Posts Tagged ‘salvation



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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03
Jun
13

What did the Atonement do?

At the recent General Conference of the LDS Church, Elder Craig A. Cardon gave a talk entitled, “The Savior Wants to Forgive.” In it, more than once, he talked about “the enabling power of the Atonement”.  Especially enlightening was this comment:  “Rather, after all we can do, His compassion and grace are the means whereby ‘in process of time’ we overcome the world through the enabling power of the Atonement.  As we humbly seek this precious gift, ‘weak things become strong unto (us),’ and by His strength, we are made able to do that which we could never do alone” (Ensign, May 2013, p. 16).

As this comment illustrates, Mormonism teaches that one of the greatest benefits of the Atonement is the power it can instill in people.  This agrees with how it defines grace.  “The word grace, as used in the scriptures refers primarily to the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (True to the Faith, p. 77)  Therefore, as the above comment with its reference to 2 Nephi 25:23 (we are saved by grace after all we can do) makes clear, Mormonism teaches that, to be saved, a person must do all they can do, and then the Lord will give them more power (grace) “to do that which we could never do alone”.  The result is that even when Mormonism talks about grace, the focus is on what a person does.

The biblical message is so different. The most striking biblical picture of atonement is found in the Day of Atonement as it is recorded in Leviticus 16.  The emphasis there is not on people rendering obedience – it is on blood – the blood of animals sacrificed in place of the sinning people.  It’s that blood – not any obedience on the part of people – that atones for their sins.  St. Paul picks up on that picture in the New Testament’s only use of the word “atonement” in Romans 5.  In verse 9 he talks about how we are justified by the blood of Jesus Christ.  How Jesus’ death reconciled us to God (v.10).  And then in v. 11 he continues by saying:  “And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”   We have joy because Jesus made complete atonement for all our sins.  We are now worthy and acceptable to God, not if we now do a lot of things, but because Jesus has already done everything for us.

We are saved not after all we can do, but because Jesus has done all things for us.  That, my friends, is the source of all true joy.

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.

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.

05
Jan
13

The Comfort of James 2

James chapter two is one of the more controversial chapters of the Bible especially when James writes in verse 24:  “Ye see then how by works a man is justified, and not by faith alone.”  That sure sounds like James is contradicting passages like Ephesians 2:8-9 where Paul says we are saved by faith and not by works.

But, as always, the context in which James says this is vitally important.  Especially enlightening is verse 18:  “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”  These words spell out plainly that James is talking about, not how God recognizes who believes and who doesn’t, but how we recognize that it each other.  It’s talking about how we show, make apparent, our faith to other people.

In that context, works are important because, unlike God, we can’t see faith.  Faith resides in the heart and is invisible to humans.  All we can see are evidences of faith.  That’s the point of James’ illustration in verse 26:  “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Faith is like our spirits – it is invisible.  Just like we know the spirit is still in a body if the body shows signs of life, so also with faith.  Faith makes itself visible in works.

But what is so important to remember is that although faith always produces works and thus faith and works go together, they are two separate things.  It’s a matter of cause and effect. Spirit-worked faith in Jesus’ sacrifice for us is the cause of our salvation, while works are the result of our being saved.  Or to put it another way, faith is the root and works are the fruit. And it’s devastating to mix the two.  Paul brings this out in Romans 11:6:  “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”  Mixing works in with grace as a cause of salvation does nothing less than destroy salvation.

James is not contradicting that.  In fact, he is reinforcing that as seen in his citing Abraham as an example.  In verses 21-23 he mentions two incidents from Abraham’s life.  It is important to see that he does not mention them in chronological order.  He first talks about his sacrifice of Isaac – something that occurred decades after the event mentioned in verse 23.  In verse 23 he quotes Genesis 15:6 – the significant verse that tells us when God justified him (declared him righteous).  James is emphasizing that God had already declared Abraham righteous decades before his sacrifice of Isaac.  He didn’t wait until Abraham had done this work to declare him righteous.  No, he did that when Abraham believed.  Because God can see faith and because faith alone saves, God could do that.  But we can’t.  Therefore Abraham’s subsequent sacrifice of Isaac made his faith complete in the sense that now Abraham himself, his contemporaries, and even we today, have this wonderful evidence that he believed.  It’s like an apple making an apple tree complete, identifying the tree as an apple tree.  Now we too can justify Abraham because he showed us his faith by his works.

James agrees with the rest of the Bible.  God declares us righteous, he justifies us, on the basis of faith alone.  And that is so comforting.  My being worthy before God isn’t a team project with Jesus and me both contributing to it.  It’s not even Jesus doing most of the work and me doing a little bit.  It’s all about Jesus doing everything for me.  It’s about God giving me eternal life as a gift.  And that is so comforting.  Because now I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that I will spend eternity with Heavenly Father.  I know that because Jesus has already done everything for me.  All praise and glory be his!

21
Nov
12

Thanksgiving

There are so many things to thank the Lord for!  His blessings truly deserve the description of “innumerable’. They cover every aspect of life – and every moment of life.  They are so plentiful that we often take them for granted.  But every breathe we take is a blessing from God.  Every morsel of food we eat (and we eat more than just morsels!) is a gift from God.  The good weather we experience, the periods of relaxation that we enjoy, the friends and families that mean so much to us – all are blessings from God.  Literally everything we have ultimately comes from our gracious Lord.

And there are so many blessings that we don’t even see: the accident that was averted; the illness that did not touch us; the danger that passed over us.  We are often like little children – going our way blissfully unaware of how the Lord, as our loving Father, is faithfully watching over us and keeping us safe.

But towering over all these blessings is his ultimate blessing, namely, being completely forgiven and totally accepted through Jesus.  This is how the book of Hebrews puts it:  “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.  Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into 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;” (Hebrews 10:14-20)

Just think of it!  The Lord not only forgives all our sins because of Jesus’ one sacrifice, he also forgets them.  He doesn’t ask us to pay him back.  He doesn’t remind us of them whenever we fail.  No, as the prophet Micah said, he drowns them in the depths of the sea.  They are gone!

On this Thanksgiving weekend, show God your thankfulness especially for this.  Show that thankfulness by never doubting your status with him.  See and say that you are worthy before him, not because of what you do, but because of what Jesus has done for you.  Show that thankfulness by giving Jesus every bit of credit for God accepting you.  Be thankful by being confident that you are going to live forever with Heavenly Father because of Jesus’ sacrifice and not because of any ordinances that you have done.

  Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.

He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.

11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.  (Psalm 103: 1-12)




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