Yesterday, I was listening to Catholic talk radio and I heard a phrase that’s quite common within Catholicism: “He’s (or she’s) a good Catholic.”
What is meant by a good Catholic? A good Catholic is someone who obeys all of their church’s requirements. They go to mass and receive the eucharist every Sunday and the holy days of obligation. They go to confession regularly. They are able to recite all of the prescribed prayers by memory. They don’t eat meat on Lenten Fridays. They were married in the church and their spouse is probably Catholic also. Their children were all baptized as infants and if they’re unable to send them to expensive Catholic schools they at least make sure they attend CCD/CCE classes. There’s usually more than a few sacramentals (blessed statues, rosaries, candles, palm fronds, etc.) situated around their home.
Catholics use the term, “good Catholic,” to distinguish practicing members from the majority, non-practicing members who only show up at church for weddings, funerals, Christmas, and Easter; otherwise known as “cultural” or “cafeteria” Catholics.
Calling someone a “good Catholic” is congruent with Catholic belief. Roman Catholicism teaches salvation comes through grace dispensed through its sacraments which enables the partaker to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules so they can merit their way to Heaven. So Catholics who follow the rules are “good” and those who don’t are “bad” or more graciously referred to as “lapsed.” Catholics generally believe that “good” people, good Catholics and good non-Catholics, will merit Heaven.
How does all of this compare with Biblical evangelical Christianity? Do we call someone a “good” Christian? Well, that seems a bit incongruous, doesn’t it? A Christian is someone who realizes they are not good; that they are a sinner in need of the Savior, Jesus Christ. After they have accepted Jesus as Savior, a Christian understands that any goodness they possess is from the Lord. There is no good in my flesh. Any good I do is from God. I am not good. I am saved by Jesus Christ.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.'” – Luke 18:19
But now I try to please and obey Him because He saved me. My faith is in Jesus Christ and His perfect, imputed righteousness, not in my own sorry efforts.
Catholic friend, you cannot merit your salvation. None of us are good. Only God is good. We all deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus Christ, God the Son, lived a perfect life and died on the cross to pay for your sins. But He rose from the grave, conquering sin and death, and offers eternal life and fellowship with God to all who accept Him as Savior by faith. Repent of your sins and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that teaches God’s Word without compromise.
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” – Romans 7:18-25