30 August 2022

"...come unto me and be baptized..."

The verse before was a simple statement of the "good news" of Christ found in the Book of Mormon, framed in the cleanliness needed to be with God in the hereafter.  Now, Christ commands us in what needs to be done to be cleansed by the Savior:

3 Nephi 27

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.

The fourth Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a statement of belief around these principles and ordinances:

“We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

There has already been much said of faith and repentance previously in the blog, but the concept of the Holy Ghost is included here and bears some thought.

Whether you consider the Holy Ghost as a part of the Godhead or just as the influence of God in our lives, this verse points out its power to sanctify.  When we commit ourselves to Christ through the outward ordinance of baptism, God acknowledges that commitment by a gift of the Holy Ghost, a constant guide and companion, to help us become better followers of Jesus.  Our willingness to follow promptings from the Spirit brings further inspiration - if we ignore those promptings or do wickedly, we drive the Spirit away and are left on our own.

I personally attest to the divine origin of prompting of the Holy Spirit.  As I pray and work to be obedient to the Lord's commandments, I have been inspired to do many things that have blessed my life and the lives of others. Of course, I repent and change to improve and I have been baptized and work to keep the commitments I have made to Christ, which makes the regular companionship of the Spirit possible, as Jesus mentions in this verse.

29 August 2022

"...no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom;..."

Jesus continues to spiral into a very short and direct statement of the gospel itself.  I'll follow suit.

3 Nephi 27

19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

I know there are many ideas of what "salvation" is.  Christ puts it in a very stark light - salvation is to be clean and in God's kingdom. So much for disputations on what salvation is.

Then, we are told that we are only saved through being clean through Jesus' blood or his atonement for us.  He cleans us and makes us fit for God's kingdom.  He does it "because" of faith in Christ, "repentance of all their sins", and faithfulness until death.  Christ has specific qualifications for the cleansing he can do and they are all actions or works that must be done.

Doing these things does not cleanse us. Christ cleans us. However, Jesus won't clean us for entering the kingdom of God unless he sees our individual effort on the requirements he has spoken in this short verse. 

This is very clear and very specific.  Put your trust in Christ and what he can do, become obedient to his commandments, and keep doing all of this and following his example for as long as you live.  As you do this, Jesus cleans you and brings you to the rest of God's kingdom.  It is simple and easy to understand, yet challenging to do.  

25 August 2022

"...be lifted up..."

I continue to slowly move along the Savior's great spiral, adding more and more information and focus on his gospel from a seemingly innocuous question. 

3 Nephi 27

13 Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.

14 And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—

15 And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.

Christ came into the world to be the Messiah, which was the mission that God the Father assigned to him. Jesus was completely focused on his role in the great plan, the largest part was to take upon himself our sins (if we will repent, which comes up soon enough in this spiral lecture), suffer and die for them, and become our ultimate judge. The actions of our Savior give us the opportunity to grow from mistakes and sins, learn to choose the better course and to "be good" rather than evil. As Jesus says "I will draw all men unto me" which is to "be lifted up" toward the Savior by God the Father, just as Christ was lifted up on a cross.   We all have that opportunity and there is a reminder that Jesus will be our judge in the end - did we take advantage of the chance he gave us to improve, or did we not?

He reminds us yet again (and again) that ultimate judgement is based on our "works", perhaps a nod to the fact that many will interpret that the things we do are not important to the Messiah, which is incorrect.

I am trying to remember how grateful I should be for the huge gift Christ provided for all of us - judgement and punishment are largely moved into the future so that we can make corrections in our lives now. Jesus does not absolve us of our unrepented sins, but he will forgive us of the wrongs we have done if we change to become more like him.  That is the gospel or "good news" of Christ.

23 August 2022

Christ's "Rewards and Punishments" Two-Edged Sword

I am still looking at the "spiral" nature of the Savior's answers to questions, building and expanding on what he has said before.  This chapter begins with a rather simple question from the disciples on what the name of the Church should be.  Christ has already addressed that there should be no contention at all, much less about such things; gives reasons and logic about how the church should be named; and now provides what might be considered threats to those who would steer the Church via any doctrine other than his own:

3 Nephi 27

10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.

11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.

12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.

This is yet another example of a Messiah who, along with caring for and loving those who diligently follow and obey him, will also "hewn down and cast into the fire" those who work their own private agendas through the instrumentality of the Church. People come to the Church to get the gospel of Christ unvarnished and terrible things await those who use the Church for other purposes.

We should expect to see the Father's own works in the Church. Things like abuse and unrighteous dominion will be punished in the end with a metaphorical or even literal "burning". There is much bally-ho among denominations regarding grace vs. works (more of that contention) and I think these verses, along with others, indicate that all will be judged on "their works (that) do follow them", "because of their works that they are hewn down".  This seems like clear talk to me - Christ's grace works alongside judgement for our works.

These versus are further statements of Christ's loving watch-care shepherding of his follower sheep and fierce punishments that await those who have worked their own will counter to the gospel of the Shepherd. Jesus has said, here and in other places, exactly what we can expect from him and his Church. The only question is if we will follow him and reap the rewards of keeping his commandments and being loyal and loving sheep, or if we will *work* our own agendas rather than his and suffer being "hewn down and cast into the fire".

14 August 2022

"...the same shall be saved at the last day."

A young man spoke to us at a conference today, mentioning the best answers to questions are ones that expand beyond the original query.  For instance, the question "should I get married?" gets answered and beyond in the response "Young men should prepare to be good husbands and fathers."  You see the expansion? Beyond marriage, you should look forward to doing a good job for your wife and kids!

I just read an example of this from the Lord.  The disciple leaders of the Church in the Book of Mormon pray for the Savior to help them with a problem.  Christ himself comes and they ask him how the Church should be called and how there was some contention over this.  Here was his response.

3 Nephi 27

4 And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?

5 Have they not read the scriptures, which say ye must take upon you the name of Christ, which is my name? For by this name shall ye be called at the last day;

6 And whoso taketh upon him my name, and endureth to the end, the same shall be saved at the last day.

There is a bit of chastisement, which previous scriptures tell us is quite common from the Lord, and then he goes beyond what they asked for: Christ focuses on the requirements of salvation.  Verse 6 says that we need to take upon us his name, which is what is done at authoritative baptism, and then to endure as a busy disciple of Christ throughout our lives. These are the core elements of salvation and the Church, in its name and purpose, is the structure through which Christ provides authoritative baptisms and training and support toward good discipleship.

The name of Christ's church may seem a small matter to some, but Jesus made it obvious that it is important, not just as a name, but as a vehicle for accomplishing the Savior's purposes.  You might very well find other places where Christ and his prophets and apostles go beyond answering our seemingly simple questions to teach us larger principles and expand our understanding.