Archive for April, 2009

27
Apr
09

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.”  Since we sin so much, our obedience isn’t perfect.  Therefore the only thing our imperfect obedience does is make our suit flawed.  And a flawed suit is a formula for disaster.

 

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23
Apr
09

Sin

 

     Have you ever stopped to think how often you sin?  As we read the Bible, we see that it doesn’t just label actions as sin, but also thoughts.  For example, Jesus said:  “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  (Matthew 5:28)

     Neither is ignorance bliss when it comes to sin.  Sin is a sin whether we know it is or not.  Even if I didn’t know that the Lord commanded us not to worry, I still am sinning when I worry because I am disobeying his command.  It doesn’t work to tell the trooper I didn’t know what the speed limit was, and it doesn’t work to plead ignorance before God.

     In addition to all that, sin is not just doing something God forbids.  It’s also not doing what he commands.  “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is a sin.”  (James 4:17)  That means I’m sinning when I don’t love my enemies, when I don’t bless those who are persecuting me.  I’m sinning when I don’t love my neighbor as I love myself.  (Wouldn’t “as yourself” mean I would spend just as much time and money on them as I do myself?) 

     I don’t know about you, but I sin a lot.  Those flashes of anger at the driver ahead of me, the selfishness of doing what I want to do rather than what my spouse wants to do, my less than honoring thoughts about the government. . .on and on it goes.  Just for discussion sake, say I peg my sinning rate at one a minute during my waking hours (which is way too conservative).  That equals more than 21 million sins in a span of 60 years!

     To make matters worse, the Bible says, that even one sin is very, very serious.  “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend (LDS Bible footnote – stumble, err) in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  One stumble = full guilt.  If that is the result of one sin, what does 21 million sins result in?  It is crushing to think of standing before God with one count of sin against me – much less 21 million counts.

     That is why I am so thankful that Jesus took my place and faced the Father’s wrath for me.  I testify that Jesus, by paying for all my sins, paid my debt to God’s justice.  I testify that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God remembers my sins no more. I testify that Jesus gets all the credit for my having eternal life and living forever with Heavenly Father. 

17
Apr
09

JESUS, MY CREDITOR?

 

 One of the Mormonism’s basic manuals is a book entitled “Gospel Principles”.  Starting on p. 75 it quotes a parable given by Elder Boyd K . Packer, an LDS apostle.   It’s quite lengthy so I will summarize much of it here.  Heavenly Father is the creditor.  We are the debtors.  After awhile we realize that we can’t pay back the debt. After a discussion about justice and mercy, Jesus, the mediator, steps in. He asks the creditor if he will free the debtor from the contract, if he, the mediator, pays the entire debt. The creditor agrees. Let me pick it up there by quoting a few sentences:

“The mediator turned then to the debtor. ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’

“‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’

“‘Then’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be posssible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’”

For many Christians, this illustrates quite sharply the difference between the teachings of Mormonism and biblical Christianity.  Many Christians are genuinely horrified to hear Jesus being described as a creditor.  This goes against every grain of their being.

This horror on the part of Christians is mystifying to many Mormons.  They don’t see the problem.  They wonder what the big deal is.  To them seeing Jesus as their creditor is no big deal – it’s even natural.

For me, not only the parable itself, but then also the two differing and drastic reactions to it clearly illustrate the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.  The parable illustrates the different teaching; the differing reacttions illustrate the different mindsets. As Christians talk with their Mormon friends, they need to not only remember that many times words will be defined differently between the two, but also that their mindsets will be different from that of their LDS friends. 

14
Apr
09

Death Bed Repentance

 

     In my last post about Paradise I quoted a couple of LDS sources concerning Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross.  For convenience sake I quote them again:  “To the thief on the cross who asked to be remembered after death, the Savior responded to give him what hope he could:  ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, ‘ That is to say, today you shall be with me in the world of spirits, where you will be taught the gospel and your inquires will be answered. (See Smith, Teachings, p.309)  Jesus did not lend any credence to a death-bed repentance or (sic) the malefactor.  What Jesus did do was give recognition to the seeds of faith and repentance which were evidenced by a penitent man.  As always, the Lord’s efforts were directed toward offering as much hope as possible to one who would turn from darkness unto that everlasting light.”  (Life and Teachings. . .p. 186, emphasis added)

     The LDS Bible Dictionary says this:  “For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’, the Bible rendering is incorrect.  The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the word of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for paradise.”

     I especially want to focus on two things in those quotes.  The first is the statement that Jesus’ words to the malefactor do not give any credence to a death-bed repentance on the part of the malefactor.  I assume that this statement was made in response to the common Christian teaching that people can repent on their deathbeds and, as a result, enjoy living Heavenly Father for all eternity.

     The second statement is one from the LDS Bible Dictionary stating that the thief was not ready for paradise.

     Numerous Mormons here and elsewhere have stated that Mormonism teaches that salvation is all about Jesus and what he has done – that the differences in how Mormonism and Christianity view salvation are really not that major.  It is has been my position, and the position of many other Christians, that the differences are major.  I submit that the quotes above illustrate that difference.

     As a Christian pastor, I have had the privilege of ministering to people on their deathbeds – including some who had shown no interest, much less, faith in Jesus.  But staring in the face of death does something to a person.  On more than one occasion, I had the extraordinary privilege of bringing people the message that Jesus had paid for all their sins – that, through Jesus, they could live with Heavenly Father – that they were saved by grace alone.  And the Holy Spirit caused them to trust that! Through Christ, they were ready for Paradise – the Paradise of living eternally with Heavenly Father.

     Mormonism – “did not lead any credence to a death-bed repentance, . .”not ready for paradise.” 

     Christianity – believe and you will be with God forever – because Jesus has done everything for you.

     To me that’s a big difference.

08
Apr
09

Paradise

 

     During this week which we observe our Lord’s crucifixion and celebrate his resurrection, countless are the people who have found comfort in the words that Jesus spoke to the thief on the cross:  “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”  (Luke 23:43)  Jesus said this in response to his request:  “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”  I, along with countless millions of Christians, have understood his request as a simple statement of faith and Jesus’ response as reassuring him that he would be in heaven with him that day.  “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

     Mormonism, however, rejects that interpretation.  “To the thief on the cross who asked to be remembered after death, the Savior responded to give him what hope he could:  ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise, ‘ That is to say, today you shall be with me in the world of spirits, where you will be taught the gospel and your inquires will be answered. (See Smith, Teachings, p.309)  Jesus did not lend any credence to a death-bed repentance or (sic) the malefactor.  What Jesus did do was give recognition to the seeds of faith and repentance which were evidenced by a penitent man.  As always, the Lord’s efforts were directed toward offering as much hope as possible to one who would turn from darkness unto that everlasting light.”  (Life and Teachings. . .p. 186, emphasis added)

     The LDS Bible Dictionary says this:  “For example, when Jesus purportedly said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in paradise’, the Bible rendering is incorrect.  The statement would more accurately read, ‘Today shalt thou be with me in the word of spirits’ since the thief was not ready for paradise.”

     The two different interpretations of this statement is another in a long list of examples illustrating the great difference between Mormonism and Christianity on the most fundamental of all doctrines, namely, how a person will live eternally with Jesus.  Again this Holy Week I will be praising my Savior for the incredible love and acceptance he showed the thief – and he has shown me.

06
Apr
09

No Blessings without obedience?

     Mormonism teaches:  “Justice is the unchanging law that brings consequences for actions.  Because of the law of justice, you will receive blessings when you obey God’s commandments (see D&C 130:21-22).”  (True to the Faith, p. 91)

      D&C 130: 20-21 says:  “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”

      Many Mormons have cited or referred to this teaching to emphasize that blessings have to be earned.  For example, Bruce R. McConkie wrote:  “The law of justification is the provision the Lord has placed in the gospel to assure that no unrighteous performance will be binding on earth and in heaven, and that no person will add to his position or glory in the hereafter by gaining an unearned blessing.”

      No unearned blessings.  Every blessing predicated upon obedience.  Does that always hold true in Mormonism?  What about resurrection?  “Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected – saved from physical death (see 1 Corinthians 15:22).  Resurrection is the reuniting of the spirit with the body in a perfect, immortal state, no longer subject to disease or death (see Alma 11:42-45).”  (True to the Faith, p.139)

     I have trouble reconciling the resurrection of all people with Mormonism’s teaching that every blessing is predicated on obedience.  I think it is fair to say that “the reuniting of the spirit with the body in a perfect, immortal state, no longer subject to disease or death” qualifies as a blessing.  Since all and not just some, according to Mormonism, receives this blessing, I wonder how that blessing can be predicated on obedience.  What obedience did Hitler give in order to receive a body in a perfect state, no longer subject to disease or death?

     I think this is an important point.  If the blessing of resurrection is not predicated on obedience, cannot other blessings, including the blessing of forgiveness, also not be predicated on obedience?    That’s what the Bible says:  “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”  (Romans 4:7-8) 

03
Apr
09

WHAT IS FAITH?

 A fundamental difference between Mormonism and Christianity is the definition of the word “faith. Mormonism defines faith as power. “So simply put, faith is the power of God, and only this power of God can justify a person.” (Life and Teachings. . .p.319) “Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever you work toward a worthy goal you exercise faith.” (True to the Faith, p. 54) Many Mormons think that Christianity defines faith simply as giving lip service to Jesus or describing it solely as head knowledge. That is not accurate. The heart of Christian faith is trust – relying on what Jesus has done for us. Faith, to a Christian, is resting his entire hopes on living eternally with heavenly Father on the salvation Jesus has already achieved for him. There is a tremendous difference between these two definitions. Mormonism’s definition points a person to a person’s works. So much so that Joseph Smith added works to the translation of Romans 4:16. The King James Version says: “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace.” The JST (Joseph Smith Translation) says: “Therefore ye are justified of faith and works, through grace.” In striking contrast, Christianity keeps the focus on Christ. It’s all about what he has done. A Christian confidently trusts that Jesus has done everything for him – that salvation is truly a free gift. What a joy and relief that is!




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