Archive for March, 2009

24
Mar
09

Choose the Right

 

     A familiar Mormon expression is, “Choose the Right”.  Where I live, it is common to see the initials CTR (Choose the Right) on rings and other forms of jewelry.  This is a popular way of expressing Mormonism’s teaching of agency, that God has given the people the right and ability to make right choices.  The teaching of agency is one of the foundational teachings of Mormonism.  On it Mormonism builds its whole idea that man has the ability and thus the responsibility to participate in their salvation.  “Agency is essential to the plan of salvation.  Without it, you would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior.”  (True to the Faith, p.12)

     This teaching, like many of the teachings of Mormonism, not only has no biblical support, but goes contrary to biblical teaching.  In various ways the Bible describes the utter inability of natural man to do anything right – including making wise choices.   “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.  They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Romans 3:11-12)  That’s pretty clear.  That doesn’t leave room for exceptions.  No one understands.  No one seeks God.  No one does good.  The premise that we have the ability to choose the right would imply that we understood what was right – that we would be seeking God.  By choosing the right we would have done good.  Talk about being on the opposite side of the issue!  Mormonism teaches the direct opposite of what the Bible teaches.

     Salvation is totally the work of God.  Jesus paid for all our sins.  Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law for us.  The Holy Spirit creates faith in people’s heart to believe that good news.   There’s no agency – a word or concept that is not found in the Bible. 
Rather it is all about grace – a word and concept that fills the pages of the Bible.

18
Mar
09

Reconciliation

      One of the things I love about the Bible is that it pictures God’s love for us in so many different ways.  One way that brings comfort to many people who have felt estranged from God is the idea of reconciliation.  A most comforting passage in that regard is 2 Corinthians 5: 19.  “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

     Note the past tense:  “God was in Christ, reconciling”.  Paul clearly is talking about something that happened in the past.  Otherwise he would have had to write, “God is in Christ”.  Secondly, note whom God reconciled unto himself.  Strikingly, Paul wrote, “the world.”  Not just believers, but the world.  That’s significant.

     I have often used the following little illustration to explain this concept.  Stephanie, a teenager, had done something so bad against her parents that it caused her to run away from home.  Her parents didn’t know where she was, but one of her best friends did.  Therefore Stephanie’s parents sent a message to Stephanie through her friend.  “We love you.  We have forgiven you.  Come home.”  When Stephanie gets the message, she can’t believe it.  So she doesn’t come home.  As a result of her unbelief, she receives no benefits of reconciliation.  She still lives estranged from her parents.  But does that mean that her parents hadn’t already forgiven her – that her parents hadn’t already reconciled with Stephanie?  No it doesn’t.  In fact, it would be totally unfair to say that the parents had not forgiven her.

     All illustrations and analogies limp. For example, God knows where we are at unlike Stephanie’s parents.  But, hopefully, the point I am trying to make from that illustration is clear.  In the same way, God has already reconciled the world to himself in Christ – “not imputing their trespasses unto them”.  Christians are now in the position of Stephanie’s friend.  We are God’s message bringing this wonderful message.  “and hath committed to us the word of reconciliation”.  And what a wonderful message it is.  Instead of peppering it with “ifs” – “if you do this” – even “if you believe” – instead I can say that God has already reconciled you to himself.  God has already imputed your trespasses – all because of Jesus – believe it!

     Before someone replies by saying that, “See, we have to do something – we have to believe”, I would ask them to read previous posts where I explain 1) that the Bible describes even the faith to believe as one of his gifts to us; and 2) this is brought out by passages that describe faith and works (in the realm of salvation) like oil and water. They don’t mix.

     The point of this post is that when we view reconciliation from God’s side, it is a done deal.  He doesn’t wait to reconcile himself to us until we repent, improve, or even believe.  No.  “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.”  That, my friends, is the awesome good news of the Bible.  Believe it!

14
Mar
09

Saul’s Conversion

 

     If anybody was in rebellion against Jesus, it was Saul.  Acts 9:1 describes him as “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord”.  As he was traveling to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”  If anybody was NOT worthy to receive a manifestation of Jesus it was Saul.  If anybody was NOT worthy to be converted it was Saul.  He admitted that when he wrote:  “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief,” (1 Timothy 1:15)

     His conversion stands in striking contrast to the teachings of Mormonism.  “You become converted as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the Savior.” (True to the Faith, p. 41)  Saul was doing the direct opposite of trying to follow the Savior.

     I have had some Mormons try to explain away Saul’s conversion as an exception to the rule because he became an apostle.  But that wasn’t Saul’s testimony.  After describing his conversion, he calls it not an exception, but a pattern.  “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:16)

     I, for one, treasure the story of Saul’s conversion.  I treasure it because it gives ALL the credit to Jesus and his mercy.  I treasure it because it highlights the wonderful biblical teaching that when I was dead in sins God made me spiritually alive in Christ.  I treasure it because it is another example of how my living eternally with Heavenly Father is all about what he does for me, not what I do.  To God be the glory.

11
Mar
09

Transgression

 

   This year the LDS Church’s curriculum focuses on the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C).  Therefore I am presently rereading the Teaching Manual on D&C.   In Lesson 5, which talks about revelation, is this quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks.  “We cannot have the companionship of the Holy Ghost – the medium of individual revelation – if we are in transgression or if we are angry or if we are in rebellion against God’s chosen authorities.”

     This quote struck me because of how it conditions the companionship of the Holy Ghost on not being in transgression.  I find that striking because of 1 John 3:4:  “Whosever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.”  Therefore, isn’t it accurate to say that Mormonism teaches a person cannot have the companionship of the Holy Ghost or receive revelation if he or she sins?  Further can I not conclude that all Mormons who claim to receive revelations are also claiming to be sinless?  That they aren’t angry as is mentioned specifically in the quote – that they never worry – that they always love their enemies – that they never say an unloving word – that they never have a lustful thought – that they never unjustly judge anyone – to name just a few sins? 

     The Bible consistently shows that, when it comes to our relationship with God, sin is sin.  There are not minor and major sins.  Neither does it talks about transgressions that are not sins. Sin is sin.  And all sin is serious.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)

     As I look at what the Bible says about sin and then I look into the mirror, I see someone who sins all the time.  That is why I am so thankful that Jesus has cast all my sins down to the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19) That is why I am so thankful that the Holy Ghost doesn’t make his companionship conditional on my being not in transgression.  But rather, because I am in Christ, he not only walks with me, but dwells within me (1 Cor. 3:16)  O, what a great joy that is!  To God be the praise.

04
Mar
09

Worry

 

     In the present economy there are a lot of worried people.  That is why Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: 25-34 are so comforting as he tells his disciples not to worry.  But these words also do something else.  They show us that worry is a sin.

     More than once in these verses Jesus gives the command: “Take no thought”.  Take no thought about food or clothing or tomorrow.   Therefore every time we have “anxious concern” (LDS Bible footnote) about such things, we are going against his command.  We are breaking it.  We are sinning.

     What is even more sobering is that we don’t even have to express those worries.  God knows everything.  He sees into every nook and cranny of our heart.  Therefore all we have to do is be worried – and we have sinned.  We are imperfect.

     And that sin is serious.  Someone once described worry as a little form of atheism.  When we worry we are sending a message that we don’t trust that God will provide for us – that we don’t believe what Jesus says in Matthew 6. 

     Whenever I catch myself worrying, I find myself thanking Jesus for washing that sin away with his blood.  I find myself rejoicing knowing that I am completely forgiven in Him.   Because Jesus has given me his righteousness, I remain confident that God continues to see me as perfect. 

     Compare that to the message of Mormonism:  “Perfection is a word that causes different reactions from many people.  Some people say, ‘Perfection?  Why, that is impossible!’  Others say, ‘Perfection?  I get discouraged just thinking about it!’  Yet would the Lord give a commandment that was impossible for us to keep?  And when he gives a commandment, doesn’t he, as Nephi said, prepare a way for us to accomplish what he commands?  The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s blueprint for perfection.”  (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, p. 57)  (Please note:  the command to “take no thought” is part of the Sermon on the Mount.)

      I prefer Psalm 103:12.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”  Thank you, Jesus.

02
Mar
09

MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD AND SINGLE MEN

 

     In the Feb. 25th edition of the Meridian Magazine, an online LDS magazine, there was an interesting article entitled, “Why It is Not Good for Man to be Alone.”  One reason why I found it interesting is because it quotes D&C 132:19-20 and talks about Mormonism’s teaching of becoming gods – something that is not seen that often today.

    Especially interesting was how the author strongly connects marriage with the Melchizedek priesthood.  For example, he states:  “Priesthood and marriage are inseparably connected; one without the other is useless.”  “Being acquainted with the law of marriage is not enough; once a man learns of this law, he must obey it or face serious consequences.  Because this law is published openly in the Doctrine and Covenants, no man is left without excuse.”  These are just a couple of sample quotes.

    But the statement that really stood out to me was when he was talking about how Adam was asleep without Eve.  He takes off on that and states: “Clearly man is spiritually asleep until he marries.”  What implications does that have for the thousands of single LDS missionaries?




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