Archive for September, 2010


Catch the Wave

     In one of the latest issues of Sports Illustrated there’s an article about a group of surfers who travel around the Pacific in pursuit of the big waves.  They have a sophisticated website that tracks the storms and predicts where the big waves will hit.  They effectively network with each other about travel plans.  Everything in their lives revolves around their surfing those big waves.  It’s obvious that this is their purpose in life.

     What is the purpose of life?  That’s a question LDS missionaries like to ask people.  It’s a great question.  But it’s one that a lot of people often haven’t given much thought to. I have seen many people respond to it with a blank stare as they figuratively (and sometimes literally!) scratch their heads.

     What’s the purpose of life?  Mormonism’s answer is that this mortal life is a time of testing – a time to progress and prove our worthiness.  For example, the LDS manual, Gospel Principles states: “Our Heavenly Father knew we could not progress beyond a certain point unless we left Him for a time.  He wanted us to develop the godlike qualities that He has.  To do this, we needed to leave our premortal home to be tested and to gain experience. . .If we passed our tests, we would receive the fulness of joy that our Heavenly Father has received.”  (p. 10-11)

     So what has all this to do with those surfers?  Just a day or so after reading that article, I was studying John 1.  Verse 17, talking about Jesus, says:  “And of his fulness have all we received, grace for grace.”  I immediately thought about that article which described how the waves would come one right after another.  That is exactly what John is here describing about Jesus.  He sends one wave after another, not of testing, but of grace.  His grace is like the ocean. We can never plumb its depths. Paul wrote:  “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”  (Romans 5:20)  God’s grace is like an endless series of waves washing over us.

     What’s my purpose in life?  To catch and keep on riding the waves of God’s grace.  It is my goal to be propelled through life by the power of his grace, his love which caused him to save me freely – which continues to wash over me daily.  But I don’t want to keep this to myself.  Just like those surfers, I want others to experience the exhilaration of riding those waves.  I want others to have the wonderment of knowing that even though they have failed the test = Jesus has passed it for them – that where their sins abounded, God’s grace is there in much greater abundance.  Catch and ride the wave of God’s grace.  It’s the greatest ride in the world.



     Mormonism teaches that keeping God’s commandments are vital to salvation.  Joseph Smith said, “To get salvation, we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded.”  (Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Joseph Smith, p. 161)  Members of the LDS church regularly point to all the commandments in the Bible as proof of this.  They scoff at the idea that salvation is through faith alone.  One of the men whom they look upon as a living prophet wrote:  “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.”  (Spencer W. Kimball)

      There is no denying that the Bible is full of commands.  The question is:  what is the purpose of those commands?  Did God give us commands so that by obeying them we could obtain salvation?  This is a possibility the Bible discusses.  “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them.”  (Romans 10:5)  The key word is “doeth”.   The righteousness of the law is a righteousness obtained by doing, keeping, obeying.

     But here comes the rub.  According to the Bible, it’s all or nothing.  It’s not trying your best – it’s not progressing – it’s doing everything all the time.  “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)  And this is something the Bible says no one can do.   So much so that all who are trying to do that are under God’s curse and not his blessing.  “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”  (Galatians 3:10)   Note that a person has to continue to do all things in the law if they don’t want to be under God’s curse.  Stumbling at just one point, breaking one commandment, makes people guilty.

     That was the point Jesus was making with the rich young man.  Notice what the young man asks Jesus.  “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”  (Matthew 19:16)  He asks what he must do.  That’s how Jesus answered him.  “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”  (v. 21)  In other words, Jesus says, if you want to base your eternal life on what you do, you need to do everything.

     This highlights one of the main reasons why God gave us so many commandments – to convince us that we can’t keep them perfectly.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  (Romans 3:20)  God has given us the commandments so that we despair of trying to save ourselves through our own works.  Commandments are not rungs on the ladder of salvation.  It’s only when we realize the desperate straits we are in that we will quit trying to save ourselves and cling to our Savior, Jesus.

     Yes, the Bible is full of commands.  But the critical question is how the Bible uses them.  Does it put them into the discussion of salvation?  It does that only by saying that if you want to be saved by keeping the commandments, you have to keep them perfectly – you have to continue to do all of them.  As soon as you break one, you are under God’s curse- a situation that was remedied only by Jesus.  “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us:  for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”  (Galatians 3:13) 

    Jesus has done it all.  It is my prayer that more and more members of the LDS church see that and rely totally on what Jesus has done for them.


A Sobering Scripture


      This Sunday I’m preaching on James 3:3-12.

          “Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.  Behold also the ships, which though [they be] so great, and [are] driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.  Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

6         And the tongue [is] a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

7        For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:  But the tongue can no man tame; [it is] an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9       Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.  Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.  Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet [water] and bitter?  Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so [can] no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.”

     There are fewer passages that are more sobering than that.  It vividly shows that talk is not cheap – that the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is totally wrong.  We all can think of examples of how just a few words destroyed a person.  Words are powerful – and deadly.

     What is even more sobering is that when, in the last paragraph James applies this to believers, he shows that, even after people have been brought to faith, they can’t completely control their tongues.  The best we can do is an unnatural inconsistency – as we talk out of both sides of our mouths.

     That is something that I can’t argue with.  It’s not difficult for me to think of biting words I wished I would have swallowed; unloving criticism that I have gleefully offered, teasing that went too far.  This passage does a good job of fulfilling its purpose.  It vividly shows me my sin.

      What a blessing it is that seeing my sinfulness doesn’t drive me to despair but into the arms of my Savior.  As I think about this passage, I am filled with awe with the realization that Jesus never once spoke a wrong word.  Never once did his tongue cause him to sin.  Just try to imagine that.  As a boy playing with his brothers and sisters and the other kids in Nazareth, he never once said anything wrong.  As a  carpenter, never venting about a customer.  As a teacher, always giving just the right criticism to his disciples.  Even when he was abused, he didn’t strike back with wrong words.

     And then! I realize that I get all the credit for that!  This is all part of the perfect robe of his righteousness – the robe that he has freely given me – the robe that makes me perfect in God’s sight.  But not only did he cover my sins with his righteousness, he washed them away with his blood!  All those unkind words – all that biting criticism – they have been separated from me as far as the east is from the west.  Because of Jesus, and only because of him, I am a perfect saint in God’s eyes.  Because of Jesus, and only because of him, I am totally confident that I will spend all eternity with him and the Father as part of their eternal family.  To him and to him alone be all praise and glory!

September 2010

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