FROM RELIGION TO RELATIONSHIP
By Charlotte Wright
My life felt like the sinking Titanic. Once the epitome of devotion and promise, it was now nothing but a shipwrecked ghost listing in a sea of depression and despair, awaiting entombment in a black sea of hopelessness and death. The flower of my youth and the expectations for a beautiful future had been utterly crushed under the weight of this world’s injustices. Bitterness and resentment oozed from the wounds of my frenzied mind, aimed like fiery arrows against those who had hurt me. Devotion to my religion that once gave powerful purpose and meaning to my life now seemed impotent to deliver me from the hell of emotional darkness in which I daily existed.
Born and raised in a devout, Roman Catholic family in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, the faith of our family was more than just a religion. It penetrated every area of life. Convinced by my family’s assurance that Catholicism is the one true religion, I purposed in my heart to follow this way all my life.
Church services filled me with awe as a child. There was the fragrance of incense wafting over the silent, aspiring congregation and sprinkling of holy water. Then came the gentle flickering flame of the candles as the altar boys prepared the altar for the sacrifice of the Mass. When the sound of organ music began as the priest entered, it created for me a profound sense of the hope that “God must be here now.” It didn’t seem to matter to anyone that the entire service was conducted in Latin, a language none of us knew. Everyone appeared to be totally satisfied that this religion was true because, we were taught, it had been in existence since Jesus and the first apostles walked the earth.
My hearts desire as a young girl was to become a Catholic nun. But with the advent of the Ecumenical Councils of Rome in the 1960’s under Pope John XXIII, everything began to dismantle in this religion of ancient traditions. Outward symbols of centuries were done away with. Latin was discarded for the native languages of each country, nuns were no longer required to wear the traditional garb, and the priest in the Mass now faced the people during the service. The trauma caused by this wave of change rocked the institution. A nun in my high school encouraged anyone who might be considering entering the convent after high school to postpone that desire to see where all this upheaval would eventuate. I was one of those young people in 1967 who decided to wait.
Several years later I found myself with a very different life than I had wished for growing up. I was now married with two infant children. On the surface, it would appear I had everything to be happy, but my heart had been shattered by my failures and the broken promises of others. Depression consumed my days and nights. Later I would see that this darkness of soul was the bridge God used to deliver me from the emptiness of religion. It was early in 1974 that He led me to the truth that would set me free, the truth that is found only in the Holy Scriptures of the Bible, God’s inspired Word.
As I ventured into this new world of the Bible, hope began to emerge in my heart. I remember thinking one day, “maybe something good can still happen to me. Maybe God can change my life and make it happy once again.”
Sitting at my kitchen table on a March day in 1974 I decided to give up trying to make everything better. I finally gave up the idea of trying to seek revenge through having a bitter attitude towards those who had hurt me. I spoke out loud to God and said, “God, my life is so messed up. But if you can do anything with it after all this, then go ahead.”
With that heartfelt simple prayer, I put everything in my life in God’s hands, my failure-strewn past, my depressed and hopeless present and the fearful apprehension of the future. Little did I know that at that moment, the Holy Spirit of God silently came into me and gave me eternal life. I was born again according to the Word of God in the gospel of John 3:1-9.
How I knew this, was that my life began to drastically change. I could hear God speaking to me on the inside. I could see Him actively working in my circumstances of everyday life. Now I saw the complete difference between religion and a true relationship with God. I had crossed over from liturgy to Life, from litany to the LORD, from creeds and catechism to Christ Himself. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24 KJV)
Over the next year as I continued to read and study the Bible, I saw many truths that directly conflicted with the religion I had once held in such high esteem. Never having been taught about being born again, I was amazed when I read what Peter the apostle wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”, (1 Peter 1:3 KJV emphasis mine). I was utterly astounded to find that the Ten Commandments given to Moses at Mt. Sinai as recorded in the Old Testament book of Exodus chapter 20:1-17 had been changed by the Catholic religion to omit the second commandment, which was God’s order not to have any graven images made or worshiped. To compensate for this subtraction of one of the commandments, the tenth commandment given to Moses regarding the sin of coveting was changed into two separate commandments about coveting.
My hope for every person reading this message, especially every Catholic person, is that you would seriously ask God to make His truth about all this known to you. Maybe start by asking yourself, “Why was it necessary for the Lord Jesus to die on the cross, if we can somehow be good enough to earn our way to heaven?” I challenge you to search the Holy Scriptures for your own life. They tell us plainly, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 KJV) and “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 KJV).
You may be saying to yourself, “but I’ve spent my whole life believing this religion. Is that all wasted?” Let me tell you something the Lord Jesus showed me about that. He helped me to see that all of that religious effort was like the leaves on an ear of corn. Those leaves are very necessary to protect the tender kernels growing on the inside. But when the corn is ready to eat, the leaves are discarded. They are not the food.
The religious efforts may have been very important to keep you pointed in the direction of God, but once you become born again by asking Jesus to forgive all your sins, to come into your heart by His Holy Spirit, to be the Lord of your life and take over, the religious works are no longer necessary. Jesus said, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life.“(John 6:47 & 48, KJV).
Again Jesus said, “And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.” (Mark 2:22, KJV). The old wine skins of liturgy, litany and creeds of Catholicism will not be able to contain the new wine of the life of Jesus Christ in you when you become born again.
JESUS IS NOT DEAD ON THE CROSS!! HE IS NOW ALIVE FOREVERMORE!
He wants to live His life right now in and through you. Will you let Him? If so, pray aloud this simple prayer and mean it with all your heart:
Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and need a Savior. I believe you are that Savior, the Son of God. I believe you died for me on the cross and that You arose from the dead to give me everlasting life. Lord Jesus, forgive me of all my sins, come into my heart now and take over my life. I trust You to do this and believe You will change my life forever. AMEN.
Now go and tell somebody you have asked Jesus to be your Savior and Lord!!