Yes, I am “in Christ.” No, you’re not “in Christ.” Yes, I AM! No, you’re NOT!

Last night, I was reviewing some discussions I had with a couple of Roman Catholics backss when I began this blog over a year ago. The dialogue reached a point where the Catholics claimed to be “in Christ” just as much as I claimed to be “in Christ.” I was a Catholic for twenty-seven years; educated in a Catholic grammar and high school, and I’ve learned even more about Catholicism since I left that church and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983. I’m fully aware that Catholic parlance is filled with references to “Jesus the Savior,” “faith,” “grace,” and the like, but when Catholics use such terms, they mean something entirely different than what evangelicals understand.

In my exchanges with the Catholics about being “in Christ,” I said the term referred to a believer’s position before a Holy God; covered in Christ’s righteousness. I have no righteousness of my own. When I accepted Jesus as my Savior, His perfect righteousness was imputed to me. In Holy God’s perfect court of Law, I stand completely condemned by my sin, but my Savior took my place and bore the penalty for my sin on the cross. I am washed and redeemed by His blood and I’m able to go free ONLY because of His righteousness.

In contrast, Rome teaches that God’s grace is infused into the Catholic through its sacraments, empowering them to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and live an increasingly sanctified life, enabling them to merit Heaven. So a Catholic faithful to their church’s teachings cannot rightly say they are “in Christ,” because their salvation depends ultimately on how well they obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) right up until the moment of their death. Positionally before God, they are NOT “in Christ,” they are “outside of Christ” because they are attempting to merit their own salvation rather than accepting Jesus as Savior by faith alone.

My Catholics friends were quite taken aback that I would dare to suggest that they were not “in Christ.” Who was I to tell them that? Was I making myself out to be God Almighty by deciding who was going to Heaven and who wasn’t? How rude! How narrow-minded and judgmental!

But God’s Word says there is only one Way to salvation, and that’s Jesus Christ. Christ is either your Savior or He is not. It’s not enough to call Christ your Savior, you must be trusting in Him by faith alone. If you tell me that salvation is merited by obeying the Ten Commandments through grace (impossible!), as Catholicism teaches, then I can tell you with absolute confidence that Jesus is not your Savior and you are not “in Christ.” To illustrate, let’s suppose you’re on a sinking ship in the middle of the ocean, and I show up in my rescue boat and beg you to get in. Praising and admiring the rescue boat for its wonderful qualities won’t save you. You have to abandon your ship and get into the rescue boat. You have to be in the rescue boat for the boat to save you. Likewise, gushing about “Jesus the Savior,” “faith,” and “grace” won’t save you when you’re still trying to merit your own salvation. You’re not “in Christ,” you’re denying Christ and trusting in your own abilities and “goodness.”

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

In today’s climate of plurality and tolerance, theological debates such as the one above are widely frowned upon and are to be avoided at all costs. The only requirement, according to Rick Warren and friends, is that we all “just love Jesus.” That’s a sinking ship, friends.

What does it mean to be in Christ?

More on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


In every age, the Holy Spirit has raised up godly men to preach and uphold the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone; men who would not bend a knee to the compromise and error that surrounded them. With that in mind, I must say that I truly appreciate the ministry of John MacArthur. I may not agree 100% with some of his theology regarding secondary issues, but there’s only a handful of nationally-known preachers out there today like MacArthur who stand in the gap and refuse to cooperate and compromise with betrayers of the Gospel. Another man of God from a couple of generations ago who I’ve been reading about quite a bit lately is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who went home to be with the Lord in 1981.

Yesterday, I “just happened” to come across the above video of a discussion of Lloyd-Jones from one of MacArthur’s conferences, featuring MacArthur, Mark Dever, Iain Murray, associate and biographer of Lloyd-Jones, and Jonathan Catherwood, one of Lloyd-Jones’s six grandchildren. The 41-minute video was a real treat for me and such a blessing to listen to. MacArthur names Lloyd-Jones as one of his most powerful influences, which comes as no surprise. I’ve been meaning to read one of Lloyd-Jones’s many books but didn’t know where to start. In the video, Murray recommends new readers of Lloyd-Jones begin with “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount,” which I promptly ordered from Amazon this morning. Review to follow sometime waaaaaay down the road. Thank you, Lord, for faithful teachers who defend the Gospel and who stand in the gap for your people like Lloyd-Jones and MacArthur.



“The Good Place” typifies all false religion


Caution: This trailer contains some crass humor typical of prime-time television these days.

If you were to ask 1000 random people why God should let them into Heaven when they die, recent polls indicate around 10% would say they don’t believe in God. The vast majority, maybe around 70%-75%, would answer that God should let them enter into Heaven because they’re good people or they’ve tried their best or practiced their religion faithfully; something along those lines. Maybe around 15%-20% would answer that they would go to Heaven only because they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and are trusting by faith in Him alone. The percentage of professing evangelicals would be even lower in areas outside the Bible Belt, like here in New York State.

Speaking of the notion that good people go to Heaven, a new television show has recently premiered on NBC titled, “The Good Place,” featuring Ted Danson and Kristen Bell. The premise of the show is as follows:

“After she is struck and killed by a tractor-trailer…, a woman named Eleanor (Bell) wakes up to discover she has entered the afterlife. But when she is told by her mentor Michael (Danson) that she is in “the good place” because of her good deeds by helping get innocent people off death row, she realizes that a mistake has been made as people think she is someone else with the same name.” – from Wikipedia

So the culture once again perpetuates the widely-held notion that people merit salvation by being good while bad people go to “the bad place.”

But where does Jesus Christ fit into all of this? I very much doubt there will be any mention of Jesus throughout the life of this series. If people are able to merit their own salvation as they imagine or as they are taught by their false churches, Jesus would not have had to die on the cross to pay the penalty for sins. But the Bible says we are all sinful people, none of us are good, and we all need the Savior.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” – John 5:25-26

Thanks to my buddy, Glenn, for bringing “The Good Place” to my attention.

The Unfinished Reformation – A qualified recommendation

The Unfinished Reformation: What Unites and Divides Catholics and Protestantscast After 500 Years
By Gregg Allison and Chris Castaldo
Zondervan, 2016, 171 pages

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, a bevy of books are being published to commemorate the event. Many evangelicals have little knowledge of what drove the Protestant Reformers to break from Rome in the 16th century. In this era of growing ecumenism, are the issues that fueled the Reformation still relevant for today?

In this short book, theologian, Gregg Allision, and pastor, Chris Castaldo, examine the commonalities and differences between Roman Catholicism and evangelical Christianity. We share such doctrines as the Trinity, the nature of God, Scripture as divine revelation, the Person and saving work of Jesus Christ, and man’s fallen nature. As for differences, the authors mention disagreement over tradition, the apocrypha, the role of Mary, authority, the sacraments with emphasis on baptism and the Lord’s Supper, purgatory, and justification.

The main disagreement which caused the Reformers to break with Rome was over how a person appropriates the gift of salvation offered by Jesus Christ. Rome says salvation comes by the infusion of grace imparted by the church’s sacraments, which enable the participant to live an increasingly sanctified life so that they are able to merit Heaven. The Reformers pointed to God’s Word, which says salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. We have no righteousness in ourselves, but when we repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, His perfect righteousness is imputed to us.

As in their previous books, the authors go to great lengths to be cordial and charitable regarding Catholicism, perhaps to a fault. A Catholic could read this book and focus on the commonalities and cordialities and perhaps casually dismiss the differences as a matter of interpretation and semantics. It is my view that Catholics are best served by a direct approach to their church’s false doctrines rather than by being discreet and circumspect. When people are on a sinking ship or in a burning building, “dialogue” may not be the most helpful rescue method. Readers interested in a more direct approach to Catholicism should consult books by James G. McCarthy, James R. White, and William Webster. See my Books tab here for over 300 books that compare Roman Catholicism to Scripture.

Another deficiency of this book is that an invitation to accept Christ comes only at the end and in a very indirect manner. Forgive the poor analogy but this book is like an automobile dealership that is happy to display its inventory but never leads the customer towards making a purchase decision.

With all of that being said, in our current era of ecumenical compromise, I do welcome this book from a major (c)hristian publisher, which affirms the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith and accurately critiques Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. “The Unfinished Reformation” is available from Amazon or from your local (c)hristian book store.

Opinion: Prayer in public schools

I attended Catholic parochial grammar school in the 1960s and even though I was verypray young at the time, I can remember the nuns buzzing about the U.S. Supreme Court rulings banning conscripted prayer and Bible reading in public schools (Engel v. Vitale, 1962, Murray v. Curlett, 1963). I felt sorry for those poor kids in public schools for not being able to pray like me. By seventh grade, I was envying them.

The ban on school sanctioned prayer was an extremely bitter pill for evangelicals to swallow and remains a sour memory. The ban on school prayer was the first major defeat in the war to defend American “Christendom.” We’re still fuming about it 54 years later. But that was just the beginning. Since then, most every example of government-endorsed religious expression has been challenged in the courts with no end in sight.

From our history lessons, we know the Puritan Christian immigrants to this country could not imagine anything other than the theocratic form of government they imposed. Many universities got their start as church-sponsored seminaries. Mounting demand for religious freedom led to the prohibition of a state religion by the federal constitution adopted in 1793 but Christianity would remain as a major influence on federal, state, and local governments for 150 years. It was agreed from Maine to California that America was a “Christian nation.” Government sanctioned prayer and the reliance on Judeo-Christian laws, values, and “morality” were matters of unquestioned course. Americans had convinced themselves that God had set up a covenant relationship with the United States in the same way He had with ancient Israel; that America was THE “chosen” nation.

But things have changed in a big way in the last sixty years. The growing number of non-Christian immigrants to this country and those who rejected religion altogether began to challenge government’s sponsorship of Christianity. First to go was prayer in schools. Then Bible readings. Then such things as Christmas creches, etc., etc..

My take: Countries can’t be Christian, only people can accept Christ. We can no longer assume other citizens are Christians as was once accepted in this country. Christians can no longer impose their privileged status by claiming majority rule. That day is gone. That flag has flown. It’s obviously impossible to determine the number of genuine Christians in the U.S. but a 2014 Pew poll reveals only 25% of the population claims to be evangelical Christian (many say the actual number is quite a bit lower), 45% are mainline Protestant or Catholic, and the remaining 30% belong to other religions or are atheists/agnostics. The government is supported by taxpayers with a wide spectrum of beliefs regarding religion and it should be completely secular. If government sanctions one religious group it must in fairness sanction all of them. If we allow monuments of the Ten Commandments on our courthouse lawns we must also allow scripture from every other religious group. On second thought, the atheists will have something to say about that. No, government must be completely secular.

I choose not to pray with non-Christians. The Lord does not want me bowing my head in a prayer led by a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, etc. Why would Christian parents want their children to participate in prayers led by a Hindu or a New Ager in a public school? Christians look back with longing to a simpler time when the vast majority of people in this country professed to be Christians and the church had a strong influence throughout the culture. But the probable reality was that a very large number of professing Christians hadn’t accepted Christ at all but were just going along with the institutionalized flow imposed by American “Christendom.”

Christians, teach your children about the Lord every day in your homes. Bring them to church. But please stop complaining about prayer being banned from public schools back in 1962. Conscripted prayer in schools wasn’t a great idea then and it’s an even worse idea today. With America becoming increasingly secularized, maybe Christians can go back to spreading the Gospel instead of worrying about retaining their control of the culture or “reclaiming America for Christ.”

Weekend Roundup – News and Commentary – 09/25/16

No sooner do I empty my inbox each weekend, that it fills right up again! Here’s the newsrs from the last seven days:

Remember smiling ecumenical minister, Robert $chuller (pictured)? He was the Joel Osteen of the previous generation. No messages about sin or hell, just lots of smiles. He died last year and his ostentatious glass church complex was bought by the local Catholic diocese and is currently being renovated to the tune of $72 million. $chuller’s ultra doctrine-lite grandson, Bobby Schuller, unsurprisingly has a regular slot on TBN.

Graham is absolutely right about the prosperity gospel, but I don’t know what was more harmful to the true Gospel witness; the prosperity gospel that’s rampant on TBN or Graham’s ecumenism with Rome?

Enlightening! Ca$h for canonization! No surprise. These kinds of backroom deals have been part and parcel for the Catholic church for centuries, folks.

Catholic traditionalists and progressives continue their no-holds-barred fight to control the future of the church. This is not how you spell u-n-i-t-y.

The American Catholic church is in deep, deep crisis mode as younger people are dropping away like the plague. They wonder why they should climb Catholicism’s mountain of religious legalism and liturgical rigmarole when the pope says even atheists will go to Heaven if they “follow the light they are given” and are “good.”

A week doesn’t go by that I don’t see a story about Rome pushing its ecumenical agenda.

This is an interesting article on the Catholic church’s premier Marian apparition, with the church marking Fatima’s 100th anniversary next year with great fanfare.

I applaud this school official in Italy who banned Catholic mass from public schools. I think I need to post a message down the road about American evangelicals who continue to bemoan the discontinuation of prayer in public schools.

Speaking of demons and exorcists…

This past Wednesday, I commented on FOX channel’s new series, “The Exorcist.” See here. Justex by coincidence, the Catholic church reported last week that its chief exorcist, father Gabriel Amorth (pictured), had died at the age of 91 (see article below). Amorth was ordained as a priest in 1954 and became an official exorcist in 1986. By 2013, he claimed that he had performed 160,000 exorcisms (that number does not represent individuals; some people required multiple exorcisms).

As I stated in my previous post, I’ve never come across a person who was completely overtaken by demonic possession like the poor fellow in Mark 5:1-20 but the Bible also says demonic possession may be of a more subtler variety. See here.

But it seems to me that reports of full-blown demon possession come mainly from Roman Catholic areas and I have my theories about that. Could it be that demonic possession seems to be prevalent among Catholics because:

  1. Catholics are predisposed to the occult. Catholicism is notorious for syncretizing (mixing) pagan beliefs and practices with (c)hristianity.  Roman Catholic sacramentals, widely used by the faithful – candles, medals, holy water, scapulars, statues, crucifixes, rosaries, novenas, prayers to the dead – promote superstition and predispose the practitioners to occultic influences. From Catholicism, it’s not a long stretch to horoscopes, seances, palm reading, etc. My deceased mother-in-law was heavily into psychic practices prior to leaving Catholicism and accepting Christ. Throughout Central America and the Caribbean, as another example, Catholicism is tightly intertwined with voodoo paganism. So in these heavily Catholic areas where quasi-occultic practices flourish, perhaps people are more susceptible to full-blown demonic possession?
  2. Priests are exalted as deliverers. In these full-blown exorcism narratives, Catholic families are dependent upon their priest (proclaimed to be an “alter Christus” – another Christ) to rid the demon/s from their possessed loved ones. Consequently, priests are held in high esteem as saviors and redeemers. But priests do not bring the Good News of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone to anyone. They are in bondage themselves to a false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. Satan delights in false gospels of merit and may step in occasionally to assist the spiritually blinded clerics in blinding and leading their followers.

Those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith and are born again by the blood of the Lamb and are sealed and indwelt by the Holy Spirit cannot not be possessed by a demon. See here. But demons can certainly tempt and influence believers. Just look at the current state of the evangelical church (TBN, prosperity gospel, doctrine-lite seeker mega-churches)! We must be constantly on guard and fighting the good fight of faith through the power of the Lord and His Word.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9

Rome’s exorcist, Father Gabriel Amorth, dies at age 91