Archive for September, 2009




     I recently read that during the fall of Cambodia the Communists used a simple but very effective way of controlling their prisoners as they forced them to walk through the jungle.  Using a long needle they would thread something like fish line through the palms of each of their captives.  If a prisoner lagged behind or tried escaping, the pain would be excruciating for all.

     When people think of being under sin’s bondage they often think of the “big and dirty” sins like murder, adultery, addictions.  They picture sin’s bonds as heavy duty chains.  But the devil is smart.  He often controls people like those Communists in Cambodia controlled their captives – with slender threads of pride, bitterness, and the like.  One of his most common “threads” is self righteousness.  That was the thread the devil used to bind the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

     What is so devious about all this is that it’s very difficult for both the person bound and others to see that they are truly captives. Often nothing looks amiss.  Things look good.  So much so that the captive doesn’t even try to escape and thus doesn’t feel much pain.  Life is not that bad.  But whether their bonds are seen or not, they are captives of sin and are walking on the broad way that leads to destruction.     

     They too need to be rescued.  That is what Jesus did.  He came and defeated the devil.  He broke sin’s power.  He cut the bonds enslaving us.  “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part the same, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2: 14-15)

     It is my prayer that everybody sees that all sins – even the nearly invisible ones – are deadly. That they not only see them, but then see that in Jesus and in him alone, is deliverance.




     I like to tell the story of little orphan Andy.  Andy lived in an orphanage.  His greatest desire was to be adopted and become part of a family.  This is what he thought about every night before he went to sleep.

     One day a couple came to the orphanage and told Andy that they were thinking of adopting him but. . .    But they wanted to take him home for a month to see how it would work out.  After the month was up they would decide if they would adopt him.

     Andy went home with them and tried to be on his best behavior.  But every night he couldn’t help but wonder if he was good enough.  Talk about a stress-filled month!

     Let’s say, however, that this couple, instead of waiting for a month to make a decision, had come to the orphanage and told Andy that they had already adopted him. The papers were signed.  He was their son.

     Imagine the joy Andy felt.  Imagine how he would show his gratitude by trying to be the best he could be.  He would act even better than in the first scenario because he wouldn’t have the pressure of having to work to be accepted.

     By bringing obedience into the discussion of salvation, Mormonism puts people into the position of Andy in the first scenario.  Many Mormons feel tremendous stress as they work at becoming acceptable to God.  For example, The September 2009 Ensign says:  “An upcoming Q&A feature will focus on the following topic:  I often feel overwhelmed because I don’t feel I measure up to all that’s expected of me in living the gospel.  How can I learn to rejoice in the gospel when I feel like I may never be able to become or do all that the Lord requires of me?”

     The biblical gospel doesn’t put pressure on people, it takes it off.  It takes it off.  It does that because it is all about what Jesus did for us, not about what we have to do.  He paid for all our sins.  He fulfilled all righteousness for us.  Because of that we now can be like Andy in the second scenario.  We too try to please God – not however to become accepted, but because God has already accepted us through Jesus.  That difference in motivation makes all the difference in the world.




    Over the past few months, I have addressed forgiveness a number of times.  Therefore some might be wondering why visit it again.  The reasons are two-fold:

           1) It is such a crucial issue in our relationship with God. 

            2) It is a central issue of contention between Christians and Mormons.

     There are various ways to summarize the different ways Mormonism and Christianity view forgiveness.  One of the simplest for me is that in Mormonism, forgiveness hinges on the “painful process” of repentance worked by people while in Christianity it is a joyful announcement made by God.  One good example of the latter is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:13 after King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband, Uriah, killed.  “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD.  And Nathan said unto David, “The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” 

     Yes, David did suffer ongoing consequences of his sin.  But those consequences weren’t part of his being forgiven.  The Lord announced the forgiveness.  Period.  Then he talked about the consequences David would have to suffer because of his sin.  David was forgiven before he even had the chance to begin the “painful process” of repentance.

     In fact, the idea that we can do anything to be forgiven goes against what Jesus said in Luke 17:7-10.  “But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?  And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?  Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?  I trow not.  So likewise ye, when ye shall have all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.”

     As Jesus here says, after we have done “all those things which are commanded” all we are to say is that we have done our duty.  If doing everything is just doing our duty, that leaves no possibility for doing something extra.  In other words, we can’t contribute anything in the area of forgiveness because our duty is already to do everything.

     That’s why our forgiveness hinges entirely on what Jesus has done for us.  That is why God can now announce forgiveness to us rather than making it contingent on our working through a painful process.  That is why King David could write:  “Blessed is he who transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  (Psalm 32:1)

September 2009

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