Throwback Thursday: Watch Your Teaching! A warning from 49 years ago that was ignored by many

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 19, 2016 and has been revised.

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Watch Your Teaching!: A Comparative Study of Roman Catholic and Protestant Teaching Since Vatican Council II
By Stuart P. Garver
Christ’s Mission, 1973, 167 pages

5 Stars

If you are/were a Roman Catholic born during the 1950s or earlier, you can certainly remember the dramatic surface changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Pope John XXIII initiated the council to “open the windows (of the church) and let in some fresh air” of reform. Some of the alterations introduced by the council that I remember the most included the change of the liturgy of the mass from Latin to English, the priest facing the people during the mass instead of the altar, nuns’ habits (outfits) being modernized, the lifting of the ban on meat on non-Lenten Fridays, and some familiar saints being scrubbed from the church’s calendar. But perhaps the most significant change was the church’s switch from its confrontational approach to Protestantism and to the other religions of the world. After the council, Catholicism would take an ecumenical/interreligious approach, especially with Protestants, with the aim of eventually recovering the “separated brethren.”

In this book, published in 1973, Stuart Garver, director of Christ’s Mission, a ministry to Roman Catholics, evaluates Catholicism in light of the reforms of Vatican II. His conclusion: despite the many superfluous changes to its window dressing, Catholicism’s erroneous doctrines remained largely intact. Most importantly, Rome’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit continued just as before. In the chapters listed below, Garver compares the beliefs of post-Vatican II Catholicism with Biblical Christianity:

  1. The Church
  2. The New People of God (Clergy and Laity)
  3. The Pope
  4. The Priest and the Priesthood
  5. The Sacraments
  6. The Mass
  7. Penance
  8. The Rule of Faith and Practice
  9. Mary
  10. Mixed marriages
  11. Ecumenism
  12. Education
  13. Church and State

Following Vatican II, many Protestants praised Catholicism’s new willingness to “dialogue,” but sixty years after the council, it’s crystal clear that while some evangelical Protestants have done quite a bit of accommodating, cooperating, compromising, and outright betraying the Gospel in their efforts to court the pope and Rome, Catholicism remains dedicated to its false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit and is resolved in its efforts to eventually recover all Christian “ecclesial communities.” Sadly, many evangelicals are more interested in ecumenical unity based on deadly-shallow theology rather than heeding any warnings to “Watch Your Teaching” and defend correct doctrine and the genuine Gospel.

This informative, short book is still quite relevant for today’s Catholics and evangelicals. Stuart Garver served as executive director of Christ’s Mission from 1960 to 1977. The mission began in 1879 in New York City as a Gospel outreach ministry to Catholic priests and ex-priests, but eventually shifted its outreach to Roman Catholics in general. It ceased operations in 1984.
http://www2.wheaton.edu/bgc/archives/GUIDES/276.htm

Throwback Thursday: Jack Chick dead at 92

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 26, 2016 and has been revised.

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Chick Publications has announced that its founder, the mysterious Jack Chick (photo above), died this past Sunday (October 23, 2016) at the age of 92.

Several months ago, I posted my memories of Chick tracts. See here. Chick took a conspiratorial approach to Roman Catholicism and managed to blame every calamity that beset the Western world on the Vatican and/or the Jesuits.

“According to Chick, the Vatican was responsible for creating Islam, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He also accused the Catholic Church of having been responsible for the Holocaust, the founding of Communism, Nazism, and the Ku Klux Klan; starting the World Wars; masterminding the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Great Depression and the assassinations of U.S. Presidents Lincoln* and Kennedy.” – from Wikipedia

Whoops! The contributors to the Wikipedia article neglected to mention that Chick also claimed the Vatican created Freemasonry and Christian Science and that Jim Jones of the People’s Temple was a secret Jesuit who orchestrated the Jonestown Massacre in order to discredit Protestantism.

Certainly, the Vatican and the Jesuits were complicit in all manner of historically verifiable persecutions and skullduggery, but Chick’s claims were “off the charts” ridiculous.

Chick’s outrageous allegations against the Vatican and the Jesuits impeded the efforts of responsible outreach to Roman Catholics. Taking a cue from his conspiracy mania, could it be that Jack Chick was secretly a Jesuit agent, under orders to undermine credible Gospel witness to Catholics? No, I’m not serious, but who can argue with the end results? In the final analysis, Jack Chick was the Jesuits’ best friend by making outreach to Catholics look ridiculous in the minds of many.

Jack Chick, fundamentalist Christian cartoonist, dies at 92 – Associated Press article

Jack Chick – Wikipedia article

*Well, there’s actually some circumstantial evidence that the RCC may have played a role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. See my relevant post here.

Note from 2022: Some evangelical Christians of recent years have regrettably become enmeshed in conspiracy theory mongering à la Jack Chick.

Throwback Thursday: Dear Catholic friend, How good is “good enough”?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 27, 2016 and has been revised.

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Dear Catholic friend, I have a question about one of your church’s teachings that I’m very curious about. But I need to flesh this out a bit before I get to my question.

First of all, we recognize that Roman Catholicism teaches that baptism is absolutely essential for salvation.

“Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament” (CCC 1257).

The church then says after a person is baptized a Catholic, they must regularly participate in the church’s sacraments in order to receive grace so that they can successfully obey the Ten Commandments and church rules so they are able to merit Heaven.

“Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life” (CCC 2010).

In previous centuries, Rome insisted that only baptized Catholics could merit Heaven, but then widened its restrictions as a result of Vatican II and recognized as valid the baptisms of approved Protestant “ecclesial communities” (Rome will not call them churches) as well.

At this point some people might say, “Wait! Doesn’t the Catholic church also now teach that everyone on Earth can merit Heaven?” Yes, it does. We know that also as a result of Vatican II, Rome teaches that people of all non-Catholic religions and even atheists can merit Heaven if they “follow the light they’ve been given,” even though they have never been baptized. If someone has never heard or understood the Catholic gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit (aka “cooperation with grace”) through no fault of their own, Rome says God will judge them according to how well they obeyed the estimable portions of their religion or conscience.

I think we can at least agree everyone is a sinner and follows their religion or conscience only imperfectly. So here’s my question about this philosophy: At what point will a non-Catholic or atheist be able to merit Heaven? Do they have to follow the precepts of their religion or the dictates of their conscience at least 50% of the time? No, that seems too low. Is it 75% of the time? 90%? What is the cutoff? At what point exactly will God say, “Good enough”?

Okay, it’s a rhetorical question. I don’t expect an answer because there is none. Yes, we are all sinners and because we are sinners none of us can possibly merit Heaven. I break God’s commandments in thought, word, deed, or by omission every single day. But God loves us so much He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the debt for our sins. Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross and by His resurrection and offers eternal life and fellowship with God as a free gift to all who repent and accept Him as Savior by faith alone. Once you have accepted Christ as Savior, then you can follow Him as Lord, albeit imperfectly.

When are you going to accept Him? A church that teaches people can merit salvation by being “good” is a false church. God’s Word says no one is good. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches and teaches God’s Word without compromise.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 3:21-24

Am I good enough to go to heaven?
https://carm.org/am-i-good-enough-to-go-to-heaven

Throwback Thursday: 947 East Avenue – Rank has its privileges

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on October 31, 2016 and has been revised.

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Readers of the New Testament know Peter and the apostles were mainly uneducated, working-class men. But the Good News! they declared, the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, was of greater value than the combined knowledge and riches of the entire ancient world.

Early Christianity faced great persecution, but eventually was legalized by the Roman Empire and then adopted as the official state religion. Unfortunately, the church, with its simple, saving Gospel of grace, devolved into a religious institution with an increasingly powerful hierarchy. The bishops of Rome consolidated their control in the West and, as the self-proclaimed vicars of Christ, indulged themselves at a level of pomp and extravagance that hadn’t been seen since the Caesars.

Last week, I came across the article far below regarding pope Francis’ plan to transform the papal summer palace, Castel Gandolfo, into a tourist stop. Has anyone else seen photos of this place? Unbelievable! Francis has definitely down-sized his personal living quarters, but that may be more of an accommodation to the scrutiny of an increasingly incredulous public than a desire for less ostentatious trappings.

If popes deported themselves as emperors, their subordinate bishops acted as princes. Their wealth matched and often surpassed that of temporal rulers. Centuries passed and bishops still retained a level of affluence that would have shocked and disgusted Peter, James, and John. Here in Rochester, New York, James E. Kearney, Catholic bishop from 1937 to 1966, (d. 1977), resided at a mansion located at 947 East Avenue (see photo above), just a stone’s throw from the estate of Kodak founder, George Eastman.

I was already vaguely familiar with the former bishop’s 7200 sq. ft. mansion, but I drove by yesterday to reacquaint myself with the grandiose structure. Rochester’s working-class Catholic families donated their hard-earned money every week so that Kearney could live like a capitalist tycoon. The pastor of our parish drove a Chrysler Imperial. Anyone else remember those? It was Chrysler’s version of the Cadillac. I recall many negative comments about the priest driving a car that cost twice or triple the amount his parishioners paid for their cars. But he probably thought, “Hey, if the bishop can live in a mansion on East Avenue, I can drive an Imperial.”

But Kearney wasn’t alone. It was standard practice for Catholic bishops to locate their mansions on the same street as the wealthiest denizens of the diocesan see (seat). Bishops were always favored with places of honor at civic functions. Catholics and even non-Catholics formally greeted a bishop by kissing his episcopal ring and addressing him as “Your Excellency.” Traditionalists still consider it proper form to kiss a bishop’s ring, but many bishops now discourage the practice although the “Your Excellency” title is still de rigueur.

Some contemporary bishops are following Francis’ lead and selling their mansions and moving into less ostentatious quarters while TBN’s prosperity preachers (Myers, Copeland, Duplantis, etc.) are exceeding the opulence of yesteryear’s Catholic bishops. Very strange. Jesus had no place to lay his head.

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk'” – Acts 3:6

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’” – Acts 10:25-16

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21

“But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” – Matthew 20:25-28

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:24

Above: An interior view of bishop Kearney’s opulent mansion. Note the elaborate woodwork.

Postscript: 947 East Avenue was originally designed by architect Leon Stern for Rochester industrialist Frank Ritter to resemble the castles in his native Bavaria. Ritter was founder and president of the Ritter Dental Company (dental chair pioneers). The 20-room mansion and large carriage house were built in 1907. After Ritter’s death in 1915, his widow sold the house to the Rochester Catholic Diocese as the residence for bishops. It remained the property of the Diocese for more than 50 years. Bishop Kearney’s former palatial digs was sold (in 1966?) and has since been divided into nine individual 800-square-foot condos.

Throwback Thursday: “But I don’t like being called a ‘Protestant’”

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 2, 2016 and has been revised.

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I came out of Roman Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior way back in the early 1980s. I can still vividly remember the intense joy of knowing all of my sins had been forgiven by my wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ. I was finally able to step off of that religious treadmill and find spiritual peace and acceptance with God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ.

One thing bothered me, though. In leaving Catholicism and accepting Christ, many would say I had become a “Protestant.” Protestant? I didn’t like that at all. It seemed as if, in using that term, Protestants were identifying themselves in respect to their opposition to Roman Catholicism. I saw myself much more as a proclaimer of the genuine Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone rather than a protester of Catholicism’s works gospel. I wanted to be known as being “for” Christ rather than being “against” Catholicism. How did this “Protestant” label get started, anyway?

In 1526, the Diet of Speyer (a meeting of the “parliament” of the Holy Roman Empire in Speyer, Germany) issued the Edict of August 27th, which granted each principality the freedom to choose Catholicism or Gospel Christianity as the official religion. This was the first political step towards freedom of religion. Unfortunately, the pro-Catholic Diet of 1529 rescinded the previous edict. Gospel Christians immediately lodged a protest with the Diet (see painting above) and non-Catholics have been labeled as “Protestants” ever since.

These days, I’m not nearly as sensitive about being labeled a Protestant. The Lord used the Reformers and early Protestants in a great way and it’s a heritage all genuine Christians should be familiar with. However, as we’re all aware, many of the mainline Protestant denominations (Episcopalian, United Methodist, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian USA, American Baptist) drifted into liberal apostasy long ago. I’m certainly blessed to be called a Christian, a follower of Christ, although the term has become a catch-all, which includes a whole lot of people who teach an unbiblical gospel of works or who have never accepted Christ. Because of that, I also like the term evangelical, one who proclaims the Good News of Jesus Christ, because it’s a little more distinguishing. It was generally understood that evangelical Christians proclaimed the genuine Gospel, but now we’re even seeing that term losing its distinctiveness (e.g., Joel Osteen, TBN).

“He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” – Luke 13:18-19

There’s probably a number of people who dislike the title of this blog, excatholic4christ. I even thought about changing it a few times to something more “positive.” But I AM an ex-Catholic and I AM for Christ. Both Catholics and Christians need to know the Catholic church does not teach the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Everyone who reads the New Testament knows that the Lord Jesus and the apostles weren’t patronizing and accommodating in regards to wrong doctrine. They confronted false religion and heresy. In this era of advancing ecumenism with its idols of accommodation and compromise – led by the church of Rome – I will continue to protest error and compromise and uphold the Gospel of grace.

“…And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11:26

For more on the “Protestation at Speyer,” see here.

Historical trivia: The Diets of 1526 and 1529 were held at the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Chamber Court) nearby to the Dom (Catholic cathedral) in Speyer. The building was destroyed in 1689 in a city-wide conflagration started by the invading French. The Hotel Domhof now sits on the site.

Above: Hotel Domhof, Speyer, Germany

Throwback Thursday: Ruth: Who/what was the other kinsman?

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 5, 2016 and has been revised.

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Have you ever sat there, reading your Bible, and the Holy Spirit revealed something delightful in a passage that you had read many times previously, but had never before grasped the full import? I’m sure you can relate. The Old Testament has many types and foreshadowings of Jesus Christ and when we understand their full meaning for the first time it’s a bit of a “eureka” moment.

As I mentioned in some recent posts, my wife and I are currently studying through the Book of Ruth, one of my favorite books of the Bible. I’ve read this book many, many, many times, but just like every book in the Bible, the Holy Spirit reveals something new each time I read it.

In the Book of Ruth, Boaz is a wonderful type of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He’s a relative by marriage to Naomi and Ruth, and Ruth claims him as her kinsman-redeemer. Boaz loves Ruth and is more than happy to oblige her claim, but first he must deal with an unnamed individual, a closer relative of Naomi and Ruth, who is first in line to act as their redeemer. In chapter four, Boaz brings the individual before Bethlehem’s magistrates, but the person ultimately declines to be the women’s redeeemer, freeing Boaz to legally assume the role and marry Ruth.

While reading about Boaz’s dealings with this other kinsman, a question popped into my mind for the first time. If Boaz is a type of Christ, who/what does this other kinsman represent? The unnamed nearer-kinsman plays a small, but pivotal role in the story and I sensed he symbolized something very important, but what was it? I found a very credible answer in J. Vernon McGee’s commentary on the chapter. McGee suggests the other kinsman represents the Law. Although he came before Boaz (Christ), he (the Law) could not/would not redeem the women. A light went on in my spirit. Yes, yes, that was it! The nearer kinsman who could not/would not redeem Ruth represented the Law. I found that other commentators have drawn the same conclusion as McGee.

I remember as a Catholic struggling to find redemption through the Ten Commandments. It was impossible. The Law cannot save, for it only shows us that we are sinners in need of a Savior. Jesus Christ took on human flesh to become our Kinsman. But you must reach out to Him and accept Him as your Savior, your Kinsman-Redeemer. Oh, Lord Jesus, thank you for redeeming me from the heavy burden of sin. Thank you for loving me and saving me!

http://www.gotquestions.org/kinsman-redeemer.html

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” – Romans 8:1-8

Throwback Thursday: False teachers and huck$ter$ run amuck on TBN!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 7, 2016 and has been revised.

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Below is an excellent 28-minute (edited version) video from Justin Peters entitled “Clouds Without Water: A Biblical Critique of the Word of Faith Movement,” which exposes many, many of the false teachers and huck$ter$ featured on TBN.

Turn off TBN. READ AND STUDY YOUR BIBLE. Don’t get your theology from TBN.

Throwback Thursday: ♫“When I walk through the storm, You’ll be my guide”♫

Last Friday, Judith Durham, the lead singer of the Australian folk group, the Seekers (photo above), died at the age of 79, so for this week’s Throwback Thursday installment we’re going to skip ahead a little bit and revisit the post below that was originally published back on September 1, 2017 and has been revised.

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One of my favorite songs growing up in the 1960s was “I’ll Never Find Another You” by Australian folk quartet, The Seekers, which was released at the end of 1964 and peaked at #4 on the U.S. singles charts. Lead singer, Judith Durham, could really belt out a tune. I know I sound like the old coot that I am when I say this, but they just don’t make music like this anymore.

At first glance, most would interpret the tune as a romantic love song, but it’s not a big stretch to find a spiritual interpretation (e.g., “the promised land”) and I now like to think of this as a song of love for my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The only qualifier is, I know I will never lose His love. Take a listen and you’ll see what I mean. It really tugs at my heartstrings. Thank you, Jesus.

I’ll Never Find Another You
Written by Tom Springfield

There’s a new world somewhere
They call the promised land
And I’ll be there someday
If you could hold my hand
I still need you there beside me
No matter what I do
For I know I’ll never find another you

There is always someone
For each of us, they say
And you’ll be my someone
Forever and a day
I could search the whole world over
Until my life is through
But I know I’ll never find another you

It’s a long, long journey
So stay by my side
When I walk through the storm
You’ll be my guide, be my guide

If they gave me a fortune
My pleasure would be small
I could lose it all tomorrow
And never mind at all
But if I should lose your love, dear
I don’t know what I’d do
For I know I’ll never find another you

But if I should lose your love, dear
I don’t know what I’d do
For I know I’ll never find another you
Another you, another you

Note from August 2022: Information regarding Judith Durham’s religious beliefs is sparse, but her bandmate, Athol Guy, revealed that she and her deceased husband had joined the Hindu sect, Sant Mat (“teachings of the saints”), aka the Path of the Masters, over 40 years ago. The sect was founded by Shiv Dayal Singh in the 19th century. Sad.

Throwback Thursday: Roman Catholicism’s confirmation hoax

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 8, 2016 and has been revised.

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Growing up, my five older sisters and I were all indoctrinated into the Roman Catholic religion. We all attended Catholic parochial school and high school. I was baptized as an infant and participated in my first confession and first communion in the first grade and was confirmed as a Roman Catholic in fifth grade. Of all the Catholic sacraments, confirmation is probably the least prominent. The Roman church defines confirmation as follows:

“Confirmation is a true sacrament instituted by Christ and different from baptism. It is administered by laying-on of hands and anointing with chrism (holy oil – Tom) accompanied by prayer. The chrism is blessed by the bishop and the bishop administers the sacrament. All baptized persons can and should be confirmed. The effect of the sacrament of confirmation is to give strength in faith and for the confession of faith and to impress an indelible character.”
http://www.catholic.org/prayers/sacrament.php?id=3

It’s alleged that the Holy Spirit “seals” the confirmation supplicant. With confirmation, the young Catholic is supposedly declaring, “I was baptized as an infant without my consent, but I continue forward as a Catholic by choice.” However, confirmation wasn’t really a choice for any of us. It was something my parochial school classmates and I were required to do as part of our religious indoctrination. We were only ten or eleven-years-old and none of us had ever heard the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone up to that point or throughout all of our years in Catholicism.

The nuns and priests told us it was required that we go to confession prior to being confirmed. Going to confession was definitely not one of my favorite things to do and I hadn’t gone in quite a long time. Catholics are taught they must confess their “mortal” sins to a priest and they must go to confession at least once a year or incur another mortal sin. Yet, Catholic research shows only 24 percent of Catholics go to confession at least yearly. The notion of recalling a year’s worth of sins is absolutely preposterous to a believer.

I figured I’d better obey the nuns, so I went to confession on the Saturday prior to Confirmation. I entered the dark, tri-part confessional and waited for the priest, John Lynch, to finish up with the penitent on the other side. Boy, I was nervous and my hands were sweating profusely. Priest Lynch finally slid open the small panel to my booth and I began my rote confession.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been a month since my last confession.” I lied. It had actually been a couple of years since my last confession, but I was embarrassed and afraid to admit that. I then proceeded with my obligatory list of sins. It went something like, “I lied to my mother five times. I yelled at my sisters ten times. I disobeyed my father three times. I cheated on a test in school.” I had no idea how many times I had actually committed these sins so I tried to come up with a believable number.

I continued, “I was mean to a younger kid in the neighborhood….”

RC priest, John Lynch (d. 2011)

“Stop!” Lynch, cut me off mid-sentence. My eyes turned as BIG as Kennedy half-dollars. Sounding more than a little exasperated, he angrily blurted out, “You’re wasting my time and yours!” What? I was one shocked and confused ten-year-old boy. Tears welled up in my eyes. I was only doing what I had been ordered to do and this is what happens? Lynch gave me some perfunctory “Hail Marys” and “Our Fathers” to pray as penance for my annoying venial sins and quickly dismissed me. I couldn’t get out of that booth fast enough and I firmly resolved at that moment to never enter a confessional booth ever again as long as I lived.

We all went through the confirmation ceremony the following week. Auxiliary bishop Casey prayed over each of us and applied some blessed holy oil to our foreheads. None of us children knew Jesus Christ as our Savior. It was all empty ritual. Afterwards, my family and my first cousin, Rick, my chosen confirmation sponsor, went out to dinner to celebrate the “big event.” I received several gifts from my family, but neither myself or anyone else knew Jesus Christ.

Seventeen years later, through God’s Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, I repented of my rebellion against God and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. Praise God! Religious ceremonies and rituals do not save. All of my five sisters, who went through confirmation just as I did, are now self-proclaimed agnostics or atheists. They never knew Christ. As a child of God through Jesus Christ, I can now come boldly to the throne of grace to confess my sins. A sinful man cannot be a mediator between God and myself. Jesus Christ is the only Mediator. Thank you Lord that I can come directly to You any hour of the day or night. I know You’ll never turn me away.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” – 1 Timothy 2:5

Likewise, it’s the Holy Spirit Who seals all genuine believers. It’s not a ritualistic sacrament imparted by a sinful man.

“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” – 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

Thank you, Lord, for leading me out of religious legalism and saving me!

Throwback Thursday: Wow! Look what I’ve got!

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment. Today, we’re going to revisit a post that was originally published back on September 9, 2016 and has been revised.

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The other day I was reading 2 Samuel 24 where King David ordered a census of Israel and Judah. In this chapter it says that God incited David to take a census because He was angered with Israel:

“Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” – 2 Samuel 24:1

The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles gives even further detail by saying it was Satan who incited David, which God allowed:

“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.” – 1 Chronicles 21:1

So what was so bad about David taking a census? Rather than trusting in the power and might of the Lord, David was putting his trust in the number of his subjects and the manpower available to serve in his army. David was his father’s youngest of eight sons and started out as a lowly shepherd boy, yet God had raised him up to be a powerful king. It was ALL because of God. David should have been trusting in God completely! David also knew from Exodus 30:12 that only God could order a census and that a ransom was required to atone for the counting. However, David went ahead with the census anyway, even over the objections of his normally-unscrupulous military commander, Joab. The Lord subsequently punished David and the Israelites with a severe pestilence, which was halted at the threshing floor of Araunah, which David had bought and where he had built an altar of repentance. The location later became the site of Solomon’s Temple.

We’re quick to criticize David in these passages, aren’t we? What a dummy! What was he thinking? But the reality is we act just like David all the time. Churches are always checking the numbers these days. How many attended this year compared to last? Baptisms? Offerings? Today, it’s ALL about the numbers. Churches have adopted the world’s latest marketing methods to reel in the “unchurched” rather than leading lost souls to the Lord. A pastor is “successful” only if he has at least a thousand coming through the turnstiles every Sunday.

But what about me? What am I trusting in? Well, it’s certainly not my looks. But what about my health? My job? My 401K? My upcoming twenty years of happy retirement that’s due to me? All of it could be gone in the blink of an eye. As I get closer to retirement, I confess that I check my 401K balance about once every couple of weeks and it’s not doing too badly. But that rug could be pulled out from under me in an instant.

It’s pretty hard for me to point the finger at census-happy David. 2 Samuel 24 resonates strongly with me because it hits so close to home.

There’s only one sure thing in this world; only one solid foundation. Instead of trusting in our bank accounts and our abilities, we need to recognize it’s the Lord Who is sovereign and we need to put our faith in Him. Everything else is just sinking sand. Whatever we have is only because He provided it. He’s the Potter. We’re the clay. All glory and honor to Him!!!!

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit” – Jeremiah 17:7-8