Archive for the 'Jesus' Category



24
May
13

JESUS MY CREDITOR?

One of Mormonism’s basic manuals is a book entitled “Gospel Principles”.  Starting on p. 75 it quotes a parable given by Elder Boyd K . Packer, an LDS apostle.   It’s quite lengthy so I will summarize much of it here.  Heavenly Father is the creditor.  We are the debtors.  After awhile we realize that we can’t pay back the debt. After a discussion about justice and mercy, Jesus, the mediator, steps in. He asks the creditor if he will free the debtor from the contract, if he, the mediator, pays the entire debt. The creditor agrees. Let me pick it up there by quoting a few sentences:

“The mediator turned then to the debtor. ‘If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?’

“‘Oh yes, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.’

“‘Then’ said the benefactor, ‘you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be posssible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’”

For many Christians, this illustrates quite sharply the difference between the teachings of Mormonism and biblical Christianity.  Many Christians are genuinely horrified to hear Jesus being described as a creditor.  This goes against every grain of their being.

This horror on the part of Christians is mystifying to many Mormons.  They don’t see the problem.  They wonder what the big deal is.  To them seeing Jesus as their creditor is no big deal – it’s even natural.

For me, not only the parable itself, but then also the two differing and drastic reactions to it clearly illustrate the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.  The parable illustrates the different teaching; the differing reactions illustrate the different mindsets. As Christians talk with their Mormon friends, they need to not only remember that many times words will be defined differently between the two, but also that their mindsets will be different from that of their LDS friends.

As for me, I am so thankful that Jesus doesn’t ask me if I will accept him as my creditor.  No, he is my Savior who has paid my debt fully and buried all my sins in the depths of the sea.

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02
Apr
13

EASTER AND GOD’S COURTROOM

A Bible verse that contains a great deal of comfort but one that is not that well-known is Romans 4:25.  Talking about Jesus it says, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised to life again for our justification.”  It consists of two parallel parts which could be formatted like this:

“Who was delivered for our offences,

and was raised to life again for our justification.”

Most people quickly understand the first half.  Jesus was delivered to death, not because of anything he had done, but because of what we had done.  He was delivered for our offences, our sins.  As John wrote, “He is the propitiation for sins; not only for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”  (1 John 2:2)

But it has been my experience that people don’t as quickly see the point of the second half of this verse.  Just as Jesus was delivered because of our sins, so also he was raised for, or because, of our justification.  Just as our sins were the cause of his death, so our justification was the cause of his resurrection.  That statement gives us tremendous comfort – that statement sheds a wonderful new light on Easter.

This is so comforting because justification is nothing other than a verdict of acquittal.  Paul borrowed this term from the courtroom.  It was the term used whenever a judge formally pronounced a “not guilty” verdict.  By pronouncing that verdict, the judge was justifying the defendant.  He was not making him just, he was declaring him just.  Justification refers to God declaring us “not guilty”.

The exciting thing this verse brings out is how God’s verdict of us is tied to Easter. Note the cause and effect.  It’s not that because Jesus rose from the dead, we are justified.  No, it is the other way around.  Because God justified us acquitted us, Jesus could rise from the dead.  Therefore Easter is God’s wonderful proof that we have already been justified, acquitted, in Christ.  Our justification is a past event, not a future one.

This shows just how completely Jesus took responsibility for our sins.  He became so identified with our sins that Paul could write, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin.”  (2 Corinthians 5:21)  But this also shows how completely his payment for our sins becomes our payment for our sins.  God looked on it so thoroughly as our payment that, on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice, God justified us, acquitted us way back then – a point he dramatically makes by raising Jesus from the dead.

Thus Easter reassures us that nothing is left for us to do in order to be justified by God.  Jesus has done it all!  May you always treasure the fact that he “was raised to life again for our justification.”

 

29
Mar
13

Good Friday

Some people struggle with how Christians can call today Good Friday.  After all, today is the day Jesus died a horrible death on the cross.  Why describe such an event as good?  Why commemorate it by adorning our homes and bodies with crosses?  Isn’t that morbid?

I can see where people are coming from with those questions.  Normally I would totally agree.  Crucifixions were terrible.  They were so bad that I wonder how anybody could even witness them.

But it’s the very horror of Jesus’ crucifixion that emphasizes why today is Good Friday. Today is a good day because here we are observing the ultimate expression of God’s love for us. God the Father willingly sacrificed his Son for us.  Jesus willingly suffered all this for us!  They did this because they knew that this is the only way that we could live with them forever in heaven.  It was crystal clear to them that there was no way anybody could save themselves.  Sin had spiritually killed us all.  We were dead in sin.  And dead people can’t do anything.

Therefore they did it all for us.  That means that Jesus didn’t just have to suffer physically on the cross.  No, he had to experience the abandonment of his Father – because that was the true price for sin.  It wasn’t the nails driven into his hands that caused him the greatest pain – it was when he cried, out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  There Jesus was drinking to the full the cup – the thought of which had so terrified him in the garden.

But Jesus drank that cup down to the dregs – all for us.  We know that because he told us so.  That is the significance of those simple words, “it is finished”.  In the original Greek, that phrase consists of only one word.  It was a word that was used to mark bills paid in full.  In this striking way, Jesus declared that he had fully paid our debt of sin.

By raising Jesus gloriously from the dead on Easter, the Father dramatically showed that he accepted that payment.  If Jesus had not paid for our sins, after repeatedly saying that is what he was going to do, there would be no way that the Father would have exalted him by raising him so gloriously.  Jesus’ resurrection is our receipt proving that he truly did pay our debt.

Down through the centuries, Christians have clung tenaciously to these facts.  When voices from within or without call into question the completeness of that payment, they stand firm on the fact that, because of Jesus, they can view their debt of sin as paid in full.  There is no greater joy or relief than that.  On the cross Jesus drowned our sins in the depths of the sea.  He separated them from us as far as the east is from the west.

It is my prayer that today many people experience the great joy and relief of having a Savior who had done it all.  A Savior who gives them, as his gift, free and full salvation.  May today truly be good for you.  To Jesus be all praise and glory.

14
Feb
13

A Sobering Scripture

In his third chapter, James writes:

          “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!

         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 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 rather drives me 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!

28
Nov
12

Eternal Life: Reward or Gift?

One of the things LDS members are studying and will continue to study for the next few months are the talks delivered at last October’s General Conference.  One of those talks, entitled “What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?”, was given by Elder Robert C. Gay.  In it he made the following statement:

     “This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.

     Brothers and sisters, remember that this charge is more than just not doing bad things. With an engaged enemy we must also act and not sit in “thoughtless stupor.” Taking upon the countenance of God means serving each other. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and we are to rise above both.”

Note how he explicitly says that eternal life is a reward – a reward for a person overcoming both sins of commission and sins of omission.  In that he is accurately reflecting the teachings of Mormonism and its heavy emphasis on what people have to do.  In fact, his words easily could convince many that, in order to have eternal life, they would have to become sinless.

How different this is from what the Bible says!  It explicitly says that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  Whereas Mormonism continually and repeatedly focuses people on their work, the Bible continually and repeatedly focuses on Jesus’ work for us.  Eternal life is based entirely on what he did for us – his keeping the commandments perfectly as our Substitute and his bloody payment for each and every one of our sins.  Because eternal life is based entirely on what Jesus has already accomplished for us, God can now give it as his gift to us.

There’s a huge difference between a reward and a gift.   A reward puts the focus on the recipient and his or her accomplishments.  A gift puts the focus on the giver and his generosity and love.  A reward creates a lot stress for the recipient who has to struggle to earn it; who can easily worry wondering if they will do enough to earn it.  A gift creates gratitude in the heart of the recipient and the joy and confidence of knowing that they possess it – because it doesn’t depend on them but on the giver.  In short, a reward glorifies the recipient; a gift glorifies the giver.

I thank God daily that he doesn’t talk about eternal life as a reward but as his gift to me.  Thank you, Jesus, for earning it for me.  And may many more see this wonderful truth.

30
Aug
12

Such a different perspective

In the LDS monthly magazine, Ensign, there is a regular column entitled, “We Talk of Christ”.  Naturally with a title like that you would think that the focus would be on Jesus.  This month’s column carries the title, “Loving My Enemies”.

The article is written by a member who lived in an occupied country and relates the struggle he had loving the enemy soldiers.  He tells how he finally fasted and prayed for help.  And eventually he felt love for the soldiers.  Here is the concluding paragraph:

“I now know, like Nephi, that the Lord gives us no commandment save He shall prepare a way for us that we may accomplish the thing which He commands us (see 1 Nephi 3:7).  When Christ commanded us to love our enemies, He knew it was possible with His help.  He can teach us to love others if we but trust Him and learn from His great example.”

There are a number of things in this article that merit comment, but the thing that really struck me was the perspective that a few passing references to Christ’s command and his example (there were two other references to Christ’s command in the body of the article) merited the title “We Talk of Christ”.  That is so different from what you would see in most Christian magazines.  If they had a column entitled, “We Talk of Christ” it would be a pretty safe bet that the focus would be, not on his command and our need to be obedient to it, but on his actions.  And he would be viewed not so much as an example but as a substitute.

For example, in the case of loving our enemies, mention might be made of Romans 5:8:  “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  In other words, as sinners we were Jesus’ enemies.  But, in spite of that, he loved us and died for us.  Or maybe his prayer at his crucifixion for the Father to forgive them for they know not what they do would be cited with the message that here Jesus was fulfilling the law for us – that we receive the credit for his perfect love.   However it would be done, most such articles would bring the comfort of Jesus’ acting in our behalf and the tremendous comfort that gives us.

Again how different is the Ensign.  Even when the title points to Jesus, the focus is on people and what they have to do.  The moral of this story is that you have to look beyond the title to see what is really being emphasized.

27
Jun
12

Who is Jesus?

Lesson 26 of the Gospel Doctrine curriculum covers Alma 24-29 in the Book of Mormon.  These chapters consist mainly of the supposed story of the converted Lamanites and do not contain much doctrine.  Because of that I am going to use one comment made by the teacher’s manual as a springboard to explain biblical Christianity’s view of Jesus especially as it differs from Mormonism’s view of him.  I am doing that not only because that is a question many Mormons ask, but one that has been asked here.  The comment in the teacher’s manual that got me thinking about that was:  Why is it essential that Jesus Christ be at the center of our conversion?”

In its bare wording, I can wholeheartedly agree with that.  But the key, of course, is what does that mean.  I usually focus on showing the difference ways Mormonism and the Bible describe the effects or consequences of what Jesus did for us.  In this post, however, I will list a few ways that Mormonism and biblical Christianity differ in describing who Jesus is.

Biblical Christianity has always placed Jesus, as the Son of God, on the very same level as the Father.  Even though it is logical to assume that the Father is older than the Son and deserves greater honor; that is not biblical.  I say that fully aware that, during his time on earth, Jesus himself says that the Father is greater than he.  (I will return to that shortly.)  I say that because the Bible itself gives them equal honor.  Think, for example, of the command to baptize in the name (interesting that it is singular and not plural – but that is a topic for another time) of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.  Or consider what Jesus said in John 5:23.  “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.”  The word “even” in that passage has the force of “equal” as is seen in many translations that translate “just as”.

The Bible also talks about the eternity of the Son in the sense of having no beginning or end.  John 1:1 simply states.  “In the beginning was the Word”.  In other words, the Word was already there in the beginning.  The Bible also calls him “the mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) and, according to the Bible, God didn’t become God.  He was always God.

These are just a couple of many different ways that we see the Bible placing the Son on the same level as the Father.  But what about those passages, especially in the gospel of John, that indicate that Jesus is under the Father?  The key to understanding those passages is Philippians 2:5-11. “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Verse 6 admittedly is difficult to translate from the Greek even though the Greek is quite clear.  The difficulty is not a matter of wondering what the Greek says.  The difficulty is not having the words in English to express those thoughts.  What Paul says in verse 6 is that even though Christ was in “very nature” (some translations) God, he didn’t want to publicly display his equality with God – he didn’t want to make a big deal of it.  Instead he did the complete opposite – he took the very nature of a slave, even to the point of being obedient to dying on the cross.

Those are the facts.  Paul, in 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us the reason Jesus did that.  “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”  Jesus did this to give us the riches of forgiveness, eternal life, and the blessedness of living with Heavenly Father for all eternity.  In other words, he humbled himself and became his Father’s slave to save us.  That wasn’t his true nature – his true nature was God– but that was the nature he took upon himself for his mission of saving us.  And that is why, while on that mission, speaking as a slave, he could say that his Father was greater than he.

Compare that to the teachings of Mormonism.  It states that Jesus is a spirit child of Heavenly Father and Mother as supposedly not only all humans are, but also the devil and all the demons.  It states that Jesus was our brother, not just when he became flesh (John 1:14) but already before his birth in Bethlehem.  It states that Jesus was not always true God but like all –even his Father, he had to attain to godhood.  It tells its members to pray to the Father through Jesus, but it never tells its members to pray directly to Jesus as Stephen did in Acts 7.  In these and in many other ways, Mormonism does not give the Son equal honor with the Father.

Over the years I have asked Mormons one simple question to illustrate this fact.  Who is the one God that the Bible talks about? Keeping to its teachings, it can’t give both the Father and the Son that honor – something that Christians don’t hesitate to do. That is just one of many differences between Mormonism’s and Christianity’s views of Jesus.

And that is important because as Jesus himself said:  “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.  He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23)




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