I was born in 1952, in Queens, New York. My family moved to Long Island and lived there for five years before moving back to Queens. While living on the Island I attended a public school. We were permitted to attend “religious instruction” classes once a week at the local Catholic School, and that’s where I learned from the Catholic Catechism. I remember learning that there were two types of sin, one which was “mortal sin” (the more serious) and the other was “venial sin” (the less serious). I remember thinking to myself how can anybody keep up with all that stuff? I learned that it was a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday which I had already done, and deep inside I knew that I had committed more than my share of venial sins, so I started to become a little concerned about my soul. I was taught that there was a heaven, a hell, and another place called purgatory. Purgatory was described as a temporary place of punishment where the Catholic would stay until their love for God was perfect, and then they would proceed to heaven. Even at that young age there was enough conviction within my own heart to block out any thought of going to heaven, and even purgatory looked like a longshot to me. I eventually became an altar boy and so I attended many Roman Catholic masses including weddings and funerals. I always had a nagging question in the back of my mind as to where I would go after I died. During the seventies I found that I had an insatiable desire deep inside my heart to know the truth. I felt spiritually dead inside, and I just knew that there had to be more to life than what I had already experienced. I began making regular trips to a shopping mall on Long Island, because there were two large bookstores in the mall. I would head straight to the same sections in these stores which included religion, spirituality, philosophy meditation, self-improvement, and other things. I would browse through those books going from shelf to shelf, and from bookcase to bookcase. After the first bookstore I would head to the other bookstore and repeat the same process over again. I wanted to know the truth and I eventually filled a large box with books on a variety of topics. I read books from all those categories including some of which were best sellers at the time. You name it, I bought it and I read it. I remember in the late 1970’s that there was a storefront with a large sign that said Christian Science reading room. I looked at some books which were displayed in the window, one of which was “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy. I looked up and there was a little old lady smiling at me, so I went in and bought the book. I had such a desire for truth in those days and yet I still had that same empty hole in my heart no matter what book I was reading.
During my early twenties I did more than my share of drinking mostly on the weekends. One night in late 1980 I was hanging out at a club on the North Shore of Long Island and around midnight I decided to leave. I headed out to the South shore of Long Island to check out another club. I had been drinking for a couple of hours, and I was tired, but I can remember thinking that I wanted to get my “moneys worth” out of the weekend because it was back to work on Monday. I met my wife Cathy that night, and I remember when I left the club there was a ticket waiting on my windshield for parking on the street after 4AM. That was a typical weekend for me and many others of my age group during that time.
Cathy and I got married in July of 1981 and I still had the same desire and interest to seek out the truth. I read about a free seminar on mind control that spoke about improving one’s mind power and memory. The seminar was being given a few miles from where we lived, and I convinced Cathy to go with me. At the beginning of the seminar the teacher was talking about relaxation, emptying the mind, and visualization techniques. During this part of the class the teacher forgot what day it was and that just struck my funny bone. I could not stop laughing, to the point of tears, and this made Cathy laugh also. The teacher noticed us but simply smiled. The rest of the class had their eyes closed and they were in visualization mode. As I look back on that day, I truly believe that it was the Lord who protected us from becoming involved in that sort of thing. I believe when a person starts emptying their minds that they can open themselves up to the occult, which is the realm of the demonic. During the mid 1980′s Cathy and I became aware of the Catholic Charismatic movement, and we participated in two different charismatic prayer groups in the local area. We attended Catholic Charismatic healing masses which focused on healing and praying the rosary. The rosary contains prayers which are mostly Hail Mary prayers. The charismatic Mass was also livelier than a regular Catholic Mass, and many of the songs were like those sung in Christian churches. At that time, we became aware of what was known as the Marian apparitions at Medjugorje. The Virgin Mary was allegedly appearing before some young men and women and bringing forth a monthly message. We came to know the people within those charismatic prayer groups who were sold out to Mary and the apparitions at Medjugorje. We listened intently as they told us about their visits to Medjugorje and what they experienced while they were over there. They told us stories of how the metal chain holding the beads on their rosaries changed from a silver color to a gold color. One of the ladies who went to Medjugorje told of how she looked up and saw beautiful streams of liquid gold and other colors coming out from the Sun. We were enthralled by all of this and found it very exciting. We were like WOW this is unbelievable and the more we heard, the more we wanted to hear.
During this same period, we began visiting a church in New York City we heard testimonies of how people’s lives were being changed by the power of Jesus Christ. This fascinated us also because we were so accustomed to the rituals and rote prayers, we said every Sunday at the Catholic Mass. As time went on, we would attend Mass in the morning and visit the other church in the evening, and the power of God’s Word was bringing us into the knowledge of the truth. Later, there was a Christian lady who witnessed to Cathy about those apparitions and told her that the Devil comes disguised as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) and Cathy never forgot that. That caused Cathy to dig into the scriptures even more, and she began to compare the messages from this Marian apparition with the scriptures themselves and found that they clearly contradicted each other. Cathy began to talk with me about her research and she was convinced that the apparitions could not be from God. At that point in time, I would not have it and I was not convinced that she was right. She continued trying to convince me for several weeks until one day with tears in her eyes she said listen to me, as she cradled four pages of scriptures in her hand. Something inside my heart caused me to listen to her and I told her that I would pray about it.
I realized that I had a decision to make regarding the messages that were coming forth from this alleged apparition of Mary at Medjugorje. Either the messages from that apparition were true or the Bible was true. I knew enough that they both could not be true because they contradicted each other. It was at that point that I made the decision to stick with the Bible as the only source of truth, and it was not long after that point that we left the Roman Catholic Church and never looked back. We took our Catholic religious trinkets which included our rosary beads, religious medals, crucifixes etc. and put them in large trash bags and to be put outside on the curb. In the book of Acts, you can read about a group of people who burned their religious books which dealt with sorcery, magical arts and divination, and those books were worth a lot of money. That happened after they saw the power of God at work when he wrought special miracles through the apostle Paul. (Acts 19:11-20)
I was born again of the Spirit during this time and the scriptures became alive to me like never before. There is a huge difference between having a head knowledge and a heart knowledge regarding the person of Jesus Christ. I used to attend my Catholic Mass each Sunday and I would recite the apostle’s creed every Sunday by rote. I was as bored as could be because there was no life in what I was doing. As I looked around at everybody else, they seemed to be just as bored as I was. The big difference was that now I knew that the scriptures were true, and I knew that by the power of the Holy Spirit. I knew that Jesus Christ was certainly God in the flesh, and that he created all things just as the Bible tells us in the Gospel of John. (John 1:1-3, 10-14) I never got that revelation by reciting the apostle’s creed week after week after week in the Catholic church. I attended my Catholic Mass each week because it was an obligation. After Cathy and I left the Catholic Church, I remember reading the gospel of John one day and the following passage came alive to me which I quoted to my wife as she was reading in bed.
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
I told her that this is what it meant to be born again. I told her that we were born of God! I also remember that the Lord truly opened my eyes regarding the divinity (deity) of Jesus Christ and that was a dramatic game changer. So, you see that before I had a knowledge of who Jesus Christ was, but it was nothing more than an historical knowledge, but now I knew who Jesus Christ was deep inside my heart. This knowledge was not something that I worked up myself, but it was a knowledge which came from above. It was not too long after Cathy and I were saved that we met a Christian woman in the lobby of the Christian church that we were attending in Manhattan in New York City. We got to share our testimonies with her and how the Lord delivered us out from the Roman Catholic system including the charismatic movement. The woman listened intently to us, and it was a pleasant conversation. We never saw her after that until almost one year later and we met her in almost the exact same spot in the lobby. We started another conversation with her, and she told us that she was regularly praying with a group of charismatic Catholics. I told her to be careful sister because before long they will have you praying the rosary with them. The woman looked at me and said I feel sick, they already have me praying the rosary with them. I know a divine appointment when I see one, and I knew that this was a setup made in Heaven. God is a loving and merciful God, but he is also a God of truth, and he warns his children when he sees the devil making inroads with his great deception. I cannot remember the rest of the conversation, but I think that the woman received what I told her.
Up until the point where I came to know the Lord Jesus Christ in truth, I was one of those people who knew a lot of facts about him, but I did not know him. I was as lost, and hell bound as any other sinner on the face of the earth. I can also say that after I was truly born again of the Spirit, there was absolutely no doubt that if had I died before that time, that I would have ended up in an eternal Hell. I can also testify to you today that I knew then, and now, that most people in the world are in a lost spiritual condition and as hell bound as I was before I got saved. That was riveted within my heart from that day and that has never left me either. When I came out of the darkness and deception that had me bound, I felt as if the devil himself was looking over me and that he knew that I did not belong to him anymore. The revelation of who the real Jesus Christ is must come from above as Jesus taught his own disciples in the gospel according to Matthew.
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-17)
You see that there were all sorts of ideas of who the people thought Jesus might be, but Peter testified that he knew that Jesus was indeed the the Christ (Messiah) and the Son of the loving God. How did Peter know that? The Lord told Peter that flesh and blood did not reveal that to him, meaning that another man or woman (flesh and blood) did not tell him that, but His own Father in Heaven opened his eyes to know the truth about Christ. That is how it must be with every man and woman who comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a personal thing, and it is something that you know to be true by the Spirit of God within you. When a person comes to know the Lord, that same person can testify assuredly that the Lord has saved their soul, and that is something that they know inwardly as is spoken by the Jewish apostle Paul.
“For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:15-17)
The true born-again believer has been set free from bondage and in my case, it was the freedom from the bondage of Romanism, and their man-made traditions. I also knew that all the teachings and deceptions of those other books that I read over the years were deceptive in their own way. The Holy Spirit will bear witness with the spirit of the believer that they are a child of God, and obviously saved. The scriptures tell us that the believer is a joint heir with Jesus Christ himself. I was not hearing scriptures like this being read during my Catholic Mass each week, but I can only blame myself for not searching out the truth sooner. There is a huge difference between the gospel of the church of Rome and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I remind you that I am writing from the perspective of a former Roman Catholic who came from inside the Roman Catholic system. If you are currently a Roman Catholic, it is my hope that the Lord will minister through the truth of his word, and that you will leave the church as I did many years ago. If you are a Bible believing born again Christian, it is my hope that you will gain a better understanding of the doctrines of Rome and see for yourself that they are diametrically opposed to the truth of the scriptures.