10/3/13 Samuel about 20
Yesterday a young Asian college student named Samuel told me about his transition from growing up in a Buddhist household to now embracing Catholicism as a result of his relationship with his Catholic girlfriend. “ I’m very concerned about eternity.” he told me “I’ve been attending mass every Sunday with her for a year now, and just this week I began my first catechism class.” He was one of the few people I’ve met who sincerely believes he would go to hell were he to die tonight. I asked why – “Because I haven’t yet been baptized or gone to confession, but I’m working toward it.” he said. He was sincere in his excitement for the things of God but sincerely wrong about what the Bible teaches us because he clearly had a works-based belief in earning salvation rather than trusting that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus (Eph 2:8-9), so I explained the way of God more accurately, possibly like Paul did for Apollos in Acts 18:25.
One area of confusion had to do with confession. Like many, Samuel was confused by the verse in 1 John 1:9 which states “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This verse is read often as part of the liturgies of Catholic and many liturgical Protestant churches, but when it is taken out of context it leads many to assume that they are saved only by virtue of confessing their sins. What is the context? This verse is a part of John’s first letter to Christians, to people who have already received God’s forgiveness for their sins. Why the need for confession then? I explained it to Samuel using marriage as an analogy and could just see him light up with understanding as I talked: “It’s like a married couple who get in an argument. Even though their ongoing daily relationship might not be doing well, they are still legally married. When a person is born again into Christ’s kingdom, they “legally” became one of God’s children, adopted into His family. But that doesn’t mean their day to day relationship with God is always okay; in fact, pride, shame, and rebellion work to undermine that relationship. It’s not that they are no longer saved and made righteous before God, just like a couple who are still legally married even though they are arguing. Once we initially become a Christian in a legal sense, confession and repentance is needed to help restore our relationship with God in a daily sense. When we are saved through repentence and faith in Jesus we are always a child of God, but it is possible to confess and repent but to never have been saved in the first place.”
This was part of a much longer conversion with Samuel that gave him a lot to think about – please pray for him!