The Danger of Liking the Pope Too Much 6


I like the Pope. He’s cool. I do not believe he’s a nasty grumpy old man trying to manipulate people into becoming Catholics. I truly believe he’s an all around good person with great morals and an example for how we should care for the marginalized people in society. After all, wasn’t Jesus like this? Jesus hung out with the poor, healed the sick, and helped the widows. It’s hard not to like the Pope. I even enjoyed reading the homily he gave at Madison Square Garden. However, for someone claiming to be a successor and a symbolic descendant of Apostle Peter, I just see way too many red flags that I believe some of us need to wake up to. We need to be able to have these conversations and discuss these issues. Here are some of my thoughts.

The American Dream

When we look at the life of Paul, Peter, and the other Apostles, we find nothing but suffering, affliction, anguish, and pain (2 Corinthians 7:5). Paul says in Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant” (NLT). I am sure the papacy has had their share of haters, backstabbers, and life threats but are they wholeheartedly preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Well let’s see. The message of the Pope, his bishops, and priests is that ultimately, we can earn our way into heaven. This is music to the ears of our society. This feels good and gives us hope. It boosts our self-esteem and coincides with the American Dream. If only we try hard enough, we can win God’s approval and get a ticket into heaven. If we avoid sin and do good deeds, God will let us in.

This is why the world likes the Pope so much. Even if they are not Catholics, they respect his message because it looks exactly like their own belief system: we must earn what we have. People hang on the Pope’s every word as if it is God’s very own words. People pay for tickets and wait in traffic for hours to be able to witness the Pope speak while their Bibles lay in a dusty corner–God’s very Words unheard and ignored.

People like the Pope because while they have strong opinions about everything else that happens here on earth, they rather have someone else make decisions for them concerning eternal life. Why would someone want to rest the eternal state of their soul on one man? If you selectively agree with what the Pope says, then it rests in your own hands and you are your own authority. Scary.

The Bible is the Ultimate Authority

I agree that there are passages in the Bible open to interpretation. It is fine to disagree on certain doctrines in the Bible. Not everyone at my church (Pure Word Church) agrees with everything that I preach and that is fine. However, when a belief forces us to adapt who God is to fit our own religion, this is dangerous ground.

It is dangerous to like the Pope too much because if we like him more than we like Jesus, we’ll choose his words over the Bible. This, however, is true with any authority right? If evangelical Christians like their pastors more than Jesus, they won’t bother reading the Bible for themselves. Some evangelical churches flock with people desiring to hear what a preacher has to say and they don’t even bother to check if he is actually preaching the Bible. Dangerous ground!

Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:3, “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.”

The truth is: people hear what they want to hear. The reason the Apostles were tortured and killed was because people didn’t like their message. People rather hear that they can check off a list and go to heaven instead of hear that they can never earn God’s love and that they need a Savior. They “believe” in Jesus as Savior but are they really letting Him do the saving?

Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

I can’t boast about behaving well and being saved. I’m a pretty horrible person if you get to know my struggles, fears, and issues. This is why the message of the cross is so very hard to accept. It tells us that we are not good enough. It tells us that we are God’s enemies and heading toward eternal destruction in hell (Romans 3:23). However, there is good news (which is what “Gospel” means)! Jesus came to take our place and be punished for us, so we must put our faith in Him and accept His payment on our behalf.

Peter says it beautifully, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Jesus paid it all! Not your parents. Not your Sunday school teacher. Not your pastor and not the Pope. We receive this payment by responding to Jesus’ grace. The Pope teaches that we must pay. If we don’t confess our sins enough here on earth, we pay for it in purgatory. It’s as if the crucifixion of Christ and His resurrection was not enough.

Call to Action

One blog is not enough to explain all of these complexities. If you disagree with me, I am sure you have some verses or good arguments to throw at me in the comments or e-mail. I never like to use isolated verses to make an extremely important point so I challenge anyone who disagrees with me. I challenge you to read the Bible for yourself. Don’t lean on the Pope’s words because someday he will be replaced. Don’t lean on my words for I am prone to fail. Instead lean on the Word of God which is “inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16).

It’s ok to love the Pope. I love him too. I just pray that you have a greater and much deeper love for the Word of God.

I close with this verse.

Acts 17:11, “And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.”



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6 thoughts on “The Danger of Liking the Pope Too Much

  • Brian Campbell

    It would be wise to get your facts straight first.

    #1: Orthodox Catholicism (which you can read for yourself in the Catechism [scborromeo.org/ccc.htm]) is this: “Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son-made-man, ‘will save his people from their sins.'”

    #2: Salvation by *faith alone* is a false doctrine:

    The apostle James in James 2:14-26: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. … Even the demons [believe in the one God]—and shudder. … You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. … As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” [I summarized, but please take the time to read that passage in its entirety.]

    The apostle Paul in Romans 2:6-8: “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

    Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13: “…and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” [We have to forgive others in order for our sins to be forgiven; that is hard work – not faith alone.]

    Hopefully your audience will get an apology vlog soon.

    • Pastor Tim Azevedo Post author

      Brian,

      It is very simple to take isolated verses to make a point. The point James is trying to make is not that we must add works to our faith to be saved. His point is clear in verse 18, “Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.””

      It is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 7:16 when he spoke about false teachers. He said, “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” The point James is making is that if you claim to have faith but you don’t have deeds, then you really don’t have faith. Deeds, good works, fruit, are evidences of true faith in Jesus. The way we display our faith is through our good deeds. Good deeds is born out of faith. It has nothing to do with actually gaining salvation through our good deeds.

      To respond to your first point, Pope Francis said, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class!” Then someone had to later clarify what he was trying to say. Bologna. We are not all children of God. When Jesus returns He will crush those who have not received Him as Savior. He will not come as a servant but, yes, as a King, to judge and punish.

      So while Orthodox Catholicism says that, it’s not what is being preached. It isn’t what Catholics believe and hold onto. Praying to anyone other than Jesus Himself is blasphemy and idolatry. Having statues and praying (talking, whispering, thinking, etc) to them is the very definition of idolatry. Asking Mary for strength or the saints to intercede for us is blasphemy. Trying to communicate with those who have left the body is nothing short of what Saul tried to do in the Old Testament, consulting a witch to communicate with prophet Samuel.

      And in Romans, realize that Paul is speaking to the church. He is writing to the church in Rome, Christians, born-again believers. Yes, God will repay us according to what we have done, not for salvation but, yes, for reward. Jesus tells us to store for ourselves treasures in heaven. Meaning, as Christians, we are able to gain “brownie points” with God by doing good deeds and serving Him. This, however, has nothing to do with salvation. It has to do with rewards. In the same way, those who are unsaved, they will also be judged for their sin. Hitler will suffer more than a nice person who was an atheist. Jesus makes this clear in the Gospels too.

      There is just so much to talk about it and debating it like this would never get us anywhere. As I said in my blog, isolated verses don’t work. Reading the entire Gospels and letters of the Apostles, and the Old Testament, understanding why Jesus was so against the religious leaders of His time, and what the Apostles stood for and preached–this is what will bring light into the situation.

      The point of the blog wasn’t to debate certain issues in Catholicism; it was to challenge people to read it for themselves before they let someone spoon feed them things about God.

    • Pastor Tim Azevedo Post author

      Oh and one more thing. The “clarification” they gave to what the Pope said included this, “At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.” So missionaries should do everyone a favor and stop preaching to the Indian tribes who don’t know the Gospel. This is adding to the way people can be saved. It’s scary because people just believe it. So does this agree with Orthodox Catholicism? At least not what you quoted.

      • Brian

        I’m not Catholic so I don’t know what the pope’s been saying. Your and Melinda’s attacks on your Catholic brothers and sisters so far are not valid. It’s all frivolous: Catholics know Christ is the source of their salvation – what more do they need? There is no password to get into heaven that only you know. Get some humility, generosity, and maybe focus more on learning instead of blogging.

        I think if we took your last comment to its logical conclusion, even you would disagree with it. Assuming everyone who has not accepted Jesus is going to hell (even if they are graceful and good), then my 1-year-old would go to hell, people with severe disabilities would go to hell, unborn children, etc. At some point, you have to start making exceptions and the pope’s opinion is just one possibility of something none of us know. Not even you.

  • Melinda

    This blog post showed up on my Timehop, and I still believe that it’s very well written and TRUE! Also because I know you so well, I can truly say that you have a great deal of generosity, as well as humility! As far as learning is concerned I’m happy to say that you’re a total nerd when it comes to the bible!