Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Freedom in Christ, Not License to Sin

Regarding Catholic Guilt, a commenter posted about her inability to sometimes know what was sin because in her previous denomination she was told to consult the Bible because all the "answers are in there." Well, as it turns out, many of the specific answers aren't there. As Catholics we are thankful for the Sacred Tradition of the Church and the Magisterium to guide us when the waters get murky. I have been so amazed at the way in which the Catechism deals with issues that were couldn't possibly be answered with just a "plain reading" of scripture. I am not denigrating scripture here since Catholics believe it is God's word, but nowhere does scripture say it is the last and only word regarding faith and morals. (This concept has been discussed in previous posts)
I use to pride myself on the ability to "embrace the tension between modern culture and biblical christianity." Unfortunately, this sometimes led to embracing the modern culture a bit too tightly! Meaning, with no clear-cut guidelines on certain aspects of morality, a person can fall into sin believing they are "free in Christ" but actually become enslaved to sin and not be free at all. Did my "freedom in Christ" really benefit me when I took no serious thought to what movies I rented containing vile language or graphic sexuality and violence because the "story was relevant" and they were only rated R?
Wasn't I committing fairly significant sin when I later replayed those graphic scenes through the flash memory in my mind? (I think Jesus referred to it as adultery) This soon becomes a slippery slope for some of us as the Catechism says:

Sin creates a proclivity to sin; it engenders vice by repetition of the same acts. This results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil. Thus sin tends to reproduce itself and reinforce itself, but it cannot destroy the moral sense at its root.

The Church is not legalistic, but helps to show us the damage that sin can do to us as Christians. I believe my Catholicism has helped me to better hear Jesus' call for a life spent in attempting to be holy for He is holy. At some point in my previous life, I gave up on that possibility thinking, I can never be holy so "this is all you're gonna' get from me God." I have benefited greatly from reading the lives of the saints who struggled as we do and yet came out victorious and satisfied in their hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Have any of you other convert/reverts experienced more conviction of sin and desire for holiness since converting? It would be interesting to see your thoughts.


Blogger said...

Convert here and former pastor:
My "freedom in Christ" allowed me to justify a life long habit of masturbation {apologies to, well everyone, if this is a PG blog...I'm just being 100% honest}. Understand I am speaking somewhat tongue in cheek above and fully acknowledge that the problem and abuse of my freedom in Christ was 100% my fault and 100% no fault of Jesus but the point is made; misinterpretation and situational justification is easy when we are left to interpret things on our own and make up the rules according to the misshapen pattern of our own hearts, ever inclined toward sin.

At my first reconciliation this sin was one of two that I knew I needed to bring to the Lord in confession. In fact, I was out and out excited to get there and fess up.

I received absolution, penance and since January of this year to this moment I have not fallen into that sin again, to the glory of God and with thanks for his special graces that come to us in the sacraments of his Church. By grace alone was I saved and am kept from this sin.

Am I glad that there is a Church that has helped bring understanding and set moral and faith standards and been faithful to deliver the sacraments? Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes.

November 16, 2006 6:29 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thank you for your honesty in posting this! Yes, there were many things I did (that I can't post) that I simply justified or told God to turn His head so I could get away with doing. Now I have been strongly convinced of how much they wound God and my relationship to Him. And frankly, some of which things put my soul in peril! Some of such things I had no ability to cease from until conversion two years ago. I can scarcely believe it is just psychological. I believe it is the grace of God that has come to me as I opened myself up to the power of God in His sacraments. Nothing I could ever do on my own strength, but His grace alone.

November 16, 2006 8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let me join onion boy's club as someone who also struggled with that particular sin. That was my biggest hurdle...and that was exactly one of those that I never heard an outright "That's wrong" or "That's ok" to from my family or my church growing up. You didn't talk about it and it was left ambiguous. I knew in my heart it wasn't right, and I tried many, many, many times to stop as a teen...and I always failed, until I became Catholic and started going to confession! It took several confessions, each time I was able to hold out longer, and longer, until finally today it's not even a blip on my radar as a temptation, it's been several years, and I know without a doubt that the only difference between the times I tried to stop before I was Catholic and the times after was the wonderful sacrament of reconciliation...God's grace is amazing and real and truly efficacious!

I think you touched on something important, TJ, about God's grace truly making us holy. I have several baptist-type friends online, and they can't grasp the idea of sin actually being cleansed by grace, leaving us holy. It's like they think if we can become holy, we are earning our salvation...but I try to explain that we believe it is God making us holy, not ourselves, all we do is cooperate with His grace, without which becoming holy would be completely impossible! It seems like they believe the scriptures are just being metaphorical when they talk about cleansing, sanctifying grace. It's that whole difference between being covered by grace, and being cleansed by grace. We believe it truly cleanses us, and the scriptures back that up.

So yes, I've found the Church's teachings on sin to be extremely helpful, because knowing what is sin helps us avoid it, and helps us to know when we need a good dose of sanctifying grace. It's like knowing when we're dirty so that we can take a shower.

November 17, 2006 4:19 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Hey Steph:
Your story as well as Onion Boys capture just the very essence I what I too have experienced via the sacraments of the Church, Sometimes my wife and I feel so blessed and freed by confession and wonder if other converts are experiencing the shower waters of confession too!
Not only does the Church help us to see what sin is, it provides the remedy that has true staying power! Ahh, sanctifiying grace..... Thanks for your honest and humble comments. God bless~~

November 18, 2006 12:04 AM  

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