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Thursday, February 27, 2014

20. Spiritual Land Mine #7: Believing -- and not just believing in -- Jesus Christ (Part 2 of 3)

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 20th examining the phrase "calleth on my name".

A little background: When I first researched this topic (on believing Christ) in my special gospel study software, I found 1,611 references to believing in Christ.  Unfortunately, there were only 118 references to "believing Christ" (and most of them came from Stephen E. Robinson's terrific book, "Believing Christ"). Interesting, huh.

Now that we understand the difference between the two phrases, let's move from the theoretical to the applied...

Take the First Step in a Whole Higher Relationship with Him


Let's watch this clip from the movie, "Son of God":


Imagine yourself in this situation, in the boat.  You see Christ literally walking on water maybe 20 yards or so from the boat.  He beckons Peter,

"Don't be afraid. Come!"

Peter lifts one leg, then another leg, off the boat and onto -- not into -- the water.  Isn't that incredible?  What other human has ever done that?  But in an instant, the distracting flash of lightning pulls Peter's focus off of the Savior.  In an instant, he's under water.

"Peter...you of little faith.  Why did you doubt?  You need to be strong."

Yet most of us -- and quite likely, all of us -- have a difficult time doing so.

Don't Look Up Or Down, But Straight Ahead


Several years ago, I attended a work-related convention in Las Vegas.  To get to the convention center from where I was staying, I needed to walk a few blocks down the sidewalk.

There, I discovered that if I looked down, I'd see pornographic picture cards strewn across the sidewalks.  To the left and right where those handing out the cards.  If I looked up, pornographic posters were visible.  I had to stare straight ahead.

So it is in life.  It may not be lightning as Peter encountered, but inevitably, those who want to focus on the Lord will be tempted to look down or look up.  Here's why either direction is fraught with peril:

Don't Focus Downwards
"To have faith in Jesus Christ is not merely to believe that he is who he says he is. It is not merely to believe in Christ; we must also believe Christ. Both as a bishop and as a teacher, I have heard several variations on a theme of doubt. Some have said, 'Bishop, I've sinned too horribly. I'll be active in the Church, and I hope for some reward. But I couldn't ever hope to be exalted after what I've done.' Others have said, 'I'm weak and imperfect. I don't have all the talents that Brother Jones (or Sister Smith) does. I'll never be the bishop (or the Relief Society president). I'm just average. I expect my reward in eternity will be a little lower than theirs.' … Many of us are trying to save ourselves, holding the atonement of Jesus Christ at arm's distance and saying, 'When I've perfected myself, then I'll be worthy of the Atonement.' But that's not how it works. That's like saying, 'I won't take the medicine until I'm well. I'll be worthy of it then.'" (Stephen E. Robinson, "Believing Christ," Ensign, April 1992, pp. 6, 7, 9).
I believe we really do tend to complicate the Atonement in our lives.  It's already been taken care of; hence the Lord's declaration on the cross, "It is finished" (John 19:30).  It is our acceptance and receiving of that Atonement He made for us 2,000 years ago which is the only question.  Thus, believing Christ means you receive His Atonement and the reality of the remission of your sins. Yet
"Unfortunately, there are many members of the Church who simply do not believe this. Though they claim to have testimonies of Christ and of his gospel, they reject the witness of the scriptures and of the prophets about the good news of Christ's atonement. Often these people naively hold on to mutually contradictory propositions without even realizing the nature of the contradiction. For example, they may believe that the Church is true, that Jesus is the Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, while at the same time refusing to accept the possibility of their own complete forgiveness and eventual exaltation in the kingdom of God. They believe in Christ, but they do not believe Christ. He says, 'Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. I can make you pure and worthy and celestial,' and they answer back, 'No, you can't. The gospel only works for other people; it won't work for me.'"  (Stephen E. Robinson, "Believing Christ" [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992], p. 8-9; also see here).
Another way you can avoid "looking downwards" from Christ is by shedding your ego and seeking the Holy Ghost's constant companionship in understanding and implementing Father's will.  For example, you can counter irritation not with a scowl, but a smile.  You can give warm praise instead of icy indifference.  You can choose to be understanding instead of abrupt.  You can replace rudeness and crudeness with love, patience and meekness.

Now, these may seem like little things, but such moments are the molecules that make up eternity!  Years ago, Pres. Hinckley counseled:
"It is not so much the major events as the small day-to-day decisions that map the course of our living. … Our lives are, in reality, the sum total of our seemingly unimportant decisions and of our capacity to live by those decisions" ("Caesar, Circus, or Christ? Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year", Oct. 26, 1965, p. 3; only audio available).
To be perfect means you are doing the best you can do, under the circumstances you are in. As Brigham Young once explained:    
"We all occupy diversified stations in the world, and in the kingdom of God. Those who do right, and seek the glory of the Father in heaven, whether their knowledge be little or much, or whether they can do little, or much, if they do the very best they know how, they are perfect... 'Be ye as perfect as ye can," for that is all we can do, though it is written, 'Be ye perfect as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.' To be as perfect as we possibly can, according to our knowledge, is to be just as perfect as our Father in heaven is. He cannot be any more perfect than He knows how, any more than we. When we are doing as well as we know how in the sphere and station which we occupy here, we are justified." (Journal of Discourses 2:129-30; emphasis mine).
"Brigham Young can say that doing the best we know how is being perfect, because it fulfills our part of the covenant, and as we do this, Jesus Christ fulfills his part of the covenant and makes us perfect through his merit and mercy. The perfection we receive in this manner is perfection-in-Christ. This is also the perfection that allows us to enter the celestial kingdom. The other perfection, the actual, personal, "I-never-make-a-mistake" kind of perfection comes even later than that -- much later. 
It is reported that someone once challenged the work of Mother Teresa, the holy woman who ministers to the poorest outcasts in Calcutta, India, on the grounds that she could never succeed at what she was trying to do. No matter how hard she worked, her antagonist insisted, there would be more of the poor and sick tomorrow than there were today, and all her efforts could never even make a dent in the problem. Since she could never hope to succeed, why did she waste her efforts in a losing cause? Mother Teresa's answer was a classic. 'God does not require that I succeed,' she replied, 'only that I do what I can.' And that is the gospel truth"  (Stephen E. Robinson, Believing Christ: The Parable of the Bicycle and Other Good News, p. 99).
It really is true: the best -- and only -- way you can be made strong is through Jesus Christ.
"And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all." (Acts 3:16)

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post. I love your quote from Mother Teresa - what a humble and wonderful example for all of us! I would highly recommend the book of thoughts she wrote from her experiences - "In The Heart of the World".

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  2. Loved the Brigham Young quote. Thank you, such a great reminder to push through each day doing the best we can.

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