Before I came back to the Catholic Church, one of the things that was keeping me away was knowing that I would have to go to confession. There were certain sins that had become habitual. I knew they were sins. I knew they were terrible and hurt God, but I did them anyway. The way I had dealt with the guilt of them was to rely on what Baptists call Eternal Security, and the Assurance of Salvation. It's commonly called "once saved, always saved." At first this sounds like it should be comforting--believing that no matter what sin I may commit after accepting Christ as my Savior, I could rest secure that I would still go to Heaven.
Catholics look at this this and see a license to sin. I'm sure it is to some, but most dedicated Baptists I have known do not use it as a license, but as a comfort. They do not believe in the Confessional, so they need the assurance that comes with this teaching.
I believed in Eternal Security, but I struggled with the Assurance of Salvation for a long time. I no longer believe in either. The problem with eternal security is that it can lead to a trivial attitude toward sin. Or it can do what it did to me for a long time.
As I mentioned before, there were certain sins that I had as habits that I just could not seem to kick. Some of them were so bad that I wondered how could a Christian ever commit these kinds of sins and not lose salvation? Haven't I just betrayed Christ, and did he not say “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments?" Can a Christian really commit murder, or rape someone and still be saved? I once knew a Christian who did both. Was he still saved? Of course he will be forgiven if he really repents, but what if he never does? Will he be rewarded by going to heaven? There is no way that I could bring myself to believe that any so-called Christian who committed sins and crimes like these, can truly be a believer.
But if that was the case, then it must mean that he was never saved in the first place...that I was never saved in the first place either. I must have just gone through an emotional experience and never really accepted Christ. I went a lot of years questioning my salvation, and whether my salvation experience really "took." This is partly why in so many ways I struggled in my duties as a father. How could I bring up my sons in the Lord if I was not following him as fully as I wanted?
Since rejoining the Church in the last couple of years I now believe that one really can be a believing Christian one minute, and unbelieving the next, Ephesians 2:8-9 notwithstanding. This verse is taken out of context by those who use it for eternal security, and there are hundreds of verses that are contrary to it.
I know that sounds like it should be frightening. If that's the case, then how can I ever be sure that I am going to heaven? Well, you can't. Even Paul believed that he could lose his salvation when he said in 1 Corinthians, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."
The assurance comes from the confessional when we can hear from the priest that we have been forgiven. For the in-between times, God is not an ogre just waiting for the opportunity to catch us then strike us dead so that we can go to hell before we have a chance to rectify it.
For me this has been so comforting hearing from God's chosen representative on earth that I have been forgiven. Not only forgiven for being a sinner, but for specific, individual sins. And you can experience this forgiveness often. After confession, my heart soars in worship to God knowing that I am on the path of righteousness, and a desire to be one with Him.
And the former sinful habits that I struggled with for so long, are now gone.