I am saved, and maybe you are too
This is No. 22 in the series. Please read my introduction and explanation here.
I was very angry with the Catholic Church when I left…a common refrain among ex-Catholics. I felt lied-to, cheated, and abused. That would get anybody mad, don’t you think? Not abused physically, of course, but emotionally and spiritually. All these years I was buying what they were selling, only to find out they had grossly misrepresented themselves and the product was fatally flawed. And they had taken advantage of my trust and submission by binding me to rules and regulations they had no right to legislate and were only “traditions of men” designed to maximize their power and control.
“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”1
The wretched one the apostle Paul describes in Romans 7 is the poor soul who knows the good she ought to do but hasn’t the power to do it. She knows the commandments and delights in them, but all they have done is stirred up sin in her flesh and wrought death. But “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”2
Paul’s exclamation of thanks to God for rescuing him from the Jewish legalism that was powerless to produce righteousness in him, expresses how I felt, and still do, about being rescued from a similar religious system focused on works righteousness that could not save me. I was led to believe my salvation was dependent on how well I succeeded at obeying the rules, and I had no idea what the standard was. How could I aim for what I couldn’t even see?
I was not taught the truth that without the indwelling Spirit of Christ we are slaves to sin, and cannot be saved through our own effort. And that the Spirit is given us as a guarantee of our redemption when we believe in Jesus.3 When I finally was taught it, I believed it, and I experienced it. Thanks be to God!
Why did the Catholic Church not tell me this? I was angry.
Some Catholics argue that exes like me reject the faith because it’s too difficult. They like that there are long lists of duties and rules that they can boast about doing and following. Makes them quite proud of themselves. But glorying in your own efforts and obedience is like refusing to board the Coast Guard vessel come to pluck you out of the middle of the ocean because you want to swim to the nearest shore a thousand miles away. It’s difficult alright, and you’re gonna’ die trying.
I got on the boat, and I know that my eternal life with Christ is secure. I’m resting comfortably in a safe vessel with a competent and trustworthy Captain at the helm. He also is the vessel, and I am in him and he in me.4 By his indwelling Spirit I have power to resist sin and do the works which he prepared in advance for me to do.5
Those Catholics who truly believe in Christ but don’t have that security and think they must “cooperate” with God’s grace in order to be saved, I see this way: they’re struggling and flailing in the middle of that ocean…swimming, swimming, swimming…when all along they’ve actually been swimming in a shallow pool on the Captain’s vessel. And are completely safe.
My prayer is that they will stop struggling, open their eyes, stand up in that two feet of water, and then fall on their knees as I did in thanksgiving for the salvation that is already theirs.
Thanks be to God.