Posts Tagged ‘Hebrews 10

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!

07
Aug
13

Crushing Expectations

The following quote is from a LDS manual for young people interested in going on a mission.  It is from a chapter about conversion.   It quotes President Marion G. Romney in saying:  “In one who is really wholly converted, desire for things contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ has actually died. And substituted therefore is a love of God, with a fixed and controlling determination to keep his commandments.” (Missionary Preparation Student Manual, p. 85, my emphasis)  Note how he not only says those who are wholly converted won’t have any more desire to sin but he also continues by talking about how this will be seen in their actions – by a determination to keep the commandments.

According to that statement, St. Paul wasn’t wholly converted. He famously confessed, “For that which I do I allow not; for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. . .For the good that I would I do not:  but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:15,19) Over the years, Paul’s confession has given many believers great comfort.  It reassures them that becoming a believer doesn’t mean that they will be able to keep the commandments – no matter how strong their desire is to please God.  They won’t be able to also do the good that they want to do!   “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

That fact, however, doesn’t drive believers to despair.  Rather it drives them to Jesus.  That is why Paul concluded with the simple statement:  “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?  I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 7: 24-25)  Our inability to refrain from sinning is a vivid reminder that the only way we will be able to stand worthily before Heavenly Father is when we solely on Jesus’ perfection for us.  If we continue with an “and” – if we try to add any of our own righteousness we spoil and ruin the whole thing.  How many of us would buy a new car that has a scratch on it?  How many brides would buy a wedding gown with a spot on it?  When it comes to being worthy to enter his presence, God demands perfection:  no spots or blemishes.  Nothing less will do.

But sole reliance on Jesus is not what Mormonism teaches.  2 Nephi 25:23 says that we are saved by grace “after all we can do”.  This is how one LDS manual explains that:  “The phrase ‘after all we can do’ teaches that effort is required on our part to receive the fulness of the Lord’s grace and be made worthy to dwell with Him.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)  Later on it states:  “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 your faith in Jesus Christ, strive to keep the commandments, forsake sin, and renew your repentance and cleansing through the ordinance of the sacrament.’ (p. 152)

The Bible clearly shows that we will inevitably sin.  Mormonism flatly contradicts that.  And in doing so, it puts people under the crushing pressure of becoming worthy to be in Heavenly Father’s presence.  But not only that.  By stressing what people have to do, they are ruining the masterpiece of salvation by grace alone.  This will result in the Lord, not welcoming them into his presence, but driving them out of his presence.

It is my prayer that many more LDS people will see that and rely totally and completely on Jesus’ work for them.  It is also my prayer that many more Christians will lovingly but firmly share their truth with their LDS friends and family.  There is no more liberating truth than  By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:10-14)

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.

23
Jul
10

Before and After Pictures

     There were two sets of before and after pictures.  They were pictures of two people’s mouths – before and after dental work.  The before picture in the first set showed some crooked teeth and a few others with cavities.  The after picture naturally showed the same mouth but now with perfectly straight teeth and not a cavity in sight.  This set touted the work of one dentist.

     The second set, touting the work of another dentist, showed a much more drastic change.  That before picture revealed a mouth with major problems.  As you looked at the picture, you wondered how the person could even close his mouth or eat anything.  The after picture amazingly resembled the after picture of the first set – perfectly aligned teeth with not a problem in sight.  It was obvious that a highly skilled dentist worked on it.

     Obviously, I don’t want to talk about dentists.  I want to talk about how wonderfully God has worked on me.  And one way that I can emphasize his incredible work is by showing people my before picture.  The Bible paints it vividly.  I was a lawless rebel.  (1 John 3:4).  I was totally corrupt and evil. (Genesis 8:21) I was spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) always doing sin’s biding. (John 8:34)  I did no good; I was worthless (Romans 3:10-12).  A viler picture could not be drawn. That was my picture – really, not figuratively.

     But then the Lord worked on me.  He washed me and cleansed me (1 John 1:7).  He made me spiritually alive (Eph. 2 5).  He created a new heart within me (2 Cor. 5:17).  He changed me from being a slave of sin to a slave of righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18).  He adopted me into his family (Gal. 4:5).  He sanctified me and made me holy (Heb. 10:10-14).  He did this all for me through Jesus Christ. 

     The tremendous contrast between my before and after pictures emphasizes the greatness of what God has done.  But when that contrast is lessened, when the before picture is of a basically good person who needs a little work, then God is robbed of his glory.  And robbing God of his glory is no small thing.

10
Feb
09

Priesthood

 

     I was asked to address the priesthood.  That is understandable since the priesthood plays a big role in Mormonism.  As always, it is important to define terms.  The LDS manual, True to the Faith, defines it this way:  “The priesthood is the eternal power and authority of God.”  It goes on to state:  “God gives priesthood authority to worthy male members of the Church so they can act in His name for the salvation of his children.  Priesthood holders can be authorized to preach the gospel, administer the ordinances of salvation, and govern the kingdom of God on the earth.”  Mormonism has two priesthoods: the Aaronic and Melchizedek.

     I felt I had to give that little review because, it has been my experience, that many Christians don’t know much about what Mormonism says about the priesthood, and many Mormons are surprised that the priesthood is not a big topic in Christianity.

     The Aaronic or Levitical priesthood was an important component of the Old Testament.  But the New Testament says that priesthood was done away with.  Hebrews 7-10 has an extended argument making that very point.  But those chapters always make the point that it was replaced with a superior priesthood, the Melchizedek priesthood – of which there is only one priest, Jesus.  He is the only priest because he offered himself up as the perfect sacrifice once and for all.  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

      The New Testament says that the Aaronic priesthood is null and void.  It says that Jesus is the one and only priest in the Melchizedek priesthood.  But it also does talk about Christians being priests (without labeling them as Aaronic or Melchizedek).  I was happy to see 1 Peter 2:9 mentioned in the question.  “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  As priests Christians are to show forth God’s praises by talking about his great salvation – by talking about how we are perfected by Jesus’ one sacrifice. 

      We further teach that this applies to all believers, whether they are male or female – seeing that this obviously was addressed to both.  Therefore I was wondering how Mormons interpret this passage seeing that Mormonism restricts the priesthood to males. 

15
Jan
09

Godly Boldness

 

     I have sometimes wondered what the Old Testament high priest was thinking when he woke up the morning of the Day of Atonement.  He had to be excited seeing what a special day it was.  It was the only day of the year that he could enter the Holy of Holies in the temple.  And he was the only person who could enter it!  One man – one day a year.  It had to be one of the most highly restricted areas in the history of the world.

    There was only one object in the Holy of Holies – the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark symbolized the presence of God.  By so severely restricting access to the Holy of Holies God was teaching a valuable lesson – that sin had separated man from God.  This was emphasized by the fact that anybody, including the high priest, who entered the Holy of Holies on any other day would die.  Even on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest could enter, he had to do so by sprinkling blood before him.  The blood “gained” him access. 

     Imagine being that high priest that morning.  Excited, but probably also a little apprehensive.  Especially when, according to tradition, a rope was tied around one of his legs to drag him out in the event he would die.  I have to imagine he didn’t go very boldly through the veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place.

     The writer to the Hebrews had that background in mind when he penned this most amazing section.  “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus.  By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (10:19-20).  Now we have access to God!  Now we can approach God confidently and boldly.  All because of Jesus.  His blood gained access for us.  That is the significance of the veil of the temple tearing in two at the moment of his death.  The Holy of Holies of God’s presence is no longer highly restricted.

     Over the years, numerous Mormons have been puzzled and even taken aback by how confident I am that I am going to live with Heavenly Father forever.  Some have questioned me about it – some have flat out told me I was dead wrong.  Not that many identified with me.  I would say that most felt that my confidence bordered on being naïve. 

     In contrast, many Christians identify with that confidence and exhibit that same confidence in Christ. 

     The contrast between the two is, for me, a striking evidence of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.

22
Oct
08

Guilt and Hebrews 10

 

     I think one of the most fascinating books of the New Testament is Hebrews.  I love the way it shows how the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.  And one of its most fascinating chapters is chapter 10 – because it vividly talks about becoming free of guilt.

     In the first four verses the writer states that the Old Testament sacrificial system could never make the worshipers perfect.  Especially interesting is verse 2.  If the Old Testament sacrifices could have done that then “the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sin.”  Or as one modern translation puts it:  they “would no longer feel guilty for their sins.”   Since those sacrifices couldn’t do that, the opposite was true as verse 3 states:  But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.’

    The chapter then proceeds by talking about Jesus’ sacrifice.  In striking contrast to what the writer had said about the Old Testament sacrificial system in the first part of the chapter, he now says, in regard to Jesus, “for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (v. 14)   And again, because of Jesus, “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.  Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.”  (v. 17-18)  Because Jesus has perfected us through his offering, God no longer remembers our sins.  Jesus offering did what the Old Testament offerings couldn’t have done.  He purged us so that we don’t have any more guilt before God.  The conclusion of verse 2 doesn’t apply to the Old Testament sacrifices, but it does apply to Jesus’ sacrifice.  His sacrifice has purged us.

     Therefore one of the best ways we give glory to Jesus is by quickly dispelling the guilt feelings that can so quickly arise in us – quickly dispelling them not by working a process of repentance but by remembering the fact of Hebrews 10 – because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God no longer remembers our sins.   That’s the best news in the whole world.




August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Blog Stats

  • 182,229 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 998 other followers