by Keith A. Little
In first coming back to the faith, I found that intellectual understanding of scripture to be the most important. I studied for many years to learn how to determine many things about scripture, such as how historians look at the creditability of ancient texts, both within and outside of their content to decide matters such as if Jesus was a real person, and the accounts given are creditable. It was very important in those times for me to be correct, or to learn what was correct, as quickly as I could. I studied with friends and debated scriptures and their understandings for years with friends. It wasn’t for until years later that I read another apologist’s article in how he felt that for all the time he had spent on the intellectual side of scripture, that he had wished up front he had spent more time on the practical side of it.
The difference was only obvious to me years later after I started to follow this apologist’s wish of what he had done first. I started to walk the walk, not focus on talking the talk, there were a number of significant changes in my life. However, I still find that there is this time period that people face even as they are getting their life in order. My practical understanding of this is perhaps what many would consider purgatory. As our eternal lives pass down through the generations, as Christ lives today through us, so also within your life, as you start working through your current sins, reconciling past wrongs, and moving forward to work in more charity, there is a time of great trials as you grow. Depending if you are Protestant or Catholic, you will use different terms for these types of situations. However, from a practical standpoint, I find that whether you are Protestant or Catholic, you find that the practice of scripture in people’s lives will remain the same. I’ve never met a Pastor who did not acknowledge that even after people come to Christ, be baptized, etc., that they will still have past situations and bitterness with people, that will be challenging for them and may create difficulty. As for the Catholic understanding of purgatory, it is a time of struggle for the soul to become fully clean and pure, and that during this time, there will be many challenges and suffer the soul will go through in that process.
I once was given an understanding of baptism as 3-fold from a Protestant minister. The first step being the entering of the spirit, or embodiment, and walking the path of obedience. This is done by baptism through water, just as Jesus submitted to it, so do we as a symbolism of our rebirth into the kingdom of the Lord. Then the next step is a filling of the spirit. This may be where you see people going to church either right after baptism as adults and they tend to be far more quick to judge or very immature. Another example is someone who was baptized when very young who goes only so often to church. Last, the person who goes to church every week, but doesn’t really follow or see much reason to yet. Whatever the case may be, there will be a point in the person’s walk, where they will start to become more involved with the church, more empathetic to being wrong, or have a deepening in desire to follow the Lord and it’s at that point they will become far more involved and desire to work much harder through their sins and dig deeper into spiritual understandings and matters. This usually can start happening for many reasons, but the most common I’ve found is that there is an event in their life that triggers it, or a person does by reaching into their heart towards empathy. There is a saying that God reaching your heart, or prepares your soil for his seed in two ways. The soil softens by the plow (someone doing the harder work to reach you is service to the Lord, or by the rain, the struggles of the world around us. Either way, God ends up guiding us to himself in these ways, through our own heart’s need to love or have love from others. Deep down this is what we desire, so God tries to find pathways to bring us to what we need to see that will get us to obtain it, using any means.
The last step of the soul or Holy Spirit coming into the body is fulfillment or perfection. Perfection is not perfection to man, as man is a flawed judge. You are not a perfect robot who will never mess up again ever as according to man or God, but merely that you do to the best of your ability at all times to turn away from evil, acknowledge your mortal sins faithfully through confessing them and seek healing straight away, etc. As this happens, God unfolds into your life in a unique way where you are given peace beyond understanding (as remaining out of mortal sin) and the joy of the Lord, and no longer have the difficulties of the yolk that sin has over you making you a slave to it. Whether or not you are yet aware yet completely, the reason for the difficulties in your life have to do with how your sin interacts into your life and ripples like water drops in a pond as people reflect your sins onto you or others.
For the person who believes false truths such as going around someone in Business, or cutting people out just because they are problematic in some way, they will tend to act similarly in their personal lives on things such as marriage, or otherwise. They will have a difficult time completing things as people will have a hard time trusting them not to be cut out as well, and will fear not pleasing them. This creates anxiety for everyone in their life, including their children.
Whether you are walking out the practical application of scripture within your family, business life, or otherwise, you will find that those closest to you will either reflect your bad behavior, and then you will notice it come upon yourself, or they will choose to do the opposite. However the case may be, typically when someone who understands the scripture in an intellectual sense as I described in the beginning of the article, but not the practical understanding of how it falls into your daily life, the person will tend to say what the word says, as a means to tell you how to behave, while they do not do it themselves. This can be known as not practicing what they preach, or a double bind. A double bind being that they will not be happy if you do what they do to you, but they perhaps excuse their own behavior in doing it upon you. Meaning there is no way for you to tell them how they are asking you to not doing something because of how it hurts them, while they don’t show remorse for doing it upon you.
It is the practical understanding of how our beliefs shape our behaviors and not our intellectual debate of how to talk about them or define, and that our children will do what we do not what we say, which will then multiply outward as our beliefs match our practice of them day to day. When I talk to any Protestant Pastor face to face, it’s easy to ask them directly when the last time they used something outside of scripture to explain to people the practical understanding of the scripture itself. I’ve never met a Pastor who only uses scripture. Jesus Christ taught through methods as well, such as building houses. In this manner, Protestants and Catholics disagree intellectually in the way they describe what they believe, but practically they all understand and practice using many tools and traditions outside of scripture to teach scripture. Examples of some traditions are the mass, the worship music on Sunday, various methods of prayer, community projects, and even yearly retreats and events they create to reach people and spread the gospel. It is in these practical applications that each person does and the examples they set in their home, that will truly pass wisdom and love down to the next generation. Even a child who is given things for no reason as a child or because their brothers and sisters got the same thing, vs. a child who had to earn everything they had, and saw their parents did the same while they might sacrifice for their child’s future, the two children will grow up and do different things as they were taught through example differently at home. In other words, the greatest thing that anyone can do for our future is to go home and love their family. We are to love our family as Christ loved us, which means be willing to surrender our lives or what we may want for it over to God as an example of love, so that we might hope they would pass down that same example, just as Christ trusted the disciples to. It is faith the Bible describes as the “certainty of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
About the Author
Keith serves as a support to global serial entrepreneurs. He specializes in business consulting in strategy and intelligence, but also has vast experience in other areas of expertise. Keith started studying Christian Apologetics as a way back into the faith in 2006 and has been teaching since 2010. His studies have been with a focus on the practical application of scripture, and the division of churches, teams, families, other groups. He came back to the Catholic Church in April 2017, and chose the Saint name Paul, in honor of how he and Paul similarly learned the practical application of faith principles. You can learn more about Keith on his LinkedIn profile: http://linkedin.com/