I realize now, looking back on the past month when I was on the ropes, that I completely forgot something crucial. The devil’s lies are a toxin that paralyzes, a drug that makes me complacent and forgetful and pliable. And I forgot the whole reason I am here, why I am on the road I am on, and where I am going. The reason I was enslaved for so many years as a Protestant is because I didn’t know; I didn’t understand; and then I forgot again.
In the Protestant mind, at least the evangelical mind with notions of “eternal security,” all sins are already forgiven by Christ’s finished work on the cross. Looking back, I don’t understand how this theology ever worked or what it was based on. But Scripture is very clear that God will judge us according to our deeds (Matthew 16:27; Romans 2:8, 16; 1 Peter 1:17, etc.) and that those who work iniquity will receive no reward (Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 15:50; Ephesians 5:5; Revelation 21:8, 22:15, etc.). These verses and ideas are unpalatable to the evangelical mind — surely a loving God, who saves us by His grace, would not allow us to be condemned! Surely we are saved by our faith alone, and our “works” do not matter at all! But they read Scripture very selectively, submitting the words they do not like to the words they like, when we must read Scripture as a whole.
Protestants accuse Catholics of “works’ righteousness” for taking Scripture at its word. No Catholic believes that our “works” can save us, but certainly our works can damn us. Salvation is Christ’s alone to give, by His grace; but it is ours alone to lose, by our sin, by willfully rejecting God. And that’s what I forgot. My mindset had reverted to my old, Protestant one — that God loved me and would have mercy on me no matter what, and that my sin did not matter at all. Sure, it was wrong; sure, it disappointed God; but it didn’t really matter, since Christ’s cross overcame everything.
But it does matter. Not only in that it hurts my Lord — that it was my very sins for which He was crucified — but that it hurts me. In addition to all the pain and spiritual harm it brings, it puts my soul in jeopardy. Sure, I will always be forgiven; but His grace is there to heal me and help me, to allow me to grow and stand, not to enable me to continue in this vicious cycle. To willfully choose to sin, when He gives me the capacity to move past it, is exactly what makes this sin grave matter (1 John 1:9). The fact of my addiction is a mitigating factor — thank God for Bishop, who reminds me of God’s mercy. But to willfully continue to choose to sin is no different than repeatedly walking to the edge of a building and jumping off, expecting that God will always save me before I hit the ground.