May 10, 2016

Walking Through a Graceless Door

by Jordan Standridge

Imagine a door. A door that only opens once or maybe twice in a lifetime. The door has incredible powers. It has the ability to cleanse you. It has the ability to pardon and cast your sin as far as the east is from the west. In fact there isn’t just one of them, there are four, and they are opened only once every 25 years in the city of Rome. Since you were a kid you were told that these doors had the ability to cleanse you from every sin you have ever committed, as long as you walked through them.

I wish this were a fairytale.

Millions of Roman Catholics around the world will be heading to Rome this year, thinking that there they will be able to be absolved of all their sins. By getting on a plane and saying a few prayers, they assume that their actions will assuage the wrath of God.

Have you ever seen a desperate person lost in false religion? Desperately trying to earn their way to heaven?

holy stepsI can still picture the crying lady, crawling on her knees as it was yesterday. Tears filled my eyes as I watched this lady do everything she could to get God’s attention, who was promised that if she crawled up these “holy steps” with the right attitude and with the right amount of prayers she’d be able to receive “grace” for herself or more likely for a family member currently in purgatory. I couldn’t help but think about Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Most false religions have man-made rules like these that promise to save people from their sin. And we can’t help but watch them, and be heartbroken, over their misunderstanding of grace. Sometimes though, it is easier to jump through all kinds of hoops in order to keep oneself from actually repenting and acknowledging our bankruptcy before God.

That’s why for centuries the Roman Catholic Church has had Jubilee years. It is a quick way to get many people to Rome. Boost the economy, give exorbitant amount of money to the church and sustain them for decades to come.

Relics have always played a huge part in the Roman Catholic Church. Luther pointed out that it appeared as if “Rome had enough nails from the Holy cross, to shoe every horse in Saxony.” He went on to say that, “18 of the 12 apostles were buried in Spain.”

From the shroud of Turin, to the crying Mary statues, to the Holy steps, all with great power to dispense forgiveness of sins, but none of them can do what four doors in the city of Rome can do every 25 years.

If you walk through them in this year of 2016 you are promised to have your sins forgiven, or in Roman Catholic terms, “The jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon.”

The idea of a special pilgrimage to a holy city is not unique to Roman Catholicism.

Once a year Islamic men from all over the world travel to Mecca in order to obey Islamic law. The Hajj (pilgrimage) is one of the five pillars of Islam. At least once in his lifetime, a Muslim male must, as long as he is physically and financially able to provide for his family in his absence, go to Mecca in order to be forgiven of sins and to be looked upon favorably by Allah. Why Mecca? Because it was the birthplace of Mohammed.

In 1300 Pope Boniface VIII instituted a similar thing for Catholics. For those who wanted to have their sins forgiven, he instituted a year of Jubilee to be observed every 50 years. If you were truly a faithful Catholic and if you wanted to have your sins forgiven, then you would travel to Rome and walk through the doors of the biggest basilicas in Rome, that were opened only on that occasion. For 49 years these doors remain closed, and once every 50 years they are opened and they have the ability to wash away the sins of any baptized Catholic who walks through them.

The 50-year rule only lasted two times perhaps because this event brought significant financial wealth to Rome, so they made it every 25 years. It didn’t take long to add a rule that a pope could institute extraordinary jubilees in order to dispense more forgiveness of sins. Generally, popes stayed away from these events, although there have been times where the pope declared them. Pope Urban VIII in particular, because of the unsuccessful jubilee year of 1625, gave one in 1628 and because of its great success, instituted it again in 1629.

pope door“Well,” you may say, “this is something the Roman Catholic Church believed during the years of the Reformation and since has changed its view on this issue.” Well, you would be wrong. They have consistently declared jubilee years like clockwork while also instituting special jubilees. Between the years of 1900 and 2000 there were eight of them. And finally, Pope Francis declared that this year, the year of 2016 is a year of Jubilee. This means that your Roman Catholic friends down the street have been promised by their Pope that if they travel to Rome and walk through one of these special doors, that they will receive forgiveness for their sins.

For many years we have been told that the differences between Roman Catholicism and true Christianity are minor; that belief in Jesus is all that is necessary to enter into heaven. While belief in Jesus is necessary, it is critical that we believe in the same Jesus.

If I had access to a door that was able to purify people of their sin, I wouldn’t have it opened once every twenty five years, I would do everything in my power to not only leave it open permanently but to bring as many people through it as I possibly could. In fact, it is eerily similar to the charlatans like Benny Hinn who, despite holding in their coats incredible miraculous power, only seem to use their powers at their big events, rather than visiting every hospital they can possibly get to.

Every 25 years, then, Roman Catholicism reveals its true colors. Maybe because of incredible financial opportunity they are willing to at least partially show their cards. The works-based system is in full effect when you tell people that simply by walking through some special doors that their sins will be forgiven.

In less than a month, I and a group of young adults will be heading to Rome, Italy for a mission trip. Please pray for the millions of Catholics traveling to Rome this summer, possibly one of your family members or neighbors, that they will come to grips with their sin, realize that there is nothing they can do to overcome it on their own and that they will trust in. and cast their burden upon. Christ our sweet and more-than-sufficient Savior. Also, be in prayer for the missionaries like those in Italy who labor to bring Roman Catholics to Christ.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • 4Commencefiring4

    I’m not Catholic, so I’m not one to defend their beliefs. But we evangelicals also have our own (albeit more minor) ways in which we depart from Scripture. We’re always telling the unsaved, for instance, they must “accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” to have eternal life. Sounds right, but is it? Words matter.

    So where does the Bible say anything about “accepting” Jesus? We use words the Bible doesn’t use. What does it say? “Believe on” the Lord Jesus, “as many as received Him”, “believe in the name of…”, “trust also in Him”, etc. “Accept”? No, Jesus never once told someone, “Accept the Son of Man”, or “He who accepts Me shall never die.” But He did use the word “believe” a lot. What’s the difference?

    The term “accept” carries the idea of 1) agreement (“I accept you proposal”), or 2) “receipt”, but as in receiving a package. But receiving a package doesn’t imply you believe anything about it. Accepting a proposal means you agree to abide by its terms, but is that what we mean by “accepting” Jesus–that we just agree to obey Him? Or do we mean, rather, that we are putting our eternal destinies into His hand and are depending on Him alone to save us? That’s a bit more than agreeing to obey.

    “Personal” Lord and Savior? Where does the Bible ever speak of that? He IS the Savior of the world, He IS the Lord, the eternal Creator and God, not any individual’s “personal” one–like having a personal assistant. We become part of His everlasting Body when we “believe” in Him; He doesn’t join our team as our personal representative, defense attorney, or emissary who travels with us and we whip out when the need arises. But “personal Savior” sort of carries that feel. We should abandon those terms.

    So the Catholic church goes off the rails in many (more serious) respects; I wouldn’t disagree. But we can sometimes overlook our own (more minor) departures along the way. If we would call on them to be more biblical, we could stand to do that, too.

    • Dan Phillips

      Utterly and completely unrelated. “Calling on someone to accept Christ as your personal Savior — yeah, that’s just like Rome saying you can be forgiven by walking through a special church door every 25 years.”

      This is the sort of line that gives most evangelicals a good reason to think we’re hypercritical nuts, inventing gnats and then straining them out.

      Thoughts expanded: http://bit.ly/YT8nMB

      • Kermos

        Actually, following the Word of God is critical. After all, when one abides in the Lord Jesus’ words, He answers (John 15:7), and He answers because of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26, 1 Corinthians 6:19). Abiding by some evangelization method not prescribed by the Word of God is equivalent to pointing that the unsaved can climb over some other way into the sheepfold (John 10:1). Purgatory and accepting Jesus do NOT point to the real Jesus.

        “Receive”: an analogy using snail mail letters. People receive the packages. They hit the person regardless of whether the person wants them. The local store circulars are received, period. The tax refund check is received, period. The bills are received. period.

        “Accept”: continuing an analogy using snail mail letters. A person opens their mailbox, and sorts the mail, and declines the local store circulars, but accepts the tax refund check, and accepts the bills for later payment.

        These analogies are not meant to be extrapolated to the realm of Jesus Christ on a one to one basis, but rather to demonstrate the difference. In the realm of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God (John 20:28), no man of whom the Messiah opens the eyes can say no to Him (John 9).

        By the way, when the Apostle Thomas said “my” in “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), it is clearly personal.

        Now, this weekend we were out evangelizing, and I talked with a man who attends a church headed by a senior paster who attended The Master’s Seminary. The man with whom I spoke actually thinks he is saved by going to church, so he thinks those doors to the church are special. That senior pastor has taught about the local church, and the senior pastor believes that people need to be under his authority and listen to him as teacher during his sermons. In a way, the senior pastor is akin to a tiny pope of sorts. How can I write such a thing? Because the Word of God teaches something different than that reformed teaching. Here are some passages from the Holy Scripture respecting this very issue:

        http://JesusDelivers.Faith/ChristianWritings/OneSpiritAndOneHeartInGod/#TheStandardofTruthOurLordJesusSaidIAMtheTruth

        Our only measure of truth is the Word of God! Lord Jesus, please help us all!

        • Dan Phillips

          Already answered in what I linked, so nothing new to say.

    • Tom

      Well, I was baptized and raised Catholic, and the two are not remotely the same. The Jubilee Year is only one of many ways I used to try to earn God’s favor and be good enough to go to heaven.

      When I put my faith and trust in Jesus alone to save me back in 1973, it was a whole new world. Jesus did die and rise again to forgive all my sins–forever! No more trying to please him with all sorts of works and rituals.

      As far as “accepting Christ,” that is just a way of helping 21st century people understand what is going on. While it is true that “accepting Christ” doesn’t appear in the Bible, neither do many other words (such as “Trinity.”) But we believe in them. The important thing–the only thing–is believing in Jesus and having the security of His death on our behalf (John 6:47).

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks for commenting 4commence. You can’t kill every bird with one stone. Today we cry over false religion, tomorrow we cry over false converts in our own churches. Regardless, every day we praise God for His grace in our lives, and seek to bring the gospel to those around us.

    • Rachel

      This Site has addressed and re addressed and re addressed the very issue you bring up and that material can be Easily found on this very site if that was truly your desire, but instead you redirected the point of this topic & instead took issue with defending The Truth by exposing what contradicts and stands in complete opposition to Truth, Christ & The Gospel in one of the 2 biggest false religions in the world….How sad and quite frankly the norm in “Evangelicalism” these days, this relative trend of making it seem more “Noble” and “Humble” and “Gracious” to not call out anything, and in this case Official teaching which is a false Gospel–Anti-Gospel ,unless a person/church/movement is without complete error in far more minor areas…

      Sad.

      • 4Commencefiring4

        If it’ll help, think of my post as the theological version of the “Broken Windows” theory in law enforcement: that minor errors can, if left alone, lead to the major ones.

        Yes, Catholic doctrines are problematic and even damning. I don’t doubt it for a moment. But I’m calling attention to a smaller one we non-Catholics typically practice. Some may consider my observation trivial and off-topic, which is your right; but my habit of the last thirty or more years is to ask,”Where’s that in the Bible?”

        And since the article is about the errors of the RCC, I thought I would mention one of our own, albeit smaller in severity. If you don’t think the words we use to communicate the Gospel should reflect what the Bible states, then I guess the bigger point of the article was lost on me.

        • Jason

          There should be some leniency given. Ultimately, the question of “What must I do to be saved?” is a difficult one because it assumes the questioner must do something to *earn* salvation.

          In Acts 16, the response given to the question is to believe in Jesus. Even this Biblical response doesn’t meet the question as it was asked, because belief is not something the person can muster up in themselves simply for want of salvation.

          However, your warning here is sound, though I would say it’s probably less of a broken window and more of an iceberg.

          Luke 6:45 warns us to recognize how much words are affected by our hearts. While it’s never right to attack someone for saying something incorrect, it can be very edifying to focus discussion on areas where a brother has the most trouble articulating what they believe. It is usually a sign of confusion.

          • Kermos

            I was approached by a man who posited “I am a muslim. What must I do to become a Christian?” The Spirit led me to proclaim the gospel. I did not immediately speak for him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, because he did not know who the Lord Jesus Christ is – that salvation is Jesus, alone, Priest, Prophet, King, and God. When he asked about seeing a priest, I explained about the One High Priest, our Only Mediator. He needed to know that he was under the wrath of God. When the Spirit led, I prayed in front of him, beseeching Almighty God that he be granted Godly sorrow that leads to repentance, and that God would give him belief in the Savior. Sometime before he left, in Christ, I commanded believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.

            Along the lines of the Ethiopian eunuch’s inquiry, how can one believe unless there is one to proclaim. And proclamation must be in the Holy Spirit. We know that, clearly, it’s not a formula. It is up to God to reveal the broken and contrite spirit and contrite heart. God bless you all!

          • Jason

            What a great experience! This is a perfect example of why it’s important to speak to the area of contention and not just respond to the question asked by script.

            This applies as much to teaching a mature brother as it does evangelism and I think, in that regard, Commence brings up a good point (though, I think, somewhat off topic of the article).

            Someone may use the phrase “Accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior” to communicate a person’s dependence on Christ for their salvation and the reality of Jesus’s Lordship, and have the hearer understand it as such and repent. Angels rejoice over such a thing (Luke 15:10)!

            However, if it becomes common for that person to focus on the “personalness” of their faith, or upon the merit of their acceptance of Jesus (as though it was them who chose him out of their shrewdness) it is likely that their verbiage is a sign of bigger problems.

            I feel the church does far too little to encourage growth beyond salvation, in part because we’re all warned we’re going to seem too “nitpicky” if we worry about anything other than the “essentials”.

            Assuming they’ve got the plank out of their own eye, they are *commanded* to help us with our speck. Our (admittedly unattainable in this life) goal is perfection. There is no speck too small to matter. Warn people if they’re getting off topic, but by all means thank them if they have found our speck.

          • Kermos

            Hello Jason,

            That word “accept” is not Scriptural with respect to the Lord Jesus. We believe on Him by the Power of God (Matthew 16:17). He chooses us (John 15:16).

            “Receive”: an analogy using snail mail packages. People receive the packages. They hit the person regardless of whether the person wants them. The local store circulars are received, period. The tax refund check is received, period. The bills are received. period.

            “Accept”: continuing an analogy using snail mail letters. A person opens their mailbox, and sorts the mail, and declines the local store circulars, but accepts the tax refund check, and accepts the bills for later payment.

            These analogies are not meant to be extrapolated to the realm of Jesus Christ on a one to one basis, but rather to demonstrate the difference. In the realm of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my God (John 20:28), no man of whom the Messiah opens the eyes can say no to Him (John 9).

  • Great post Jordan. I like your comparison of Hinn to the Pope with regards to holding back of miracles/grace to people.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks Jason. As I was writing and thinking about this, I couldn’t help but wonder why a Catholic wouldn’t ask that question. If we have this door why cement it shut for decades? If it weren’t about money Benny Hinn would be in the hospitals, and the doors of these churches would be open at all times.

      • I was at the Vatican for the 2000 jubilee as a Catholic. I didn’t fully understand it at that time as a limited window of grace to be received. I saw it as a special time of pilgrimage and wasn’t overly concerned about being a sinner or anything I could get there compared to general reconciliation back home with a priest. I think if my old Catholic self or current Catholics understood such an event for what it really is and what is really going on as you’ve noted above, you’d have a lot more fear, reverence, and thought going on. So many Catholics, my old self included, fail to fully understand the details of how one is supposed to “get right with God” through the Catholic system. If they did, I think you’d have more individuals like Martin Luther who drive themselves crazy with trying to constantly keep the right side of the scale tipped.

      • Daniel Allen

        Yeah exept benny hinn has never healed anyone. not one person.

        • Jordan Standridge

          Amen, and neither has anyone been forgiven of anything by walking through a door.

          • BruceS

            So there is no metaphor, no symbolism, no art, no imagination, only literalism and crass materialism?

          • Kermos

            Hello BruceS,

            I do not understand the nuance of your comment. Can you elaborate by being more specific?

          • Jane Hildebrand

            There is value in symbolism and metaphor when conveying a spiritual truth. But when that symbol (in this case a door) is believed to hold power within itself, it becomes an idol.

          • John Byde

            All the best for you mission in Rome, Jordan. It’s a big mission field out there!

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  • geoffrobinson

    I have some bilingual gospel tracts (Spanish-English) that we had made for the papal visit to Philadelphia. Email me. geoffrobinson AT gmail & I’ll show them to you if you want to use them or at least to give you some ideas.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    And is this not a reminder of how the pope stands in the place of Christ in the mind of the Catholic? So while Jesus says, “I am the gate, whoever enters through me will be saved,” the pope must offer an faithless alternative to keep them enslaved. Doctrines of demons.

  • Allen Barnes

    Good article, but a bit more explanation is in order. I did some research on Roman Catholic indulgences, and their official teaching is that God’s wrath is not being assuaged by an indulgence such as this. They teach that God punishes sin in this life, or in purgatory, and call it a “temporal punishment.” They contend that the sin is already forgiven, but you still have to suffer “temporal punishment.” This door ceremony is one of the ways to get that “temporal punishment” off your back for sin that is already forgiven. Whatever that means. And there are some other requirements other than walking through the doors that are required to get this “plenary indulgence.” This is an extra special indulgence because this one will remit all sins up to that point in your life, whereas an ordinary indulgence (non-plenary) is only partial. Here is an article that gives the Roman Catholic viewpoint:
    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/blog/all-of-your-burning-questions-on-holy-years-and-doors-answered/

    • Jane Hildebrand

      Your attachment reads, “The Holy Year is traditionally a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment merited by one’s sins. It is also a year for reconciliation between enemies, conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”

      Thank you for clarifying that. But could you please now provide the biblical viewpoint of how we are forgiven of sins, how God deals with the punishment of our sins and how we are converted and reconciled to God? Thank you.

      • Allen Barnes

        Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. ~ Acts 16:31 I am not Roman Catholic, if that is what you are thinking. I just thought others might be interested in the RC viewpoint, for clarity’s sake.

        • Jane Hildebrand

          My bad. I thought you were RC and I was hoping to get you to open your Bible. 🙂

    • John Byde

      So you’re never really sure if you’re saved or not. That gives a lot of power to the papacy and priesthood.

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  • Brother Jordan, I’m greatly encouraged by what is obviously a pastoral and sincere concern that you have for Roman Catholics (RC) who are so far from the truth that they would draw near to this horrific hoax and counterfeit of Christ’s cross. Thank you for writing this. My only issue with this post is the unfortunate comments that follow. It’s amazing to see people find every and any rationale to minimize biblical correction. I don’t understand why professing believers confuse an otherwise clear call to prayer and Christian concern for RCs and those who minister to them with a declaration that we Protestants have no problems in our own house. God help us.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Thanks Eric that is very encouraging. I understand the sentiment of those who say that. They want to make sure we take out the log in our own eye first. I will say that that passage doesn’t apply to this because false religion isn’t just a speck in the eye, it is death. I also do not think that this blog is guilty of only calling out other religions without consistently calling believers to think rightly as well. For example my last 10 posts have all been directed to Christians.

    • John Byde

      Eric, we certainly do have problems in our own house, and we should never be blind to them. However, in defence of Jordan, I think he knows that. Blessings!

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  • John Byde

    I find this pretty sad and ironic. Why go all the way to Rome and boost the coffers of a corrupt Church when you can simply get on your knees in your own home and repent? Very sad and dishonest.

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  • Corey Fleig

    Jordan – if you’re going to post while on your trip (pics, comments, prayer requests, etc.) let us know what the link is! I know I’d love to follow if you do that!

    • Jordan Standridge

      Hey Corey Thank you! I’ll probably post it on my personal blog at surrender.us

      • Corey Fleig

        Excellent. Thanks!

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