Archive for September, 2013

27
Sep
13

Radiation Suit

(This is a reprint of a post I did a few years ago.)

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.

 

18
Sep
13

“The Not Even Once Club” – Really?

The Not Even Once Club is the title of a new children’s book published and promoted by Deseret Books.  It is written by Wendy Nelson, wife of one of the 12 apostles of the LDS Church.  The cover sleeve states that she was a professor of marriage and family therapy for 25 years.  In addition, she has held a number of prominent positions in the LDS Church including chairing the BYU Women’s Conference.  In other words, she is a highly credentialed LDS author.

So what is this book about?  The cover sleeve says:  “The Not Even Once Club is an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them.  Not even once.”  Really????  Yes, that is really what it is about.

One of the most tragic of its many fatal flaws is the failure of the LDS Church to understand the main reason why God gave us the commandments.  “By the law is the knowledge of sin”.  The commandments are God’s tool to show us our sins!  He knows that we need to see our sinfulness before we will see our need for a Savior.  A man doesn’t yell for help until he realizes he’s drowning.  Likewise people don’t yell for a Savior until they see they are drowning in sin.  The commandments show us how much we sin – they show us that we are drowning in sin.  The last thing the Lord intended when he gave the commandments was for people to create “Not Even Once Clubs”.

The Not Even Once Club is tragically true to its name in one way.  Not once is Jesus or God mentioned. That probably shouldn’t be surprising seeing that its whole premise is that children can keep the commandments perfectly.  It’s not surprising but it is sad.

I can see this book becoming very popular.  It is attractively done: very colorful and well-illustrated.  It is written by a prominent Mormon.  You can download free posters that reinforce its message.  I can envision those posters hanging in many a child’s room.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about “Not Even Once Clubs” springing up in LDS neighborhoods.

But just stop and think about the effect that all this can have on the 3 to 7 year old children that this book is intended for.  It could easily implant and reinforce the possibility of perfectionism and all its attendant pressures and problems.  Along with that it could produce a large self-righteous streak that will grow stronger and stronger as the children grow up.  Or else it could drive children to despair when they recognize that they sinned and broke the promise of the “Not Even Once Club”.

Already with small children, it is so much better to honestly talk about how they sin and their need for a Savior.  Already with small children, it is so much better to focus them on the fact that Jesus not even once sinned – and that he freely gives them his perfection.  Already with small children, it is vital to focus them on how Jesus has cleansed them from their sins rather than encouraging them to think that they can remain clean themselves. Jesus, and not themselves, is what children also need to focus on. It’s all about Jesus.

 

13
Sep
13

The Seriousness of Sin

In 1 Chronicles 13 there is an account that disturbs many people.  King David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem after it had been neglected during the reign of Saul.  While they were transporting it, we read:  “And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.  And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. (v. 9-10)

Most think that God dealt way too harshly with Uzza.  After all, he was trying to do the right thing and save the Ark from getting damaged.  But God had stated very plainly in the law that nobody was to touch the Ark.  In fact, just having it on the cart was not in accordance with his law.  He made it very clear that poles were to be slide through rings on the side of the Ark and carried with them.

Even with that background, many still charge God with over-reacting.  Putting a man to death for trying to keep the Ark from falling – really?

A much better reaction is to pause and take to heart God’s message.  It is a message he wants us to hear seeing that he saw fit to have it recorded in Scripture for all time.  And his message is simple.  It is an extremely serious thing not to follow his commands to the letter!   He’s God and his word is not up for debate.  Ignoring it, downplaying it, treating it casually is not something that he ignores or treats casually.  Not obeying his commands – sinning – is serious.

That is something we all need to hear – and to hear often.  God isn’t laughing about those sins that we might think are funny.  He doesn’t regard any lies as little while ones.  He doesn’t view as optional our loving one another or our taking everything to him in prayer.  No, those and many other things are what he has commanded us to do.  And, as this story illustrates, there are consequences, terrible consequences, for all forms of disobedience.  Sin, all sin, makes God’s blood boil.  He sees it as spitting in his face.

That is something we all need to hear – and to hear often.  Because only then will we realize how desperately we need mercy – and help.  And thank God that, in spite of how much sin angers him, he had mercy on us.  Jesus stood in the breach for us.  Not only did he suffer God’s awesome wrath over our sins, but he also rendered his Father perfect obedience for us.  Jesus is the answer – the only answer to our sinfulness.

Sin is deadly serious.  God’s striking Uzza dead shows that.  But if the Israelite’s not carrying the Ark angered God, think of how much more angry he is when people feel that they can, in any way, contribute to their having eternal life.  That is an affront to God.  That is telling him his gift of eternal life wasn’t good enough.  That’s saying Jesus didn’t do it all.  And that, my friends, is the most deadly sin of all.

“Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.  But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)

06
Sep
13

Obedience Brings Blessings

That is the title of a talk given by the LDS living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, at last April’s General Conference.  He bases it on D&C 93:26-28 which he quotes.  “And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth his commandments.  He that keepeth (God’s) commandments receiveth truth and light, and knoweth all things.”  Commenting on these verses he states, “A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide – even obedience.  A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 89).

Later in the article he expands on this and applies obedience to salvation.  Just two more quotes.  “All prophets, ancient and modern, have known that obedience is essential to our salvation.” (p. 90) Finally, quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley, “The happiness of the Latter-day Saints, the progress of the Latter-day Saints, the prosperity of the Latter-day Saints, and the eternal salvation and exaltation of this people lie in walking in obedience to the counsels of God.” (p. 90) According to Mormonism all good things, including living with Heavenly Father, hinges on a person’s obedience.

Surprisingly the Bible agrees – with one huge difference.  Obedience is essential for salvation – but not our obedience!  “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)  In order to save us, the one man, Jesus, had to be perfectly obedient.  He had to keep every commandment perfectly every moment of every day.  He had to do that because we need to be perfect to be acceptable to God and perfection is more than just the absence of sin.  It is also the presence of all righteousness.  In other words, in order to save us Jesus not only had to cleanse us from all sin but also cover us with all righteousness.

And that is what he did! He was perfectly obedient for us.  Throughout his entire life he was weaving the wonderful robe of righteousness which he now drapes over us through faith.  In a way, we can say that Jesus sacrificed his life twice for us.  Once by living his life for us (and think of how difficult it is to live for somebody else – especially when they don’t appreciate or acknowledge it) – and then by giving his life for us on the cross to wash away our sins.

In his talk President Monson does briefly talk about Jesus’ obedience.  But he doesn’t point to Jesus as Paul did, as our Substitute who was obedient for us.  Rather he refers to him as our example.  “He gave to us a divine example of obedience by refusing to deviate from what He knew was right.” (p. 92) In this way, even when he does talk about Jesus, the burden to be worthy and to receive blessings is placed squarely on the shoulders of each individual.

What a relief it is to know that God now sees me as perfectly obedient through Jesus.  This is especially comforting when I see how each and every sin is a terrible affront to God.  Seeing that could easily lead to despair because I know that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t stop worrying, or thinking angry thoughts, or doing selfish things, or not casting all my cares on Jesus, or you fill in the blank.  Each and every one of these sins that we often so lightly brush off merits nothing less than eternal damnation.

Thank God, therefore, that Jesus came and was perfectly obedient in my place, as my Substitute!  Thank God that he has graciously clothed me in his robe of righteousness so that right now I am totally acceptable to God.  Thank God that salvation and eternal life are his gifts to us and not something God tells us that we have to achieve ourselves.  Thank God that Jesus came to live and die for me.  To God be all glory and praise!




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