I can recall sitting in Catholic Church as a boy. I had always wondered why it was that, at Communion time, some people remained seated or kneeling in a very prayerful, pious position while others shuffled forward to receive the bread and wine. As time went on, and the length of time between my confessions grew too long (in my own opinion) and the types of sins I was capable of committing grew “worse" (again, in my own opinion), I found that, I, too, would refrain from taking communion because, in my own opinion, I was simply unworthy.
Unworthy? As time went by, the Lord has allowed me my share of ministry opportunities to Catholics. Here are a few examples:
CASE #1: I met a pretty Catholic woman in her 40s who told me she hadn't taken communion in 10 years. Why? Because she had been divorced and felt unworthy.
CASE #2: Another Catholic woman, a single mom, confessed to me that she was not only not skipping communion, but was feeling unworthy of even entering the doors of the church. Why? She, too, had been divorced.
CASE #3: At a Coffee Shop Bible Study, a young Baptist college student introduced me to a friend, a lovely Catholic girl he'd met at school. She was very vocal during the Bible Study, anxious to read the verses and had much to add to the discussion. Afterward, she asked me to pray for her. She wanted to become a nun, she said, but she had this strong desire to raise children, too.
CASE #4: A Catholic woman had become pregnant as a teen girl and gave the baby up for adoption. She later married another man and was unable to bear children. She wondered if she wasn't being punished for her past sin.
CASE #5: A devout Catholic man had an affair many years ago. In repentance, he poured himself into his religious practices becoming downright professional; a dedicated model of the perfect Catholic man. By outward appearances a pillar of faith; inwardly, like Samson, he was in bondage to those pillars.
WHO SAID YOU WERE NAKED?
Across denominational lines, the Church has declared to all people that they are separated from God, that they are guilty and that He's angry at them. We go so far as to preach that, unless they attend church on our prescribed day, at the prescribed time in our particular denomination, that they remain separated from Him. Heaven forbid that anyone in attendance should sin - at least sin in such a way that others might notice (pregnancy out of wedlock, divorce, you know. . . one of the “biggies). Those types will be brow-beaten and “scarlet lettered" from now till Doomsday, as they say.
Do you recall what God said to Adam after he and the wife ate off the tree? God saw that they had covered themselves with fig leaves and, when Adam said they covered themselves because they were naked, God responded, “Who told you that you were naked?"
We must answer that same basic question: “Who told you that you sinned?"
Our answers might include:
"My pastor. "
"The Church. "
"My parents. "
How about “The devil"? You see there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1). There are two voices in Heaven, we read; Jesus who makes intercession for the Saints (that's you and me actually, not dead Christians - LIVE ones), and Satan, who accuses “the brethren" (and sisteren) incessantly.
Just as Noah's sons walked in backward and covered his nude body when he collapsed from drunkenness, after having attention called to him by the other son, Jesus, too, covers our nakedness.
Do you recall reading where He told the sinful prostitute, “You tramp! you're going to Hell!" No, because He never did that. How about where He told that obese man that there was obviously sin in his life or he would be thinner and subsequently happier and have a higher paying job and date more often? No, not hardly. His usual response was along the lines of “go and sin no more. " If anything, He repeatedly told those to whom He ministered, “Don't tell anyone, " and they ran off and told EVERYONE.
To the woman “caught" in adultery (wasn't the MAN caught, too?), Jesus said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?" She said, “No man, Lord. " And Jesus said unto her, “Neither do I condemn you: go, and sin no more. " (John 8:10-12)
To the paralytic in Mark 2:5, He said simply, “Son, your sins are forgiven. "
When some guys lowered their friend through a hole they made in the roof so that Jesus might see fit to heal him, Jesus was impressed. Luke 5:20 tells us, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven. "
While dining at Simon's with a group of Pharisees, Luke 7:36-49 reveals how a “sinful" woman came in with a jar of perfume. She stood behind Jesus at his feet weeping, and began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. Verse 44 says, “Then He turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little. "
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven. "
Hebrew 10:18-19 reminds us, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more. “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. " Did you notice: no hoops to jump through; no performances necessary; no obligations. Just faith.
Unworthy? Not on your life! Don't believe the lie of the enemy that anything you ever did has re-qualified you as unworthy. I am convinced that NOTHING is able to separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:38-39). Friends, there are NO V. I. P. Sinners! To wallow in guilt and cling to thoughts and feelings of unworthiness is to tearfully declare, “Thanks for the crucifixion, Jesus, but it JUST WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH for me!"
Regarding those five cases mentioned above, in every instance, I shared what you have just read.
In Case #1, the woman rejoiced, smiled tearfully and assured me that she understood. I believe with all my heart that she resumed the practices of her faith.
In Case #2, I had actually driven 4 hours to teach a Bible Study that never happened once I arrived. This woman had asked me to come to her office so that we could speak. After sharing with her something similar to what you've just read, she exclaimed, “I know you drove a long way to get here, but if the only thing you accomplished was telling me what you just said, IT WAS WORTH IT!" She has since become engaged, I've been told, to a Baptist boyfriend from her youth.
In Case #3, after the young lady told me she wanted to be a nun but also loved children, I assured her that, if that was indeed her calling, a nun can love children, too. As a Catholic boy, several nuns had quite an impact on my life; they loved children and it showed. I remember them fondly. She's married now.
In Case #4, that woman now understands that God doesn't punish His family. He loves her and has a plan for her life. She is serving the Lord with gladness and has been re-acquainted with her child.
In Case #5, we can only believe that God will minister the truth to this individual and that he will receive God's grace (Eph 2:8,9), step out of his performance mode and experience the liberty that has been bought for him by the blood of the cross. Does that sound like YOU, or anyone you know?
Though you may not be a Catholic, trust me, the devil has no problem condemning non-Catholics of their past mistakes and current bondages as well.
How many sins had you committed 2,000 years ago, after the crucifixion? None.
So, if your sins were forgiven, for how long did that “offer" stand? For 150 years? For 1,233 years? How about 3,000 years? You see, everything you've ever done - or will ever do - was either forgiven 100% by the shed Blood of the Lamb of God, who TOOK AWAY the sins of the world. . . or it wasn't. That doesn't give us a license to be evil. We will reap as we sow, after all. But we can rest in the hope that God's mercy REALLY is new every morning.
We REALLY have been justified.
God REALLY does see Jesus when He looks at us for we are the righteousness of God in Christ.
Our debt REALLY has been paid.
Now, is there anyone YOU need to forgive?
A servant of God
ABOUT THE AUTHOR His mission is to bring Discipleship and Encouragement to the Body of Christ. Since ‘99, he has broadcast nearly 700 inspirational articles to his online subscribers and a dozen booklets on subjects sure to interest the thinking Christian and accelerate the process of spiritual development. He is the founder of t. e. a. m. ministries. An Author, Pastoral Counselor and Teacher, his eMail broadcasts, known as “Your Town for Jesus" are read around the globe. Subscribe at firstname.lastname@example.org