A Testimony of God's Amazing Grace
What could change the faith of a Catholic from birth (and former altar boy) in his 38th year? The power of God and His Word - the Holy Scriptures!
A fiercely independent electrical engineer, successful businessman, married 15 years with two children; I had gotten myself into financial and marital trouble. I had always prided myself in having my life in control. I was the “middle child” of 5 boys, and I felt I was the most secure in life. I had always tried to balance life's priorities, including religion, but things slowly got away from me.
I never truly drifted from going to Mass, or practicing my Catholic faith, but I did go through periods where other things became more important. We always tried to go to Saturday evening Mass so we wouldn't “mess up” our Sundays. This left me free to do whatever I desired on that day--which was often devoted to “me”.
With the pressures of our second child, lots of business travel and a slowly building line of credit card debt I would often retreat to my hobbies on the weekend. This was my way of escaping my responsibilities of child rearing, and the load was unfairly being dumped on my wife.
This probably went on for a few years. But it finally reached the “melting point” and she erupted. After having my wife give me an ultimatum, I agreed to go to marriage counseling. This went on for a few months.
Since I agreed to go to marriage counseling and drop my hobbies, things were going a lot better between my wife and I. She told me that an upcoming "Christian Women's Conference" was going to be held, and she wanted to go with a friend from where she was working at the time. I said, "Sure, go and have a good time--you deserve a night away", and then seriously added, "but don't you come back a Jesus-freak or anything like that-OK?"
My wife came back from the conference, and she never spoke a word about it, other than she had enjoyed the time away. But I did notice a change in her behavior, and it was for the better. She began to just be more pleasant and agreeable, and I certainly wasn't going to argue about that.
She also began bringing children's Bible stories into the home and started reading them to the kids at night. The radio was changed from my “heavy metal” station to a “Christian” station with songs about Jesus. The whole home atmosphere began to change to a more serene and calm one, which was much different than the previous cold silence and quiet anger that had been hanging so heavily there.
This just convicted me even more. It was as if my wife was getting her act together, but I was still lagging behind.
She gave me a six-cassette tape series entitled “The Man Who Would Be Christ” from a Christian teacher by the name of John MacArthur. I was fascinated by this series, as I had never heard someone actually “teach” Bible passages before. The topic was about the antichrist and I had never known what the Bible had to say about this fellow--only from Hollywood and movies like “The Omen”.
My wife had been going to Mass daily, and after we returned from Church one Sunday, she confessed that she just wasn't “getting anything out of it.” I countered with, "Well, that's because we probably haven't been putting enough into it." My wife was actually becoming the spiritual leader of our family, and I knew that was not right--that was supposed to be my role!
And with that, I endeavored to become as spiritual as I could be. In typical “engineer” fashion, I dove headfirst into being as devout a Catholic as I could, even to the point of copying my mother and saying a rosary before bedtime each night.
I figured that the best way would be to follow in the footsteps of my Godfather. He had just recently become a Catholic deacon in New Orleans (my hometown). I sought out my local priest and deacon and inquired as to what was required for me to become a Catholic deacon, but was gently persuaded by the deacon to “wait until your two boys get a little older.” I can honestly say that I was disappointed.
I went to a local bookstore anyway and bought several books on Catholic church history, along with the Catholic Catechism. I then began to study Catholic church history and Catholic doctrines (teachings) while reading the Bible “seriously.”
To my amazement, I finally began to understand the New Testament. Now, I had read portions of the New Testament while in Catholic High School religion classes, but it had been dry, hard to read and full of “thees” and “thous” that didn't make much sense to me at that time. I found myself really enjoying this picture of Jesus, that I hadn't “seen” before. Every time the self-righteous religious leaders of the day tried to pin him down, he came back with amazing answers and replies.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I was slowly starting to fall in love with this “biblical” Jesus. He spoke with compassion to sinners, like myself, and He also had a very simple message. He was telling people that He had come to save sinners, and they needed to repent and believe in Him--otherwise they were going to suffer eternal punishment.
I was amazed that the message was so “binary” and straightforward. He didn't leave any room for other choices. It was either Him or not Him. How come I had never seen that message before?
I also saw the Apostles in a new light. I had always been taught that they were “godlike” saints, and had always prayed to marble statues of them as I grew up. But in the New Testament, I saw simple men, bumbling and blundering along as they followed Jesus. They were actually funny, and I would often catch myself yelling at the pages of Scripture, "Hey guys, don't you see what Jesus meant by that---how come you guys don't get it, yet I see what He is saying, so clearly?"
Meanwhile, as I continued reading my Catholic Church history and the New Testament at the same time, I began to grow very uneasy. I didn't “see” certain Catholic teachings in the Bible (i.e., priesthood, worshipping Mary, purgatory, saying the rosary, praying to the saints, etc.) and my uneasiness began to increase.
What was going on here? I didn't expect my feelings to be going in this direction. I was just trying to find Jesus and get my life straightened out—I wasn't looking for problems with my religious background.
My continued reading of the Bible showed me that an individual is “saved” by the grace of God through faith in His son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). Jesus said He was the only way that a person could ever get to Heaven.
I couldn't find any mention of being a Catholic or Baptist or any other recognizable denomination anywhere in the New Testament. I simply saw that the first Christians were called, well, “Christians” and they just believed in everything that Jesus had taught them. I began to really pray and call out to God to help me sort out what was happening here.
Continued prayer and study showed me that the Catholic church taught a different way to be saved than Scripture boldly declares. The Catholic Church taught that it started at baptism, which made you “clean” from original sin, and then you continued to cooperate with God by continuously receiving the Sacraments for the rest of your life. At no time in your life could you ever be certain of going to Heaven, as that was called the “sin of presumption”.
Committing a mortal sin at any time put you in grave danger of directly going to hell--should you die, unless you hurried to the confessional and received the sacrament of absolution from a priest. Missing Mass or a Holy Day of Obligation was a mortal sin--and I couldn't even tell you what the Holy Days of Obligation during the year were, even if my life depended on it.
The Bible on the other hand stated that we are saved as soon as we repent and believe in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-10,13). It was an immediate thing, and once the transaction occurred--it was irreversible (Romans 8:30, 35-39). In 1st John chapter 5 verse 13 it stated that you could absolutely KNOW you had eternal life--no doubt whatsoever!
How could the Catholic church teachings be completely opposite of what the Bible taught? One of these two had to be wrong, because they BOTH couldn't be right. They were diametrically opposed to one another!
I finally began to share these things with my wife, and she confessed that she had always felt something "wasn't quite right with the Catholic teachings" that she had also been raised with.
I was shocked! I had NEVER questioned Rome and Her teachings. She WAS the Church, the Only ONE TRUE Church. She taught that there was NO SALVATION outside of her. If you weren't a Catholic, you were going to Hell--it was just that simple.
Did we dare to keep talking about these things? We had both been raised Catholic in New Orleans. All of our extended family was Catholic. We had two priests at our wedding; our sons were both baptized at the church she and I had grown up in. We were actually questioning the Church we had loved, respected and believed for a lifetime.
Could all those Sisters and Brothers and priests that had taught us been wrong? Did they see what we were seeing? Did they even read their Bibles? Surely they had taken the time to compare what the teachings of the Church were as compared to the Holy Scripture---or had they?
Then my wife told me the details of her night at the Christian Women's conference. She had heard the Gospel message, for the first time, and she had repented of her sins and believed in the promises Jesus stated in the Bible. She was “saved”! She had done exactly what I had just been reading in the Book of Romans. She called upon the Lord, and the transaction had occurred!
Good grief! What in the world was happening? I thrust myself even deeper into reading the Scripture and the Catholic church's teachings. I had to be sure. I had to be absolutely certain.
After a few days, I finally realized that, as the spiritual leader of my family, I had a decision to make. Would I lead them based on Rome's teachings and traditions, or would I stand on God's Word alone? Who would I trust? With their eternal destiny at stake, I couldn't afford to be wrong.
My bathroom faced east
. Early in the morning it would flood with a beautiful yellow sunlight, so that I didn't have to switch the electric light on. This specific morning, as I was standing in the shower, I talked to God in a way I had never done before.
I begged forgiveness for my sins that had caused Him to send Jesus to die in my place at the cross on Calvary. I told Him that I was going to totally trust Him and the promises that I had read in His Word. He would be my Lord and Savior, and I would forever be His servant from that point forward.
My whole trust for this life, my family and the next life would be in His hands. I promised I would never fall for the teachings of men ever again--only what His Word, the Scriptures taught. I rejected Roman Catholicism forever.
As the shower rinsed away, the soapsuds and they swirled down the drain, I felt my sins and guilt go down with them. I was left with a grin from ear to ear that would never, ever wash off.
I know that my testimony is not the norm. All of what I described above happened over about an eight (8) week period.
God healed our marriage. We horrified the marriage counselor by telling her that God had intervened and forgiven us, we had both forgiven each other and our sessions were going to be abruptly ending. She was not a happy camper about that! She was convinced that I had found a new “scam” and was worried I would hide behind the Bible instead of facing my “real” problems.
We recovered unscathed from the financial problems, having learned those painful lessons and have remained almost debt-free since then.
Our two children have professed Christ as their Savior, in the years following. We immediately began fellowshipping at a small Baptist church in July 1993 and were both baptized in August 1993. I eventually became a deacon in 1994. I realized that God had answered my prayer to become a deacon--but it was in the time and place He had planned for me all along. What an awesome God!
I would later be astounded to read what happened to me in 1st Peter 3:1-2. It states, "Wives, likewise be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the Word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear (reverence for the Lord)."
THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED! My wife was saved first, and then through her chaste conduct and her newfound reverence for Jesus Christ, I was won over to the Lord. AMAZING!
We would go on to assist in the planting of a new church in October of 1998. She was the Church Secretary, and I became a teaching Elder, where I presently teach the Scripture and preach whenever the Pastor is on vacation.
My wife and I belong to a group called "Reaching Catholics For Christ". Our love and concern for those still unknowingly “trapped” in the false Gospel of Roman Catholicism is great. My 70-year old parents, lifelong Catholics, left the Catholic church in 1995 and attend a Bible teaching/preaching church in New Orleans. My oldest brother and his wife also left the Catholic church, thus leaving my three remaining brothers to be called by the Lord at the appointed time--we pray.
I know now firsthand how the Apostle Paul must have felt. After a lifetime of Judaism with its rules and rituals and becoming a Pharisee, the Lord instantly “saved” him on the road to Damascus. After learning the truth, his greatest burden was to share what the Lord had revealed to him with his lost Jewish brothers.
Just as those Jews who were zealous for the traditions of men rejected Paul, so have those who follow the Roman Catholic traditions of men rejected me at times. But that doesn't stop me from following the direct command of the Lord, found in Matthew 28:18-20. We are to witness to all that will listen, and my heart especially beats stronger for my fellow Roman Catholics.
I now know God was calling me to Himself, all the while I thought “I” was calling out to Him. Praise His Holy name; He is so faithful just as He promises. "All that the Father gives me (Jesus) will come to me (Jesus), and whoever comes to me (Jesus) I will never drive away" (John 6:37). May this testimony of God's amazing grace be used for His glory and honor.
Author: Stan Weber. Used with permission.
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