Wednesday, July 5, 2017

My Fears Turned into Praise

As many of you may know, I have accepted a Pastor of Worship position at CenterPoint Church in Orem, UT. I am very excited about the opportunities that this position will have. I'm excited about my new church family. I'm excited to do something meaningful to my life. I'm eager to do His work and glorify His name every week in an city where His Gospel has been perverted. I'm so blessed to be able to have my wife with me and stoked for the growth we will see in our marriage and in the lives of our kids.

But, that's not to say it's all daises and roses. The more I research Mormonism and prepare for my entire family to move out there, the more doubts begin to settle in. Some of those fears and doubts are normal. Whether or not I will get along with the other pastors or the people, whether or not my style of leading worship will work with the congregation, or whether I will make enough to provide for my family are all things I'm struggling with. Honestly, I think these serve a positive purpose at framing my heart and making sure that I keep the main thing the main thing and trust that God will indeed execute His sovereign will in my life, my families life, and His church...which is a good thing.

But out of those fears, there is one fear that keeps coming back to me.

What if my kids become Mormon? What if my son falls in love with an LDS girl? What if my daughter wants to be married in the temple?

What if...what if...

My heart aches for what my kids might possibly encounter as we become enveloped with Mormon culture. While my wife and I will teach them about Jesus, His word, and His amazing grace I worry that their friends will end up trumping His truth and pull them away from His word. I worry I won't be strong enough to shield them from the enticing lies of the enemy. I worry that being around Mormons 24/7 will decrease my effectiveness to speak truth and wisdom into my children's lives. I worry that my background in Mormonism and bias against it will cause my children to rebel against me and what I'm trying to instill in them. Honestly, I could go on and on.

And as these ideas were rattling in my brain, the Holy Spirit gave me a verse to ponder...

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple." -Luke 14:26

Now, I know this may not be comforting sounding to you, but it made me stop and breathe a sigh of relief. Amidst all the chaos of worry, this verse made me check my heart. 

I'm not moving because I want to shield my kids from the outside world (even though that is what my heart is screaming right now) but to praise and worship God with my life. I'm not going to Utah because I need a new job (though a change would be nice) but because God has called us there. I'm not living for my own selfish desires (selfish meaning to raise my kids my way and have them turn out the way I want them to) but for Jesus and for His call on my life.

If I hold His word in such high esteem - as I do - then I need to relax. Luke, or rather Jesus, says His Gospel is more important than anything I could have on earth, which would include my family. And, so while I absolutely love my wife and kids more than anything in the entire world, I must love - and therefore follow - Jesus more!

Then, while thinking about this verse and struggling to see the whole picture God had a one sided conversation with me: 

In all your worries, where do I fit in? Aren't I God. Aren't I in charge? I'm in control, not you. 
You're worried you wont be a strong enough father or leader. But, you can't be; you won't be. Apart from me, you can do nothing. But I am mighty and I am here.
Do you not think that I love your family more than you do? Do you think I'll walk away from them? Have I walked away from you? 
You're worried you're not going to be able to save them, but that's not your job. It's Mine.
You're worried that their friends will mislead them, but you know My word is power and My gospel is true.
Why do you worry about things that you've never had control over? Be still and know that I am God!

And then I was reminded of all the times in the Bible that God said, "do not fear." I remembered that I am loved by the one true God and that this decision is within His sovereign and moral will. I remembered that Jesus saved me out of Mormonism for this purpose. I remembered that God gave me my wife and kids. I remembered His faithfulness throughout this entire process. And then I came to the conclusion that I am not in control God is, and if I believe that then I need to live like it.


As a Christian, it's easy to say you love Jesus more than anything, and sing about it on Sunday morning, and stick that bumper sticker on your car. But it's another thing entirely to live it. And as a man who is trying to teach His kids to follow Jesus at all costs and without hesitation, I guess it's time for me to walk the walk.

So while I'm apprehensive and fearful for the future and the lives of the ones God has given me responsibility over, I believe God is greater. I know that God is in control. I know God has guided our footsteps to Utah, for me to go into ministry, and for me to go back to school. I have to also trust that Jesus has guided our family to live there as well, for my children to go to school there, for them to have Mormon friends, for my wife to be away from her family and friends, to help raise our family in a church we've been to once, and on and on and on...  Simply put, I have to trust "...that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Rom 8:28)

However, that doesn't mean I am relinquishing my role, or my responsibility, or my love for them. By no means! I'm still their father and my wife's husband. God put me in charge of leading my family for as long as I have breath in my lungs. The only difference now is that in that leadership, I submit and trust that His ways are greater than my own (Isa 55:9). I will still be the best father I can be. I will still teach my kids to love Jesus. I will still tell them the differences between Mormonism and Christianity. I will still teach my kids that our faith is based upon rational thought, evidence, and historical evidence that provokes our faith to believe and trust the Bible. I will still do all of this while trusting that His name will be glorified, His gospel will be preached, and my family is safely in His hands.

Praise God.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Letter to Savannah

Savannah, since your church isn't going to love you enough to share with you the truth, I will. Know that I do love you and my heart is aching for you because I know you're going through so much right now. The joys of being able to be yourself, the overwhelming support from outsiders and non-members that I'm sure you're receiving, and all this media attention, right down to some nobody writing about it on his own personal blog. Know that I love you, with all the love that Christ has enabled me to do so. And it is with that love, the love that I believe Jesus has for all of us, the love that says the tough things because they need to be said, the love that isn't afraid to stand alone, the love that cares about your eternal destination, that I tell you the following...

Dear Savannah,

You are being deceived. The treasures that you are getting from all of these people (praise, encouragement, fame) will fade and what you will be left with is a lie.

You say you are a child of heavenly parents. That is a lie. God is not a man, He is not married and making babies with His spiritual wife, He is not your dad. The Mormon God, the exalted man, does not exist and therefore cannot save you. You were not created in a heavenly womb and then given a body. Instead, the Bible says you were fearfully and wonderfully made in your mother's womb (Ps 139:14). It says that the real God, YHWH, is your creator and He loves you so much that He sent His son, the second member of the Godhead, Jesus, God-in-a-bod, God with us, God Himself, to die on a cross for you (John 3:16). 

You say you believe you were made the way you are, all parts of you. That is true. But what you don't seem to understand is that we are all born into sin. We can all say, "I was born a ________. We are sons and daughters of Adam, the man who brought sin into this world when he ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:6). Because of his disobedience to the command of the Lord, he and Eve were cast out and doomed to die (Gen 3:3, Rom 6:23). But, when we trust in Jesus and are saved by His blood and atonement, we are born again. We are no longer sons and daughters of Adam (sin) but we are adopted sons and daughters of Christ and are alive! (1 Cor 15:22, Rom 8:12-17)

You say that God didn't mess up when He made you gay. He didn't make you gay. There is no gay gene. Let me put it in the simplest way possible. Imagine you have two people (one gay, one straight) and they died. Now say that your job was to examine their bodies, their genomes, their DNA, their brain matter, their bone tissues, etc. to uncover which one was gay and which one was straight. Do you know what you would find? Absolutely nothing. What does this mean? Well, simply put being gay is a choice. It is something that people choose to be. Now you might have more of a propensity to choose a gay lifestyle, but that is the same way that a person might have a bent towards smoking, or drinking, or having anger issues, or being a Raiders fan. But having a bent doesn't mean it is not a sin. You are choosing to be gay. God made you in His image (Gen 1:27), but it is our sin nature that rebels against His created order. And it is out of a need to be accepted and loved that we rationalize away our sin, normalizing it.

You say that God loves you just the way you are. In a sense that is true. God loves you where you are in life right now. Meaning no matter what you do, no matter what you've done, God loves you (Rom 8:39). HOWEVER God does not want you to stay where you are! (2 Cor 5:17, Rom 6:4) God pulled me out of my pit of anger. I was suicidal, I was depressed, I was broken, I was angry, I was bitter, I was mean, spiteful, and vindictive. Did God love me? Of course! But, in that love, did God want me to remain in that pain and struggle because that's just who I was? Of course not!! God saved me from that former life and I was given a new heart and the Holy Spirit moved through me and gave me the strength to turn my life around. God does love you, but He in no way, shape, or form wants you to be a prisoner of your sinful life.

You say that you're not a horrible sinner for being who you are. That is not what the Bible says. In fact, the Bible says exactly that and so much worse. But understand this, you are not alone. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is a sinner. Scratch that. Everyone is a horrible sinner. No wait, scratch that. Everyone is a horrid, wretched sinner! Scratch that one more time. Here it is, the truth: everyone is so wretched of a sinner that we are spiritually dead and helpless to change (Rom 3:23, Eph 2:1) Some people like to say that our sin has left us sinking in the water and we need Jesus to throw us a life vest for us to grab a hold of. I'm here to tell you that is completely, 100%, all the time, everyday, unequivocally wrong. As Pastor Voddie Baucham says, "DEAD MEN DON"T GRAB!" The world will tell you that all you need is help! No, no, no. You don't need help, you need a savior. You need Jesus! (Eph 2:5, Eph 5:14, Col 2:13). So, yes, you are a horrible sinner. So am I. So are your parents, your friends, my friends, my family....literally everyone! But the good news is that Jesus has died on the cross so that those sins won't be counted against you and you can have eternal life. All you need to do is turn to Jesus!

Savannah, you are a strong young woman. I pray that you will hear the truth and turn to Jesus. I pray that as you are figuring things out (puberty is no joke!) you are met with all the love and kindness that our gracious God and His church have to offer. I pray that you will be embraced as a fellow sinner who needs Jesus just as much as the next person.

In Christ,

Brenton Laidler

Friday, May 26, 2017

Disagreeing with Brad Wilcox

I have been chatting with an LDS friend of mine about God's grace. We would go back and forth and discuss topics of grace, salvation, works, etc. Eventually she asked me to listen to a talk given by BYU professor Brad Wilcox entitled "His Grace is sufficient". She assured me that this talk would clarify how Mormons view grace. Seeing an opportunity to grow and learn, I accepted and told her I would give it my attention and get back to her.

Below is the talk as well as my accompanying notes. I thought that sharing with you guys this talk and my own feeble thoughts might help clarify things for you as well.



[4:25 – 5:22]  Amen. Praise God. It is finished, Jesus paid it all!

[5:35- 5:51]  “We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence. How long we plan to stay there.”

He seems to be blurring the lines between justification (Faith in Jesus reconciles us to God and saves us from eternal damnation in Hell) and sanctification (God making us into better disciples through the Holy Spirit’s guidance). 

I think scripture is clear that we will be resurrected for the final judgment (Matt 25:31-46). However, the way he’s alluding to the afterlife makes it sound like we’ll all be ‘saved’ (meaning no Hell or casting away [v.41]), and we just need to get our good, better, best body depending on our obedience, a reference to the three kingdoms I assume.

I humbly disagree. I think when we are born again, Christ’s righteousness is imputed onto us and all our sins were imputed onto Him on the cross. When this happens, God determines we are righteous and are granted eternal life with Him. If we have not accepted Jesus, then our lives are ‘on the chopping block’ to get measured up to His standard (which we all fall short of – Rom. 3:23) and they are cast away from His presence forever (Matt 25:41, Rev. 20:15). Not quite the same.  

[6:20 – 6:40] “Justice requires immediate perfection or punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection and He can help us reach that goal.”

This is exactly why I wrote “Where is Jesus?” The Gospel isn’t about us! Grace isn’t about us or what we can get from it. Grace is about God and Him demonstrating His love towards us. Grace gives glory to God. I don’t look at Grace as some get out of jail free pass [as opposed to what he alludes to later in the talk], but rather with every fiber of my being praises God for His amazing grace!

[6:52 – 7:02] The girl says, “So what’s the difference. Whether our efforts are required by justice or whether they are required by Jesus they are still required.” He responds with, “True.”

Didn’t he just say Jesus paid it all? “It is finished.” (John 19:30). Well if it is finished, then we are not “required” to “do” anything because Jesus fulfilled everything (Mat 5:17, Rom 10:4, Gal 3:23-25). Grace first reconciles us to God (2 Cor 5:19, 2 Cor 5:18). And out of that grace comes freedom and fruits. By the grace of God we have freedom, or liberty, from legalistic, religious requirements to perform works to please God (Gal 5:1, Rom 8:1-2). The reality is that we aren’t required to tithe, go on missions, do home teaching, etc. We are free to choose to do them or not. And if we do not do them, Grace is sufficient to save. HOWEVER, we also need to acknowledge that grace produces fruits. James says that a faith that produces no fruit is not actually a saving grace at all, but rather a false, or superficial, faith (James 2:14-17, Rom 4:1-5). Notice that there is tension here. There is tension between not being required to “do” anything VS having a new heart and acting out our faith. Should we give? Yes. Should we _______ (fill in here)? Yes. But the beauty of grace is that we are not “required” to do anything because, as the Bible says, Jesus paid it all.

Moreover, the Bible says that everyone who still feels like they are required to do something is cursed (Gal 3:10). Furthermore, the Bible says that the purpose of the Law is to show us our sin and move us towards His saving Grace (Romans 3:19-20).

He goes on to clarify with the analogy of the mom paying the piano teacher and in turn asking for practice. While this analogy ‘works’ it is not quite cohesive with scripture. Jesus doesn’t ask us to be good people, but rather our righteousness is a product of the Holy Spirit moving in us and through us (1 Cor. 6:19, Acts 2:4, Rom 8:9) to accomplish His will (Eph. 1:11-14). So, it’s not that God is saying to us, “I paid your piano lessons (justified/redeemed/salvation by grace) and so you must practice (keep my commandments and ordinances).” Again, this implies that there is a requirement to practice, inferring that if we don’t practice then we could get in trouble. According to scripture, Jesus says, “I paid your debt.” Period. No need to do anything else, including practice. (John 19:30, 1 John 1:9) Then, the Holy Spirit moves in us and our new heart rejoices and says, “I will glorify God by my life.” (Titus 2:14, Gal 5:18).

The thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) is a great illustration of this. It proves that we do not need to ‘practice’ to earn or prove our love for God. Salvation is a judgement on the heart of a believer, not in his actions.

[9:40 – 9:53] “See maybe we don’t yet see through Christ’s eyes, maybe we have not yet comprehended, what He is trying to make of us.”

I agree. There are things that believers should do as long as we are still on this earth. (I am not talking out of both sides of my mouth here. We are not required to do them, but rather motivated by The Holy Spirit to do them, as I said above) However, things that we do are out of a heart of worship. Things like tithing! Giving tithe is an acknowledging that God is the Great provider and so out of thankfulness, reverence, and praise we give freely (Matt 10:8), openly (Acts 5:1-10), and as the Holy Spirit leads (2 Cor. 9:7). Again, not required, but out of a worshipful mindset.

[10:31] “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment for payment. Its purpose is change.” – Dallin H. Oaks

The word “must” in this context makes me squirm. While it is true that we all (believers and non-believers alike) suffer, it is not for our sin but rather as a result of original sin (Genesis 3). Saying that we must suffer so that God can make us Holy is a poor interpretation of Biblical truth. Instead, I’d say that we suffer because of a fallen world and God uses that to make us Holy. We are not saying the same thing. On one hand, you have God calling suffering a requirement that we all must go through, like a hot poker in the furnace, to be made righteous. I disagree. Being born again and receiving that new heart is sufficient for God to make us righteous (Rom 5:19). In the same breath though, God uses the depravity of this world to help refine us, but that depravity of suffering is not a requirement to make us holy.

Recall that the Bible says if we are born again, we are no longer under wrath, but under grace! “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1).  God doesn’t require us to suffer at all. Jesus did that for us on the cross. He did it so that we wouldn’t have to (2 Cor 5:21, 1 Thess 5:9). So, no Mr. Oaks, repentant sinners do not have to suffer. They are safe in the loving arms of Grace.

[10:53 – 12:03] Talking to his Christian friends about grace, they ask if he is saved by Grace and Brad responds, “Yes.” Then Brad flips the conversation on them and asks, “Have you been changed by grace?” He then goes on and says, “They are so excited about being saved that maybe they’re not thinking about what comes next. They are so happy the debt is paid they might have not considered why the debt existed in the first place. Latter-day saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but what he has saved us for.”

Um….no. I know full well why the debt existed in the first place. I read in the Bible that Adam and Eve took the fruit in the garden, willfully disobeying the Almighty God (Gen 3:6). I know that going on down the line in human history, for thousands of years we, as humans, have become more and more depraved in our sin. We have become adulterers, murderers, thieves, perverse, blasphemous, vile creatures because of our sin. I know that throughout all of these years, God has withheld His righteous hand of justice and shown us mercy by giving us another day to live and come to Him. I know that despite our complete and total rejection of Him, He sent his son to die for us. The bible actually says this exact thing. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). While we were still sinners, while we were living by our flesh, while we were cursing God, while we were rejecting His gospel, while, while, while….He sent His Son to die and redeem us. I also know that because of the cross and being born again, though my actions deserve condemnation, damnation, and separation from God, I instead have eternal life with Him. That is Grace. That is undeserved favor.

So, that is why we are so excited about being saved.  We fully understand a few things that I’m not quite hearing from Brad’s talk. 1) every day we live by the Grace of God because we are not deservingly destroyed by His Wrath, 2) Our sin is piled up so high that even on a good day for the most righteous person deserves Hell, 3) We have seen His glory and we worship Him every day for His redeeming grace.

To answer, “Have you been changed by Grace?” I would respond with: absolutely! If I wasn’t changed by Grace I wouldn’t be saved by Grace. Interacting with the living God would have immeasurable effects on your life. If I were to stand in the middle of the freeway and be hit by a Peterbuilt truck, my body would be changed forever. Jesus is so much more bigger and magnificent that a big rig, so of course my life is changed. The difference comes from what Brad is saying VS what I am saying.  Brad seems to be saying, “Because you have been saved, Jesus requires you to act.” I am saying, “Because I have been saved, my heart longs to worship my Savior and so I act.” Not the same thing.

Lastly, he say the LDS know what He saved us for. Ok…what is it? What are you saved for? Is this in reference to exaltation? I was hoping he’d elaborate on this a bit.

[12:14 – 12:31] Quoting his friend Omar Canals - “While many Christians view Christ’s suffering as only a huge favor He did for us, Latter-day Saints also recognize it as a huge investment He made in us.”

I dare you to find a true believer that will say Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was “only a huge favor.” How insulting! The death and resurrection was the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy. It was a miraculous sign of God’s amazing love and awesome power! It was magnificent upon magnificent upon magnificent hundreds of times over for eternity! The fall of man, the promise of Abraham, the preservation of His people for hundreds and thousands of years, the prophecy of a savior, the virgin birth, the perfect life, the calling of disciples, the preaching, the torture He endured, the mocking, the humbling experience For God to step off His throne and into a mortal body, the death, and the resurrection!!! These are not huge favors…these are everything! It’s not like God paid off our car loan or gave me a ride across the country…HE SAVED ME FROM ETERNAL DAMNATION WHEN HE DIDN’T HAVE TO AND EVEN THOUGH I DIDN’T DESERVE IT.

[12:31 – 13:03] Moroni 7:48 – “Grace isn’t about being saved. It’s about becoming like the savior.”

First off, I just want to point out that this is the first time in his talk, almost 10+ minutes into a talk about God’s Grace and this is the first time he uses any type of scripture.

Secondly, is he saying that salvation is merely a bi-product – or second thought - of grace while the true intent was for God to grant us grace so that we can be like Him? If that is what he’s saying, then again I must humbly disagree. Grace can be defined as undeserved favor. How can we understand the very definition of grace if we don’t focus on what we are being saved from? In other words, how can we not look to salvation as an adequate definition or expression of God’s grace towards us, especially since we know that our sins mean we can oly hope to deserve hell? Again, I disagree with Brad. Grace is about being saved (2 Tim 1:9), and being sanctified (or becoming Christ-like) is the next logical progression of grace. Sanctification is an outworking of the Holy Spirit – given to us out of His abundant Grace (Acts 5:32, Rom 5:5)– so that we can live every day – again, each day is given by His grace – and preach the gospel.

Again, not the same thing.

[13:03 – 16:32] “Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can live with God. But brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to.” Then he talks about this man who gets out of prison and how he constantly messes up, trying to get him to EFY, etc. He then says that he hates it and wants to leave. “Heaven will not be heaven for those who have not chosen to be heavenly.” Then he talks about the final judgment and what he thought it would be like. Jesus with the clipboard saying he missed it by 2 points. Then he says the more he understands the plan of redemption, the more he realizes, “in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay, let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here.”” Then he says that knowing Jesus’ character, it will be Jesus begging him to use his atonement and stay with Him.”

This whole section is sort of based off of James 2 (dead faith), but not quite. I agree – for the most part – with what he’s saying here. I can agree whole heartedly that His grace changes us. I agree that for those who do not want to be changed have indeed rejected His grace. But, I disagree with his assumption that those people will stand before God and angrily want to leave, because they don’t want to be there. Doesn’t the Bible say that in the last days, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord? (Rom 14:11, Isa 45:23, Phil 2:9-10) According to scripture, it sounds like people will come face to face with Jesus and will realize that He is God and that they rejected Him their whole life (2 Tim 4:3-4). Then, according to that faithless life, God allows them to reject His grace and gives them what they wanted, or what their life wrought.

Laslty, and probably most importantly. My God, the Holy, Holy, Holy Lamb, the Almighty, the Alpha, the Omega, the Great provider, Jehova, YHWH, the Great I AM, God with us, The second member of the Godhead, God in the flesh, The Eternal one...Does. Not. Beg. God is not begging us to come to Him. God is not seeking our love like some desperate schoolgirl. No! God has already demonstrated His love for us on the cross, has displayed His gospel, has given a plethora of ways that people will know and understand that He is real, His grace is free, and His love is sufficient…but He does not beg.

[16:34 – 17:51] “If Christ did not require faith and repentance, then there would be no desire to change. …If Jesus did not require covenants and bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost, then there would be no way to change. We would be left forever with will power and have no access to His power. If Jesus did not require endurance to the end, then there would be no internalization of those changes over time. They would forever be surface and cosmetic, rather than sinking inside of us and becoming part of who we are. Put simply, if Jesus did not require practice then we would never become pianists. Christ’s grace is sufficient to help us in that process.”

“REQUIRE” seems to be the word we differ on. And make no mistake, it is a HUGE difference. The Bible says that by His grace we are saved. Not only from a life apart from God eternally, but also from a life of legalism. We aren’t required to do anything! That’s what freedom in Christ means!! We are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 7:25) and we are no longer slaves to the law (Gal 3:13, Gal 4:5). It is out of that freedom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:14) and live – with our freedom in Grace – a life forever worshiping our God!  We are not required to do anything, for that implies if we do not do those things then we are not saved, or rather our salvation is in jeopardy. Instead, we acknowledge that Jesus has done everything for us and out of His grace we act out of love, worship, and obedience through the workings of the Holy Spirit.

That seems like a small difference (or maybe not a difference at all) but it is a HUGE difference. One is acting to prove faith and the other is acting because of faith. Acting because of faith is resting comfortably in grace knowing everything’s been done and we are free. Acting to prove faith, or because we are required by faith, means we are still under the yoke of works.

Moreover, what can any of us “do” that Christ hasn’t already done for us? Keep the commandments? We’ve probably broken a few just today! What about be loving to our neighbors/everybody? We fail that one almost every time we drive our car longer than 5 minutes! We can do nothing to please God’s justice or wrath. Isaiah 64:6 says that all of us are unclean and even our righteous acts are like “filthy rags” to God. This means that requiring practice from us will always result in failure and more depravity, as everything we do is tainted and unclean. That is why Christ had to do everything! It’s because we can do nothing! Ergo, we are required to do nothing because Jesus did it all.

I think it’s important to note that I don’t like his piano analogy…at all.

[18:52 – 19:05] “Too many are giving up on the church because they are tired of constantly feeling like they are falling short. Oh they’ve tried in the past but always feel like they are just not good enough. They don’t understand grace.” He goes on and says young women, young men, return missionaries, married couples, all struggle because they don’t understand grace.

This is actually more telling than I think Brad realizes. Does he not see that these Mormons are being pressured to constantly “do good”. They understand that the LDS church teaches that Jesus has requirements for us to live by. They understand that they must do all of these things to appease God. And they understand that they will fail constantly and never succeed. This is the epitome of religious legalism. These men and women see their failures and are discouraged, and rightly so. Living up to those standards, the law, etc. is impossible. But this is not bad news when we truly understand Grace!

I would answer these people very differently than Brad does.  I would respond with Holy scripture. They’d come to me and say, “Brenton, I keep trying and failing and I can’t measure up. I keep falling short and I’m not good enough.” I would simply respond with, “Amen! Romans 3:23 says you’re never going to measure up. But don’t worry, it says that about me too! Luckily God doesn’t require us to live a perfect life or check all the boxes of a righteous life because He already paid that price and we have been made righteous already (Rom 5:1, 2 Cor 5:21) and are free from the yoke of works. Romans 5:20-21 testifies that even in the midst of our sin, we are covered by His grace! Praise God!!”  Translation: You have been made righteous by God’s grace because you’ll never get there.

But Brad doesn’t say that. Brad says to these people, “Growth and development take time. Learning takes time. When we understand grace, we understand God is long suffering. That change is a process and repentance is a pattern in our lives. When we understand grace we understand that the blessing of Christ’s atonement are continuous and His strength is perfect in our weakness. When we understand grace we can, as it says in D&C “continue in patience until we are perfected.”” Translation: Keep trying, you’ll get there by grace of God!

[23:30 – 25:12] A student struggled with his struggle to be worthy. He ended with “No work. No grace.” Brad wrote him back, “Christ is not waiting at the finish line once we have done all we can do. He is with us every step of the way.  …Grace is not a booster engine that kicks in once our fuel supply is exhausted. Rather it is our constant energy source.”

Not according to your own scriptures and doctrines. “…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23)

Dallin H. Oaks in his talk “What Think Ye of Christ” said, “If your friends ask, “Does your church believe you are saved by grace or works?” you could say, “We believe that we are saved by grace after all we can do. We don’t earn salvation. Heavenly Father and the Savior will bless us with eternal life, through their Grace, if we do our part. They have asked us to have faith in Jesus Christ, repent  throughout our lives, be baptized and receive other ordinances, and faithfully endure to the end. If we do that, we are promised eternal life through the grace of God.” So, IF we do those things, then we are saved. This is the very definition of faith + works. But the Bible says by faith alone we are saved (Acts 16:31, John 3:16, Luke 7:50).

Mr. Oaks says “To gain eternal life, we need both grace and woks. …While these works [repentance, obedience, keeping covenants, serving others] are necessary for salvation, they aren’t sufficient. They are not enough because we can’t live perfect lives, but we can do our best to live righteously. By doing so, we invite the Lord’s grace into our lives and qualify for the gift of salvation.” As I said before, Romans 3:23 says we’ll never be worthy, we’ll never qualify for God’s salvation…but He gives it anyways out of Grace.

What Mr. Oaks says here in this talk directly contradicts Brad when he says, “Do we earn a sunrise? No. Do we have to be worthy of a chance to begin again? No. We just have to accept these blessings and take advantage of them.” So which is it? Are we granted grace according to His love (Wilcox) or do we need to do our best to qualify for it (Oaks)?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is Heaven boring?

     I've had many conversations with some of my Mormon friends and family, the topic of what we will be doing when we get there has come up more than one might think. It is not only a very interesting topic of discussion but surprisingly important and motivating. 

What will we do in heaven?

     Maybe you've never thought about it much. Maybe just getting to heaven has sufficed to satisfy your theological inquiries on the matter. But, eternity is a really, really, really long time. This life is but a speck of time compared to all the time we will spend in eternity. So, for some, it is perfectly reasonable to speculate what will happen for the majority of our existence. Even more so, it is logical to adjust your theology based on what makes sense regarding this matter.
     Mormons believe that heaven is not only our eternal home, but it is a place where we can grow, learn, and progress. God created us to strive to be better, to grow, and to flourish. That is why in Mormonism, heaven - or at least the Celestial Kingdom - is not the last stop for us. Worthy men and women will learn and grow and become more like the Father. Through hard work, obedience, and righteous living can achieve their full potential and become a God. 
     Christians believe that heaven is our eternal home and final resting place. When all is said and done, when Jesus has come again, when the devil is defeated, and when all the saints have gone home, all believing Christians will live with Him for eternity. There we will all come together as believers and worship and honor our God for all time.

It's Sunday. Everyday. Forever...

     Now, for a lot of Mormons, I've heard that the Christian doctrine regarding this matter is, to put it bluntly, very boring. They tell me that singing "Amazing Grace" and "How Great Thou Art" for all of time and eternity is extremely dull. Their thinking - to my understanding - is that if God truly wants to have an eternal church service celebrating Him with all of us singing and kissing His feet, then wouldn't that make God a bit too self-centered, conceited, self-righteous, petty, and various other sinful characteristics? Furthermore, what a waste of such beautiful creations. Why would God create all of mankind with brains, dreams, goals, and potential to have us all just shout "God is Good!" for ever and ever? Doesn't make sense! 
     My brother put it best in an analogy a few years ago. He asked me if I loved my son? I of course answered in the affirmative. He then asked me if I would want my son to grow up and be better than I am. Again, I answered yes. He finally asked me if God was the greatest Father that ever existed. I could answer nothing but yes. "AHA!" he exclaimed, "so then why wouldn't God want us to grow and become like Him?! You know that God loves us and as his sons and daughters, he wants what is best for us. He wants us to share in His glory and know what He knows, love how He loves, and become the best versions of ourselves! He wants us to become exalted. It's only logical!" 
     To be honest, that conversation has been rolling around in my head for years now. I've wrestled with this idea for some time now. The truth of the matter is, that my brother's argument makes a lot of sense. We are great amazing creations with passion, intelligence, and aspirations. Why would God waste all of that? Why would God create us to only have these characteristics used for a fraction of our life? Why, why, why? 

The Master

     You see, my brother is correct. A good father does want the best for his children. A good father wants his kids to be better than he is. A good father does want to share everything with his kids. A good father wants all of this and more. But "Father" is a title. God is not our "Father" in the same sense as I am a father to my kids. True there are parallels I can draw between the two, but they are merely metaphors to help us finite minded people to understand aspects of our God.
     You need to understand that the Bible refers to God as our father because it helps us understand Him better. It helps explain a portion of His character by giving us a tangible example. He's loving, like a father. He's in charge, like a father. He provides for us, like a father. But do not make the term Father mean more than it should. Just because He is called our Father does not mean He is our literal father. 
     Make no mistake, God is our Creator (Gen 1:1, John 1;3, Rom. 9:20-22), our Master (Eph 6:9, 2 Tim 2:20-22), our LORD (John 20:27-29). These are words that better describe our relationship to Him. In more literal terms, we are His creations, His servants, His people. 
     When put into context of scripture, our relationship with him as well as our status becomes more properly defined. If we just see God as the best Father that ever existed, then we perceive ourselves as His children. While this thinking is kind of true, it is not the full picture and we mistakingly rationalize that we have - or will have - the same rights as Him. In a way, we make ourselves equal with Him - as my son will one day become a man, have a family, and become a father to his own kids. But God says that He is One (Deut. 6:4), that no one will become like Him, not now, not later, not ever. (Isa. 43:10). Just looking at God as our literal Father in Heaven leads us to violate scripture.
     Instead, we should see ourselves as He does. We are the lumps of clay and He is the Potter. We are created beings and He is the Great Creator. He is the Almighty, the Alpha, the Omega, the Beginning, the End, the Eternal Father, the Holy, Holy, Holy One...etc. When we step back and see all of these characteristics together we start to see God - and our place - more clearly.
     The reason my brother's analogy was so difficult to swallow was because I was accepting his premise and trying to fit the Bible into it. I should have stopped my brother and said, "But your analogy doesn't hold water, bro. I didn't create my son from nothing as God did with Adam. I didn't speak and create all that we see as God did in Genesis. I don't own everything, control everything, know everything as God does. I don't pay for my son's sins, as God did for me. I am not my son's Lord, as my God is for me."

How Does This Relate to Heaven?

     If you have the wrong idea about God, who He is, and what our place is then you will be left asking God in the afterlife, what do I get? You'll show up to those Golden Celestial Gates and stick your hands out and waiting for your moment to shine. You won't see Heaven in terms of God, but of yourself. You will selfishly make heaven about you.

Wanna Know What I Think?

     I think we are going to have an eternal church service. What will that look like, I have no idea. But none the less, I think that we all will spend our eternity worshiping and honoring God. Moreover, I believe it will not be boring in the least...
     How? Because I think that in heaven everything will click. You know how when you were in school and the teacher was explaining something to you and for some reason you just didn't get it? Maybe it was some math problem, or some history lesson, or some English grammar rule. But then one day, someone said something and it just...clicked. Everything you were struggling with just fell into place, and it seemed so simple! I believe that we will all have an experience like that but to a much greater scale.
     I think when we get to heaven, the seriousness of our plight on earth will be fully realized. I think the weight of our sin will not only become evidently clear to us but will lead us to our knees. I think that in that moment we will fully understand the cross. We won't just see it as a symbol for hope, but the full love of God. I think that we will understand the enormous task it was for God to step into our filth. I think that Jesus's death will strike us as if we were there at Calvary.  I think the ground beneath us will shake because we will feel that stone moving away and the earth quaking signaling that Jesus has overcome. I think that all our joys, all our hope, all our emotions will become intensified. I think that we will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God died for us. We will know that God is God. We will know that God loves us. And we will know that we are forgiven. Then, at that instant, we will stand and be face to face with our God. We will behold His glory, and we will feel His embrace as He welcomes us for all eternity! TO GOD BE THE GLORY, FOREVER AND EVER! AMEN!!
     I think we will be too busy being in love with Jesus and rejoicing with the saints that we are forgiven, saved, redeemed, and in the presence of Glory to be bored. I think we'll be like those kids at Disneyland who say to themselves every chance they get, "I can't believe we're here. I can't believe we made it!" Those kids who run to their father and just pour out a grateful heart the entire trip.  That will be us.
     Heaven isn't boring. It is glorious beyond measure!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Is Polygamy Bibilical

It's no secret that mainstream Mormonism used to practice plural marriages.  In fact, their official statement of polygamy is...

"The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that the marriage of one man to one woman is God’s standard, except at specific periods when He has declared otherwise."  -Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah (

The story goes like this.  Back in the early 1840s, Mormonism was under a lot of persecution.  Mormon were being either killed or jailed, leaving more women than Priesthood holders.  Since a temple marriage to a priesthood holder is needed for salvation and exaltation, something needed to be done.  God then spoke to Joseph Smith and allowed the Saints to begin the practice of polygamy.  This practice was done for around 50 years until President Woodruff stated he would follow the letter of the law and he un-instituted plural marriages.  However, they were still done and sanctioned by the LDS church for another 14 years after that, "on an exceptional basis...especially in Mexico and Canada, outside of the jurisdiction of U.S. law; a small number of plural marriages were performed within the United States during those years."

This is when the Fundamentalist Mormons came about.  These people did not want to stop practicing plural marriages because they felt that the doctrine came straight from God, and no earthly law trumps God's.  These people practice polygamy to this day and strive to follow all Joseph Smith's prophecy and teachings.  However, they are not to be confused with mainstream Mormonism, the guys who come to your door on bicycles.

Though I have much to say on the fact that Mormonism still practiced polygamy in the states after it was made illegal (even though most Mormons will argue they stopped immediately after it was made illegal), or the fact that the LDS church allowed people - including Joseph Smith - to marry other women who already had husbands or girls as young as 14 years old ( for more info), I'm not going to.  I've left the link should you decide to do some of your own research.  Instead, I will target their claim that God allowed for plural marriages in the Bible and refute the idea.

The Bible VS Polygamy 

Whenever I've asked Mormons about the practice of plural marriage, they always roll their eyes.  It's like the topic has become old hat and most have become calloused to.  Most of the time, their go to answer to shut any further discussion down is how God condoned his prophets for entering into polygamous relationships.  The most common examples Mormons reference is either Abraham or King David.  And if one is not even decently familiar with their Bible, they may have lost an opportunity to share the gospel.  So allow me to give you some Biblical context to their argument.

Sarai was getting anxious as she was not bearing any children for Abram, and she blamed God for it (Gen 16:2).  So, she took matter into her own hands and gave her handmaid Hagar to Abram.  [It is important to note that God didn't tell her to do this, she did it on her own out of impatience.  Nowhere in scripture is it said that God spoke to her and told her to do this, nor does it say that Abram was told by God to take Hagar as his mistress.]  Abram gave in to his wife's pleadings and slept with Hagar and she bore a son, Ishmael, when Abram was 86 years old.  13 years later, God changed his (Gen 17:5) and his wife's name (Gen 17:15) and then told Abram "I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee" (Gen 17:6-7).  Then, Abraham and Sarah had Isaac, whom the nation of Israel was from.  Then, due to jealousy, Sarah demanded that Abraham dismiss Haggar and Ishmael, which grieved Abraham but God said that he would bless them both but to listen to his wife and send them away (Gen 21:12-13).  [Now, historically speaking, Ishmael's descendants became modern day Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, etc. and other Muslim nations].  So, while God did bless Abraham and keep his covenant with His people, Abraham's impatience and questioning God led to the creation of a people that have been battling His people for years.

In King David's case, it was coveting that brought about polygamy, not God.  2 Samuel 11 tells of the time that King David looked upon Bathsheba with lust, arranged for an adulterated meeting, where she became pregnant.  Instead of coming clean, he designed a way to have her husband, Uriah, one of King David's champion soldiers to be killed, so that he could hide his sin from the world.  "But the thing that David had done displeased Jehovah" (2 Sam 11:27b).

Both of these, and all the other examples of polygamy you might find in the Bible, are hardly examples of God being "okay" with polygamy.  Nowhere in these or any other story shows God condoning polygamy.  God never commands anyone to marry multiple women, or a woman to an already married man.  God made it clear in Genesis how He designed marriage - one man, one woman (Gen 2:22-24).

Argument #1: He didn't tell me not to do it!  So, one might make the claim that God allowing these men to do it, or better yet, not commanding them not to, could be interpreted as God being ok with polygamy.  However, sin exists, even in the most devout.  Need an example? Read the Bible.  It is jam packed with examples of everyone being plagued by it.  (Everyone, except Jesus of course!)  We all know that sin is the polar opposite of God yet God allows for us to go through it for His glory.  Polygamy is no different.  Just because God allows His people to fall, does not mean that the action is sanctioned by Him.  Permitting sin is not the same as condoning sin.

Argument #2: He blessed me so it must be ok!  One might then make the blessing argument.  "God only blesses the righteous."  Since God would never bless a sinful relationship, then the fact that He blessed Ishmael's descendants, or King David's reign, or Abraham, or whoever, proves that they acted within God's laws.  The only problem with this argument is that it is totally un-Biblical.  Show me the verse in the Bible that says only perfect people receive His blessings?  While it is true that God blesses those who have a Biblical marriage, it is also true that He blesses homosexuals, liars, thieves, criminals, atheists, and the Dallas Cowboys.  Surely you don't think all of these people are living a holy lifestyle.  You see, God blesses whomever He chooses to bless, regardless of status, wealth, and lifestyle.  "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD." (Isaiah 55:8).  "Is it not lawful for me [the LORD] to do what I will with mine own? or is thine eye evil, because I am good?" (Matt. 20:15)  God will bless who He wants according to His own desires.  Take my life for example.  I sin everyday.  I break His laws time and time again, yet my wife loves me, my kids love me, I have a great job, and, most importantly, I am saved by the blood of the lamb.  I am truly undeservingly blessed beyond measure.  If this argument were true and God really worked like this, does that mean that every sin I commit is "ok" in the eyes of God?  Of course not.  

The truth is, God does not agree with polygamy.  Not now, not back in Biblical times, not ever.  The Bible says that God never changes (Num 23:19, Heb 13:8, James 1:17), which means neither does His laws or His views.  When God created the world, He made one man for one woman.  Period.  Mankind is the one who introduced polygamy.  Mankind is the one who tried to bend the rules.  Man is responsible for this perversion of marriage, not God.  In my opinion, the Mormon era of polygamy was created because a lot of men were deviants.  They wanted more than what God had in store for them, and when they found themselves in a position of power they abused it.  They allowed their own selfish desires to control them and led their followers into destructive lifestyles, all in the name of "righteousness".

If you're Mormon, I hope this shakes you to your core.  You have been lied to and deceived.  Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the other prophets were not following God when they decreed polygamy to be permissible by God.  That is simply not true.

If you are not Mormon, I hope this has given you a bit more to talk to your Mormon friends about.  Let this be a gateway into heavier conversations about the true God and His gospel.  Use this information to spread the good news of His glory and bring more lost sheep into His fold.

Lastly, if there is something you can take away, let it be this:  Bad things happen to those who go against God's design.  Sarah found that out the hard way.  So did Abraham.  So did David.  So have countless other people.  Don't be one of them.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Are you saved?

"As I understand what is meant by the good Christians who speak in these terms, we are "saved" when we sincerely declare or confess that we have accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.  This meaning relies on the words the Apostle Paul taught the Christians of his day: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:9-10).  To Latter-day Saints, the words saved and salvation in this teaching signify a present covenant relationship with Jesus Christ in which we are assured salvation from the consequences of sin if we are obedient.  Every sincere Latter-day Saint is "saved" according to this meaning.  We have been converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, we have experienced repentance and baptism, and we are renewing our covenants of baptism by partaking of the sacrament."
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Excerpt from "Have You Been Saved?"


     All of Christianity points to Jesus.  The gospel is framed around His death and resurrection and how it provided justification to God through His selfless and undeserved act towards mankind.  That is why a majority of Christians talk about being 'saved' because it is that hope that we rejoice over.  So whenever the Bible, the gospel, Jesus, God, etc. is brought up, most Christians will inevitably ask, "Are you saved?"  But what does that mean?  How does a person know if they are saved?  What are we saved from?    
     Well, let me tell you what being 'saved' doesn't mean.  It does not mean a person is saved from physical death.  "For as in Adam all die..." (1 Cor 15:22a).  Everyone will die.  This is the inevitable conclusion to our life on this earth.  Furthermore, being 'saved' isn't a reference to a bodily resurrection either.  "Having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust." (Acts 24:15).  The Bible says that there are two different types of people:  Those that believe in Jesus and those that don't.  However, the Bible says that it doesn't matter which side of that coin you are on, you will be resurrected.  So, since both the believer and the non believer will be brought back to life then being 'saved' cannot be a reference to our resurrection.  If it were, the question would render itself useless as the answer would always be 'yes'.
     So, what does it mean?  When a Christian asks if you are saved, they are asking about your eternal destination.  Essentially, "Are you going to heaven or hell?"  But, it's actually more involved than just that.  You see, being 'saved' implies two things:  1) That there is something to be saved from and 1) there is a person or thing that can do the saving.
     The thing to be saved from is an eternity apart from God.  Hell is very real and it is not a place one would like to go.  There's a "fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Rev 21:8) where there is a lot of  "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt 13:50).  It's a place where people suffer in eternal punishment, where your soul and resurrected body is destroyed (Matt 10:28).  This is why the Bible calls it the second death (Rev 20:13-14, 21:8).  Basically, you don't want to go there...ever.  
     Now that we know what we need to be saved from, we need to address who does the saving.  The To this, the Bible is very clear.  "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). His death on the cross was sufficient to satisfy God's requirement for justice.  It is by His blood that we are saved from the torment and destruction that awaits us because of our sinful lives.  "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal lfie..."
     So, when a person says they are saved, what they are saying is that Jesus Christ died on a cross for them.  They are exclaiming that their sins have been paid for in full by the blood of Jesus, and that they are no longer destined for hell.  They are saying that nothing they've done has warranted salvation in any sense of the word and are proclaiming that they have put all of their trust in Jesus to completely redeem them before God.  They are saved from that punishment and torment and will instead enjoy everlasting bliss and will spend an eternity with God in heaven and bask in His glory.  
     Now I can hear my Mormon friends and family saying, "Oh, well I believe that.  So, I guess by your definition, I am saved!"  I mean, that's essentially what Elder Oaks said.  But hold on a second.  You guys are most likely still misunderstanding me.  You see, the problem is that Mormonism is guilty of high-jacking Christian vernacular.  They use the same words but have different meanings.  Let me spell it out even more, so that there will be no more confusion.  When Christians talk about Jesus they mean the Jesus of the Bible, the one who is equal to God, the creator of all the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, the second member of the Godhead, God with us, God in the flesh, the Jesus who is literally God.  When Christians say that their sins are forgiven they mean that every sin - whether past, present or future - have been washed away and they stand blameless before God.  When a Christian says that there is nothing they can do they mean that it is only through their faith in Jesus they are redeemed.  They are admitting their good deeds amount to nothing and that salvation is found solely by calling on the name of Jesus.  When a Christian speaks of the afterlife, they have the belief that you can go only one of two places: heaven or hell.  When a Christian says hell, they are referring to a place of great anguish and torment, a place that is not only a fiery prison but a place where you are eternally separated from God.  When a Christian says heaven they are referring to that place in the afterlife, where God the father is seated enthroned, His angels singing His praise, and the body of believers will enjoy everlasting peace and joy.  
     Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the road.  A distinction is starting to form in your minds between Mormon theology and Christian theology.  You see, it is only when we define these common terms and get down to the substance of it all that we can actually get anywhere.  If we are using this definition of 'saved', the definition that all Christians are using, then most Mormons would likely have admit that they are not saved.  Oh, but wait...I can hear my friends forming arguments in their heads:
  • Who are you to tell who is saved and who isn't?
  • This is all based on YOUR definitions and interpretations
  • What authority do you have to speak for these other Christians on what salvation means?
  • Your premises are all way off, buddy!
  • If you knew the fullness of the gospel, then you'd see we're not that different.  
  • We know more about this stuff than you because of our modern day prophets and revelations.
  • You're playing the semantics game!
     Look, lets just be honest.  All of Christianity believes on 'my' definition of being saved.  That is just simple fact.  If you don't believe me, go and talk to a pastor at any Christian church near you and find out for yourself.  Have them read this blog if you're having trouble conveying 'my' definition.  Seriously, do it!  I'm 100% positive that they'll confirm it.  And you know why?  Because that is what being 'saved' means.  And this is because it is not my definition but the Bible's.  
     Furthermore, the most important part of going to heaven is getting to be in the presence of God the Father.  Yes, it is a beautiful paradise where joy and suffering are no more, but that is because we are in the presence of the Holy One.  In Mormonism, this "heaven" is only accomplished if one makes it to the Celestial kingdom, which is the highest of their three degrees of glory.  As such, Christians would define the other two Mormon "heavens" as just better versions of hell.  My friend Kevin Young from the band Disciple says it best in their song "My Hell".   

"This was my hell
living without you here
Even heaven is hell
if somehow You were not there"

     But, in order to go to that heaven, Mormons teach that in addition to believing in Jesus there are other things that you must do or receive to be admitted.  "There are three kingdoms, or degrees of glory...[and] the Lord has prescribed requirements for eternal life in the celestial kingdom.  We must receive the testimony of Jesus, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and keep the commandments (see D&C 76:51-52).  We must overcome all things by faith and be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (see D&C 76:53,60). [Furthermore,] we must comply with the new and everlasting covenant of marriage (see D&C 131:1-3)." (click here for more information).  
     Using the correct definition of 'saved' includes a part where there is absolutely nothing we can do to be saved.  Or in other words, anything we do will not help our situation.  We cannot get a better seat in heaven if we obey more than any body else, or send a check to humanitarian efforts, or help an old lady cross the street.  Salvation, being saved, getting into heaven rests completely on the efforts and blood of our Savior, Jesus.  By contrast, Mormonism teaches that you need Jesus, but you also need to be baptized and get married in the LDS Temple, among other things.  Do you see the difference?  Are you listening?  If not, let me make it as clear as day.
  • The Mormon equivalent to Christian heaven is the Celestial Kingdom
  • How does one get to heaven/celestial kingdom?
    • Biblical Christian's answer: JESUS
*Keep in mind, I am only talking about being saved, salvation, or what the Bible calls "Justification."  Yes, keeping the commandments, baptism, etc. are important, but they are used for sanctification, or the process of making one Holy.  They are, however, completely unnecessary and useless in terms of Justification.  

Now do you see the difference in theology?

     The Bible says there is no other name by which you are saved.  That means that only Jesus can save you.  He is the way.  Period.  So, if you pair Jesus' blood and work on the cross with anything else (ceremonies, actions, ordinances, etc.) then it becomes a gospel of Jesus+, and that is straight up heresy.  Besides, Jesus does not need your help to save you.  I mean, why would God need your help to do anything?  He's all powerful, all knowing, all creating, all glorious, and completely Holy.  And you
     Instead of listening to Nephi (2 Nephi 25:23) and LDS prophets and Quorum members tell you that it takes Jesus+ to be 'saved', why not just trust the words of Jesus?

 "Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life.   No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)

"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)

"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live" (John 11:25)

"Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. ...Truly, truly I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. ...I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. ...For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:29-40)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." (John 5:24)

Monday, April 11, 2016

Who are we?

Our views, especially religious based, depend a lot on how we view ourselves.  Our perception regarding who we are, our place, our lot in life molds and shapes how we live out our lives.  Our actions are mostly dictated by these presuppositions.  I assume that most people view themselves as being a 'good' person.  As such, they take care to live in a way that reinforces this self-perception.  They may give to charity, coach in their spare time, feed the homeless, or other such selfless acts. On the other hand, if a person views them self as being worthless then they might live their life in doom and gloom, thinking that nothing they do matters or makes any difference in the world or the lives of the people around them.  Perception is everything.  

I was talking to a Mormon friend of mine the other day and we got on the topic of who we are, according to God and the Bible.  Basically, are we 'good' people or not?  After a few minutes, we quickly came to the conclusion that we completely disagreed with each other.  I wanted to share with you what he had to say on the subject (paraphrased):

"How sad to think that some people see themselves as wretched, filthy, or 'dirty, rotten, sinners'.  God is love and He does not see us like that at all!  We (humans) are inherently good people who occasionally make mistakes.  Our lives have value and worth because we are the sons and daughters of God (literally).  And because we are His children, God wants what's best for us, and desires for us to be like Him and has laid out the (Mormon) gospel in such a way to help us achieve that."

I want to ask you - the one reading this blog - a question.  Do you agree or disagree with my friend?  I would encourage you to take a moment or two and really answer this question for yourself.  Go on...I'll wait.  

Have you done it yet?  Good!  So, now, that you've had some time to think about it, let me ask you one more question, and I think the more important of the two.  Does my friend agree with what the Bible says?  

Let's explore this last question using the Bible.

Ephesians 2:1-3
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom we all also once lived in the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed of the flesh and of its thoughts; and we were by nature children of wrath even as the rest."

Isaiah 64:6 (emphasis mine)
"But we are all as unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."

1 John 1:8
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Romans 3:23 (emphasis mine)
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Ecclesiastes 7:20
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.

Proverbs 20:9
Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?

Jeremiah 17:9
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Mark 7:21-23 (emphasis mine)
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.

Psalm 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me

Romans 7:18
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

There are various other passages that can be used to define "total depravity" but I thought these would suffice to prove my point.  According to the world's standard, yes, one might say they are good.  So long as they don't go to jail, murder anyone, or any major crimes like that and if they pay their taxes, throw their trash away, go to work, help old ladies cross the street, or whatever they can call themselves a good person.  But, if you claim - like I do - to love God and follow His word (Bible) then you have no choice but to hold yourself to His higher standard and come to a very different conclusion.  In fact, you should come up with the exact opposite conclusion: You are not good at all.  And why do you get to this fact?  Because you are a sinner, and God does not take that lightly.  "For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You" (Psalm 5:4).  It makes sense that a Holy, Holy, Holy God would despise sin and completely separate Himself from it and those guilty of it because it can't even dwell in His presence.  Sin is His polar opposite.  Therefore, it is by this standard that we should look at ourselves, and by this standard where we receive a true answer to our question.

Truth be told, the Bible says there is no 'good' person alive.  Even those that do some good, realistically, those deeds are nothing but filth to God.  Our sins have seeped so deeply into our lives and our unrighteousness has dug us so deep a hole that we have absolutely no hope to even think we are even in the same vicinity as 'good'.  Our hearts and minds are wicked and evil.  And though we may desire to do good in the eyes of God, we are completely powerless to do otherwise.

But, is this such a surprise to you?  I mean, you know you're a sinner, right?  I mean, we all make mistakes.  Furthermore, if you were to honestly look at your own track record, you'd even have to admit that you fail according to your own standards.  For instance, how many promises have you broken to yourself?  How many times have you come short of what even you yourself would consider to be a 'good' person?  I'm guessing quite a few times, as have I.  How much more then have you...have I....have we all fallen from the Holy standard of God?  Moreover, God is clear that this reality is not reserved for the lowly or the mighty, to just the Jews, or the gentiles, or to the rich, or the poor, or whatever.  This failure is across the board.  It goes for everyone...every one...EVERYONE.  All of us are guilty and have fallen short.  It doesn't matter who you are, you stand condemned.

When I told my friend this he was audibly taken aback.  My friend asked, "Does this make you feel good?  Do you like hearing about how much of a failure you are?  Thinking that God sees you this way, does this make you feel good about yourself?"  To be honest...No.  No it doesn't.  But that doesn't change the fact that this is who I am.

HOWEVER...luckily, the good news is not in how we measure up to God's standard, or how the Bible describes us, but rather in how God dealt with this reality and demonstrated His glory, His love, His power, and His grace through His son, Jesus.

John 15:3
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Romans 5:8
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Ephesians 2:4-5
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

So, yes, you are unworthy!  Yes, you are unclean!  Yes, you are a sinner!  Yes, you have failed!  Yes, you stand condemned! and no, you can't do anything to change that! But, know this also...God loves you! Yes, you can be forgiven!  Yes, you do have worth in the eyes of the Creator!  Yes, if you believe on His name, you will be saved!  No, you don't have to go to hell!  And yes, yes, yes, God is good! And of course, yes, all praise and honor and glory to the Father, forever and ever, amen!

You see, it was only when I was willing to honestly look myself for who I really was (according to the Bible) that I came to the realization that I needed to be forgiven, that I needed to be saved, that I needed redemption, that I needed grace, that I needed Jesus!  Thinking like this no longer brings despair or sadness, but great joy!  Yes, Lord, I am unholy...but You lord alone are 'good' and I worship You!  You have cleansed me and forgiven me and I will never forget that fact!  You gave me Your grace and now I am whole and I stand blameless before God because of You!  I stand with the angels and all of creation singing Your praises because You are my redeemer!  

It's not that I am bringing myself down so that I can raise God up, like some sort of religious pulley system (He doesn't need my help to be lifted high anyways).  Rather, I recognize how I truly stand before His throne and in doing so, I can now see God for who He really is!  You see, if I viewed myself as a 'good' person, I might deceive myself into thinking that I can earn salvation and lose sight of God.  I might act like I can do something right according to my own will and gain entry into His kingdom.  And you know what?  If I did that, I would end up losing my soul for all eternity.  Instead, I know who I am, I know what I've done, and I know that "Though [my] sins are like scarlet, they [are now] white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they [are] like wool" (Isaiah 1:18) all because of the blood of the perfect lamb, Jesus.