Posts Tagged ‘eternal life

08
Jan
14

The Sobering Truth about Outer Darkness

According to Mormonism, only the worse of the worst will go to outer darkness.  “Second, the word hell is used to refer to outer darkness, which is the dwelling place of the devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition.” (True to the Faith, p. 81)  Mormonism designates only a relatively small handful of people as sons of perdition thus reserving outer darkness for only a few.

But is that biblical?  In that regard, Jesus’ parable of the wedding guests recorded in Matthew 22:1-13 is especially pertinent since the man without the wedding garment is cast into outer darkness (v.13).  In fact, Jesus’ whole purpose for telling this parable was to warn against that fate.  Therefore it is only fitting to see why that man was cast out.

And it was because he refused to accept the gift of a wedding garment!  That the wedding garment was something given to him, and not something he himself owned or purchased, is evident both from the culture of the day and also the words of the parable themselves.  Note that Jesus is talking about the wedding of a king’s son (v.2).  In the culture of the day, when princes married, the king provided the wedding garments for all attendees.  We can be confident that this was well-known to Jesus’ original listeners.

That this was the case is also seen from the parable itself.  “So those servants went into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests” (v.10).  Obviously these people who were gathered neither had the time, and probably most neither had the means, to provide their own wedding garments.  They came directly from the highways and the byways.  Especially interesting is that the servants didn’t just gather the good people either.  They gathered “both bad and good”.

The sobering truth about outer darkness is that it is not reserved for just a few.  It will be the destination for all who don’t accept the king’s great gift of salvation.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  I have asked many members of the LDS Church whether or not eternal life is a gift or a reward.  Without hesitation, they say that it is a reward.  In saying that, they are faithfully echoing LDS teaching.

But that is so tragic.  Refusing the king’s gift infuriates him.  Look at his reaction. “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away; and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 13). You can just see the king’s red face and blazing eyes as he gives this order.  How dare anybody refuse his gift!  In a similar manner, everybody who tries to provide for their own salvation or even thinks that they have to contribute to their own salvation, will experience the same reaction when they meet their Maker.

Eternal salvation and life are God’s gifts to us.  They were purchased with the precious blood of his Son.  The only God-pleasing reaction is to eagerly accept them and profusely thank him for them.  My prayer is that many more Mormons will do just that.

14
Nov
13

Perfect or Becoming Perfect?

Over the years, one of the Bible passages I have repeatedly returned to is Matthew 5:48.  “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  I have talked about it so much because Mormonism talks about it so much.  We see it again in one of the first talks given in the recent General Conference.  Elder Ulisses Soares cites it in his talk entitled, “Be Meek and Lowly of Heart.” After quoting it, he continues by saying, “If we ‘come unto Christ, . . .deny (ourselves) of all ungodliness; .  . .and love God,’ then through Christ’s grace the day will come when we may be perfect in Him.”

First of all, note the conditions he cites for becoming perfect especially the condition of “denying ourselves of all ungodliness”.  It’s not just denying some ungodliness but all ungodliness. This must happen before Christ’s grace becomes active – note the “then”.  This agrees with one of the steps of LDS repentance, namely, the forsaking of sin.  In either case, whether you talk about denying all ungodliness or forsaking sin, an awful lot has to be done by the person.  It is like the Book of Mormon says:  “We know it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.”

Besides noting those conditions, note the uncertainty of when this happens. “The day will come when we may be perfect in Him.”  Again that depends mainly on the person.  A little bit later in his talk, Elder Soares quotes President Snow.  “It is our duty to try to be perfect. . .to improve each day, and look upon our course last week and do things better this week; do things better today than we did them yesterday.” According to Mormonism, you can’t know when you will be perfect.

In striking contrast is the message of the Bible.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”  Instead of talking about the day that will come sometime in the future, it talks about the day that has already come.  And instead of talking about conditions people have to fulfill, it talks about what Jesus has already done for us with his one offering.  Through the offering of Christ on the cross on that one day close to 2,000 years ago, believers are perfected.  It is a done deal.  Or as Jesus himself said, “It is finished”.

What the Bible says and what Mormonism teaches is in striking contrast.  Mormonism talks a lot about what people must do in order to be perfect and acceptable to God.  The Bible talks a lot about the fact that perfection and acceptance depends not partially, but entirely, on what Jesus did for us.  Mormonism speaks of eternal life as a reward.  The Bible describes it as God’s gift to us.

It is my prayer that LDS members simply read the Bible as a child would and see the great things God has done for them.  “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.” (Titus 3:5).  To God be all the glory!

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!

17
May
13

A Sense of Urgency

The subject matter of chapter 10 of the Teachings of President Lorenzo Snow is LDS temples and the work that takes place within them.  There are many statements in this chapter that I could comment on.  But, as I read that chapter, the one thing that repeatedly troubled me was how Mormonism’s teaching about temple work contributes to its draining of much of the urgency for people to know the truth in this life.  One of this chapter’s main emphases was on performing temple ordinances for the dead.  That entire practice is based on the belief that people can accept the “truth” after this life.  They can accept the truth but they can’t perform the necessary ordinances.  Thus the need for performing these ordinances for them.

This idea that people can come to faith after they have died, an idea engrained in LDS members not only when they go to the temple but also when they do their family history work is not only wrong, it is deadly.  As Paul wrote to the Corinthians:  “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).  This lifetime, and only this lifetime, is when people can come to faith.

There is great urgency for people to believe – right now!  None of us knows when our lives here on earth will end.  There are no guarantees any of us will live to a ripe old age.  And once we die, then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).  Now is the day of salvation.  And it doesn’t continue after we die.

It is my fervent prayer that we all live with this sense of urgency.  First, of all, for ourselves.  May each one of us regularly check that we are placing all our hopes of being accepted by God on what Jesus has done for us and not on our own works.  May we make it a high priority to regularly examine ourselves and root out any hint that we have done anything to be saved.

And then, moved by that sense of urgency, may we make use of every opportunity to tell others the wonderful news that eternal life is God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ.  May we view every opportunity to talk with somebody the last opportunity we might have to talk to them.  Only God knows, but it just might be.

08
May
13

Salvation

The following statement is made in the LDS student manual on the Pearl of Great Price:  The Prophet Joseph Smith said: ‘To get salvation we must not only do some things, but everything which God has commanded’” (p. 71). This is just another in an abundance of statements that demonstrate that Mormonism teaches a salvation that is based in large measure on works.  Especially note how Joseph Smith emphasizes that a person has do everything God has commanded.

That agrees with the following statement from the LDS manual, True to the Faith.  “Note that you cannot be saved in your sins; you cannot receive unconditional salvation simply by declaring your belief in Christ with the understanding that you will inevitably commit sins throughout the rest of your life (see Alma 11:36-37).  Through the grace of God, you can be saved from your sins (see Helaman 5:10-11). To receive this blessing, you must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.” (p. 151-152)

Note how this quote emphasizes that salvation does not rest on faith alone.  In fact it flatly rejects that idea.  Instead it emphasizes that you can’t be saved and still sin – you can’t be saved in your sins; rather you have to forsake sin.  Taken together, these two quotes demonstrate that it is correct to say that the salvation Mormonism teaches is one that rests, to a large extent, on a person’s work.

I feel the need to stress that because LDS members frequently have objected when I have said that.  They respond by pointing to how Mormonism stresses the importance of Christ’s atonement.  Again quoting from True to the Faith: “Without the Atonement, spiritual and temporal death would place an impassable barrier between us and God” (p. 15).  Yes, Mormonism does say that without Christ’s atonement we would have no hope.  But it is also true, as the quotes above show, that Mormonism teaches that a biggest part of being saved rests squarely on our shoulders.

Talk about pressure!  Even making ourselves responsible for a little bit of our salvation can easily be unbearable.  It’s like the pressure of being placed into the basketball game to make the last game-winning basket.  All you have to do is make one basket.  But how many times haven’t we seen players fold under the pressure and clank the shot off the rim.  When it comes to salvation, however, the stakes are much higher – the stakes are nothing less than either spending eternity with Heavenly Father in heaven or with Lucifer in outer darkness.

But that’s only the half of it.  The Bible clearly states that we don’t have the capability to do anything to save ourselves.  That is why, when the subject is our eternal salvation, the only person’s works it points to are Jesus.  ‘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)

Salvation is entirely God’s work.  We contribute nothing to it.  He did it all.  Seeing and believing that not only brings tremendous relief and comfort to us, it also gives God the glory and honor he so richly deserves. Find relief.  Praise God.  Do that by believing that salvation is God’s gift to you.

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.




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