Psalm 110

A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
2 The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.
3 Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
4 The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
the conquest
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.
7 He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.

What a beautiful prophetic Psalm! David outlines both of the Messiah’s roles as Priest and King! No Old Testament King was ever a priest as well. Jesus fulfilled the priestly role in that He died for our sins, arose from the dead and now sits in Heaven making intercession for us! The Book of Hebrews explains Christ as our High Priest so well:

~Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

~Hebrews 3:1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

~Hebrews 4:14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

~Hebrews 8:1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.

~Hebrews 10:11-13 And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: 12 But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;
13 From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

~Hebrews 10:21 And having an high priest over the house of God;

Christ is our High Priest who offers Himself as the sacrifice for our sins (Heb. 2:17). He did this once for all who would accept Him as Saviour. His sacrifice is not one that has to be offered daily or annually (Heb. 10:12). His sacrifice is perfect because He is perfect.

The Christian has more to look forward to! We long for the day when Christ will reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15, Rev. 15:3, Rev. 17:14, Rev. 19:16)!

How love the Word of God is from cover to cover! Within the pages of Psalms, we can see what God has in store for us and it brings encouragement to our spirit! Praise ye the Lord!

Free Indeed

Former Priest Alexander (Sandy) Carson

From childhood to age forty-four, then in my seventeen years as a Roman priest (1955-1972), the Roman Catholic Church had been the pillar of truth to me and my infallible guide to God. This “pillar of truth,” the Roman Church, was not constructed solely of the infallible Scriptures, but also constructed of man’s “traditions” apart from Scripture, which were held to be revelations from God, but which in fact contradicted and were in opposition to the plain teachings of Scripture.

During the first century days of the Apostles, truth was being preached in the streets and Temple areas of Jerusalem. That would eventually make up the content of the New Testament. The book of Acts, chapter 6 verse 7, bears testimony to that preaching: “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.” At great personal cost, those Jewish Old Testament priests left all to follow Jesus. When their hearts were pierced by the truth, that “two edged sword” the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12), they left all to follow Jesus. All former Catholic priests who have become “obedient to the faith” can certainly relate to this passage (Acts 6:7), from Wycliffe, Huss, and Luther down to the present day. At different times and in various ways God has used His written Word to set men, even Catholic priests, free! “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32). In 1972, while I was pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Rayville, Louisiana, USA, the Lord’s truth and grace became clear as day to me. Here is my full story.

Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation

In 1928 I was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church as an infant. When I was just over a year old my family moved from New York State to New Milford, Connecticut, where I was raised in the Catholic faith. I thoroughly believed in all Catholic practises and beliefs, and I took my relationship to the Church, and therefore to God, very seriously. My first communion and confirmation were important events to me. After high school, I went to Tufts College in Boston to study pre-med, hoping one day to become a medical doctor like my revered uncle. However, at the end of two years of study, I really desired to become a priest. I felt it was more important to help people spiritually than to aid them medically.

The Seminary

In September of 1948, I began studies for the priesthood at St. John’s Seminary, Brighton, and Massachusetts. How I loved the seminary! Everything was so “holy” there. Nevertheless, at the end of my first year in the seminary, I withdrew. I felt I could never measure up to being a priest, being convinced at the time that it was the highest possible call on a young man’s life. I attended Boston College (Jesuit) and served Mass almost every morning at a local Catholic monastery. At this time, during the Fall of 1949, God saved me by His grace (the only way!) even though I did not know a lot about the Bible. Jesus saves the believing repentant even though they walk in a measure of confusion and darkness. I had come to a place where I was uncertain about my relationship with God, and I wanted to be sure about that above everything else.

A Confession Absolutely Different

One night I knelt in a confessional booth and confessed every sin of my life that I could bring to mind.At confession I always really confessed my sins to God first, though it was in the presence of the priest who would give “absolution.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness…” (I John 1:9). After I expressed my repentance and while the priest was giving the ritual “absolution,” I cried out to God with my heart, saying, “God, if you’ll forgive all my sins, I take you as Lord of my heart and I’ll serve you the rest of my life!” “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Leaving that confessional box and walking across the transept of the church, I felt a great peace and “Abba, Father!” rang in my heart. I knew that I had a relationship with God! This did not happen because of the presence of a priest and liturgical absolution. It happened because of the presence of Jesus Christ, our great High Priest Who made intercession for me and Who made me the object of His grace, mercy, and compassion. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 1:7, 2:8-9).The next year I re-entered the seminary to complete studies for the priesthood, the best way I knew to serve God at the time. I was ordained by Bishop Lawrence Shehan of Bridgeport, Connecticut on February 2,1955, and began ministry as a Diocesan, or secular, priest in the Diocese of Alexandria, Louisiana. The great excitement and joy I felt about my unique position of service began to wane after a few years, and try as I might to do everything right; it became empty, meaningless ritual.

The Bible — A New Standard

In 1971, after several years of crying out to God for something more meaningful, my great hunger was abated. Jesus and the Word of God (Scriptures) became very real to me. Because “…the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts…” (Romans 5:5), the Holy Spirit led me to judge Roman Catholic theology by the standard of the Bible. Before, I had always judged the Bible by Catholic doctrine and theology. It was a reversal of authority in my life.On a Sunday night in July 1972, I began to read the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament. This letter exalts Jesus, His priesthood, and His sacrifice over all the Old Covenant or Testament. This is some of what I read: “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself…” (Hebrews 7:27). This startled me, and I began to feel very uneasy. I understood for the first time that Jesus’ sacrifice was a one-time sacrificial offering at Calvary, in itself effectual to reconcile me to God and believing repentants of all ages. I saw at this time that the “Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” offered by me and thousands of other Catholic priests daily throughout the world was a fallacy and completely irrelevant. If the “sacrifice” I daily offered as a priest was meaningless, then my “Priesthood” which existed for the purpose of offering that “sacrifice” was likewise without meaning. These realizations were soon clearly confirmed as I continued to read in Hebrews Chapter10: “But this man, (Jesus) after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (v. 12-14). “Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (v. 18).

Saved by God’s Grace Alone

That night the Roman Catholic Church lost credibility for me, as it had taught as truth what was clearly contrary to the Scriptures. I then chose the Scriptures as my standard of truth, no longer accepting the magisterium, or teaching authority of the Catholic Church as my standard. In my letter of resignation from the Catholic Church and ministry, I stated to the bishop that I was leaving the priesthood because I could no longer offer the Mass, as it was contrary to the Word of God and to my conscience. This was in 1972. It was not long before I was baptized by immersion, began Biblical studies and was ordained to the Gospel ministry.For over twenty years I have walked in the freedom of which Jesus spoke, saying, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32), and “If the Son therefore shall make you free,ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).Alexander (Sandy) Carson Through 1994 his ministry was mostly in seminary, evangelism and preaching in Florida, U.S.A. Then in1995 he did extensive preaching across parts of Eastern Europe. In March 1996 he went on a 6-week ministry in Siberia. From a radio interview with Bob Bush, a Russian believer in California contacted him.As a result, he has returned to Russia and Eastern Europe to proclaim the Gospel.

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16. July 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Catholicism · Tags: ,

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by Francis Stockord

While it is most difficult to go back over my many years in the Catholic Church and its priesthood, I see that it is necessary. I remember and take courage from the words of the Apostle Paul, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. ” [1]

My parents were both converts to Catholicism in their early adulthood. As a result I was born a ‘cradle-catholic’ and into a family that dutifully followed every requirement set upon good and faithful Catholics by the Pope. No questions were publicly asked of the rights or wrongs of his pronunciations, even when following such rulings resulted in hardship and unhappiness for individuals in the family. We were brought up as Catholics in a way that underlined the importance of the denomination and that did not even allow me to realise that there was anything ‘else’ out there. One early memory is of going to Church one Sunday with one of my mother’s school friends. She attended the local High Church Anglo-Catholic service, which left me asking one question of my parents on my return home. ‘Why don’t we go there? It’s just the same.’ Unsurprisingly I received no answer, how could you explain the difference to an eight year old? The best of my youth and much of my early manhood has been spent in the Catholic Church and priesthood, but “now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.”[2]

As a child my experience of ‘faith’ was of doing the right thing – that is going to Mass every Sunday and giving some of your pocket money to the collection. On one occasion it meant the priest came to the house when my father was ill – just the once in 6 years in that parish, and just the once in 15 years in the next place we lived. I hope that gives the lie to the great myth of Catholics clergy dutifully and regularly visiting their flock! The other side of the upbringing in ‘the faith’ was schooling. For nearly my entire time in primary education I attended a Catholic school, and from 13 to 18 years of age I then went to Downside School, a private boarding school run by Benedictine Monks in the Somerset countryside. Faith at both schools meant doing the right things. Those who were ‘good Catholics’ would attend the Sunday Mass and the Friday Benediction service. Those who were very good would become altar servers or choristers. Those of us who were ‘bad’ would run off at these times and do things that made sense to us like walking the nearby hills, rain or shine. The pressure to conform and to do the required works was tremendous. Teachers would be sent out to drive around looking for those trying to escape ‘doing their duty’, and other pupils would treat you like dirt and even report you to the ‘authorities’ for failing to fulfil your obligations.

It did however provide moments of mirth. Such as the occasion when I and one of the other serial avoiders were the only two prefects from the whole school in a service and therefore, to the amazement and disbelief of the rest of the school, had to lead everyone out of the Abbey Church after the service!

One positive thing about attending Downside School was the sense imparted that faith was personal. Whether this was intentional or not it stood me in good stead later in life. We also studied for one of the ‘O’ level exams (16 yr age group exam) the Gospel of Mark. From the little I remember it was not done in the critical hermeneutical style so beloved of the Catholic Church but in a way that encouraged us to know what is said in it. Until I left the Catholic Church I was never encouraged to look at scripture in this straightforward way again! Even though any doctrine given was that of the Catholic Church in all its unbiblical glory, I – if no one else – left with the wonderful knowledge that I could talk to God and that the Scriptures contained truth. I always remained staunchly Catholic however.

I can understand that many people find such an idea difficult, especially those who have never been part of the Catholic denomination. But it is purely and simply because being a Catholic, in much the same way as being a Jew, is not just a faith but rather a way of life. As a young person brought up in the Catholic denomination I was steeped in this and it never even occurred to me that there was any other way of thinking. Although we studied the European religious ‘Reformation’ and ‘Counter-reformation’ in history classes at school it never occurred to me that there were people in this country, Great Britain, who thought differently to the Catholic denomination. I was brought up, intentionally or not, with the impression that the only differences between denominations in this country were of style and presentation.

Called to Serve

It had never occurred to me that I would serve God in an ‘ordained’ capacity and it certainly never occurred to me that I would come close to God simply through repentance and belief. The only understanding of being faithful that I had was the Catholic Church, and Church meant doing works; attending Sunday Mass and ‘being good’. And so, when I was almost sixteen and received what I discerned as a clarion call to serve God as his minister and because I knew only the Roman Catholic Church it seemed obvious to me that I had to serve God in that Church. The memory of this call from God was seared into my mind when, the following day, Pope Paul VI died.

As a result of this call I reacted by trying to do the right things. I went on a number of what are called ‘selection conferences’, which were run by the Catholic Diocese of Plymouth where one talked to various priests and was assessed for ‘suitability’ to ministry. I read relevant books; I became friends with the local parish priest; I regularly took part in the ‘sacrament’ that I never understood and always filled me with horror, auricular confession; I attended alternative Catholic services to Mass such as ‘Benediction’[3], ‘Stations of the Cross’[4] and the ‘Rosary’[5]. None of these gave me any spiritual enlightenment and all simply made my heart heavier. Much as, I later discovered, Martin Luther tried harder and harder to do these things in order to come to God and yet found only that he was burdened even more through the actions, so too I found them tiresome and unnecessary. Only the ‘Stations of the Cross’ meant anything as I understood clearly the journey of Jesus to death on the Cross, yet the liturgical insistences of the Catholic service and the non-biblical elements inserted into the story even began to destroy any real interest I had in knowing more and spending more time thinking on the Cross. They were burdens for me to attend, and later burdens for me to lead. In fact I came to hate worshipping God because of these things! Looking back now I can see that my whole life has been a battle with the unbiblical doctrines and worship of the Catholic Church. If the Word had somehow come to me at that time I would have moved away immediately. However, because being a Catholic was ‘in my blood’ as a lifestyle I never heard that Word. It was as if God was holding his hand out to me throughout my whole childhood and early adulthood and yet I never saw it through the haze and fog created by the Catholic Church’s doctrines and indoctrination.

Training

I was selected for training for the Catholic priesthood by the Bishop of Plymouth and it was agreed that I should go to Seminary and train for the Catholic ministry in 1980. I arrived at St. John’s Seminary[6] in early September, 1980. I have little doubt that God had no intention that I should begin training at the age of 18 years and 2 weeks. I was a boy and yet the Catholic Church accepted me! The early experience was horrendous for me. I knew none of the other students but one, another 18 year old from Plymouth who was equally immature. It took me three days to find the chapel as no one took the trouble to tell me where it was. The library and its importance were, on the other hand, drummed into me!

My constant experience of Seminary was of education, exams and information gathering. We were never really encouraged to be spiritual people and it was even said by a friend on one occasion, when a student with a poor academic record was asked to leave, “Next to his, my spirituality wouldn’t even fit on the back of a postage stamp.” It seemed that what was important was showing how good you were and showing through one’s actions how fitted one was to be a Catholic priest. I gained brownie points because I was a sacristan for several of the years, and good enough to be ‘in charge’ of the sacristy. The importance of this was that it involved laying out all the vestments and paraphernalia needed for the various rites and ceremonies that the Catholic Church says are essential. It was as if the words of James[7] had been turned around and they had him saying ‘We do not concern ourselves about the faith but his [a student’s] works show he is fitted’!
We were never asked about our beliefs or whether we could stack something up using Scripture as our support. When information was presented in lectures it was given to us as the teaching of the Catholic Church – if we did not agree then we could leave! There was no debate. There was no encouragement to sit in chapel with the Scriptures open before us as we were preached to. The scripture lectures were based around the various theories which take apart the Word and divide it up into a variety of authors and time-scales. Bultmann, the de-mythologizing theologian who does away with the divine action within the New Testament miracle events, was frequently referred to. The idea that the Scriptures could actually be correct, let alone be the infallible revelation of God was never broached. These words to Timothy might never have been written -‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’[8]

I came no closer to God in my time in Seminary, and to be quite honest I ceased to try after a couple of years. Instead of being an opportunity to be able to work through God’s word it became a hurdle to clamber over in order to begin the ‘real work’ of parish ministry. I was not trained to be a pastor, or a shepherd, or a minister, or a preacher but rather to be a performer of acts and an Administrator. During the first couple of years there were a few occasions when they could have taken the opportunity to guide us to share the Gospel with others – particularly when we had a Youth Day held at the Seminary for the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. Instead of an occasion to teach scripture’s truths it became a battleground where those students who objected to the ‘modern’ music being used in the closing Mass knelt in the organ gallery and recited the rosary whilst it went on below them. What is more, they then came down to the chapel after the service finished, and as ‘real’ bread had been used[9] proceeded to scuttle around on hands and knees searching for any crumbs that may have been dropped on the floor. Is God in such behaviour? Is there love there? I look back now and ask how the words of John, when he said -‘We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.’[10] – could have been so meaningless to a company of men who were supposed to be preparing to serve Him?

Still the most frightening aspect for me remains the attitude to the teaching of the Catholic denomination. For instance, when we studied the Catholic teaching of the Eucharist and their unbiblical theory of transubstantiation we used philosophy to learn about it, not the Scriptures (and even then most of my year failed to comprehend what was being ‘taught’). There was no realisation that philosophy is the way of man and not God, no contact with the Word of God as He says -‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.’[11]

We would perform ‘practice confessions’ on willing guinea pigs and yet in 5 years at Seminary I never once gave a practice (or real) sermon! But never once did we seek justification for telling people they did not have the ability to speak to God themselves – and that God alone has the power to forgive sin. We just merrily misused John 20:23 and practiced to be walls between God and man. The words of St Paul to the Romans could have been unwritten where he says -‘For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.’[12]

And the words of Hebrews 7:27 –‘Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.’ might also never have been written. The words of Scripture were just not listened to, the words and laws of the Catholic Church were all that mattered.

This unbiblical attitude carried over to our relationships with other Christians that we encountered. We had a wonderful lady who taught us voice-work[13]. She was very elderly and died after I had been at Seminary for 3 or 4 years. Some of the students went to her funeral service in a local Church and came back, not full of the joy of the Lord and his promises but instead bemoaning the fact that the Church was so ‘low’ that there weren’t even any candles in it. The Word preached had not been heard and they had simply seen what they regarded as a failure to perform the right works. A Catholic lady came in to speak about what it was like being married to an Anglican[14] Vicar and the comments made to her and about her were not about the doctrinal difficulties they must have encountered; Instead she was pilloried because one Sunday in two she went to his Church rather than being a good Catholic and attending a Catholic Church every Sunday.

I nearly saw the Catholic Church for what it is – a secular organisation with secular aims hidden under religious trappings – when one of the students left. He had got as far as being ordained Deacon, and then, praise God, he began to question transubstantiation.[15] He took out the relevant Scriptures[16] and found that the Bible doesn’t say what he was told by the Catholic Church, and that it doesn’t support what he was told by the Catholic professors. Unsurprisingly he was ‘thrown out’ of the Seminary within two days, presumably so as to prevent the rest of us from being infected with the twin ills of Scripture and the Holy Spirit. Other students were quite incredulous and said many utterly scandalous things, but about him and not about how he was treated! For my part I wished to speak with him but never had the chance as he was gone so fast. I felt sorry for him, I sympathised with him for I had never really accepted transubstantiation (and never did). I hope and pray that he, a truly brave and courageous man for the Lord, has been able to minister God’s Word to others as he himself found it. The events and his dignity so nearly broke through the ‘way of life’ of the Catholic denomination and the hold it had over me. But still, and as I write this I do so with pain in my heart, I did not see the truth. The words of Isaiah, quoted by Jesus, were as true of me as of all those there – “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”[17] They are sadly true of so many who are still lead astray by the wiles of Rome. This is, to be quite clear, not condemnation of the individuals lead astray but a condemnation of the Roman Catholic denomination which promulgates its errant and unbiblical teachings in full knowledge of the errors contained therein.

Ministry

I served as a Roman Catholic Deacon for one year and as a priest for just less than seven years. During that time I ministered in a number of parishes throughout Dorset and Devon and met many good people, so many sadly lead astray by the unbiblical doctrines thrust upon them. I spent one year as a Deacon in Paignton, Devon. This is a seaside resort on the ‘English Riviera’ where the number of Sunday Masses went up in the summer because of the number of holiday makers. It began the struggle I had all through my ministry, which although I was not to realise it fully until after leaving the church of Rome, was due to the difference between my personal beliefs and the demands made on me as a priest.

In Paignton the two key elements of required work were to celebrate the Sunday and weekday Masses and to take communion to the housebound. As a Deacon I was ‘allowed’ to baptise and so I also ended up being given many of the baptisms to do (hidden away on a Sunday afternoon). At some level I already began to grasp that this round of ‘works’ was not helping to spread the Gospel. I felt unfulfilled and the work seemed to be pointless. On one occasion I was called in to ‘catechise’ and then baptise two youngsters (of 6 & 9) who had been accepted into the church primary[18] school. When I eventually said that it would be pointless to baptise them as they had no concept of God and were not responding to my ‘catechising’ the head-mistress (a nun) became very angry as they had only been accepted into the school on condition that they would be baptised into the Roman Catholic Church (not baptised as Christians mark you!). There was no interest in faith and in helping the children to come to knowledge of God but simply in ‘doing the right thing’ and making them into Roman Catholics.

It left me confused and continued to push me along my gradual path away from Rome. During my time there I also had several difficulties in my relationship with the curate there. His attitudes and behaviours often left me uneasy, and on occasion he publicly humiliated me during church services. It was without great shock that I later learned that he has since been convicted of paedophilia, with some offences dating to that time. Due to the Roman system of parish governance there had been no opportunity or encouragement to go to anyone about some of my concerns, nor was there training in an understanding of our responsibility, on a physical level, for the children and adults who were in our spiritual care. Had they not just been personal concerns but included knowledge of his immoral and un-Christian actions I would not have known what to do or how to deal with it. Even worse, I would not have had the knowledge of the Scriptures to guide me in any actions I should have taken. Even the words of Paul to Timothy would have helped me, had I been told that the Scriptures are God’s revelation and guide. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”[19] I was instead naked in the world, with no support from God or His word to help through such difficult times. If I had even known St. Paul’s words to the Ephesians I would have had some chance of doing God’s work – or seeing what it should be!

“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;”[20]

In many ways this continued to be my experience in all the parishes where I ministered. Although there were by human standards good people in all of them there was never anyone who guided me to the Scriptures and encouraged me to look to them to find my salvation – and for the way to live life in this world. I spent 3 years in Poole, Dorset before my nagging doubts and problems lead me to ask for a move. I would walk around and around the inside of the church there begging God to show me the answers to the struggles I had, but answer seemingly came there none – for he had already given me the answers if I had simply looked into His word. I went to Plymouth Cathedral where I suffered mightily at the hands of the Administrator[21] who saw everything in terms of works done.

The criticisms (and bullying) that I suffered at his hands drove me away from the Catholic Church but as I knew no other place to look for answers I returned again after a few weeks. I went in the first place to the supportive home of a parishioner and then to a ‘retreat’[22] in the Monastery back at Downside Abbey. Although they were helpful and the Abbot gave of his time the final outcome did not help me think through the issues with Scripture in hand – it was instead my ability to once again celebrate the Roman rituals that indicated my alleged return to spiritual health. I returned to the Cathedral and the associated bullying and criticism strengthened me in my resolve but not in my knowledge of the truth.

Not too long after this the Administrator drove himself into serious health problems with his ‘uptight’ attitude and was moved to Cornwall. I was left, as the only active priest working in the Cathedral, as acting Administrator.[23] One of the first decisions I made underscored the underlying but unconscious thoughts going through my mind about the Church of Rome and its doctrines. There was a 6 am Mass on a Wednesday morning which had but two attendees, one of whom came to a later Mass as well. I therefore informed my two colleagues that it was henceforth ‘cut’ (unlike Roman doctrine and understanding I never accepted that the more one ‘did’ such things the better it was). They both complained until I asked which of them was to be saying it, as I had no intention of so doing! It hardly needs to be said that neither of them offered! That then cut down the number of daily Masses in the Cathedral parish to a mere 5! How I now wish I had seen and read, or been directed to the Letter to the Hebrews; Chapter 10, verses 11 -14, they would have made sense of my confusion and shown me the untruths at the heart of the Roman church -“And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”[24]

It should come as no surprise to hear that we were always given the impression, even taught in some way, that we should regard the Letter to the Hebrews as untrustworthy and not of great importance. No wonder! If you don’t want people to see the truth the best plan is to frighten them away from it. Ironically, hidden away in the Roman set readings for the 33rd Sunday of the year (this exact passage is set to be read that day.[25] There don’t tend to be too many 33rd Sundays in the Roman calendar and if someone did read it I am sure the truth of this passage would have been ignored or un-noticed.[26] God has slipped it in though, there is some hope that other clergy may see it, study it, and preach on it.

Departure approaches

My move from the Cathedral was to a small parish on the edge of Plymouth, small in attendance though a large area with a high population. It was here, in the parish of St. Thomas More where, as Parish Priest and on my own as a minister for the first time I was able to begin a process of thinking for myself and acting according to my own conscience – even if the director of that conscience, the Holy Spirit, was still unknown to me.

Within 3 short years there I had, in many ways, overhauled the church, the events and the services within the parish. I did not have auricular confessions, except ‘on demand’, and let us be honest, no-one is going to come to the church house door and ask for confession! The church was re-ordered from its very dominant Roman style to a style more recognisable within other denominations. The altar (still such, not yet a table!) was lowered from its position ‘on high’ and simplified. The wooden lectern, hard against one wall, was replaced with a far more dominant stone lectern, further out into the middle of the church. The idolatrous[27] statue of Mary, mother of Jesus, was removed from the front of the church and placed in the entrance lobby. The tabernacle[28] was moved from the main church building and into the side chapel. Much of the time I ignored the issues of required ‘colour changes’ for vestments and hangings that Rome demands for the different seasons and feast days.

One of the key changes I brought in is something that although it is in the Roman liturgy is ignored by the vast majority of parishes throughout the world. In the liturgy for Good Friday the Roman church has the ‘Adoration of the Cross’. Note carefully the word cross, for although it is still idolatrous in its concept the liturgy does not call for a crucifix[29] to be used – although the vast majority of Roman churches use a crucifix. I refused to use a crucifix and made a cross to be used for this instead – the idea of people coming up and kissing the feet of the figure on a crucifix worried me even then. Many people did not like their ritual changed and I got a number of comments and complaints about this – as about the changes to the church buildings. Despite all this the numbers attending the church grew steadily which can only have been down to the Lord himself -“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me…”[30]

It is the last thing I will tell you of the events in the church in Plymouth that gives me the greatest surprise and the greatest faith that God uses us to do His work even as we do not know Him. I have, since then, discovered some of the sermon notes that I made in those three years. To my utter amazement, even though the notes were thin to the point of emaciation and my grasp of the texts was clearly not good, the Holy Spirit had lead me to preach the Scriptures! “…For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”[31]

Looking back now I can see why it was that I continued to struggle mightily in my ministry there. For despite these many little signs that in myself I was being lead elsewhere I failed utterly to understand the problems at the heart of the Roman church. For three years I ministered there, with growing unease at why, although the parish was growing in numbers and I was to all intents and purposes doing a ‘good job’ I still felt unfulfilled. I still felt that there was a deep emptiness at the heart of all that I was doing. I still could not find within the Church of Rome any sense of the power of God that I told the parishioners of. I was like a ‘whited sepulchre’, with the appearance of godliness on the outside but with nothing but sin and guilt gnawing away at me inside. I had no assurance in what I did, and the more I did that which I was told to do the more I grew in doubts -“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”[32]

Moving on

And so it was these gnawing doubts about the question of the truth that were what made me take the decision to leave the Roman church. I had been talking with a number of parishioners and giving them a gentle form of counselling, and time and time again found myself saying to them ‘If things are like that then you must get out of that situation’. And eventually, after a particularly hard day, I found myself applying that to myself. I had been told to do all these things by the Church of Rome and so I had done them, yet I still remained searching for God. How could this be if what I was doing was so right? And so I determined to leave. Even though I had not yet found God He had found me and I could no longer resist His call to do so! “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.”[33]

Others will no doubt also tell you of the difficulties that can be involved in leaving and for me it was no different. When I went to the Bishop and told him of my decision I ensured that I had a sympathetic clergy friend with me. This proved vital, as I was basically told that I was mad and needed to be sent away to one of the clergy houses where they ‘straighten out’ those who have gone off the rails. Had I been alone I may well have been cajoled and bullied into following that path but, thank God for His guidance, that did not happen. I left the church buildings within 5 days – and although I left a farewell letter to be read to the parishioners I do wonder whether it was actually read to them as there may have been fear that it would have stirred up the same response in them!

The one thing I was ‘given’ by the diocese was the deposit on a small bed-sit. No help, no advice, not even thanks for the seven years service that I had given them. Then, for about 12 months I was adrift with no church, no understanding of where to go to find the truth or how to find it and without ‘hitting the bottom’ I would still be rudderless even now.

Seeing God

The one contact I had left was with a rugby club and through a foolish friendship with another member I became embroiled in ‘the law’. Despite the unpleasantness of much of the experience there was one thing that occurred again and again that made me start to search for the truth of God. The first solicitor I was appointed was a Christian and not afraid to say so. The Barrister appointed was a Christian. The psychologist who affirmed my confusion and depression for the court was a Christian. The recorder[34] who gave sentence was a Christian. They all unfailingly understood and supported me in the troubles I was in and I wanted to know more, not just about the reason for their attitude but about why God had placed them in my path and so I started to go to various churches in the area to try to understand more. “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”[35]

The first few churches I tried did not ‘work’, and somehow were missing something; even though they were nominally evangelical I did not hear what was being said as any help or answer. But then, after discussion with someone[36] I had met through a placement on the second year of my university course (begun 5 months after leaving the service of Rome) I attended St. Andrew’s Church in the centre of Plymouth. Although part of the Church of England they are members of the ‘Reform’ group and are staunch evangelicals. The simple service and the clear message from scripture caught my attention and I began to attend regularly. I also attended another Reform church in Exeter, St. Leonard’s, where the same preaching of scripture struck a chord.

However, although I knew that I had found ‘the answer’ in the Scriptures I had not yet found my way to Christ. That happened on two separate days not too far apart during 1995, but in totally differing circumstances.

The first was when out walking with Gérardine, who I had met on my Social Work university course and who is now my wife. Whilst walking across part of Dartmoor[37] we were discussing faith and issues involved with it. It is instructive to tell you that my first conversation with Gérardine had been as a result of an ‘Ichthus’ fish symbol[38] on the back of her car which had lead us into deeper and deeper conversation on many subjects. This walk was one of a number we took before and after marrying in 1996. During this particular walk I began the ‘truth’ game, which if memory serves me aright, comes from the film ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’. I began to talk about those issues which had constantly been problems for me during my time in the Roman Catholic Priesthood; including their doctrines of the ‘Eucharist’, of auricular ‘Confession’, compulsory celibacy and many other issues. Whilst having this discussion I was also able, for the first time ever, not just to discuss these issues but to cast these errant and unbiblical doctrines away – to throw away the psychological security blanket that they can provide. I remember feeling a sense of freedom as, leaning on the Scriptures, I dismissed each one after outlining the human arguments used to justify them. I can remember fully understanding for the first time, as if I had previously been looking through a net curtain, the idolatry of ‘Benediction’, of the Rosary and of Roman Marian theology in a way so clear as not to be denied. I can remember really understanding for the first time on that afternoon that human arguments and ideas could be of no use in finding God and salvation. “There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD.”[39] Blessed be the name of the Lord for giving me His wisdom as I need it for my salvation.

I also know that I still did not yet understand where the whole truth was to be found, though that knowledge and inspiration was not too much further away. I was now, though, free from Rome in a way that I had not been before, and free from dependence upon the unbiblical and ungodly demands the Church of Rome makes upon her adherents.

The day of recognition

Shortly after this we went and stayed with Gérardine’s brother, an Anglican Evangelical minister. On Sunday the church service completed their parish children’s ‘Holiday Club’ and was unashamedly evangelistic in style, aiming at any parents who may have brought their children along but were not believers themselves. The speaker gave his message, the detail of which does not now stick in my mind, but which spoke of the need each one of us has for Jesus Christ in our lives and of his saving act on the cross. And at the end of the service he then invited any present who wished to give their lives to the Lord to join with him (silently) in saying a prayer of rejection of our sinful lives and commitment to Jesus Christ, through whom alone we could find salvation. I joined with that prayer, drawn to it as if unable to resist it. Although there was no magic moment or great emotions then I knew at that moment that my life had changed.

The following week we went to church in Exeter and as a hymn started to be sung I was overcome by what had happened and by the reality of my salvation – the words of the hymn spoke to me directly.

‘Such love, pure as the whitest snow;
such love weeps for the shame I know;
such love, paying the debt I owe;
O Jesus, such love.
…such love, fountain of life to me;
O Jesus, such love.’

I understood that my sins are forgiven, through His death on the cross. I understood that for all those years that I had been told by the Church of Rome that I had to earn such forgiveness through works and acts of my own and through the so-called sacraments of the Roman Church I had been living in delusion. “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”[40] For weeks after this I found myself in this same position, weeping my way through much of the service – not tears of pain, loss or anger, but tears of relief and joy that finally I saw and I understood the words of Jesus when he says to us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”[41]

A heartfelt plea

I am now a minister of the Gospel in the ‘Free Church of England’, a small, reformed, liturgical and most importantly, evangelical denomination. I preach and teach the Gospel as the sole source of faith and practice for Christians. I endeavour to help others understand that only by God’s grace can we receive salvation[42] and that thanks to His grace we are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. The Lord has blessed me, I know Jesus Christ is my Saviour; I repent of my sins and rest in his mercy. For those who read this who have not been brought to this point by God’s grace and who are still enmeshed in the Church of Rome think and pray on this following passage. For Rome is separating you from the love of Christ. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[43]

If you should wish to contact me, my email address is:
Dominic@FrancisStockford.fsnet.co.uk

Endnotes
[1] Romans 8:37
[2] 2 Corinthians 2:14
[3] The idolatrous worship of the ‘Blessed Sacrament’ consisting of the wafer consecrated at Catholic Mass.
[4] A stylised and works oriented liturgical working through of the journey of Jesus to Calvary, including several
non-biblical ‘invented’ events.
[5] Repetition of the unbiblical prayer called the ‘Hail Mary’ along with other prayers. The action intended to make one a
better person and bring one closer to God.
[6] in Wonersh, near Guildford, Surrey.
[7] James 2:14ff
[8] 2 Timothy 3:16-17
[9] The Catholic Church disapproves strongly of the use of anything other than ‘wafers’ for communion.
[10] 1 John 3:14
12 Isaiah 55:8
[12] Romans 6:10 & 11
[13] Public speaking, etc.
[14] Church of England
[15] This is the erroneous and unbiblical Roman doctrine of the bread and wine used in their Communion service really
becoming the body and blood of Christ.
[16] Mtt 26:26ff, Mk 14:22ff, Luke 22:14ff & 24:13ff, 1 Cor.11:17ff, etc.
[17] Mtt.15:8 & 9
[18] 5-11years
[19] 2 Timothy 3:16-17
[20] Ephesians 6:13-18
[21] The title given to the priest running the cathedral on behalf of the bishop.
[22] A time of spiritual rethink – normally at a monastery or somewhere with similar solitude.
[23] Although I had two colleagues one was a retired man in his 80s and the other was an older man who was struggling
with alcoholism and was also the Hospital chaplain.
[24] Hebrews 10:11-14
[25] In the Roman Lectionary of weekly Mass readings where they have set readings for years >A, >B & >C.
[26] The Roman tradition does not tend to preach on scripture itself, but on some theme that the given scripture can be
said to have in it, or a special ‘theme of the day’ such as marriage, or on Roman doctrine.
[27] Deuteronomy 5:8-10
[28] Where the ‘consecrated host’ from Roman Mass is kept for ‘adoration’.
[29] A cross with a figure representing Christ on it (see note 28).
[30] Romans 15:18
[31] Luke 12:12
[32] Matthew 23:27
[33] Luke 19:10
[34] Local judge.
[35] Luke 11:9
[36] Gérardine, now my wife.
[37] A stunning and wild landscape in Devon where the ‘infamous’ Dartmoor Prison is located.
[38] Used in the UK almost exclusively by Evangelical Christians.
[39] Proverbs 21:30
[40] Galatians 2:16
[41] John 14:6
[42] Ephesians 2:8
[43] Romans 8:35-39

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To Follow Jesus Without Compromise
by Victor J. Affonso

Why I joined the Society of Jesus
At the age of 23, I was a successful commercial artist on the verge of going abroad where a job was awaiting me. I was happy at the prospect of leaving India and thereby also escaping the terrible anguish caused of seeing the misery of the poor in the streets of Bombay.

Political saviors like Gandhi and Nehru had failed in giving true freedom and justice to India’s poor majority. Murder and divisions assailed “independent” India, and so it still is today. All the social works were but a few drops of water in a desert. Yet there was still one solution left: The words of Jesus kept coming to me during prayer, “…For with God ALL things are possible” (Mark 10:27). “Don’t run away!” On another day I heard the words, “Follow My Son — Jesus!” This word finally led me to leave the world and join the Society of Jesus, a missionary order that promised by its very title, its “Spiritual Exercises” and its Constitutions to serve Jesus at any cost and to lead all men to know Him, His Peace, and His Justice.

To Give India the Gospel
My vision when I joined was to know Jesus intimately, to study and obey His Word, to be completely free of outside encumbrances, even a girl I loved, in order to follow Him
uncompromisingly. Like Paul, I wanted to preach the Gospel and bring India to Christ. The misery of India hurt me, and I was hopeful that with other fully committed Christians, I could help lead the people of India to Christ that they might be saved spiritually and socially and live truly as God’s children. Only then would India experience the Father’s full providence and justice for her people.

When I studied communications media and taught at St. Xavier’s College, it was for the same purpose: to give India the Gospel. Today, I am grateful that this vision for India not only remains but is even more alive and closer to fulfillment. This is my faith; I see Jesus Christ is accomplishing His already-won victory through his “little flock” of ordinary people who are “born-again” and empowered by His Holy Spirit. These are His visible Body on earth, the Christian church. God’s Word says that it is God Himself, through Jesus Christ, Who will sovereignly, “…bring justice to the nations…in faithfulness He will bring forth justice. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isaiah 42:1-4).

“For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:19-20). Thus when it happens, ALL praise and glory of delivering our people will go to God through Christ Jesus. Men are but unworthy and useless servants. For with man it is impossible to save the poor. “But with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26), if only we believe in the One Whom He has sent — Jesus!

The Mission Factor
During the time of my studies, a good fourteen years, my Jesuit superiors and companions also seemed to have had the same vision, and dedicated their lives to the same goal, to know and to serve Jesus and to proclaim Him to the whole world that men might become His disciples. I was also one of the rare, privileged Jesuits who was able to travel and to live abroad for studies and was given freedom to act responsibly. As a man I felt fulfilled. Yet, something very important was missing! I could not satisfy the hunger in my heart to experience Jesus, the Risen Lord, as He was experienced by simple “unschooled” men in the first apostolic church, as described in the Scriptures.

In the early sixties and seventies, when studying abroad, I lived in the Philippines and in many countries of Europe, and later in the U.S.A. I witnessed the exodus and the emptying out of Roman Catholic churches in Europe in the sixties while I studied in Spain. Only six percent attended Sunday Mass! Later in Los Angeles, USA, I saw the double-standard lives of the Sunday Catholics, including myself and the other priests and nuns. I questioned my Christianity, imported from the West, and wondered if Jesus Christ and the Bible were not mere fables for which I was giving up my life in vain.

The Church Opens to Accept Hindus
I had experienced no other church except the Roman Catholic Church. I was brainwashed to believe that it was the one and only true Church, outside which there was no salvation. Vatican Council II had changed the emphasis a bit, but not too much. The Protestants, though now called “brethren” and their churches called “ecclesial communities,” were still treated as “heretics” and their churches were imperfect, “truncated.” I faithfully remained anti-Protestant and avoided any contact with their heretical teachings and TV programs. On the other hand, I was encouraged by the Jesuits in India to be more open with non-Christians, Hindus, Muslims — even calling them “God’s children” — and to study their religions for a “dialogue,” which meant engaging only in mutual appreciation of religions but avoiding any intentions of converting them to Christ.

Professional But Lost
In 1971, while studying in California, I was enveloped in an atmosphere of hippies, gurus, drugs, divorce, sexual hedonism, and perversion of every kind. All my psychological counseling and prayers were not helping the “sinners” at all. I felt helpless. At that time thousands of priests and nuns were leaving the Church in Western countries. Others, like myself, were becoming professional in the media, in psychological counseling, or in social programs to justify our priestly vocation and to save the world by every method except “The gospel …the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).

I was already seventeen years a Jesuit in my late thirties, equipped with several university
degrees and a “green card” for permanent residency in the USA. I considered leaving the powerless and unexciting priesthood along with the rest. But just in case there was a heaven and judgment, I would remain a Sunday Catholic and pay my heavenly insurance. Outwardly, to the Catholics, I appeared to be the efficient and “happy” popular priest studying film and television at the University of California at Los Angeles and living the “yuppie life” at St. Martin of Tours Church in Brentwood, near Beverley Hills and Hollywood. I mingled with my favorite stars at their cocktail parties and never felt discriminated against by this “white” parish. On the contrary, I felt loved and, materially speaking, was very happy. With a good but deceived conscience, I also believed in horoscopes, taught yoga exercises on the campus to young Americans, and never knew that the Bible strictly forbids the occult activities into which I had delved. I needed help!

Unknown to me, some Christians, whom I had accused and preached against as being Protestant “fundamentalists,” were praying for me to be delivered from my deception. They prayed, and I received the grace to come to a point of confusion and desperation regarding my faith and vocation and to cry out to the Lord, “O God, show me if You are true, if Jesus is Your Son, and if the Bible is Your true Word.”

Turning Point
In 1972, precisely on Pentecost Sunday, the Lord dramatically saved me. I had prepared to preach a sermon on the Holy Spirit, to be repeated at five consecutive Masses in Brentwood. I had no faith in what I preached.

My back gave out early that morning, for the first time in my life, and I did not preach. An ambulance hurried me to St. John’s Hospital. A leading orthopedic surgeon diagnosed my serious condition as congenital scoliosis of the spine in need of major surgery. I lay on my back in traction, in pain, and in confusion. The Lord arranged for Christians to come to my room and to pray for me. Against my will, they placed their hands on me and while I patiently suffered their “foolishness,” I tried to forgive these “heretics” who began praying. I sighed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” But in His own way, the Lord had heard my cry and was answering it through His servants, the very ones I was rejecting. The Lord opened my heart from that day on to know Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, assured of salvation here and now in a way I had never experienced before. I now knew the big difference between experiencing Jesus as my personal Savior after being “born-again” and knowing Him as a Roman Catholic who left all things to work for Jesus as a man religious but still not sure of my salvation and destination after death. Words cannot describe this wonderful experience of Jesus my Savior.

The Lord Opens My Eyes
During that month in the hospital, the scales slowly fell from my eyes. The risen Lord sovereignly removed from my heart the doubts and confusion about the reality of the risen Lord and eternal life.

The Bible, which I had once labored to study as professional knowledge, now became an exciting real life spiritual revelation to me. I could easily understand the Word, enjoy it, and remember it. The Bible is always held by the Roman Catholic Church as her Book. The Roman Catholic Church reasons that the Church, which she identifies as herself, existed before the Scriptures of the New Testament, and she also helped to define the canon of the Bible. Hence she holds that to judge ongoing apostolic doctrine, the final norm is not Scripture alone (“Sola Scriptura”) but rather Scripture and tradition (of the Roman Catholic Church). Catholics are obliged to believe finally what the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church officially declares as truth. Christians, however, believe that Scriptures should be the final norm to judge the doctrines. This is shown in the Bible: Jesus and the apostolic writers of the New Testament always referred to the Old Testament Scriptures to verify their teachings and actions. Jesus said:

“…These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44).

Paul wrote: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Romans 1:1-3). When Paul preached: “…they [the believers at Berea] searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

It is the Holy Spirit Who is the Author and Who finally edited and completed the Bible. His Scriptures warn all teachers: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it…” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Any teachings or “infallible dogmas” which add, subtract, or deny the Scriptures must be rejected, including purgatory, immaculate conception, adoration of the transubstantiated elements, infallibility of the Pope, etc. Jesus speaks strongly against such “traditions” and teachers: “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye” (Mark 7:13).

Grace — God’s Free Gift
Grace, the free gift of God that causes man to believe in Jesus and to have eternal life, cannot be earned by man’s “works” for himself or for another. Yet the Roman Catholic Church stresses the essential mediation of the bishops, priests and sacramental “works” for the reception of grace for salvation. This comes against Scripture which says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The Scriptures teach that Jesus is the only Savior. Only He could die and shed His divine blood at Calvary to forgive men their sins and take away eternal death. He, the Lord God, came to give us freedom and salvation: “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Paul would not permit even himself or an angel from heaven to pervert the Gospel he was already preaching (Galatians 1:8):

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (I Corinthians 1:23-24).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).The root cause why Catholics cannot understand or proclaim this Gospel is because they are not open to receive this conviction when reproved by the Holy Spirit, since they have been brainwashed by the Roman Catholic system to be immersed in salvation by human works, and are kept ignorant of the Gospel Truth in the Bible. Jesus promised, “And when he [the Holy Spirit] is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me” (John 16:8-9).

The Gospel and commission of Jesus is being denied today by clergymen not empowered by the Holy Spirit (and probably not born-again). Instead, they are birthing “dead churches” through “good works” and rituals (sacraments), “charms” (scapulars, medals), and “mantras” (chants, novenas, rosaries), which the pagans do as well or better. As it is written, “We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind…” (Isaiah 26:18).

I Believe the Real Good News
When I had my “born-again” experience in the hospital, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my sins, some of which I even thought were my virtues. I had depended on my “works” and “sacraments of the church” to work out my salvation. But now I knew I had only “brought forth wind.” I repented and believed the REAL GOOD NEWS: that Jesus had done it ALL for me, once for all by His one sacrifice on the cross. The only way to be saved was to repent and just believe in Jesus Christ as my only Savior and Lord.

The Lord also convicted me that I had fought against a lot of people. I had always prided myself on being a friendly and forgiving priest who loved everybody, including the Hindus, Muslims, my enemies, and sinners, giving my life to convert them to the Catholic Church for salvation. But now I heard a clear inner voice of the Holy Spirit convicting me of unloving ways, wrongly judging many Christians as “heretics.” Suddenly I saw it. I had no love for “protestants.” With prejudice and fear I had avoided the “heretics” and their TV programs and warned Catholics against Protestant Bibles and writings. I repented. It was a great miracle of God’s grace. Years of prejudice dissolved and I suddenly hungered to meet my long-lost Christian brothers and sisters. It was as if a dark screen had been drawn from my heart, and my mind and eye could see the truth plainly. I experienced such great joy of salvation that the patients in the next hospital room enquired why I was so joyful. The love for Jesus burned within me with a new zeal to return to India and a boldness to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.

God Heals
I also was graced to believe for my healing. I trusted my expert surgeon that he could (with some risks) cure my back. But I wanted to have a testimony of my living Jesus, He who declares: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18). So with faith in Jesus I walked out of that hospital, refusing surgery, unafraid of the great risk.

I was healed miraculously of the scoliosis without surgery, to the amazement of the surgeon. My spine, which had become shaped like an “S”, had become straight as a rod within the year. This strengthened my faith and proclamation.

New Life, New Zeal
I launched out into all churches, beginning with some Protestant ones, and found such great love among these my Christian brothers as I witnessed to the risen Lord: “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is Faithful and True.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God; many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD” (Psalm 40:1-3.)

The Lord has answered my questions. Jesus Christ is truly risen and is alive and is doing very well indeed! He is coming soon! “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He is with us, just as He was with the saints of the Apostolic Church, and also with Joshua and the saints of the Old Testament.

Someone had faithfully prayed for me and I had received the grace to cry out to the Lord, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 1:14). In the same way, I will continue to pray for all those who are deceived like I once was when I did not know where to go. I pray that the Lord will hear their cry and they will be filled with joy and be empowered to be witnesses to Christ. I pray this especially for the Jesuits and Catholics in India, that our nation may soon be delivered from every evil by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Someday this vision will come true! And Jesus, the Truth, shall prevail!

The True Church Upholds The Bible
The Roman Catholic hierarchy had requested me to stop teaching because I had publicly admitted that some of their main dogmas and practises were contrary to God’s Word in the Bible, making it a religion separated from the one true Church of Jesus Christ. The true Church consists of believers who uphold God’s Word without blatant perversions.

Converted by the Word and the Spirit
To the best of my ability I have always respected and obeyed the Roman Catholic Church leaders as unto the Lord. But now my conscience convinced me that in remaining under the Roman Catholic authority or headship, I would be forced to submit to teachings that were false and lies coming from the anti-Christ spirit. In John 8:43-44, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and asked them:

“Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”

These qualities were evident in the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisition and murder of the reformers. The false dogmas have not been changed at all by Vatican II. This Council fully supported Trent in totality. Catholics were and are encouraged to accept false religions as equally “salvific.”

The Bombay Cardinal and church leaders urged me not to leave the Roman Catholic Church. I loved them. They had once supported me fully in the work I was doing in India. I wrote to the Cardinal and indeed the Pope and the Jesuit Provincial explaining in detail and respect that: “…We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

It broke my heart to leave the Roman Catholic people, with all my friends and relatives, and not be able to teach them the Bible Good News. May the Lord sovereignly bless them with His truth and set the prisoners free to follow Jesus without compromise. I ask this in Jesus’ name.

In 1993 I married Julie Laschiazza Baden of Brentwood, Los Angeles, who had ministered with me for salvation of souls through the Holy Spirit in Roman Catholic Churches all over India and the USA. God has gifted her with a powerful ministry. Together we founded Cornerstone International ministries in India and USA for discipling believers to pray and labor by the power of the Holy Spirit and also use the mass media for India to come to Jesus Christ.

Postscript on Present Day Doctrinal Pollution
I am quite aware of difficulties also in Protestant churches, some of which have fallen prey to the same trap of doctrinal pollution, secular humanism, pluralism and above all Christian materialism that preaches the “prosperity Gospel,” and political messiahship. In many rich and powerful Christian countries, the god of mammon reigns supreme. Preachers and “healers” calling themselves “born-again” and “Holy Spirit filled” are making evangelical work a business in the Father’s House. While they point fingers at the Vatican power and harlotry, they too are building their own little Vaticans and becoming powerful “infallible” popes on their own television stations or in their large institutions and church buildings and Christian entertainment centers. Their million-dollar estates discourage them from leaving their comfortable homes to visit more difficult and poor mission stations even in their own country. Some of the so called Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches have been seduced into seeking the signs and wonders through cultivated occult powers attributable to human potential and its concomitant evil – the idolatrous deification of self.

If you need prayer or any help to follow Jesus without compromise, or to be partner in this ministry you may contact us at:

Cornerstone International Unique
B-204, Cross Road 6
Borivali (W) Bombay 400103 INDIA
or
Cornerstone International Inc.
15030 Ventura Blvd. Suite 463
Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 U.S.A

Victor J. Affonso
Born in India. He is presently very active spending equal time each year in the U.S.A. and in India. His heart is as an evangelist. His presence is felt in preaching and witnessing in the U.S.A. and in cities and towns around Bombay and Goa in India. He is the founder and director of Cornerstone International.

Renunciation
FINAL DECISION of VICTOR J.J. AFFONSO TO RESIGN FROM THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and its JESUIT ORDER I, VICTOR JOHN JOSEPH AFFONSO, a disciple and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ saved by His precious BLOOD, anointed by His Holy Spirit, and appointed by Him to live and preach His GOSPEL to ALL peoples, while remaining a member of the ONE ROYAL PRIESTHOOD of the People of God in Christ Jesus, I hereby declare my RESIGNATION from the membership of the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH and from its Religious Order called the SOCIETY OF JESUS in obedience to God’s Word as my conscience discerns. Henceforth I do not accept the headship of Roman Catholic authorities since they make void the Bible, and obstruct my MISSION to preach the GOSPEL without COMPROMISE.

In my conscience, I believe that many of the Official Doctrines and Practises of the Roman Catholic Church come against God’s written Word. These aberrations have resulted because of a “rotten root,” which is that the Church, even after the Canon of Scripture was completed, holds that there are TWO SOURCES of divinely revealed Truth: The Bible and Tradition. In practice the Tradition has added to and contradicted the inerrant and completed Revelation in the Bible. I hold the Bible as the FINAL NORM to judge what is God’s Word for us today. To please God I have to obey what He says. In His inerrant Word He says: “blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). Jesus is against “Making the Word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye” (Mark 7:13). I also believe from Scriptures that the “Religious Vows” and “Clerical Hierarchy” as practised in the Roman Catholic Church today, making the clergy a brahmanical upper class, set apart as holier than the rest of the Royal Priesthood, are anti-scriptural and not according to God’s biblical pattern for His Church. The Religious Vows are also superfluous for any true member of the Body of Christ whose Baptismal Vows are to die with Christ to the values of the world, include his being, POOR in Spirit: not lusting for his possessions, but sharing with those in need, CHASTE: in thought and living, whether single or married, OBEDIENT: to all authority constituted by God, social or religious in all things except sin. Hence, I hereby RENOUNCE ALL THE RELIGIOUS VOWS taken in the “Society of Jesus” which included the special “cultic” Vow of obedience to the Roman Catholic Pope. I hereby renounce ALL FALSE VOWS AND CONSECRATIONS to Mary or to any other departed saint or created spirit, that have been performed by me or by anyone else on my behalf, with or without my knowledge.
_____________________________
Signed by Victor J.J. Affonso
Date: 20th June, 1988
Bombay, India

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If you are a catholic and you are truly seeking to make sure that you are doing exactly what God would have you to do, won’t you please visit Richard Bennett’s website at Berean Beacon? He was a catholic priest for 22 years in Ireland and Rome. If a mere former catholic lay person like myself cannot compel you to compare the teachings of the catholic church with the Bible, then maybe this former catholic priest can help you to understand how he saw the differences.

Please, I beg you. I am not here to point fingers or to judge you. That is not up to me but to the God of Glory! I am here, however, to lead you to Him in any way that I can. I am here to tell you my story. If you won’t listen to me, then please go read about Richard Bennett. Every question – every doctrine in question – that you might have, will be covered there. Since the catholic church teaches that the church and its leaders are better able to interpret Scriptures, then maybe you will hear what Brother Bennett has to say.

My prayer is that my blog will lead at least one soul to Jesus Christ!

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This is the testimony of Richard Bennett, a former Catholic priest. He has given me permission to use his testimony here. I pray that you will be blessed and that at least one catholic would be saved because of Richard’s testimony.

From Tradition To Truth
A Priest’s Story

Richard Peter Bennett

The Early Years

Born Irish, in a family of eight, my early childhood was fulfilled and happy. My father was a colonel in the Irish Army until he retired when I was about nine. As a family, we loved to play, sing, and act, all within a military camp in Dublin.

We were a typical Irish Roman Catholic family. My father sometimes knelt down to pray at his bedside in a solemn manner. Most evenings we would kneel in the living room to say the Rosary together. No one ever missed Mass on Sundays unless he was seriously ill. By the time I was about five or six years of age, Jesus Christ was a very real person to me, but so also were Mary and the saints. I can identify easily with others in traditional Catholic nations in Europe and with Hispanics and Filipinos who put Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and other saints all in one boiling pot of faith.

The catechism was drilled into me at the Jesuit School of Belvedere, where I had all my elementary and secondary education. Like every boy who studies under the Jesuits, I could recite before the age of ten five reasons why God existed and why the Pope was head of the only true Church. Getting souls out of Purgatory was a serious matter. The often quoted words, “It is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from sins,” were memorized even though we did not know what these words meant. We were told that the Pope as head of the Church was the most important man on earth. What he said was law, and the Jesuits were his right-hand men. Even though the Mass was in Latin, I tried to attend daily because I was intrigued by the deep sense of mystery which surrounded it. We were told it was the most important way to please God. Praying to saints was encouraged, and we had patron saints for most aspects of life. I did not make a practise of that, with one exception: St. Anthony, the patron of lost objects, since I seemed to lose so many things. When I was fourteen years old, I sensed a call to be a missionary. This call, however, did not affect the way in which I conducted my life at that time. Age sixteen to eighteen were the most fulfilled and enjoyable years a youth could have. During this time, I did quite well both academically and athletically.

I often had to drive my mother to the hospital for treatments. While waiting for her, I found quoted in a book these verses from Mark 10:29-30, “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Not having any idea of the true salvation message, I decided that I truly did have a call to be a missionary.

Trying To Earn Salvation

I left my family and friends in 1956 to join the Dominican Order. I spent eight years studying what it is to be a monk, the traditions of the Church, philosophy, the theology of Thomas Aquinas, and some of the Bible from a Catholic standpoint. Whatever personal faith I had was institutionalized and ritualized in the Dominican religious system. Obedience to the law, both Church and Dominican, was put before me as the means of sanctification. I often spoke to Ambrose Duffy, our Master of Students, about the law being the means of becoming holy. In addition to becoming “holy,” I wanted also to be sure of eternal salvation. I memorized part of the teaching of Pope Pius XII in which he said, “…the salvation of many depends on the prayers and sacrifices of the mystical body of Christ offered for this intention.” This idea of gaining salvation through suffering and prayer is also the basic message of Fatima and Lourdes, and I sought to win my own salvation as well as the salvation of others by such suffering and prayer. In the Dominican monastery in Tallaght, Dublin, I performed many difficult feats to win souls, such as taking cold showers in the middle of winter and beating my back with a small steel chain. The Master of Students knew what I was doing, his own austere life being part of the inspiration that I had received from the Pope’s words. With rigor and determination, I studied, prayed, did penance, tried to keep the Ten Commandments and the multitude of Dominican rules and traditions.

Outward Pomp — Inner Emptiness

Then in 1963 at the age of twenty-five I was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and went on to finish my course of studies of Thomas Aquinas at The Angelicum University in Rome. But there I had difficulty with both the outward pomp and the inner emptiness. Over the years I had formed, from pictures and books, pictures in my mind of the Holy See and the Holy City. Could this be the same city? At the Angelicum University I was also shocked that hundreds of others who poured into our morning classes seemed quite disinterested in theology. I noticed Time and Newsweek magazines being read during classes. Those who were interested in what was being taught seemed only to be looking for either degrees or positions within the Catholic Church in their homelands.

One day I went for a walk in the Colosseum so that my feet might tread the ground where the blood of so many Christians had been poured out. I walked to the arena in the Forum. I tried to picture in my mind those men and women who knew Christ so well that they were joyfully willing to be burned at the stake or devoured alive by beasts because of His overpowering love. The joy of this experience was marred, however, for as I went back in the bus I was insulted by jeering youths shouting words meaning “scum or garbage.” I sensed their motivation for such insults was not because I stood for Christ as the early Christians did but because they saw in me the Roman Catholic system. Quickly, I put this contrast out of my mind, yet what I had been taught about the present glories of Rome now seemed very irrelevant and empty.

One night soon after that, I prayed for two hours in front of the main altar in the church of San Clemente. Remembering my earlier youthful call to be a missionary and the hundredfold promise of Mark 10:29-30, I decided not to take the theological degree that had been my ambition since beginning study of the theology of Thomas Aquinas. This was a major decision, but after long prayer I was sure I had decided correctly.

The priest who was to direct my thesis did not want to accept my decision. In order to make the degree easier, he offered me a thesis written several years earlier. He said I could use it as my own if only I would do the oral defense. This turned my stomach. It was similar to what I had seen a few weeks earlier in a city park: elegant prostitutes parading themselves in their black leather boots. What he was offering was equally sinful. I held to my decision, finishing at the University at the ordinary academic level, without the degree.

On returning from Rome, I received official word that I had been assigned to do a three year course at Cork University. I prayed earnestly about my missionary call. To my surprise, I received orders in late August 1964 to go to Trinidad, West Indies, as a missionary.

Pride, Fall, And A New Hunger

On October 1, 1964, I arrived in Trinidad, and for seven years I was a successful priest, in Roman Catholic terms, doing all my duties and getting many people to come to Mass. By 1972 I had become quite involved in the Catholic Charismatic Movement. Then, at a prayer meeting on March 16th of that year, I thanked the Lord that I was such a good priest and requested that if it were His will, He humble me that I might be even better. Later that same evening I had a freak accident, splitting the back of my head and hurting my spine in many places. Without thus coming close to death, I doubt that I would ever have gotten out of my self-satisfied state. Rote, set prayer showed its emptiness as I cried out to God in my pain.

In the suffering that I went through in the weeks after the accident, I began to find some comfort in direct personal prayer. I stopped saying the Breviary (the Roman Catholic Church’s official prayer for clergy) and the Rosary and began to pray using parts of the Bible itself. This was a very slow process. I did not know my way through the Bible and the little I had learned over the years had taught me more to distrust it rather than to trust it. My training in philosophy and in the theology of Thomas Aquinas left me helpless, so that coming into the Bible now to find the Lord was like going into a huge dark woods without a map.

When assigned to a new parish later that year, I found that I was to work side-by-side with a Dominican priest who had been a brother to me over the years. For more than two years we were to work together, fully seeking God as best we knew in the parish of Pointe-a-Pierre. We read, studied, prayed, and put into practise what we had been taught in Church teaching. We built up communities in Gasparillo, Claxton Bay, and Marabella, just to mention the main villages. In a Catholic religious sense we were very successful. Many people attended Mass. The Catechism was taught in many schools, including government schools. I continued my personal search into the Bible, but it did not much affect the work we were doing; rather it showed me how little I really knew about the Lord and His Word. It was at this time that Philippians 3:10 became the cry of my heart, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection….”

About this time the Catholic Charismatic movement was growing, and we introduced it into most of our villages. Because of this movement, some Canadian Christians came to Trinidad to share with us. While much of what I learnt centered on pretended signs and wonders, which I have later renounced, the use of the Scriptures was truly a blessing to me. The love the Canadian Christians had for the Bible got me deeply into it as an authority source. I began to compare scripture with scripture and even to quote chapter and verse!

One of the texts the Canadians used was Isaiah 53:5, “…and with his stripes we are healed.” Yet in studying Isaiah 53, I discovered that the Bible deals with the problem of sin by means of substitution. Christ died in my place. It was wrong for me to try to expidite or try to cooperate in paying the price of my sin. “If by grace, it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace..” Romans 11:6. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

One particular sin of mine was getting annoyed with people, sometimes even angry. Although I asked forgiveness for my sins, I still did not realize that I was a sinner by the nature which we all inherit from Adam. The scriptural truth is, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The Catholic Church, however, had taught me that the depravity of man, which is called “original sin,” had been washed away by my infant baptism. I still held this belief in my head, but in my heart I knew that my depraved nature had not yet been conquered by Christ. “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection…” (Philippians 3:10) continued to be the cry of my heart. I knew that it could be only through His power that I could live the Christian life. I posted this text on the dashboard of my car and in other places. It became the plea that motivated me, and the Lord who is Faithful began to answer.

The Ultimate Question

First, I discovered that God’s Word in the Bible is absolute and without error. I had been taught that the Word is relative and that its truthfulness in many areas was to be questioned. Now I began to understand that the Bible could, in fact, be trusted. With the aid of Strong’s Concordance, I began to study the Bible to see what it says about itself. I discovered that the Bible teaches clearly that it is from God and is absolute in what it says. It is true in its history, in the promises God has made, in its prophecies, in the moral commands it gives, and in how to live the Christian life. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (II Timothy 3:16-17).

This discovery was made while visiting in Vancouver, B.C., and in Seattle. When I was asked to talk to the prayer group in St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, I took as my subject the absolute authority of God’s Word. It was the first time that I had understood such a truth or talked about it. I returned to Vancouver, B.C. and in a large parish Church, before about 400 people, I preached the same message. Bible in hand, I proclaimed that “the absolute and final authority in all matters of faith and morals is the Bible, God’s own Word.”

Three days later, the archbishop of Vancouver, B.C., James Carney, called me to his office. I was then officially silenced and forbidden to preach in his archdiocese. I was told that my punishment would have been more severe, were it not for the letter of recommendation I had received from my own archbishop, Anthony Pantin. Soon afterwards I returned to Trinidad.

Church-Bible Dilemma

While I was still parish priest of Point-a-Pierre, Ambrose Duffy, the man who had so strictly taught me while he was Student Master, was asked to assist me. The tide had turned. After some initial difficulties, we became close friends. I shared with him what I was discovering. He listened and commented with great interest and wanted to find out what was motivating me. I saw in him a channel to my Dominican brothers and even to those in the Archbishop’s house. When he died suddenly of a heart attack, I was stricken with grief. In my mind, I had seen Ambrose as the one who could make sense out of the Church-Bible dilemma with which I so struggled. I had hoped that he would have been able to explain to me and then to my Dominican brothers the truths with which I wrestled. I preached at his funeral and my despair was very deep.

I continued to pray Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection….” But to learn more about Him, I had first to learn about myself as a sinner. I saw from the Bible (I Timothy 2:5) that the role I was playing as a priestly mediator — exactly what the Catholic Church teaches but exactly opposite to what the Bible teaches — was wrong. I really enjoyed being looked up to by the people and, in a certain sense, being idolized by them. I rationalized my sin by saying that after all, if this is what the biggest Church in the world teaches, who am I to question it? Still, I struggled with the conflict within. I began to see the worship of Mary, the saints, and the priests for the sin that it is. But while I was willing to renounce Mary and the saints as mediators, I could not renounce the priesthood, for in that I had invested my whole life.

Tug-Of-War Years

Mary, the saints, and the priesthood were just a small part of the huge struggle with which I was working. Who was Lord of my life, Jesus Christ in His Word or the Roman Church? This ultimate question raged inside me especially during my last six years as parish priest of Sangre Grande (1979-1985). That the Catholic Church was supreme in all matters of faith and morals had been dyed into my brain since I was a child. It looked impossible ever to change. Rome was not only supreme but always called “Holy Mother.” How could I ever go against “Holy Mother,” all the more so since I had an official part in dispensing her sacraments and keeping people faithful to her? In 1981, I actually rededicated myself to serving the Roman Catholic Church while attending a parish renewal seminar in New Orleans. Yet when I returned to Trinidad and again became involved in real life problems, I began to return to the authority of God’s Word. Finally the tension became like a tug-of-war inside me. Sometimes I looked to the Roman Church as being absolute, sometimes to the authority of the Bible as being final. My stomach suffered much during those years; my emotions were being torn. I ought to have known the simple truth that one cannot serve two masters. My working position was to place the absolute authority of the Word of God under the supreme authority of the Roman Church.

This contradiction was symbolized in what I did with the four statues in the Sangre Grande Church. I removed and broke the statues of St. Francis and St. Martin because the second commandment of God’s Law declares in Exodus 20:4, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image….” But when some of the people objected to my removal of the statues of the Sacred Heart and of Mary, I left them standing because the higher authority, i.e., the Roman Catholic Church, said in its law Canon 1188: “The practise of displaying sacred images in the churches for the veneration of the faithful is to remain in force.” I did not see that what I was trying to do was to make God’s Word subject to man’s word.

My Own Fault

While I had learned earlier that God’s Word is absolute, I still went through this agony of trying to maintain the Roman Catholic Church as holding more authority than God’s Word, even in issues where the Church of Rome was saying the exact opposite to what was in the Bible. How could this be? First of all, it was my own fault. If I had accepted the authority of the Bible as supreme, I would have been convicted by God’s Word to give up my priestly role as mediator, but that was too precious to me. Second, no one ever questioned what I did as a priest. Christians from overseas came to Mass, saw our sacred oils, holy water, medals, statues, vestments, rituals, and never said a word! The marvelous style, symbolism, music, and artistic taste of the Roman Church was all very captivating. Incense not only smells pungent, but to the mind it spells mystery.

The Turning Point

One day, a woman challenged me (the only Christian ever to challenge me in all my 22 years as a priest), “You Roman Catholics have a form of godliness, but you deny its power.” Those words bothered me for some time because the lights, banners, folk music, guitars, and drums were dear to me. Probably no priest on the whole island of Trinidad had as colorful robes, banners, and vestments as I had. Clearly I did not apply what was before my eyes. In October 1985, God’s grace was greater than the lie that I was trying to live. I went to Barbados to pray over the compromise that I was forcing myself to live. I felt truly trapped. The Word of God is absolute indeed. I ought to obey it alone; yet to the very same God I had vowed obedience to the supreme authority of the Catholic Church. In Barbados I read a book in which was explained the Biblical meaning of Church as “the fellowship of believers.” In the New Testament there is no hint of a hierarchy; “Clergy” lording it over the “laity” is unknown. Rather, it is as the Lord Himself declared “…one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren” (Matthew 23:8). Now to see and to understand the meaning of church as “fellowship” left me free to let go of the Roman Catholic Church as supreme authority and depend on Jesus Christ as Lord. It began to dawn on me that in Biblical terms, the Bishops I knew in the Catholic Church were not Biblical believers. They were for the most part pious men taken up with devotion to Mary and the Rosary and loyal to Rome, but not one had any idea of the finished work of salvation, that Christ’s work is done, that salvation is personal and complete. They all preached penance for sin, human suffering, religious deeds, “the way of man” rather than the Gospel of grace. But by God’s grace I saw that it was not through the Roman Church nor by any kind of works that one is saved, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

New Birth at Age 48

I left the Roman Catholic Church when I saw that life in Jesus Christ was not possible while remaining true to Roman Catholic doctrine. In leaving Trinidad in November 1985, I only reached neighboring Barbados. Staying with an elderly couple, I prayed to the Lord for a suit and necessary money to reach Canada, for I had only tropical clothing and a few hundred dollars to my name. Both prayers were answered without making my needs known to anyone except the Lord. From a tropical temperature of 90 degrees, I landed in snow and ice in Canada. After one month in Vancouver, I came to the United States of America. I now trusted that He would take care of my many needs, since I was beginning life anew at 48 years of age, practically penniless, without an alien resident card, without a driver’s license, without a recommendation of any kind, having only the Lord and His Word.

I spent six months with a Christian couple on a farm in Washington State. I explained to my hosts that I had left the Roman Catholic Church and that I had accepted Jesus Christ and His Word in the Bible as all-sufficient. I had done this, I said, “absolutely, finally, definitively, and resolutely.” Yet far from being impressed by these four adverbs, they wanted to know if there was any bitterness or hurt inside me. In prayer and in great compassion, they ministered to me, for they themselves had made the transition and knew how easily one can become embittered. Four days after I arrived in their home, by God’s grace I began to see in repentance the fruit of salvation. This meant being able not only to ask the Lord’s pardon for my many years of compromising but also to accept His healing where I had been so deeply hurt. Finally, at age 48, on the authority of God’s Word alone, by grace alone, I accepted Christ’s substitutionary death on the Cross alone. To Him alone be the glory.

Having been refurbished both physically and spiritually by this Christian couple together with their family, I was provided a wife by the Lord, Lynn, born-again in faith, lovely in manner, intelligent in mind. Together we set out for Atlanta, Georgia, where we both got jobs.

A Real Missionary With A Real Message

In September 1988, we left Atlanta to go as missionaries to Asia. It was a year of deep fruitfulness in the Lord that once I would never have thought was possible. Men and women came to know the authority of the Bible and the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. I was amazed at how easy it is for the Lord’s grace to be effective when only the Bible is used to present Jesus Christ. This contrasted with the cobwebs of church tradition that had so clouded my 21 years in missionary garments in Trinidad, 21 years without the real message.

To explain the abundant life of which Jesus spoke and which I now enjoy, no better words could be used than those of Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” It is not just that I have been freed from the Roman Catholic system, but that I have become a new creature in Christ. It is by the grace of God, and nothing but His grace, that I have gone from dead works into new life.

Testimony to the Gospel of Grace

Back in 1972, when some Christians had taught me about the Lord healing our bodies, how much more helpful it would have been had they explained to me on what authority our sinful nature is made right with God. The Bible clearly shows that Jesus substituted for us on the cross. I cannot express it better than Isaiah 53:5: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (This means that Christ took on himself what I ought to suffer for my sins. Before the Father, I trust in Jesus as my substitute.)

That was written 750 years before the crucifixion of our Lord. A short time after the sacrifice of the cross, the Bible states in I Peter 2:24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” Because we inherited our sin nature from Adam, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. How can we stand before a Holy God, except in Christ, and acknowledge that He died where we ought to have died? Only through faith we can see, understand and grasp Christ as our substitute. It was Christ who paid the price for our sins: sinless, yet He was crucified. This is the true Gospel message. Is faith enough? Yes, born-again faith is enough. That true faith, engendered by God, will inevitably show good fruit, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). In repenting, we put aside, through God’s strength, our former way of life and our former sins. It does not mean that we cannot sin again, but it does mean that our position before God has changed. We are called children of God, for so indeed we are. If we do sin, it is a relationship problem with the Father which can be resolved, not a problem of losing our position as a child of God in Christ, for this position is irrevocable. In Hebrews 10:10, the Bible says it so wonderfully: “…we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The finished work of Christ Jesus on the Cross is sufficient and complete. As you trust solely in this finished work, a new life which is born of the Spirit will be yours — you will be born again.

The Present Day

My present task: the good work that the Lord has prepared for me to do is as an evangelist situated near Austin in the central Texas U.S.A. What Paul said about his fellow Jews I say about my dearly loved Catholic brothers: my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Catholics is that they may be saved. I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based in God’s Word but in their church tradition. If you understand the devotion and agony that some of the men and women in the Philippines and South America have put into their religion, you may understand my heart’s cry: “Lord, give us a compassion to understand the pain and torment of the search that devout Catholics have made to please You. In understanding pain inside the their hearts, we will have the desire to show them the Good News of Christ’s finished work on the Cross.”

My testimony shows how difficult it was for me as a Catholic to give up Church tradition, but when the Lord demands it in His Word, we must do it. The “form of godliness” that the Roman Catholic Church has makes it most difficult for a Catholic to see where the real problem lies. Everyone must determine by what authority we know truth. For Papal Rome the ultimate authority lies in the decisions and decrees of the reigning Pope. In her own words, “The Supreme Pontiff, in virtue of his office, possesses infallible teaching authority when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful…he proclaims with a definitive act that a doctrine of faith or morals is to be held as such.” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 749). Yet according to the Bible, it is God’s Word itself which is the authority by which truth is known. It was man-made traditions which caused the Reformers to demand “the Bible only, faith only, grace only, in Christ only, and to God only be the glory.”

The Reason Why I Share

I share these truths with you now so that you can know God’s way of salvation. Our basic problem as Catholics was that personal worth and dignity was ingrained into us. We believed that could respond to the help God gives us to be right in His sight. This presupposition that many of us have carried for years is aptly defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994) #2021, “Grace is the help God gives us to respond to our vocation of becoming his adopted sons….” With that mindset, we were unknowingly holding to a teaching that the Bible continually condemns. Such a definition of grace is man’s careful fabrication, for the Bible consistently declares that the believer’s right standing with God is “without works” (Romans 4:6), “without the deeds of the Law” (Romans 3:28), “not of works” (Ephesians 2:9), “It is the gift of God, (Ephesians 2:8). To attempt to make the believer’s response part of his salvation and to look upon grace as “a help” is to flatly deny Biblical truth, “…if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace…” (Romans 11:6).

The simple Biblical message is that “the gift of righteousness” in Christ Jesus is a gift, resting on His all-sufficient sacrifice on the cross, “For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).

So it is as Christ Jesus Himself said, He died in place of the believer, the One for many (Mark 10:45), His life a ransom for many. As He declared, …this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). This is also what Peter proclaimed, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…” (I Peter 3:18). Paul’s preaching is summarized at the end of II Corinthians 5:21, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him..” (II Corinthians 5:21).

This fact, dear reader, is presented clearly to you in the Bible. Acceptance of it is now commanded by God, “…Repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The most difficult repentance for us dyed-in-the-wool Catholics is changing our mind from thoughts of “meriting,” “earning,” “being good enough,” simply to accepting with empty hands the gift of righteousness in Christ Jesus. To refuse to accept what God commands is the same sin as that of the religious Jews of Paul’s time, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to
establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” (Romans 10:3) Repent and believe the Good News!

Richard Bennett

If there is something on your heart that you wish to share, please email me at: info@bereanbeacon.org, thank you I give permission to copy this testimony if it is done in its entirety without any changes.

WebPage address: www.bereanbeacon.org

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