“Pray for my dad,” J says to me by text, “he’s in the hospital, and there’s not much they can do for him except make him comfortable.”
Suffering with miserable and debilitating congestive heart failure, every time J’s dad valet parks at his local hospital, ironically, both J and I get heart palpitations. Because this could be it. The very last time my best friend gets to say something, anything to her father..I forgive you…I love you…goodbye dad. Anything. We don’t want to miss the time we have with someone we love, do we?
But the reason why J asks me to pray alongside her is that as of right now, at the time of this post, J’s dad has not repented of his sin, and is not a follower, nor a lover of Jesus Christ. He believes that Jesus’ body hanging bloody and beaten on that cross was simply “a concept.” He believes that being baptized a Catholic, and confessing wrongs to another man- a priest, opens wide Heaven’s gates.
Yes, I know…how completely offensive to speak against Roman Catholicism…How dare I? To be honest, we don’t believe Catholicism is entirely biblical. But, I’m not just picking on this particular group. I’m blowing a whistle, and calling out anything and anyone that is unscriptural. I’m sure there are Catholic people who worship only Jesus. That’s wonderful. But the majority of Catholic people I know, dozens of them, along with J’s dad, believe they are making it into Heaven because they were born into a Catholic family, and were sprinkled with water on their beautiful baby heads once upon a time. And like all fairy tales, they’re great, but they’re untrue. Not everyone gets a happily ever after.
How can I say that? Isn’t that sacrilegious? The Bible alone is truth, and its the Bible that is very clear. You cannot live how you want, curse with your mouth, sleep with whomever, lie, cheat, steal, or want what’s not yours, without separating yourself from a perfect and holy God. Wait a minute, you say, I don’t do those things at all- I’m a religious person. Hold on to your seats- there will be a lot of ‘good’ people in Hell. No matter how good you are, no matter how many prayers you pray, if you haven’t asked Jesus Christ to personally take your sin away, and be your God, your Master, and you the servant, then you are not born again. The Bible says you must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. John 3:3
And that priest sitting in the dark confession box listening to your most private and regretful moments, is not any closer to this awesome God than you are. Nothing, and no one gives him any right to exonerate sins. They are all still there. Let me say that again, with a weighty sadness. Unless Jesus Christ is your savior, your sins, whether confessed to a priest or not, are still on you. In you. Unremoved.
Only Jesus has the authority to forgive sin. Only His death and resurrection allowed you freedom from sin. It was His love that hung Himself there on your behalf.
And there’s the hope!
Jesus is so personal.
Jesus actually wants to speak with you.
The Spirit of God wants you to confess your shortcomings to Him alone.
God wants a friendship with you that defies you looking at Him as an angry, wincing, finger-pointing, white-haired grandfather on a steel gray granite throne.
He doesn’t want your monotonous, dully rehearsed prayers that you don’t mean.
He doesn’t want our holiday feasts where no one cares why we all got together in the first place, and if we all stay long enough there will be a roomful of drunk people. Why sit at an Easter table if no one remembers that Jesus died, let alone rose again? But at least somebody remembered the plastic eggs to fill with money…
Do you see what’s happened? We’ve allowed ‘religion’ to come smack-dab face-to-face against the truth of the Bible, ringing the bell. In the last round, religion has given the scriptures an uppercut, and a few right hooks, then forced it to the corner of the ring to cool down.
We decided the Bible took too much work to decipher, like it’s this difficult ancient code from a suspense-filled Indiana Jones movie, and we’ve given it to the “experts” to tell us what we could take out of it to believe.
Religion will always screw with the truth.
Instead of worshipping Jesus Messiah, we’re oohing and awwing over a golden bedazzled old guy with pomp and circumstance strolling the Vatican, because he unbiblically is supposed to have a closer relationship with God the Father than you or I do. Where is that in the Bible, friend? J and I are not picking a fight. We want you to think about your relationship with God uncensored from religion.
Does it matter what you’ve been taught your whole life, if it’s not from God?
Does it matter more what a great man has taught you, or what God Himself is speaking through His Word?
We want earnestly for you to think about this. We want J’s dad to think on it too. That’s why we pray.
Rosary beads can’t save you.
A priest, not even the pope can save you.
Being celibate and joining a convent can’t save you
Mary, the mother of Jesus is not to be prayed to. That’s idolatry. She can’t save you.
Being baptized as a little baby can’t save you
Being born into a religious family doesn’t give you a free pass. It can’t save you.
There is only One who can save. There is only One way, One Truth, & the Life. His name is Jesus. He alone is to be praised. He alone is to be worshipped. Jesus is the only one worthy of your prayers, your time, your sacrifice. No need for beads. No need to sprinkle water, or choke down incense. No need for confession to a man, but to God alone. And when your days have been numbered, and your time is through, J and I want you to be able to recognize the voice calling you home. We want desperately for you to know Jesus, so you will not be afraid, knowing your last breath on Earth will be your first breath in Heaven.
Don’t let man-made religion stand in between a friendship between you and your Creator God. The two are not the same.
So yes, I am “praying J.” I text in return, asking if she knows how much time there is left. Nothing can separate him from the love of God, but our choice not to withdraw from our pride, our in-surrender to Him, can separate us from His presence. God show your glory. In whatever time we have left.
“If you abide in my Word, you are my disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32