Thursday, November 11, 2010

Made With Hands

A Brief Exposition of the LDS Temple & Questions for the Active-Temple-going Mormon

When commuting through the southern-most part of the Salt Lake Valley, we often see three different temples from various vantage points. Then, just take a 20 minute drive northward and we find the Salt Lake City Temple, the very epicenter of this unique city. These, of course, are the temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. LDS (Latter-day Saint) temples are not only in the state of Utah; they are located all throughout the U.S. and various other parts of the world. As of October 2010, there were 134 temples in operation, 7 under construction, and 16 that have been recently announced. Most who see these structures and their surroundings are impressed by their beauty and grandeur. Leadership and membership of the LDS Church proclaim these temples to be sacred houses of the Lord, where select members perform their religious ceremonies on a regular basis. They firmly believe the temples to be the most sacred places on earth, where earth meets heaven. The current President and Prophet of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, stated the following about the temples: "I think there is no place in the world where I feel closer to the Lord than in one of His holy temples."

LDS members firmly believe that the Lord has commanded them to build these temples throughout the world, so that members would have easier access to worship God and make sacred promises with him. Access into these temples, however, is not free for all. When it comes to access into the Lord’s houses, according to LDS Doctrine, only “worthy” members have that privilege. The one and only exception is when a temple is first built; the LDS Church allows for anyone (members and non-members) to tour the inside of certain parts of that temple when it is first built. However, once the temple has been “dedicated” with prayer by their leadership, only select members have access. One must earn his “worthiness,” however; it is not just freely given to every member of the LDS Church. In order to have access into the Lord’s houses, one must earn what’s called their “Temple Recommend.”

Temporary recommends are also rewarded to “worthy” members, ages 12 and up, for the purpose of performing one of their religious ceremonies, known as baptism for the dead. Adult members can be rewarded their official Temple Recommend if they prove their worthiness. How does one prove their worthiness? First of all, they must be a faithful member for at least one year. They must have a testimony of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and of the modern-day prophets and apostles of the LDS Church. On top of that, they must obey all of God’s Commandments and the Laws of Chastity, Tithing, and the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89 – “no use or intake of tobacco, alcohol, coffee (interpreted from “hot drinks”), tea (interpreted from “hot drinks”), or harmful drugs”). These are the basic requirements, the bare minimum, for those who are seeking access. One must live out at least these requirements to earn their Temple Recommend, and one must maintain these in order to keep it.
Ceremonies performed within the temples, along with the aforementioned baptism for the dead, include the following: endowment (members are given the gift of the power of God, necessary for exaltation into the highest heaven), temple marriage (members are sealed for time and all eternity), and other sealings (members are sealed to their children, for example; eternal families are strongly emphasized). These ceremonies and the requirement to follow all of the given commandments are necessary for the “perfecting of the saints.”

The LDS Church’s “Threefold Mission” is to proclaim their gospel, perfect the Latter-day Saints, and redeem the dead (through baptism for the dead). Members who have done their religious duty within the temple can freely share what it looks like within and what they felt during their experience. However, they are highly discouraged from sharing the specifics of what goes on within a temple and the various words that are used in their ceremonies, for they are too sacred to be freely discussed with outsiders. A common response is not that they are secret, but that they are sacred. We are not going to go into detail on the individual ceremonies, the pure white garments that are worn by temple attendees, and the symbolism used on the inside and outside of the temples. There is so much more to share, but this was to be a brief exposition.

As for the priesthood, the LDS Church makes this proclamation and believes it to be one of the main pillars of their religion: They firmly belief that the LDS Church is the one and only true Church on earth that holds the proper priesthood authority. Back in the early 1800’s their main Prophet and Seer, Joseph Smith Jr., had claimed that he had been sent by God to restore the true Church to the earth, since the Christian Church had gone into a state of total apostasy after the last Apostle had died around the First Century. Through various means, Smith also claimed that God had conferred unto him, and his followers, the Aaronic and the Melchizedek Priesthoods. Men were first ordained high priests within the LDS Church in the city of Kirtland, Ohio in the year 1831. Later, their first temple had been constructed in Kirtland, in the year 1836. Interestingly, temple work (referred to as “ordinance work”) was not first performed in this temple. It was first performed in the second temple, which was built in the 1840’s in Nauvoo, Illinois. This second temple, however, was purportedly destroyed by arson fire in the year 1848. Joseph Smith claimed to have learned from God that temples were to be constructed to enable all the functions of the restored priesthood to be properly exercised on earth. His claim was that the early Christian Church had once performed temple worship (as performed by LDS members) and it ceased when the Church had gone into apostasy. Smith’s mission back then and the LDS Church’s mission today was and is proclaimed as being the restoration of everything that mankind had corrupted pertaining to God’s purpose for the Church on earth; and the function of the temples and the priesthood is believed to be central to the purpose of the LDS Church.

For the active-temple going Mormon, here are 10 important questions:

1 – Acts 7:47-50 says, "Solomon built him (God) an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven [is] my throne, and earth [is] my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what [is] the place of my rest? Hath not my hand made all these things?” Also, Acts 17:24 says, "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands."

QUESTION: Does God need temples in order for mankind to have access to the highest degree of heaven from earth? If yes, how does that go in line with John 14:6, since the Father is in the highest degree of heaven and since the passage does not read “… but by me AND the house of the Lord?”

2 – Isaiah 56:7 says, "... them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices [shall be] accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people."

QUESTION: If the Lord’s house was to be called a “house of prayer for all people,” why is there not a strong emphasis of having prayer services for all members within and without the temples? Why is the temple not accessible to ALL members of the LDS Church for prayer, when it was to be “for all people?”

3 - 1 Samuel 1:9 shows the first mention of temple in the Bible: "So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple (tabernacle at this point in time) of the LORD." And Revelation 21:22 shows the last mention of temple in the Bible: "And I saw no temple therein (within New Jerusalem): for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it."

QUESTION: First, do you know of the Dead Sea Scrolls? They date back prior to Christ’s day on earth. These manuscripts are sufficient proof that the Old Testament is the same Old Testament we have today (not corrupted by man). Also, there are literally thousands of manuscripts which date back to the early centuries to back up what we have today in our New Testament (not corrupted by man).

With that being said, why is there absolutely no mention of “ordinance work” being performed in the temple within the Bible (from 1 Samuel to Revelation), as performed by the LDS Church today? Why did Jesus not mention it or command it, if it was necessary? Where is it mentioned in your own writing of the Book of Mormon, since it supposedly contains the “fullness of the gospel?”

4 – Leviticus 17:8-11 says, “... Thou shalt say unto them, Whatsoever man [there be] of the house of Israel, or of the strangers which sojourn among you, that offereth a burnt offering or sacrifice, And bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer it unto the LORD; even that man shall be cut off from among his people. And whatsoever man [there be] of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.”

QUESTION: Blood sacrifice was a central act of worship to God in the Old Testament, performed under the Aaronic Priesthood. This was in place to make an atonement for the souls of the people. If the Aaronic Priesthood has been fully restored by the LDS Church, why is there absolutely no emphasis on blood sacrifice?

5 - Hebrews 9:22 says, "... almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission (forgiveness)."

QUESTION: If there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood, how does one receive forgiveness of sins? Whose blood must be shed?

6 - Hebrews 9:6-12 says, "Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle (in the wilderness), accomplishing the service [of God]. But into the second (the temple) [went] the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and [for] the errors of the people: The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
Which [was] A FIGURE (a symbol) for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; [Which stood] only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed [on them] until the time of reformation. But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle (Himself), not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption [for us]."
Hebrews 10:1 says, “For the law having A SHADOW of good things to come, [and] not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”

QUESTION: If the temple, the priesthood, and what was performed in the temple under the Law was a “figure” or a “shadow” of Jesus Christ and what He would accomplish in His sacrifice and resurrection in the New Testament, why bring back it all back?

7 - Hebrews 7:21-27 says, "(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou [art] a priest FOR EVER after the order of Melchisedec:) By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this [man], because he continueth ever, hath an UNCHANGEABLE priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God BY HIM, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an High Priest became us, [who is] holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself."

QUESTION: If God promised that Jesus would forever be a Priest after the order of Melchizedek and it would be unchangeable, since Jesus lives forever, why is there a change in the LDS Church? If Jesus, the High Priest, lives forever to make intercession for us and to save us, why is there a need for mere men to hold this Priesthood? Can men even meet the description of the One who holds this Priesthood?: holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, made higher than the heavens, and who needs absolutely no sacrifice (Jesus offered Himself as the perfect, eternal sacrifice)?

8 - John 4:20-24 says, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God [is] a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship [him] in spirit and in truth."

QUESTION: According to the words of Jesus, is it possible for mankind to offer up true worship that pleases the Father, even if there is no physical building to offer it from?

9 – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of
God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

QUESTION: If the Christian is God’s temple, where the Holy Spirit dwells, and their High Priest is Jesus Christ Himself, why is there a need for physical temples and the LDS priesthood?

10 - Romans 3:10-20 says, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat [is] an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps [is] under their lips: Whose mouth [is] full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet [are] swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery [are] in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin."

QUESTION: You may boast of keeping the commandments of the Bible and what has been given by the LDS Church, in order to earn your “worthiness” to receive your Temple Recommend. However, are you truly “worthy” to appear before the Holy God of the Bible, in light of the previous Scripture?

Charles H. Spurgeon, old-time Preacher, wrote these words: “Persons of merely formal religion cannot understand how we can rejoice that all our sins are forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Their works, and prayers, and ceremonies, give them very poor comfort; and well may they be uneasy, for they are neglecting the one great salvation, and endeavoring to get remission (forgiveness) without blood.”

John Piper, Baptist Pastor and Author, wrote these words: “When Christ died and rose again, the old temple was replaced by the globally accessible Christ. You may come to him without moving a muscle. He is as close as faith.”

In other words, you do not need physical temples (“Made With Hands”) nor do you need the priesthood of the LDS Church. Your works will in no way bring you forgiveness of sins before a Holy God. There needs to be a heart change. What the LDS Church has in place cannot change a man’s heart and is not Biblical in any sense. It is actually an offense to God and an affront to Jesus Christ and what He has done. Jesus said these words: "I say unto you, That in this place is [one] greater than the temple." He is to be the focus alone. The Gospel (Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) is sufficient enough to bring us redemption and justification. God (John 1:1, 14) is the ONLY one that can change a man’s heart. It is ONLY by His blood that our sins can be forgiven and completely washed away. Repent and believe the Gospel, and the One true High Priest will be accessible to you by faith, whomever you are and wherever you may be.

In Spirit and Truth,

One Clay Soldier among many

Monday, August 02, 2010

In our weakness, God's strength!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with admitting our weakness! The scriptures exhort members of the body of Christ to admit our faults to one another and to pray for one another continually (James 5:16). When we open up in such a way to others, however, we sometimes concern ourselves with how someone might react. There is sometimes a feeling of vulnerability in being completely transparent. If we are open and honest about our lives, we can admit that we have our struggles. Truly, we need to pull together in unity in these trying times, encourage one another, and lift up one another in prayer.

The awesome part about it is this, in our weakness there is always an opportunity for God's strength, the power of Christ, to be magnified in our lives. And when it comes to our faults, there is always an opportunity for us to admit them to one another and to pray for one another, so that God's righteousness and holiness will shine through. Ultimately, Jesus Christ is to be the focal point in our lives and it only matters how God Himself sees us through His Son. As Christians, our desire should be for God to be glorified in all that we say and do. When we are willing to be transparent to others and reach out to others around us (Not just within the bounds of a church building! Reach out to others throughout the week, not just on Wednesdays and Sundays!), God is truly glorified.

Did you know that God can be glorified through your weakness? Did you ever think that if you open up to other members in the body of Christ (beyond the building) that God can use your weakness for His glory? Paul the Apostle wrote these words, "Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 C. 12:7-10)

Paul understood that it was not about him. He knew that it was all about God. God is the One that should be exalted! His grace is sufficient! His strength is more than enough! What I'm getting at is this, what we really need is the power of Christ. This power is readily available for every single Christian in the world. And we need to share this with one another in true fellowship. What is fellowship? Well, it is not just limited to meeting on Wednesdays, Sundays, and sometimes Saturdays. "But what if we had some food and opened up the Bible every meeting, does that count?" Meeting on these days and going through the Bible is great. Having food together, yummy! Praying together, even better. However, we could actually attend all of these meetings and still miss the whole point of fellowship. True fellowship is going through the Bible together, praying together, and even eating together. With that, however, there should also come ... being there for one another, being open to each other, and loving one another.

We can admit our weakness to one another ... it's ok. God's strength will be magnified! In this time, when we are facing various struggles in our lives, we need to be there for one another. Actually, we need to be there for one another at all times, loving one another as the Bible commands, but even more so in these times. Do you realize what kind of opportunity we have to reach this community for God's Kingdom? If we live in such a way that it is apparent that we are part of a living body (a healthy body which has members that actually care for one another), we will reach this community for His Kingdom.

God's strength, not ours!

One Clay Soldier among many

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Christian's Answer to the First Vision

Imagine you lived in a time in history when travelling long distances was done mainly by horse-drawn carriage, a time when you had to live solely off of the fruit of the land, a time when candlelight was your main source of light at night. Sounds like a long time ago. However, it really wasn't that long ago; just a century or so. The time period addressed in this article is that of a professing prophet of God by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr., who lived just under two centuries ago. His claim in his day was that he had a vision of God and His Son Jesus Christ in a grove of trees in Palmyra, New York, around the year 1820. In his vision, referred to as "The First Vision" by the prophet's faithful followers, Smith claimed that he was told by Jesus himself that he should join no Christian Church, "... for they (all churches in the entire world) were all wrong ... all their creeds (even the Bible allegedly became corrupted) were an abomination in his sight ... (and) those professors were all corrupt." He also claimed to be specially chosen by God to restore the true Church of Christ to the earth. This was not just a reformation to the existing Christian Church; it was to be a complete restoration of the Church to the earth. (Smith's claim is that the Church that Christ had built (Matthew 16:18) ceased to exist shortly after the last Apostle died.)

Now, once again, imagine that you were living in the time in which this event allegedly took place. (And it's really not too difficult to imagine, since it wasn't that long ago.) How do you think you personally would have responded to the claims of Joseph Smith? There are really only two ways to respond to his claims, after you searched it out thoroughly: You can embrace what he claimed with all of your being because your eternity is at stake or you can reject what he claimed with all of your being because your eternity is at stake. What Joseph Smith taught was either from God or it wasn't; there is absolutely no middle ground. Perhaps we need to fast forward to the present day to get a better perspective on this. What if a young man (around the age of 14) appeared on the national news today, claiming to be God's prophet? What if he preached that every Christ-follower today was wrong and that he was the only one sharing the whole truth from God? How would you respond to that?

What we are getting at is this ... how can we really know what is from God and what is not? Have we been left alone on this earth by God to determine what is right and what is wrong? According to the Bible, absolutely not! Throughout history many have claimed to be representatives of God. Some have been found to be true and many have been found to be false. Joseph Smith, Jr., was either a true representative of God or he was a false prophet. Jesus Christ said these words: "Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many ... if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect ..." (Matthew 24:4-5, 23-27)

Now if the Lord Himself gave warning against those bringing in deception, then it must be true that God has not left us alone to determine what is right and what is wrong. If Jesus warned us of false Christs and false prophets, then there must be some way we can protect ourselves from what is false. There must be a way of testing someone that is claiming to be a representative of God.

There is a way and it is very simple.

God says ...

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn [you] away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

False prophet =

If a professing prophet gives a sign or a wonder (even if it comes to pass) and that prophet directs you to other gods.

God says ...

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that [is] the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, [but] the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

False prophet =

If a professing prophet presumes to speak words in God's name, words that God never commanded, and/or speaks in the name of other gods.

If that prophet makes a prophecy and it does not come to pass.

So was Joseph Smith, Jr., truly a prophet of God? If you use this simple test on what he taught, you will find that he was indeed a false prophet. He spoke to turn people away from the LORD God of the Bible. He spoke words that the LORD God never commanded. He made prophecies that did not come to pass. One case in point is this ... what proof is there outside of the words of Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon that any of the events within the Book of Mormon even took place? There is absolutely no proof.

Plain and simple, the First Vision is in opposition to the God of the Bible ("if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not") and it goes against the very words of Jesus Christ. There was not a total and complete apostasy, as Joseph Smith had claimed:

Jesus said, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

He also said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20)

Jesus made a promise to build His Church, preserve His Church, and be with His Church until the end of the world. It is mentioned within the Bible that there would be an apostasy, but there is no mention of a total apostasy, where Christ's Church would cease to exist on the earth. My answer to the First Vision, as a Christian, is this ... I will stand on the words of Jesus Christ and reject anything contrary, which is exactly what Joseph Smith had taught in his day.

Always be ready to give an answer,

One Clay Soldier among many

Friday, February 19, 2010

We are God's building

What is the one thing that Christians seem to struggle with most in the midst of the Church? (Not just the little church this author attends. We are talking about the universal Church, the body of Christ, which is made up of born again believers all across the world.) One thing that is a definite struggle for us is the reality of spiritual warfare. Christians experience it on a regular basis, especially when there is an all out commitment to doing what the Lord has called us to. Also, we have our own personal struggles that we face daily. Our old nature and its desires, trying to take control of our lives in different situations. There is also the struggle of combating outside influences that are trying to make their way in from the world. Sadly, some professing Christian churches have given into the influences from the world and really don't look much different than the world.

These are real struggles that Christians face, but there is something that we seem to struggle with the most ... living out God's basic command, "love one another." Multiple times and in various ways, we are given this command in Scripture, from the Old Testament to the New. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:34-35) The Lord was not just giving good advice or making a suggestion to His disciples. People may say, "But there are some people I just don't like! Can't I just be civil with them? Isn't that good enough?" Well, when Jesus was asked, "Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. AND the second [is] LIKE UNTO IT, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:36-40)

It is clearly His command. The Lord even stepped it up: "love one another; as I have loved you." Of course, this is humanly impossible. The Ten Commandments, which are summed up in love God and love your neighbor, have been broken by every single one of us. We cannot keep His Law. On top of that, we cannot possibly love in a way the Lord has shown His love, which was displayed through His ministry and the cross. There is no possible way we can love others in a way the Lord has taught us: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Let's take it up even another step. Jesus commanded us even to love our enemies! "Love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil." (Luke 6:35) Through loving others, even our enemies, we are showing the world that we are Jesus' disciples, that we are children of the Highest.

Living this love out toward others, however, is a struggle for us. It is not in our nature to love others. On the contrary, we would rather seek the betterment of our own selves before that of others, even though the Bible says, " likeminded, having the same love, [being] of one accord, of one mind. [Let] nothing [be done] through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." (Philippians 2:2-4) How often are we guilty of breaking God's command of "love thy neighbour as thyself?" Sadly, it is often. This message is for every single one of us, especially this author.

In what ways are we are guilty of breaking this command? What about envy, strife, and divisions, as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3? Carnality ... which causes the professing Christian to say, "I'm of ... (name your church)," dividing himself or herself from other Christians in the Body of Christ; having the mindset that the church they attend is far superior than other churches. This is not love. There's bitterness towards others or holding on to unforgiveness, rejecting the Matthew 18 principle on confrontation. This is not love. Gossip ... ugly behavior which is rampant in the Church. Somehow Christians think it's ok to run about the mouth concerning someone else and then use Christian lingo or a nice word about that person afterwards, in order to cover it up. This is not love. A critical spirit. Looking down on others who are supposedly not at your level of the Christian faith. Not "judging according to righteous judgment" as the Bible instructs, but using your own rule of judgment. This is not love. There are many ways that we break this command. These are just to name a few.

Left on our own, we fail in our love for others. The love mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 is an in depth description of what love is. This love cannot be lived out on our own; it can only be lived out by God's power. It is impossible for us to love others as much as the Lord has shown His love for us. Once again, it is only by God's power that we are able to do this. God's word even says, "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) And when we do live this love out, it is very evident. It is not just a shallow love, which is only in word. True love lived out is one which is shown towards others, in deed and in truth. Love is not a feeling, that we only live out when we feel like it. Actually, love is an actual person, the true and living God. (1 John 4:8) Yes, we may struggle with loving others, but the One who resides within us (We are God's building) is love, and His power is readily available to each of us to live it out. Therefore, in conclusion, we are totally without excuse. His command is clear. "Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." (1 John 4:7)

Love one another,

One Clay Soldier among many

Friday, December 04, 2009

Who else will revolutionize Christmas?

Christmastime is here! Happiness and cheer? Fun for all ... even us adults? A day *our children* call their favorite time of year. Would you personally say that it's your favorite time of year? Would you say that it's the average person's favorite? The majority, of course, would say yes. Our own family would say it's our favorite. However, have you seen the look on peoples' faces as they're out and about, preparing for Christmas? Doesn't look like they're having too much fun. Have you ever been on the roads when it's crunchtime and Christmas is the following day? Watch out! How about when you're interacting with others and having small talk, have you ever heard the following words, with a hint of stress behind them?: "It's almost here and I haven't even started (shopping)." ... have you said those words? This author has. And what about Christmas at its very worst, when a security guard is tragically trampled to death at a Walmart on a day people call "Black Friday?"

Folks, what are we really celebrating? Are we meant to live this way at any point in the year, with such stress? Is it about racking up credit card debt and fulfilling our to-do lists? What have we made of this holiday? I mean seriously. For the most part, Christmas these days has nothing to do with the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, we sing songs about Him ... sometimes, even songs that are full of biblical truth, but we are not really celebrating Him. Let's just be straightforward about it. Christ-mas has become Consumer-mas, substituting consumption for Christ. The Advent, Jesus' coming, the true and living God manifesting Himself in the flesh, the miracle of the incarnation, bringing glory to the newborn King, use to be the center of celebrating this holiday in a developed Christian tradition. (The pagan celebration of December 25th before the developed tradition is another subject entirely.) More and more, however, that is not the case.

Here is a definition of Christmas, found in the American Heritage New Dictionary (Even the secular sources agree.):

Christmas - A festival commemorating the birth of Jesus, traditionally celebrated on December 25 by most Western Christian churches. Although dating to probably as early as a.d. 200, the feast of Christmas did not become widespread until the Middle Ages. Today, Christmas is largely secularized and dominated by gifts, decorated trees, and a jolly Santa Claus. (The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition)

Why are these things being shared? Because there needs to be a change in perspective in our culture, even in the Church. SouthValley Baptist, we are Christians, followers of the One this holiday is supposedly about. Each one of us can play a part in bringing about some change. How do we bring it? It's simple, by doing what the Bible says. In the power that God has given us through His Spirit, we can make godly choices in our lives. As Christians, our focus can always be upon Jesus Christ this holiday and every single day. When He is our sole focus, our response towards fellow believers and unbelievers can do something we were created for, and that is bring glory to God. Who else will revolutionize Christmas? We can show the world what Christmas is and what it isn't.

Christmas is a day that celebrates the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christmas is not a day that celebrates what we can get out of a day. Christmas is one day of the year that we celebrate how God showed His everlasting love to mankind, by sending His only begotten Son into the world, but His love is shown all throughout the year. Christmas is not one day above another, in which His love is shown more than any other day. Christmas is about why the Son of God came into the world, and that brings us to the Gospel: Jesus Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and three days later He rose again. Christmas is not just about the manger scene. Christmas is about an Eternal God with an eternal plan, and how He offers mankind the gift of eternal life. Christmas is not about the stressful hustle and bustle of the here and now or about giving into the culture's hunger for consumerism. Christmas is about "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Christmas is not about what we have made it into, a heavy weight to bear.

We can truly revolutionize Christmas by pointing people back to their Creator, the One who made a grand appearance in history, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can revolutionize Christmas by obeying the command of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves *every* day of the year ... not just on a particular holiday. With the Church living these things out, there would be a change in perspective in our culture. As the song says, "Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year!" Let's show the world who Jesus is.

Merry Christmas!

One Clay Soldier among many

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The just shall live by his faith (Update from an older post)

Saints, if someone were to ask each of you what the Gospel is, how would you respond? Would you be able to give a solid Biblical response? Alongside that, and just as important, would you be able to share the impact of the Gospel in your own life? Basically, what is your testimony? Not just referring to how the Lord saved you, but how He is working in and through your life right now … today. Is the Gospel such a reality in your life, that your devotion to the One Who is central to the Gospel, Jesus Christ, evident? Does your life point to His?

A simple Biblical response, if someone asked you what the Gospel is, can be found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” Jesus Christ, Who is the true and living God, and His finished work, is the Gospel. Fallen man can be saved from sin, death, and hell, by this Gospel. The message is very simple.

When it comes to our personal response to the Gospel, it is just as simple … it is by faith. This is what Paul testified to the Jews and Gentiles alike, “…repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21) So how do we, sinful mankind, approach a Holy God? Repentance and faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) What is a good illustration on how sinful man should approach a Holy God? Read Luke 15:11-32 concerning the Prodigal Son, specifically on how the son returned to his Father. What did he bring with him in returning to his Father? Nothing. Did he have good works to boast of in order to be received by his Father? No. By what righteousness was he accepted by his Father? Not his own. The son simply came to him in humility, and the Father showed him abundant grace and mercy.

Let the word of God speak for itself concerning how we are accepted by our Father in Heaven, how we are justified in His sight:

“…the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God [which is] by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where [is] boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:21-28)

God’s word declares, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) However, there are certain religious traditions in the world that declare otherwise, “The just shall live by faith AND works.” The cults major in this heresy. Basically, it is the mindset of “I must do…” in order to please God. This is not the Gospel in any sense. What is sad is that there are some professing Christians that have given in to this heresy (it can come in very subtly) and are living in a life of bondage. This really should not be! A Christian life, the Gospel life, is one of freedom. Another gospel, as warned about in Galatians 1:8-9, is being preached from various streams in the world, and has brought many people into a bondage we call “Legalism.” Individually, we need to take a close look at our own lives, and we also need to warn others of this damnable heresy. If any man depends upon himself or some system in order to be justified before a Holy God, in the end they have absolutely no hope.

Two examples …

The gospel according to Rome

“If anyone saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to obtaining the grace of justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema” (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

“If anyone saith that the sacraments of the New Law [ie., the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church] are not necessary for salvation…and that without them…men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification…let him be anathema…”

“We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere ‘to the end’ and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1821).

The gospel according to Joseph Smith

“The gospel is our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness. The central doctrine of the gospel is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "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" (Articles of Faith 1:4). In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted in the celestial kingdom. The Savior has promised that if we endure to the end, faithfully living the gospel, He will hold us guiltless before the Father at the Final Judgment (see 3 Nephi 27:16).” (, Gospel Library, Gospel Topics)

Are these Biblical definitions of the Gospel?

What is wrong with teaching that we must co-operate with our works alongside our faith in Christ in order to be justified? What is wrong with saying that faith in Jesus Christ is only the first step?

When we say that we must do our part in order to be justified before a Just and Holy God, what are we doing in reality?

1 – We are denying the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross for our justification.

“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.” (John 19:30)

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:” (1 Peter 3:18)

2 – We are denying the efficacy of Christ’s blood to justify us and save us from God’s wrath.

“…God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” (Romans 5:8-9)

3 – We are denying the power of Christ’s resurrection to bring our justification.

“Who (Jesus) was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)

4 – We are denying the power of the Gospel to bring our justification.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16)

5 – We are denying the Lord Himself, who is the Justifier of those who simply believe.

“To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Romans 3:26)

6 – We are denying the fact that justification is free by God’s grace.

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:24)

7 – We are denying the fact that justification will never come by works.

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law [is] the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

8 – We are denying a man the true liberty he could have in Jesus Christ.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” (Galatians 5:1-5)

9 – We are denying a man the true peace he could have with God through Jesus Christ.

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)

10 – We are denying the fact that the righteousness of only One, Jesus Christ, brings our justification.

“Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life.”(Romans 5:18)

“The just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) We are not to have faith in ourselves in any sense. The focus of our faith must always be the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Christian walk begins with faith in Him, continues with faith in Him, and it ends with faith in Him. When we live in full dependence upon His Spirit by faith, His life is evident through ours.

The Lord is Who we want people to see.

Preach the Gospel, Live the Gospel,

One Clay Soldier among many

Monday, July 20, 2009

Challenges members of the LDS Church will most likely pose ...

1 - Where does your church get its authority? (The proclamation of the LDS church is that they alone hold God’s priesthood authority upon the earth.) What does the Bible say? Matthew 28:18-20, Matthew 16:16-19 (The word “power” - Greek: exousia - is “authority.” God’s word declares that Jesus Christ has ALL authority in heaven and in earth. *He* is the Head of His Church. God’s word refers to His Church as “the body of Christ,” which is made up of born again believers all across the world. His promise to the Church, which He Himself built, is that He would be with it forever, even unto the end of the world.) Hebrews 7 (Only Jesus Christ is High Priest FOREVER after the order of Melchisidec. LDS members claim to hold this specific priesthood. Read the entire chapter of Hebrews 7 and it is evident that no one can meet the qualifications except Jesus.) John 5:39 (*The Scriptures*, His word, point to Him. They are authoritative.) Psalm 138:2 (He has magnified His word above all His name.)

2 - Does your church have a modern day prophet and apostles? (The LDS church does have a professing prophet and professing apostles as their leadership, unlike other churches in the world. The proclamation of the LDS church, therefore, is that they alone stand upon a true foundation, and that it is through their prophet and apostles that God is represented and is able to communicate to mankind. Members of the LDS church listen to and put their full confidence in what their leaders give them as “from the Lord.” A common passage they share is out of Ephesians 2:20 … built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; and also out of Ephesians 3:5.) What does the Bible say? Ephesians 4:8-13, Deuteronomy 18:18-19, Hebrews 1:1-2 (God gives gifts unto His people; apostles and prophets are among the gifts mentioned in chapter 4 of Ephesians. In Ephesians 2 it speaks of the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with the Chief Cornerstone being Jesus Christ (of the Bible). There is no mention, however, of men being The Authority of the Church, the body of Christ. Ultimately, we are to listen to and put our full confidence in Jesus Christ. Anything that pretends to be from God and does not point to Him and/or points people away from Him, we are to reject.) 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (Some may claim to represent God and speak for him, but we are told by the Lord to “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good.”) Deuteronomy 13:1-2, 18:18-22 (Is the prophet of the LDS church a true prophet? Test him. That is what the Bible instructs.) 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15 (Beware of false apostles. Beware of those who teach about another Jesus, another gospel, another spirit.)

3. The LDS church has modern day revelation. Don’t you believe that God can speak today? (Members of the LDS church listen to and put their full confidence in what their prophet gives them as being directly from the Lord, as mentioned above.) What does the Bible say? Deuteronomy 18:18-19 (Once again, we are to listen to and put our full confidence in The Prophet. Jesus Christ is that Prophet - Acts 3:22, 7:37.) Hebrews 1:1-2 (We do believe that God speaks today. It says that in times past God spoke to the people through the prophets, but then it goes on to say that in these last days He has spoken to us through His Son.) Hebrews 4:12 (Our God is a living God. He does speak today. His word is *living* and powerful.)

4. Why are there so many Christian denominations? (The argument is that there is disunity between Evangelical churches, but there is no disunity in the LDS church.) What does the Bible say? Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-20 (There are many unique members with different functions, but one body of Christ.) John 3:3-5 (The main thing is that *individuals* must be born again in order to enter into God‘s Kingdom. Born again Christians are all across the world, with different denominational backgrounds; and yet they agree on the essentials of the faith, especially on what the Gospel is - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. There is unity in the body of Christ, on what really matters. Yes, there are issues in professing Christians churches. Why? Because people are sinful and imperfect. There will always be that element, until the Lord returns. Side note: Has the LDS church maintained a perfect unity with members since it was established? If you do an open and honest study, you will find that there are multiple churches outside of the mainstream LDS church that make claim to following the teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith. Often this is not considered when the accusation is made.)

5. James 2 says that “faith without works is dead…” (The argument is that salvation is received by faith and good works.) What does the Bible say? Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16 (The entirety of the Bible needs to be considered, not just one passage. We are only saved by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone, not by works in any sense. Consider also these passages: Galatians 2:21, Romans 11:6, Romans 3:24-28, Romans 10:3-4. It is true that faith without works is dead. Read the entire context of the chapter though. There is no mention of faith in Christ AND our own good works saving our souls. *Jesus is the only One Who saves*. In this chapter there is simply a contrast given between someone who only gives lip service and someone who has a genuine faith, a faith which produces good works. Good works are a byproduct of abiding in Jesus Christ - John 15:5. Without Him we could do nothing.)

6 - Jesus commanded water baptism. Do you believe it is necessary to be born again? (One passage they’ll refer you to is out of chapter 3 in John: “Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.” The LDS church’s claim is that they are the only true church on earth that administers this baptism.) John 3:6 (First, it does not say baptism. Second, read the surrounding context. There is a physical birth (born of water, born of the flesh), but there is a need to be born again (born of the Spirit) in order to enter into God’s Kingdom. Water baptism is in obedience to the Lord, but it is not what saves us. (1 Peter 3:20-21) What about the thief on the cross? You cannot get passed him. He was not water baptized, and yet Jesus promised him that he would be with Him in paradise after his death.)

7 - Have you read the Book of Mormon? Have you prayed about it? (Members will often refer you to a passage out of Moroni 10:4. The passage "exhorts" you to pray about the Book of Mormon. Basically, pray to find out that it is the truth. If you pray and find out otherwise, then you did not pray “with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.”) What does the Bible say? John 17:17 (Jesus said, “Thy word is truth.” God’s word, the Bible, is as true as God is true. Is it necessary for people to pray about whether or not God is true? No, He already is the truth. Whether or not people accept Him is another matter.) Acts 17:11 (Test all things by searching God’s word.) When LDS members share their main doctrines, they should be willing to have them tested by the Bible (what God has already revealed). That will be the best test on whether or not it is true. Prayer is not what determines truth. James 1 speaks of asking God for wisdom (LDS members quote from this chapter). First of all, it does not say to ask God for truth. Second, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. If an unregenerate soul comes to the Lord in prayer (with no fear of Him), He will not answer his prayer.

8 - How could a 14 yr. old boy make up the Book of Mormon and start an entire religion? (The argument is that it has to be by God’s power and inspiration; there is no other way.) What does the Bible say? 1 John 4:1 (“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” His age doesn’t matter. We are to “try the spirits” of any religion to find out “whether they are of God.” Why? “Because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Joseph Smith could be a false prophet. That needs to be considered. He needs to be tested.) 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (The power and inspiration could be coming from “the angel of light” described in this passage.)

9 - The Bible has contradictions. (“We believe the Bible, as far as it is translated correctly.” They often say that the Bible has been mistranslated and has many contradictions. The Book of Mormon, however, is described as being the “most correct book on earth.”) Matthew 24:35, Psalm 12:6-7, Isaiah 40:8, 1 Peter 1:23-25 (God’s word is perfect and endures forever. The devil has been trying to attack the word of the Lord since the very beginning: he questions God‘s word - “Hath God said…?”, he lies about God‘s word - “Ye shall not surely die”, and he creates his own doctrine - “Ye shall be as gods…”)

10 - After … sharing a passage from their scriptures or giving a lesson or bearing their testimony or showing one of their inspirational movies, they’ll ask you what it made you feel. (In other words, did it give you good feelings? They describe the feelings as coming from God, the fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22-23. Side note: Hollywood can bring good feelings, but that does not determine truth.) What does the Bible say? Jeremiah 17:9, Proverbs 28:26 (We cannot trust our own feelings; it’s foolish to do so. Our hearts are described in God’s word as being deceitful above all things, and even as being desperately wicked.)

God instructs His people to earnestly contend for the faith,

One Clay Soldier among many