Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Catholicism: 101 for Adventists 

Confession to a Priest

God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him. John 3:17

I remember studying the Investigative Judgment at Dallas First Church's SDA Elementary School. It brought me to my knees. Literally. I began a renewed seriousness in my prayer life. I had become a little too comfortable praying at night laying in my bed with my mind wandering.

Once I learned that at any moment my name might come before the Lord for eternal judgment, I decided perhaps my body posturing should show Christ that I truly meant that I was sorry for all my elementary-aged sins. So I began to kneel down and put some efforts into remembering all the things wrong I had done that day. I wanted a clean slate if my name came before the Lord for judgment while I was sleeping.

While Catholics do not believe that we are judged before death, one thing we have in common with our SDA Christian family is that we do feel that we need to take sin seriously.  Catholic teach that an examination of our conscience is not an obsession over our sins, but attempting to be realistic about ourselves and see ourselves as God sees us. Catholics do not believe we should be overly harsh, but we examine our consciences in order that we may become more and more sensitive about the great importance and meaning of our lives. It shows us that what we do is important, not only to God, but to those around us. Our lives have great importance and significance. What we do or fail to do has meaning. And that is very, very good.

We, like the SDA church, reject the idea that a Christian has absolute eternal security once they have been baptized into the Body of Christ. We believe the Bible is very clear that even Christians can willfully turn their backs on "so great a salvation." While God will never let anyone or anything snatch us from His hand, we are allowed to purposefully leave the sheepfold and hide from the One who comes seeking us. 

Catholics and Adventists believe sin destroys us. And even after we become Christians, deliberate sinning can destroy our relationship with Him. Jesus Christ came to earth to forgive us our trespasses and by that we become reconciled with the Father.  The Cross offers to us the gift of grace and as Catholics put it, "re-creates in us what sin has destroyed that we may enter into the gift of His inner life."(How to Make a Good Confession, "Sacrament of Penance, " Prince of Peace Catholic Church,, Taylor, SC.)

So, when Christians sin, in what we have done or what we have failed to do, we need to be reconciled to God. And rather than be fearful or prideful about confession and repentance for our sins, we should understand that this is a wonderful, joyful experience.  Catholics believe that within the sacrament of confession, we encounter God's mercy in a very special way. God not only forgives us freely through the merits of the sacrifice of His Son, but He gives us a special grace to overcome temptation.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession was instituted by Christ Himself in the upper room when He breathed upon the Apostles and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained. (John 20:23)

Catholics teach that only God can forgive sins, yet He communicates that we are forgiven through His appointed Apostles and leaders. 

Catholics believe that no sin is private. All sins affect the Body of Christ. ( Eph. 1: 22-23; 4: 4-29,  Col. 1: 18, Rom. 12: 4-5, I Cor. 12: 12-29) 

While we can and should pray a prayer of contrition immediately after we have sinned, some sins are not only an offense against God and ourselves but our sins affect others.
 That is why Catholics teach that God set up a system here on earth so that sins we continually struggle with, sins that are of grave matter, can be confessed to a priest. And as the priest, he represents the entire Body of Christ and one can receive the fullness of repentance for grave sins. 

While many Catholics see Confession as a unwanted duty, and that may be conveyed to non-Catholics who observe them, they don't truly understand the miracle of what is happening. At each confession, we are being re-created into a new man, our sanctification is being accomplished by His Mercy! We are being restored and removing any sin in our life that is blocking His love from flowing into us. It is a time we can practice Christian courage, humility and submission to God.

If we look around, so much money is spent on counselors and so much of what we see coming out of entertainers, so much of what we see in people "acting out" is truly the human need to publicly confess. We need to say to another person—"I'm sorry" and hear the words of forgiveness and reconciliation.  We also need to do this when we sin against God.

Humans are happier when they have found the courage to admit their mistakes and confess them orally to another human being. God understood this and gave us the sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation for us and for our sanctification. I have found it personally to be one of the greatest gifts of God.  

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