THE LOVE OF JESUS
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic. My
family and friends are Catholic parishioners from the Northeast section of the
United States. To be honest, as a whole, the experience of growing up in a
Catholic environment was enjoyable. We went to Mass on most Sundays and I
eventually married a Catholic girl. Even beyond this, my ties with the Catholic
Church were evident. I attended a large Catholic university where I studied for
a doctorate in a non-religious field of study. My wife and I were loyal
parishioners of a large church and donated money to help it through the fallout
of the priest abuse scandal. I regularly prayed the Rosary, and even joined a
Rosary prayer chain with thousands of other devout Catholics.
Then, something happened. I began to read
the Christian author Max Lucado. His words directed me to really take a good
look at the Bible. As I read and prayerfully studied the Bible, and researched
the official views of the Roman Catholic Church, especially the Canon Law, I
began to grow more and more apprehensive. Was I after a different God than other
Christians? Did I really understand who God was as He revealed Himself to us?
Unfortunately, the answer was an astounding
"No". As God started to reveal (or I should say, as I started to pay attention
to God revelation of) Himself, I realized the God who created the world and who
created us in His likeness, was not the same God I was serving in the Catholic
Funny, I was a Catholic for 26 years, and I
needed to be introduced to Jesus! As I studied the Gospel of John, Romans,
Ephesians and, ironically, James, my stomach was turning. All along my life I
had missed the Gospel message! I came to understand that God is loving and
gracious beyond my greatest comprehension. That love seeps out in the words,
actions and wounds of Jesus Christ. No wonder they call him the Savior!
I remember getting on my knees, and
tearfully pleading with God to cleanse me of my sins, putting my complete trust
and love in Jesus, and asking to be sealed with the Holy Spirit. Now I know that
I am secure in the hands of God, and nothing will be able to separate me (and
us) from our salvation through our faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 9:38-39).
There was no better advice that I got from
Scripture than, "seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to
you" (Luke 11:9-10). These words ring so true. In our sorrow for sin, if we just
truly call on the name of the Lord, He will show Himself to us (Romans 10:13).
God does not lie or trick, or turn away; He is not the author of confusion or
contradiction (1 Corinthians 14:33). If we put our trust in Him, we will never
be disappointed (Romans 3:22; John 12:46).
I can always rest assured that I am saved
through faith in Jesus (John 11:15; John 6:47; Acts 13:38-39). Since I know
this, God has allowed me to be a much more fruit-producing believer. So many
Catholics are trapped in a belief system where they need to earn their
salvation. I truly believe God will forgive them for this so long as they have
faith in the Son. But believe me when I say this: You will waste the opportunity
to bear fruit, to witness for Christ and to pay back love with love, if you
remain in doubt about Godís grace and love.
Forget about man-made sacraments, penance
and prayers addressed to departed saints rather than to God. Forget everything
except the Scripture, the revelation of God to us. Paul tells us, even if they
(the apostles) or angels appear and preach a different Gospel, we are to reject
it (Galatians 1). So I plead with you to hear, maybe for the first time, the
true Gospel message as summed up in a Letter of John to Christians who were
wondering if they were saved or not.
"If we have faith in God's Son, we have
believed what God has said. But if we don't believe what God has said about his
Son, it is the same as calling God a liar. God has also said that he gave us
eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. And so, if we have
God's Son, we have this life. But if we don't have the Son, we don't have this
life" (I John 5: 10-12 CEV).