Chapter 13

One Man's Christian Journey

       

I was Christened and raised Catholic. I believe the Bible to be sacred. I believed the Catholic faith to be an accurate interpretation of the Bible. I know that the Bible is in fact the word of God. I realized the power of the word of God. 

In the beginning was the word…. And the word became flesh and dwelt among us. 

John 1:1,14 

At age 14, I read the Bible often. In many cases, the Catholic faith did not correspond with the Bible. I reasoned that the inconsistencies were misunderstandings on my part. At age 18 a man in Louisiana by the name of George explained to me the Biblical free gift of salvation. These are amongst the most beautiful words in all creation; 

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

John 3:16 

I said a prayer of salvation with George. However, for many years I asked the question, “But what do I need to do to be a Christian?” I wrestled continuously with George’s words, the Bible, and what I had been taught in Catechism. The Bible always won. I struggled to make sense of it all. The prominent question always being, “But what do I need to do?”

In 1996 I was 36. I attended a Promise Keeper’s seminar in Saint Petersburg, Florida. I felt it my duty as a Catholic in good standing to lead a friend to altar call. As I guided my friend to the front, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I came to realize that this was my opportunity to completely, humbly, and with childlike faith surrender before the Lord. Still not knowing all the answers, I surrendered my life to Christ that night and accepted Jesus as my savior. The instant I surrendered to the Lord, all the questions I had been wrestling with miraculously disappeared. I instantly understood all that perplexed me of salvation including the question that arose from the words that George spoke of 18 years earlier in Louisiana. I cried tears of joy as a baby, being filled at that moment with the Holy Spirit. 

That which God had wanted me to know became perfectly clear. I struggled to understand for years. However, God’s plan was that I totally surrender to Him first. I came to recall in amazement and appreciation all that God had done for me. When while I had not yet committed myself completely to Him, God carried me through in spite of myself. In fact, he orchestrated events in my life that I could not have imagined. He gave me gifts that were better than what I had asked for. I committed my life unto death to Christ as well as recommit the wedding vows I made to my wife before God. He made clear my understanding and convicted me to live the life of a Godly man. 

I began a new struggle justifying my Catholic faith and a newfound understanding and commitment to the teachings of the Bible. I began noticing increasingly more specific inconsistencies between Catholicism and Christianity. I came to realize that there is a difference between following the Pope and following Jesus Christ. I realized the difficulty and conflict in trying to be a Christian and a Popian at the same time. 

I continued to be a faithful servant of the Catholic Church. However, there came a point in time when I knew I needed to choose between the views of the Vatican and the truth of the Bible. I stepped up my activity to serve. We formed a Bible study at the Catholic Church with a Promise Keeper’s format. The points I had issues with surfaced very quickly. I wanted to know how the Pope, Jesus, and the Bible could all be infallible at the same time. I wanted to understand the lighting of candles. I wanted to understand the significance of praying to Mary when the Bible points out clearly that Jesus is the only intercessor between God and man. The answers I received were vague. Many standpoints on issues changed through out the history of Catholicism while Biblical truth remained unchanged. 

6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you have known me, you will also know my Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.” 

John 14:6

The most perplexing and important issue was that of salvation. I questioned Catholicism as to the reasons acceptance into Heaven required the Catholic Church as well as intercession through priests, Mary, and the Saints. 

5For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. 

1 Timothy 2:5

12Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood he went into the Holy of Holies once for all and secured our eternal redemption. 

Hebrews 9:12

No man on this Earth is authority over Christianity. By definition, there is only one who sits in the seat of exaltation. There is only one groom to the church, His bride. That one is Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly states that no one comes to the Father but through the Son. 

28After this, when Jesus realized that everything was now completed, he said (in order to fulfill the Scripture), “I’m thirsty.” 29A jar of sour wine was standing there, so they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30After Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

John 19:28

“It is finished.” Jesus Christ has already won. There is nothing any man can do to add to what has been done. Nothing or no one in addition is needed to enter Heaven except Jesus Christ. The Eucharist of the Catholic Church can only be in remembrance of that which Jesus Christ has already finished. 

19Then he took a loaf of bread, gave thanks, broke it in pieces, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Keep on doing this in memory of me.”

Luke 22:19

Catholicism states that a person needs to be cleansed of sin on continuous bases through Holy Communion. The Eucharist that the priest prepares is a variety of substances in a cup including wine, juice, bread, or wafers. The priest with the help of the spirit is believed by Catholics to literally change the contents of the cup into the actual body and blood of Christ. Catholicism requires that all of the cup's content needs to be consumed by a clean vessel being a sinless person. I often wondered if the chances of dying and going to Heaven were better just after Holy Communion on Sunday diminishing due to sin as the week went on. If this were the case it would be much more advantageous to die on a Sunday afternoon following confession than on a Saturday night. 

As I questioned these issues more controversy entered our Catholic Bible study sessions. Finally, an honest priest said to me, “There are other books beside the Bible. The Bible may be the best book, but there are other books.” Based on Biblical self-proclaiming principals this explanation did not coincide with Biblical truth. I then learned that the inconsistencies were not mere variations in interpretation. Catholicism takes into account teachings from the Bible as well as tradition and what the gentlemen in the Vatican decide upon. This is outlined as such in the Cannon of the Catholic Church. I came to realize that the doctrine of Catholicism and the truth of the Bible were not coincident. 

I severed my ties with the Catholic Church and Popian beliefs. I began practicing Christianity as a Baptist. I chose the Baptist Church because I felt that it was most concerned with what the Bible had to say. I am only interested in the teachings of Christ not doctrine or traditions formulated by man. I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God. I do not believe it is possible to adhere to the teachings of Christ and the Pope at the same time. As I go forth in life I find the Bible to be my source of wisdom, strength, and hope. 

In the end, neither I nor anyone else can instill the truths of the Lord in our hearts. We can only lead others in the right direction. The Holy Spirit knocks at the door of each person’s heart. Only when we open the door of our heart to the Holy Spirit do we gain true wisdom and understanding.

I pray that Catholics invite the Holy Spirit to enter their minds and hearts. I pray that they may find true peace and hope through Jesus Christ alone. 

Cast away your desires and agenda and allow God to replace them with things coincident with His plan for your life. Completely empty yourself, leaving no desire outside that which is of God. Those things let go that were of God will return to you to His degree. This process can be horrifying. This act takes great courage. God will enter your heart and make the necessary changes that need to be made in you to carry out His will, not yours. God does not need us for His will to come to pass. However, there are great rewards including peace here on Earth and life through eternity. God does not give you a yoke that He will not give you the gifts needed to accomplish his request. 

To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

Mark 12:33

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