By Dennis Ross
In the year 1967, I was 9 years old. My mother was single and trying to support herself and three boys, after divorcing my “father” 5 years earlier. There was no God in my life then. In that year, my mother met and married a man whom I consider to be my dad. In this 9th year of life I experienced some major changes, the first of which was an introduction to God through the Catholic religion, the second being a dad. The knowledge of God came about in two ways; through school and through the Catholic mass, or as one would say, “going to church.”
In that 9th year, God was as unknown to me as the kids at the new school in which my dad enrolled me. I quickly made friends though, and just as quickly realized that there indeed was a God. I realize now that the “god” of the Catholic religion is not the one you read of in the Bible. This knowledge came about through study and I firmly believe that if all men everywhere were to study the Bible with an open heart, they too would come to this realization. But man is such that he would rather worship a “god” that suits him than to study and worship the one true God found in the Bible!
Upon leaving home at the age of 18, I stopped “going to church,” but my belief in God never stopped. At that time and until I was 28, I believed that I was serving God in a manner that was pleasing to him. In reality I was pleasing myself. I would get high on pot and go hiking in God’s “church” and “be one with nature.” I tried to be nice to whomever I would meet and tried to do things in a way that was right. I truly believed that what I was doing was right in the sight of God, but the Bible taught me just how wrong I was (Matt. 15:8-9)! At the age of 20, my life took a change that led me to where I am now.
It’s funny how things that happen in one’s life can lead to things never before dreamed of. I was working at a restaurant when a guy with whom I had worked for three years quit. We were like brothers, and when he left, it truly affected me. I continued to work there though. About five months later he came to me with an opportunity to help establish a restaurant in a town 40 miles away. At first I said no, but later changed my mind. Was it the will of God or just pure luck, that at this place I would meet my future wife and through her Christ? Only God knows the answer, but I believe it was providential!
Sharon is very strong in the faith; why she married me I have no idea. When she married me I was not a Christian, but I thank God that she did. I now believe that a Christian should only marry another Christian (2 Cor. 6:14). Her Christian friends tried to tell her not to marry me, but she wouldn’t listen. She said she saw in me the potential of becoming a Christian. As for me, all I saw was love in her, and I still do! Through her I was introduced to the church of Christ. She truly lived the teaching found in 1 Peter 3:1-2.
After the experience of the Catholic religion, I believed that all religions were the same. I was in for a number of shocks when I first visited the local church of Christ that Sharon was a member of. The first was that the people met in a house. The second was that the one who did the preaching was Sharon’s best friend’s father. The third was the fact that he used the Bible when he preached. All of these were not what I had grown up with in the Catholic Church.
I believe to most Catholics, the idea of “church” means the building where the mass is held. Just walk inside of a big one and you will see what I mean. According to the Word of God, the church is those who have obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:13), with Jesus as the only head (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). When Christians come together to worship God, they are the church. In many religions, the emphasis is on the structure, not the souls inside.
Many religions today require that the man go through some sort of school to get a degree showing that he knows the Word of God. That’s fine, if the man can apply the Word with wisdom and understanding. It’s one thing to be able to quote Scripture, but do they know what it means? The preacher I heard did not go to school to become a preacher; he became one through study (2 Tim. 2:15). In the commission that Christ gave (Matt. 28:19-20), we find that if we are taught that we must also teach, and those we teach must also teach and so on and so on, a never ending cycle. For the Catholic, there is no study, only what “the church” wants them to know. If a Catholic were to study, truly study the Word of God, he would no longer be a Catholic, but a Christian, if he obeyed the Word God declared.
When a man gets up to teach others about God, he needs to speak “as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). I have yet to see a priest use a Bible in a sermon. As a child, not once did I see the priest or the people with a Bible in hand. How can one fulfill the command given to Timothy and to us (2 Tim. 2:15) unless he has the Word of God with him? How could he “rightly divide the Word” unless he knows the Word? As you can see, these facts alone show how utterly false the Catholic religion is. It also showed me how right the true church of Christ really is.
I attended services on a somewhat regular basis and had even started a Bible study with the preacher. His studies with me were effective for when we reached baptism, I quit! Why? Because I knew that in order to obey the gospel I would have to give up the life that I was living. I was not willing to do that, so I stopped the studies and attending the services. Later, I started to study again with another preacher and finally obeyed the gospel. What insight my wife had and the life she lived truly reflected 1 Peter 3:1-2!
This overly long narrative leads me to where I am now, 31 years old, a Christian, and preaching the gospel. Sharon and I have been married almost ten years with two additions; Christopher (age 6) and David (age 2). I am currently involved in a preacher training program located at the Rose Avenue church of Christ in Bellflower, California. I decided to write this paper after a friend of mine said I should. He just happens to be the one who baptized me.
I chose the title I did because the family I belong to, as far as flesh and blood is concerned, is indeed a family of religions. Within this family there are Jews, Catholics, Humanists, Pentecostals, those who profess to be Christians but do not practice the religion found in the Word of God, and those who profess no religious conviction of any kind. In the Word of God, there is only one church, one faith, one obedience, and only one God (Eph. 4:4-6). Why did I leave my family of religions for Christ? The Bible commanded me to!
If you are in a family of religions, look around to see if they are following only the Bible or manmade doctrines. Study the Word of God and become approved unto God, not man! Jesus wants you!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 14, pp. 426-427
July 18, 1991