the information for this part comes from the book So What's the Difference by Ftitz Ridenour. Again, if there is something I write here which is wrong or misleading, please (politely) post a comment and tell me~ Thank you.

I guess the best place to start first of all, is a recap of what Biblical Christianity is. This will be the basis of Christianity for all the other comparisons as well.

There are many Christians in the world- many of them my family and friends who are not Bible readers, and are quite illiterate when it comes to knowing much about the Bible. Oh, they know the main "stories" but as for the meanings and life lessons which the stories are there for - they have no clue. To be a Biblical Christian, this means that Christians look upon the Scriptures of the Bible with reverence, respect and with the knowledge that the Bible is the literal Word of God, that it is God Breathed, and the men who wrote the books were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. It means the Christian is diligently, seriously and carefully searching for the meaning of the Bible on IT'S terms- not our own to be changed whenever something written it is seeming to be out of date, not with our own time and understanding. We read the Word as we know it is God's Own Word. All throughout Christianity, there has been the need to separating the true Christian belief from other philosophies and heresies which kept on and are still creeping into the Christian body.

In the book So What's the Difference, Ridenour tells about the meaning of heresy from Webster's Dictionary. It is "an opinion held in opposition to the commonly received doctrine and tending to promote division or dissension." The common truths in the New Testament which shows the books are inspired by God, and His final Word on what Christianity really is has been subject to heresies and differences since the second century. The most commonly referred is Gnosticism. This is what many liberal Christians today believe in. There are many different denominations in Christianity- from Episcopal/Anglican, which is what I grew up in, to Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist and many others. The core belief however among all denominations are the basic doctrine that "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures... He was buried... He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:3,4

There is much more to Christianity than that, but this is the main doctrine, in which to compare other beliefs by. Ridenour describes this as a plumb line- which is what the Bible referes to when Amos showed the Israelites how God measures their actions according to His standards, His Word. (Amos 7:8)

So basically, Biblical Christianity is belief in the True Word of the Bible which is God Breathed- His literal Word, the reliable Word, Jesus was born of a virgin, died for the sins of the world, on the cross, He rose again on the third day, and that He is the Son of God, God come in the flesh.

Please read my earlier posts on how Christians believe in the accuracy, and truth of the Bible.

So, holding a Biblical worldview based on the absolute truth of the Bible makes me sound pretty sure of myself doesn't it? Sounds like I believe I have all the truth. Well, I don't. Only God holds all the truth because He is the only One who KNOWS all the truth perfectly. I am a Bible believing Christian, and I believe in the absolute truth of the Bible, but sometimes I am a pretty lousy Christian. I have made and will continue to make mistakes- so I am glad I have the Bible to show how accurate and reliable it is, and not only my word! It is the Word of God that I pass on to others. To teach and show Jesus. I am grateful for the knowledge through learning about other beliefs that Christianity is True- because of the Bible. My Biblical Christianity does not stand on my own word, my own actions or man made rules. It stands on faith and knowledge on the evidence proven that the Bible, is the Word of God.

Why then, if there is the Bible as our basis, are there so many differences between even just in Christendom? One reason is because the Words in the Bible have been challenged and denied by many different groups. Christ's apostles founded the Christian church within the first century, and it spread quickly despite persecution and death. The more suffering by Christians, the more the church grew. That is true even in our time as well. In places such as China and parts of Africa in which the church is hard persecuted against- Biblical Christianity is flourishing!

In the second century, the church founded by the apostles developed into the Catholic (or universal) church, and in the fourth century, persecution ended in the Roman empire because of Constantine, who became Emperor. He believed Christ helped him win the Empire and soon after, Christianity was the dominant religion throughout the empire. Because of the huge area comprised as the Roman Empire, the languages and different cultures different opinions and theological conflicts were one source of some of the splitting into different sects of the Christian faith. The main contention however was the insistence that the Church in Rome had the supreme power and authority over all Christendom. The biggest split came in 1054 when the Orthodox Church in the east split with the Roman Catholic Church in the West.

After that, the Roman Catholic Church became more powerful and added more doctrines which were not based on the Bible. The Church at that time became more corrupt as well, which finally led to the Reformation which was started by Martin Luther, a Catholic Monk. Luther intended to reform the Church by making the Bible the sole authority. The pope and other leaders rejected this and Luther was forced out.

The Reformation spread over Europe and those who "protested" against the Roman Church were come to be known as Protestants. Here within a thousand year span, Christ's church split into three major denomination. These in time split into smaller denominations.

So, how did the Gospel change into so many different views, which all call themselves Christian? Not only that, but they don't even agree on critical issues much of the time?

We need to start with the difference between the Bible believing Christian and the Roman Catholic Church- which compare the principals I already laid out on the Biblical Christian, and the Roman Catholic view being:

We'll see that next time ;-)

PS- You may be wondering what's up with the picture I posted? A wolf in sheep's clothing! We are to watch out for false teaching!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Part 2- Too Many Differences

Please read part 1 below first. Thank you.

Now, my third point. In the section which mentions the Testimonies of Faith, they talk about the the central creed of Islam- There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is His messenger. The letter then goes on to mention scriptures from the Qu'ran which talk about people’s souls- as depicted as having “three main faculties”- being the mind or intelligence- for understanding the truth, the will, which is made for freedom of choice, and sentiment, which is for loving the good and the beautiful.
Again, no talk of the Christian testimony-which is preaching the Gospel of Christ- they refuse to believe in the Christ as He is- and they will not tolerate any preaching of the Christian message to anyone of the Muslim faith- so much for allowing for freedom of choice.

In conclusion, I have to say I know there are many Christians who come off sounding holier than thou- some who seem to be intolerant of everything, and each and every one of us makes mistakes. I’ve never hid the fact that some of my biggest mistakes, some things I am not proud of have happened since I was born again in Christ. I will continue to try and allow the Holy Spirit to work in me and allowing good things to be produced, but until the time I reach heaven- I will still fall every now and then, as all of us will. There will be times where I could help someone in need, but didn’t, care for someone who was sick or hurt, but didn’t, give to someone one who needs extra, but didn't- but I will always try to do what I can, when I can- because I can- because of Christ. Most Christians I know would gladly give the last of what they have- whether in time or money or sweat- to help people in need. We will always attempt to share the Gospel of Christ with others, we will always try and help people understand what sin is, and how to receive grace and forgiveness- we will always do for the least of these- because we see Christ in them. To me, that shows that we Bible believing Christians are already loving our neighbors as ourselves- whether our neighbors are in down the street, in a shack in the poor part of town, in another city ravaged my natural disasters- or whether they are on the other side of the world- people made in the Image of God- even if they don’t believe in Him- but they are in desperate need of love, or comfort or shelter or food- we will be there- loving them as we would ourselves.
As for the men who wrote this letter- I pray that they are sincere, but given the history of the Islamic faith- and even in recent times such as Gaza in Israel- where peaceful land transfers are met with katusha rockets and suicide bombing attempts- I just have to wonder what they have up their sleeves. After all, Mohammad offered the people of Mecca an offer of peace and friendship- but when they didn’t convert- they were invaded by Mohammad’s army. It happens through out history of Islam- a chance to convert, disguised by peace- but met with force if not accepted.
I will never torture or kill, murder or maim someone who doesn’t believe what I do. I would though, rather place my trust in One who died for me on the Cross at Calvary- rather than a man who started a new religion based on power and might of a sword-

I will post more on differences of not only the Muslim religion, but of other religions and cults as well in up coming posts.