Archive for the 'Jesus' Category

21
Dec
13

Jesus’ Mission

One of the many things I love about Christmas is its simple message that God so loved the world that he deployed his Son to be our Savior.  In these days before Christmas, I find myself repeatedly rejoicing over the fact that Jesus saved me by doing it all for me.  The Son of God became flesh as our substitute, taking all our sins on himself and paying for them with his death – and also living that perfect life that we can’t – and then freely giving us all that perfection (righteousness) that he had accumulated.    Christmas is all about the sending of a Rescuer – a thought that has been stressed over and over again this Christmas Season in my church.

That’s why an article in the January issue of the Ensign (the LDS Church’s official magazine) which recently arrived in the mail stopped me in my tracks.  It is entitled, “The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: Exemplar”. Following is the entire article.

“As we understand that Jesus Christ is our example in all things, we can increase our desire to follow Him. The scriptures are full of encouragement for us to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To the Nephites, Christ said, “For the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). To Thomas, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

“Today our leaders remind us to set the Savior as our example. Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, said, “When each of us has the doctrine of the Atonement written deep in our hearts, then we will begin to become the kind of people the Lord wants us to be.”

“President Thomas S. Monson said, “Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is our Exemplar and our strength.”

Let us resolve to draw near to Jesus Christ, to obey His commandments, and to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”

Yes, the Bible does, at times, point to Jesus as our example.  But that is not what it emphasizes.  And that surely is not what it says his divine mission was!  His mission was to save us, not by being an example and showing us what we need to do, but by actually doing it all for us.  “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)  Jesus came to redeem us – to buy us back.  And that is what he did.  To use a simple analogy, he didn’t save us when we were drowning by showing us how to swim.  No, he jumped into our world as a lifeguard and rescued us.

But notice there is nothing about that in this article, notwithstanding the brief mention of the Atonement.  The whole article is about following Jesus’ example “to strive to return to our Heavenly Father.”  And what is so sad about this is that this is the visiting teaching message for January.  That means that this is the lesson LDS women are to teach each other as they fulfill their duties as visiting teachers.  Throughout Mormonism this will be the emphasis of those visits.

How tragic – for a couple of reasons.  One is that this will just increase the heavy weight many LDS women are feeling already.  Following in Jesus’ footsteps is an impossible task!  And secondly, such a message dishonors our Savior tremendously.  It doesn’t glorify him as the one, who at tremendous cost, saved us. It puts all the focus on what they are to do, not what he has done for them.

It is my prayer that this Christmas more Christians lovingly and clearly share with Mormons the tremendous news that Jesus, our Savior who has done everything for us, has been born.  Furthermore I pray that the Holy Ghost will open the eyes of many LDS to see this wonderful truth.

In Jesus, our Savior, have a wonderful Christmas.

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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!

12
Aug
13

The Only Way to Eternal Happiness

When Christians hear the words “only way” connected with “eternal happiness” most will immediately think of Jesus’ words in John 14:6.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Note how exclusively Jesus speaks.  He doesn’t say he is “a” way; rather he says he is “the” way.  And he doesn’t leave us wondering what that means when he continues by saying that the only way anybody can come to the Father is through him.

Further note that he doesn’t add anything to his being the way.  No, it’s all about him.  Whenever the Bible talks about coming into God’s presence it speaks exclusively of Jesus’ works – how his obedient life and sacrificial death is all that is needed for us to confidently come into God’s presence.  As Paul wrote to Titus:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not 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; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 4-7)

Now compare that to this statement Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the LDS apostles, made at last April’s General Conference.  “A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father.  His goal is our eternal happiness and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy.” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 88m my emphasis).  That’s quite a bit different from what Jesus said.  Jesus said he is the only way, Perry says the commandments are the only way.  Even more striking is that in this talk Elder Perry mentions eternal happiness a few times.   But not once in the talk is there any mention of what Jesus did for us!

Rather his entire talk is about our obedience and how that is what is important to our eternal happiness. That comes out already in the title of his address: “Obedience to the Law is Liberty”.  Furthermore, he quotes LDS Scripture to make the point that there is no such thing as undeserved blessings:  “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.” (D&C 130:20-21)  Talk about something that is the furthest thing from being Christ – centered!

His talk is not only another in a long list of examples vividly demonstrating the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but it also serves as a good reminder to Christians of why it is so important to emphasize with their LDS friends that eternal happiness does not depend on our obedience but rather on Christ’s obedience for us.  Yes, out of love and gratitude to our gracious God we strive to keep the commandments.  But our striving is not only terribly imperfect but it is also the result and not the cause of our eternal happiness.  Jesus’ obedience, and only his obedience, is what makes us worthy to enter God’s presence.  To him be all glory.

22
Jul
13

Who talks about Jesus more?

Mormons often point to the fact that Jesus Christ is part of their church’s name as proof that they are Christians.  But what struck me again last month as I was going door to door in Salt Lake City and talking with many LDS members is how much they didn’t want to talk about Jesus.  We came to the door with the message of the great things Jesus has done for us; namely, that we were assured that we were worthy in God’s sight because of what he has done and that we knew we were forgiven through him.  Almost invariably the person at the door would respond by saying that a person had a responsibility to obey the commandments and do good works.  We wanted to talk about what Jesus had done and they wanted to talk about what they had to do.

I have only attended a few sacrament meetings, but I have noticed the same thing there.  In all the meetings I attended there was much more talk about what they had to do than what Jesus did for them.  All my friends who at one time were LDS verify that.  To a person they say that in their individual wards the emphasis was always on what they had to do.

I see the same thing in the LDS manuals.  For example, Jesus’ atonement is frequently mentioned but hardly ever emphasized.  Most often it is used as a launching pad to lay out in great detail what works people need to add to the Atonement.

The bottom line is that it’s not just what is in a church’s name.  It’s what a church teaches.  It’s what a church emphasizes.  And every contact I have with Mormonism, whether it is talking with its members or reading its manuals or attending its services, demonstrates that it puts the spotlight not on the great things Jesus has done for us but on the things people have to do.

I am so thankful that the Lord has said that I can be assured that I am worthy and forgiven right now because of Jesus.  I am so thankful that the Lord has reassured me that I will be living with him for all eternity because Jesus has already done everything necessary for me to enter his presence.  This free gift of worthiness and forgiveness now impels me all the more to do all I can to glorify him in my life and with my lips.  To him be all praise and glory.

16
Jul
13

Don’t Pray to Jesus?

When I was recently in Salt Lake City, I had the opportunity, on a few occasions, to sit with members of the LDS Church and talk at length about our differences in belief.  They had invited me into their homes because they wanted to understand why we had come to Salt Lake City to witness to Mormons.  They wondered why we were doing that since they felt we were all Christians and all believed in Jesus.

I explained our concern for their eternal destiny based on the Bible’s clear statement that adding anything to Jesus’ work to save us effectively nullifies that work (see, for example, Romans 11:6).  I also told them that, although I realized that they didn’t like to hear it, the Jesus of Mormonism is very different from the Jesus of the Bible.  One of the many examples I cited was that Mormonism teaches that Jesus is not to be prayed to.  Most didn’t understand my difficulty with that as they responded with the idea that they highly honor Jesus by praying in his name.

I thought of those conversations last week when I was reviewing a LDS manual used to prepare missionaries and came across the quote that follows.  It is from Elder L. Lionel Kindrick, who served as a General Authority.  Talking about the importance of prayer, he commented:  “We always pray to our Father in Heaven and to him alone.  Our prayers are rendered in the name of the Son and communicated by the power of the Holy Ghost.  We do not pray to the Savior or to anyone else.  To do so would be disrespectful of Heavenly Father and an indication that we do not properly understand the relationship of the members of the Godhead.” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual, p. 40)

That clearly illustrates not only that Mormonism teaches that Jesus should not be prayed to but also how Mormonism, in many different ways, is disrespectful of Jesus.  It clearly does not give him equal honor with the Father.  But that is the type of honor Jesus deserves as he himself said:  “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” (John 5:23)  Both the words “even as” and the context clearly indicate that Jesus is talking about being honored with the same honor we render God the Father.  And then Jesus continues with this sobering statement:  “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.”  If you don’t give Jesus equal honor, you aren’t honoring the Father either.

Mormonism, on the basis of its own words, falls under this condemnation.  The Father is not disrespected when we pray to Jesus.  On the contrary, that is something he delights in.  Rather he is disrespected when people think they shouldn’t pray to Jesus. That is a teaching that angers him.

On so many levels, Mormonism and biblical Christianity clash.  But, as we again experienced in Salt Lake City, many people don’t like to admit that. It would be a step forward for all involved to see this and acknowledge this.  Then it would be easier to have frank and serious discussions.  And having such discussions are important because nothing less than eternal souls are at stake.

13
Jun
13

A Different Perspective

Sometimes it’s easy to show the difference between Mormonism and Christianity.  But sometimes the difference is more subtle.  Sometimes it’s not so much what is said but more the perspective taken and the emphasis made.

An example of what I’m talking about is in the talk given by President Henry B. Eyring at the last General Conference.  In his talk entitled, “Come unto Me” he states:  “I experienced the joy of coming closer to the Savior and of His coming closer to me most often through simple acts of obedience to the commandments.”  That statement serves as a good summary of his entire talk.  It is all about our being obedient and devoted.

Now it’s true that we can feel closer to Jesus through obedience.  We all know how sin separates us from God.  But look again at President Eyring’s statement.  He says that he most often feels closer to Jesus through obedience. I don’t know how many Christians identify with that.  I know I don’t.

What makes me feel close to Jesus?  It’s when I am overwhelmed once again by his love for me – a love that I don’t deserve or merit.  When I think about what he all did for me – all his blood, sweat, and tears that he expended to save me, that is what makes me feel closer to him.  Or when I once again experience my loving Father blessing me even though I didn’t merit it – that’s when I feel close to God.  In short, what makes me feel close to God is seeing what he has done and continues to do for me – not what I do for him.

But President Eyring mentions none of that.  For me, his silence speaks volumes about the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity.

03
Jun
13

What did the Atonement do?

At the recent General Conference of the LDS Church, Elder Craig A. Cardon gave a talk entitled, “The Savior Wants to Forgive.” In it, more than once, he talked about “the enabling power of the Atonement”.  Especially enlightening was this comment:  “Rather, after all we can do, His compassion and grace are the means whereby ‘in process of time’ we overcome the world through the enabling power of the Atonement.  As we humbly seek this precious gift, ‘weak things become strong unto (us),’ and by His strength, we are made able to do that which we could never do alone” (Ensign, May 2013, p. 16).

As this comment illustrates, Mormonism teaches that one of the greatest benefits of the Atonement is the power it can instill in people.  This agrees with how it defines grace.  “The word grace, as used in the scriptures refers primarily to the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)  Therefore, as the above comment with its reference to 2 Nephi 25:23 (we are saved by grace after all we can do) makes clear, Mormonism teaches that, to be saved, a person must do all they can do, and then the Lord will give them more power (grace) “to do that which we could never do alone”.  The result is that even when Mormonism talks about grace, the focus is on what a person does.

The biblical message is so different. The most striking biblical picture of atonement is found in the Day of Atonement as it is recorded in Leviticus 16.  The emphasis there is not on people rendering obedience – it is on blood – the blood of animals sacrificed in place of the sinning people.  It’s that blood – not any obedience on the part of people – that atones for their sins.  St. Paul picks up on that picture in the New Testament’s only use of the word “atonement” in Romans 5.  In verse 9 he talks about how we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ.  How Jesus’ death reconciled us to God (v.10).  And then in v. 11 he continues by saying:  “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”   We have joy because Jesus made complete atonement for all our sins.  We are now worthy and acceptable to God, not if we now do a lot of things, but because Jesus has already done everything for us.

We are saved not after all we can do, but because Jesus has done all things for us.  That, my friends, is the source of all true joy.




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