Daily Devotional for Tuesday February 19, 2013
Does the Retirement of the Pope have any Biblical Meaning
(John 17:21; 2 Timothy 3:16, Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:10)
***ASK BILL: Pastor Bill, when a Bible Study is planned to be held in a bar and have a drink of beer, wine, or other form of alcohol, during the study, is it a way of reaching out to the un-churched, especially the younger kids, college age ?? I have been given the argument, when I disagree, that Jesus served wine at the banquet feast, so what is wrong where we meet, if we are learning about God's word and is taught by our Pastor? Is this considered Evangelism? So far, those who have attended the 2 meetings they have had, are people who attend church and are not of college age. Most are retired. I am confused!
ANSWER: Nobody is for reaching people where they live than I am. However, there does have to be a line drawn. Having a Bible Study inside of a bar that is open and operating as a bar is like having a Bible Study inside of an x-rated bookstore! I have done TONS of evangelistic outreaches around bars...but OUTSIDE...trying to reach those going in and coming out. I don't think there is anything wrong if an individual, or group, goes into a bar (not drinking), to engage the patrons. However, the people who own/run the bar will toss you out in a few minutes so you won't accomplish anything. Also, in settings like this, people are NOT there to hear about the Lord or the Bible. What you are trying to accomplish is planting seeds and giving them something to think about. I get the plan of your pastor, but it is a flawed plan. He will accomplish more handing out tracts to people going in, coming out.
Does the "retirement" of Pope Benedict have any Biblical or prophetic meaning? NO, and be very leery of those who try to make those connections. The fact is, the Pope is nothing but a mere man who is the spiritual, AND POLITICAL, head of the Roman Catholic Church. Despite the claims of many Catholics, it is simply one of MANY Christian churches. The "church" is NOT a building, but is the PEOPLE who have given their hearts and lives to Jesus by faith....REGARDLESS the name of the building they choose to worship in!
Without a doubt one of the things I am most grateful for is how God has used Liveprayer to bring unity to the badly divided Body of Christ. Over 1/3 of those who receive the Daily Devotional each day are not Christians. Of the 2/3 who are, they are equally divided among those who go to Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Independent, and Catholic Churches. Ever since I started this ministry in 1992, one of my greatest "big picture" goals was to help bring the Body of Christ together as one as our Lord prayed in John 17 just hours before going to the cross. Dividing the Body is something satan has been doing since the first church in the Book of Acts and what Paul warned about quite often in his letters to the churches.
I purposely stayed away from any denominational affiliation, having my ministry credentials with an independent group of ministers. I also kept this ministry from any denominational affiliations so that nobody could try and label it as "Baptist," even though I got my formal theological training at a Baptist Seminary, or "Methodist," even though I was raised and saved in the United Methodist Church, or "Pentecostal," even though I believe in the gifts of the Spirit. Without having a "label," during my first three years I was able to preach in over 500 churches of every denomination, racial and ethnic makeup, all over the country.
You see, my message then and my message now has really never changed. It is a universal message that plays to people in and out of the church. "If you don't know Jesus by faith you need to make the decision for Him today. If you do know the Lord, you need to fully surrender your life and allow Him to use you. No matter what problems you may be facing in your life today, Jesus is the answer!" As I have shared with you often, when you die, there will be only two lines in Heaven, There won't be a line for Whites and one for Blacks. There won't be a line for Catholics and one for Protestants. There will be one line for those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith, and one for those who do not!
In dealing with a worldwide audience of over 2 million people every day, I am VERY well aware of the incredible divisions there are in Christ's Body. Perhaps no division is as great as the one between Catholics and non-Catholics. I deal with this issue daily in individual cases but have never addressed it in the Daily Devotional. I want you to pray, open your heart to the words I am going to share with you, and hear the voice of God speaking to you today as I do my best to bring balance and clarity to this area of division within the Body of Christ.
Let me start right away and say that those non-Catholics who think the Roman Catholic Church is a cult and anyone who is part of that church is going to hell, could not be more wrong. I am very aware of those who teach this message of hate and division and they should be ashamed of themselves and will one day answer to God. On the other side, however, those Catholics who think that any non-Catholic has denied the faith and will go to hell for not being part of the Roman Catholic Church is just as wrong. Please, I am NOT interested in receiving your dissertations or your cut and paste emails from websites that try and support EITHER of these extreme positions so don't send them!
The fact is, the Roman Catholic Church has a long and well-documented history. However, the reality is, it is simply a denomination or group of churches, no different than a group of Southern Baptist, United Methodist, or Assemblies of God Churches. Each group of churches or denomination has their own rich heritage, traditions, and leaders. The critical point is that while each group of churches or denominations have their own unique differences in regard to different doctrinal issues, what makes them CHRISTIAN churches is the foundational element of the Christian faith . . . who Jesus Christ is, that salvation is through faith in Christ alone, and the authority of God's inspired, inerrant Word.
THE ONE TRUE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST IS NOT A GROUP OF CHURCHES, A DENOMINATION, OR A BUILDING. IT IS MADE UP OF EVERY PERSON WHO HAS ACCEPTED JESUS CHRIST INTO THEIR HEARTS AND LIVES BY FAITH.
There is only ONE WAY to get to Heaven and that is by putting your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. You see, the moment you die, who you were in this life isn't important. As the old adage goes, it is Who you know! The only thing that matters the moment you die is, DO YOU KNOW JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR BY FAITH? God will reward us for our faithfulness in serving Him during our life but what we do during our life can't get us to Heaven, only faith in Jesus Christ will get us into Heaven!
Now let me address some of the issues about the Roman Catholic Church that have led many who know the Lord to leave that church and has caused much of the division with non-Catholics. 50 of the 700+ retired ministers who serve the Lord by helping me each day respond to the over 40,000 emails that we receive are Roman Catholic Priests. Over my years of ministry, I have personally preached in over 1/2 dozen Catholic Churches (and I can assure you that I shared the unadulterated truth of the Gospel and gave an altar call as I do whenever I preach in public), and the best we can tell, approximately 200,000 of the 2-million plus subscribers to the Daily Devotional are Catholics. I have read and studied the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church and as a student of church history am very well aware of what the Catholic Church teaches.
The problem most non-Catholics have with the Catholic Church is what I call their non-Biblical traditions, which by the way, ALL groups of churches or denominations have. I don't have the time to go through a complete list but the main ones are how they deal with the mother of Jesus, Mary. She was a virgin when she was immaculately conceived by the Holy Spirit with the Lord, however, she herself was NOT immaculately conceived and was a person of flesh and blood like you and I, born with sin just like you and I were. She also had other children as we know from the Scriptures. There is nothing wrong with honoring her for the incredible role God chose her to play in her life but she is NOT a deity and praying to her is as meaningless as it is to pray to any other person who is dead (including those the Catholic Church has deemed to be "saints") or alive. There is only ONE person we pray to and that is Jesus.
Another big issue in the Catholic Church is Communion. The tradition of the Catholic Church is that the wafer representing the body of our Lord and the wine representing His blood literally becomes the body and blood of Christ. That is a very real theological argument that Scripture does not support but I don't see that as an area for major contention. The Bible exhorts us to take Communion often in remembrance of the sacrifice of our Lord and there are those who believe based on certain verses it becomes the literal body and blood of Christ. Another issue that I don't think is that important is confessing your sins to a Priest. The Bible tells us to confess our sins one to another, so there is nothing wrong if it is your Priest you choose to do that with. However, please understand that NO MAN, only Jesus, can forgive you of your sins since it was only Jesus who died for your sins.
Another issue that is critical to talk about is salvation. The teaching of the Catholic Church clearly is that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. However, there are some who teach in error (just like some non-Catholic Churches do) that you can do enough good works to earn your way into Heaven which is clearly refuted by Ephesians 2:8-9. Those who teach this, point to the passage in James, "Faith without works is dead." The fact is that passage was written to people who were already saved. The Bible clearly teaches that a person who is truly saved will have "fruit" or good works follow them. These good works do not save them but flow from their salvation.
Also, it needs to be addressed that many Catholics think that they were the "first church." Actually, the first church is well documented in the Book of Acts and was in Jerusalem, not Rome. There was quite a network of churches in that part of the world before there was any church at Rome and those early churches in the city of Rome were offshoots of those other various churches who came to plant churches there. It was several hundred years later, with many well established churches all over that part of the world before what we know as the Romans Catholic Church really emerged.
Lastly is the Bible. The Catholic Bible has 6 historical books known as the Apocrypha that deal with those 400 years from the end of Malachi, the end of the Old Testament, to the start of the New Testament. These books were never found to be inspired or inerrant and thus are not part of the 66 books we call the Bible. The Bible is God's inspired, inerrant Word, representing Absolute Truth and our final authority in all matters. It, and it alone is our authority and overrides any teachings or traditions of man.
Of course, there are many other non-Biblical traditions like purgatory and numerous others. Having said all of that, let me be clear. The Roman Catholic Church is a Christian Church and NOT a cult since the core teachings of the Church are salvation by faith in Jesus Christ alone and the Bible as God's Word. Since the 1970's, there has been a very active and growing Charismatic group within the Roman Catholic Church that is as Pentecostal as any Pentecostal Church you will ever attend. Also, in the past 10 years, there is a growing and strong evangelical movement within the Catholic Church. They are working within the Church to bring back a greater emphasis on the Word of God and on the message of salvation and less emphasis on the traditions of the Catholic Church.
Many people who know Christ as their Savior by faith have chosen to stay in the Catholic Church. They are just as saved, love the Lord, and honor His Word as much as anyone who attends a non-Catholic Church. Are there people in the Catholic Church who aren't saved? Of course! Just like there are people in any church who are not saved. My friend, your Methodist Church can't save you, your Baptist Church can't save you, your Pentecostal Church can't save you, only faith in Jesus Christ can save you! Being baptized can't save you, the faith of your parents can't save you, no amount of good works can save you. ONLY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST CAN SAVE YOU!!!
I love you and care about you so much. I watch, daily, as satan works to divide the Body of Christ and perhaps there is no division as great as the one between Catholics and non-Catholics. Martin Luther's break with the Catholic Church took place at a time when the Catholic Church was more of a political entity than a spiritual one. Luther wanted to get back to the foundation of the faith, that being salvation through God's grace and our faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), or sola fides, the authority of God's Word, or sola scriptura. Regardless of the man-made, non-Biblical traditions of the Catholic Church, we are bonded by the shed blood of Jesus Christ since what makes us a Christian is not the name of the building we choose to worship in, but our faith in Christ.
I will continue to do my part in helping to bring unity to the Body of Christ by keeping people focused on the fact our real enemy is satan and not each other. The universal message of the Bible is that God loves each of us so much and desires to have a personal and intimate relationship with us now and for all of eternity. However, it is our sin that is separating us from God, and it is only faith in His Son, Jesus Christ that can wash our sins away and reconcile us to a holy God. Even though we may disagree on some doctrinal issues, on how a worship service is conducted or any number of other issues, let us never forget that those who know Jesus Christ by faith will be spending all of eternity together so we better start learning how to live with our brothers and sisters in Christ now.
Let us pray in the coming days as the Roman Catholic Church elects the next Pope to head that great church's 1.1 billion members worldwide. I have confided in some of my Catholic friends that one of my great wishes is to be Pope for a day. I would organize a 24-hour telethon to be aired around the world. It would be a special telethon since we would not be raising money but saving souls. It would be 24 hours of non-stop soul winning and with the power of the Papacy, I believe it would be the greatest harvest of souls the world has ever seen. Let us pray that the next Pope of the Roman Catholic Church will not only have a heart for the hurting but also the lost, and the boldness to stand and proclaim that Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him!"
In His love and service, Your friend and brother in Christ,