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The Quest for Faith
A Roman Catholic Struggles

By Eric Barger

It is now approaching midnight on the first Friday night in March 2000. I spent the bigger part of today with a good brother from our local church getting acquainted with and counseling a young husband and father concerning his faith and his long-time membership in the Roman Catholic Church.

First, I am not an expert on Catholicism. I have however, looked at the doctrines, investigated the rituals and history and examined the fruit as it relates to lives and above all, to eternity. Can a person go to Heaven by simply being a member of the church and following what it teaches?

In times past, I have steered away from being too derogatory on the subject mostly because I admittedly have not made it a centerpiece of discussion in our ministry. But I have firmly believed that no matter how heralded by man the Catholic Church must pass the test of Scripture or be abandoned as nothing more than worldly religion. The same goes for any and all churches, denominations or religions.

Lest anyone think that I have merely decided to bash the Catholic Church think again. I have been equally adamant about the destructiveness of liberalism within certain Methodist and Presbyterian groups as well. And, since I have been a member of both of those denominations it stands to reason that I am not promoting any specific church by what I am about to say here. This discussion is about seeking the truth and jettisoning unscriptural doctrines, rituals and traditions. So with that said, let me just share with you what happened today.

My new friend (I’ll call him Gary) told us that he had visited a good Bible-believing church when living in another Texas city. At one time, he answered the invitation at a service and had prayed to accept the Lord Jesus as his personal savior. But, things haven’t gone too easy since. Gary comes from an RC background and so does his wife and her family. Though he had been investigating the life of Jesus and reading the Bible he had continued to attend an RC church. But now, the contradictions between Catholic doctrine and practices and the light of God’s Word have begun to wear on Gary.

From our talk today it is obvious that he is increasingly disturbed by many things he has been taught all of his life such as the position of dual savior ascribed to the Virgin Mary by the Catholic Church. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that there is but one bridge to God – the Son, Jesus Christ. (I Tim. 2:5 ) As we talked, I mentioned the things that have troubled me as well about Catholicism, in particular the extra-biblical doctrines and lack of emphasis on salvation through Jesus’ blood. I also mentioned that historically when the RC church had "evangelized" a region they had integrated the customs and religions of a country into the church – no matter how occultic or unscriptural. Instead of preaching the truth and seeing captives set free from the bondage of the occult, it was merely accepted and woven into the fabric of local Catholicism. This practice continues to this day.

None of this discussion or what my friend from church and I said to Gary should be construed as hateful or malicious toward the people in the Catholic Church. I also recognize that recently there has been a movement within the church that has produced apparently born-again fruit. Through primarily a charismatic movement within Catholicism, small groups hungering for truth and peace have studied the Bible and been led by the Holy Spirit to the water of life. This is what has happened to Gary. He went seeking the truth that will surely set men free. (John 8:32) While this is wonderful, it is questionable and yes, mystifying that so many of these folks who indeed do meet the Lord personally still remain a part of a system that is itself incapable of being a lighthouse for salvation. Again, it MUST be said that the customs, rituals and the traditions of man CANNOT save you. Religion CANNOT save us. Only Jesus, his blood and our hearts turned to Him in repentance can cleanse us from our sins and save us. Going to mass or confession can’t do it. Certainly praying to Mary does nothing to alleviate our sinful state. Honoring the Pope as God’s only spokesman can’t heal a wounded heart – only Jesus! I told Gary something that he already knew – if any practice, ritual or tradition becomes doctrine it had better be found in Scripture or be abolished. If a man realize he is entrenched in a worthless system that actual robs souls of Heaven’s glory – while claiming to be the ONLY path to get there - it must be abandoned! I would say the same to any person from any church or religion.

I realize that what I’ve said here are fighting words to many Catholics – but they are true. How many millions die believing that religion can save them? What a tragedy that so many then stand horrified before God, having never previously examined their religion by the light of God's wonderful Word to see if it is truly "the way"!

I warned Gary that many times I have seen folks lost in the cults deterred from careful and methodical study to see if their belief system is indeed sound or not. The history of our lives, our deep ties with friends and family and the accompanying pressures of religious systems themselves often rob us from an honest critique of what we believe and what is truth. We humans are sometimes neglectful of being good Bereans (those who search out the Word of God) as Scripture emplores us to be. (Acts 17:10-11) Blindly we follow what we’ve been taught generation after generation, instead of researching for ourselves whether what we’ve learned is indeed from Heaven or from men.

I saw in Gary’s eyes the desire to serve the one and only living Savior – Jesus Christ. I saw that he was well on his way to realizing that the Catholic system could never cleanse his heart and bring him peace. I also saw first hand the struggle of a young husband and father as his mind flooded with the possibilities of the troublesome path he will have to follow as first he prays and then leads his family out of the RC church. Right now, he stands alone – just he and Jesus. But he has the truth on his side and when we stand with Jesus, we ARE a majority – no matter what the odds may appear! Still, for Gary there is much work and struggle ahead as his wife, her parents and also his do not yet see that the works of man can never save. But Gary has tasted and seen that Ephesians 2:8-9 is light in darkness to a Catholic, a Mormon, a Hindu.

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast."

I told Gary that I believed that the Spirit of God was leading him out of a worldly religion. Once again, I would have said the same to anyone caught in a trap based on "works salvation" - no matter what it’s name. Just as Ephesians 2:10 continues:

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

It is NOT our good works – our actions or deeds, our church membership, our attendance to mass, our kindness or our intentions that save us. Christians don’t work to get saved. We work because we are saved!

Though I know there are many in Catholicism who would claim they have a personal relationship with Jesus, reality dictates that the Catholic system itself beckons people to trust in it as a kind of distributor of salvation. However, upon awaking to Scriptural truth, how can we continue in any system of religious ritual that fails so miserably at saving participants from their sins? (see John 3:3-7, Romans 10:9-10) To follow Jesus alone is the answer – not the systems of man.

Thanks very much for praying for Gary, his wife and his family during these days.

Read: "My Final Word on Religion"

copyright 2000, Eric Barger

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