Posts Tagged ‘Jesus

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.

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!

22
Aug
13

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?

A thoughtful answer to that question has to go beyond the common response that it is indeed Christ-centered because it has Jesus Christ in its name.  That is like saying Dr. J of past basketball fame was a doctor because he had doctor in his name.  To truly answer that question one needs to examine what Mormonism truly focuses on.

Since the LDS Church publishes an extensive number of official manuals and makes many public pronouncements there is a wealth of material to examine.  Over the years, in past posts, I have cited many such manuals and pronouncements.  Today, however, I’m examining a manual I have never before referred to.  It is the official church manual for teaching nursery (ages 1 ½ to 2).  I recently picked it up because often seeing what a church teaches its very young is quite revealing of what it is emphasizing. To put it simply, we teach our young the basics of our faith.

So what does this manual reveal?  The thing that immediately jumps out from the table of contents is how many lessons begin with “I”.  “I Will Be Thankful”, “I Will Love Others”, I Will Obey” to name a few.

Further examination shows that this emphasis on the child and what he is to do carries through the whole manual even in the lessons that don’t begin with an “I”.   One example of that is the lesson entitled, “Jesus Christ Showed Us How to Love Others”. In that lesson they are taught a little song called “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”.   The teacher is to share with them a few stories of how Jesus helped others and after each story the children are to say:  “Jesus showed us how to love others”.  Even though Jesus is mentioned in this lesson, what is stressed is their trying to be like Jesus.

The other thing that is striking about this manual is how little it talks about Jesus.  In all thirty lessons I could not find a single suggestion that the teacher should talk about the fact that Jesus has saved them.  Take, for example, the song taught in the lesson, “Heavenly Father Has a Plan for Me”.

I am a child of God

And he has sent me here

He has given me an earthly home

With parents kind and dear.

 

Lead me, guide me, walk beside me

Help me find the way.

Teach me all that I must do

To live with him someday.

Now some might be thinking that since this is a manual for teaching very small children big doctrinal issues have no place in it.  But that is not the case.  It talks about pre-existence, that Heavenly Father has a body, that the Holy Ghost speaks to them, Joseph Smith’s first vision, the importance of a living prophet, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and so on.  It even has a lesson on the priesthood.  But it doesn’t tell them much about Jesus.  And, as I mentioned above, it never once even briefly touches on the fact that he saved us. Instead, for example, in the lesson on Christmas they are taught this song:

How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?

He sent His Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.

 

How could the Father show the pathway we should go?

He sent His Son to walk with men on earth, that we many know.

Is the LDS Church Christ-centered?  An examination of the basics that they teach their children says a definite no.  When he is talked about at all, it is exclusively as an example.  The teaching of Jesus as the Savior is conspicuous by its absence.

That is why it is so important for Christians to make use of every opportunity to share a Christ-centered message with Mormons -a message that centers on Christ, not as our example, but as our Savior.  That is what being Christ-centered is all about.

 

 

 

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.




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