Posts Tagged ‘Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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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23
Nov
10

Worry

     As this Thanksgiving approaches, there are a lot of worried people.  That is why Jesus’ words in Matthew 6: 25-34 are so comforting as he tells his disciples not to worry.  But these words also do something else.  They show us that worry is a sin.

     More than once in these verses Jesus gives the command: “Take no thought”.  Take no thought about food or clothing or tomorrow.   Therefore every time we have “anxious concern” (LDS Bible footnote) about such things, we are going against his command.  We are breaking it.  We are sinning.

     What is even more sobering is that we don’t even have to express those worries.  God knows everything.  He sees into every nook and cranny of our heart.  Therefore all we have to do is be worried – and we have sinned.  We are imperfect.

     And that sin is serious.  Someone once described worry as a little form of atheism.  When we worry we are sending a message that we don’t trust that God will provide for us – that we don’t believe what Jesus says in Matthew 6. 

     Whenever I catch myself worrying, I find myself thanking Jesus for washing that sin away with his blood.  I find myself rejoicing knowing that I am completely forgiven in Him.   Because Jesus has given me his righteousness, I remain confident that God continues to see me as perfect. 

     Compare that to the message of Mormonism:  “Perfection is a word that causes different reactions from many people.  Some people say, ‘Perfection?  Why, that is impossible!’  Others say, ‘Perfection?  I get discouraged just thinking about it!’  Yet would the Lord give a commandment that was impossible for us to keep?  And when he gives a commandment, doesn’t he, as Nephi said, prepare a way for us to accomplish what he commands?  The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s blueprint for perfection.”  (The Life and Teachings of Jesus & His Apostles, p. 57)  (Please note:  the command to “take no thought” is part of the Sermon on the Mount.)

      I prefer Psalm 103:12.  “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”  This Thanksgiving, not only am I going to thank God for reassuring me that he is providing for me, but I am also going to thank him for removing all my sins from me so that right now I am perfect in his sight.

02
Nov
10

THE FALL OF ADAM AND EVE

      In the teacher’s manual for “Preparing for Exaltation”, the Sunday school course for 12 and 13 year olds, towards the beginning of the lesson on the fall, this note is made to the teacher.  “The decision of Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit was not a sin, as it is sometimes considered by other Christian churches.  It was a transgression – an act that was formally prohibited but not inherently wrong.” 

     This quote illustrates something that many Mormons and non-Mormons don’t realize, namely, just how different the teachings of Mormonism are from Christianity in most aspects.  It’s not just sometimes that Christian churches consider Adam and Eve’s fall a sin – I have never once heard it described as anything less!    That is how it is always described.

      And I have never heard anybody but a Mormon say that transgressions are not sins.  That’s a pretty hard case to make in light of 1 John 3:4.  “Whosever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, for sin is the transgression of the law.”   It is also difficult not to call Adam’s action a sin in light of Romans 5:18 -20 where it is quite obvious that offence and sin are synonymous.  “Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound.  But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

     But what is more striking is how the focus of much of this lesson is on how Adam and Eve did something good at the fall – something that brought us joy.  This lesson teaches that Adam and Eve had no joy before the fall.  The fall brought them joy!   This interpretation is based on 2 Nephi 2:22-25.  Therefore, as this lesson states, “they wisely chose to eat the fruit.”

     There are other aspects to Mormonism’s teaching on the fall that are found in no other church.  For example, Mormonism stresses that Adam and Eve could not have children until they fell.  Or how about this from their Bible Dictionary?  “Before the fall, Adam and Eve had physical bodies but no blood.”

     The main point that I am trying to make is that often Mormons assume that Christians believe similarly as they do on many Bible details and vice versa with Christians.  If there is going to be any rue progress made when talking with each other, both Mormons and Christians alike need to realize how dramatically different each reads the Bible. 

     Adam and Eve’s fall did not bring me any joy.  It only brought sin, death, pain, and condemnation.  When they ate the fruit, they were not wise; they were rebellious.  What they did was “not inherently wrong” it was terribly wrong.  Thank God, as Paul stated in Romans, through the righteousness of Jesus we received the free gift of justification.  My joy comes not from Adam and Eve’s fall, but from Jesus’ complete sacrifice for me.

14
Oct
10

CHRIST CENTERED CHURCH?

      I have been reading the LDS teacher’s manual for the 12 and 13 year old Sunday School course entitled “Preparing for Exaltation”.  I like to read materials for that age level because they stick to the basics of Mormonism and explain those basics quite simply.  In short, I think they give me a good and fair reading of basic Mormonism.

     The very first lesson deals with Mormonism’s Plan of Salvation complete with a simple diagram.  Here is the encouragement given to the teacher.  “Explain that Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation provides a way for us to gain a body, learn by experience, show that we will obey his commandments, and return to him stronger and wiser.  Emphasize that this plan is given because of Heavenly Father’s great love for us.”

     I found it incredibly striking that coming to know Jesus as our Savior is not even mentioned as one of the purposes of the plan of salvation.  In fact, in the five large pages of instructions for this lesson there is no mention of Jesus’ atonement or any reference to Jesus’ saving work.  To be fair, later on in the course there is one lesson on Jesus’ atonement.  But only a very small minority of the 45 lessons talks about what God has done for us.  A quick overview would say that well over 90% of the material is aimed at teaching what they have to do.

     I find that so depressing.  What a contrast to the Sunday School material my congregation, and thousands of other congregations, use.  Those materials put the emphasis not on what we have to do, but on what God has done for us.  They emphasize that God didn’t give us a plan of salvation which we have to work, but rather he gave us salvation complete in Christ.

     Over the years, numerous Mormons have confided in me that it bothered them that they did not hear more about Jesus in the LDS Church.  Manuals like this one back their comments up.  It takes more than having Jesus in your name to make you a Christ-centered church.  Christ centered churches center their talk on him.

20
Sep
10

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.

11
Sep
10

COMMANDMENTS: RUNGS ON THE LADDER TO HEAVEN?

     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.

26
Jul
10

TEMPLE REQUIREMENTS: WORTHINESS OR PERFECTION

    In the latest (August 2010) edition of the Ensign (the official magazine of the LDS Church) both the First Presidency message and the article on its beliefs focus on the Temple and especially the requirement to be worthy.  In just a few short pages various forms of the word worthy appear over 15 times.  If there is something the LDS Church emphasizes, it is that a person must be worthy to enter the temple.  (By the way, many Christians are surprised to learn that many Mormons don’t meet the requirements – that they are not temple worthy.)

     But, according to the LDS Church, they don’t have to be perfect.  “We are not expected to be perfect to enter the temple.  Rather, the purpose of the things we learn and the covenants we make in the temple is to help perfect us.  We must, however, be worthy to enter.”  (p.8) That same page states:  “The Lord has set the standards of worthiness to enter the temple, as expressed by the Psalmist: ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?  or who shall stand in his holy place? ‘He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart.’ Psalm 24:3-4)”

    I find the contrast between those two statements interesting.  Isn’t a person with a pure heart describing more than just a “worthy” person?  Isn’t that a description of a perfect person?  Doesn’t this Scripture, which the LDS itself cites, contradict its statement that “we are not expected to be perfect to enter the temple”? 

    The Bible consistently sets perfection as the requirement for people to be in the presence of the Lord.  For example, Hebrews 12:14 states:  ‘Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”  God doesn’t command us to be worthy – He commands us to be perfect.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48)  By teaching that people are to be worthy but don’t have to be perfect to “stand in the holy place” the LDS Church severely lowers the requirements and is setting people up for a rude awakening.  Remember Hebrews 12:14:  without holiness no man shall see the Lord.

     Only holy and perfect people will be with the Lord.  That’s a sobering fact. That should drive everybody to despair of their own shabby worthiness and trust totally and completely in the holiness and perfection that is theirs through Jesus.  “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  (Hebrews 10:10)  “For by one offering he hath perfected for even them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)  Jesus’ perfection – and only Jesus’ perfection – enables us to be with the Lord.  It is my prayer that many Christians share this truth with their Mormon friends.  It further is my prayer that many Mormons abandon finding comfort in their worthiness and instead find joy in Jesus’ perfection for them.




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