Archive for December, 2010

30
Dec
10

What is repentance?

      Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that repentance is important.  Therefore it is also important to define it carefully and accurately. This is not a place to be slipshod or careless.

     The Greek word translated repent literally means to change your mind.  That is also an accurate description of repentance.  In modern terms, it is a change of mindset, a changing of your paradigm.  Biblical repentance is the gigantic shift from trusting in your own works to be right with God to trusting in Jesus’ works to make you right with God.  It is rooted in the recognition of two important facts: 1) how utterly unable I am to do anything to make myself right with God; and 2) how fully and completely Jesus made me right with God.  Repentance is seeing the light – it is nothing less than a new birth.

    There are a number of things that naturally follow repentance.  Once our eyes are open to the ugliness and seriousness of sin, we abhor it.  Even though we abhor it, we see that we are still very weak in the face of it.  Therefore, even though we try not to sin, we know we will sin.  Down through the centuries, millions of repentant people have joined Paul in saying, “For the good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19) 

    But not only does repentance open our eyes to our sinfulness, it also opens them to the greatness of God’s forgiveness.  “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”  (Psalm 32:1)  A repentant person doesn’t think he has to quit sinning to remain in God’s good graces – he knows he can’t.  Rather he remains trusting 100% in what Jesus has already done for him.   Repentance, through and through, is turning completely away from trust in one’s goodness and works to trust in Jesus’ works.

     That, however, is not the message of Mormonism.  Its Inspired Version (JST) translates Psalm 32:1 this way:  “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, and who have no sins to be covered.”  Consistently it describes repentance as a long process – a process that focuses not on a change in thinking but a change of action.

     One part of Mormonism’s process of repentance that startles many Christians is the “abandonment of sin”.  “Maintain an unyielding permanent resolve that you will never repeat the transgression.  When you keep this commandment, you will never experience the pain of that sin again.’  (True to the Faith, p. 135)  Over the years, I have had Mormons expand on this in two different ways.  I have had some echo what this says and say that repentant persons will never repeat the sin again.  If they do, that shows that they weren’t truly repentant.  More often, however, are the Mormons who say that all this means is to try – but they don’t have to actually abandon the sin.  I, however, have never found any official statement that watered it down in that way.

    The second part of Mormonism’s process of repentance that strikes many Christians is the requirement of full obedience.  “President Kimball said: ‘First, one repents.  Having gained that ground he then must live the commandments of the Lord to retain his vantage point.  This is necessary to secure complete forgiveness.”  (Gospel Principles, p. 11-112)  Again many Mormons insert the word “try’ – in “try to live the commandments”.  But that is not what it says.  Consistently it says obey the commandments.  In fact, I have read official statements which say to try is a statement of weakness. 

      I, for one, would despair if I believed that I would have to not only abandon sin but keep all the commandments in order to secure God’s forgiveness.  That is way, way, way, beyond my capability.  That is why I am so glad that this is not what biblical repentance is.  I am so glad that true repentance is abandoning not sin but all thoughts that I can do something like that and instead placing all trust in what Jesus has done.  Because of Jesus, I am truly blessed as a repentant, forgiven man.

20
Dec
10

The Only Begotten Son

     In the December 2010 Ensign (an official LDS magazine), the following statement is made:  “Jesus was the only person to be born of a mortal mother, Mary and an immortal father, God the Father.  That is why Jesus is called the Only Begotten Son of God.”  What does that exactly mean? 

     This statement is expanded on in a couple of LDS church manuals.  “That Child to be born of Mary was begotten of Elohim, the Eternal Father, not in violation of natural law but in accordance with a higher manifestation thereof.”  (Talmage quoted in The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, p. 23)  “We believe that he came into the world, born of Mary, literally and actually, as we are born of our mothers: that he came into the world, born of God the Eternal Father, the Almighty Elohim, literally and actually, as we are born of our earthly fathers.”  (McConkie, quoted in Sharing the Gospel, p. 74)

     That Jesus was born of God the Father, “literally and actually, as we are born of our earthly fathers” is a uniquely Mormon belief.  It is rooted in another unique Mormon belief namely that God has a physical body.  “His eternal spirit is housed in a tangible body of flesh and bones (see D&C 130:22).”  (Gospel Principles, p. 6) 

     That Jesus was the product of a union of Mary and God the Father has been the subject of unjust caricatures by some Christians.  I personally have never seen or heard Mormons talk about it the way some of those caricatures have portrayed it. 

     But, on the other hand, that doesn’t mean it is not an LDS teaching.  My reason for bringing it up is to highlight how it illustrates the different views Mormonism has of both God the Father and Jesus.  This ties in with Mormonism’s teaching that God is an Exalted Man (“As man is, God once was”) and that Jesus was half –Deity.  “She. . .was about to give birth to half-Deity.”  (Life and Teachings. . .p.10)

     The baby Jesus that Christians worship is not a half-Deity.  Neither do we believe that Jesus was born of the Father, literally and actually, as we are born of our earthly fathers.  The more that Mormons say that they and Christians worship the same Jesus, the more important it will be to highlight such differences.  Mormonism isn’t the “fulness of the gospel” as it claims.  It is a completely different gospel.

16
Dec
10

CHRIST CAME AND TOOK THE PRESSURE OFF

     Five seconds are left in the basketball game.  It’s not any game either – it’s the championship.  Your team is down by one point.  Your coach calls time out, looks down the bench to where you are sitting and motions you to check into the game.  As you pass him, he pulls you aside and tells you to take the last shot.  “We are counting on you.  It’s all up to you.”

     Talk about pressure.  Especially if you have sat on the bench the entire game to that point.  Few people would enjoy being in that situation.  Few people would succeed in that situation.

     But that is the position a lot of Mormons feel that they are in.  I know that because many of them have shared that with me.  I realize that it is inaccurate to say that Mormonism teaches that people are saved by their works alone.  No, it talks about God’s grace.  But it doesn’t teach that people are saved by grace alone.  “However, grace cannot suffice without total effort on the part of the recipient.”  (LDS Bible Dictionary)

     Pause for a moment and think of the tremendous pressure that exerts on many Mormons.  Imagine trying to live under that.  Even if we think that we have to contribute only 1% to our salvation – that opens the door to a whole lot of worry.  It’s like the sub coming off the bench being told that he has to make only one basket, the winning basket.  But with one big difference.  The pressure Mormonism places on many of its adherents doesn’t last just for a few moments – it’s there for an entire lifetime.

     How much better is the biblical message of Titus 3:4-7:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared,  5Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  7That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”  There’s no work – and no pressure.

     God saved us, not by our works, but according to his mercy.  He saved us by sending Jesus to do everything for us.  That is why Christmas is such a joyous time. May you experience joy and relief this Christmas knowing that Jesus came and took all the pressure off.




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