On the hearts and minds of many former Catholics I know is a sense of compassion coupled with urgency to reach out to loved ones still involved in Roman Catholicism. This is a three-part offering that, I pray, will be of assistance in this ministry field. May you be edified, encouraged, and informed, and find something here that will help you in the three very different yet complementary presentations.
The third section, “An Exposition: ‘Out of the Fire’” is a guest contribution, included with permission, by Dale Rudiger, who blogs here: http://xcjournal.org/
PART 1: AN EXPLANATION
When it comes to so-called “witnessing” to a Roman Catholic in an attempt to lead him or her to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it helps to understand the mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual control that that religious system has on an individual. There is a famous Jesuit saying that goes something like this: “Give us a child until he is seven and we have him for life.” And they, along with others atop the spiritual hierarchy in that religious organization, are good at what they do.
Catholics who have been indoctrinated into the church since birth pose a special challenge. When “witnessing,” whether by word or deed, it helps to have come from inside the denomination and to know the many nuances of control imposed by teachings, rites, rituals, practices, assumptions and presumptions about “The Faith.”
But above everything one might know or have experienced first-hand, it is critical to remember that God is bigger, if you will, than even all that.
Should one have the privilege and opportunity of witnessing to a Roman Catholic, the most important “help” remains salvation through Jesus Christ Who sends the Holy Spirit to lead, direct, and guide.
I am just one of countless numbers of individuals who have come out of the Roman Catholic system (over forty years ago, now) because those in control are either unaware of or they do not understand the power of God to save, heal, and deliver.
Each ex-Roman Catholic has a unique story of his/her redemption out of the system because there are myriad ways one can be bound to it designed to appeal to whatever spiritual curiosity and/or angst one might be experiencing.
(What brought me out initially was a Scripture verse here, one there, of simple yet profound truth. It was also, in my early years still in the church, the daily witness of the lives of a few Christian neighbors who never seemed to suffer all the mental and spiritual anxiety and dread that I and my fellow Roman Catholics suffered, if we admitted the truth of the experience. They really seemed to know that Jesus LOVED them, something we only heard about but didn’t, for the most part, really understand or believe.)
But back to the Church, there are all manner of artifacts to cling to, special people and items and practices that, if the core doctrines are unable to give one peace about one’s relationship with God, one can turn to. The list is long.
For example, Roman Catholicism appeals to the intellect through its philosophers and mystics, whose teachings can be very seductive, particularly attractive to those who might think that godliness is akin to “brains”.
Indeed, this aspect of the church is a potent draw for many today as thousands both Catholic and non-Catholic flock to contemplative prayer meetings and other practices initiated by the so-called “desert fathers” of centuries past, or to devotions to one of the Roman “saints” who demonstrated all manner of supernatural phenomena assumed prompted by the Spirit of God, when in reality it was most likely another spirit.
In addition, in the early centuries, when the Roman church was one of the primary repositories of the world’s wealth, its cathedrals, art collections, and “sacred texts” held an esteemed place in both secular and sacred arenas. It holds vast wealth and esteem today, too.
Rome’s wealth is no doubt of particular attraction to those who might think that godliness is also akin to “gains”. Certainly today’s so-called “prosperity gospel” devotees might be especially vulnerable to this.
So witnessing to Catholics may be a bit more difficult than, say, sharing the Gospel with those who have not been reared in any faith tradition or those who are of another religion entirely.
However, despite the Roman church’s many, varied—and potent—appeals, as millions who have come out of Her attest, with God, all things are possible.
While I was yet in the system, I was what as known as a “cradle Catholic,” that is, I was born into the religion, attended twelve years of Catholic school, and observed many of the home-life traditions good Catholics were supposed to institute in their families.
As a family we prayed the Rosary together, we observed all the days of fasting, all the so-called Holy Days, and Mom owned many of the “blessed” artifacts (medals, statues, holy cards, holy water, etc.) that had spiritual benefits of various sorts attached to them according to the teachings. I even had my own little statue, the Infant of Prague, to which I prayed.
So I know how it is.
And I am shocked that so many, including high ranking Protestant officials, some even biblically literate, are flocking to the system today, ignoring the critical differences between it and classic Christianity, insisting only that because we all subscribe to belief in Jesus we are therefore “one” without examining the often subtle yet still powerful differences even in teachings about our Savior.
All for the sake of a contrived “unity” that is not unity.
Perhaps they are unaware of the entire scope and sequence of what Rome really teaches about salvation, about Jesus, about Mary, His mother, about the saints, about (fill in the many blanks).
Perhaps they are unaware of the psychological/mental/spiritual manipulations at work to lure the uninformed, the vulnerable, the hurting.
Perhaps the glitz and the glory have seduced them.
Or perhaps there is, as there has always been, some political or financial benefit at the end of the road to Rome.
And so I join my voice, here, and in the stories of my topical series posted here http://pnissila.wordpress.com/category/out-of-the-fire-on-leaving-roman-catholicism/ to aid others who are curious, or who have begun their own spiritual journey by the grace of God out of the Roman Catholic Church into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ for He is still, as always, the only “Way, Truth, and Life.”
I echo what millions of others say, “If God can deliver ME out of Roman Catholicism, He can deliver anyone!”
I hope the personal story that is the focal point of Part 2 and the formal exposition, Part 3, will be of help not only to those wondering how to “witness” to their Roman Catholic loved ones, but also to those who are just now feeling what I believe is a prompt from the Holy Spirit to find out what the truth about God really is in relationship to Roman Catholicism. And they long for answers.
That’s where it all starts.
PART 2: A STORY
My mother once told me this story.
She was unable to attend church one Sunday so her priest friend offered to “say the Mass” for her in her home.
It was time for one of the small prayers right before receiving the wafer offered in the Roman Catholic version of communion. The priest asked my mother if she would say it.
My mother did not repeat the prayer precisely as written, rather, embellished it a bit, having said this same prayer first in Latin, then in English for most of her, then, seventy-some years in the Catholic Church.
“Oh, no,” the priest interrupted her. “You must not change the words. You must read it exactly as it has been written,” he insisted.
She told me that she explained to her friend the priest that her simple word change still implied the same meaning as the words printed in the Daily Missal book of Roman Catholic prayers and rites. But this, apparently, was still not acceptable…
Her continued distress over the incident was still evident.
When she finished telling the story, all I could think of to say, after a quick prayer for inspiration was, “God looks at the heart, Mom. I think He understood your intention…”
A WOEFULLY inadequate response, weak “witness,” some reading this might be thinking just now.
And I get that.
Though lacking the proper exegesis for some, I knew this short statement was probably about all the time and/or opportunity I would have to share with my mother yet another, small tidbit of grace from my very different lexicon of faith.
Opportunities to share the (classic) Christian message were few and far between with her. This, I believed, was one of them. I had had many years of “training,” you might say.
Some thirty-odd years prior to that particular day I had exited the dense Roman Catholic religion of my childhood and entered a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Since then, I had been learning how to avoid certain mistakes when attempting to “witness” the unvarnished Gospel to my still-Catholic loved ones.
The most difficult of all relationships for me to address from across the Great Divide separating Roman Catholicism from the rest of Christendom, was the mother/daughter one.
What made this a championship challenge was the fact that my mother was a staunch Defender of the Faith and a Pillar of The Church.
Mom played the church organ for Mass, weddings, funerals, and other occasions. For years she was a leader in the Third Order of St. Francis. She was well read and versed in the all-time RC best sellers and she had a substantial collection of (approved) medals, statues, and other artifacts of the faith, many of which, as “sacramentals,” were objects of special favor and help if properly “blessed” by a priest, or so believed.
Please note: I am not saying, here, all Catholics are not Christians.
As I’ve chronicled prior in my series on “Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism, “ it took me a full six years A.D., as it were, to shed my spirit, mind, and psyche of the extra-biblical, extra-doctrinal, and extra-ordinary teachings, and practices that differentiate Roman Catholicism from classic Christianity. So I knew how hard it was and is for “cradle Catholics” to extricate.
And it is in that period of time, while yet processing through my own exit as a brand new Christian, I believe I made many common and maybe some uncommon mistakes in my attempt to warn/save/reach other poor Catholic souls. (However, I believe that even in my Christian “youth and inexperience,” God understood my heart, as I believe He understood Mom’s heart in embellishing that simple prayer.)
Here are just a few examples of what I learned NOT to do in my early zealot years of Coming Out that come to mind just now, one or two dusted with a little humor, after all these years, but completely serious, then.
- Do not sneak in before Mass and insert multiple Gospel tracts, especially the kind with flames and devils on the front pages, in the lectionary, or the book from which the priest reads during the Mass…
- Do not tell teens in the Wednesday night catechism class that you have been entrusted to teach while you are yourself processing through what the whole Roman Catholic experiences means that they should take some of their hard core religious questions to their parents because you, too, are having real problems along the same lines just now. Especially do not tell them you have serious doubts about a lot of that stuff, too, at least when you are speaking as a representative of the Director of Catholic Education.
- Do not attempt to confront Pillars of the Church well versed in the myriad rules, rites, rituals, regulations, gradations of sin guilt and punishment, hierarchies of spirituality and authority, and so on, vested in the One True Church (or so taught), without a clear sense of direction. Iron-clad sense of direction. And if you genuinely sense this calling, don’t forget, spiritually speaking, to “armor up” (see Ephesians 6:11-17) first.
- And should you ever think you are being “lead” to challenge a nun with regard to Roman Catholic faith and practice in the middle of her presentation on the true meaning of the Holy Spirit to a Catholic Bible study group comprised largely of Pillars of the Church (including your mother), some of whose children you taught for a brief period of time in catechism class, some of whom suspected all along it was YOU who put something in the lectionary that Sunday before Mass (but you didn’t see them praying their Rosaries in the shadows in back of the church), just don’t challenge her or the Pillar Society. Trust me on this…
But more significantly, more importantly, and quite seriously, I have also learned over many years—and I continue to learn—that the job of convincing someone of error, false direction, sin, wrong thinking, ill-advised practice, mistakes, misinterpretations, assumptions, and/or presumptions, as opposed to what is true of the Gospel is best left to the Holy Spirit, Who, as Jesus promised, is sent to lead and guide us into all truth (John 16:13).
He might not have our sense of the urgency of the moment or of the times. Or so we might think.
He might not understand how dangerously entrenched in “doctrinal aberrations” our mother or father or siblings or aunts or uncles or grandparents are. Or even the nun, The Pillars, or Mom’s priest friend so caught up in prayer “form”.
Perhaps, we think, the Holy Spirit must surely realize our genuine desire to see our loved ones freed from the religious system that has left so many figurative and literal bloody trails throughout history—and in our own hearts.
But we come to gradually understand He does know all this. Better yet, we come to understand (as our spiritual shoulders ease down from our spiritual ears) He also knows the end of times from the beginning (Isaiah 46:19), He knows the complex web of error Catholics, or anyone for that matter, may be enmeshed in, and the He knows how to best manage the extrication process.
Best of all, He Who searches the heart knows how to perfectly reach each of us.
Over time, trial, error, and some successes, I have learned that leaving the job of the Holy Spirit to the Holy Spirit works best—for both “witnessee,” and “witnesser.”
And so, back to Mom’s story—and my reaction.
Whereas in days past I would have immediately launched into a discourse on the Cult of the Wafer, the Fallacy of the RC Fatherhood, and each of the points carefully outlined in The Tract (the one with the flames and the devil on the front), I had learned to pray and to wait for inspiration, that “still, small voice” of guidance.
I had also learned to trust.
Maybe, in what appeared to be a gaping hole of error in need of substantial “truth filling,” there was really only one small nugget of clarifying truth required that day, one strand of revelation to complete another small section of her spiritual tapestry, or “two at the most three” simple points of truth to prompt understanding.
Or maybe it was something else entirely I could or did offer.
Who knows, despite all my other efforts, maybe it had nothing at all to do with what I said or did then or at other times, but maybe something to do with the writing I shared with my mother.
Over the years, Mom kept up on my devotionals and articles in print, including the one featuring the story of how my sister and I had the privilege of leading our father to the Lord ten days before he died.
My mother’s one and only serious comment ever about all that “spiritual writing” was, “You know, when I read your work I see how at first we both seem to think alike. Then, you take a completely different turn. That’s interesting to me. “
A small, ordinary comment to some, but to me in the context of our relationship, a true “whoa!” moment.
(Insert sound of Hallelujah Chorus.)
To me, this was Big News, and Big Opportunity.
Did you hear that, Lord?! Please, please, please give me something REALLY GOOD to say in response!!!
Complain: REALLY, Lord? This looks like an OPEN DOOR to me! No fiery tracts, no tirades, I PROMISE!
Hear: “Just thank her”. REALLY? Well…okay…
Hear: “Pray, love, serve…”
In addition, I had to trust that something about the way I tried to live and how I conducted myself might tell her that Big Changes had occurred, good changes, in my life over time. Or at least when I apologized for old and not-so-old offenses, she would be able to forgive me and it would not deter her from her own spiritual growth.
I also had to trust that beneath the seeming impenetrable Fortress of Defense for her Roman Catholic faith there was also a normal, human heart touched with the same joys and sorrows, longings and disappointments, struggles and triumphs common to the race. And the same relentless queries: What Is Truth? Who is God? The stripped down, gut-honest version of God?
And from that focal point of sincerity—hers, ours, theirs, maybe yours, too—He then leads each into his or her custom-made path to His Son, Jesus, through Whom, alone, we are saved.
I had to trust that the Holy Spirit could handle my mother’s spiritual journey, too.
I had one last, clear, if brief, opportunity to “witness” verbally to Mom in the last few weeks of her life besides simple generic prayers which were always acceptable.
We were sorting through yet another stack of insurance papers, discussing her next visit to the doctor, processing other practical and poignant end-of-life issues spoken and unspoken including how The Church was the only place she felt safe as a small child fending for emotional and mental stability while her alcoholic father beat her mother and her mother returned his rage with rage of her own while their three small children cowered near.
At one point during the talking and the sorting Mom paused and looked up at one of her Catholic religious pictures, in her own world for a moment or two.
“You know,” she said, “I’m not so sure I really believe all of the old Catholic teachings. Everything is about so much guilt and sin…”
She continued. “I think that God is more accepting of us for who we are and He gathers us all into His arms…” she continued on.
Oh boy. Here we go, again. Mom and her embellishments, a blurred mix of Old and New Testaments and the Gospel of Mom thrown in here and there, too. How to respond?
She looked at me.
“Well, Mom, what I believe is that Jesus Christ is the only Way, Truth, and Life, just as He said…” Something prompted me to stop there. Anyway, Mom had started to nod off, a frequent occurrence as her tired body gradually wound down.
Exhale. Okay, Holy Spirit, you’re going to have to do something with my few loaves and fishes, here…
My mother had, of course, others “at work” in her life, others praying and “witnessing” to her in various ways. Throughout her life she had also played the organ and piano for occasions in non Catholic churches so she heard other sermons. She had non-Catholic, Christian friends she respected. She read widely. She was very intelligent. And although it was hard even for the best to best her when she launched into self- and RC-defense mode which took twists and turns that would soon tire even a hardcore devotee of nineteenth century prose, she did think about things.
And sometimes she got back to you about them.
If in careful words.
If after great length.
Not that she was necessarily open to debate about them. She just wanted you to know she had thought about them…
The day my mother died, by herself (which was her oft-repeated wish), she was sitting in her chair listening as usual to the Christian radio station playing hymns she always loved to sing to, many of which she had played on the piano for various events in various churches, and she simply stopped breathing. Her worn heart pumped one last time; her exhausted body stilled. Her Rosary slipped from her hands to the floor where it lay when the staff at her assisted living facility came to get her for dinner.
When I got the phone call, the Director, witness to many such scenes over the years, added to the sad news this comfort: “Your mother died peacefully. In fact, there was an incredible serenity in the room that we all felt.”
I can’t answer the obvious question: if she was still using sacramentals and reading her Catholic Daily Devotional and appearing in other ways to still belong to The Church, was she saved?
All I can say is that over the years, she came to forgive me (and several other siblings) for what, in her mind back then, was a huge transgression and for what she dreaded most for each of us: leaving the Roman Catholic Church which meant to her that we would be assigned to Hell for eternity.
Mom also read and listened to and thought about other teachings. She eventually came to accept that her non-Catholic Christian friends had a valid faith, and from time to time, in the middle of her own “Mom-style sermons” enhanced with whatever was on her mind at the moment, she declared her unwavering belief in God.
And she loved Jesus.
Even in the Roman Catholic Church, in the midst of all the pomp, circumstance, and “doctrinal embellishments” one learns there was a Son of Man, also the Son of God, who lived and died to be the sacrifice for our sins. The Catholics diverge from classic Christianity there to justify their works based system, but the essential truth remains.
So who knows, even after all those years steeped in Catholicism maybe Mom was really at the starting gate of salvation and, by grace, her last minutes on earth were in actuality her first minutes as a member of the Body of Christ.
Maybe our faith and trust in the power of God at work in her inner being took effect in ways we were simply not privy to.
Maybe after all her 86 years she was really, after all, an “eleventh hour” convert, or unbeknownst to us, a “ninth hour,” or even a “sixth hour” convert after having waded through as much as she could of the muck and mire of the only belief system in which she felt safe and protected from the nightmare of her home life, the trauma of her child’s psyche from which I think she never fully recovered and which in a sense bled into her children’s lives as well.
I don’t know.
But I decided to leave such a heady matter to the Holy Spirit, having genuinely “done all” I believe allotted me in my mother’s life, and grateful for the ministries of others’, too.
But there was something my sisters and I found in her effects that may provide a bit more insight into her true beliefs. At least we think so. And because there is much we will simply have to trust God about until that day when we, too, leave this existence for the next, it comforted us.
We found the following poem, creased and worn, that Mom had tucked in a stack of pictures and other mementos.
We included it in her obituary for the local press, and I include it here, for you.
I am home in Heaven, dear ones;
Oh, so happy and so bright!
There is perfect joy and beauty
In this everlasting light.
All the pain and grief is over,
Every restless tossing passed;
I am now at peace forever,
Safely home in Heaven at last.
Did you wonder I so calmly
Trod the valley of the shade?
Oh! But Jesus’ love illumined
Every dark and fearful glade.
And He came Himself to meet me
In that way so hard to tread;
And with Jesus’ arm to lean on,
Could I have one doubt or dread?
Then you must not grieve so sorely,
For I love you dearly still:
Try to look beyond earth’s shadows,
Pray to trust our Father’s Will.
There is work still waiting for you,
So you must not idly stand;
Do it now, while life remaineth—
You shall rest in Jesus’ land.
When that work is all completed,
He will gently call you Home;
Oh, the rapture of that meeting,
Oh, the joy to see you come!
PART 3: AN EXPOSITION
Out of the Fire
By Dale Rudiger
Are you a brand snatched out of the fire (Zech. 3:2)? To be rescued is the desperate need of every sinner. But many do not recognize the danger. It is my earnest plea that those deceived by Satan will escape Hell’s eternal punishment by fleeing to Christ. In this article, I will use stories from the 9/11 World Trade Center (WTC) timeline as analogies. I do this with some trepidation, knowing that memories of the attack are still vivid and troubling for many people. Please do not read too much into the analogies. I do not use them to question the intentions of WTC personnel or victims, nor to question the wisdom of any decisions made that day. The analogies are to demonstrate the serious consequences of our decisions and compare them to the consequences of religious deception.
There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, but God used one single chapter to snatch me out of the fire. I call it the “smoke detector” chapter of the Bible. It is Colossians 2. Paul gives specific warnings concerning Satan’s three powerful strategies. He tells us: “let no one delude you” (Col. 2:4); “let no one take you captive” (Col. 2:8); and “let no one defraud you, acting as your judge” (Col. 2:16). I will explain how these three warnings relate to Satan’s master plan, and how Satan’s plan impacts Catholics.
Paul’s Three Warnings
Warning #1: Let No One Delude You
Shortly after the first plane crashed into the North tower of the WTC, several P.A. announcements were made telling people it was safe; they should return to their offices. From 8:47 to 9:02 security officials at the base of the South Tower instructed people who had evacuated to head back up to their offices so as to avoid those evacuating the North Tower. Stanley Praimnath was persuaded and returned to his office on the 81st floor. He arrived at 9:01. At his desk, he watched as the second plane angled into the South Tower at 9:03. The wing of the aircraft tore through the 81st floor. The safety of the South Tower was an illusion. Many victims in both Towers had a false sense of security. No one thought a second plane would hit. No one thought the Towers would fall.
Having declared the abundant treasure found in the person and work of Christ, Paul warns us in Col. 2:4: “I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument.” I am convinced that this warning is particularly applicable to four persuasive claims of the Catholic religion:
- Rome teaches that she is the One True Church outside of which there is no salvation. The Catholic is persuaded “not to leave the building” – the safety of the Roman Catholic Church.
- Rome claims to be the only Church that has the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus, in the sacrifice of the Mass.
- Rome proclaims that the Pope is the only infallible interpreter of God’s word; he is Christ on earth (Catechism of the Catholic Church – CCC 882).
- Rome claims that only her priests (acting as alter christus) are able to absolve Catholics of their sins. Salvation is through the Church’s sacraments.
These are powerful and attractive claims. Who wouldn’t want to belong to Christ’s true Church? Who wouldn’t want to receive the physical Christ? Who wouldn’t want certainty of doctrine? Who wouldn’t want the forgiveness that leads to heaven? The trouble is these Catholic claims are false, unbiblical and dangerous, as we shall see.
Warning #2: See to it that No One Takes You Captive
Brian Clark was at his brokerage firm on the 84th floor of the South Tower when Flight 175 crashed several floors below his office. Given emergency training and supplied with a flashlight after the 1993 WTC bombing, Clark gathered seven colleagues and started down Stairway A. [This was the only staircase that remained intact from top to bottom]. Reaching the 81st floor, they encountered two people who were going up the stairwell to get to the roof to avoid the smoke and get fresh air. They claimed that the stairwell below them was impassable. While the group debated their next move, Clark heard a cry for help near the stairwell. Mr. Clark left the stairwell to free Stanley Praimnath who was trapped behind a wall under fallen debris. Returning to the stairwell, they were alone. The others had already ascended toward the roof. Clark and Praimnath chose to descend the stairs. They were two of only four people to survive who were at or above the impact zone. Those who went up to higher floors to escape the fire and smoke perished. Going up, they were trapped by the fire, with no means of escape.
In Col. 2:8, the Apostle Paul warns: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary spirits of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Rome teaches that Catholics are to seek other mediators beside Jesus. Supposedly these mediators provide spiritual assistance so that Catholics may achieve salvation. Foremost is the Catholic Mary, who is considered the Co-Mediatrix of salvation: “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation.” (CCC 969). Instead of fleeing to Christ alone for salvation, Catholics are instructed to “flee to the higher floors” where Mary, the Saints, the Pope, and the priests reside. They are taken captive (trapped) by these “elemental spirits.” Christ, the only way out, is hidden from them. They head in the wrong direction and fail to “exit the building,” and find salvation “outside the camp where Christ is” (Heb. 13:13). “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).
Warning #3: No One is to Defraud You by Acting as Your Judge
Almost 2,000 years ago, another tower located in the south end of a great city collapsed. This occurred in the city of Jerusalem. The Tower of Siloam fell. Jesus spoke of this tragedy to drive home a critical issue concerning salvation. He said, “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5). The scribes and Pharisees, leaders of the Jews, committed two evils. They focused on externals, and they ignored internals. They added man-made traditions, and judged the people based on their obedience to these traditions. They subtracted the weightier issue, the condition of the heart. Unless a man’s heart is changed, he will not repent, and will not see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3; Acts 11:18). Jesus confronted the Jewish leaders, saying: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also” (Mt. 23:25).
Paul’s third warning: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day – things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels [Veneration of Saints?], taking his stand on visions [Marian Apparitions?] he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the head…Why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’ (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) – in accordance with the commandments and teaching of men?” (Col. 2:16-22).
Rome dilutes (actually, negates) the saving gospel of Jesus Christ by adding man-made traditions, such as mandatory fasts and Holy Days of Obligation. Catholics are promised that if they obey the Church’s five precepts, they will accomplish the “indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort” (CCC 2041-2043). By declaring salvation through meeting five external requirements, Rome defrauds Catholics by subtracting what is truly necessary to receive salvation. They omit the righteousness of Christ that is received through repentance and faith. They are told that salvation is through habitually “doing penance,” a form of self abasement.
Paul concludes Colossians 2 as follows: “These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.” (Col. 2:24). Self-discipline and adherence to rules and ceremonies (as a means of salvation) provide no refuge from the “flames of passion.” To the contrary, legalism tends to fan the flames of sin. For the law was given to accentuate sin, that we might recognize our need and flee to Christ (Gal. 3:19; Rom. 10:5-10). Through repentance and faith, we become “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17). The inside of our cup is cleaned, and we show our gratitude by following Christ.
Though we deserve an eternal fate no better than those who died in the collapse of Siloam, we receive mercy. Jesus told the legalistic Pharisees to “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice, for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt. 9:13).
The Strategies of Satan
Here are the strategies that Satan employs to keep people out of heaven and in the domain of eternal fire. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Therefore, Satan seeks to:
1) Replace the way (gospel), the truth (Scripture) and the life (church) through delusion,
2) Hide the way, the truth, and the life through deception, and
3) Dilute the way, the truth and the life through fraudulent addition and subtraction.
Satan has produced a masterpiece that does all nine (3×3) of these – the Roman Catholic religion.
1) Jesus (the Way) is replaced by a piece of bread; He is replaced by the priest (alter Christus); and He is replaced by the Pope (Vicar of Christ).
2) Jesus is hidden behind many mediators (Pope, priest, Mary, Saints, Church, Sacraments).
3) The gospel is diluted by the addition of works and ceremonies.
4) The truth (Jesus, the Word) is replaced by an infallible Magisterium, the teaching authority that subjugates the conscience of the Catholic.
5) The truth is hidden by convincing Catholics that only Rome can correctly interpret the meaning of Scripture. Historically, the Church placed the Bible on the “Index of Forbidden Books, withholding it from the laity.
6) The truth is diluted by a second source of revelation, known as “Holy Tradition.”
7) The life of Jesus (His body, the Church) is replaced by an institution claiming to be the One, True Church.
8) The church is hidden through deception. Rome claims a false apostolic authority, supported by forgeries (False Decretals) and improper interpretations based on the so-called “Church Fathers.” Historically, it was considered a “mortal sin” for a Catholic to even enter a Protestant church.
9) Rome dilutes the church by claiming that Jews, Muslims, Separated Brethren, Hindus, and even sincere atheists are mystically added to her saving barque (CCC 836-845). And she subtracts true Christians, former Catholics who have left her fold (CCC 846).
The Roman Catholic Church is truly a “Synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 3:9). Satan is the Antichrist (replacer), the Deceiver (hider of truth), the Father of Lies (adder), and the Thief (subtracter). Satan wants to fraudulently steal the deed to your eternity. He will accomplish this by keeping you from Jesus. I urge you to consider the question, “Where is Jesus?” Paul answers this question in Col. 3:1 – he is “seated at the right hand of God.” Jesus warns, “Enter through the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mt. 7:13-14). Jesus is this gate. You must “flee the building,” the broad way of false religion, and enter through Him. Christians are warned to flee idolatry. Catholicism is a religion of idolatry.
Urgent Action is Necessary
Neither Brian Clark nor Stanley Praimnath thought that the towers would collapse. They did not have a sense of urgency. Arriving on the 31st floor, they found some working telephones. They both made personal calls, and then Brian waited over three minutes on 911 to report a medical emergency on the 44th floor. When they finally exited the Tower, rescue workers advised them to run to avoid falling debris. When they had gotten about two blocks away, they found shelter near Trinity Church. Suddenly, Praimnath turned to Clark and said “I think the towers are going to collapse.” Clark started to argue otherwise when he turned and witnessed the horrific implosion of the South Tower.
My friend, your time may be running short. (1) You do not know the day of your death. You could be facing an eternity in hell much sooner than you think. (2) You may become hardened in your sin, and may lose any interest in seeking the Savior. My Catholic father, grieved by his sinful behaviors and his failure to measure up to his religion, gave in to hopelessness. (3) The Lord promises to return in judgment, on a day known only by the Father. A voice from Heaven shouts: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive her plagues…she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong” (Rev. 18:4, 8). The Roman Catholic religion is destined to fall. “Her smoke will rise up forever and ever” (Rev. 19:3). Please do not continue to let Satan and Catholicism hide Jesus from You! Flee to the Savior while there is still time!
The Heroes of 9/11 – A Type of Christ
We celebrate the heroism of the police and fireman who sacrificed their lives on 9/11. These heroes may be seen as a “type of Christ.” They gave their lives to save others. Similarly, Jesus willingly laid down his life for His sheep. The Port Authority police stayed at their posts and finished their work unto death. Jesus stayed attached to His post, and cried out “It is finished.”
We all have a sin problem. We all need to be rescued from the building. Unless we repent, we will all perish. We must be carried to safety in the arms of the Eternal Fireman. Jesus endured the fiery hell of God’s wrath on the cross as our substitute. Through faith in Him, we receive the flame-proof garments of his righteousness. Satan stands to accuse us – for our filthy clothing testifies against us. But Jesus rebukes Satan, and orders that our filthy garments be replaced by His festal robes (Zech. 3:1-5). Our iniquity is taken away, and replaced with Christ’s righteousness. What should be our response? As a nation, we are grateful for the courageous acts of the first responders. As Christians, much more should we display gratitude for the saving acts of Jesus. He grants forgiveness of sin by His sacrificial death. He grants righteousness through His sinless, resurrected life.
We need a hero, because no one is able to span the infinite distance from earth to heaven. Our sin separates us. I leave you with lyrics from the Point of Grace song The Great Divide:
There’s a bridge to cross the great divide
A way was made to reach the other side
The mercy of the Father, cost His son His life
His love is deep, His love is wide
There’s a cross to bridge the great divide
Postscript: A Word to My Fellow Evangelicals, Especially Former Catholics
Listening to the miraculous personal testimony of Brian Clark, I could not help seeing him as a “type of Christian.” Before proceeding, please watch Brian’s testimony here: http://youtu.be/IrqelRFpyXc?t=3m51s
The Marks of the Christian Evangelist
- Brian, a volunteer fire marshal, was equipped to save people from disaster. As Christians, we are equipped with the gospel of salvation.
- Brian was guided to the correct stairway. As Christians, we receive the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit.
- When Brian was stopped on the 81st floor, Stanley noticed his flashlight. This caused him to cry for help. As Christians, our light should so shine that we are noticed, that it “gives light to all who are in the house” (Mt. 5:15).
- Brian was compelled to seek out Stanley and rescue him. As Christians, we are compelled to represent Christ and rescue sinners with the gospel.
- Brian was miraculously protected when he went in to find Stanley. As Christians, we are protected during fiery trials by the helmet of salvation.
- When Brian pulled Stanley out of the rubble, Stanley was overcome with gratitude. He cried out, “Hallelujah, I’ve been saved!” As Christians, we share in the joy of the salvation of the lost.
- Stanley then cried out, “We’ll be brothers for life!” At this point, Brian noticed that both he and Stanley had wounds on the palm of their hands. He grabbed Stanley’s hand, pressed it to his, and said, “In fact, we’ll be blood brothers for life.” As Christians, those who receive the gospel truly become our blood brothers. “For henceforth let no one bother me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus” (Gal. 6:17).
- The meeting of Brian and Stanley was providential. As Christians sharing the gospel, we are to be on the lookout for “divine appointments.”
- Brian still needed to lead Stanley out of the burning building. As Christians, we are to lead immature believers out of false religion and into the pure air of true worship.
- Brian eventually led Stanley to the shelter of a church. As Christians, it is our responsibility to help establish those we evangelize by discipling them and baptizing them into the local church.
- Throughout the trial, Brian was protected by a strange peace. When enduring trials, Christians receive the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, which guides our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).
- Looking back on his experience, Brian realized that he should not ask unanswerable questions, such as “Why me?” As Christians, we do one thing: we press on, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:13).
As “found sinners” we are responsible for reaching out to those who are in bondage to false religion. We must be ready to warn the deceived and to overcome their objections. On the 81st floor, Brian encountered a large woman who blocked the stairwell. She claimed the way out was blocked, and urged Brian to join her by going up to the roof. Hearing this part of Brian’s testimony made me consider how difficult it is for Catholics to overcome the persuasive pull of their religion. Besides theological issues, there are the cultural and family connections which keep Catholics in bondage. And there are false ecumenical teachers who seek communion with Catholicism, thereby leading astray both Catholics and unwary evangelicals.
We live in treacherous times. It appears that we are in the midst of apostasy. But God has His elect who will be saved from Satan’s darkness and brought into the light of Christ. May we be bold in seeking them out and leading them to the Savior!