Throwback Thursday: Religion or Jesus? – A tale of two friends

For today’s “Throwback Thursday” installment, we’re going to revisit a slightly re-edited post that was first published on July 15, 2015:

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The gospel preached by the Catholic church is VERY different from the Good News! Gospel of Bible Christianity. Let’s use a couple of hypothetical old friends, Nick and Bill, to illustrate:

Nick is a devout Catholic. He was baptized into the church as an infant and attended Catholic grammar school where he listened attentively to the nuns and priests. In first grade, he made his first confession and received his first communion. When he was in fifth grade, he was confirmed. Nick grew up to be a very religious man. When he was twenty-years-old, he resolved that he would attend mass daily and receive communion. He also resolved to go to confession every Saturday and ask forgiveness for his “mortal” and even his “venial” sins. Nick is very proud of the fact that he kept up this religious routine for fifty years.

Now let’s take a look at Bill. Bill was also raised as a Catholic. Like Nick, he was also baptized as an infant and was introduced to the sacraments of reconciliation and the eucharist and attended mass regularly growing up. But when Bill was twenty, he felt like there had to be more to it than the ritual and constant striving so he bought himself a Bible and began reading the New Testament. He began to understand that he wasn’t a sinner because he sinned, like the Catholic church had taught him, but he came to realize that he sinned because he was a sinner. Huge difference! It was a radical realization!

The message of the Bible was different than from what Bill had learned in the Catholic church. The priests and nuns had taught him that by obeying the Ten Commandments and the rules of the Catholic church he would hopefully be justified before God and merit Heaven. But the Bible said there are none who are “good.” There is no one who can possibly obey the Ten Commandments in thought, word, and deed, except for One.

“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12 

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20 

Bill had heard about Jesus for many years, but for the first time he really began to comprehend that God sent a Rescuer, a Savior, Jesus Christ, God the Son, into the world to be the atoning sacrifice for his sins. Although Catholics call Jesus the “Savior” they don’t think that they actually need to be saved.

“I have not come to call the [self] righteous, but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 

“For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.” Romans 10:2-4 

“For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:21 

Bill understood that becoming a Christian wasn’t a matter of baptism, church membership, receiving the sacraments, or being “good.” Rather, becoming a Christian meant acknowledging one’s sinfulness before God, repenting of sin, and accepting Jesus Christ, God the Son, as Savior by faith alone. Bill humbly prayed to Jesus Christ and accepted Him as his Savior and was spiritually reborn for the first time. He realized that “good” works weren’t the means to salvation, they were the fruit of his relationship with Christ.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10.

Bill walked with the Lord for many years and often shared the Good News! with his friend, Nick, but Nick’s loyalty to his religion was the most important thing in his life and he could not imagine life without it.

Bill died unexpectedly of a heart attack on his 68th birthday. At the very moment of his physical death, he joyously joined his Lord and the other saints in Heaven, not because of his religion or “good” works, but only because of the imputed, perfect righteousness of his Savior, Jesus Christ.

“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” – Philippians 3:9

A few days after his 70th birthday, Nick was on his way to morning mass when he happened to notice a very attractive young woman walking ahead of him who was dressed in a rather revealing outfit. For just a few short moments, the old gentleman lusted heartily after the young woman and didn’t notice the approaching car as he crossed the street. Nick, a devout Catholic for his entire long life, was hit by the car and died with the “mortal” sin of adultery on his soul (Matthew 5:28). Even after fifty years of daily mass attendance, he would have to spend eternity in Hell according to the Catholic theology because he did not die in a “state of grace.” Catholics are taught they must constantly sustain themselves in a “state of grace” through participating in the sacraments and through good works and “avoiding” sin. Most Catholics, if they’re honest, will acknowledge they haven’t been entirely “good” so they’re hoping they get the chance to wipe the slate clean by receiving the sacrament of Last Rites/Extreme Unction immediately before they die.

Nick died in his sin of adultery and all of his other sins and went to Hell for eternity because he was trusting in his religion’s sacraments and his own “good works” rather than repenting of his sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone as his friend, Bill, had done.

Which path are you on? The path of legalistic religion and attempting to merit your own salvation or God’s ordained path of salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

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13 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Religion or Jesus? – A tale of two friends

  1. Thank you, Tom. How sad. Nick was one of the multitudes that live in the path of destruction. To follow Christ, and Him only, requires more than our practices of religion. He must be the ruling priest in our hearts and lives. Blessings as you continue to follow closely.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Which path am I on? God’s ordained path of salvation by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

    I like the way you put this:

    “…he wasn’t a sinner because he sinned, like the Catholic church had taught him, but he came to realize that he sinned because he was a sinner. ”

    Too often, people debate about what is considered “a sin”, when the whole point is missed, that being that we are all sinners. We all miss the mark of God’s perfect standard. We are born separated from God, and so the concern should not be “is this a sin?” or “is that a sin?” but rather “how do we get to a state of NOT being separated from God?”

    The answer is almost too easy for people to accept: “The way to be reconnected with God is by believing that Jesus came and did exactly what the prophecies foretold: born of a virgin, died on the cross as a sacrifice for our sin, and was resurrected.”

    With so many prophecies about Him all coming to pass, the odds of it being mere coincidence are too astronomical to consider. I urge any readers of this comment to look into all the prophecies about Jesus that were given in the Bible and see how they line up with what happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your good comments and praise God for your salvation in Christ!

      RE: “…he wasn’t a sinner because he sinned, like the Catholic church had taught him, but he came to realize that he sinned because he was a sinner. ”

      I remember right after I published the original post, a Catholic sent in a comment saying in regards to that quote that they could not for the life of them see the distinction, which is the crux of their spiritual blindness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How sad for that person being spiritually blind. I know a few people like that. It is painful to know they are lost, like Nick in your post was. It hurts to see them unsure about whether or not they will even make it to heaven, even though they think their teachings are the way.

        Liked by 1 person

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