Tag Archives: Denominations

“What Would Jesus Do?” Try Asking, “What Did Jesus Do?”

“What would Jesus do?”

The answer to that question often depends on who you ask.  It’s a question that fits nicely into the relativistic mind of our age.  It allows each of us to thoughtfully rub our chins, look up at the sky and say, “Well, I believe Jesus would…”  So, the question is really just Jiminy Cricket’s “follow your conscience” line wearing a Christian mask.  It is relativism presented as religion.  Whatever answer you come up with is as good as anyone else’s answer as long as we are all “sincere.”

Often, the honest answer to the question “What would Jesus do?” is “I really don’t know.”  His disciples lived with him for three years and Jesus constantly kept them surprised and guessing.  Why are we so convinced that we have Jesus pegged?  For example, it astounds me when celebrities claim to know what Jesus would or would not approve of, as if being a famous celebrity makes one an authority on the mind of Christ.

When we ask, “What would Jesus do?” we can only think and act hypothetically.  We can only speculate and take our best guess.  Maybe we’re helping, maybe we’re doing harm.  What if we decide to do the exact opposite of what Jesus would actually do?  Our world faces daily situations for which there are no explicit instructions in the Bible.  Dealing in general, biblical principles does not always provide enough specifics.  Asking what Jesus would do often doesn’t help much.

Perhaps a more helpful question is, “What did Jesus do?”  There are documented answers to that question.  In terms of what our world faces today, an important answer is, “Jesus established an authoritative, teaching Church to guide us and to spiritually feed us.”  In the midst of all the confusion over what Jesus would do, we have a Church to inform us of what we as followers of Jesus in this present day are to do and what we are not to do.

I sometimes hear people defend immorality by stating that the Bible is silent or ambiguous about certain modern day issues.  Of course it is!  Jesus never told his disciples to write a book to instruct us on every possible, future, moral issue.  Jesus established a Church (only one Church) with the authority to provide us with those instructions on faith and morals.  Jesus did not establish multiple church denominations to speculate and argue about what He might or might not do.  Men established those churches (some very recently).

God is not the author of confusion.  Jesus did not leave us with a Bible, the Holy Spirit and hypothetical questions about what He would do.  He left us with His Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth.  Does this mean we always have every answer to every question?  No.  Does it mean we put it to a vote when we are confused about what Jesus would do?  No (Christianity is not a democracy).  It means that by following His Church we are following Jesus.  We are to strive for obedience to the faith, not speculation.

It comes down to trust (i.e. faith).  Either we trust with all our heart that Jesus knew what He was doing when He established the Church (trust what He did), or we try to constantly change the Church to conform to our speculations about what Jesus would do (lean on our own understanding and feelings).

Once Christ’s Church, Always Christ’s Church (OCCACC)

During my years spent in “once-saved-always-saved” churches, there was something lurking below the surface of the doctrine that I could not quite put my finger on.  This morning it hit me.  Although it is not intentional, there is a double standard.  I certainly don’t mean to accuse anyone of malice or ill intent.  It is simply a double standard that folks overlook.  Most people that hold to “once-saved-always-saved” (OSAS) genuinely believe the doctrine and are well-intentioned in spreading it. They want to go to Heaven and take as many people with them as they can.  That’s not a bad thing.  They mean well.  They sincerely love Jesus.

When King David committed adultery and murder, he was not “dethroned.”  He remained King, not because of his good behavior, but because he was God’s anointed.  When Moses was disobedient, he was punished but not “removed from office.”  He remained the leader of Israel until he died because he was chosen by God to be the leader.  When the Pharisees became hypocrites and made the Word of God of no effect Jesus did not say, “You have been bad, so you no longer have any authority.”  Instead, Jesus told the people, “Do what the Pharisees tell you because they sit on the seat of Moses.  Just don’t be hypocrites like they are.”  Peter said the “wrong thing” prompting Jesus to refer to him as “Satan.”  Then Peter denied Jesus three times during his trial.  Despite this bad behavior Peter was still chosen by God to infallibly write letters that would become part of the inerrant, God-breathed, Holy Bible.

Regarding their own salvation, OSAS folks will say, “It doesn’t matter what I do, I can’t lose my salvation because nothing can separate me from the love of God.  I am sealed unto the day of redemption.  I am justified (meaning, it is “just as if” I had never sinned).  Once God decides to save me it’s a done deal.  I may lose rewards in Heaven for bad behavior, but I’ll never lose my salvation.  God has the power to preserve my soul!”

However, that same, steadfast, preservative power of God is never seen as applied to the Catholic Church.  To the OSAS folks (and Protestantism in general), the Catholic Church cannot be the one true Church established by Jesus Christ due to “bad behavior.”  Whether it is the Crusades, the Inquisition, the selling of indulgences, the Galileo ordeal or the more recent priest abuse scandals, people insist that such behavior disqualifies Catholicism from being Christ’s Church.  In other words, God can keep King David and even individual Christians intact, but not his own Church.  The Church had to be scrapped and “started over” because it just wasn’t working out.  So, the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant Church, and the New Covenant Church was replaced by the “New” New Covenant Church in the 1500s.  God’s grace and the Holy Spirit just couldn’t handle the behavior of Catholics.

Nevertheless, OSAS Christians (and Protestantism in general) accept the Catholic Church’s formation of the New Testament canon.  The New Testament, as compiled and authorized by the Catholic Church, is accepted as the God-breathed, inspired, inerrant Word of God.  But, because of the bad behavior of some Catholics, the Catholic Church was “dethroned” as God’s anointed and replaced by lots of different “churches” with various doctrines and practices.  The office of the papacy, which once oversaw and authorized the compilation of Holy Scripture, no longer has authority.  This is the double standard.  It seems that the Holy Spirit and God’s grace are able to work with everybody’s bad behavior except for the Catholic Church.

The Holy Spirit-led Catholic Church allegedly gave us the New Testament and then suddenly turned into “The Whore of Babylon” at worst, or an “outdated, out of touch denomination” at best.  Personally, I believe God is more powerful and more gracious than that.  He is powerful enough to establish a Church with offices of leadership, and then preserve that Church until the end of time, just as he preserves the Scriptures compiled by that Church.

We need not apply the words of Christ, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” only to individual Christians.  Those words also apply to the Church Jesus established, the Catholic Church.  Jesus has not left the Church, but many of us have.  Some of us have met Christ’s Church, but we have not met Christ.  Some of us have met Christ, but we have not genuinely met his Church.  Many people have only been introduced to a caricature of the Church propagated by anti-Catholic teachings, poor catechesis or simple misunderstandings.

Christ and his Church go together.  We are incomplete with one but not the other.  Where there are human beings there will always be sin.  Nevertheless, “Once-Christ’s-Church-always-Christ’s-Church” holds true because of Jesus, not because of us.

Wait…Jesus Said To OBEY The Scribes And Pharisees? What..?

In Mathew 23:1-3 Jesus says (paraphrase), “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: therefore, do all that they tell you to do; but don’t behave the way they do, for they don’t follow their own teachings.”  There are several points here to reflect on.

1)      Jesus was not anti-religion, he was anti-hypocrisy.  Jesus followed his Jewish religion perfectly (unlike the hypocrites).  Jesus never said he came to abolish religion.  Jesus came to fulfill the Jewish religion, not to get rid of it.  When people say, “Religion is bad but Jesus is good,” they are mistaken.  Jesus is good and so is his religion.

2)      Jesus recognized and validated the office held by the scribes and the Pharisees.  God established the seat of Moses.  It was an office of authority.  An earthly person (Moses) held an office of God-given authority.  Furthermore, that office had successors.  The scribes and the Pharisees had God-given authority because they were the successors of Moses, not because they were good men.  What we see here is the biblical principle that it is God, not men that establishes and preserves the earthly office of authority.  Men behaving badly can still validly occupy an office of God-given authority and use that authority to establish and teach doctrines and traditions (binding and loosing).  Jesus teaches obedience to men who sit on a seat authorized directly by God.

3)      The teachings of the scribes and Pharisees were not made invalid by their hypocrisy.  Notice that Jesus did not say, “Rebel against and disobey the scribes and Pharisees because they are hypocrites who won’t even follow their own teachings.”  Quite the opposite was true.  Jesus taught obedience to their God-given authority.

4)      The scribes and Pharisees “made the word of God of no effect” through their tradition (Mark 7:13).  Having the tradition wasn’t the problem.  Their attitude was the problem.  They “rejected the commandment of God” (verse 9).  Tradition is good if one is not rejecting the commandment of God.  After all, Jesus and his family followed Jewish tradition.  They were religious!  One can take most any religious tradition and either glorify God or reject God through that tradition.  It’s about one’s attitude.

5)      As stated above, Jesus validated the seat of Moses as an earthly authority from God.  In fact, he liked the idea so much that he fulfilled and perfected it for the New Covenant by creating the chair of Peter.  Again, God protects this office and provides successors for it.  Even a scoundrel of a pope cannot negate the authority of this office.  God protects the official teachings of the Church from error through the Holy Spirit, not through the impeccable behavior of men.  That is what the infallibility of the papacy means.  The same Holy Spirit that keeps error out of the Bible also protects the papacy.  God the Father directly authorized the seat of Moses.  God the Son directly authorized the Chair of Peter.

6)      Protestantism has the Bible, but it has no seat of earthly authority like the seat of Moses or the Chair of Peter.  This is, ironically, unbiblical.  The rejection of God-given Church authority has resulted in division and a multitude of opposing doctrines.  It is popular today to claim Jesus while rejecting religious authority.  Jesus taught the opposite.  To obey the God-given seat of authority is to obey God.  Obey Jesus by obeying his Church.

7)      Catholicism does not create traditions of men that “make the word of God of no effect.”  Read the Catholic Catechism honestly and you will discover that Church teachings flow from and compliment the Scriptures.  The Bible and Sacred Tradition are both apostolic.  They go together.

8)      Catholicism does not “heap heavy burdens upon men that even the religious leaders can’t bear.”  Read the Catholic Catechism and you will discover that Church teachings are about holiness and a relationship with Jesus, not legalistic rules and regulations.  There is nothing about being Catholic that “can’t be done” by the clergy or by the laity.  There may be things people don’t want to do, but that’s all about attitude and obedience.  If you live a Catholic life with the proper attitude you will grow ever closer to Christ.  Catholicism is all about receiving the grace of Jesus and sharing him with the world and with each other.

A Powerful Testimony

This is an awesome testimony.  He acknowledges that although God’s grace can and does operate in other churches, an honest search for truth will move one beyond those settings to the fullness of Christianity.  We should never “settle” in our search.  We should always be growing in faith and holiness and expanding beyond our zone of comfort.  God’s truth is always worth the cost.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxDumU0TSrY

 

The Bible And The Promises Of Christ

Most of my Christian friends would agree with me when I say that the Bible is God’s Word.  They would also agree when I say that Jesus is Lord and Savior, and that his promises are true.  I would like to consider the connection between some of the promises of Jesus and the origin of the Bible.

There is a misconception among many Christians that the Church springs forth from the Bible.  However, if we use the Bible as a guide for starting a new church, we are doing things backwards.  The historical reality is that the Bible came from the Church, not vice versa.  The Church was started by Christ and thrived for 400 years before the Bible was even assembled.

Consider the promise of Christ, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”  Jesus promised us one Church that would never fail.  It makes no sense, then, to conclude that the Church started by Jesus somehow “failed” and needed to be “rebooted” or started over at some point.  Jesus also promised to be with his Church “until the end of the age.”  In other words, Jesus doesn’t “leave” his Church, cast it aside and start a “new church.”  The Holy Spirit sticks with the original Church until the very end of the world.

Most Christians would agree that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers of Scripture.  There were a lot of writings from the time of the early Church, but not all of them were inspired.  Not all of them belonged in the Bible.  Not all of them made it into the New Testament.  Who decided which writings made the cut?  Whoever it was, they must have been guided by the Holy Spirit, right?  It was the Catholic Church that decided which writings were inspired and which writings did not belong in the New Testament.  This is not a matter of opinion, it is simply history.  The Bible was assembled by the Catholic Church nearly 400 years after Christ.

Would Jesus start his Church, have members of his Church write inspired Scripture, guide his Church in assembling the Bible, and then “leave” his Church to start a “new” Church?  No, because Jesus does not break his promises.  The Catholic Church today is the same Church started by Jesus 2000 years ago.

Catholics are Christians.  The word “catholic” simply means “universal.”  The Catholic Church is the universal Christian Church.  In other words, it’s for everyone everywhere, including you and me.  It is wrong to assume that a Catholic is something different than a Christian, or that Catholics are not “saved” according to the Bible.  The Catholic Church wrote the New Testament Scriptures and assembled the Scriptures.  The Church has studied, preached and taught the Scriptures for 2000 years.  Make no mistake, the Catholic Church knows all about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ!  Read the Catholic Catechism!

Incidentally, those who claim that the Catholic Church is “The whore of Babylon” from the book of Revelation, or that the pope is the antichrist, are using the same New Testament produced and authorized by the Catholic Church!  And for those who claim that the Emperor Constantine “started” the Catholic Church, notice that the New Testament was assembled and approved by the Church (A.D. 382 at the synod of Rome) after Constantine converted to and legalized Christianity in the early 300s.  Those who say, “Constantine started the Catholic Church!” are using the same New Testament produced and approved by what they consider to be a “false religion!”

I submit that most Christians are simply not aware of the historical and spiritual origin of their Bibles.  It took me nearly 40 years to learn it and I was raised Catholic!  The fact is, if you accept the God-given authority of the Bible, you are also accepting the God-given authority of the Catholic Church, whether you realize it or not.  Jesus did not give authority to his Church only to strip it away at some later date.  The Catholic Church is the original Christian Church.  It is only the protection of the Holy Spirit that has prevented the Catholic Church from self-destructing for 2000 years.  No mere human institution holds up under such pressures.  All other churches have been started by someone other than Jesus Christ.

If we love Jesus and the Bible, it only makes sense to love the Church from which the Bible flows.  It is inconsistent to accept Christ, accept the Bible but knowingly reject the Catholic Church.  All three of them go together.  They are intimately linked and cannot be separated from each other.  Jesus is God’s Living Word made flesh among us.  The Bible is God’s written Word.  The Catholic Church is God’s authoritative Body of Christ that preaches and teaches God’s Word.

It is important to prayerfully consider the following questions:  If the Holy Spirit guided the Catholic Church to be right about the New Testament, what else is the Catholic Church right about?  What is your authority?

Doing Church A Whole New Way

How do you like to worship God?  That question gets many different answers.  Some might say, “I like to worship God through music.”  Others might prefer to sit on the beach or hike through the woods observing the majesty of God’s creation.  Still others will relate how being at church or reading the Bible is their favorite way to worship God.  All of these are good.  God is certainly pleased by our desire to focus on Him in some way.  Now, let’s ask a different question.  How does God want us to worship Him?

We don’t have to read very far in the Bible before realizing that our worship preferences often depart from what God asks of us.  Cain killed Abel out of jealousy because God accepted Abele’s offering.  The Israelites made a golden calf as a form of worship.  Moses wasn’t allowed into the Promised Land because he departed from God’s instructions.  Saul got in trouble because he didn’t honor God the way the prophet said he should.  There are plenty of examples.  The point is that there is God’s way and there is our way.  We tend to do things our way.  Worship is no exception.

The other day I saw a yard sign that had been placed near a public park.  The sign was an advertisement for a church.  The sign said, “Doing church a whole new way.”  I understand completely the reason for the sign.  They are trying to attract people to their church through creative marketing and new methodologies.  I have been a board member and a minister in churches that were faced with the same challenge of how to increase attendance.  Many churches have tried creative things to draw people in.  While it is not bad to use creativity, it creates problems when God’s preferred method of worship is neglected, abused or even eliminated.

One problem is that we have become a society of spectators.  We like to sit in front of screens or stages and be entertained too much.  Hence, many churches are akin to attending a concert or going to a movie or a sporting event.  Get your coffee or other refreshment, take it with you into the venue, sit down and observe and listen.  Church has become primarily a spectator event.  Participation in such church events might consist of singing a song (if you feel like it) or maybe giving an occasional shout of approval.  But that is something one can also do at a baseball game.  One can sing the national anthem at the start of the game, sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game at the seventh inning and give a shout when one’s team scores.  And, of course, one can have a drink and a hot dog while enjoying the event.  This is what many churches have become modeled after: a venue for spectators to enjoy.

Worship is not for spectators.  Worship is for participants.  True worship also cannot be invented by us because it has already been instituted by God.  Jesus Christ Himself instituted Christian worship at The Last Supper.  He took bread and wine, turned it into Himself and instructed His disciples to eat and drink of His Body and His Blood (“this is my body, this is my blood”).  The Last Supper was the first Mass.

The Mass is not for spectators.  The believing Christian participates in every aspect of the Mass through his/her universal priesthood (not to be confused with the ordained priesthood).  Many Catholics don’t even realize that they are members of the priesthood of believers by virtue of their baptism.  We are not supposed to be merely observing the Mass and the actions of the ordained priest, but joining with the priest and every aspect of the supreme sacrifice of Christ (“through Him, with Him and in Him”).  The Mass unites us with Christ and with each other.  This is the worship that God wants from us.  He wants us to be conformed to Christ by partaking of the entire Christ (body, blood, soul and divinity).

People that are bored with the Mass do not understand the Mass.  The Mass does not depend upon the quality of the music or the dynamism of the preacher.  The Mass does not depend upon how well or how loudly the congregants sing.  The Mass does not depend upon how socially outgoing or how shy the people may be.  The Mass does not depend upon how entertained or inspired people may or may not “feel.”  The Mass is no place for coffee or other refreshments because the food that is offered is The Word of God made flesh, The Living Bread, Jesus Christ Himself.  You don’t need to bring your own food to a banquet supplied by God!

“The Mass” is the answer to the question, “How does God want the Christian to worship?”  The answer has been the same for 2000 years, ever since Jesus Christ instituted the first Mass in the Upper Room with His newly ordained priests.  Jesus showed them how He wanted them to worship, and they passed it down through the centuries.  No other form of worship needs to be “invented” by us.  Whatever we may come up with is less than what God asks of us.  Any other form of worship ultimately becomes more about us than about God.  We may even fall into idolatry as we seek our own worship “preferences.”

If we are in any way unsatisfied with God’s method of worship, the problem is with us, not with the worship method.  We don’t need to “do church in a whole new way.”  We need to be converted and see God’s true form of worship the way He wants us to see it.  Our creativity should be focused not on changing God’s method of Christian worship, but on finding ways to help people understand and love the worship that Christ instituted.

Help people understand and love Christ’s Holy Mass!  It will change their lives!

Christian Unity: When Will We Learn?

My fellow Christians, why are we divided?  Do we not all believe that Jesus is the Messiah?  Do we not all have access to the same Bibles?  Do we not all know the Apostles’ Creed?  Do we not all read the words of Jesus and the Apostles?  Why are these things not enough to keep us united in spiritual battle?  What do we lack?  Why are we not “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” as Paul admonished us to be?

We lack that which transforms a great horde into a well-oiled, disciplined, effective army:  allegiance to a central chain of command.  We also lack the holiness that comes from being disciplined and united.  How can we preach holiness while maintaining division?  The two are not compatible.  A divided army simply does not fight well.  Holiness is what we use to wage spiritual warfare.  Division is not holy.  Our lips profess allegiance to Christ, but our actions show division, contention and strife.

When will we learn that Jesus established a visible Church hierarchy, a chain of command for all Christians to follow and be accountable to?  We cannot be united while preaching and teaching different doctrines.  We cannot be united while following leaders that oppose each other.  When will we learn that unity requires humility and the swallowing of pride?  Soldiers must learn to follow orders that they may not agree with or fully understand.  When will we learn that we cannot worship wherever and however we want?  Worship cannot be invented by us.  Christian worship has been instituted by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.  We cannot effectively function as different parts of the same Body if we are not fully united to that Body.  When will we learn that being Christian is not about choosing one’s preferences from a smorgasbord of doctrinal options, but about being obedient to the Faith?  One Lord, one Faith, one baptism.

When will we learn that genuine Christian unity will elude us until we reverse the perpetual, explosive trend of protest and division and return to the central command of Peter’s chair?

Rom 16:17, 1Cor 1:10, 1Cor 3:3, 1Cor 11:18, Matt 16:18