I grew up in SE Los Angeles County. My dearest neighbors were Roman Catholics from Poland, Scotland, Mexico and France. I was and I am fascinated by their cultures and religion. I loved them as people and wanted to learn about their Catholic history, politics and faith. I remember sitting in the living room of one neighbor and feeling transported to another world! They had a large portrait of their Queen on one wall and an even larger portrait of the Pope on the other! Wow! The vestments, jewels, wealth, power, pageantry and mystery of it all was so different than my experience on the streets of LA. I would ride my bike to our local Catholic parish (St. Pius X) to sit, meditate and absorb the romantic complexity of all that is Romanism. I remember one Catholic neighbor imploring me to receive Roman Catholic baptism (and the whole system) to avoid the flames of hell. She believed, as Rome teaches, that the way to really know God is through the One and True Holy Roman Catholic Church. – I was and am profoundly infatuated by Catholic culture, tradition and Papacy.
Fast forward. I was agnostic but became a follower of Jesus as a teen (while reading the Bible in private). I was thrilled in my new and living relationship with God, through confidence in Jesus alone. But I couldn’t help but remember what I’d been taught, that only Romanism teaches the truth. I knew, from her perspective, that I was an ignorant and inferior follower of Jesus because I was not in submission to His Holiness the Pope in Rome or to the official teachings of the Mother Church, to which I was to come home. So, I began to read and explore the teachings of Rome. This led me to read the Catholic Catechism and other official Catholic theology. I attended Mass. I interviewed Priests, Nuns, Doctors of Canon Law and Catholic lay people. I read Church history. I listened to Catholic radio and whenever I am abroad, I visit Catholic shrines in search of even more Catholic experiences and information.
I have many reasons to believe that Roman Catholicism is true. I mean, my own wife was born to a Catholic father and was named Mary after the earthly Mother of our Lord. Some of my family members are Roman Catholic. I’ve thought about and considered the teachings of Catholicism for much of my life… So here is where I am in my journey now. – God exists and is as real as the food I eat. God is communicating with me daily through His Word, the Bible. God sent Jesus as our only Messiah, Lord and Savior of the world. The way I connect with God is through Jesus Christ. I think and do many bad things. (Just for starters I’m proud, selfish and greedy. I’m a coward, pervert, liar, hypocrite and an idolater who is tempted to eat, drink and work too much. I have hurt people with my own emotionally numb religiosity… The list goes on!) The only way for me to be made right with our perfect Creator is through the sacrificial gift of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was and is God the Son. Jesus made this one and only life-sustaining planet. Then He humbly came into it to show us The Father. I believe that Jesus (as described in the Gospels) is true. Jesus is Lord. When I put all of my confidence, trust and faith in Him, Jesus covers, cleanses and forgives all of my many sins. I trust in Jesus alone. It is the grace of Jesus that saves me from hell and puts me in a right relationship with God. I can’t do anything to merit or earn God’s approval. My sincere efforts to be meritoriously religious, spiritual, relationally and politically good are junk. Because it is totally by God’s grace that I’ve been saved, through faith – and this is undeserved. My salvation it is a gift of God – not resulting from any of my own good works, so that I can’t brag about my contributing anything to God’s salvation in me. (see Ephesians 2:8,9)
This is my spiritual story so far: I was foolish, disobedient to God, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of horrible passions and lusts. I lived knowing both envy and hatred. But when the kindness and love of God my Savior appeared to me, He (Jesus) saved me, not because of good or righteous religious things that I had done, but because of His mercy. Period. He saved me through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. God poured His Spirit into my heart when He took my soul to Himself through Jesus Christ, my only Savior. Today, I’ve been made right with God and I’m fully accepted (justified) because of His grace, love, mercy and kindness alone. Now I’m His forever child, an heir with confident hope that I’ll be in unhindered relationship with God forever (see Titus 3:5-7).
Concerning Roman Catholicism, this is what I understand:
+ The Good News (Gospel) of Jesus is simple and undiluted. Catholic traditions add to the Good News of Jesus, perverting it. Catholicism takes away from the teaching of Jesus, thus nullifying His message (Mark 7:7-9). + Jesus is Lord. I cannot come into a saving relationship with God through the Roman Catholic (or any other) religious institution. Jesus is the Way to God. Period. + The Pope is not the Head of the Church – Jesus is.
+ Catholic priests aren’t bridge builders to God. On the contrary. I discover relationship with God through Jesus – not through any pastor or religion, including Roman Catholicism.
+ Baptism can’t save anybody. Jesus is the only Savior.
+ The Sacraments (Eucharist, Penance, Indulgences, Last Rites, Purgatory…) of Rome don’t put God’s grace in me. God puts His love and grace in me through Jesus alone.
+ The Catholic Catechism and the edicts of the Catholic Church are incorrect. The Bible is true and is the only final source of spiritual authority for followers of Jesus.
+ Denying marriage to or enjoining celibacy on anyone is as unnatural and immoral and it is contrary to Scripture.
+ Jesus suffered and died once, not many times via the Mass. Jesus’ offering of Himself is complete and final.
+ I pray to God through Jesus, my one and only Great High Priest. (I don’t pray to Mary, any saint or dead person…)
+ Roman Catholicism teaches a false message about Jesus (not the Good News). Rome’s desire to unify all religions in fellowship with the Pope (ecumenism) are ill-advised and contrary to Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:18f).
+ Rome may call me a heretic but God is my only and just judge. Rome can’t send me to hell. We fear God, not Rome.
+ My own positive, sincere and spiritual efforts can’t save me. I need God’s pardon through Jesus exclusively.
+ Mixing Roman traditions and creeds with the New Testament insults Jesus and is a kind of spiritual adultery.
Finally: I adore my Roman Catholic friends. I am a (catholic or universal) Christian. I’m not a Roman Catholic.) After five decades of intense spiritual tension, I realize that Jesus is who He says He is. Though He was God, Jesus came to earth in humility and simplicity. He gave us Himself without mixture. He founded a Church that is not complex and that cannot save anyone. Why? Because Jesus is the only Savior and lover or our souls. I remain intrigued by the religious systems of the Roman Catholic Church. Still, I encourage myself and my friends to resist Roman Catholicism and to fully embrace Jesus of Nazareth. Follow Jesus exclusively. Talk to God through the mediation of Jesus now. Ask God to forgive your sins because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. As you to read the New Testament, ask God to help you by His Holy Spirit.