Tag Archive for Jesus Christ

Fishers of Men: Part 1–Follow Me

jesus-bench-300x264

Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”  And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  (Mark 1:16-18 ESV)

 

This is one of a plethora of examples in the Bible where context is everything.  Just reading that passage by itself might make you say, “WHAT?  How gullible are these guys?  Was Jesus some kind of Pied Piper or something?”

 

Because it sounds like He was just going for a walk, saw these two guys, called them, and they came.  Obviously, there’s more to it than that, but you have to know where to look.  So here’s some background.

 

Simon and Andrew are brothers from Bethsaida, which literally means House of Fish.  They are working in a commercial fishing business in Capernaum, on the north end of the Sea of Galilee, where Andrew lives with Simon and his wife.

 

Andrew is also a disciple, or follower, of a radical new preacher known as John the Baptist, who was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah, the Anointed One of God who would redeem Israel.

 

One day Jesus shows up where John is baptizing.  John immediately recognizes Him, and points Him out as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  Naturally, word gets out about this event.

 

So the next day, Andrew is there along with another disciple by the name of John, who recorded the events of that day in the Gospel that bears his name:

 

The next day John was standing again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus walking along he said, “Look!  The Lamb of God!”  The two disciples heard what he said, and they followed Jesus.

 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he asked, “What are you looking for?”

They said, “Rabbi (which is translated Teacher), where are you staying?”

 He replied, “Come and see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day.  (John 1:35-39a CEB)

 

After spending the day with Jesus, Andrew immediately goes and gets Simon, convinced that he and John had found the Messiah.  So how were they convinced in a single day?  I’m sure it had a lot to do with what Jesus said to them, which the Bible didn’t record, but there is another reason.

 

Andrew and John recognized Jesus as the Messiah because they were EXPECTING the Messiah.

 

Indeed all Jews in that day were, but most of them didn’t know what they were looking for.  Many were hoping for a military leader to throw off the Roman occupation of Judea.  These folks missed it completely when Jesus was in their midst.  Indeed, many of them were among those who eventually had Jesus executed.

 

But John the Baptist knew that the Kingdom of God was another matter entirely.  And he had done his job in preparing the way for those who had ears to hear his message, Andrew and John among them.

 

(Come back for the conclusion–Track Record!)

 

DN=: Part 10–Affirmation

what I want to hear

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit,  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.  (Luke 6:43-45 ESV)

 

If a person’s words are to be trusted, that person will have an established record of trustworthiness.  You are not going to be led down a successful path by someone who has never succeeded.

 

Likewise, a person who is known for encouraging and lifting others up is not likely to tell you something that will be a stumbling block to you, even if it’s something you didn’t expect, or didn’t WANT, to hear.

 

I think we all come to a day of reckoning in our lives where we realize that the direction we’re going isn’t the one in which we ought to be.  I can’t imagine anyone going through his or her entire lives without making at last one major course correction.  (If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet, don’t worry, you will.)

 

No matter who you are and what your situation is, that situation, and your destiny, will never change without you making some conscious decision to change your way of thinking and go a way you haven’t gone before, whether that means a slight change in direction, or a complete 180.

 

The churchy word for a change of mind, accompanied by a change of direction, is “repentance.”

 

The important thing to understand is that repentance cannot occur without new information entering the cranium.  You can’t change your mind or choose your direction without knowing that you have a choice to make.

 

The trouble is that the right choice is not always the easy one.  In fact, it usually isn’t.  The right choice usually results from your having received information that you needed, but not necessarily that you wanted.

 

Anybody can tell you what you want to hear.  If you want your current belief system to be affirmed, the internet is more than happy to oblige.  All you have to do is type what you already believe into your favorite search engine, and you will find thousands, maybe even millions of people, to affirm your point of view.

 

There’s just one problem with this.  Belief DN= Truth.  As such, a quest for affirmation will never lead to intellectual or spiritual growth.

 

AFFIRMATION DN= INFORMATION

 

 

Now don’t get me wrong; I am speaking of affirmation in the sense of affirming a point of view, not one’s own self-worth.  The latter is healthy affirmation, and I will tell you plainly that I crave that kind of affirmation nearly as much as I crave oxygen.

 

However, a quick perusal of the Truthseeker Manifesto will illuminate everything that is detrimental about a quest for affirmation of one’s worldview.

 

You can’t end an argument by attempting to bolster your own position.  You can’t establish common ground without leaving your own ground.  Seeking to affirm your beliefs does not afford you the opportunity to test them.  Also, it is very difficult to explain your own reasoning when all it consists of is quote mining from other people’s reasoning.

 

Essentially, the quest for affirmation is a rejection of Truthseeking.  The desire for affirmation is a symptom of insecurity.  Specifically, it is the fear of losing everything that is familiar to you on the off chance that whatever, or whoever, is challenging your belief pattern might have some information that you would have to accept.

 

The only way to overcome this fear is to have a burning desire to be informed, not just to believe, but to KNOW!  But knowledge only comes when you take the lid off the glass.

 

In a culture that values affirmation, however, this is easier said than done.  If we are serious about obtaining information that is worth knowing and passing on, we may have to look to history.

 

(For a different kind of history lesson, come back for Part 11—Backwards)

 

DN=: Part 8–Hate Speech

hate speech

 

 

Be clearheaded. Keep alert. Your accuser, the devil, is on the prowl like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (1 Peter 5:8 CEB)

 

All of humanity has a common enemy—Satan, the accuser.  The enemy’s primary goal has always been our destruction, but he has been busy developing some new tactics.

 

First to review, you’ll remember that in Part 3, we identified “righteousness” as being a right standing with God the Father, which is made possible only through a trusting relationship with His Son, Jesus.  Those with whom the enemy succeeds in denying this opportunity for righteousness will nevertheless still crave it.

 

However, since they have allowed themselves to be cut off from God’s saving grace, they are only able to manufacture a false perception of righteousness.  In their desperate attempt to elevate themselves in their own minds, they find themselves compelled to disparage others in order to make that possible.

 

The enemy facilitates this process by helping those under his influence categorize people into groups and label them.  Then he directs his unwitting followers to abuse the people in those groups by treating them unequally and criticizing them based on their differences.

 

Over time, these blanket condemnations become a habit, and hatred develops.  If left unchecked by correction, it is possible for this hatred to swell into an epidemic of ignorant bigotry.  This bigotry will then be projected toward the groups of people to whom they are trying to maintain their sense of superiority.

 

Combating this is a struggle we all share.  And it is indeed a daily struggle.  Seeing other people as individual human beings, instead of part of a labeled subset of humanity, requires a generous helping of both humility and critical thinking.

 

Knowing this, our enemy imparts his unwary abettors with a liberal dose of arrogance, which suppresses all traces of humility and artificially inflates their perception of their own intellect, eliminating the prospect of any critical thought taking place.

 

This is where the enemy plays to his greatest strength.  He advises his impressionable followers, “If you can’t convince ‘em, accuse ‘em!”

 

And this is how it plays out.

 

When one of these people attempts to engage a Truthseeker in debate, he quickly discovers the futility of this venture, since the primary objective for Truthseekers is to end arguments, not win them.  Since the arguer finds that he cannot claim the logical high ground, he will then attempt to lower the ground beneath his opponent by attacking his character.

 

But here is the twist!  Since unwarranted character assassination would make him guilty of judgmentalism, he must first deflect his own guilt by accusing the Truthseeker of being judgmental himself, thereby forcing him into a defensive position.  With any luck, the Truthseeker will take the bait, lower himself into the argument, and thus become that which he has already been accused of being.

 

On the other hand, a mature Truthseeker will not take the bait, but will simply hold fast to the Truth, and not change course.

 

When the arguer sees that his attempts at both logic and character assassination have failed, he plays the only card left in his deck by attacking Truth itself.

 

He does this by labeling the Truth “hate speech.”

 

DEFENSE OF TRUTH DN= HATE SPEECH

 

 

The irony of this concept of “hate speech” is that the people most commonly accused of hate speech are in actuality the ones most commonly on the receiving end of it.

 

For centuries upon centuries, Christians have put their trust in the eternal God, in his indisputable and unchanging Word in which He is revealed, and in His universal promises and plan for all of mankind.  In a world where people follow after every wind of change, no matter how ludicrous, we build our lives on the solid rock of eternal unchanging Truth, passing it down from generation to generation.

 

But instead of a fixed and eternal rock, our faith is now portrayed by our degenerate culture as an ignorant and hateful tradition.  We are even demonized for faithfully carrying out our most important responsibility as parents, the passing on of our faith to future generations, with the charge of “indoctrinating” our own children!

 

If parents should not be the ones most responsible for helping to frame the basic worldview and shaping the character of their own children, then who should?  The enemy has some ideas about that.

 

(And you’ll hear all about them if you come back for Part 9—Brainwashing.)

 

DN=: Part 6–Judgment

 

Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

 You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, God’s fiery and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!

 If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

 If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

Romans 2: 1-13 The Message

Sorry for the long quote there, but I wanted to point out two phrases in the very same passage: “Judgmental criticism” and “righteous judgment.”  Both phrases have forms of the word “judge” in them, but they are very different.

 

It should be clear from the context that righteous judgment belongs to God alone, for God alone is righteous by nature.  Because of His unattainable righteousness and holiness, He alone has the authority to judge in the sense of meting out justice for our sin.

 

As we have talked about in Part 3, righteous DN= self-righteous.  The only way that a person could attempt to judge another’s destiny would be from a position of self-righteousness.

 

But as we have also discussed, self-righteousness is unrighteousness.  How then can the unrighteous judge anyone?  Indeed, they have already been judged themselves, not only for the sins they themselves have committed, but by the greater sin of attempting to push God out of the Judgment Seat which is rightfully His.

 

This is the difference between judgment and being judgmental—it’s all about who is passing the judgment.  God is qualified and has the authority to judge sin.  We aren’t, and we don’t.

 

EXERCISING JUDGMENT DN= BEING JUDGMENTAL

 

Although self-righteous, judgmental criticism is a problem for all people, the distinction between God’s judgment and man’s judgmentalism is relatively clear.

 

What is not as clear as it needs to be, however, is the difference between judgmentalism and exercising sound judgment.

 

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion. Proverbs 3:21 NIV

 

One of the complications of the English language is words with multiple meanings.  “Judgment” is one of those.

 

God will sit in judgment of us all; therefore, we should not stand in judgment of one another.  Yet we are to preserve sound judgment?  How does that work?

 

It’s really not that difficult when you stop to think about it.  If your judgment is toward a person and stems from motives of criticism and self-righteousness, then you are being judgmental.  This is the bad one.

 

However, if your judgment is focused toward an action or situation, and is based upon wisdom, common sense or sound reasoning, then this is the good kind.

 

Where the problems arise, is when a spirit of offense prevents the person being judged from distinguishing between the two.

 

If someone attempts to shame you for your sin, make you feel like a bad person, tells you you’re going to Hell, calls you a name, places a group label on you, or blames you for something for which you are not directly responsible because of your association with that group, then that person is being judgmental, and your offense is justified.

 

If, however, the other person is attempting to help you correct your behavior respectfully, sharing from his or her own experience a bad result from their having done something similar, calling you by your own name, looking you in the eye, emphasizing the solution instead of the problem, but most importantly, is focusing on the behavior without attempting to analyze your motives or your character. . .then you need to work past the emotional reaction of offense and listen to what you are being told.

 

Chances are this person knows something you don’t.  And they are exercising sound judgment, without being judgmental, by telling you that.

 

(Coming up next, STORYTIME! Going to do something a little different for Part 7–Hatred.)

 

DN=: Part 4–Holy

set apart matchstick

Another troublesome churchy word is “holy.”  Like “righteous,” the word “holy” also has some unnecessary baggage attached to it.  What I mean is that just as some people see the word “righteous” and think “self-righteous,” some people see the word “holy” and think “holier-than-thou.”

 

If you’re not familiar with the term, “holier-than-thou” is used to describe the attitude of a Christian condescending to non-Christians based solely on church affiliation or some other man-made construct (such as denominations) apart from the grace of God.

 

Naturally, this attitude is very off-putting.

 

HOLY DN= HOLIER-THAN-THOU

 

The word “holy” simply means “set apart for God’s purpose.”  It can refer to a day, a place, a nation or an individual.  Mostly, however, it refers to God Himself.  As Isaiah wrote:

 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

(Isaiah 55: 8-9 NIV)

God is holy, or set apart, simply because He’s God, and we’re not.  When people put their faith in Jesus Christ, trust in His saving work on the cross to make them righteous, and make Him the Lord of their lives, then they also become holy.  They are still human beings, but now they have been set apart from the rest of the world to do God’s work.

 

It is critical to understand the progression here.  God makes us righteous through JESUS’ work, not ours.  In the same way, God makes us holy only when we realize that we AREN’T made righteous by the good that we do.

 

If a person claims to have faith in Jesus, but still lives as he did before being saved, then how has that person been set apart?

 

He hasn’t.

 

Christians are SUPPOSED to stand out.  We are SUPPOSED to be different from everybody else.  Otherwise, what would be the point of being one?

 

The irony of holiness is that just as we were set free in order to become servants, we were also set apart to become unified—not to the world, but to each other.  As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about Jesus:

The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.  (Ephesians 4: 11-16 NRSV)

 

When Paul refers to “saints” in this context, he is referring to all believers, not people (such as himself) who are referred to with a St. in front of their name.  The “work of ministry” for which said saints are being equipped is the service to which we are called upon having been made free.  Still with me so far?

 

In addition to the teaching, preaching and shepherding gifts Paul mentions above, there are many other spiritual gifts that believers receive when they are made holy.  I’m not going to go into all of them here, but in light of the sudden aggressive turn our culture is taking lately, I feel it necessary to expound upon one of them—discernment.

 

(And I will do that in Part 5–Discrimination)

 

DN=: Part 3–Righteousness

New world Pope

One of the pitfalls of using churchy jargon is the proclivity for misunderstanding of these terms by those outside the church.  (For more on this topic, check out the Saved series.)  One of those commonly misunderstood words is “righteous.”

 

To be “righteous” is to have “right standing” with God.  This is not a status that can be achieved through human effort.  As Solomon pointed out, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV).”

 

This concept is explained further in Romans 3:

 

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.  As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”

 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.  God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.  (Romans 3:9-12, 19-26 NIV)

The passage above contains the word “justify” a couple of times.  Justificiation is the act of being made righteous by one who has the authority to do so.

 

In other words, since there is nothing we can do to make ourselves righteous, God makes us righteous through faith in Jesus.

 

When we were slaves to sin, we were lawbreakers and were therefore under the penalty of the law.  That penalty is death.  Jesus paid that penalty for us in order to pay our debt to God.  This is the “redemption” spoken of in the passage above.

 

The danger for Christians, having been made righteous by faith, is to forget that we had nothing to do with being forgiven.  Sure, we made the choice to follow Christ, but we are forgiven because HE says so, not because WE say so.

 

If we become too accustomed to our view from the mountaintop, and forget how we got there (by God throwing us down a rope, not by our climbing), it is all too tempting for us to look down on the people still “down in the valley.”

 

Basically, if you ever find yourself looking down on someone else from a position that you have not earned, you have crossed the line to self-righteousness.

 

RIGHTEOUSNESS DN= SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS

 

For Christians, self-righteousness comes from the mistaken idea that we are somehow better than other human beings are because of our relationship with Jesus.  For a non-Christian, self-righteousness occurs when one must put another down in order to elevate oneself.

 

Since true righteousness comes from faith in Jesus alone, a person without that faith would have no means of being made righteous.  Since no one can earn the favor of God by good deeds, anyone who boasts in those deeds would be self-righteous as well.

 

Simply put, self-righteousness is unrighteousness.

 

(For more clarification of church jargon, come back for Part 4–Holy)

 

DN=: Part 2–Freedom

license to sin

“All things are allowed,” you say. But not all things are good. “All things are allowed.” But some things don’t help anyone. (1 Cor 10:23 ERV)

 

We are big on freedom in this country, aren’t we?  We have a Bill of Rights in our constitution guaranteeing us freedom of speech, the press, assembly, religion and petition.  When our soldiers go off to war, we are told that they are “fighting for our freedom.”

 

It’s in all the songs we learn as kids.  America is the land of the FREE and the home of the brave.  We are proud to be Americans where at least we know we’re FREE.  From every mountainside, let FREEDOM ring.

 

Christians are also fond of the words “free” and “freedom.”  We also have phrases that we repeat or sing in songs, such as:

 

  • Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
  • If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed.
  • My chains are gone; I’ve been set free.

Nevertheless, Christians can easily fall into the same trap as the rest of the world in the sense of abusing personal freedom at the expense of the freedom of another.

 

FREEDOM DN= LICENSE TO DO WHATEVER WE WANT

 

Within a generation of Jesus’ death, both Paul and Peter were dealing with this problem in the early Church:

 

It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (Galatians 5:13-15 (MSG)

 

Make the Master proud of you by being good citizens. Respect the authorities, whatever their level; they are God’s emissaries for keeping order. It is God’s will that by doing good, you might cure the ignorance of the fools who think you’re a danger to society. Exercise your freedom by serving God, not by breaking the rules. Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. (1 Peter 2: 13-17 MSG)

 

Do you see the tie there?  Freedom = service.  Some translations actually use the word “slave.”

 

Now for Americans, that notion can be jarring.  For Americans of African descent in particular, it can feel like a harsh slap in the face.  After all that this country and its people have gone through to win freedom, God wants us to be slaves again?

 

The original Greek word in Peter’s letter is doulos, which does mean slave, but not in the way we Americans think of it.  When we hear the word “slave,” we think of forced labor.  In other words, a slave’s status is determined by the work the slave does and the conditions under which he is compelled to do it.

 

A doulos, on the other hand, is also a bondservant, or one permanently bound and subservient to a master; however, their slave status is determined not by their work, but by their relationship to their master.

 

The implication then, made by both Peter and Paul, is that to be a bondservant of Christ, one must no longer be a slave to sin.  After all, as Jesus Himself said, “No one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24a NIV).”

 

Furthermore, in this context a doulos is a VOLUNTARY bondservant.  We are born slaves to sin, but we CHOOSE to be “slaves” for Christ.  The only way to be in a position to make that choice is to have first been freed from the grip of sin in our lives.  A slave cannot free himself; he can only be freed by the master.  And the Master said this:

 

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  (John 13:34  NIV)

 

And also this:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40b NIV)

 

Therefore, serving God and serving other people are actually one and the same.  So being a doulos to Christ means being a doulos to the world as well, but to its people, not its philosophies.

 

As no one can serve two masters, and as it is impossible to serve both Christ and our own sinful desires, so it is also impossible to simultaneously serve the world while doing whatever we want.

 

This is the reason that no one is justified by their works alone apart from having been freed by the Master, with whom they have a relationship.

 

Which brings up another DN=.

 

(Which will be covered in Part 3–Righteousness)

 

DN=: Part 1–Does Not Equal

DN= logo

Perhaps, like me, you have noticed a preponderance of equal signs lately, on Facebook and elsewhere.  I have also noticed a link between the equal sign and false accusations of “hatred, bigotry and ignorance” being directed at people who are not necessarily on board with the equal sign.

 

This got me to thinking about people and their differences.  Obviously, there’s a whole bunch of us on this planet, and we are all unique, as are our experiences and perspectives.  We all see life a little bit differently, yet it seems that we all also carry with us the assumption that everyone sees life in exactly the same way.

 

I expect this is our natural self-centeredness at work.  If someone doesn’t share our point of view, well, then there must be something wrong with that person.

 

This much is natural, but it seems that in this generation our society has taken this concept to absurd extremes.  Simple misunderstandings of diverse points of view have become breeding grounds for character judgments and demonization.

 

This progression has given birth to the phenomenon known as political correctness, in which people speak in code words with the purpose of not offending others, unless they feel offended themselves, in which case there is another set of code words with which they can label and demonize their opponents without taking the time to hear them out.

 

Anyone else see a disconnect here?

 

I may have found a way to disarm this bomb, however.  If we are speaking with integrity, that is, if we say exactly what we mean and mean exactly what we say, then in theory, we have eliminated the possibility for misunderstanding.

 

One problem with this theory however—people who speak in code also assume that you are doing it as well.  So rather than hearing what you say, which is exactly what you meant to say, much mental energy is wasted trying to figure out your hidden agenda, when you don’t even have one.

 

So I guess that in order to better understand each other, what we need are some clear definitions of the words we say and the thoughts and intentions behind them.  To this end, I have come up with my own variation of the equal sign: the DN= (Does Not Equal).  The purpose of DN= is to clarify the motives behind our words to be more thoroughly heard, and therefore, better understood.

 

To illustrate the DN= principle, let’s start with a word all Americans know–freedom.

 

(And that’s just what we’ll do, if you come back for DN= Part 2!)

 

Breaking Catholic: Part 8–Good Works

By Faith Alone

So, how good IS “good enough?”

 

Well, the answer is “never,” since. . .

All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.  They are made right with God by his grace. This is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:23-24 ERV)

 

NONE of us can earn sainthood.  The only way we could achieve righteousness, or having a good standing before God, would be by obeying every letter of the law.

 

Here’s the problem with that concept:

 

 Suppose you keep the whole law but trip over just one part of it. Then you are guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10 NiRV)

 

Think about it.  Would you drink out of a glass that was chipped on the edge?  No, you’d cut your lip.  It’s just a tiny little chip, but it renders the glass unworthy to be used, so you throw it away.

 

So it is with your soul.  One tiny little chip in your lawkeeping, and all of your good works are like filthy rags.  Break the law one time, and you are officially “not good enough.”

 

For this reason, the Catholic church invented the sacrament (another word for gift or sign) of penance.  When I was growing up, we called it “confession.”  Today, it is known by the more accurate and helpful term of “reconciliation.”

 

The way it works is that you confess your sins to a priest, who then grants you absolution, a breaking down of the barriers of sin, which is supposed to make it possible for you to receive Christ’s forgiveness.

 

As with everything else, the Catholic Church has rules about this sacrament.  Here are a few from the Code of Canon Law, Book IV, Part I, Title IV, Chapter III:

 

Can. 987 In order that the faithful may receive the saving remedy of the sacrament of penance, they must be so disposed that, repudiating the sins they have committed and having the purpose of amending their lives, they turn back to God.

Can. 988 §1 The faithful are bound to confess, in kind and in number, all grave sins committed after baptism, of which after careful examination of conscience they are aware, which have not yet been directly pardoned by the keys of the Church, and which have not been confessed in an individual confession.

 

“Directly pardoned by the keys of the Church” signifies the Catholic church’s official stance that forgiveness can only be achieved if they say so.  They base this authority on Matthew 16:19, where Jesus tells Peter that he is the rock upon which He will build His church (i.e. the first Pope) and says to him:

 

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NRSV)

Only here’s the problem.  Jesus repeats those words just two chapters later, addressing them to ALL his disciples:

 

Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven. To repeat, I tell you that if two of you here on earth agree about anything people ask, it will be for them from my Father in heaven.  For wherever two or three are assembled in my name, I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:18-20 CJB)

In other words, the authority of “binding and loosing” is from Jesus for all believers, not from the Magisterium and for the Magisterium.

 

So if the Catholic leadership has assumed God’s role of deciding who is forgiven and when, then what part is left for God to play?  Here is St. Augustine’s take on the situation:

 

A man who confesses his sins acts already with God.  God accuses you of your sins; if you accuse yourself, then you join yourself with God. . .When you begin to detest that which you have done, it is then that your good works commence, because you accuse these bad deeds. . . You do the truth and you come to the light.  (Commentary on the Gospel of John, 12.13)

 

Back up the truck, Augie.  God ACCUSES?  Isn’t that somebody else’s job?

 

The huge dragon was thrown out—that ancient serpent, named the Devil, or Satan, that deceived the whole world. He was thrown down to earth, and all his angels with him.  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now God’s salvation has come! Now God has shown his power as King! Now his Messiah has shown his authority! For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven.  They won the victory over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the truth which they proclaimed; and they were willing to give up their lives and die. (Revelation 12:9-11 GNT)

Indeed, the name “Satan” literally means “accuser” in Hebrew.  On the other hand:

 

 If, however, any believer does sin, we have a high-powered defense lawyer—Jesus the Anointed, the righteous—arguing on our behalf before the Father. (1 John 2:1b VOICE)

So if we’re going to use courtroom analogies, then God the Father is the Judge, God the Son is our lawyer, and God the Holy Spirit is the witness for the defense.  BY NO MEANS is God the prosecutor.

 

Confession is where we enter a plea of guilty, but remember what Father Carlos said, “God has already forgiven you.”  In other words, the Judge had already found you Not Guilty before you ever entered the courtroom.

 

There is only one reason that you would receive mercy instead of justice for your sin.

 

It is because Jesus had already adopted the guilty plea on your behalf, and along with it, the death sentence.

 

And because you made the conscious decision to hire Him as your defense attorney.  After all:

 

Those who belong to Christ Jesus are no longer under God’s sentence.  I am now controlled by the law of the Holy Spirit. That law gives me life because of what Christ Jesus has done. It has set me free from the law of sin that brings death. (Romans 8: 1-2 NiRV)

You don’t come to the light by “doing” the truth.  You don’t reach the Father by your good works.  You can’t earn a spot on the team.  The work has already been done— by Jesus on the cross.

 

If you don’t believe that, then you’re basically saying that Jesus and all that He has done isn’t good enough.

 

So why does the Catholic church not teach this?

 

Because if Catholics knew that they didn’t actually have to be “good enough” to make the cut, that their guilt over their sins is unwarranted because Christ has already paid the penalty for their sinful nature, and that their citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven begins RIGHT NOW if they believe that Jesus is who He said He was and did what the Bible says He did. . .

 

Well,  then the Church would lose control over their lives.

 

After all, if a person is bowing down directly to the King of Kings, then he or she has no use for an earthly kingdom.

 

And that is exactly what the Catholic Church is.  The Pope is the King, the Vatican is his court, and the archbishops, bishops and priests are the royalty.

 

(To find out what I mean by “royalty,” come back for the conclusion: Part 9–Spirit and Truth)