“Blind” Minds?

2 Corinthians 4:4

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4, ESV)

In a previous post here at The Battle Cry, The Apostle Paul, a Veiled Gospel, and Blind Minds we talked about three things Paul addressed in his second letter to the church at Corinth, a predominately Gentile church. In this post we’ll revisit one of those topics – the “blind minds” of unbelievers.

Our referenced passage speaks specifically of the minds of unbelievers being blind and unable to see and understand the light of the gospel. While I was working on the previous blog, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mental blindness of unbelievers extended beyond seeing the light of the gospel into other areas. Just how much of an impact does “the god of this world”, Satan, have on the mental capabilities (or lack thereof) of fallen man?

With those questions buzzing around in my head, and in light of all the craziness going on these days (political and COVID related), I decided to consult some good Bible commentaries. Of the commentaries I read, Albert Barnes seemed to address the issue in the most comprehensive manner. Here is his commentary on 2 Cor 4:4, speaking of the work of the “god of this world”, Satan:

(The god of this world) Hath blinded the minds of them which believe not – Of all who discern no beauty in the gospel, and who reject it. It is implied here:

1.  That the minds of unbelievers are blinded; that they perceive no beauty in the gospel. This is often affirmed of those who reject the gospel, and who live in sin; see the 2Co 2:13 note; Mat 23:16-17, Mat 23:26 notes; Luk 4:18 note; Joh 9:39; Joh 12:40 notes; Rom 11:7 note. The sense is, that they did not see the spiritual beauty and glory of the plan of redemption. They act in reference to that as they would in reference to this world, if a bandage were over their eyes, and they saw not the light of the sun, the beauty of the landscape, the path in which they should go, or the countenance of a friend. All is dark, and obscure, and destitute of beauty to them, however much beauty may be seen in all these objects by others.

2.  That this is done by the agency of Satan; and that his dominion is secured by keeping the world in darkness. The affirmation is direct and positive, that it is by his agency that it is done. Some of the “modes” in which it is done are the following:

a.  By a direct influence on the minds of people. I do not know why it is absurd to suppose that one intellect may, in some way unknown to us, have access to another, and have power to influence it; nor can it be proved that Satan may not have power to pervert the understanding; to derange its powers; to distract its attention; and to give in view of the mind a wholly delusive relative importance to objects. In the time of the Saviour it cannot be doubted that in the numerous cases of demoniacal possessions, Satan directly affected the minds of people; nor is there any reason to think that he has ceased to delude and destroy them.

b.  By the false philosophy which has prevailed – a large part of which seems to have been contrived as if on purpose to deceive the world, and destroy the peace and happiness of people.

c.  By the systems of superstition and idolatry. All these seem to be under the control of one Master Mind. They are so well conceived and adapted to prostrate the moral powers; to fetter the intellect; to pervert the will; to make people debased, sunken, polluted, and degraded; and they so uniformly accomplish this effect, that they have all the marks of being under the control of one mighty Mind, and of having been devised to accomplish His purposes over people.

d.  By producing in the minds of people a wholly disproportionate view of the value of objects. “A very small object held before the eye will shut out the light of the sun.” A piece of money of the smallest value laid on the eye will make everything appear dark, and prevent all the glory of mid-day from reaching the seat of vision. And so it is with the things of this world. They are placed directly before us, and are placed directly between us and the glory of the gospel. And the trifles of wealth and of fashion; the objects of pleasure and ambition, are made to assume an importance in view of the mind which wholly excludes the glory of the gospel, and shuts out all the realities of the eternal world. And he does it:

e.  By the blinding influence of passion and vice. Before a vicious mind all is dark and obscure. There is no beauty in truth, in chastity, or honesty, or in the fear and love of God. Vice always renders the mind blind. and the heart hard, and shrouds everything in the moral world in midnight. And in order to blind the minds of people to the glory of the gospel, Satan has only to place splendid schemes of speculation before people; to tempt them to climb the steeps of ambition; to entice them to scenes of gaiety; to secure the erection of theaters, and gambling houses, and houses of infamy and pollution; to fill the cities and towns of a land with taverns and dram-shops; and to give opportunity everywhere for the full play and unrestrained indulgence of passion; and the glory of the gospel will be as effectually unseen as the glory of the sun is in the darkest night.

___________

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) was an American theologian, born at Rome, New York, on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1823. Barnes was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1825, and was the pastor successively of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey (1825-1830), and of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia (1830-1867).

Some who read this might agree with Albert Barnes, some might not.  And although our passage does state ratherly clearly that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers”, i know of at least one reader of this little blog that will probably breathe his last breath claiming that Jews have blind minds, but Gentiles do not. He has reminded me of his opinion several times through the last few years.

The Apostle Paul, a Veiled Gospel, and Blind Minds

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The Light of the Gospel

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart  But we have renounced disgraceful ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. . And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:1-4, ESV)

Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth were meant to deal with specific issues facing the young church. His first letter dealt with destructive divisions in the church, along with issues of immorality and carnality in the church. His second letter dealt, at least in part with having to answer the criticisms of false teachers who openly opposed him. In the short passage above Paul speaks of three things, his ministry, the gospel he preached being veiled (hidden) from some hearers, and ‘blind’ minds incapable of understanding the gospel.

We will briefly discuss each of these, in the order presented, with an eye to their application to personal evangelism.

The Apostle Paul

“But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor 4:2)

In this verse Paul renounces of disgraceful underhanded ways, asserts his refusal to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word in presenting the gospel, and reaffirms his intent to merely speak the plain truth of the gospel. Paul’s message to this church, as well as to the others he planted was simple – “Christ and him crucified” for the sins of men. (1 Cor 2:1-4) No slick marketing campaigns, house to house surveys, or twisting of scripture in order to please itching ears.

A Veiled Gospel

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.” (2 Cor 4:3)

Here Paul, at his hypothetical best, tells us that if the message of the gospel is “veiled”, or hidden from anyone it would be those are who are “perishing” in their sin, Jesus referred to these unbelievers as “condemned already”. (John 3:18). Nowhere does Paul ever tell us not to preach the gospel, but he does tell us that the gospel we preach very likely won’t be understood by some of our listeners. Talk about a tough job! There’s an answer to that problem, and we’ll get to it.

Blind Minds

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4)

Here Paul tells us exactly WHY unbelievers cannot understand the gospel message. Their minds have been completely blinded to the spiritual truths underlying the message! Not only that, we are told that the one who has blinded the minds of unbelievers is “the god of this world”, or Satan himself! In John 12:31, he is called “the prince of this world.” In Ephesians 2:2, he is called “the prince of the power of the air.” And in Ephesians 6:12, the same bad influence is referred to under the names of “principalities, and powers,” “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and “spiritual wickedness in high places.”

So what?

How should that impact personal evangelism?

1. Stick to the message – stay on point. And the whole point of the gospel message is that Christ died for the sins of men. Don’t sugar coat it. The gospel is a bad news/good news story. Present the problem (sin) followed by the solution (Jesus Christ).

2. Realize that there are those from whom the good news is veiled, or completely hidden. They cannot even understand it (1 Corinthians 2:14). Trust God to open hearts to hear it, understand it, and receive it.

3. Recognize that it is Satan who has blinded the minds of everyone who has yet to believe in Christ. We would probably equate having a ‘blind mind’ with a complete inability to process information. By all means use kind and persuasive speech as you share an ‘offensive’ truth, but let God open cold and spiritually dead hearts to hear and be saved.

Good Friday – The Rest of the Story

Today Christians remember the day that their Savior died on a cross at Mount Calvary, finishing the work that He was sent here to accomplish – to die for and save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Three days later, Christ rose from the dead, leaving an empty tomb, displaying the power and glory of God, both in Christ’s resurrection and foreshadowing the raising of spiritually dead sinners to new life in Christ.

Just a few comments – food for thought about what it all means:

John 3:16 – 19

16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

Let’s break that down, beginning with the most memorized passage in all of the New Testament.

16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

This verse tells us that those who believe in The Son will have eternal life. What are we to believe about the Son? In Mark 1:15 Jesus told his listeners to “..repent and believe the gospel.” The Apostle Paul defines the gospel quite clearly in 1 Corinthians15:1-4:

1“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures

17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The Son’s first coming into this world was to save sinners who repent and believe the gospel. His second coming will be as the righteous judge of the whole world. (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 19)

18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

This verse tells us that those who have repented of their sin and believed the gospel are not now condemned, nor will they be condemned at the judgment. It also tells us that those who have not repented of their sins and believed in the Son stand condemned already, even as they live and breathe.

19And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”

This verse tells us WHY so many have not repented of their sin and believed in the Son. They love the darkness in which they live, in which we all once lived. They love the darkness BECAUSE their deeds are evil. Would it be a stretch to say that they LOVE their sin, or would it be a strikingly logical conclusion?

The really BIG question is, “Have you repented of your sin and believed the gospel?” Are you safe in the arms of Christ, or do you stand ‘condemned already’ before a just and holy God?

Those are questions between you and God. Do not take them lightly. Don’t answer me, answer Him.

Sharing Christ in a Hostile Culture, Pt 3– Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, and Our Highest Calling

In Part 1 of this series of articles, Be Available, we shared real examples of how doors seem to just ‘open up’ for sharing the message of the gospel, and what can happen when there’s a willing and available gospel messenger ‘on location’.

In Part 2, Situational Awareness, we compared our ‘Situation’ as believers in Christ – our status, and true citizenship, with our condition (situation) before repenting of sin and believing Christ.

This article focuses on understanding the nature of the believer’s role in sharing Christ with the world around us. Bear in mind that God, being GOD, is able to save lost sinners in any way He chooses to do so, with, or without our involvement. At the same time, it’s important to remember that God has not only provided for the salvation of His people (through Christ); he has chosen the means by which he saves lost sinners. – the preaching of the gospel (sharing Christ). This means that fur you and me (and all believers) sharing Christ with a lost world is at least three things; Our Duty, Our Great Privilege, and Our Highest Calling!

Our Duty

18And Jesus came and said to them (the disciples), “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mathew 28:18-20)

You might be thinking that there is no command for personal evangelism in the above passage of scripture, I beg to differ. Jesus’ command, to ‘make disciples’, by its very nature requires sharing the message of the gospel. Disciples are only produced from saved; blood bought sinners. Jesus disciples (followers) were commanded to make disciples of those were already believers and preach the message of the gospel to those still lost so that they could then be made into disciples.

Our Great Privilege

God not only provided the way of salvation of His people in the death and resurrection of His Son, He also decreed the means whereby men are saved.

13“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ 14How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” (Romans 10:13-15)

The above passage is crystal clear. Those who call on the Lord will be saved. Calling on the Lord means believing in Him. To believe they must first hear the good news (evangel). For them to hear, someone must preach Christ to them. Those who share the good news are ‘sent’ by God to do so.

Dear friends, WE ae among those who are sent to share the good news! The Great Commission was given specifically to Jesus’ immediate disciple, but it was meant for all believers for all time.

God has chosen to use flawed you and me to share His perfect message of salvation! How is that NOT the greatest privilege bestowed on God’s children?

Our Highest Calling

I recently read an article in a local newspaper about an F/A-18 Super Hornet weapons system officer who was actually the first female pilot to bomb ISIS from an F/A 18. Here is how she described ISIS and her role in the bombing:

“They are a horrible crop of humans, with an utter disregard for human life,” she said. “To witness that, day in and out, to witness mass murder, you have such an understanding. I’d trained for so long to protect innocent people on the ground, and when I saw that violated, and to finally use my skills to do that and use weapons, there is no higher calling.” (Emphasis mine)

With no disrespect to either a fine Naval officer or anyone who fights global terrorism, I have to confess that the immediate reaction of this old soldier was “But there IS a higher calling!” – to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world around us, and often hostile culture in which we live.

In many churches these days much is made of living our best lives now, discovering our special purpose for our time on planet Earth, and even achieving our ‘dream destinies’. Friends, I suggest to you that all of those things are merely temporary at best. I also suggest to you that our duty and great privilege to share the good news of Jesus Christ with a lost world, and the eternal consequences at stake (heaven and hell), define the great commission as the highest calling a blood bought child of God has received from heaven!

Be blessed!

The Holy Spirit in Evangelism and the Salvation of Sinners

Evangelism

In the above quotation from J.I. Packer’s book,Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. we can see the work of the Holy Spirit in at least there ways.

1.  The Holy Spirit Empowers the evangelist.  While it is true that the message of the Gospel can be presented as if it’s a matter of mere facts, or an intellectual exercise, the sharing of the Gospel message In the power of the Holy Spirit carries with it  certain Divine authority that is not lost on the hearer.

2.  The Holy Spirit opens the heart of the hearer to receive the Gospel message. While it is also true that the Gospel message can be heard by anyone at all, a God-opened heart guarantees that it will be taken to heart, received with gladness, and a lost soul saved for eternity. No better example can be found than the woman Lydia in the 16th Chapter of the book of Acts.

3.  The Holy Spirit no only empowers the evangelist and opens the heart of the sinner, He also empowers the new born believer to live for God and serve Him from that day forward.. It is the Holy Spirit that works in the Christian both to desire and to do what is pleasing to his Lord. (Phil 2:13).

Food for thought………….

Who are Christians?

I had an invite to church this morning, thanks to a Facebook post from a contemporary megachurch with several large campuses. As is my custom, I went in search of their “About” link to find out their doctrinal statement. I finally found it, after I scrolled down the home page and finally reached the bottom of the page, where a lot of “What We Believe” statements are found these days. This particular church had a lot of good statements, as do a lot of churches. They all talk a good game. One particular statement caught my attention:

JESUS CHRIST DWELLS IN ALL BELIEVERS
Christians are people who have invited the Lord Jesus Christ to come and live inside of them by His Holy Spirit. They relinquish the authority of their lives over to Him thus making Jesus the Lord of their lives accomplished for them when He died, was buried, and rose again from the dead.

(John 1:12, 14:17, 15:4; Romans 8:11; Revelation 3:20)

We are provided the definition of a Christian: “Christians are people who have invited the Lord Jesus Christ to come and live inside of them..”

The scripture passages cited to support that definition are:

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” John 1:12

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Neither of the above passages supports becoming a Christian by inviting Jesus to live inside you. John 1:12 clearly says that a Christian is one who “receives Christ and believes in His name.” I’ll admit that anyone who invites Jesus onto their hear receives Christ (for something) and believes in Him (for something), but WHAT? There are a lot of contemporary churches these days that offer Jesus Christ for a LOT of things, but not the perfect sacrifice for our sins. One of the largest of those churches is Lakewood Church in Houston. I’ll leave that right there.

Revelation 3:20 comes a bit closer to supporting the notion that ‘inviting Jesus into your heart’ makes you a Christian, but no matter how popular it is, it also fails. You see, Jesus not speaking to individual lost sinners, he is speaking to His own church, asking to come back in! Don’t take my word for it, read it for yourself.

So, who IS a Christian? Let’s let Jesus answer that question:

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

Simply put, a Christian is someone who has repented of their sin and believed the gospel (Jesus died for our sins).

Much more can be said, but nothing more needs to be said.

Be blessed!

“De Oppresso Liber”

clip_image002 “De oppresso liber”, commonly translated “to liberate the oppressed” is the motto of U.S. Army Special Forces. The phrase stems from the exploits of World War II Office of Strategic Services Jedburgh/Sussex Teams operating behind the lines in France. Colonel Aaron Bank, father of United States Army Special Forces, and his teams enabled the French Resistance to grow and oppose the occupying German Army.

Although the phrase “to liberate the oppressed” might not be an exact grammatical and literal translation, the point is well made. Liberating oppressed peoples has always been a primary goal of U.S. Special Forces.

Perhaps one of the greatest symbols of oppression in the history of mankind was the Berlin Wall. We were stationed in Berlin between 1984 and 1987. When we were stationed in Berlin in the late 80’s, we were able to capture a picture of a small part of the Wall that depicted the goal of German people living on both sides:

clip_image004

The need to liberate oppressed peoples is nothing new, nor is it a goal or mission reserved for the temporal realm.

God raised up the Prophet Isaiah to accuse the leaders of a rebellious nation of not caring for the oppressed and remind them of their obligations as rulers:

“Learn to do well:
seek judgment,
relieve the oppressed
judge for the fatherless,
defend the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17)

Perhaps the most significant of the church fathers, Augustine of Hippo recognized that liberating those who are oppressed was one of the solemn responsibilities of pastoral ministry. In a sermon celebrating the anniversary of his ordination as a Bishop he eloquently described how he saw his duties:

“The turbulent have to be corrected,
The faint-hearted cheered up,
The weak supported;
The Gospel’s opponents need to be refuted,

Its insidious enemies guarded against;
The unlearned need to be taught,
The indolent stirred up,
The argumentative checked;

The proud must be put in their place,
The desperate set on their feet,
Those engaged in quarrels reconciled;
The needy have to be helped,

The oppressed to be liberated,
The good to be encouraged,

The bad to be tolerated;
All must be loved.”

(St. Augustine, Sermon 340,3: CChr.SL 194, 920.)

Oppression has many faces and affects all levels of society. The list of oppressors and oppressed people groups is too long to try and list here. At the same time, alleviating varying types of oppression (or perceived oppression), both from America’s past and existing today, has become a priority and matter of debate in secular society as well as the church. ‘Social justice’ issues have been declared by some to be integral to the message of the gospel itself instead of an outcome of having embraced the gospel that Christ died for our sins.

All of the above aside for a moment, I would like to ask you a question, and here it is:

“What is the single most dangerous and cruel form of oppression that has existed throughout the history of mankind and still exists today?”

I’ll give you a hint or two.

  • It exists in every country/nation on Earth and has affected every person that has ever been born since the fall of Adam.
  • It’s not oppression between people or groups of people,
  • It has eternal consequences.

(Insert 30 seconds of quiz show music……….)

And the answer is……………SIN.

The greatest oppression that has ever existed in the history of humanity is sin’s oppression of every single person born after the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve were created with a desire to please God, but also with the ability to disobey. Disobey they did, with disastrous results to follow and affect everyone ever born thereafter.

The Bible tells us about those who are lost to God and separated from Christ by sin:

The lost are slaves to sin.

“Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness.” (Rom 6:16)

The lost are also spiritually dead.

The Apostle Paul told the believers in Ephesus that

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—” (Eph 2:1-2)

The lost are condemned already.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18)

That’s a really short list of passages that speak of the oppressed condition of all those separated from God and apart from Christ by sin. Perhaps the harshest description of the lost in the entire Bible is something else Paul told believers in Ephesus:

The lost are the “children of wrath”.

“…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:3)

No earthly oppression can ever compare to the oppression caused by the sin that is in the world that resulted from the disobedience of the first Adam. And there are many who live their happy and content lives oblivious of their condition in abject slavery to that sin.

But there is GOOD news! We don’t have to despair!

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

This is the very reason Christ came to Earth so long ago – “to seek and save that which was lost”. That was His mission on earth – the mission that was announced to His earthly father Joseph:

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)

“De Opresso Liber”

Reformation: Can the Roman Catholic Gospel Get You into Heaven? by Eric Davis

Tomorrow marks one of the most important dates in church history. October 31st commemorates that titanic movement of God whereby he unleashed the Bible and gospel of Jesus Christ upon a world in which they had been largely hidden under Roman Catholicism for centuries. This year is the 502nd anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Among other things, the Reformation occurred as people discovered the true way of salvation from the Scriptures. The Bible had been obscured for centuries in Latin. Most then could not read Latin, thus, few understood the free gift of God’s salvation to sinners in Jesus Christ. But that changed quickly. As the Bible was translated, preached, and unleashed, so was the power of God. Contrary to Roman Catholicism, Protestants observed that salvation is a gift granted by faith alone in Christ alone through grace alone.

This Reformation season, let’s look objectively at a critical question. Can anyone get to heaven through the Roman Catholic gospel? If so, how? If not, why not?

We will allow for Roman Catholic doctrine to speak for itself:

From the Council of Trent, 6th session, Canon 30:

If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporary punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.

In other words, you are damned if you believe that God’s grace in justification renders a repentant sinner righteous, with no remaining punishment or condemnation.

Canon 12 on Justification from Trent reads similarly:

If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ’s sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema.

In other words, you are damned if you believe that trusting alone in God’s mercy through Jesus Christ puts a sinner in right standing with God.

One more in case we are not convinced:

If anyone says that the justice [or justification] received is not preserved and also not increased before God through good works but that those works are merely the fruits and signs of justification obtained, but not the cause of the increase, let him be anathema (Council of Trent, 24).

Put another way, if you believe that, by faith alone in Christ alone, all of your sin—past, present, future—is completely forgiven, with no guilt or punishment from God remaining, with the result that you stand satisfactorily righteous before God, then you are damned. And if you believe that works are not efficacious towards justification, you are damned.

However, the gospel of God’s word teaches the very thing that Rome condemns:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28).

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph. 2:8-9).

[A]nd may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith (Phil. 3:9).

Our gracious God could not be more clear: justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. Right standing with God is a gift of his grace granted by means of faith alone. Standing permanently and perfectly righteous before God is a gift granted in God’s grace on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Hallelujah and glory to God! In our natural state, we stand before God as moral mendicants, filthy in sin, condemned, and justly heading to an eternity of conscious torment (Rom. 3:10-12, Gal. 3:10). More than committing sin, our nature is sin (Eph. 2:1-3). Thus, we can no more do meritorious good works than a snake can jump to the moon (Rom. 3:20, Gal. 3:11). However, God the Father was moved by his own glory to shower wretches with mercy (Eph. 1:3-6). Consequently, he sent his impeccable Son; his only Son to rescue us (John 3:16-17). God the Son took on human nature to himself. Being truly God and truly man, he lived in the weakness of human flesh, facing every temptation as us (Phil. 2:6-7, Heb. 4:15). However, in the glory of his Person, he responded to unholiness with holiness; to hate with love; to frustration with compassion; to temptation with submission; to the cross with obedience (Phil. 2:8, Heb. 4:15); and to death with victory (1 Cor. 15:4). At the cross, God the Father unleashed the full, unhindered fury of his just wrath due us (Matt. 27:46, 1 Pet. 2:24, 1 John 4:10). Every drop of punishment was quenched in Christ at the cross for all who put faith in him alone. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). Guilt is remitted. There remains no temporary punishment; no purgatory; no outstanding divine penalty for any sin ever (Rom. 8:1). All who simply cast their confidence and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone are forgiven of all sin and instantaneously declared in permanent and unchanging right standing with God. That is the good news of God’s gospel.

Tragically, however, Rome’s gospel could not be more different than God’s. The Roman Catholic gospel is the photo-negative of the true gospel. What does God say about such things?

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal. 1:8-9)

Rome’s requirement of works for justification is of catastrophic consequences. The difference between the gospel of Christ and that of Roman Catholicism is eternal. Rome pronounces a curse on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture pronounces a curse on any gospel that differs from that of the Bible. Therefore, the Roman Catholic gospel cannot save anyone. No one can be made right with God through Rome’s gospel. Not one individual will be reconciled to God by trusting in Rome’s way of salvation. Because it teaches a gospel by faith plus works, nobody will ever get to heaven by embracing the Roman Catholic gospel (“…a man is not justified by the works if the law…”, Gal. 2:16). Today, at this moment, there is not one person in heaven due to having embraced Rome’s gospel, and there never will be. This is not to say that no person who professed to be Roman Catholic will be in heaven. If they read the Bible and embraced the biblical gospel, they would. However, such an individual’s entrance into heaven would be in spite of Rome’s blasphemous gospel, not because of it.

Much more could be said regarding the erroneous nature of Rome’s gospel. The word “gospel” means “good news.” But in Rome’s case, it’s only bad news; bad news of a damning, unsavable system emptied of grace. Thus, Rome must repent of her heretical gospel and embrace the biblical gospel of God’s grace in justification attained by faith alone in Christ alone. This Reformation season, let us pray to that end.

Why I’m Not Overly Excited About the New Christian Movie ‘Overcomer’

I remember when I started seeing advertisements here and there about the Kendrick brothers’ new movie ‘The Overcomer’. I didn’t have the obligatory “I’ve GOT to see it!” feeling then and I don’t now, for reasons that might become clear in this article.

Please don’t hate me,

This morning I saw on Facebook a post from a friend and one of the Chaplains who serves at the chapel we attend here n Colorado. It was a link to an article from The Christian Post titled  ‘”Overcomer’ opens in top 3 at box office, grosses $8.2M”. I read it and clicked the link to a previous CP article about the movie called “’Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say”, which I had previously read. There a few bits from both articles I found interesting that I will share with you.

First of all, let me be really clear that I am not condemning the film,, it’s admirable production value., the churches taking busloads to see it, or any individual who  pays to see it on the big screen, especially non-Christians who watch it and become interested in knowing more about Jesus Christ and saving grace as a result.

On to the subject of my  lack of excitement . Also bear in mind that I have not watched the film yet, a cardinal sin worthy of a certain level of condemnation from some of my Christian brethren. At the same time, the fact that a few remarks from these articles caught my attention just might mean that I have been paying attention while engaged in reading the Bible and studying its doctrine.

Since the article about box office results after the grand opening was the first article I read this morning, Keep in mind that I often read these sorts of articles about Christian film productions with the question “Did it/will it present a clear message of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

The movie’s theme centers around a basketball coach in a manufacturing town who loses his tem when the plant sits down and a lot of people leave town. He ends up coaching a sport he doesn’t even enjoy  and  ends up realizing that his true identity is found in Christ, not in his own accomplishments. The ‘gospel’ moment in the article was this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.”

That the sinner’s prayer is spoken could be a good thing, if what precedes the praying is an accurate discussion of WHY it needs praying – that all of , until God saves us, ‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ , as we are told in the first few chapters of Paul’s  letter to the Ephesians, which seems to be the source of the film’s argument that our true identify is in Christ, not our accomplishments.

The article tells us this:

“As previously reported, the film does not shy away from the Kendrick brothers’ Christian message and centers around the message of Ephesians 1 and 2, which focuses on identity. The movie includes a scene where the sinner’s prayer is spoken and touches on things like learning how to pray and how to know God.

“Satan loves to convince people that they’re the opposite of what Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 say they are,” Alex Kendrick told The Christian Post during a sit-down interview with CP earlier this month. “

While I agree with the above sentiment,  it is nowhere found in the referenced Ephesian text. The actual text focuses on our natural state without Christ , (‘dead in our trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ .  Then we wee in the text of Ephesians what are perhaps the most important words in all of scripture “But God……”, followed by a beautiful description of God’s complete sovereignty in the salvation of men, It is God who raises up dead men, makes them alive in Christ , and gives them a new identity.

This new identity in Christ is very real, and the result of God’s intent to save all of his people, through the shed blood of his only Son.. Does ‘Overcomer’ address the ‘dead n trespasses and sin’ and ‘by nature children of wrath’ pieces of the puzzle?

On to the second article, ‘Overcomer’ doesn’t water down the Gospel, still appeals to nonbelievers, filmmakers say, which preceded It preceded report of the film’s opening by a few weeks.

While it provided a more detailed description of the movie’s theme and story line, it also said this:

““There’s a temptation to water down the truth, and the whole time we’ve been very overt and open about what we believe,” Stephen Kendrick said. “This story doesn’t water down the Gospel, and it’s embedded with the truth. We believe, now more than ever, that the Church needs to hear overt truth.”

Stephen Kendrick tells us that ‘there’s a temptation to water down the truth” (very true), and that ““This story doesn’t water down the Gospel”. (It doesn’t?)

“But we also understand the need to go to nonbelievers and communicate biblical truth in like a parable format as Jesus did. We try to package truth in an inspirational story that anybody can relate to. Everybody’s going to be touched by marriage difficulties at one point or another, or the trials that come with losing your identity. So regardless of what you believe, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll enjoy the movie, even if you don’t know the Lord. We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

We are told that we all have marriage difficulties and trials that come with losing our identities, which is also true,  Then comes the most troubling tidbit (at least for this guy):

“We try to include the Gospel in all of our movies so that a nonbeliever will hear it and hopefully come to Christ as a result of it.”

Doesn’t the Bible tell us that the unbeliever hates God and cannot please Him (Romans 8:7-8),or even understand  spiritual things and considers them foolishness (which the gospel is) (1 Corinthians 2:14)?

Lastly, no unbeliever truly  comes to Christ to ‘rediscover their identity’. There is one, and only one reason to embrace Christ – for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus died  to fix our sin problem, not our identity crisis. ‘Overcomer’ might be a good movie fort hose who are already believers (like the movie’s main character) and having identity issues, but if it doesn’t discuss the issues of sin and repentance from it for the forgiveness of sins, it’s weak in the proclamation of the gospel. The ‘gospel’ that says Jesus died to solve your identity crisis (or any other temporal problem) can’t save anyone, but it might point them in the right direction.

Sneakers & Evangelism

Did Colin Kapenick influence Nike’s decision to pull the Betsy Ross themed new sneakers? Some say yes, including CNBC, Wall Street Journal, and just about every news outlet on the planet.

The WSJ reported:

“Nike Inc. is yanking a U.S.A.-themed sneaker (the “Air Max 1 USA”) featuring an early American flag after NFL star-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive.”

One Radio Station reported that:

“Nike Pulls Shoes Featuring Betsy Ross Flag Over Concerns About Racist Symbolism”

Here is Nike’s first official response:

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured an old version of the American flag,” Nike told CNBC in a statement.

Given the reports of the world’s news outlets, only a very few people (those with ‘asparagus’ level intellects?) will buy Nike’s first official response. Later in the day yesterday Nike responded again:

“We regularly make business decisions to withdraw initiatives, products and services. NIKE made the decision to halt distribution of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July based on concerns that it could unintentionally offend and detract from the nation’s patriotic holiday.

Well, Nike, CK and news outlets aside, I couldn’t help but think about how interesting it would be to write a similar article about much of today’s Christian evangelism. It could be titled,

“Evangelical Leaders Remove ‘Sin’ and ‘Repentance’ from the Gospel Message Because the Terms Might be Offensive”

Although there is a general similarity in the theme that something that might “offend” someone in both cases (sneakers and the gospel), there are significant differences between the two.

1. Nike made its decision just this week and received a ton of backlash. Evangelicalism’s removal of ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ in the gospel message is nothing new, and can be traced back to the late ‘80’s, if not further in the past.

2. Due to the removal of ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’ from the message of the gospel occurring sometime in the past (a book by noted psychologist Carl Menninger “Whatever Became of Sin?” was published in 1988), whatever backlash that might have been received is mostly in the past.  There might have been strong opposition early on, but slowly the thought that we could win people to Christ just talking about how much he loves us became firmly entrenched in modern evangelical thought.

3. Finally (for now), the genuine gospel message IS a matter of offense to the unbeliever!

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)

Because sinners love their sin and darkness (and all of us are sinners), it takes a sovereign act of God to open a sinful heart to pay attention to the gospel message that addresses man’s sinfulness. But since God is really good at opening hearts to hear the gospel (see Acts 16 and the story of Lydia). Hearts ARE opened, the true gospel is preached, and sinners are saved!

And that’s what the whole Nike/Colin Kapernick/Betsy Ross sneakers issue got me thinking about.

My question to you is this:

“What’s worse, caving in to cultural demands for inoffensive sneakers, ot sending people to hell with a false gospel?

Food for thought……………………………