By Bruce Garner
Countless missionaries and pastors in Catholic-majority countries around the world have confirmed an awful reality: professions of faith and “sinner’s prayers” were plentiful among Catholics. Disciples were scarce. The little fruit that remains even after the most sincere and seemingly successful evangelistic efforts shows us a vital truth: When we present them with the gospel, Catholics need to be confronted with the Law.
It took me years to realize it, but a Lawless gospel does not show a sincere Catholic his guilt before a holy and just God. If we ask him only to “believe” in Christ, we will find no objection. He does“believe in Christ,” or he would not be a Catholic. If we ask our Catholic friend to “receive Christ,” he may readily accept. As one man told me, “I receive Him every time I go to Mass.”
A Lawless gospel will become, in the mind of a person brought up in Catholicism, merely another good work—an evangelical sacrament. The Church has taught the Catholic faithful that they must do many good works to be accepted by God: attend Mass, go to confession, do penance, etc. When a witnessing Christian merely assures Catholics of God’s love and asks them to “believe in Jesus,” “receive Christ,” or “pray this prayer,” it becomes simply another good work for them to do. Little surprise, then, that they readily do what we ask. They have been doing good deeds all their lives, so there is certainly no harm in doing another.
But when that same Christian shows up the next day to make a “follow up” visit with what he imagines is a new convert to Christ, he often discovers that the reality is quite different. After all, our Catholic friend had no intention of “switching religions.”
Since sincere Catholics are trying to “be good enough” to get to heaven, we do them grave harm when we fail to present the Law. The Law will show them that they are already under judgment. The Law will show them the awesome holiness of God, their just Judge. The Law will show them their utter inability to ever do enough to satisfy His righteous demands. Only then will they despair of their own good works and turn for mercy to the Savior.
Philippians 3:9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith