1 May 2018

Confession to a Priest

Confession to a priest is not a biblical practice; it is not even a custom of the early church.

Our Lord taught us to confess our sins directly to God the Father. He told us to pray, "Our Father in heaven...forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us." Reading the New Testament we do not find a single instance of the apostles hearing private confession; nor do we find the disciples confessing to a priest.

There was no auricular confession to a priest in the early church either. Augustine gives us a snapshot of the church in the 4th and 5th century. In his Sermon to Catechumens on the Creed, Augustine writes:

“When ye have been baptized, hold fast a good life in the commandments of God, that ye may guard your Baptism even unto the end. I do not tell you that ye will live here without sin; but they are venial, without which this life is not. For the sake of all sins was Baptism provided; for the sake of light sins, without which we cannot be, was prayer provided. What hath the Prayer? "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." Once for all we have washing in Baptism, every day we have washing in prayer. Only, do not commit those things for which ye must needs be separated from Christ's body: which be far from you! For those whom ye have seen doing penance, have committed heinous things, either adulteries or some enormous crimes: for these they do penance. Because if theirs had been light sins, to blot out these daily prayer would suffice.” [link]

How did Christians deal with sin at that time? They dealt severely with those who committed grievous sins, casting them out of the church. A period of "penance" was required before the repentant sinner was re-admitted. But what about the daily sins that all Christians commit? Did they confess them to a priest? No, they confessed directly to God in prayer, asking the Father for forgiveness. Prayer was considered sufficient for daily cleaning.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church admits that private confession first came on the scene in the seventh century:

“Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this ‘order of penitents’ (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church. From that time on, the sacrament has been performed in secret between penitent and priest. This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1447).

So, private confession was introduced a full seven centuries after Christ and His apostles. Ironically the Roman Church curses us if we dare assert the plain historical fact that secret confession to a priest was not observed from the beginning:

“If anyone denies that the sacramental confession was instituted, and is necessary for salvation, by divine Law; or says that the manner of confessing secretly to a priest alone, which the Catholic Church has always observed from the beginning and still observes, is at variance with the institution and command of Christ and is a human invention, anathema sit” (Council of Trent, Session 14, Canon 6).

Friend, I urge you to disregard Rome’s vain threats; you cannot deny the truth. If you want to follow the teaching of the Bible, and the practice of the early church, stop once and for all going to private confession to a priest. Pray to God. He knows your heart and He hears your prayers. God will certainly save you if you repent and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Father will continue to forgive your sins as you ask him in humble prayer.

(Gospel e-Letter - May 2018)

31 March 2018

Leah: A Witness to the Infinite Worth of Christ

This February more than one hundred girls were abducted from their school in Nigeria by a terrorist Islamist group, Boko Haram.

One of the girls is Leah Sharibu. She is 15 years old. Leah loves biology and wants to become a doctor.

After more than a month of negotiations, the girls were finally freed and returned to their town. There was joy and jubilation as the girls reunited with their families. Rebecca, Leah’s mum, search frantically for her. She was not with them.

Rebecca learned from Leah’s friends what had happened. The terrorists wanted Leah to convert to Islam. She, being a Christian, refused to deny her faith in Christ. Her friends, who are all Muslims, begged her to just pretend to change her religion. She was not willing to deny Christ, not even for a minute, to secure her liberty.

I admire this young woman for her courage and loyalty to Christ. I pray for her freedom and safe return to her family. Most of all, Leah shows the infinite value and beauty of Christ. Leah is willing to loose her life but she would not let go of him. Certainly he who died for her will never leave her.

Friend, is Christ precious to you? Do you desire him with all your heart?

* * *

Let us pray for Leah, our sister in Christ,
for her safe return to her family.
Please share her story with the world.
(click on the share or facebook icon below)

(Gospel e-Letter - April 2018)

3 March 2018

The Lamb of God

Jesus was introduced by John the Baptist as "The Lamb of God." The significance of this title becomes clear as the drama of redemption unfolds, starting from Genesis all the way to the Book of Revelation.

God called Abraham to offer his beloved son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. On the way to Mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father about the sacrificial animal. They had brought a knife and fire, but they did not bring a lamb with them. Abraham reassured him, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22:7-8).

Later on in the history of Israel, on the eve of their redemption from Egypt, God told his people to choose lamb without blemish, kill it and to sprinkle the blood on the doorposts and lintel of their houses. During the night the Lord passed through the land of Egypt and killed the firstborn in every house, but he spared those who were inside the houses sprinkled with blood. The Jews celebrated this event every year by killing the lamb at the Passover feast. (Exodus 12:1-28).

Moreover, the Jewish priests sacrificed two lambs every day, one in the morning and another in the evening, throughout the year. (Exodus 12:1-28). The counteless lambs that were slain pointed to another Lamb yet to come. Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would give his life as a sacrifice for sin, and that he “was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7).

Finally God sent the Messiah as he had promised. “Behold the Lamb of God,” John said when he saw Jesus approaching, “who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus was offered on the cross. All who hide in him will be protected by his blood from the wrath to come. The Apostle Paul says, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7), and the Apostle Peter reminds believers that they were redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:19).

All who trust in the Lord Jesus can joyfully say, “We are freed from our sins, we are redeemed, for Jesus, the Lamb of God, took away our sins and nailed them to the cross.” From every nation around the globe, Christians are witnesses to the fact that Jesus truly takes away the sin of the world.

The story ends in heaven with endless praise to the Redeemer, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelations 5:12). Amen.

(Gospel e-Letter - March 2018)

8 February 2018

Why Should I Pray to God Alone?

Why should I pray to God alone? Please consider the following biblical reasons:
  1. There are scores of prayers recorded in the Holy Scriptures (the psalms and many others). You can take them as model prayers. All are addressed to God. Not one is addressed to the saints in heaven.
  2. When Mary was here on earth, she also prayed to God. Peter, James, John, the other apostles, Mary and other disciples were gathered together to pray. They prayed to the Lord (See Acts 1:14, 24). You honour Mary if you copy her godly example. 
  3. The Bible tells us how to experience the communion of the saints. We are told to pray for the saints (Ephesians 6:18); i.e. to pray for one another; the Bible does not tell us to address our prayers to the departed saints.
  4. God hears the prayer of his people because he is omniscient. He hears you from heaven. He knows your heart; the saints in heaven do not. ‘For you, you only, know the hearts of all the children of mankind’ (1 Kings 8:39). 
  5. Come to God in prayer with confidence, for ‘the LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love’ (Psalm 145:8).
  6. If you trust in Christ for salvation, then you are God’s adoptive child, and you were given the Spirit of adoption, crying out, ‘Abba, Father.’ If we ask, Jesus promised, we will receive, and he tells us why. If human parents answer their children’s pleas, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11).
  7. Pray to God because he invites and promises his people: “You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
  8. Our infallible Teacher, the Lord Jesus Christ, taught his disciples to address their prayers to “our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). You will not be misled if you obey his instructions.
What is your decision in the light of God's Word?
(Gospel e-Letter - February 2018)

31 December 2017

God Speaking

The Bible is a unique book. Among the millions of books ever written, the Bible alone is inspired by God. It is God-breathed, the very Word proceeding from his mouth (2 Timothy 3:16).

The human authors of the Bible (Moses, Isaiah, Matthew, Paul and so on) were led by the Holy Spirit to write down his Word accurately and without mistake (see 2 Peter 1:21). Other books, helpful as they may be, are written by fallible people. The Bible alone is the perfect, infallible and inerrant, because its omniscient Author cannot be mistaken.

If we are seeking to know the way of salvation and how to please God in our lives, there is no better place to go other than the Bible. The Apostle Paul writes to his dear fellow-worker, Timothy:

‘From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work’ (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

We notice a twofold purpose of the Scriptures. Firstly the Bible tells us how to be saved. The Holy Scriptures 'are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.' Secondly, the Bible teaches and directs Christians along their spiritual journey. It is ‘profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.’ The person who is led by the Scriptures is described as 'complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.'

The Bible is a unique book; it reveals the mind of God, exposes our sinful condition, shows the way of salvation, the doom of the unrepentant and the hope of believers. Its precepts and promises are true, guiding and comforting the faithful. We ought to read it daily, reverently, attentively and prayerfully.

If we genuinely desire to be saved and to walk in holiness, let us endeavour to know, believe and obey the Bible; it is the voice of the Lord to us.

(Gospel e-Letter - January 2018)