The Devotion to Christ – Experiencing a Living Church

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By Brian Cook

My first book, “The Devotion to Christ,” speaks to “the turning” that started taking place when my faith began to crumble in trial, and how stopping to pray in Catholic churches while I was on the road became a necessary refuge. When my church was cold and closed, Catholic churches were open and alive. I like to say that Catholic churches are open for prayer “on any given random Tuesday at 10 a.m.,” because that is a true experience for me. This became a pivot point. I needed a miracle. Counseling, men’s groups and bible study helped, but could not heal. I exhausted every tool in my Protestant tool bag and desperately needed more of Jesus’ intervention in my life.

This need slowly and painfully dragged me down the path toward the Sacramental Life, the life wherein by faith I show up to the sacrament, by grace Jesus shows up to the sacrament and by the power of the Holy Spirit the work gets done.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

This Scripture passage is a wonderful synopsis of the Christian life. We Catholics believe that grace and faith are gifts from God. They are freely offered to all and can be freely received by all. We also believe that works alone cannot save (works of the law – see Romans 3:20 and Galatians 2:16). However, Catholics do believe that it is necessary for salvation to “walk” in the “good works” that “God prepared beforehand” (see Matthew 5:16 and Luke 6:46-49).

So, for those who are looking for formulas to better understand Scripture or the process of salvation, here is a good one: we are saved by grace, through faith, for good works.

The Sacramental Christian Life is just that.

* We come to the Sacraments by Faith (we cooperate exercising the gift from God).

* Jesus comes to the Sacrament by Grace (He operates exercising the gift of Himself).

* The Work of the Sacrament gets done (the Sacraments accomplish what they symbolize by the power of God).

* So that we may live out the Commands of Christ (good works) for the glory of God, for the good of others, and as testimony to the world (Philippians 2:12-15).

Do we have to obey Jesus to go to heaven? Yes or no? If your theology allows a “no” or a “that’s a good question” or a “I’m not sure,” then you have a theology not based on the full-ness of Scripture (James 2:14-26). “Faith without works is dead” is a reminder that the grace of God operates through faith and good works (sacraments and obedience to Christ).

Discovering Sacramental Theology was such a joy to experience! I had studied the Bible for so very long, sometimes with tears and many times with a wrinkled brow, while trying so hard to understand how to make my theology fit. But to see how comfortably Sacramental Theology fits and flows from every page of Scripture was a new experience for me. I especially enjoyed how all bible verses could be embraced, and none needed to be avoided, like James 24! How there were no longer any “gotcha” verses that did not perfectly balance somewhere else. How Jesus and Paul and Peter and James all taught the same truth and were no longer held in tension by an “Unsystematic Theology.” It was to finally have a taste of “the peace that passes all understanding.”

One may ask, “But what if I do a terrible job of obeying Jesus?” Oh, beloved, there is a Sacrament called Confession for that! And to experience a Sacrament, in a desperate time of need, is nothing short of experiencing a New Testament miracle story come to life. Soon, my friends, I’ll tell you the story of the miracle I so desperately needed, and how it was thoroughly experienced in my first Confession while I was still Protestant.

A Cropwell native, Brian Cook is a graduate of Pell City High School, Gadsden State Community College and Jacksonville State University. He and his wife Hope have five children. A self-described “on-again-off-again bi-vocational part-time” Protestant minister for almost 20 years, Brian converted to Catholicism in April 2021. They attend Saint James Catholic Church in Gadsden. With no formal training (Acts 4:13), Brian active in the Catechetical training of children and adults. His book “The Devotion to Christ” can be found on Amazon. He is available for speaking and teaching engagements in any parish, church, or group setting. He may be contacted at thedtc@protonmail.com or thedevotiontochrist@gmail.com.

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