Update 92


"Not Without Chastening"

Dave Harris will give the sermon this Sabbath, May 10, 2003. The sermon is titled, “Not Without Chastening.”

The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org at the appropriate time, just click on “Connect to Live Stream.”

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Closer Than You Think

by Brian Gale (United Kingdom)

I was born in the city of Derby. I have lived there most of my life. Derby is a city in the Midlands of England and in the county of Derbyshire. This county is one of the most beautiful counties in the United Kingdom with rolling hills, dales, pasture, rivers and historical stately homes that reflect the green and pleasant land of Great Britain. Derby is a city of about 250,000 inhabitants and famous as the home of Rolls Royce.

Derby is hardly a hotbed of political radicalism. However, it did very recently receive unwanted attention. With the war in Iraq, retaliation was expected in different parts of the world with places like London and New York being prime targets. Israel has also long been a target of suicide bombers. On Wednesday, April 30, carnage was the result of a suicide bomber at Mike’s Place, a beachfront bar, in Tel Aviv. Three people were killed and sixty people wounded. One bomber blew himself to pieces and the other, Omar Khan Sharif, according to press reports, managed to escape when his explosive device did not detonate.

How many know that this person, who immediately became the most wanted man in Israel, came from Derby? He had lived just a street or two away from where my parents and I lived many years ago, before I was married. I now live about 5 miles from that area. The locals, when interviewed for television, radio and the press, just couldn’t believe that such a quiet individual could be responsible for such an outrage.

We sometimes think that all these events occur in, and that all these type of criminals come from the big cities and the well known areas. Don’t you believe it! If suicide bombers can come from the Midlands of England, they can come from anywhere! We may think that as we live in a quiet backwater (if indeed we do), we are safe from the excesses of fanatics. However, if such people can be produced in our relatively small community in Derby, they can be produced anywhere!

How close is close? Too close for comfort! This recent suicide bombing is also a stark reminder that we approach the end of this age. As we do, there will be no hiding place — anywhere in the world — not even in little places that we consider backwaters.

Omar Khan Sharif, the failed suicide bomber from Derby, has brought to the attention of the local community that these sort of people can live in our midst, although we might not realize it. How many more fanatics will rear their ugly heads in our small communities in the future?

We have to understand that our safety and refuge do not depend on local or state policing, security guards, government edicts, or the military, but on our great Creator God. Psalm 46:1 tells us, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” Let us never forget our real source of help, however close trouble may be. Our security, survival and protection depend on our faith in our great God and in His promises. Things will get worse and outrages such as the one in Tel Aviv will increase. Let us never forget where our protection truly lies — protection that will become ever more necessary as the weeks and months pass by.

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…Theological Differences
Around Easter time, Pope John Paul II angered Protestant Christians worldwide when he prohibited a common celebration of the “Lord’s Supper” or “Eucharist” between Catholics and Protestants. The Catholic Church expressly clarified that Catholics are not permitted to participate in such a “common” celebration. As NEWS-Networld reported, the Catholic Church does not consider the Protestant “communion” valid, as Protestants reject the Catholic concept that during the “communion,” the bread and wine literally change into the body and blood of Christ.

An additional distinction has recently been emphasized – the perceived role of the “Virgin Mary” during the “communion.” As Zenit reported on May 5, 2003, it is Catholic belief that Mary is present during each “Eucharist,” stating, “The relation between the Eucharist and the Virgin is an integral part of the whole Tradition.” It was pointed out that the Ethiopian liturgy includes this prayer during the “Eucharist”: “O Virgin, who brought to fruition what we are about to eat and who made to gush forth what we are about to drink. O bread that lives in you: life-giving bread and salvation for the one who eats it with faith.”

In light of these distinctions, one must ask whether the Biblically prophesied unification between the Catholic and Protestant churches could ever come about in a peaceful way.

…Pope’s Trip to Spain

As Zenit reported on May 4 and May 7, Pope John Paul II emphasized during his visit to Spain the need for Spain “to lend its Catholic values to a new Europe.” In his opening address upon his arrival last Saturday, he stated, “Europe, return to yourself. Be yourself. Revive your roots… I am certain that Spain will contribute to the rich cultural and historical legacy of its Catholic roots and values to the integration of [ ] Europe.”

Upon his departure on Wednesday, the pope stated, “The old nations of Europe retain a Christian spirit, which constitutes a whole with the genius and history of the respective peoples… The Church is determined to work continually to maintain alive this spiritual and cultural tradition… ” He “exhorted the Christians of Spain… to preserve and renew continually the Catholic identity that is the nation’s source of pride.” He also stated, “From the moment of my arrival, I had the opportunity to express the esteem that the Successor of Peter has for that Portion of the People of God who – for almost 2,000 years – have been pilgrims in Iberian land and have played an important role in the evangelization of Europe and the world.”

In light of the pope’s and the Catholic church’s recent advocacy for peace regarding Iraq (see below), one must wonder how to understand the laude and honor for the “evangelization” of Europe, that the pope bestowed on a country that has been largely responsible for the brutal murder of Christians during the terrible times of the Spanish Inquisition.

…Serious Concerns Regarding War Against Iraq

As Zenit reported on May 4, the Catholic Bishop Conference of England and Wales adopted the following resolution, “We remembered and prayed for those who have died or have been wounded in the war in Iraq, and for those innocent civilians who have suffered so terribly in the military action and its aftermath… We have serious concerns about the use made of weapons which have an inheritantly random or enduring impact, such as cluster-bombs and weapons incorporating depleted uranium… The Coalition must be no less committed to the ‘waging of peace’ than it was to the waging of war.”

… the Middle East

In the same resolution, the Catholic Bishop Conference of England and Wales addressed the situation between Israelis and Palestinians, as follows:

“Resolution of the crisis in Iraq will be successful only if the international community also devotes itself to promoting the stability of the entire region. No settlement can secure this goal unless the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is justly resolved. We affirm and will continue to support the special mission of the Church of the Holy Land to bring both sides to reconciliation and to assist in the search for a just peace.”

The Bible strongly indicates that the Catholic Church will be instrumental in uniting Europe and in bringing about a temporary “peaceful” situation in the Middle East. The above-quoted comments show that the Catholic Church is indeed aware of, and driven by this goal to bring about those prophetic events.

…Encourages Polish Vote on European Union

As Zenit reported on May 5, the Polish episcopate encouraged the nation to participate in the June 7-8 referendum on Poland’s accession to the European Union. It is stated in a letter that Poland must be “conscious of the role” it “must play within Europe.” Parishioners were also reminded that “during John Paul II’s last trip to Poland he encouraged his countrymen to join the European community. Clearly, the Pope wants a place for Poland in European structures; in defense of the faith, of religion and of Christian morality; in a united Europe.”

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that many Austrian Catholic priests encouraged their parishioners to welcome the Anschluss and Adolph Hitler. The results were, of course, devastating. The Bible prophecies that the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire — the final establishment of a “unified Europe”– will become even more devastating for Europe and the world.

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Q: Should we talk to others about our sins, and should we confess our sins to others, such as a minister or a priest?

A: The Bible teaches that we are to confess our sins to God. We read in 1 John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Other Scriptures clarify that such confession must be made to God. Romans 14:10-12 states, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

We read that the people came to John the Baptist, “confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:6). Note, however, it does not say that they were confessing their sins to John. Other Scriptures tell us that confession of sins is to be made to God.

The practice taught by some religions to confess our sins to a human mediator to obtain forgiveness by that person is not Biblical. We are taught that we have only one Mediator and Advocate between God and man who makes intercession for us before God the Father — Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2; Hebrews 7:25). It is God who forgives sin (Mark 2:7; Isaiah 43:25; Acts 5:31). David understood that sin, in the final analysis, is against God (Psalm 51:3-4), as God gave us His law which defines for us sinful conduct (James 4:12).

John 20:23 does not justify a different conclusion. In John 20:23, Christ tells His disciples, “‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'” This passage does not teach confession to a priest. Read in context with the parallel passages in Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18, Jesus is giving His ministers spiritual discernment to ascertain whether someone has repented of his or her sins or not. In addition, Christ gives His ministers the authority to disfellowship a person from the Church in case sins are not repented of (compare 1 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Timothy 1:20), with the goal to restore such a person to the congregation in case of subsequent repentance (2 Corinthians 2:6-10; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Jesus’ words in John 20:23 — as well as in Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18 — are not to be understood as saying that God’s ministers are free to “forgive” sins — or to refuse to grant forgiveness — and that God is bound by such a decision. Rather, the passages, correctly translated, convey the thought that God inspires His ministers to make those decisions, and whatever they bind on earth HAS ALREADY BEEN bound by God in heaven.

We should therefore generally not “confess” or tell our sins to others. There is, however, one exception to this rule.

We are being told in James 5:16 that we are to “confess [our] trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that [we] may be healed.” The Greek word for “trespass,” paraptoma, is used in numerous additional passages, for instance in Galatians 6:1; Ephesians 2:1; 2:5; or 2 Corinthians 5:19. It is consistently and correctly translated in the New King James Bible as “trespasses” in those passages. We are told in Colossians 2:13 that God, upon our repentance, forgives us all of our “trespasses.” We are also told that if we forgive men their “trespasses,” our Father will forgive us our “trespasses” as well, but if we do not forgive men their “trespasses,” our Father will not forgive us our “trespasses,” either (Matthew 6:14-15; compare Matthew 18:35).

The “trespasses” which we need to confess to our brother or sister, in order to obtain his or her “forgiveness,” are those that we have committed against our brother or our sister. Mark 11:25-26 tells us, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Unresolved problems between brethren might even prevent healing of physical sickness. James 5:16 tells us, “Confess your trespasses to one another [with the goal to “clear the air”], and pray for one another,THAT you may be healed.” After all, Christ told Peter to forgive his repenting brother “seventy times seven.” In Peter’s question, the brother had sinned against Peter and had come to him to express to him his sorrow — in other words, to “confess” to Peter his trespass or sin against Peter.

We also read in Luke 17:3, “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Notice, too, Matthew 5:23-24, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”‘

If we commit a sin or trespass against someone else, resulting in an offense and a problem within our relationship with that other person, we are to “confess” our sin or trespass to that person, asking him or her for forgiveness, with the goal of restoring our relationship. At the same time, we are NOT to “confess” or talk about our sin or trespass with others, unless a situation develops as described in Matthew 18:15-17. Notice, however, the very first step in the Matthew 18 process: “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him ALONE. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” At that moment, the process is supposed to end, and the sin or trespass against the brother is supposed to be forgiven, buried and gone. It is not to be “resurrected” by the parties, and it is most certainly not to be talked about to others.

At the same time, the Bible does not teach that we should “confess” or tell others (including a minister) sins that we might have committed against God. God can forgive and forget (Hebrews 8:12) — people, though, being human, have a long memory many times when it comes to the sins of others.

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