Posts Tagged ‘Jesus



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.

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.

28
Feb
13

A LITTLE WORK – A LOT OF PRESSURE

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.  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.  To God be all the 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!

15
Dec
12

How Much Do We Sin?

One of the many significant differences between Mormonism and biblical teaching centers on how much a person sins.  The December issue of the Ensign contains an article that clearly illustrates Mormonism’s view.  It is entitled, “Repentance: Making the Inside Clean”.  The author summarizes the need for repentance this way:  “As we go about our lives, we occasionally com­mit sins. But if we want to live with our Heavenly Father again, we cannot be unclean. We need to repent, which includes forsaking sin, replacing it with righteousness, and cleansing ourselves from the effects of sin.”

Later in the article, to make his point about repentance, he gives this illustration.

    “During my time as a bishop, I used the following visual to help explain what we need to do after we forsake a sin. Picture in your mind a bucket of water. That bucket represents you and me, and the water represents the Spirit, which can reside within us. The water can also represent our pure, worthy state.

    Now imagine that you have a brick and have dropped it into the bucket. That brick is like sin—it’s hard and rough and impure. As soon as it enters the bucket, it causes some of the water to slosh out. When we sin, we displace some of the good things in our life, like our peace of mind and some of our capacity

to feel the Spirit.

     Repenting is like taking that brick out of the bucket of water and making the water pure and clean again. But the repentance isn’t complete by just removing the brick, because the bucket is still not full. We must add more water to fill the bucket again.”

The Bible speaks so differently.  Look at Romans 3.

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

Note how all-inclusive these words are:  “none, none, none, all, together”.  There is no idea here of sinning occasionally; or of being in a pure state; or having just one brick at a time dropped into the bucket.  From the Bible’s standpoint the water in the bucket is already filthy and a veritable downpour of bricks falls continually into the bucket.  None are righteous – they have together become unprofitable.

That is emphasized throughout the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6 laments about how unclean he is.  The apostle Paul in Romans 7 talks about how wretched he is because of his failure to do the good.  The Bible pictures people not as occasionally sinning, but as constantly sinning.

This is no minor difference either.  If we think that we only sin occasionally then much of the burden falls on us to stop sinning and to make right the wrongs we have committed.  That is exactly what Mormonism does.  In the last analysis, even though it talks about Jesus’ atonement, Mormonism places the emphasis on what we have to do.

But when we see ourselves as the Bible pictures us, all we can do is plead for mercy and help.  We realize that all we can do is make the problem worse by piling up more and more sins!  And that is why Christmas is so special.  Christmas is God’s answer to our pleas for help.  Jesus came to earth so that we could go to heaven.  Jesus came to do everything for us.  He kept all the commandments perfectly – not just to give us an example to follow – but much more importantly as our substitute – in our place.  Because Jesus kept the commandments perfectly for me, I can know say that I have kept the commandments perfectly.  And then he died to wash away all our sins.

Turning from emphasizing what I have to do and instead trusting that Jesus has done it all for me is what true repentance is all about.  This Christmas see that Jesus came – not to show you what you have to do – but to do it all for you.  See that and have a most joyous Christmas.

 

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.




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