My faith in the Lord was not rocked. I was, and still am, confident of His absolute sovereignty over salvation. If this dear one was elect, then this dear one would be saved. But if this dear one chose Catholicism, make no mistake. We would have no choice but to regard this person as apostate.
The conversation got very intense before it ended. "You're not being very respectful," the person said to me.
I nearly shot vertically out of my chair. "I'm not here to respect you; I'm here to warn you!" I retorted.
I am happy to say that it was the Holy Spirit, not Brett and I, who intervened. But that was a close call. And I will never understand why someone would willingly choose the heavy torment of Catholicism for the light, easy yoke of Jesus.
I will also never understand gospel Christians who are grateful for their salvation but dismiss the Reformation as a minor quibble, a thing of the past, and shrug at the Christian gospel of grace and the Catholic gospel of terror as the same gospel.
How can the same gospel rest on:
faith alone and not faith alone
grace alone and not grace alone
Christ alone and not Christ alone?
I'll answer that. It can't.
Gospel Christian, your ecumenical kumbayah has got to stop. You're certainly not representing the gospel well with your mushy imprecision. And if you think you're doing anyone any favors, think again. Gospel Christian, this one's for you.
I love Reformation Day. I love it as much as I love Christmas. And if you were tormented for the first thirty years of your life before you understood the doctrines of grace brought back by the Reformation, you'd probably be the same Reformation geek as I am.
I am the collateral damage of Catholicism. My parents were saved when I was almost three and promptly left Catholicism. They shared the gospel with me and took me to church. We did family devotions, and both my parents model a vibrant, serious walk with the Lord. I stand on their faithful shoulders. Still, I walked in the shadow of Catholicism. My parents often spoke of the constant, pervasive guilt and were careful to guard against that in our home. But the horrific fact is that I was taught that, although I was saved, I could lose my salvation. And I was taught that because they were taught that. (You can take the Catholic out of Catholicism, but it is very difficult to take Catholicism out of the ex-Catholic.)
But mine is not the only story of torment. Here are three more examples. All of them are true; all of them are either friends of mine or of my children. They are merely representative of millions of other stories.
An adult daughter of mine is speaking with a friend about how much she is looking forward to heaven. The friend, who is a serious, well-catechized Catholic, responds, "It must be nice to be sure where you are going." Imagine that terror. Imagine going to sleep every night without the confidence of heaven. You want to be there, but you aren't sure you've done enough to actually get there.
A Catholic young lady's father is abandoned by her mother after years of the mother's adulterous relationships. As an officially divorced man, her father is barred from Holy Communion. But according to Catholic doctrine, to remain in right standing with God, one must participate in the Mass. Add to that the additional horror and heartbreak when the young lady is married in a Catholic wedding, and he is not able to fully participate. Imagine the terror. Imagine your understanding is that you must jump through the Mass hoop, and now, through no fault of your own, you are prevented.
A Catholic friend asks for prayers of repose for a deceased loved one. What is a prayer of repose? It is offered in hopes of getting that person to heaven. Sometimes, says the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the prayer must be said many times. Well, which times must they be said many times? And how many times is many times? And when do we know that many times is enough? What does it mean that we do not grieve as others grieve if it does not mean that we have a great amount of assurance about that loved one's salvation? What kind of gospel doesn't take the sting out of death?
If you read these true stories and your heart doesn't hurt, check for a pulse. What ISIS is to the Middle East, Catholicism is to the human soul. How dare we gospel Christians defend, legitimize, or validate this gospel of terror?
The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand on Scripture alone, not man's wisdom.
The gospel of terror tells me: Scripture is not enough; I need a sanctioned interpreter.
The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand through Faith alone, nothing we earn.
The gospel of terror tells me: Faith is not enough; I must add penance.
The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand by Grace alone, nothing we accomplish.
The gospel of terror tells me: Grace is not enough; I must add my own merit.
The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand in Christ alone, no other mediator.
The gospel of terror tells me: Christ's righteousness is not enough; I must add my own infused righteousness.
The gospel of Jesus tells me: We stand for God's glory alone, not for our praise.*
The gospel of terror is accessorized with pride. Well, yeah. After I'm done adding my penance, my merit, and my infused righteousness, what do I need a savior for?
The Reformation demonstrates Remnant. God has always had and will always have a Remnant of gospel Christians. And He is in the business of preserving us. The Reformation demonstrates Return. When we are faithless, He is faithful. He will always return His covenant people to His Truth. And--my favorite--the Reformation means Rest. He did the work of salvation, and then He pursued me and brought me to repentance. I rest in the finished work of Christ.
When I fear my faith will fail...
When the tempter would prevail...
I could never keep my hold...
For my love is often cold...
Those He saves are His delight...
Precious in His holy sight...
He'll not let my soul be lost...
Bought by Him at such a cost...
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast,
For my Savior loves me so.
He will hold me fast.**
Why will Jesus keep me when my love is cold, when I give in to tempation, when I am faithless?
Because He loves me. And He will finish what He started.
If you are living under a heavy yoke and are terrorized about your standing with God, if you keep asking, how much merit is enough merit? or how can I rest in my salvation? let's talk.
If you are resting in the Truths of the Reformation and the glorious gospel of grace, then on this 500th anniversary, may you have a wonderful, joyous Reformation Day!
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21
For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
*Thanks to Together for the Gospel, 2016 for the 'alone' wording.
**He Will Hold Me Fast, Ada Habershon, Matthew Merker, 2013.