Friday, August 29, 2008

Dear Roman Catholics...

I was raised in a Roman Catholic church, I was deceived. I'm now a saved, by grace, through faith, in Christ alone. I attend Grace Community Church, here in the San Fernando Valley in California, that is led by Pastor John McArthur.

You might say..."Catholic/Chrisitan.
..same thing." I'm afraid not.

A Grace Community Church Distinctive
The Distinctives series articulates key biblical and theological convictions of Grace Community Church.

IN TODAY’S SPIRIT OF ECUMENISM, many evangelicals have called for the Protestant Church to lay aside its differences with Rome and pursue unity with the Catholic Church. Is that possible? Is Roman Catholicism simply another facet of the body of Christ that should be brought into union with its Protestant counterpart?
Is Roman Catholicism simply another Christian denomination?

While there are many errors in the teaching of the Catholic Church (for example its belief in the transubstantiation of the communion wafer and its view of Mary), two rise to the forefront and call for special attention: its denial of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and its denial of the biblical teaching on justification. To put it simply, because the Roman Catholic Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God’s Word and to embrace the gospel of justification taught in Scripture, it has set itself apart from the true body of Christ. It is a false and deceptive form of Christianity.

The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura In the words of reformer Martin Luther, the doctrine of sola Scriptura means that “what is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed.? Roman Catholicism flatly rejects this principle, adding a host of traditions and
Church teachings and declaring them binding on all true believers—with the threat of eternal damnation to those who hold contradictory opinions.

In Roman Catholicism, “the Word of God encompasses not only the Bible, but also the Apocrypha, the Magisterium (the Church’s authority to teach and interpret divine truth), the Pope’s ex cathedra pronouncements, and an indefinite body of church tradition, some formalized in canon law and some not yet committed
to writing. Whereas evangelical Protestants believe the Bible is the ultimate test of all truth, Roman Catholics believe the Church determines what is true and what is not. In effect, this makes the Church a higher authority than Scripture.

Creeds and doctrinal statements are certainly important. However, creeds, decisions of church councils, all doctrine, and even the church itself must be judged by Scripture—not vice versa. Scripture is to be accurately interpreted in its context by comparing it to Scripture—certainly not according to anyone’s personal whims. Scripture itself is thus the sole binding rule of faith and practice for all Christians. Protestant creeds and doctrinal statements simply express the churches’ collective understanding of the proper interpretation of Scripture. In no sense could the creeds and pronouncements of the churches ever constitute an authority equal to or higher than Scripture. Scripture always takes priority over the church in the rank of authority.

Roman Catholics, on the other hand, believe the infallible touchstone of truth is the Church itself. The Church not only infallibly determines the proper interpretation of Scripture, but also supplements Scripture with additional traditions and teaching. That combination of Church tradition plus the Church’s interpretation of Scripture is what constitutes the binding rule of faith and practice for Catholics. The fact is, the Church sets itself above Holy Scripture in rank of authority.

The Doctrine of Justification
According to Roman Catholicism, justification is a process in which God’s grace is poured forth into the sinner’s heart, making that person progressively more righteous. During this process, it is the sinner’s responsibility to preserve and increase that grace by various good works. The means by which justification is initially obtained is not faith, but the sacrament of baptism. Furthermore, justification is forfeited whenever the believer commits a mortal sin, such as hatred or adultery. In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, then, works are necessary both to begin and to continue the process of justification.

The error in the Catholic Church’s position on justification may be summed up in four biblical arguments. First, Scripture presents justification as instantaneous, not gradual. Contrasting the proud Pharisee with the broken, repentant taxgatherer who smote his breast and prayed humbly for divine mercy, Jesus said that the taxgatherer “went down to his house justified? (Luke 18:14). His justification was instantaneous, complete before he performed any work, based solely on his repentant faith. Jesus also said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life? (John 5:24). Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe—and by definition eternal life cannot be lost. The one who believes immediately passes from spiritual death to eternal life, because that person is instantaneously justified (see Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1).

Second, justification means the sinner is declared righteous, not actually made righteous. This goes hand in hand with the fact that justification is instantaneous. There is no process to be performed—justification is purely a forensic reality, a declaration God makes about the sinner. Justification takes place in the court of God, not in the soul of the sinner. It is an objective fact, not a subjective phenomenon, and it changes the sinner’s status, not his nature. Justification is an immediate decree, a divine “not guilty? verdict on behalf of the believing sinner in which God declares him to be righteous in His sight.

Third, the Bible teaches that justification means righteousness is imputed, not infused. Righteousness is “reckoned,? or credited to the account of those who believe (Rom. 4:3–25). They stand justified before God not because of their own righteousness (Rom. 3:10), but because of a perfect righteousness outside themselves that is reckoned to them by faith (Phil. 3:9). Where does that perfect righteousness come from? It is God’s own righteousness (Rom 10:3), and it is the believer’s in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ’s own perfect righteousness is credited to the believer’s personal account (Rom. 5:17, 19), just as the full guilt of the believer’s sin was imputed to Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). The only merit God accepts for salvation is that of Jesus Christ; nothing man can ever do could earn God’s favor or add anything to the merit of Christ.

Fourth and finally, Scripture clearly teaches that man is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. According to the Apostle Paul, “If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace? (Rom. 11:6). Elsewhere Paul testifies, “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast? (Eph. 2:8–9, emphasis added; see Acts 16:31 and Rom. 4:3–6). In fact, it is clearly taught throughout Scripture that “a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law? (Rom. 3:28; see Gal. 2:16; Rom. 9:31–32; 10:3).

In contrast, Roman Catholicism places an undue stress on human works. Catholic doctrine denies that God “justifies the ungodly? (Rom. 4:5) without first making them godly. Good works therefore become the ground of justification. As thousands of former Catholics will testify, Roman Catholic doctrine and liturgy obscure the essential truth that the believer is saved by grace through faith and not by his own works (Eph. 2:8-9). In a simple sense, Catholics genuinely believe they are saved by doing good, confessing sin, and observing ceremonies.

Adding works to faith as the grounds of justification is precisely the teaching that Paul condemned as “a different gospel? (see 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6). It nullifies the grace of God, for if meritorious righteousness can be earned through the sacraments, “then Christ died needlessly? (Gal. 2:21). Any system that mingles works with grace, then, is “a different gospel? (Gal. 1:6), a distorted message that is anathematized (Gal. 1:9), not by a council of medieval bishops, but by the very Word of God that cannot be broken. In fact, it does not overstate the case to say that the Roman Catholic view on justification sets it apart as a wholly different religion than the true Christian faith, for it is antithetical to the simple gospel of grace.

As long as the Roman Catholic Church continues to assert its own authority and bind its people to “another gospel,? it is the spiritual duty of all true Christians to oppose Roman Catholic doctrine with biblical truth and to call all Catholics to true salvation. Meanwhile, evangelicals must not capitulate to the pressures for artificial unity. They cannot allow the gospel to be obscured, and they cannot make friends with false religion, lest they become partakers in their evil deeds
(2 John 11).

Adapted from John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When the Church
Loses Its Will to Discern (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994). For a
fuller treatment of Roman Catholicism, consult this resource.
© 2002 Grace Community Church. All rights reserved.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What Do You Have That You Did Not Receive?

"O believer, learn to reject pride, seeing that you have no ground for it. Whatever you are, you have nothing to make you proud. The more you have, the more you are in debt to God; and you should not be proud of that which renders you a debtor. Consider your origin; look back to what you were. Consider what you will have been except for divine grace. Great believer, you would have been a great sinner if God had not made you to differ. O you who are valiant for truth, you would have been as valiant for error if grace had not laid upon you. Therefore, don't be proud, though you have a large estate - a wide domain of grace, once you did not have a single thing to call your own except sin and misery. O strange infatuation, that you, who have borrowed everything, should think of exalting yourself." -Charles Spurgeon (commentary on 1 Corinthians 4:7)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Embracing Accusation

The father of lies
Coming to steal
Kill and destroy
All my hopes of being good enough
I hear him saying cursed are the ones
Who can’t abide
He’s right
Alleluia he’s right!
The devil is preaching
The song of the redeemed
That I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation
Embracing accusation
Could the father of lies
Be telling the truth
Of God to me tonight?
If the penalty of sin is death
Then death is mine
I hear him saying cursed are the ones
Who can’t abide
He’s right
Alleluia he’s right!
Oh the devil’s singing over me
An age old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently
He’s forgotten the refrain
Jesus saves!
"Embracing Accusations" - Shane & Shane

I had heard of Shane & Shane before...and was browsing iTunes, and decided to randomly buy their new album "Pages." This song, Embracing Accusation, was a song that stuck out far above the rest.

Please enjoy this song for now. I will be writing more on this soon...

A Weaker Vessel

1 Peter 3:7, "Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered."

I have been reading through 1 Peter for my own personal reading time. We are also starting up our study of 1 Peter in my Bible Study. I read through it a couple times and decided to take it slow through the roles of men and woman. Rick Holland, the pastor of Crossroads, our college ministry at Grace Community Church, went through a series on biblical feminity and masculinity. So I decided to listen to the sermons that would follow along with my text. For right now, I would like to dig in a big on the section of this verse stating that women are the "weaker vessels". Let's shine some light on this, since it is the title of my blog in greek: "ασθενεστερω σκευει."

The term “vessel” is used several time in Scripture. Let's take a look at a couple...

1 Thessalonians 4:4 "that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor..." Paul seems to use the term vessel in reference to the human body.

2 Corinthians 4:7 "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;" Again, referring to the human body and its capabilities.

Both men and women are “vessels” and while the man is “weak” the woman is the “weaker” of the two.

Alright, now let's dig on. What is this “weakness” which Peter refers? Peter does not precisely tell us how the woman is the weaker vessel.
The term “weak” is used often of physical sicknesses and infirmities which weaken the body, and generally speaking, women are not physically as strong as men, but this doesn't seem to be Peter’s only meaning.

Consider these texts and the ways "weak" is used:

"but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong," 1 Corinthians 1:27

"And the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you'; or again the head to the feet, 'I have no need of you.' On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked," 1 Corinthians 12:21-24

"We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone." 1 Thessalonians 5:14

"For they say, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible." 2 Corinthians 10:10

“Weakness” can be looked at a couple of way in this text.

One, being the role or position of weakness to which she submits, in obedience to the Word of God. To be weak is to lack power and prominence. For a woman to submit to her husband, to be silent and have a gentle and quiet spirit (as taught in 3:1-6) is to be weak in the eyes of the world. The husband is to honor his wife because she has been divinely appointed to assume the “weaker” role.

Another, being weakness in its physical abilities. Women are more fragile. I quote Rick Holland saying, "It literally means a fine piece of china. Something very precious and very valuable...fragile..cared for with the ultimate care."

I could go on more, but not right now...I'll leave it at this for now. I just wanted to let you all know what the title of my blog is about.

There will be more to come, I'm sure.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

My Testimony

Hello all! I have decided to post my testimony on my brand new blog to give you all a little background information on my life. Today is my 2 years of being in the Lord. It's my pleasure to share with you the amazing transformation that took place 2 years ago. And it will be my pleasure to share with you in the days to come the great work He continues to do. I hope this written testimony will give glory to my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ!

I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church in 1984 in Ohio. Throughout my early years in a Catholic grade school I was taught to believe that salvation was not sufficient through Jesus Christ only, but came through the church, its traditions, and my own efforts to do good works. I occasionally attended mass on Sundays with my family, but weekly my school held mass during school hours which we had to attend. I thought I knew God and I thought my religion was right because it made me strive to be a better person. With those thoughts I chose to attend an all-girl Catholic high school. Throughout high school as a whole student body we were required to attend our mass every week. My religion classes taught me that the Bible consisted of made up stories to teach us life lessons and an overall feel-good teaching that “everything happens for a reason.” This was the extent of my faith. During these years I found myself getting wrapped in more and more sin, and I clearly knew that what I was doing was bad. I tried avoiding sin by becoming involved with retreats and youth groups. I was trying to make up for all of my past sins and replace them with good deeds. After high school I went off to college, where I left behind church and my faith in God.

I moved out to Los Angeles in July of 2004, and for the next two years I allowed my mind, body and heart to be consumed with sin and fascinated with worldly views. I could see my life going downhill; however I didn’t try to fix it. I kept digging myself into a hole, and it kept getting deeper and deeper.

Last year I found myself in the darkest state I had ever been. I knew that I had to change the way I was living or I would literally die. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, and all the people I surrounded myself with were living the same lifestyle, I knew they couldn’t help. Then this is when I accepted that this was who I was, and there’s nothing I could do about it. As a result, I continued on with what I thought was “living life to the fullest” by indulging in drugs and alcohol. During this time however I was being encouraged to come to Grace Community Church by a few fellow co-workers. I scoffed at the first request of this. But, week after week they asked, and week after week I was more interested in going. But in the mist of the sinful lifestyle I was living, I was a bit intimidated.

In mid June of 2006 I attended Crossroads; this was my first time coming to a Christian church. During worship everyone was singing and I could hear the passion in their voices as they sang to praise God. I was surrounded by peers, hundreds of people my age coming together for God, not because they had to either, but because they loved the Lord! I was amazed. After hearing the Word of God spoken and taught in depth by Rick Holland, I realized that I really didn't know Jesus. I never heard these words before. I have never really even utilized a Bible before, I never understood it. I had heard a few Old Testament stories and I knew the Stations of the Cross from the Catholic Church, but other than that, this was all new to me. I didn't know that the Lord is "the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Him,” as proclaimed in John 14:6. It wouldn't take long though for me to understand this on a new level. The next few weeks I had the urge to read more from the Bible, to understand and get to know who God is. I attended big church the following weeks along with Crossroads and even attended Hillside bible study.

Sunday August 6th came around and I attended big church in the morning. This is when I hear the Sermon, “Drop Everything and Follow Him!” taught by Steven Lawson. We took a look at Mark 1:16-20. I took notes, “He chooses the common, looks past the mighty, to call on me”, and The Lord was calling to me to follow Him. I wrote on, “God Himself chooses us. It’s a direct invitation to join Him, a command.” “Follow Christ – Love, serve, and obey Him. Have faith to follow Him with complete surrender. His agenda is my agenda.” This was a lot for me to grasp, to leave everything behind, the thought made my anxious. But I understood that this was the only way and that this is what the Lord wanted, and I was to be obedient. So during closing prayer, I accepted that direct invitation from God, asked for God’s forgiveness from all the sin I had committed, and placed my pride, past and all of my possessions before the Lord. And I gave my life to the Lord and asked that He guide me for His own glorification.

The next few weeks were beyond what I had expected. My whole life was flipped upside down, a dying to my old being and a rejuvenation of a clean and new being.

I thank the Lord daily for my salvation and all the knowledge He has given me. I take on no credit for anything good, for it is all through the power of the Holy Spirit. He has giving me the strength to trust in Him and cut all ties from my past life. I feel free and blessed and find joy living my life to glorify God.

So, this was God's plan of salvation. This is the salvation that comes by grace through faith. It could not come from any plan that I had. His grace is a gift and it was given to me so that He would be glorified, so that I could stand here today to respond in obedience to the call and demands of Jesus Christ my Savior.

I was baptized on April 29th, 2007 at Grace Community Church by Bruce Blakely.