Archive for October, 2008

30
Oct
08

Radiation Suit

 

     One way that I like to picture God’s holiness is as strong radiation.  His holiness constantly is radiating out from him.  By its very nature, it destroys anything imperfect with which it comes into contact. 

     That is why, in order to enter God’s presence, we can’t have the slightest imperfection.  Otherwise we will be destroyed.  But how can we do that?  By being clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  “he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.”  (Isaiah 61:10)  Or, in keeping with the illustration, by wearing the radiation suit made by and given by Jesus.

     But just suppose that Jesus has given me that radiation suit but I had been working hard on making my own.  I realize that Jesus’ suit is vastly superior so I put it on.  But I have worked so hard on my own suit that I decide to use just one glove from it.  So I substitute the glove I made for the one Jesus supplied.  I walk into God’s presence only to be destroyed by his holiness.  My glove couldn’t protect me from the radiation of his holiness because it wasn’t perfect – it was flawed.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)

     The point is that no matter how little we are relying on ourselves – maybe I just replace one finger on one glove – that little bit of reliance on self becomes a fatal flaw.  Even the tiniest flaw in a radiation suit spells disaster.  Neither does it matter what my motivation is for slightly relying on myself.  It could be prideful reluctance to give up what we worked so hard doing – it could be the thought that this is what God wants.  It doesn’t matter – if we are relying even, very slightly, on what we have to do in order to stand in God’s presence, we have a flawed radiation suit – and we will be destroyed.

     That is why Mormonism is so dangerous.  It points people not only to Jesus but also to themselves.  For example, its 3rd Article of Faith states:  “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”  The only thing our obedience does is make our suit flawed.

28
Oct
08

LOVE IS STRONGER THAN LAW

 

     On a plane trip awhile back, I got into a conversation about spiritual matters with the person sitting next to me.  Once he found out that I believed that I didn’t have to do anything to work myself back into God’s favor but that Jesus did everything for me, he responded with the well-worn argument:  “If you tell people they don’t have to do anything, then people will just run amuck in sin.”

     My response caught him off-guard.  Earlier I had noticed the wedding ring on his finger and from our previous small talk I had learned he was on a business trip.  So, in response, I asked him:  “Does that mean that tonight you are going to hire a prostitute to come to your motel room?  There’s no way that your wife will ever find out.”  Before he became too upset with me, I quickly continued:  “I don’t think you are going to do that.  But I was just applying your logic to your relationship between you and your wife.  Love is stronger than law.  I love Jesus for all that he has done for me.  The last thing I want to do is hurt the person who rescued me.  Love is stronger than law.”

     That man, at least, saw my point, albeit somewhat reluctantly.  And even though some might consider my illustration crude, I think it makes my point.  Just as offensive as it was to that man for me to even suggest that I could assume that he would be unfaithful to his wife because there was no “law” restraining him, so also it is offensive to Christians to suggest that because we don’t think that we have to do anything to be saved, that then we will feel no restraint in sinning.

     With minor variations, that is what many Mormons have told me.  Spencer W. Kimball made this point in his book, Miracle of Forgiveness.  After describing the teaching that man is saved alone by the grace of God and that belief alone in Jesus is all that is needed as “one of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan”, he goes on to say:  “It could give license for sin.” (p.207)

     But that is not what genuine faith produces.  Faith creates a tremendous love in people – a love that doesn’t want to go against God.  In fact, I would submit that people who believe that they are saved alone by the grace of God are more restrained.   They are more restrained because love is stronger than law.     

24
Oct
08

WHAT IS FAITH?

 

     One of the most important things for both Mormons and Christians to remember when talking with each other is that Mormonism and Christianity defines many terms differently.  But this is also one of the hardest things to remember during the actual discussion.  It is so easy to unconsciously think only of the definition that I am familiar with.  I then end up talking past the other person.

     Not only is this important to remember so that we don’t talk past each other, but it also often lies at the root of why we believe so differently.  A classic example of that is the definition of the word faith.  Christianity defines faith as trust and confidence while Mormonism makes action a vital component of faith.  As the LDS Bible Dictionary states, “Faith in Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel and is more than belief, since true faith always moves its possessor to some kind of physical and mental action”.  Because of these differing definitions, Mormons and Christians hear something drastically different when the Bible talks about salvation through faith.

     Therefore it is important to determine who has the proper definition and thus the proper interpretation of these vital verses.  Obviously I can’t check every dictionary, but none of the ones I checked mentioned anything about action in their definitions of faith.  I also did an Internet search on the definition of faith.  Besides discovering that there were a lot of record albums entitled “Faith”, I did not find any definition from a non-LDS source that included the idea of action.  In addition, most say that faith and belief are synonymous while many Mormons make a distinction between the two.

     More importantly I also refreshed my memory by again looking up the definitions for the Hebrew and Greek words that the Bible uses for faith.  The root idea of those words is assurance and certainty.  For example, this is what the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about the Hebrew word “aman”.   “At the heart of the meaning of the root is the idea of certainty.”  This is just what the Bible says in Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

     On what basis then does Mormonism define faith so differently from everybody else?  This is a very important question as a huge difference about how people are saved hangs in the balance. 

     I also want to make clear that the Bible also teaches that faith will spur people to action.  But that action is a result of faith, and thus is different from faith.  (I elaborated on this in my post of August 8th “Don’t Make the Fruit the Root”.) 

22
Oct
08

Guilt and Hebrews 10

 

     I think one of the most fascinating books of the New Testament is Hebrews.  I love the way it shows how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.  And one of its most fascinating chapters is chapter 10 – because it vividly talks about becoming free of guilt.

     In the first four verses the writer states that the Old Testament sacrificial system could never make the worshipers perfect.  Especially interesting is verse 2.  If the Old Testament sacrifices could have done that then “the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin.”  Or as one modern translation puts it:  they “would no longer feel guilty for their sins.”   Since those sacrifices couldn’t do that, the opposite was true as verse 3 states:  But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.’

    The chapter then proceeds by talking about Jesus’ sacrifice.  In striking contrast to what the writer had said about the Old Testament sacrificial system in the first part of the chapter, he now says, in regard to Jesus, “for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (v. 14)   And again, because of Jesus, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (v. 17-18)  Because Jesus has perfected us through his offering, God no longer remembers our sins.  Jesus offering did what the Old Testament offerings couldn’t have done.  He purged us so that we don’t have any more guilt before God.  The conclusion of verse 2 doesn’t apply to the Old Testament sacrifices, but it does apply to Jesus’ sacrifice.  His sacrifice has purged us.

     Therefore one of the best ways we give glory to Jesus is by quickly dispelling the guilt feelings that can so quickly arise in us – quickly dispelling them not by working a process of repentance but by remembering the fact of Hebrews 10 – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God no longer remembers our sins.   That’s the best news in the whole world.

20
Oct
08

The Gift of Guilt

       

     A while ago, we received a lengthy email from a Mormon man who had been raised in the LDS church.  He talked about the various positions he has held in the church but mainly wrote to talk about the various struggles he has had with some of the teachings of Mormonism.  One sentence he wrote, however, stood out from the rest.  You could almost feel his anguish as he wrote: “the guilt is a gift that just keeps on giving.”

     Some have characterized guilt as a corrosive acid eating away at us.  That surely seems to have been what was happening with this man.  Guilt is something that almost everybody, to varying degrees, has experienced.  Guilt, especially when we see ourselves guilty before God, can be nothing less than paralyzing.

     But what thrills me, what gives me joy and energy, is how the Bible, from so many different angles, tells me in no uncertain terms that there is no need for me to feel guilty before God, because God has declared me “not guilty” because of Jesus.  One way it does that is with the idea of justification.  Paul wrote: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).  The concept of biblical justification comes from the courtroom.  It describes the judge’s verdict of “not guilty”.  (This is in contrast to today’s common usage of people trying to justify themselves and their actions.)  God, the Judge, acquits us (declares us not guilty) because of Jesus’ redemption.  In other words, because Jesus has already paid our tremendous debt to God’s justice, we are legally free, not guilty.  “There is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  This biblical concept of justification is one that has been treasured by many Christians for centuries. 

     It is a concept, however, that is unknown to many Mormons.  Most Mormons, when I bring it up, tell me that they are unfamiliar with it.  That’s not surprising either.  It is not addressed in the LDS Bible Dictionary.  It is not listed in the indexes of either, Gospel Principles, or True to the Faith, two of the most basic manuals of Mormonism. It is not something Mormonism talks about very much.

    To get a handle on what Mormonism stands for, it is instructive to see not only what it stresses, but also what it doesn’t stress.  Its lack of stress on justification speaks volumes.  It is clear from the Bible that God does not want guilt to be a gift that keeps on giving.  Jesus came to remove the cause of guilt from us.  And that is what he did.  Because of Jesus, no longer do we need to feel guilty.  That’s not a message I hear from Mormonism.

17
Oct
08

Is Faith a Work?

 

     A couple of months ago (August 8th), I talked about the relationship of faith and works.  There I made the point that the Bible says good works are fruits of faith – that they result from faith.   Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone.  Some Mormons feel that this is a distinction without any meaning – that it doesn’t really matter if we see works as part of faith itself or as a result of faith.  To Christians, however, there is a huge difference between the two – the difference between works being part of the cause of salvation compared to them being the effect of salvation.  It’s important to keep clear the difference between causes and effects.

     Now, however, I want to address the question posed in the title of this post, namely, is faith itself a work?  More than once it has been stated by Mormons that just by our saying that we have to believe, we are saying that we have to do something to be saved.

     But that’s not what the Bible says.  It describes faith, not as something that we ourselves produce but rather something God creates within us.  For example, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says:  “no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”  A little bit earlier in that same letter, Paul says, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  (1 Cor. 2: 14)  From the context, it is evident that the spiritual things Paul is talking about is nothing less than the fact that Jesus died for our sins.  Without the Holy Ghost we cannot know that – or believe that.

     Another way that the Bible shows that faith itself is not a work is by making works and faith mutually exclusive.  “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9)  The rule of grammar is that the “it” refers back to the complete concept of “grace are ye saved through faith”.  Included in the gift of God is faith.  Salvation and faith is not of ourselves. 

     Or look at how Romans 11:6 makes grace and works exclusive of each other.  “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.  But if it be of works, then it is no more grace, otherwise work is no more work.”  If faith was a work then we are not saved by grace because works and grace don’t mix.

     Faith in Jesus’ saving work is not a work we must do in order to be saved.  Faith that Jesus saved us is something God creates in us.

15
Oct
08

Becoming gods

 

     I have just returned from a five-day trip to the Midwest where I had the opportunity to speak with hundreds of people about witnessing to Mormons.  (By the way, that’s why I haven’t been on the blog for the last five days.)  More than once people expressed confusion whether or not Mormonism teaches that people can become gods. 

     That confusion is understandable.  Many Mormons have told their Christian friends that Mormonism doesn’t teach that.   I have had many LDS members say that very thing to me.  And maybe they honestly don’t know that is what Mormonism teaches.  I have also had the experience that when I pointed that teaching out in D&C 132 and other sources some who denied that Mormonism taught that, reluctantly admitted that it did.

     There is no question that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods.  D&C 132: 20  “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject to them.  Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.”

     Presently Mormons are studying the manual about Joseph Smith in their series,  Teachings of the Presidents of the Church.  On p. 221-22 of this manual which was copyrighted in 2007 it quotes Joseph Smith:  “you have got to learn to be gods yourselves. . .To inherit the same power, the same glory and the same exaltation, until you arrive at the station of a god, and ascend the throne of eternal power, the same as those who have gone before.”

     Even though it is not as prominent as it once was, the old Mormon couplet coined by President Snow is still official LDS teaching.

              “As man now is, God once was

               As God now is, man may be.”

    That this is still good solid Mormonism is seen in the fact that it is quoted in the official manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles. 

    With these and numerous other proofs why do so many Mormons not know or deny that Mormonism teaches that people can become gods? 




October 2008
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