“¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa! ¡Viva el Papa!”
I tuned in yesterday afternoon in time to hear multitudes of Catholics from all over the world chanting in expectation of their new leader. Flags were waving all over the Vatican. The cry of the crowd was a cry of enthusiasm, expectation and energy as the new pope was to be revealed.
Then, as the curtains were pulled back, it was announced that the pope was none other than Argentine Jorge Bergoglio, who chose the name Pope Francis. Indeed, this man is the first Latin American to ever be chosen as Catholicism’s Papal leader.
He is a simple man, choosing to be as much among the people as possible, live a simple life, help the poor and deny many of life’s dainties for the “greater good.”
He led the people in reciting the Lord’s Prayer, then a prayer to Mary.
You could see expressions of hope on the faces of all who listened.
…But is there hope in the pope?
I need to be careful here, because my intention is not to carelessly offend those that hold to the catholic teachings. But could I be so bold as to say, Catholicism, at its core teaching, is leading over a billion people to hell.
Why is that?
Don’t Catholics believe in God? Don’t they believe in the Bible? Don’t they believe that Jesus died on the cross?
Yes, they believe all of these truths.
But what is different between biblical Christianity and catholic teaching? Simply put, it’s a matter of do vs. done.
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Christian initiation is accomplished by means of the sacraments which establish the foundations of Christian life. The faithful born anew by Baptism are strengthened by Confirmation and are then nourished by the Eucharist.”
Their teachings go on to express that there are 7 sacraments of the church, and in keeping these sacraments you will have favor with God and earn salvation.
But ask any catholic if they know where they will spend eternity and they always reply, “I don’t know” or “you can’t know” or “I won’t know until after I die.”
Why is that? Because salvation is depending on what they do. They are initiated into the church as a baby when they are baptized, they go through confirmation as a child or young adult, and they take the communion. They confess their sins to the priest, pray to Mary, pray to the saints and other idols, and help the poor, but it comes down to one question: What is their salvation depending on? DO or DONE!?
Friend, there is no hope in the pope. He is just a man. He may be a nice man, but he is a man who is leading people down a religious road straight to an eternity that is separated from God.
Salvation is only by grace through faith. It is either grace or it is works. It cannot be both. Jesus already bought our salvation, and offers it as a gift to all who will believe on him. Why are you trying so hard to earn it?
If you have never been biblically saved, if you are still trying to work your way to God, if you don’t know for sure if you’re eternity will be Heaven or Hell, I challenge you to do one thing. Repent.
Repent of your sin and your faith in works or religion. Then believe on Jesus. Run to Jesus. Throw out any other hope that you have and cling to the cross where Jesus paid for your sins. He says he will forgive you. He will accept you. He will make you his child and an heir to all promises. He promises to give you life. Don’t wait any longer.
The Bible says in John 5:24 “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
You have God’s word on it. He never breaks his promises. Don’t wait any longer. Believe on Jesus.
Christian, maybe you agree with all that I’ve written here. Would you pray with me for the billions around the world that are deceived by religion? Would you pray with me that God would raise up more laborers to take the GOOD NEWS to them, that Jesus paid it all? Would you pray that God would open their eyes, that they would know the truth, and this truth would make them free?
Over the course of 7 sell-out evenings, more than 3,500 people walked through this outdoor reality drama depicting the end times. Many of these people left eternally changed. All of these people left challenged.
This October, you will have a chance to experience that same heart-pounding, thrilling journey of Biblical proportions. If you live anywhere near Atlanta or North Georgia, you MUST plan to be there. Bring a friend. Bring your family. Bring your church. You don’t want to miss it.
In anticipation of larger crowds, this event has been expanded to 11 nights. For detailed information and to buy individual or group tickets, visit: http://www.hellsgates.com/
If you are not able to attend, please pray that God does a magnificent work for his eternal glory.
Why do many of our converts fall away? Why is it that christian workers burn out? Why is there so much sin in the lives of most “believers”? Why is it so hard to find people willing to surrender their lives for the Lord Jesus Christ?
I sincerely believe that churches today are full of lost people. I would go even as far to say that many leaders of churches are as lost as the people they try to reach. Why is this?
Could it be that their perspective of the Gospel is warped?
I challenge you to find the time to read the following article. It is written by a great friend of mine who is a church-planter in North Africa. It will help your perspective, I promise.
You can check out the original article on my friend’s site by clicking here.
I have recently been appalled at how my independent Baptist brethren have got the Gospel only half right. What do I mean? Let me give you a few illustrations:
1. I heard a sermon recently where the preacher (Bible college grad from an ind. Bap. school) gave the following illustration: “If I were to offer to give you a year’s worth of provision for a minute’s worth of work, would it be a good deal for you? Sure. So God gives us provision for eternity, shouldn’t we serve him for this short lifetime?”
If you missed it, the Gospel is not: Serve me and I’ll give you eternal life. It’s not even: Serve me since I already gave you eternal life. Why? Well, in eternity we’ll serve him, too. No. The Gospel is a new heart. A new life. New desires. From Ezekiel to John 3 to the writings of Paul we learn that the whole point of the New Covenant is that we will WANT to serve him if we’re born again. He will put a new heart in us and we won’t turn back to the old heart of sin (Jer. 3:17). This is a changed life! Not a life that serves God in exchange for eternal life. That is the motivation for all false religion. We have nothing to bring to God. He brings everything to us in the Gospel and makes us alive “unto good works” (Eph. 2:8-10)
2. I heard a song recently where the line repeated was this: “I am satisfied with you. I hope you’ll be satisfied with me.” I love the dear brother (also a grad of an Ind. Baptist college and a missionary) who sang this. In love I have to say, God is already satisfied with you! That’s why Jesus came! He satisfies God for you. He makes you satisfactory. (Rom. 3:25, 5:1, I Jn 2:2, 4:10) Then he frees you from a life of needing to work to satisfy God. God sees you as perfect, just, and completely whole. Now the motivation to serve him is a heart overflowing with thanks for his kindness, mercy, and blessings! (Is. 63:7)
This is natural in the life of a believer in Christ. No, we don’t need to work to satisfy God. In fact, could our work ever satisfy God? No, only the work of the cross. It didn’t only satisfy God concerning our salvation but it also satisfied God concerning our life as “Christ followers”. God is satisfied with his blood washed children. Don’t think your service as a missionary is what satisfies him with you. Christ’s service on the cross already did that.
Don’t the Muslims in North Africa need to know that working to obey Allah’s laws won’t satisfy him? Don’t they need freedom from a life of striving? Don’t the Buddhists of SouthEast Asia need to know that doing good works won’t help them reach Nirvana having satisfied the Creators demands through Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths? Don’t they need freedom from that sort of life of striving? Don’t the Hindu’s of the Indian Subcontinent need peace with God without the sacrifices and the works on the Ganges river? The missionary message is that God’s demands have been satisfied in Christ! We satisfy God when Christ is in us! His blood! His cross!
3. I recently heard another preacher (well-known and respected) preach these words exactly: “The security of our salvation is up to God. The assurance of our salvation is up to us. When we are living right we will know we are saved. When we aren’t living right we will doubt it. So then, the Bible teaches works assurance.”
Would it be, then, ok to say, “For by works are you assured of salvation through your efforts. That, not of God, it is the result of hard work.” (see Eph 2:8-9 for a reference)? I don’t think so. My salvation was a work of God by grace. My new life in Christ is work of God by grace. My assurance is a work of God by grace. The whole life of a Christian from beginning to end is a work of God by grace! Doesn’t Phil 1:6 teach us that he who began the good work in us (John 1:13) is the same one who completes it? Not of works, lest any Christian should boast.
Here are a few reasons I think we as Ind. Baptists miss the Gospel so badly:
1. At it’s root, we have understood salvation to be a prayer of acceptance that saves us. Since the Holy Spirit, repentance, and the new birth (new heart, new desires) don’t play a large part in salvation, then neither do they play a large part in the rest of our lives.
2. As a result of this root we have a lot of people who aren’t born again, don’t have the Holy Spirit of God living in them, and we try to get them to continue by the power of the flesh by works (Gal. 3:3). The only way left to motivate them is by scolding them or by making them feel guilty. “You have been given eternal life in exchange for a simple prayer, shouldn’t you then work harder in exchange!” is the common logic.
I think it’s time we square up with the Bible and stop trying to assure lost people that they are saved. The message of the Gospel is, “You will know them by their fruit.” If a person is saved they WILL want to serve God with all their hearts. They just need to know how. They need someone to walk with them and help them learn to walk in the grace of the Gospel the same way they were saved. We don’t need to work on their fruit, we need to look at the root.
The grace of the Gospel is not only for salvation it’s also for sanctification. It’s all of God. He has made me a new person and now I serve him out of this new heart. I serve him out of overwhelming thanks. God is satisfied with Christ in me. The work I do is Christ living in me. In myself is no good thing. When I understand Christ’s work in me and I am more and more consumed with a desire to serve him. That’s the new covenant. That’s the new heart he’s given me. It began with Him and will end with Him.
Here are a few verses to help you contemplate the work of the New Covenant in your sanctification:
Ezekiel 11: 19-21 ”And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: 20 That they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for them whose heart walketh after the heart of their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord GOD.”
Jeremiah 3:15-17 “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. 16 And it shall come to pass, when ye be multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith the LORD, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of the LORD: neither shall it come to mind: neither shall they remember it; neither shall they visit it; neither shall that be done any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
Philippians 1:5-7 “ For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; 6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”
When asking some of my Colombian friends in the States where we should go while in Bucaramanga, many of them recommended a nearby canyon called Chicamocha. So, today we went to Parque Nacional Chicamocha, and let me say, it was spectacular.
The trip there was interesting, to say the least. It took us a total of a couple hours by bus to get to a place called Mesa De Los Santos. From there we grabbed the Teleférico (cable car) across the canyon and up to the park. This cable car system is one of the largest of its kind in the entire world and the view was nothing short of amazing.
Once at the park, we grabbed lunch (I had the goat–forgive me, it was tasty!), walked a bunch, saw some ostriches and other wildlife, and I was stung by a wasp and got highly sunburnt. Overall it was a pretty nice day!
Tonight we also looked around more at some places to live here. The real estate prices and rental prices are incredibly low compared to Medellín and of course the States. Medellín’s prices weren’t bad at all, but housing is dirt cheap here.
Tomorrow we fly out to Bogotá, our last stop before heading back to Georgia. It will be sad leaving this place. We’ve made some friends here already, and we know that the Gospel is highly needed. Will you pray that God sends more laborers to Bucaramanga, Colombia?
Also be praying for a touchy situation in Bogotá. The country’s truckers have been on strike for over 2 weeks over some financial issues, and for the last 3 days they’ve blocked several major intersections in the city. The president said that if an agreement wasn’t met tonight that force would be used to remove them (possibly resulting in violence), and they seem to have just met that agreement. But, even still, there may be a few complications in getting around. We’ve also received emails from the US Embassy warning us about these events. If you want to know more, click here.
Pray that God will be glorified through us as we finish up this last leg of our journey.