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Tough Questions

Are Catholics Christians?

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Are Catholics going to heaven? Are Catholics even real Christians?  There are an estimated 1.1 billion Catholics in the world.  There are more Catholics than all denominations of Christianity combined.  Therefore, the question of whether Catholics are considered Christians is a vastly consequential one.  Let me preface this blog by saying I hope that you can hear my heart as we discuss this subject.  My goal is that you, whether Catholic or protestant, would know the Word of God and respond to the life-giving conviction of the Holy Spirit. Many Christians and Catholics alike have gone to church for years and not even read their own Bibles. Today we will reference scripture to answer this question, and I urge you to read the scriptures for yourself.

There are several major points in which Catholics and Christians differ.  

Salvation

Let’s start with salvation.  The most crucial difference between Catholicism and Christianity is how you know that you’re saved.  How do you know that you’re going to heaven?  The Bible says we are saved through faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9, John 1:12, John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9-10).  Scripture tells us that we cannot earn our salvation by doing anything.  In Christianity, we simply put our faith in Christ and receive His grace.  Anything we could ever try to do to earn salvation is like filthy rags before God.  In salvation, I acknowledge that I need a Savior.  

However, that is different in the Catholic church. In Catholicism, you confess your sins to a person, usually a priest, who then gives you a formula for absolution, whether through repeating words and phrases or otherwise. Then, as a result of that you are absolved of your sin.  The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that a person must believe in Jesus Christ and be baptized and receive the eucharist along with other sacraments and obey the decrees of the Roman Catholic Church and perform meritorious works.  Look at the number of “ands” in that last sentence.  When we go to the scriptures and see how many things have been added to the list of what must be done to be saved, it’s clear that we are getting away from the gospel message.  

Prayer

Next, let’s address prayer.  The Roman Catholic Church teaches Catholics to not only pray to God, but to petition Mary and the saints in prayers on behalf of themselves.  Contrary to this, Christians are taught in scripture to only pray to God (see Matthew 6:9 and Luke 18:1-7).  As a matter of fact, when Jesus died on the cross, the veil that separated the holy of holies from the inner court in the old covenant temple was torn in half, allowing us access to God.  Now we don’t need a priest to go to God, because the veil is torn by Jesus, our mediator and Great High Priest.  

For Christians, prayer does not need to go through another person.  We can go straight to God in confidence that He hears us.  That may sound foreign to many.  Perhaps you grew up thinking that you needed to hold a certain title or religious status, like as a priest or a nun, in order to have access to God.  If you are saved, when God sees you, He sees the blood of Jesus covering you.  He sees the perfection of Jesus, so you are approved to go directly to Him without fear (Hebrews 4:16). The Bible says to come boldly before the throne of grace.  

Priesthood

The Roman Catholic Church teaches us that there is a distinction between the clergy and the laypeople. The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers in 1 Peter 2:9.  It doesn’t mean we don’t appoint leaders in Christianity, it simply means we are all called to minister to God and to receive ministry from God. We do not have to go through another person or mediator.

Confession

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that unless a believer is hindered, the only way to receive forgiveness of sins is by confessing them to a priest, and then penance is made by saying certain phrases.  Contrary to this, scripture teaches that confession of sins is to be made directly to God (1 John 1:9).

In Christianity, when we confess our sins to God, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just address the sinful behavior, but He deals with the trauma that produces the triggers that produce the behavior. Religion only ever deals with the visible surface, which never causes long-lasting change.  A relationship with the Holy Spirit deals with the reasons you do it.  What is the trauma in your past that produces the triggers that produce that behavior?  When you go directly to the Holy Spirit to minister to you, He says, “I know why you go to that drug, I know why you go to pornography. These are counterfeit comforts. But I want to comfort you through my Holy Spirit.”  Then when you’re free, you are free indeed.

Mary

The Roman Catholic Church teaches among other things that Mary is basically the queen of heaven, a perpetual virgin, and the co-redemptress who ascended into heaven.  In scripture, she’s portrayed as an obedient, believing servant of God who became the mother of Jesus.  Christians and Catholics can agree on that. But none of the other teachings on Mary mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church have any basis in the Bible. 

The idea of Mary being a co-redemptress and another mediator between God and man is not only extra-biblical, which means found outside of scripture, but it’s also unbiblical, which is contrary to scripture.  Acts 4:12 declares that Jesus is the only redeemer.  1 Timothy 2:5 proclaims that Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. 

The Bible clearly states that Mary had children after Jesus.  Some of them even co-labored with Jesus in ministry as technically his step-brothers. What does that mean?  It means she is not a perpetual virgin.  Rather, she was a willing vessel who found favor among women.  Her womb was blessed by God so that she could carry the Savior.  The truth is, Mary needed the cross just as much as the rest of humanity.  She was sinful.  She was flawed.  She was not perfect.  She needed salvation. Yes she was the mother of Jesus, but she also must have at one point needed to become a daughter of God through receiving the sacrifice of Jesus.  That can be a shocking thing to hear if you’re Catholic because Mary has been built up to such a level. 

Mary was a willing vessel who found favor.  She had other children, she lived her life, she died, and I believe that she did go to heaven, but only because she received Christ’s forgiveness. As he hung on the cross, she had to decide, “Is he my Lord and Savior as well?”  

You Can Have a Personal Relationship With God

People who grow up in Catholicism often report an overwhelming sense of always being inadequate.  The truth is, we are inadequate and undeserving of the grace of God, BUT for the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, when God sees you, He doesn’t see your inadequacies, your failures, your shortcomings, or flaws.  He sees His Son, Jesus.  And Jesus is enough!  We don’t need to add another layer of mediator like saints, Mary, or a priest between us and God – Jesus is enough!    

You can have a personal relationship with God without any mediator.  Through the Holy Spirit, you can begin to develop that relationship. Call on Jesus, receive forgiveness of sins, and enjoy a relationship with your Savior today!


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Why Can’t I Hear God?

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God can always hear you.  But there are hindrances to us hearing God.  First, I want to start by saying that the best way to hear God is to read His Word.  There are a lot of people who want to replace reading and studying the Bible to show themselves approved by getting prophetic words from God.  They want to get a new, fresh word.  Don’t be mistaken – there is no shortcut to hearing God’s voice.  If you want to hear God, read your Bible.  If you want to hear God out loud, read your Bible out loud.  Instead of getting a “new Word”, get a fresh revelation on an old one! 

Here are several reasons why you may not be able to hear God clearly. 

Unconfessed Sin  

Isaiah 59:1-3 (ESV)
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save,
    or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
    between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you
    so that he does not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood
    and your fingers with iniquity;
your lips have spoken lies;
    your tongue mutters wickedness

Unconfessed sin is a barrier to hearing God.  Jesus is faithful and just to forgive when you confess your sins (1 John 1:9).  But you can’t say, “Oh I confessed my sins once,” and then continue to live in sin the rest of your life.  A good habit to get into in your prayer time is confession.  Take a moment in prayer to quiet your heart and allow the Holy Spirit bring to light any sin in your heart that you might be unaware of.  Then, bring it before the Lord and confess it.  When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, he said, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us” (Luke 11:4).  Make confession a part of your daily discipline.  

Rebellion

Rebellion is another barrier to hearing God.  God has placed spiritual authority in our lives.  I say this in love: if we are rebellious and disobedient toward the delegated spiritual authority of our pastors and leadership, how can we promise God that we will be obedient to His authority?  Rebellion is a major blockage to prayer.  If you feel as if your prayers are not being heard, ask yourself, am I in rebellion to God’s delegated authority?  Every believer should be under spiritual authority, no matter what ministry position or office they hold.  If you’re not currently under authority, you should not be in authority.  For those who desire to move in the prophetic gift, you cannot be prophetic without a pastor.  Get under authority and submit yourself to leadership, and you’ll be able to hear the voice of God clearly again.

Busyness and Distraction

The God of the universe wants to spend intimate time with us, but busyness and distraction are barriers to hearing Him.  The Lord will meet us wherever and whenever we choose to spend time in His presence, but we often neglect to show up due to our overcrowded schedules and busy lives. 

Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The story of Mary and Martha is a perfect example of the way we can be so busy, even while in His presence.  Jesus is beckoning us to choose what is better over what is good.  His presence is better than our full schedules and busy lives.  Sitting at his feet is better than checking everything off our to-do list.  This applies to people in ministry too.  We can be so busy working for God that we forget to spend time with God.  Set aside time every day to be with God.  Put your phone away – your phone is robbing you of your destiny – and focus on Him.  

Are You Listening?

These three things – unconfessed sin, rebellion, and busyness and distraction – are three things that might be obscuring you from hearing the voice of the Lord.  If you find yourself identifying any of these three issues in your own life, confess them to the Lord, repent, and make a change so that you can hear Him speak.  He is talking – are you listening?


My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God.  If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!

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What Version of the Bible Should You Read?

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One of the best ways to hear from God is to read His Word, the Bible.  For those just getting started with Bible reading, it can be confusing to know where to start. Others have been told there is only one version of the Bible that is the right one, even though that particular version might be challenging to read or hard to understand. Where do you start?  Which version of the Bible should you read?  

Translations and Versions

The Bible is composed of 66 total books: 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament.  It was inspired by God and written by over 40 authors.  Originally, it was written in several languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic.  Over time, it has been translated into over 3,000 languages!  Of those translations, there are many different versions.  In English, we have over 50 main versions of the Bible to choose from.  

Why So Many Versions?

My wife was raised in a denomination where the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible was the only acceptable translation to use.  As I mentioned above, the King James Version can be difficult to understand because it was written in the language used at the time it was written. Old English is dramatically different than modern English.  Over time, the meanings of words have changed.  New versions of the Bible have been developed to keep up with the changes in language while not compromising the truth of the passages. 

Is the King James the Only “Approved” Version?

If you come from a denomination that only approves of the KJV Bible (or some other specific version), you might struggle to understand the text because of all of the “thees,” “thous,” and uncommon words that muddle the language.  That could discourage you from getting into God’s word, and then you could potentially feel guilt for not reading the Bible.  I want to free you from that guilt right now.  The King James Version is not the only “God-approved” version of the Bible.  Many versions are translated well and hold true to the original meaning of the text.  Read a version of the Bible that you can understand! 

Bible reading

Here are my suggestions for which version of the Bible you should read. 

The English Standard Version (ESV)

If you want a solid Bible that’s easy to understand in the English language, I highly recommend the ESV.  It balances the different types of translations very well.  The translators used a word-for-word method and sought to be as literal as possible as they worked.  

The Message (MSG)

If you want to read the Bible for understanding, I highly recommend Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase, The Message.  If you find the Bible hard to comprehend, try starting with the Message.  As a pastor and preacher, I don’t use The Message as a text for study because it wasn’t written as a word-for-word translation.  It is more of a paraphrase.  However, I do endorse it for reading for understanding.  

Dake’s Annotated Study Bible

If you are looking to dig deeper into the study of the word, I recommend Dake’s Annotated Study Bible.  This is a great resource for those who are preachers and teachers.  The version that Dake uses is the King James, and it includes 35,000 commentary notes, 500,000 cross/chain references, and 9,000 outline headings. 

Which Translation of the Bible Should You Use?

These are just three versions of the Bible that I enjoy, but many are good, solid versions.  Therefore, I recommend visiting an online Bible site and comparing passages across different versions so that you can get a feel for what each is like before you purchase a Bible.  

So, which translation of the Bible should you use?  The one you’ll read!  God cannot transform you and you can’t hear His voice unless you’re consuming His Word, so choose a version at a reading level and understanding level that works for you!  


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Drowning in depression

Does God Forgive Suicide?

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Drowning in depression

The Centers for Disease Control report that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2019.  One million people worldwide die by suicide every year.  That means if you’ve been alive for 30 years, 30 million people have killed themselves in your lifetime.  Globally, if you are between 15 and 44 years of age, suicide is in the top three leading causes of death. We hear much about the need to cure cancer and eradicate heart disease, but comparatively little attention is given to the need to prevent suicide.  It is not a stretch to say that almost every person has been impacted by the effects of suicide, whether through a family member or their own personal struggles with depression.  With suicide so rampant, friends and loved ones are left to wonder, does God forgive suicide? 

What does the Bible say about suicide?

What is the answer to this epidemic? I believe the Bible provides ancient wisdom for modern problems.  The Bible is not the story of what happened, it’s the story of what always happens.  God’s Word speaks of the problem of suicide and speaks clearly to this issue.  We see many accounts of people within the Old and New Testaments who chose to take their own lives.  Today we are going to take a look at six accounts of suicide within the Bible and discuss the spirit behind them, and then answer a question that many of us have wrestled with – does God forgive suicide? Is my loved one in hell?

Abimelech

Judges 9:54 (ESV)
Then he called quickly to the young man his armor-bearer and said to him, “Draw your sword and kill me, lest they say of me, ‘A woman killed him.’” And his young man thrust him through, and he died.

In the story of Abimelech, he had a willful moment where he basically said, “I’m going to choose the way I die.”  Because of the situation they are in, some people say, “I’m not going to let [fill in the blank: cancer, depression, etc] kill me. I’m going to end my own life.”  Oftentimes people who kill themselves feel a lack of control over their own lives.  The spirit behind this thought process is one that seeks to provide a sense of control.  As a pastor, I’ve been to many funerals of people who died by suicide.  I have heard frequently, “They chose to end the pain.”  This statement belies a sense of control.  The lie of suicide is a feeling of control.  

Samson

If you grew up going to Sunday school, no doubt you heard the story of Samson. We don’t often think of his death this way, but Samson committed suicide.

Judges 16:30 (ESV)
And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.

Samson, too, told himself, “I can control.”  And as he was telling himself that, he pushed down the pillars of the Temple of Dagon.  This was Samson’s attempt to redeem the situation after falling out of the will of God through disobedience.  The lie of the enemy was that he could push down the pillars of the temple and kill himself along with the others, and that would justify his disobedience.  

Saul 

1 Samuel 31:4
Then Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me.” But his armor-bearer would not, for he feared greatly. Therefore Saul took his own sword and fell upon it.

Saul also stepped outside the perfect will of God. Because he was not obedient, he was in a dire situation and felt as if he had no options.  He chose to fall on his own sword as a final exercise of choice.  This is the psychology of suicide – the lie that suicide gives you an option when you’ve run out of them. 

Ahithophel

2 Samuel 17:23
When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.

There’s a level of depression where one becomes careless about life.  But Ahithophel experienced the opposite.  He took care to set things in order and then ended his life as a way to prove he still had control.  

You might be noticing a common theme of control in each of these accounts.  The ultimate trust in the Lord is understanding that no, you’re not in control.  Ultimate trust is giving what little control you do have to Him.  Put your faith in Him, come what may, regardless of the outcome.

Zimri

1 Kings 16:18 (ESV)
And when Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the king’s house and burned the king’s house over him with fire and died,

There is another level of despair that says, not only am I going to kill myself, but I’m going to kill others in the process. This is an untold level of destruction.  In the story of Zimri, we see how he purposed to burn the king’s house down while killing himself.  This is abject recklessness.  

This is why we see murder-suicide and first-person shooters.  The spirit of murder partners with the spirit of suicide.   This happened in my very own family.  A distant relative was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his wife was diagnosed with it as well.  He wanted to take control of the situation, so he killed his own wife, then turned the gun on himself.  This is the device of Satan. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV).  

Jesus is the great physician.  When you put your trust and faith in Jesus, even though doctors say your diagnosis is terminal, you don’t have to believe their report.  You place your faith in God and believe that He can heal you. And you also know that even if He doesn’t choose to heal you this side of heaven, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21).  To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).   When you come into the truth, you take on a different mindset than the world’s meager attempts at control. You surrender control of your life to Jesus.   

Judas

Matthew 27:5  (ESV)
And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.

Judas betrayed Christ and didn’t believe that there was any redemption for him.  Judas believed that he was too far gone.  Why was the cross not enough for Judas, but it was for Peter, someone who denied Christ?  What if Judas could have been preaching in Acts Chapter 2 alongside Peter?   In Acts 2, when Peter stepped up under the power of the Holy Spirit, it was because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, the washing by the blood of the lamb, and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.  He preached boldly, filled with the Holy Spirit and power. 

Why couldn’t Judas have experienced the same redemption as Peter?  The difference was that Peter stuck around until the day when he saw and believed. Judas didn’t.  He took his own life. In God’s sovereignty, things happened as they did, but I believe Judas could have had the same experience with Christ as Peter.  But he gave into the lie that there was no redemption for him.  

Does God Forgive Suicide?

Mark 3:28-29 (ESV)

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,  but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.  

I’ve wrestled with this question for a long time: does someone who commits suicide automatically go to hell?  I believe, based on what we read in Mark 3:28-29, that suicide falls under the category of sins that can be forgiven. I believe the Lord looks at the condition of a person’s mind and heart.  Sometimes people experience salvation but are trapped in the bonds of addiction.  Maybe they make a permanent decision out of a temporary mental state of drunkenness or being high.  Perhaps they choose to take their own life in a moment when despair overwhelms them.  I believe God is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

As a pastor, I don’t have the jurisdiction to tell you who is going to heaven and who is going to hell.  The Bible says you will know them (those who are saved) by their fruit. If you have lost a relative or friend to suicide, and they were a follower of Christ, I believe you will see the love and faithfulness of Jesus as a result of whether or not they accepted Him as their savior.  I believe that according to Mark 3:28-29, suicide does not fall under the category of sins that are unforgivable.  I hope and pray that it brings some peace and clarity to you to know that.  

Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

God saved you by His grace when you believed, and you can’t take credit for that. It is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things you’ve done, so none can boast about it.

If you’re considering suicide it is probably because you’re in pain and you see death as the only way to make that pain stop. However, there is freedom and healing through Jesus.  The pain can stop right now.  The physical pain of your condition could persist, or Jesus could supernaturally heal you.  Regardless of what happens, you can have a completely different perspective on your life.  There are songs still waiting to be composed, books yet to be written, sermons to be preached, and testimonies to be shared.  You are here for such a time as this and God is going to use your story to help people set free.  Don’t give up. Do not make a permanent decision based on a temporary circumstance.  

If you need a renewed sense of purpose, pray this with me: 

Heavenly Father, I give you my life. Jesus, wash me clean of my sins.  Make me new.  Jesus, I don’t want to die – I choose to live for you.  I give you my life, Jesus, just as you have given me yours.  I belong to you forever.  In Jesus’ name, amen.  


If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.

My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God.  If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!

Request prayer here.

ACTIVATE YOUR PROPHETIC GIFT

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PARTNER WITH US & SUPPORT MIKE SIGNORELLI MINISTRIES

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