Sunday, January 29, 2006

Is there a new Reformation about to appear on the horizon of the RCC?

I was emailed an article by Johnny Farese concerning a Roman Catholic priest and the issue of faith alone. The following is the article and the link is through the Title above. Whether Mr. Cantalamessa is truly having his eyes opened or not, it is good that he can at least see that he only has empty hands of faith and cannot rely upon his good works for salvation. That is significant progress for any Roman Catholic priest, especially an Italian one!

International Story

Faith alone, not deeds, required for salvation, papal preacher tells pontiff

By Cindy Wooden



ATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Even those who spend their lives serving the church must recognize that faith alone will save them, the preacher of the papal household told Pope Benedict XVI and his closest aides.

"Christianity does not start with that which man must do to save himself, but with what God has done to save him," Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said in his Dec. 16 Advent meditation.

The preacher told the pope and top Vatican officials that they, like St. Paul, must avoid any temptation to think that the good works they have accomplished will guarantee their salvation.

"Gratuitous justification through faith in Christ is the heart" of St. Paul's preaching "and it is a shame that this has been practically absent from the ordinary preaching of the church," he said.

Father Cantalamessa said that the Protestant Reformation debate over the role of faith and works led the Catholic Church to focus so much on the need for the demonstration of faith in actions that it practically ignored the need for faith in the first place.

St. Paul, in his Letter to the Philippians, warned believers of the "mortal danger" of putting their own good works between them and Christ, as if the works would save them, Father Cantalamessa said.

Conversion to the fact that faith in Christ is the only means of salvation "is the conversion most needed by those who already are following Christ and have lived at the service of his church," the Capuchin said.

"It is a special conversion that does not consist in abandoning the bad, but abandoning the good, in a way," he said. "It means detaching oneself from everything one has done, repeating to oneself, 'We are useless servants; we have done only what was required.'"

Father Cantalamessa told a familiar Italian story about the shepherds near Bethlehem going to visit the newborn Jesus, each of them trying to outdo the others with the beauty of the gifts they offered.

One poor shepherd had nothing and was ashamed.

"Mary could not figure out how to accept all the gifts, since she was holding the baby in her arms," he said. "So, seeing the poor shepherd with his hands free, she handed Jesus to him."

"Having his hands free was his fortune and it should be ours as well," Father Cantalamessa said.

Purpose of The End of the Spear

Ok, I have received numerous emails and links to so many upset Christians articles on the web concerning The End of the Spear. Frankly, I have not viewed the movie yet. I posted earlier that it was coming out and I had heard that it was possibly a screen version of the Jim Elliot story. That was not necessarily the case. Of course by now, most of you know that the film is more focused upon Nate Saint, and then even more upon his son Steve. However, what must be understood is this: the film is really a companion to the documentary "Through the Gates of Splendor". It is primarily concerned with giving the perspective of the tribal people that Saint and Elliot sought to bring the gospel to. Therefore, when I hear the cries that the gospel was not clear and that it was not explicit in the film, remember this: How were these men to communicate the gospel to these people when they did not yet know their language? How were they to point to Jesus Christ before they could give clear concepts in the language of the people?

The other elder from our assembly said the movie was well done and clearly stated that the goal of the movie was not to present viewers necessarily with the gospel, but to give the perspective of the Waodani people. Clearly, the first things you would want to do when going into a region such as these men went into, is to establish contact with the people and assure them that you are their friend and mean them no harm. Since there is a clear language barrier, then you must understand that this will be done with actions, not words. I have heard so many American Christians take away from this, but remember great men like John G. Paton (missionary to the New Hebredes). His life bore witness of the truth among those cannibals before his words ever did. Then as he understood the language, the words came alongside the actions and bore tremendous fruit.

The team of missionaries who were speared in Ecquador obviously began preparing to meet with the tribes of people by dropping numerous packages. Obviously, someone from America today might say, "Well, that's just humanitarianism, that's not the gospel." Please! There are means by which the gospel is given an open door. These men did not go to be martyrs. They went to bring the gospel to a people who desperately needed to hear it. However, there were barriers that had to be overcome and there is wisdom in the process of evanglizing.

Our friend Trevor Johnson has stated that when he goes to Indonesia in just a couple of months that he is going into a region where he does not yet know the language and in which it is very primitive (just look at one of the men who he will be ministering to). There is more to foreign missions than go and present the 5 points! They are foundational for missionaries of the past and present because they give a proper perspective of God, man, the gospel, contentment, sovereignty. However, reformed doctrine is not a prerequisite for salvation. Many, if not most of the men on that mission were not reformed, but had a deep desire to reach the people for Christ. Therefore, some could easily say that they might have diminished the gospel were they allowed to live and actually present it. However, in God's providence they were sent in order that they might bear witness of the gospel with their very lives.

As to the issue with Chad Allen. Mr. Allen is not the greatest actor, nor is he a huge box office attraction. Yet they chose him and according to them, they did not know of his sinful lifestyle. I have heard Mr. Allen on Larry King with John
MacArthur and he has truly been confronted with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has definitely been patient and gracious to Mr. Allen, yet he does remain unconverted. Every Tribe Entertainment could have spared a lot of heat by not continuing on with him in the lead role after they learned that he was homosexual. I understand that they had given him the part, even though a contract had not been signed and Allen wanted to part. Therefore, they felt obligated to continue with Allen in the lead role. Some may oppose this. However, we will recall that the Lord taught us to let our yes be yes and our no, no. Also, we recall that the leaders of Israel made a covenant with some of the people of the land of Canaan when it was unknown that they were of the land and then later they found out they were of the land, but continued to honor their oath because it was a solemn thing before the Lord (Josh. 9).

With this in mind, I would view the film based solely on its own merits and not something else. I do think it a mistake to have used Allen, but what really gets me is that so many believers have said that they think it an insult to have used a homosexual to play the part of a godly man like Nate Saint in one of our centuries greatest missionary stories. They also say that it gives him a more prominent platform for his advocating of homosexuality. For crying out loud, the man has been on numerous radio and television shows promoting the homosexual issue of homo-marriage for a couple of years. I have yet to hear any of the people involved actually say that his homosexuality is ok and that it is ok in God's sight. Yet many of those same people who are opposed to Allen because of his homosexuality don't say a single word aobut Jim Caviezel playing the part of our perfect Savior and Lord Jesus Christ........not one word! In fact, many openly promoted The Passion of the Christ, where the gospel was the central aspect (I mean the Roman gospel was the central aspect). The only value I saw in the film was the use of original language. Not only that but what about the numerous other sinners who have portrayed our Lord in various Hollywood and "Christian" films through the years. Not once have I heard anyone so stirred up about something like this.

In closing, ETE could have sanitized the true story from the perspective of the Waodanis, but then it would probably not be correct. Remember the story is told from a certain perspective (at least that's my understanding) and that perspective is not determined by the viewers going and saying that "the perspective should have been this or that". It is what it is. I have been told that nowhere is the gospel portrayed in the film. That may be, but it does not surprise me. Since when are we as the people of God dependent upon films to present the gospel to people? We are the ones commanded to go and teach ALL THAT CHRIST COMMANDED to all the nations.

Let me make one more plug. I recently viewed a film made in 2001 call To End All Wars. I picked it up at Wal-mart for about $7. It stars Kiefer Sutherland, Robert Carlyle, and Ciaran McMenamin. I got it because of the interest of the building of the railway to Burma by the Japanese prisoners of war during World War II. Boy was I in for a surprise when the them turned to understanding the depravity of men, what justice truly is and the nature of the gospel and its powerful effects, even to the point of laying down one's life and loving one's enemies. It is based upon a true story. I highly recommend it. NOTICE: If you are looking for the traditional "Christian bookstore" type of Christian film you will be sorely disappointed. However, this film will move you and gives a very clear picture of what substitution is. I won't ruin it for you if you have not seen it, but it is a well done and realistic film.

Friday, January 27, 2006

It's been a while!

I haven't had the opportunity to blog since New Year's Eve. Lot's of things have happened and many things are on my mind. In brief, I have been doing a lot of traveling for work (which I am not too happy about), but God in His Providence has designed this, for now, as our means of income. Also, I had my first conversation by phone with Nathan White and it was very edifying. By the way, I am looking forward to talking with many of you guys who I get the opportunity to blog with. I also received a package the other day from Hank, who has interacted on the site and am looking forward to going through the material shortly.

We also had Dr. Richard Belcher speak at our assembly on January 8th and hopefully I will have time to post an audio sermon of his within the next couple of weeks. He spoke on Romans 8:28-9. What a blessing it was to hear the Scriptures from this godly man and his passion for the truth regarding God's ultimate Sovereignty. I also interviewed him by video, as well as, our missionary friend, Trevor Johnson. I hope to also be able to transfer those to the web for your edification.

We are approaching the coming of a new baby boy, Lord willing, in April and we are extremely excited. Denise and I celebrated our 11th anniversary on January 21st, and we both had birthdays last week. I'm approaching that hill:). I haven't arrived there yet, so no jokes from the peanut gallery.

We also finished the next two installments of Douglas Bonds' books from the Crown and Covenant series titled, "King's Arrow" and "Rebel's Keep". They are great books for young and old with real historical events and people in them melded into a fictitious story that exalts God and helps us see the true nature of the struggle of the Scottish Covenanters. It was more that they dealt with than just the English, it was understanding their own hearts and seeking to be true to King Jesus. I highly recommend them. Currently we are reading "A Journey in Authority" by Richard Belcher. This little gem is on church government and the kids love the stories and they get the "walk through" concerning various theological subjects. I am in the midst of "Seeing Hell" by Trevor Johnson and "Three Views of the Millenium".

We are covering various religions during our Sunday School hour and comparing them with biblical Christianity. We just finished looking at Jehovah's Witnesses and will take on at least 3 others. Primarily, it will provide some time for me to prepare for the next book we study and it will be beneficial for us concerning these groups and how we should engage them concerning the gospel. The other elder, Tim Davis, is going through Matthew and is building up to Matthew 24. From about chapter 21 on, you can really see the context building concerning what Jesus will ultimately address in Matthew 24 and 25. Again, my thoughts are that the majority of Matthew 24 is a reference to 70 AD. I am looking forward to his exposition.

Well, I'm already running late this morning, so I better get a move on. I just wanted to update some of you and let you know that I haven't gone to Heaven yet:), but am eagerly anticipating the hour when I see the Savior face to face in all His glory!