Personal Online Journal

Friday, March 17, 2017

How to Transform and Sanctify Beings With Impure Hearts

I love how James L. Ferrell puts justification and sanctification, and justice and mercy in perspective.
Why do we need to turn to Christ? And how, exactly, does the gospel invite us to turn to him? 
To address these questions, we need to understand both our current condition and our eternal possibilities. What is our current condition? As we discussed in the last chapter, our condition is that we are separated from God. To use a metaphor from the last chapter, he is Light and we are not, and we are therefore inescapably apart from him. But what does this really mean? 
Here, another analogy might help us. A good friend of mine spent many years as a judge. He presided over hundreds of drug cases. All were more or less just cases to him until, one day, he lifted his head to see his neighbor standing before him. Things were suddenly entirely more personal. And yet, there was a law, and that law had been broken. He might have liked to set his neighbor free, but what kind of justice would that be if he didn’t do the same for all the others? But if he did the same for all the others as well, what would become of the notion of justice? Or mercy, for that matter? If none are guilty, then mercy is rendered meaningless as well. 
So what problem confronted this neighbor? Two, actually. The first was that he had violated the law in a serious way, and these violations required punishment. In this case, the facts were such that the man needed to go to jail. And his friend was the one who needed to send him there. There is no escape from such personal consequence for violations of the laws of this world. The only way that a violator of such a law can be justified and set free again is for him to pay whatever consequence is associated with the transgression. 
But this man had a second problem, even graver than the first. My friend has told me of the dismal repeat-offender statistics for drug users. After jail terms have been served, justifying their release, the overwhelming majority of offenders nationwide end up before yet another judge for the same or worse offenses and suffer the same consequence as before—over and over and over again. The first problem in such cases is that there has been a violation of the law, but the bigger problem is that the weaknesses and desires that led to those violations in the first place have not been overcome. Although their time served in prison had justified them in the eyes of the law for past offenses, it failed to sanctify them from the weaknesses and desires that had led them to commit those offenses and that would yet induce them to transgress in the future. 
These twin principles of justification and sanctification play a central role in our own situations relative to God. We, too, have two problems. The first is that we have violated the laws of God—our hands, the scriptures say, are “unclean.” The second problem is that our hearts are impure—that is, we still desire things that are not holy. Why is this a problem? Because anything that is unholy cannot be with God. We “must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness,” the scriptures say, “that [we] may be prepared for [his] glory.” “For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.” In other words, unless and until our hearts and desires and wills are sanctified as the Lord’s, we will never be able to be with and see the Father as he really is, in the fulness of his glory. Which is to say that the only way to overcome the problem of never being able to catch up to light is to be made light ourselves. 
The problem of life—the problem that the whole plan of salvation and redemption was conceived to solve—is how to transform and sanctify beings whose impure hearts, desires, and wills cannot abide the glory of God into beings whose hearts, desires, and wills can abide that glory. We are, as it were, the repeat drug offender. We must not only be justified or forgiven for past sins but must also be sanctified from any desire for sin. How else could God entrust us with his power?
("Falling to Heaven: The Surprising Path to Happiness", James L. Ferrell p.49)?


No Service Which is Vile Can be Done to Me

I think there are many in the world who have experienced significant happiness in their lives even if they do not believe in Christ. Some of the best people I have ever known come from different religious traditions and belief structures, some of which do not include any concept of a Savior. But they love their families. They love their neighbors. They are honest and hardworking and humble. They are willing to see their faults and not to frantically ignore or gloss over them. They are humbly “down” as we have been discussing. And, when they are, I would suggest that they are humbly down before Christ even if they don’t know that they are. 
A passage in one of C. S. Lewis’s books is instructive here. In the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, there is an exchange between the Christ-figure, who is the lion Aslan, and a man who for all his life had been the devoted follower of a wicked and false god known as Tash. When he realized that he had been serving the wrong master, the man fell before Aslan, expecting to be destroyed. But Aslan—the “Glorious One”—“bent down his golden head and touched [the man’s] forehead with his tongue” and said:
Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. . . . I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.
I believe that the Lord’s grace is immense enough that he blesses people with his Spirit even if they know nothing about it. The world over, there are those who are, in effect, kneeling before him even though they don’t know who he is. But he knows who they are. He knows them, and he knows their hearts. And when they or we bow in humble recognition of our faults, we bow before him and are blessed of him. ("Falling to Heaven: The Surprising Path to Happiness", James L. Ferrell p.27)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

“Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds”

How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken.  Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art!  Then, let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!
“Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds”, Apr 1991, Neal A. Maxwell
 1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
 4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.
(Heb 12:1-4)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What does it mean to "grind the faces of the poor"?

I remember a Sunday School teacher talking about this scripture. For some reason I pictured someone putting another's face to a millstone. The kind that is used to grind grain into flour. I imagined that they were doing it do they could glut themselves from the labor of the other.

Avarice is a trap that we must all guard ourselves against. We must " not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish....For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have"? (Mosiah 4:16-19)

On the other hand, to those that are poor, King Benjamin says, "I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received." (Mosiah 4:24-25)

From a FB Post

Friday, March 03, 2017

Judge Righteous Judgments

This morning, I was listening to "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling" from the Jan 2012 CES Devotional by Elder Jeffrey R Holland

I like his explanation of "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment." (John 7:24)
In this regard—this call for compassion and loyalty to the commandments—there is sometimes a chance for a misunderstanding, especially among young people who may think we are not supposed to judge anything, that we are never to make a value assessment of any kind. We have to help each other with that because the Savior makes it clear that in some situations we have to judge, we are under obligation to judge
In this process of evaluation, we are not called on to condemn others, but we are called upon to make decisions every day that reflect judgment—we hope good judgment. Elder Dallin H. Oaks once referred to these kinds of decisions as “intermediate judgments,” which we often have to make for our own safety or for the safety of others, as opposed to what he called “final judgments,” which can only be made by God, who knows all the facts. (Remember, in the scripture quoted earlier, that the Savior said these are to be “righteous judgments,” not self-righteous judgments, which is a very different thing.)