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If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matthew 5:29-30

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says something that must certainly have seized His hearers’ attention: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29–30). Jesus repeats the admonition in Matthew 18:8–9, except there He adds the need to dispense with a foot as well as a hand and an eye.

The graphic word pictures of Matthew 5 and Matthew 18 still grab attention today, and they raise the question of how literally we should take Jesus’ commands in these passages. Does Jesus actually mean to say that we should pluck out our eyes or sever a hand if we are prone to sin? It may be of comfort to know that Jesus’ instructions in these particular verses are not meant to be taken literally. We need not mutilate our bodies as a punishment for our sin. Rather, Jesus means that we should be prepared to make exceptional sacrifices if we want to follow Him (see Matthew 16:24).

Jesus had just warned His audience against using their eyes for lustful purposes (Matthew 5:28), so His prescribed remedy for lust—to pluck out an eye—makes sense, in a radical sort of way. But it is the radical nature of His statement that makes it so memorable.

When Jesus advises us to pluck out a sinful eye or cut off an unruly hand, He is employing a figure of speech known as hyperbole. Hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration or an intentional overstatement. Examples of hyperbole in modern speech would include statements like “This bag of groceries weighs a ton,” “I’ve been waiting forever,” and “Everyone knows that.” The apostle Paul uses hyperbolic language in Galatians 4:15. Hyperbole, like other figures of speech, is not meant to be taken literally.

Jesus’ purpose in saying, hyperbolically, that sinners should pluck out their eyes or cut off their hands is to magnify in His hearers’ minds the heinous nature of sin. Sin is any action or thought that is contrary to the character of God. The result of sin is death, from which Jesus wants to preserve us (see Hebrews 2:9). Jesus warns of hell because He doesn’t want people to go there (Matthew 5:29–30).

Sin takes people to hell (see Revelation 21:8), and that makes sin something to avoid at all costs. Jesus says that, whatever is causing you to sin, take drastic measures to get that thing out of your life. “It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. . . . It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell” (Matthew 18:8–9). Nothing is worth missing heaven for. Nothing is worth going to hell for. Nothing.

God takes sin seriously—seriously enough to sacrifice His only begotten Son to destroy it. We must take sin seriously as well. A lack of repentance is a crime punishable by eternal death. It is better to deny our flesh—to pluck out an eye or cut off a hand, as it were—than to risk sinning against God. God demands holiness (1 Peter 1:15), but we naturally tend to pamper ourselves and excuse our sin. That is why we need Jesus’ shocking, radical hyperbole to wake us from our spiritual complacency.

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The idea that God does what He wants, and that what He does is true and right because He does it, is foundational to the understanding of everything in Scripture, including the doctrine of election.  

In the broad sense, election refers to the fact that God chooses (or elects) to do everything that He does in whatever way He best sees fit. When He acts, He does so only because He willfully and independently chooses to act. According to His own nature, predetermined plan, and good pleasure, He decides to do whatever He desires, without pressure or constraint from any outside influence.

The Bible makes this point repeatedly. In the very act of creation, God created precisely what He wanted to create in the way He wanted to create it (cf. Genesis 1:31). And ever since the creation, He has sovereignly prescribed or permitted everything in human history, in order that He might accomplish the redemptive plan which He had previously designed (cf. Isaiah 25:1; 46:10; 55:11; Romans 9:17; Ephesians 3:8–11).

In the Old Testament, He chose a nation for Himself. Out of all the nations in the world, He selected Israel (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; Psalm 105:43; 135:4). He chose them, not because they were better or more desirable than any other people, but simply because He decided to choose them. In the words of Richard Wolf, “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” It may not have rhymed as well, but the same would have been true of any other people God might have selected. God chooses whomever He chooses, for reasons that are wholly His.

The nation of Israel was not the only recipient in Scripture of God’s electing choice. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is called Christ, “My Chosen One” (Luke 9:35). The holy angels also are “chosen angels” (1 Timothy 5:21). And New Testament believers are those who were “chosen of God” (Colossians 3:12; cf. 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 5:13; Revelation 17:14), meaning that the church is a community of those who were chosen, or “elect” (Ephesians 1:4).

When Jesus told His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (John 15:16), He was underscoring this very truth. And the New Testament reiterates it in passage after passage. Acts 13:48 describes salvation in these words, “As many as have been appointed to eternal life believed.” Ephesians 1:4–6 notes that, God “chose us in Him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In his letters to the Thessalonians, Paul reminds his readers that he knew God’s choice of them (1 Thessalonians 1:4), and that he was thankful for them “because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). The Word of God is clear: believers are those whom God chose for salvation from before the beginning.

Even the foreknowledge to which Peter refers should not be confused with simple foresight as some would teach—contending that God, in eternity past, looked down the halls of history to see who would respond to His call and then elected the redeemed on the basis of their response. Such an explanation makes God’s decision subject to man’s decision, and gives man a level of sovereignty that belongs only to God. It makes God the One who is passively chosen, rather than the One who actively chooses. And it also misunderstands the way in which Peter uses the term “foreknowledge.” In 1 Peter 1:20 the apostle uses the verb form of that very word, prognosis in the Greek, to refer to Christ. In that case, the concept of “foreknowledge” certainly includes the idea of a deliberate choice. It is reasonable, then, to conclude that the same is true when Peter applies prognosis to believers in other places (cf. 1 Peter 1:2).

The ninth chapter of Romans also reiterates the elective purposes of God. There, in reference to His saving love for Jacob (and Jacob’s descendants) as opposed to Esau (and Esau’s lineage), God’s electing prerogative is clearly displayed. God chose Jacob over Esau, not on the basis of anything Jacob or Esau had done, but according to His own free and uninfluenced sovereign purpose. To those who might protest, “That is unfair!” Paul simply responds by asking, “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” (v. 20).

Many more Scriptures could be added to this survey. Yet as straightforward as the Word of God is, people continually have difficulty accepting the doctrine of election. The reason, again, is that they allow their preconceived notions of how God should act (based on a human definition of fairness) to override the truth of His sovereignty as laid out in the Scriptures.

Frankly, the only reason to believe in election is because it is found explicitly in God’s Word. No man and no committee of men originated this doctrine. It is like the doctrine of eternal punishment, in that it conflicts with the dictates of the carnal mind. It is repugnant to the sentiments of the unregenerate heart. And like the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the miraculous birth of our Savior, the truth of election, because it has been revealed by God, must be embraced with simple and unquestioning faith. If you have a Bible and you believe it, you have no other option but to accept what it teaches.

The Word of God presents God as the controller and disposer of all creatures (Daniel 4:35; Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:38), the Most High (Psalm 47:2; 83:18), the ruler of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19; Isaiah 37:16), the One against whom none can stand (2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 41:10; Isaiah 43:13). He is the Almighty who works all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11; cf. Isaiah 14:27; Revelation 19:6), and the heavenly Potter who shapes men according to His own good pleasure (Romans 9:18–22). In short, He is the decider and determiner of every man’s destiny, and the controller of every detail in each individual’s life (Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; 21:1; cf. Exodus 3:21–22; 14:8; Ezra 1:1; Daniel 1:9; James 4:15)—which is really just another way of saying, “He is God.”

Original article produced by Tom Patton of Masters Seminary

If there could be one word that summarized our culture, it would be “superficial.” We live in a juvenile, adolescent, immature, superficial society. People live for escapism and entertainment. They spend billions each year experiencing larger-than-life sensations at amusement parks and movie theaters in order to avoid having to think about more profound issues like moral accountability and the inevitability of death.

To make matters worse, this same superficial culture has branded its mark deeply upon the pews of our churches. Now when newly-born believers sit before the pulpit each week, they instinctively compare the quality of the pastor’s preaching to a late-night stand-up monologue. Instead of instantly craving the pure milk of the Word, they intuitively yearn to have their ears tickled. Though they have been saved on the inside, they still long for superficiality on the outside.

Immaturity does not transform its taste buds overnight. In many ways, developing a hunger for biblical preaching is an acquired taste. Therefore, the people of God must be taught to revere the truth; they must be tutored by expository preachers to appreciate the proclamation of the Word of God. They must be, in a word, trained to grasp the seriousness of Scripture.

The problem is that many preachers have turned into comedians. A growing number of churches have replaced their pulpits with stages. Though many pastors know that the Bible is no laughing matter, they are weekly tempted to accommodate their messages to meet their congregation’s felt-need for humor and entertainment.

Many pastors were raised in such a light-hearted version of cultural Christianity that “being funny” is a hard to shake habit. A growing number just can’t resist the ongoing temptation to feed their congregations holy humor. Unfortunately, the badge of clerical comedy has become their trademark.

In contrast to this growing trend in evangelicalism, we see the Bible emphasizing an utterly different perspective when it comes to finding humor in the presentation of biblical truth. A weighty seriousness defines the Scriptures. From the account of creation to the vision of the Apocalypse, the Bible is first and foremost a serious story.

There is nothing inherently funny about sin, salvation, or sanctification. There is nothing humorous about the price that had to be paid in order to overcome darkness with light and triumph over ruin with redemption. There is nothing laughable about Heaven and Hell, Satan and demons, suffering and sacrifice, or fire and fools.

True, anthropomorphically speaking, God is said to have laughed in the Old Testament (Ps. 2:459:8), but never as an expression of amusement due to some unexpected twist in a punch-line. No, God in the Old Testament only laughs at the sad absurdity of those who believe they will escape His wrath, but never because He thinks something is funny. The profound themes revealed in the Bible are no laughing matter.

Yet, all that said, there still is a necessary place for laughter in life. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says that “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh.” There is a time for humor. Laughter and wit are both common graces granted to us so that we can enjoy the ironies and absurdities of life. There are many appropriate moments when laughter (and the humor that fuels it) can be a profound blessing, especially to those who are going through prolonged trials. “A cheerful heart is a good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22). Therefore, even sermons can occasionally contain humor.

It’s not that humor should always be avoided in preaching. Yet, because the superficiality of our culture is in such dire opposition to the seriousness of the Scriptures, it is important for pastors to know that there are at least three dangers connected to humor in the pulpit.

HUMOR CAN DEMEAN THE DIGNITY OF THE PASTOR

One of the most important characteristics of both an elder and deacon is the attribute of dignity (1 Tim 3:48). Men who are to oversee the church are to be known as dignified, respectable, and sober-minded. The reason this is so vital is because pastors can inadvertently demean the dignity of their role in the church for the price of a laugh. Too much humor (or the wrong kind) lessens the gravitas of the pulpit; it paints the pastor as a clown, a silly man, and sometimes an egomaniac. Inordinately calling attention to one’s wit is a self-promoting and prideful practice that distracts attention away from the message onto the messenger.

HUMOR CAN TRIVIALIZE THE MEANING OF THE MESSAGE

A silly story or comedic comment becomes counter-productive when it diverts the attention away from the main point of the sermon. Sometimes humor can lessen the lesson; it can trivialize the message; it can dilute the sermon of its biblical seriousness for the sake of a laugh. Humor (if used at all) should match the tone of the text. (A judgment text, for example, should be preached in a tone that matches the warning of the passage.) Though it is true that sometimes a congregation needs a moment to “come up for air” to allow the impact to settle, the way in which that is done must complement the tone of the text.

HUMOR CAN DESENSITIZE THE CONCERN OF THE CONGREGATION

A young man once approached me after a funeral service I conducted and inquired as to when our services met on Sunday mornings. The sobriety of the moment had convinced him that it was time to be once again under the regular teaching of God’s Word. But ironically, in the same breath, he added that he also wanted a church where the pastor was as funny as his previous pastor. In a matter of minutes, a serious message about the finality of life had been tossed aside by the desire for a witty preacher.

Pastors who feed their sheep a steady diet of comedic junk food only exacerbate this kind of superficiality.

Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard once told a story about a clown that summarized this danger well. He wrote, “It happened that a fire broke out backstage at a theater. The clown came out to inform the public. They thought it was just a jest and applauded. He repeated his warning, they shouted even louder. So I think the world will come to an end amid general applause from all the wits, who believe that it is a joke” (Either/Or, 1:30).

Though the use of humor in the pulpit should not be absolutely abolished, pastors should seriously consider the dangers inherent in its overuse. It can demean the dignity of the pastor, trivialize the meaning of the message, and desensitize the concern of the congregation.

Let us never be the clowns crying “Fire!” to the applause of our congregation.

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Jesus is Lord

Now I am not knocking that Jesus is our savior. In fact, that is true that He is. But of course we must share that He did not come to save the ENTIRE world, but only those who are the elect.

The modern [american] gospel focuses so much on Jesus as our savior but is drastically failing at professing Him as Lord. If so, at least not living it out.
After reading "The Gospel According to Jesus" by John MacArthur, I have been opened to an improved understanding of the scriptures. Also, moving Jesus as Lord ≥ Jesus as Savior.

While both are important attributes of Christ, focusing on New Testament alone, we see a HUGE difference in how many times Jesus is called the Savior compared to how many times He is called Lord.

There are three words I would like us to focus on. (Lord, Master, Savior)
According to the Strongs Concordance based on KJV...

LORD - 748/667
The word Lord (Kurios) in the NT is used 748 times. This is a word used to identify someone with supreme authority. Out of that 748 it refers to Jesus as Lord 667 times.

MASTER - 58/40
Master on the other hand, is a word that is used to identify someone as a teacher or instructor. This word is used 58 times in NT and out of that 58, 40 times it refers to Jesus Christ.

Now for the kicker, the grand finale, When I looked up the word for Savior, it was only used a mere 24 times in the NT when referring to Jesus.

Who is Jesus to you? Who do you declare Him as? When you're sharing the Gospel to someone, what are your focus words? He is the savior of the elect, that much is true. But is Jesus the man who leads your life? Is He Lord?

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You may recall a few weeks ago we did an unscheduled podcast over the book of John 3. This was motivated by a local pastor who gave a sermon over the same chapter but used it in a far stretch beyond its original context. After watching the sermon presented, I attempted to reach out to this ministry with a sincere concern for the message that was given. To my surprise, this resulted in my social media being banned from a Facebook page in which I broke no established guidelines, nor posted any form of offensive remarks.

The following Sunday, this same pastor indirectly responded to the idea that those who pick apart doctrines in which he called "Doctrine Police" or could also be called "Heresy Hunters". This pastor goes on to say that this is exactly what the Pharisee did. We all know their reputation... But what he fails to realize is that the Bereans too were these "Doctrine Police" when it came to Pauls ministry (Acts 17:11), more so Jesus does the same in (Matthew 23:3) against these religious hypocrites.

This same pastor goes on to accuse anyone who is a "Doctrine Police" is lost. But this is a broad and bold claim in which he does not have the authority to make. I am personally aware of a number of ministers, John MacArthur, Justin Peters, Costi Hinn (nephew of Benny Hinn) and others who are more than willing to correct false doctrines. Each of these men are slaves of righteousness, for the sake of Jesus Christ.

If we don't identify false teachings, how can we possibly discern them from that which is true? Are all doctrines acceptable?

Article from Christian Research Institute:

I can tell you firsthand that it is no joy to be labeled a “heresy-hunter.” Yet, as Paul instructed Timothy, we are to zealously guard the purity of the message God has entrusted to us, and for good reason (1 Tim 1:18-19; 6:20; 2 Tim. 4:2-5).

From Within as Well as Without
We read in such passages as Acts chapter 20, and 2 Peter chapter 2, that false teachers will arise, bringing with them destructive heresies, distorting the truth and destroying the faith of some. Moreover, it is clear that these teachers will come not only from outside the church, but also from within the body of Christ as well.

It is therefore imperative that we test all things by Scripture (1 Thes. 5:21). It was in this spirit that the Bereans examined the words of the Apostle Paul, for which they were reckoned as noble in character (Acts 17:11).

Correcting and Rebuking
Indeed, not only can the Bible be used for preaching, teaching and encouragement, but, it is equally valuable for correcting and rebuking (2 Tim. 4:2). As a matter of fact, we as Christians are held accountable for proclaiming the whole will of God, warning others of false teachings. (Acts 20:26-28; cf. Ezek. 33:7-9; 34:1-10).

Church Discipline
This is not merely a suggestion, it is, in fact, a divine mandate. Of course if heresies are coming from teachers within the church, we ought to try and approach them first with our concerns. Should that fail to resolve the problem, we are told in Matthew 18 to expose their errors to the church; and if need be, divulge their names. (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; 4:14-15; 3 John 9-10).

Scriptural Mandate
We would, therefore, do well to heed Scripture’s explicit warnings to be on guard for false teachings (Rom. 16:17-18; cf. 1 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:16; 2 Tim. 1:13-14; Titus 1:9; 2:1), and to point them out to brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Tim. 4:6). At CRI, it is not our practice to make an issue out of peripheral matters on which honest Christians can differ. However, we are committed to exposing those who would compromise the essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith. Remember, controversy for the sake of controversy is sin. But controversy for the sake of the truth is a divine command.

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On various occasions I have had some conversations with others on the idea of the commandment of "Thou Shall Not Kill", this is used as an attempt to justify some contradictions within the Bible. Or even the idea that Christians should not end life at all, or be involved in wars.

The trick is, the bible never says "Do not kill. In fact, what it actually says is "Do not murder". Could there really be a difference? Yes.

Now there is a longer discussion we could get into on that, but let's save that for another time. This article I would like to share what makes murder different from killing.

According to Bakers Bible Dictionary

Murder is distinguishable in the Bible from the larger category of killing. Thus, the sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) is appropriately translated by the NIV and other versions as "You shall not murder" rather than "You shall not kill." The taking of lives in warfare, for example, would not have been considered murder. The word used in Exodus 20:13, ratsakh, occurs approximately 50 times in the OT and never refers to killing in battle, in contrast to two other words for kill that together occur over 300 times and quite often refers to battle contexts. Ezekiel 21:22 (21:27 MT) might appear to be an exception, but ratsakh (NIV: slaughter) is probably used there to indicate the slaying of innocent people rather than military combatants.

Ratsakh, however, can also refer to unintentional killing or manslaughter (e.g. Numbers 35:11); thus, the word does not necessarily mean murder but rather refers to taking an innocent life, whether intentionally or accidentally. The lone exception in Numbers 35:30. is only apparently so; it is rather a statement of poetic justice; "The murderer shall be murdered".

The prohibition against murder is grounded in the image-bearing character of humankind. Human beings are made in the image of God; therefore, to kill an innocent person is equivalent to striking out against God (Genesis 9:6)

Significantly, Jesus viewed His own approaching death in Jerusalem as murder in a long line of murders stretching from the murder of Abel by Cain, through the killing of the OT prophets, to Himself (Matt. 21:33-46; 23:29-39; Luke 11:47-54; 20:9-20)

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Was religion invented in order to control the population of nations? Some believe it is true. But, if it is, how could we know?  Where is the evidence?  We need something more than just an assertion.  After all, such an unverifiable and easy-to-parrot allegation doesn't make it true.  We need more.  Right? Or, is the citric going to deny us the evidence of his contention and yet still promote his belief?  Asking for verification from critics of religion, and Christianity in particular, in support of their proposition that religion was invented to control people, is yet to be delivered. After years of dealing with critics, I've not seen anyone provide the slightest evidence to support the notion that religion was invented to control people.

Nevertheless, let's proceed and look at some issues related to this initial question?

Religion can be used to control people

Yes, religion can be used to control people, but so can institutions like government, schools, marriage, and the military. If religion was invented to control people, how do we know that government, schools, and marriage weren't also invented in order to control people?  We can ask all sorts of questions but how could any of them truly be answered.  If someone is trying to disparage the idea of religion and dismiss it because it's "merely something used to control people," then shouldn't consistency demand that other social structures like the government, schools, and the military, also be criticized and dismissed?  If not, why not?

Who is doing the controlling?

Who is in control of the religions that control people?  If control is being exercised, there has to be someone doing the controlling. But who is that? Furthermore, are all of the sacred books that were written so long ago actually written with the intention of controlling people? Or, were they meant to be helpful and were used by others to control people?  Was the Bible that was completed 2000 years ago written by 40 different authors over 1600 years designed to control people? Was the Quran written 1400 years ago also written for this purpose?  What about the Bhagavad-Gita, the Urantia Book, the Book of Mormon, etc. Did different people in different times decide to start religions in order to control people in their areas?  I don't see any questions being answered by critics.

Control them for what reason? 

If it is true that religion was invented to control people, then what are they being controlled to do or not do? In Christianity, are they being controlled to be honest, faithful, to not steal, to be polite, loving, patient, kind, etc.?  Seriously, to control them for what reason?  Is it to keep people passive so they don't misbehave and riot, steal, or murder?  Is it to get them to not think and just follow blindly what doesn't have scientific merit - as if something scientific is necessarily true?  If anyone were to give an answer, all you have to do is ask how I know the answers correct?  In fact, are there any answers?

If a person believes in Christianity, what kind of control is he under?

As a believer in Christianity I am taught to be honest, faithful, not murder, to not steal, to help the weak, to be kind, to be patient, etc. I certainly don't manifest all these qualities perfectly, but these are the things seek after. Is this a control hoisted upon me by some ancient religious guru who decided that in order to get his way with people he had to make them honest, faithful, kind, and patient?  Does that even make any sense?

Are only religious believers under control and not secularists?

Religion is often singled out as the thing that is used to control people. Most often it is the secularists who raise this issue in order to denigrate Christianity as well as other religious systems. But they fail to consider that perhaps their own secularism could be a form of control when the secular society essentially is telling them what to believe about various things such as religion, abortion, homosexuality, evolution, taxes, etc. So the government and social structures like marriage, schools, etc., could be a means of controlling populations. If the secularists want to assert that religious systems have control over people, then they need to also assert that non-religious belief systems have control over people, too. They should be consistent.

Is the fear of punishment a means of control?

Yes, fear of punishment is a means of control. But, is it automatically wrong? When a parent warns his child that he will be disciplined if he does not stop kicking the cat, is this wrong? Just because someone complains that fear punishment means someone is under control, doesn't mean that such fear of punishment is automatically wrong. 

If pockets of religious control are evident as in cults, does it mean that religion as a whole is automatically false?

A mistake many make is falsely projecting a single incident to condemn the whole. It's fallacious.  It is similar to the Fallacy of Composition which is assuming that what is true of the part is true for the whole.  An example would be "The engine in that car is blue.  Therefore, the car is blue.  But for someone to say that since a cult establishes control over a group of people, therefore religion as a whole is meant for the same thing, is illogical. But that hasn't stopped people from repeating the same logical fallacies over and over again.

Conclusion

To say that religion was invented to control people is a mere assertion without facts, without validation, and raises a host of questions that can't be answered. It's easy for a critic to make a statement and assert that it is true. It's quite another thing to validate the statement as being true.

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Article originally by Matt Slick at CARM.org


Does the Roman Catholic Church function as an idol to Catholics?  I believe it does.  Of course, Catholics will say that it does not.  They will say that the Catholic Church is the original church set up by Christ and that they are simply following what Christ has revealed in his church.  But, the problem is it puts itself at such a high level of authority to which it requires submission, that asking if it serves as an idol is a valid question.

So, it is my opinion that the Roman Catholic Church functions as a type of idol to Catholics. Notice, that I said "a type of idol." Catholics don't bow to the Church, nor do they pray to it.  But, they look to it for their truth, salvation, and comfort. 

Let's take a look at some of the teachings of the Catholic Church and see how it views itself.

  • The Roman Catholic Church is necessary for salvation (CCC 846)
  • The Roman Catholic Church has spiritual authority (CCC 88, 553, 2034)
  • Interpreting the Bible is only possible through the Roman Catholic Church (CCC 85)
  • Believing the gospel is only through the authority of the Roman Catholic Church (CCC 119)
  • Salvation is found through the Roman Catholic Church alone (CCC 816)
  • Catholics must go to the priest in the Roman Catholic Church for the forgiveness of sins (CCC 1495)
  • Only in the Roman Catholic Church is the totality of the means of salvation (CCC 868)
  • Catholics "receive the life of faith through the Church" (CCC 169)
  • To obtain grace, the Catholic must follow the Catholic Church's sacramental requirements (CCC 1129, 1598)
  • To go to Jesus, the Catholic must go through Mary (Vatican Website: Encyclical of Pope Leo 13th on the Rosary, Octobri Mense, Pope Leo 13th, 1903-1914)
  •  The Roman Catholic must believe what the Roman Catholic Church says concerning scriptural interpretation. (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books)

What is idolatry?

There are different definitions of idolatry.  Here are three quotes.  One is from a Protestant source.  One is from a Catholic source.  The third is from a church father (for the Catholics).

  • Idolatry "(Gr. eidōlolatreia, from eidōlon, “image,” and latreia, “worship”) The worship of a false god or image of such, a practice prohibited by the law of God (Exod. 20:4–5). Figuratively, any obsessive concern that turns away worship from God can become idolatry(Eph. 5:5Col. 3:5)."1
  • Idolatry  "Literally “the worship of idols,” it is giving divine honors to a creature. In the Decalogue it is part of the first commandment of God, in which YHWH tells the people, “You shall have no gods except me. You shall not make yourself a carved image [Greek eidolon, idol] or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exodus 20:4–5).2
  • "Most men regard idolatry as being limited to these practices alone: burning incense, immolating a victim, giving a sacrificial banquet, or being bound to some sacred functions or priesthoods. . . . [However, idolatry] can be practiced outside of a temple and without an idol.3

Idolatry is something that occurs in the heart. When a person gives "obsessive concern that turns away worship from God" or gives "divine honors to a creature," then there is idolatry.  But, in addition, you don't need a physical object for it to happen.  It is an attitude and a practice that stems out of that attitude.

Idolatry and the Roman Catholic Church

When we consider idolatry as an act of adoration to a created thing that really belongs to God, then we can more easily identify it. Again, in my opinion, the Roman Catholic Church exalts itself to a position dangerously close to being an idol. I say this because the Roman Catholic Church claims that it is necessary for the forgiveness of sins, that it has all spiritual authority, that it alone can interpret the Bible, that believing the gospel is through the Roman Catholic Church, and that salvation is found only in it. Such things, and more point to the exaltation of the Roman Catholic Church.

Conclusion

Now, this is subjective, and I don't offer it as proof. But, I listen to Catholic radio quite a bit when I'm driving. I have been doing this for years. I listen and learn. And one of the things that I've noticed is that those who are on Catholic radio (EWTN), are always talking about salvation found in their church, the Roman Catholic Church. Coming to Christ is rarely mentioned. But coming to "The Church" is frequently mentioned. In fact, I hear more about Mary and the Catholic Church's authority, than I do about Jesus. I hear them say that people need "to come home to the church." It isn't Jesus that they need to find. It's the church. Now again, this is subjective, but over the years it has become obvious to me that the adherents of Catholicism point to their church as the source of salvation and authority, rather than Christ. Because of this, as well as what the RCC says about itself, I believe that the Roman Catholic Church functions as an idol to many Catholics.

Citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Citations from the Catechism of the Catholic Church can be found at scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

  • CCC 85, "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."
  • CCC 88, "The Church's Magisterium exercises the authority it holds from Christ to the fullest extent when it defines dogmas, that is, when it proposes, in a form obliging the Christian people to an irrevocable adherence of faith, truths contained in divine Revelation or also when it proposes, in a definitive way, truths having a necessary connection with these....."
  • CCC 119, "It is the task of exegetes to work, according to these rules, towards a better understanding and explanation of the meaning of Sacred Scripture in order that their research may help the Church to form a firmer judgment. For, of course, all that has been said about the manner of interpreting Scripture is ultimately subject to the judgment of the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God." But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me."
  • CCC 169 "Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: "We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation." Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.
  • CCC 553 Jesus entrusted a specific authority to Peter: "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." The "power of the keys" designates authority to govern the house of God, which is the Church. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, confirmed this mandate after his Resurrection: "Feed my sheep." The power to "bind and loose" connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter, the only one to whom he specifically entrusted the keys of the kingdom.
  • CCC 816, "The Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism explains: "For it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the universal help toward salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be obtained. It was to the apostolic college alone, of which Peter is the head, that we believe that our Lord entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant, in order to establish on earth the one Body of Christ into which all those should be fully incorporated who belong in any way to the People of God."
  • CCC 846, "How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it."
  • CCC 868, "The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. She is sent out to all peoples. She speaks to all men. She encompasses all times. She is "missionary of her very nature."
  • CCC 1129 "The Church affirms that for believers the sacraments of the New Covenant are necessary for salvation. "Sacramental grace" is the grace of the Holy Spirit, given by Christ and proper to each sacrament. The Spirit heals and transforms those who receive him by conforming them to the Son of God. The fruit of the sacramental life is that the Spirit of adoption makes the faithful partakers in the divine nature by uniting them in a living union with the only Son, the Savior."
  • CCC 1495 Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ."
  • CCC 1598 "The Church confers the sacrament of Holy Orders only on baptized men (viri), whose suitability for the exercise of the ministry has been duly recognized. Church authority alone has the responsibility and right to call someone to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders."
  • CCC 2034 The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are "authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice." The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for.
  • 1.McKim, Donald K., The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms, Second Edition: Revised and Expanded . Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.
  • 2.Hardon, John. Catholic Dictionary: An Abridged and Updated Edition of Modern Catholic Dictionary (p. 218). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
  • 3.Tertullian (c. 200, W), 3.62. Bercot, David W., editor. Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (p. 350). Hendrickson Pub. Kindle Edition.
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One of the dominant myths in evangelicalism is that the growth of Christianity hinges on its popularity. The idea that more people will repent if only the preacher were cooler or funnier invariably causes the church to suffer through a ridiculous parade of entrepreneurial types who act as though their personal charm can draw people to Christ. But you cannot manufacture converts by changing the message or stylizing the messenger.

This error leads to the harmful notion that a pastor’s conduct and speech should be shaped by the culture in which he ministers. Many preachers have such strong cravings for cultural acceptance they are actually willing to alter God’s message of salvation in order to achieve it. Subjects like sin, guilt, and repentance are regularly jettisoned so as not to offend or alienate non-Christians.

Such compromises do nothing to increase the church’s witness within the culture. In fact, they have the opposite effect. By creating celebrity preachers with synthetic gospels they only succeed in filling churches with unrepentant sinners. Instead of making the world more like the church, such efforts only succeed in making the church more like the world. This is precisely what Christ’s teaching in Luke 8:5–8 was designed to avoid.

The Nagging Question in Evangelism

The disciples, having a genuine burden that others would believe, must have been astounded that the masses were not repenting. The problem wasn’t Jesus’ ability to attract an audience—the crowds were huge, often numbering in the tens of thousands. But very few were repenting and embracing the Savior. The disciples’ own expectations of a global kingdom without end (Isaiah 9 and 45) were faltering. It must have been easy to lay the blame at the indicting, hard, demanding message that Christ preached (cf. John 6:60-61).

The Lord responded to the rising tide of doubt by telling a series of parables about evangelism. A year before He would give the Great Commission, Jesus told His first parable about a farmer sowing seed:

The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. (Luke 8:5–8)

This agricultural illustration is a paradigmatic explanation of what evangelism should look like. It is designed to answer the fundamental evangelistic question: Why do some people repent and believe the gospel while others reject it?

The Invariable Sower

Luke 8:5–8 is commonly known as the Parable of the Sower. But that popular title is indicative of the widespread confusion we see today regarding its interpretation and application. The parable isn’t about the sower.

What is surprising about the farmer in the story is how little control he actually has in the growing of crops. There are no adjectives used to describe his style or skill.

In a subsequent parable (Mark 4:26–29) Jesus states that he who sows the seed is actually ignorant of how the seed transforms itself into a mature plant. After sowing the seed, the farmer “goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know” (Mark 4:27).

This ignorance is not unique to the sower in Christ’s parables but rather is true of everyone who sows. The growth of the seed is a mystery that even the most advanced farmer cannot explain. And that reality is the key to understanding the Lord’s first parable.

Jesus explained that the seed is the gospel or “word of the kingdom”, the farmer is the evangelist, and the soil represents the heart of the hearer (Matthew 13:19). The evangelist scatters the seed—that is, explains the gospel to people—and some of those people believe and receive life. How this happens is a divine mystery to the evangelist. One thing is clear, however: though he is the human means, it does not ultimately depend on him. The power of the gospel is in the working of the Spirit, not in the style of the sower (Romans 1:161 Thessalonians 1:51 Peter 1:23). It is the Spirit of God who raises souls from death to life, not the methods or techniques of the messenger.

The apostle Paul understood this principle. When he brought the gospel to Corinth, he planted the church and left it in the care of Apollos. Later he described the experience this way: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6). God was the one who actually drew sinners to Himself, changed their hearts, and caused them to be sanctified. Paul and Apollos were both faithful, but they most certainly were not the explanation for the supernatural life and growth. This truth caused Paul to say, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

This runs counter to the notion that the results of evangelism can be influenced by the cultural assimilation of the pastor or the style of music used at his crusades. The preacher who thinks designer jeans will make his message more palatable is akin to a farmer investing in a designer seed bag so that the soil will be more receptive to his seeds.

Jesus intentionally highlights the farmer’s lack of influence over the growth of the seed. The entire parable makes the statement that as far as evangelism goes, it simply does not matter what the evangelist wears or how he does his hair. Such externals are not what makes the seed grow. Anyone who argues that a preacher who imitates a particular segment of culture is better able to reach that culture, has completely failed to understand Jesus’ point in the parable.

All the farmer can do is sow, and all the evangelist can do is proclaim. As a preacher, if I thought someone’s salvation was contingent upon my persuasiveness or relevance, I could never sleep. But instead I know that “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). It is not coincidental that the New Testament never calls evangelists to bear the responsibility for another person’s salvation. Rather, having proclaimed the message faithfully, we are called to rest in the sovereignty of God—much like the farmer in Mark 4:27 who sleeps through the night after a day of scattering seed.

Christ’s description of the farmer provides the biblical model for evangelism. The evangelist must plant the gospel seed, without which no one can be saved (Romans 10:14–17). Then he must trust God with the results, since only the Spirit can give life (John 3:5–8).

The Invariable Seed

Not only is the farmer’s style irrelevant to the success of his crops but Jesus also does not suggest that the sower should alter his seed to facilitate growth. And this absence of discussion about the seed directly corresponds to evangelism. Jesus assumes that Christians will evangelize using the true seed—the gospel.

Most preachers outwardly profess that the gospel is an unalterable non-negotiable, but that doesn’t stop them from subtly softening its sharp edges. Modern gospel presentations frequently portray God as indifferent to sin and not its judge; the sinner as the victim, not the offender; the cross of Christ as the remedy to frustrations and unfulfilled dreams, not the propitiation for our sins; and a divine endgame that revolves around our temporal happiness, not our eternal state.

One of the primary refrains about evangelism today is that the church needs to update the methods without altering the message. But if we’re not faithfully preaching the truth about man’s sinfulness, God’s grace and mercy, the sinner’s need for repentance and faith, and the completed work of Christ, we’re not protecting and preserving the gospel message.

Believers are sternly warned in Scripture against tampering with the message (Galatians 1:6–92 John 9–11). If a frustrated evangelist looks at how difficult his task is, or how closed his culture seems to be to the gospel, the problem is not with the faithful messenger or the true gospel. Rather, it lies in the nature of the soil into which the true seed falls.

Thus the sower and the seed are constants in Christ’s parable. The only variable is the soil—the receptivity of the hearer. And in the days ahead, we’ll take a closer look at the characteristics of each soil type we’ll find on our mission field.

(Adapted from The John MacArthur Pastor’s Library: Evangelism.)


“Copyright 2017, Grace to You. All rights reserved.  Used by permission.”)

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The making of disciples is our Lord’s means for answering the prayer, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10). In His infinite wisdom, Jesus chose to use dedicated followers, His disciples, to carry the message of salvation to all peoples of the world. He included this as a command in His last words before His ascension to heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Making disciples is important because it is the Lord’s chosen method of spreading the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. During His public ministry, Jesus spent more than three years making disciples—teaching and training His chosen twelve. He gave them many convincing proofs that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah; they believed on Him, though imperfectly. He spoke to the crowds, but often He drew the disciples aside privately to teach them the meaning of His parables and miracles. He sent them out on ministry assignments. He also taught them that soon He would be returning to His Father following His death and resurrection (Matthew 16:21John 12:23-3614:2-4). Though they could not comprehend it, He made the disciples this astonishing promise: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Jesus also promised to send His Spirit to be with them forever (John 14:16-17).

As promised, on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with power on the believers, who then were emboldened to speak the Good News to everyone. The remainder of the Book of Acts gives the exciting account of all that was accomplished through them. In one city the opposition said, “These who have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:6 KJV). Multitudes placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they also became disciples. When strong persecution came from the false religious leaders, they dispersed to other areas and continued to obey Christ’s command. Churches were established throughout the Roman Empire, and eventually in other nations.

Later, because of disciples such as Martin Luther and others, Europe was opened to the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the Reformation. Eventually, Christians emigrated to the New World to make Christ known. Though the world still is not completely evangelized, the challenge is as viable now as ever before. The command of our Lord remains – “Go and make disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The characteristics of a disciple may be simply stated as

• one who is assured of his salvation (John 3:16) and is activated by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 14:26-27);

• one who is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:18); and

• one who shares Christ’s burden for the lost souls of men and women. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field” (Matthew 9:37-38).

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