SAVING PRIVATE RYAN

The Tom Hanks Movie, Saving Private Ryan, was hailed as a masterpiece showing the reality, savagery, and tragedy of World War II. You may remember the plot of a team of American rangers being sent to find the sole surviving son of the Ryan family.

 The story begins with the aged Ryan returning to Normandy desperately trying to find a headstone in one of the vast American graveyards in France. Then the story fades back to the day when the American team made their way ashore on Utah beach. It takes heart-wrenching turns as, one by one, members of the team are killed in action.

Finally the team finds Ryan, but due to a German offensive, they cannot take him directly back to safety. They are forced to stay with Ryan’s group to repel the offensive. In the ensuing battle, Hanks’ character tries to keep Ryan out of harm’s way. It would be a failure and the waste of several men’s lives if Ryan were killed in the battle.

At the end of the battle, Hanks’ character is mortally wounded. He is sitting on a bridge as his life ebbs away. Ryan squats down beside him as Hanks reaches up to grab Ryan’s uniform. “Earn this,” Hanks whispers. “Earn it.” With that, Hanks” character dies and Ryan stands up. As his face gradually morphs back into the present, and as an aged man he stands before the tomb of Captain John Miller. He falls and begins to weep. His wife and family rush to his side. His wife wipes a tear away. The aged Ryan whispers to the headstone “Everyday I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.” Then he turns to his wife “Tell me I have led a good life.” “What?” she asks. “Tell me I’m a good man.” “You are,” she consoles him.

Not only is that the American view of a good war movie of brotherhood and sacrifice for others; it is also the American view of salvation. We can identify with Miller laying down his life in sacrifice so that Ryan can return home and carry on the family name. Many would attribute Christ-like character to the sacrifice of one man dying in the place of another. Too many Americans however can hear Christ speaking these final words from the Cross. Instead of Jesus saying, “It is finished!” many hear Him say, “Earn this!”

For many, our view of salvation is “doing the best we can” and hoping that at least in God’s eyes, it is good enough to “earn” the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. We live our lives doing religious acts to pay God back for Christ’s sacrifice. After all, we must make ourselves good enough. Many of us today do what we do at church trying to earn what Christ has already paid for us. We mount up a bunch of works, activities and projects and we turn figuratively to those sitting on the pew with us and say, “Tell me I’m a good man!” And too often the reply comes back, “You are.”

The gospel as preached in many churches today is one built on self-esteem. We tell ourselves that we are so wonderful and worthy that Jesus had to come die for us. Our slogan is like the old L’Oreal hair color commercial: “Because I’m worth it.” Paul would disagree. To the Romans he wrote: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

The whole point of Jesus’ death was that we are not worthy; we are not good people; we are not capable of saving ourselves. There is nothing we can do to pay him back. Any such attempt is an insult to him. Christ died for us before we could clean our lives up, before we could become worthy. He died for us, not because we are loveable, but because God is love. He did not die because of who we are but in spite of who we are.

ONLY TWO RELIGIONS

Many times since I first became acquainted with Share Jesus Without Fear I have used Bill Fay’s concept of only two religions. I always give credit where it is due.

In his book he states that basically there are only two religions in the world, and they consistently make two claims: 1) Jesus Christ is not God, and 2) some kind of works must be done on our part to be saved. I would like to add a third characteristic to almost all other religions as well.

Since I have worked with several different cults, other world religions, and apologetics for two decades, I have discovered another basic claim. All of them claim that the Bible alone is insufficient for salvation.

First of all, evolutionists reject the Bible right away. They claim that it is not scientific to begin with. I usually point out that evolution is not real science, but a philosophical belief system with no basis in facts. The proof for evolution and abiogenesis is non-existent.

Every cult has its own “authoritative scripture.” Mormons have the famed Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and The Doctrine and Covenants. They accept only the King James Version of the Bible “so far as it is interpreted correctly” which means as long as it can be twisted to mean what their organization says it means.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have The New World Translation, which they accept as the only valid translation because they have inserted Jehovah’s name in many places. It, too, has been twisted to support their unique beliefs.

All cults have their “prophets” and their inspired “aids” to understanding the Bible. They can usually be traced to one person who is seen as the authoritative one. Their aids are simply meant to say that they help one understand God’s word, they are absolutely essential if one is to understand it at all.

Islam, of course, has the Quran. It is the only pure word of Allah. According to their beliefs, the Bible has been corrupted. As in the case of Joseph Smith, God had to send another prophet to straighten out the mess caused by man’s “tampering” with the Scripture. If God could not keep the New Testament uncorrupted for 100 years, how can he keep the Quran pure for 1300 years and the Book of Mormon pure for more than 150 years?

What about Catholicism? Although they claim to accept the Bible as the word of God, they also have additional uninspired books. That is not the biggest problem however. The real problem lies in the fact that they ascribe to tradition an equal or even greater authority than Scripture.

Other denominations are equally at fault. While no Southern Baptist would claim to believe in a higher authority than the Scripture, often an individual congregation’s tradition outweighs the influence of the Bible. Now even the Southern Baptists have their own version of the Bible.

I am not a “KJV Only” person, however, we must all be careful of not underestimating the power of the scriptures, “which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15). The Bible is sufficient!

“BY THEIR FRUITS YOU SHALL KNOW THEM”

 

People often erroneously apply these words of Jesus to Christians who do not “toe the line.” We call ourselves fruit inspectors saying that we are evaluating others to see if they are giving evidence of the Christian life. Then we use our list to discern whether or not one is, or ever was, a true believer in Christ. The problem is that each denomination has its own standard of what is the accepted fruit.

 That was not the context of this passage. In context Jesus was speaking of false prophets. Jesus said in Matthew 7: “15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” What is the fruit of a prophet? A prophecy. What is the fruit of a false prophet? A false prophecy.

 Jesus warned “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24: 11) Further he said, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (verse 24). In the latter days he warned us to be on the look out for false prophets. Knowing that they are coming, we should be prepared. How do we recognize false prophets?

 Israel faced a similar dilemma when God told them through Moses that he would send another prophet like Moses. In Deuteronomy 18:18-20 God said, “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”

 Notice the penalty for being a false prophet: “that prophet shall die.” God is serious when it comes to prophecy, when someone claims to speak for him. So how do we recognize the fruit of a prophet? The Israelites asked the same question. Verses 21, 22 “And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” The answer is that if a prophet makes even one false prophecy, he or she was to be put to death! If it does not happen, it was not from God.

 How many times does it take for a person to lose his or her virginity? Just once. How many false prophecies does one have to make to be a false prophet? Just one!

 A while back a man I work with asked me what I thought about the LDS church’s new prophet. “Did he pass the prophet’s test?” I asked. “He must have,” he said, “He got past the Twelve Apostles.” “No, I mean the biblical prophet’s test,” I said, “Even Joseph Smith didn’t pass that one!” –Silence.

 After a moment he said, “That’s the trouble with you Baptists; you always bring that up.” A legitimate point, one that was never answered.

In August 2000 two young men in white shirts and black ties sat in my living room trying to convince me that they represented the one true church. The restored church of the New Testament that had been lost until their prophet came along. I took the Bible they had given me and asked if they accepted it as authoritative. So far as it is “properly interpreted,” they said. I turned to the Deuteronomy passage quoted above and read it to them. Then I turned to the Doctrine and Covenants and showed them two prophecies that Smith had made in the name of the Lord, prophecies which have long since been proven invalid. Their response was, “We still believe Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God!” He failed the biblical test.

 In 1 John 4:1 we have the additional warning: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” The biblical way to be wary of false prophets is to try them against the standard of Scripture. We dare not trust every person who claims to be a prophet or has a vision from God or has a word of wisdom. People who make such claims need to be made aware of how dangerous such statements are.

 Many years ago when I was a pastor in south Texas, a young woman came by the church and “prophesied.” People then asked the same questions. “What if she is a real prophet?” Then what she prophesied must come to pass without fail.

One Sunday I awoke with severe stomach pain. I tried my best to go to church. I made it to the office and lay on my couch during Sunday School. When church time rolled around, I could not stand without aid. I told the Chairman of Deacons, “Well it’s up to you today. I am too sick to preach.” With that I went home. (That is the only time I have ever been too sick to preach on a Sunday!) During that service, I later found out, that young woman came and sat on the front pew. (That right there should tell you she was not Baptist ; )  The college students told me that she rocked back and forth during the service and muttered under her breath. (An apt description of Old Testament False Prophets: Isaiah 8: 19 “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?”)

 This young woman prophesied in the name of the Lord that I would be back in the pulpit that evening for church to preach the word of God. That is an easy enough prophecy to interpret clearly, without ambiguity. That evening at church time instead of being in the pulpit I was in the bathroom. That proved to be a false prophecy.

 When she showed up on the Saturday before Easter Sunday with a message from God that he wanted me to preach, I politely took the paper she gave me and put it in the trash. She had proved to be a false prophetess. What is the penalty for false prophets? Read Deuteronomy 18:20 again.

 Years later I was leading a Bible study at a mobile home park in Laredo, Texas. A woman had been seen wandering around the city going into churches telling everyone that she was Jesus Christ come back in the flesh. One day she wandered into the mobile home park. She told the manager, who was Jewish, that she was Jesus Christ. While discussing this with the manager, she asked me honestly, “How do you know that she is not Jesus Christ come back to earth?” I took the New Testament from my shirt pocket and turned to Matthew 24:4, 5, “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” And verse 11: “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Then I went on to verses 26, 27, “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”

 “When Jesus comes back, no one will be in doubt,” I reassured her. “That’s how I know she is not Jesus. She is a false Messiah. Jesus warned us beforehand.”

So if someone claiming to be Christ, an Apostle or Prophet comes along with a “word of wisdom” or a “new revelation” or “vision” that does not agree with the Bible, remember Isaiah 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” False prophets and false teachers walk in darkness because they have no light in them. They are the “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14). If you follow a false prophet, you will wind up in the same ditch.

 If a person claims to be a prophet, check his or her credentials. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 2:21).

What if the Book of Mormon is True?

 KJV: Jude 3 “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

 NIV: Jude 3 “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”

 The writer of Jude wrote his epistle in defense against false teachers who were bringing their heresies into the church. Referring to the material the early church had received, Jude wrote that it had been “once delivered unto the saints.” This “faith” was “the thing believed” (Expositor’s Greek New Testament, Vol. 5, p. 255.) It also “refers to the body of information believed by the early church. It is the gospel, the message of truth that brings salvation to the person who believes it. ‘Faith’ refers to a body of objective truth, not the subjective experience of believing something” (David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude, Holman New Testament Commentary, Nashville: Broadman 261.) In other words, it was the faith about the truth of the Gospel that they had been taught. It was delivered or handed over to them (Greek, paradidomi—surrender, yield up, entrust, literally “give over”)

 This teaching was “once” delivered. That is, once for all. It is the same root the writer of Hebrews used to say, “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” (Hebrews 7:27) Peter also wrote, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God,” (1 Peter 3:18). The sacrifice of Christ was a “once for all” act that could not be added to. The “faith” was once for all given to the saints and cannot be added to without changing its content.

 Both the word “once” and the tense of “delivered” indicate that the action had a beginning and an end. The faith was given to them, aorist tense, meaning that the action came to an end in the past. No more faith or teaching was to be given to them.

 The Book of Jude was written at the latest by 80 AD the Book of Revelation by the end of the first Century. By that time, the faith “Once for all entrusted to the saints” was complete.

 The Book of Mormon claims to have been completed “In or about the year A. D. 421,” when “Moroni, the last of the Nephite prophet-historians, sealed the sacred record and hid it up unto the Lord” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon.) If the Book of Mormon is true, then the latest date for the faith “once delivered to the saints” was completed by that year.

 Christians then, should “contend” for that faith and fight against any teaching which tries to change it or contradict it. This was the purpose for which Jude wrote his epistle, to fight against false teaching. Anything that does not agree with that faith “once delivered” is false teaching, especially if it contradicts it.

 Do the Bible and the Book of Mormon support the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS)? Let’s take a look at what they each say.

 Contradictions between the Book of Mormon, the Bible and Mormonism

The Virgin Birth of Christ

 Brigham Young: “Now remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1 p. 51).

 Brigham Young: “The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children, it was the result of natural action. He partook of the flesh and blood—was begotten of his Father as we were of our fathers” (Journal of Discourses vol. 8 p. 115)

 Book of Mormon: Alma 7: 10 And behold, he shall be aborn of Mary, at bJerusalem which is the cland of our forefathers, she being a dvirgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and econceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

 Bible: Matthew 1:18-23 (KJV): 18  Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

19  Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. 20  But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21  And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22  Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

 If the Book of Mormon is true, then Brigham young contradicted the faith once delivered unto the saints.

 The Changeable Nature of God: “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”

 Book of Mormon: Moroni 7: 22 For behold, God aknowing all things, being from beverlasting to everlasting, behold, he sent cangels to minister unto the children of men, to make manifest concerning the coming of Christ; and in Christ there should come every good thing.

 Moroni 8: 18 “For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is aunchangeable from ball eternity to all eternity.”

Moroni 10: 19 And I would exhort you, my beloved brethren, that ye remember that he is the asame yesterday, today, and forever, and that all these gifts of which I have spoken, which are spiritual, never will be done away, even as long as the world shall stand, only according to the bunbelief of the children of men.

 Mormon 9: 9 For do we not read that God is the asame byesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no cvariableness neither shadow of changing?

Bible: Malachi 3: 6 “For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

Psalm 90: 2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”

 Numbers 23: 19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”

 God has a Body

 Joseph Smith: “God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man and sits enthroned in yonder heavens” (The King Follett Discourse)

 Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of cSpirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not ddwell in us.”

 Book of Mormon: Alma 18:  24 And Ammon began to speak unto him with aboldness, and said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God?

  25 And he answered, and said unto him: I do not know what that meaneth. 

  26 And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a aGreat Spirit?

  27 And he said, Yea.

  28 And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in heaven and in the earth?

  29 And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens.

  Bible: John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

Luke 24: 39  Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”

2 Corinthians 3: 17 “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

 According to D&C 130:22, the Holy Ghost is a “personage of Spirit” and as such “has not a body of flesh and bone.” Jesus said that God is spirit and that a “spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). If God is spirit, as both the Bible and Book of Mormon teach, how then can Joseph Smith teach that “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s”? Joseph Smith’s teaching contradicts both the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Thus present day Mormonism does not contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, but rather contradicts it.

Plurality of Gods:

 Book of Mormon: Alma 11:26-31 “26 And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God?

  27 And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God.

  28 Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God?

  29 And he answered, No.

  30 Now Zeezrom said unto him again: How knowest thou these things?

  31 And he said: An aangel hath made them known unto me. “

 Bible: Isaiah 43:10-11: “10  Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

11  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.”

 Isaiah 44: 8 “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”

 Isaiah 45: 5-6: “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.”

 Isaiah 45: 18 “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.”

 Isaiah 45: 21 “Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.”

 John 17: 3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

  

Further evidence of changing the faith once delivered to the saints

Doctrine and Covenants 132: 1-6:

1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many awives and bconcubines

  2 Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.

  3 Therefore, aprepare thy heart to receive and bobey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.

  4 For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting acovenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye bdamned; for no one can creject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.

  5 For all who will have a ablessing at my hands shall abide the blaw which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

  6 And as pertaining to the new and aeverlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my bglory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.

 This passage clearly teaches an “everlasting covenant” (verse 4) given by a quote from God, (thus saith the Lord” verse 1). Anyone who “abide(s) not that covenant…[is] damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” What is this covenant? “The principle and doctrine of their having many awives and bconcubines.”

 Without practicing polygamy, no one can enter into God’s glory according to the word of the Lord in that section of the D&C. Not only will they not enter His glory, they are “damned” (v. 4). One must receive it and “shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.”

 The only true Latter Day Saints are those who practice polygamy. Yet in 1890 the LDS church renounced polygamy to enter into the union. If the doctrine of plural wives is an “everlasting covenant”, their response to being asked to give it up should have been like that of Peter and John in Acts 4:19, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.” The LDS church should have followed the supposed dictate of the Lord, kept polygamy and remained out of the Union.