Feb 27, 2017

Dear Esther,

I really enjoy reading your weekly column. I have a bit of a problem and I am wondering if you might be able to help. A close friend of mine recently got saved and escaped from a lifetime of indoctrination in the Roman Catholic Church.

I spend a lot of time with her but she is still having an issue with some of the false teaching. I don’t know that much about the intricate details of Catholic doctrine. She keeps talking about purgatory; how she is still worried that she will end up there.

I told her there is no such place but she is still carrying on about it. Can you give me anymore information that could help her better understand the problems with the purgatory concept and hopefully put the subject to rest?

Gratefully,

Sharon

 

Dear Sharon,

Thank you for your letter and your kind words. This is a topic I have studied for a very long time. I will do my best to help give you some insight into the Roman Catholic’s misleading and false teaching of the concept of purgatory.

The Roman Catholic Church holds to the position that baptism removes all previous guilt, both original and actual, so that if a person were to die immediately after baptism he would go directly to heaven. All other “believers,” except the Christian martyrs but including even the highest clergy, must go to purgatory to pay the penalty for sins committed after baptism.

The sacrifices made by the martyrs, particularly those who reflect honor upon the church, are considered adequate substitutes to avoid the fires of purgatory. Eternal punishment is cancelled by the sacraments of baptism and penance, by almsgiving, by paying the priest to say mass, by indulgences, etc., which reduce the temporal punishment for mortal sins that would have been suffered in purgatory.

In addition, even if all mortal sins are forgiven in confession by a priest and the “believer” does not perform enough good works, he will go to purgatory and remain there in torture until his soul is completely purified. The doctrine of purgatory rests on the assumption that while God forgives sin, His justice demands that the sinner must suffer the punishment due to him for his sins before he can enter heaven.

Purgatory is supposed to be under the special jurisdiction of the Pope, who is considered by this apostate church, to be Christ’s representative on earth — who has the power to grant indulgences (relief from suffering) as he sees fit. It is exercised by the priests, within limits, as representatives of the Pope.

As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The least pain in purgatory surpasses the greatest suffering in this life. Nothing but the eternal duration makes the fire of hell more terrible than that of purgatory.” Knowing this, it is not surprising to hear Roman Catholicism described as a religion of fear.

There is fear of the priest, fear of the confessional, fear of the consequences of missing mass, fear of the discipline of penance, of death, of purgatory and of the righteous judgment of an angry God.

Tragically, money is a huge motive behind the purgatory doctrine. It is generally held that purgatory can be shortened by gifts of money, prayers by the priest, and masses—all of which can be provided by the person before death or by friends or relatives after death.

It is astounding to me how gullible so many dear and kind people are; many who pledge their allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. They are enslaved to a belief system that essentially erases Christ’s blood sacrifice on the Cross, and instead empowers a group of fallen sinful men to determine the eternal destiny of church members.

Even after the priest administers extreme unction and the person dies, money is extracted from the mourning relatives after death. The Roman Catholic Church in effect sells salvation for money. How many estates have been willed to the RRC? And is a poor person helpless and doomed to an eternity of purgatory because he cannot pay the church fees?

The doctrine of purgatory has become the cash cow of the Catholic Church. No one knows how long, or when, a person is released from purgatory. A question we can ask is this: If the Pope or the priest acting on his behalf really have the power to modify or terminate the suffering souls in purgatory, why do they not render service freely and willingly as “Christian” Catholics, to help humanity?

In hospitals, the doctors and nurses try every way possible to relieve the pain and misery of those who come to them. If money can pay for a soul’s release from purgatory, why does the Pope or priest keep those poor souls suffering horrible pain in the fire, if at any time either one of them could pay all the debt for those who cannot? They could easily do so from the enormously rich treasury stored inside the vaults in the Vatican bank.

Now how does all this legalistic ideology line-up with Scripture? Christ never made one passing allusion to purgatory. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

Jesus said this to the thief on the cross:

“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Christ’s words, “It is finished,” indicate that His payment for sin is complete.

“The apostle John wrote: “ But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John7, 9).

The apostle Paul did not anticipate a purgatory, but said to depart was to “be with Christ,” and that it would be “far better” (Philippians 1:23).

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).

In answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer is straightforward:

“Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved (Acts 16:31). There is no reference to confession to a priest, penance, purgatory or any other thing which a religion of works attaches.

Paul said, “If it [salvation] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Romans 11:6).

Again Paul says, “Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16).

The overwhelming amount of Scripture against the concept of purgatory (and all the rest of manmade doctrines) is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church through the ages has kept the Bible from the people. The “bible” they use is a corrupt version heavily edited by their church.

How striking is the dissimilarity between Jesus and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church! Jesus was a humble itinerant preacher, but the Pope rides into the church on the shoulders of 12 men having Eucharist and Marianistic congresses, with priests, bishops and cardinals wearing lavish robes and jeweled mitres.

The jewels in the Pope’s triple-decked-crown are said to be worth about $1, 300,000. What a startling contrast from the words of the alleged founder of the Roman Catholic Church, the apostle Peter, who said to the lame beggar, “Silver and gold have I none” (Acts 3:6).

(The apostle Peter did not start the Roman Catholic Church. That is a huge lie perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church by twisting Scripture.)

Peter warned against “wearing [flaunting] of jewels or gold” or putting on [extravagant] apparel” (1 Peter 3:3). Paul too, could say, “I coveted no man’s silver or gold or apparel” (Acts 20: 33).

Pagan Rome and Jewish Jerusalem had ceremonials but when Christ came He did not copy them but disdained them. He founded His Church not on a hierarchy, but a simple brotherhood of saved souls commissioned to preach the gospel to the entire world. The early church lived in catacombs for about 300 years and had no ceremonials.

Christ rebuked the Pharisees because they were particular about keeping the feasts but neglected obedience to God (Matthew 6:16). And Paul warned against manmade commandments as a mark of apostasy (1 Timothy 4:3).

The use of the Latin language in the mass is another doctrine with no foundation in Scripture. It has been stated that it is better not to celebrate mass at all than to do so in the language of the people. This is the opposite of Christ’s teachings. Christ spoke the language of His day, Hebrew.

Yet the Roman Catholic Church teaches it is sacrilege to commemorate that experience (the mass) in anything but Latin. Paul said, “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord will, and will know, not the speech of them which are puffed up, but the power” (1 Corinthians 14:19).

Sharon, I hope by sharing this information with your newly converted friend, she will better understand how purgatory is a false teaching that controls innocent believing Catholics who ultimately worship the Catholic Church and not Christ. The purgatory teaching is a way to subjugate the parishioners, rob them blind and line the pockets of the demagoguery at the top.

I could say much more on the unscriptural teachings of the Roman Catholic Church but you have enough material here that should help your friend understand that as a blood bought born-again believer, she has nothing to fear upon death.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any more questions or concerns.

In God’s love,

Esther

“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!” (Galatians 1:8)

 

 

Feb 20, 2017

Dear Esther,

I have a question about overcoming temptation. I am having trouble overcoming temptation and I want to know what to do when it strikes me because I am failing to overcome temptation often. I think to myself, I am not trusting my Lord enough to help me but when I fail I always pray and confess my sins to Him. He will always be my Lord and Savior and I really hate sin.

Sean

 

Dear Sean,

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

The Scripture you just read says so much. It is through Christ that we can overcome temptation. In our own strength it can be a never-ending uphill battle. But in Him we are made strong. With the confession of sin must come true repentance; the sincere condition of remorse in the heart will be evident if the confession of sin is genuine.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

What we fill our minds with, who we spent time with, where we spend our time all factor into how debilitating temptations will be in our lives. In our flesh, we are all sinners. But in Christ we can overcome the most cunning temptations. The more you sense the presence of the Lord, the less likely that you will yield to temptation.

We sense the presence of God by our consistent walk with Him through prayer, Bible study, fellowship with other believers and God-given fortitude. That is how we can overcome temptation. We must have truly repentant hearts. Our daily lives must be Christ-minded and the choices we make will reflect the seriousness and the depth of our commitment to Him.

Although we have all inherited a sin nature, the closer we draw to the Lord, the more we will want to please Him. This is where the renewing of the mind comes in. When our countenance is full of Jesus and not self-indulgent pride, then the things that could draw us into darkness lose their grip. “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8).

We need not be double-minded when we give our all to Christ. Our daily walk with the Lord should demonstrate a day-to-day, moment-by-moment surrender of our will to the Lord’s will, a daily inner house cleaning. When we do fall into sin, we place a wedge between God and ourselves, even to the point of grieving the Holy Spirit. Unless we acknowledge (name) our sins directly to God, repent and reestablish (restore) our right relationship with the Lord, we cannot have a genuine relationship with Him.

“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-18, 23-24).

“Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19).

Sean, to get over your battle with chronic sin, it is very important to get into a regular, disciplined daily routine of spending time alone with the Lord through prayer and Bible study. When we give Jesus our first thoughts every morning and go immediately into prayer we get in synch with Him. His will for our lives becomes more evident. keeping us from falling into sinful traps.

If the morning hours don’t allow for lengthy prayer and Bible study, at least spend some time in prayer and read some Scripture before starting the day’s activities. Always try to make a good effort to put the Lord first. After all, it is He who we can thank for saving us from an eternity of suffering and providing all believers with a glorious eternal future.

Spending time with the Lord should always be at the top of our lists. Then, later in the evening find a way to make more time to commune with the Him. What could be better than spending time with the Creator of the universe, with the One who loves and cares for us more than anyone else? As we focus each day more and more on God, and include Him in all that we do we grow and mature as believers.

Time devoted to the Lord (devotions) will help us grow in our faith, which also translates into not falling into temptation so easily. As we get closer to the Lord many situations in our lives will most likely need to change in order to be true to our commitment to Him. Sometimes those we are closest to will not understand our love and devotion to the Lord— if they themselves do not have a strong personal relationship with the living God.

“Abide in Me [Jesus], and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4).

Bible study is imperative—in a quiet place away from any distractions. Many audio versions of the Bible are available to assist with the learning process. Add them to your personal library and listen to them often. Various DVDs, movies relating to the Bible are easy to find. Charlton Heston Presents the Bible is a good choice. Other similar DVDs can be found on the Internet or at your local Christian bookstore.

Also, try to get into the practice of memorizing Scripture. Memorizing one Scripture a week is a good goal to set. Let the Holy Spirit lead you and teach you as you explore your Bible.

As you spend time learning more about God’s Word, you will grow closer to the Lord. Prayer time and Bible study will become your priority, and the things you once thought were so important to you will no longer be so interesting. The Word of God and your relationship with the Lord will become an intrinsic part of your life.

Getting involved in a good Bible-based church can also be a good way to grow in the Lord and meet other committed believers. (Although it might take time to find the right church.) A good way to fellowship with others is through smaller home groups offered by some local churches. Or start your own with a few genuine believers.

In his first letter to Thessalonica, the apostle Paul wrote:

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19).

We can continually pray by simply having an open heart to the Lord and a joyful reverence toward Him throughout our day—making Him the constant uppermost part of our lives. Even when we are busy with our daily routines, we can surrender our thoughts to the Lord with reflective attitudes and grateful hearts, always making a conscious effort to quietly acknowledge Him in everything we do.

It isn’t so easy to succumb to the traps and temptations of the world when our hearts and minds are steadfastly reflecting upon the Lord.

We must protect ourselves and stay close to the Lord at all times with our faithful prayers. When we reach what I call— the point of no return—nothing can replace the time spent with the Lord in quiet reverence.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all things taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:13-18).

Sean, our heavenly Father, the mighty, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent King of the universe sees the entire picture of our lives (past, present, and future). We must trust in Him completely, truly repent and He will lead us to where He feels is best for us, and temptation will not be such an issue.

Scripture tells us that true repentance will result in a change of actions (Luke 3:8-14; Acts 3:19). Acts 26:20 states, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The full biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action.

The safest place to be to keep from sinning is in God’s will. By adhering to the principles discussed here, you will be in His will and through Him you can walk away from temptation. It is a choice. Choose to follow the Lord and not the ways of the world. You can do it when you truly make Christ number one in your life and live a Christ-centered life placing Him above all else.

The choice is yours, Sean. Decide to live for Christ and His teachings one-hundred percent. Anything less than that will keep you in a spirit of bondage to sin. You need not continuously yield to temptation nor will you want to, once you truly surrender your will to His. The closer you get to Jesus and His abiding love, the less worldly temptations will appeal to you. Christ must be your focus continually!

Please read this letter over again and again so the points I made will get into your heart, mind and soul. Make a plan of action for yourself and begin to fully live for Christ today. I know you can do this. Choose to live for Him and let go of anything that is a stumbling block. Humility is the cure to worldliness. Give Him your all Sean and you will be set free from what seems to be a never-ending cycle of falling into sin.

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 7:4).

In Christ,

Esther

“…that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:22-24).