(Put your seatbelt on, here. This ride is a little bumpy at first.)
According to my careful Roman Catholic upbringing, topic, “sin,” there are the seven deadlies to watch out for, the eight horribles, the nine disgustings, and probably 24,239 other uncategorized yet equally nasty things we do.
Well, actually, although I was carefully reared only on the Official Batch (7 count), I threw in the other possibilities because You Just Never Know.
There could be some “sin of omission or commission” or remission or submission the Sin Meisters missed despite all their good intentions, here on this fretful plain the other side of all knowledge and walled with dark glass…
But back to the Infamous Seven, themselves, alone, enough to get you into serious trouble.
I was further taught, long ago, to add them all up (and variations thereof) every night in an “examination of conscience” just before trying to go to sleep so that I had an honest list ready for Confession next Saturday.
This, I was told, was needed lest I, God forbid, forget one of them (sloth, gluttony, pride, lust, wrath, greed, envy, not necessarily in that order) and then commit the Mother of All Sins, “A Bad Confession,” which would negate the whole confession-kit-and-caboodle and land me straight into Aich E Double El, no passing Go no collecting any more indulgences, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa (ad infinitum) (literally).
Which fiery destination, as I look back, was actually due me because I was required to start my confession prayer with a lie. At least for me, the sinning kid, it was a lie.
And I knew it.
You see, according to the script I had to repeat, verbatim, to the priest hiding his face behind the little black curtain in that gloomy, doomy confessional, sorrow for my sins was supposed to have been “most of all” because I offended God, Who was “deserving of all my love,” not most of all because of the fire, aka, “just punishments” .
But the reason I REALLY submitted to the nightly nightmare of sin-tallies (when I didn’t forget or purposefully avoid) and the humiliation of confessing my worst behaviors to a Complete and Powerful Stranger was (insert smell of sulfur and brimstone, here), the fire.
Too much kid-imagination, too little self control…
(Okay, you can now loosen your seat belts and move freely about your psyche. Especially you former Catholics.)
What brings this all to the fore is the genuine, this time, reminder to mind ourselves as we “traverse this vale of tears” (I’ll stop the R. C. riffing soon, I promise), because when we stray off the path God engineered for our success (it’s all in the Instructional Manual), that’s where trouble begins. And there is legitimate fear, there!
Think of it: one wouldn’t ignore any other instructional manual and expect good results!
But you see, as a kid I had learned only one side of that dreadful fear coin, if you will, one definition of the term, as in: “panic or stress caused by exposure to danger, expectation of pain, etc.” (Oxford Dictionary, emphasis, shudder, mine).
As I poured over my sorry list of bads, “mortal” first (the fast lane south), then “venial” (not necessarily a one-way ticket), I was ever mindful of the potential for pain. And I learned that it was entirely up to me to pay for all the categories, hierarchies, gradations, and pages-full of sins I was wont to commit, even if the Man in the Black Box forgave me.
Now, Jesus Christ had something to do with it, too, I gleaned in the lessons on sin in religion class, but the fire, the payment plan, if you will, seemed to be all up to me.
There were indulgences I could earn to reduce the sentence, but as one was never sure how much time a given sin required for purgation (six weeks? A decade? Five millennia?) I made sure to memorize the list.
At least until I realized that in that system, the whole thing was impossible (see previous entries on this topic series for more of the story).
Okay. Back to the future, and shoulders lowering from ears.
I keep a completely different “list,” these days, this one scripted on my heart, a tally I have kept these near forty-one years since my salvation. And even now, I make another entry, the same one I always make, of thanksgiving (all caps, big, bold font) for the truth of the matter. Two truths, actually, related to all this pain and fire and accountability:
Truth # 1: the “expectation of permanent pain” as it applies to The Pit is not something that comes and goes based on types of sin, “good or bad confessions,” and the opinion of The One Behind the Curtain. It is something we freely choose by disavowing the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for our sins when we reject Him Who came to the planet, in the flesh, and voluntarily took the payment for all our sins on the cross thus satisfying the penalty for them—for us. (see John 3:16, for starters).
Pause for a moment, here, and consider: as I continue to work on this post which I began yesterday, I recall a dream I had last night. In this dream I found myself in the pediatric ward of some hospital. A little girl, unknown to me, came up and wanted me to pick her up and hold her on my lap. I lifted her up carefully, mindful of her fragile form, and I was swept with love for her as I wrapped her up in my arms and held her until I woke up. Who was she? Well, what do you think?
And He continues to “restore the years that the locust has eaten…” (Joel 2:25).
And I say, once again, ”THANK YOU.”
Truth # 2: the expanded meaning of “fear,” besides fear of the ultimate destination resulting from our choice, includes the following: “to stand in awe of, to reverence, honour, respect, and to cause astonishment” .
Consider just a few of the countless applications of these meanings gracing the scope and sequence of our redemptive experience:
- “You who fear him, trust in the LORD– he is their help and shield”(Psalm 115:11, NIV).
- “But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children…” (Psalm 103:17).
- “Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who finds great delight in his commands” (Psalm 112:1).
- “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7, KJV).
- “And his mercy [is] on them that fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
- “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD [men] depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:6).
(Hmmmmm, come to think of it, maybe that’s where the real concept of “Purgatory” comes from, read, the “purgation” of “iniquity” comes not in “Hell, Junior” but stems from mercy and truth…)
I hesitate to stop the listing here, and the selection of representative scriptures was difficult, but I don’t want this post to be so long that reading it becomes like a penance (sorry, just that one more, for old times’ sake). For more complete lists, see , below.
And so, why do I now, today, tramp back to my R.C., B.C. days to “fear,” of all topics? Here’s why.
Lately, The Remnant is faithfully reminding us about the need for remembering Who we Really Are, as in, “in the world but not of it,” as prophecies align and hearts darken, not to mention the need to stay spiritually focused as we near the eschatological tipping point when the Anti-Christ will have come as close as he will ever come in an attempt to overtake the real Christ.
And although Jesus paid the price for our sins. All of them. That one time. On the cross. There remains consequences for ignoring the Manual, for pain that we should fear in the classic sense of the term, whether in crises or in the everyday.
Some also note the distress of acknowledging what we “lost” when we face Jesus at the Bema Seat of Judgment (search-engine it).
But to the here and now, I refer to the heartache of the loss of wisdom, knowledge, and protection (for us and our children) that results when we go off course, ignore God’s lead, and render Judeo-Christianity all stuff and nonsense, myth and legend.
Particularly because if you track the signs of the times with open hearts and minds they strongly suggest He is returning very, very soon…
So, for new and future times’ sakes, I encourage you to stay in the Word.
But most of all, for your sake and the sake of your loved ones, stay close to Him.
 Act of Contrition / Actus Contritionis:
“O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who art all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more and avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.” http://www.fisheaters.com/prayers.html#)
 For a more complete list of Scriptures on the many aspects and benefits of “fear”:
Photo from the public domain.