Christmas Message



DECEMBER, 23, 2007

John 1:1-14 (AMP) 1 IN THE beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. 2 He was present originally with God. 3 All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. 4 In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. 5 And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].

6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came to witness, that he might testify of the Light, that all men might believe in it [adhere to it, trust it, and rely upon it] through him. 8 He was not the Light himself, but came that he might bear witness regarding the Light. 9 There it was—the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person.

10 He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him [did not know Him]. 11 He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own—His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him. 12 But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name— 13 Who owe their birth neither to bloods nor to the will of the flesh [that of physical impulse] nor to the will of man [that of a natural father], but to God. [They are born of God!] 14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.

With hearts overflowing with deep gratitude during this Yuletide season, true followers of Jesus who are scattered throughout this dark sin infested world, ought to seize every opportunity to pause and reflect upon the incredible supernatural events that took place on their behalf a little more than two thousand years ago; events highlighted by the birth, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Although it’s sweet soothing music to their ears, non-Christians are appalled by some of the things Jesus taught and true followers are justifiably saddened by the way the truths He proclaimed have been perverted and the resultant consequences. Allow me to explain by sharing an email I received last week from a woman who was victim in her youth by false biblical teaching.

Being saved through terror had is advantages, but also its disadvantages. As a pre-teen, I was taught that I needed to make my decision immediately, that if I didn’t, I could very well ‘miss the boat’ and be left at the hands of the horrific “666”-ers. I believed that I would eventually need to leave the safety of my parents’ home and run onto the snowcapped Mount Mansfield, and there is still a part of me that believes I would have taken off and hidden had I believed we were really at the very end. I read many tracts about kids thinking about God or being introduced to Him and Salvation, only to die an unexpected and horrific death, immediately after which they would find themselves swimming in a lake of fire, the flesh burning off their bones, and spending all of eternity being tortured.”

“On the one hand, my decision was rather immediate, as anyone who had ever experienced pain would know enough to not spend too much time thinking about safety before choosing it. So, Salvation was quick, and that was good. On the other hand, because I saw Salvation as freedom from sins and hell, I was left doubting my Salvation each time I sinned, returning repeatedly to God to save me properly so that it really worked. I believed that Salvation and perfection went together, that avoiding hell was the goal, rather than having gratitude and finding joy in the journey that led me to developing a relationship with Christ. Whenever I messed up, I would punish myself by reading chapters of Revelation, scaring myself back to Christ, so that I wouldn’t be “left behind.” Now, more than thirty years later, knowing better and even having learned to find much joy in the journey of Christianity and life, I am afraid to re-visit Revelation and haven’t read it since childhood. I love you, Dad. Thanks for giving me your very, very best.

The period of time my daughter was referring to was when I was a teensy Christian who had a lot of zeal but not much biblical knowledge. I relied on what I believed were Christian prophecy experts who turned out to be false teachers. They had deceived me big time. I also shut up the Book of Revelation for a good twenty five years until pastoral concerns compelled me to return to it vigorously. I am still disgusted by what these men have done with the teachings of Jesus, and even more so because they are still at it and making lots of money off of millions of gullible Christians.

Now allow me to share some of the things Jesus said which really appall Non-Christians; teachings which have been judged as being the arrogant ramblings of a lunatic.

John 6:37-40 (AMP) 37 All whom My Father gives (entrusts) to Me will come to Me; and the one who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out [I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me]. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do My own will and purpose but to do the will and purpose of Him Who sent Me. 39 And this is the will of Him Who sent Me, that I should not lose any of all that He has given Me, but that I should give new life and raise [them all] up at the last day. 40 For this is My Father’s will and His purpose, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in and cleaves to and trusts in and relies on Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up [from the dead] at the last day.

John 6:44-45 (AMP) 44 No one is able to come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me attracts and draws him and gives him the desire to come to Me, and [then] I will raise him up [from the dead] at the last day. 45 It is written in [the book of] the Prophets, And they shall all be taught of God [have Him in person for their Teacher]. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me—

John 6:65 (AMP) 65 And He said, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father.

John 10:1-10 (AMP) 1 I ASSURE you, most solemnly I tell you, he who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way (elsewhere, from some other quarter) is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The watchman opens the door for this man, and the sheep listen to his voice and heed it; and he calls his own sheep by name and brings (leads) them out. 4 When he has brought his own sheep outside, he walks on before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will never [on any account] follow a stranger, but will run away from him because they do not know the voice of strangers or recognize their call.

6 Jesus used this parable (illustration) with them, but they did not understand what He was talking about. 7 So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door for the sheep. 8 All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. 9 I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

John 11:25-26 (AMP) 25 Jesus said to her, I am [Myself] the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, and relies on) Me, although he may die, yet he shall live; 26 And whoever continues to live and believes in (has faith in, cleaves to, and relies on) Me shall never [actually] die at all. Do you believe this?

John 3:5-7 (AMP) 5 Jesus answered, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot [ever] enter the kingdom of God. 6 What is born of [from] the flesh is flesh [of the physical is physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Marvel not [do not be surprised, astonished] at My telling you, You must all be born anew (from above).

John 3:16 (AMP) 16 For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

John 6:65 (AMP) 65 And He said, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless it is granted him [unless he is enabled to do so] by the Father.

John 14:6 (AMP) 6 Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me.

The words I just shared with you are the Gospel; a truth which really bugs non-Christians. In fact they hate it! The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a big time turn off to those who are perishing.

The Gospel is one of the truths our church declares in its “Articles of Faith.” In fact, we believe so strongly about it that we make it a requirement for membership. In other words, if someone expresses an interest in joining our church but doesn’t believe that Jesus is the only way into God’s Heaven, than, he or she will not be allowed to join. The following is a summary.

1. We believe the Bible teaches that the blessings of salvation are indeed made freely to everyone through the gospel of Christ.

2. We further believe the Bible teaches that it is the duty of all human beings to accept these blessings on faith and to struggle to overcome the sin in their lives.

3. Finally, we believe the Bible teaches that there is nothing to keep anyone from salvation and admittance into God’s Heaven except the persons own ingrown sinfulness and outright rejection of the forgiveness of their sins through the atoning Blood of Jesus. Such rejection will most certainly result in their eternal damnation in a place God calls Hell.

Many people, including sincere brothers and sisters in Christ, for whom I have the utmost respect, view our membership requirements as being too rigid. For our church to insist that Jesus is the only way in which sinners can be saved and for our church to admit into membership only those folks who share this belief, smacks of exclusivist arrogance to say the least. But our beliefs pale in comparison to the teachings of another church. Millions of Christians as well as those who aren’t believers are deeply offended by the teachings found in this church, although for different reasons. Non-Christians want less to do with that particular church than they do with ours. But folks such as me who believe the Bible is the infallible Word of the Living God are deeply offended by what has either been added to or taken away from what Jesus taught.

For instance, the assertion that Jesus atoning sacrifice on His cross is not the only means by which sinners can be saved is appalling. Allow me to quote from a work entitled “Enchiridion Symbolorum, A Comprehensive Collection of Ecclesiastical Statements.” This work, published in 1854, is a handbook of articles of faith and is still in print. Allow me to quote some of the Papal pronouncements contained in it.

“With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which we believe that no one is saved.[1]

“It must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only arc of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood.”[2] “It is our duty to recall to everyone great and small, as the Holy Pontiff Gregory did in ages past, the absolute necessity which is ours to have recourse to this Church to effect our eternal salvation.”[3]

“We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff”[4]

These statements were uttered not by ordinary men such as me, but rather by those who, in the Roman Catholic Church, are deemed to be infallible whenever they teach such things. As I understand it, whenever a pope proclaims the Church’s definitive teaching on matters of faith and morals, they do so infallibly. This is to say, that, whatever the Roman Catholic Church teaches in this area is immune from error. The reason being is that the Catholic Church insists the Holy Spirit has bestowed this particular spiritual gift upon these men.

It’s also sad to say that even many Christians today simply will not believe that God will allow any so-called good person to perish eternally; a person such as someone who, through no fault of his or her own, never even heard of Jesus and His Gospel. Add the requirement to the belief in Jesus and secondly membership in the Roman Catholic Church together with being baptized, which is another one of that church’s teaching; it would appear as though all nice people who through no fault of their own never even heard of Jesus will wind up in Hell

Allow me to explain by quoting from the current “Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.”

“Outside the Church there is no salvation.”

The Catechism asks: (846) “How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the church fathers? Endnote[i] 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 [Second Vatican] 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 remain in it (emphasis added).”[5]

Continuing with the quote from the Catholic Catechism we read: (847) “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation.”[6] And I might add that the Catechism provides a similar loop-hole for all those who die before being baptized as well as evangelical Christians who it describes as being “separated brethren.”

I know that I haven’t presented the Roman Catholic teaching on salvation in a scholarly manner as any seminary professor will tell you. I also know I haven’t crossed every “T” and dotted each “I”. As I frequently remind you, I’m not infallible. I encourage you to search the current Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church together with The Encyclopedia of the Catholic Church and the 1988 revised edition of Vatican Council II; search these works for yourselves. I believe that you will find that what I have shared with you folks this morning is the essence of that churches current teaching concerning salvation.

Finally, go to the Holy Spirit in prayer and remind Him that Jesus said He would lead you into all truth (John 16:13. Then humbly plead with Him to explain to you what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If there is anyone here this morning who hasn’t already come to Christ and confessed his or her sins to Him and asked for His forgiveness, I plead with you do so before you leave here today. Silently ask Him to remove your heart of stone and replace it with one of flesh, and to send the Holy Spirit to live right inside of you. Plead with Him to strongly incline you to want to love God with all of your mind and heart and soul and strength, and that whatever you do whether in word or deed to do it all for the glory of God.

But if what Jesus said is true and our churches articles of faith which I quoted earlier are also true, and these teachings of the Roman Catholic Church concerning salvation aren’t; how can a just God condemn to eternal torment a real nice uninformed Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist who never even heard of Jesus? Lord willing, next week.

[1] Pope Innocent III (December 18, 1208).

[2] Pope Pious IX (December 9, 1854).

[3] Pope Saint Pious X (March 12, 1904).

[4] Pope Boniface VIII in his Papal Bull Unam Sanctam (November 18, 1302).

[5] Mark 16:16; John 3:5.

[6] LG 1; cf. DS3866-3872.


[i] (Cf. Cyprian).

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December 23, 2007 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized Tagged with:

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