Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grace

Man can do nothing except it be given to him.  God created the earth and then created man and everything man needs to live. From this observation it is easily recognized that as humans we could do nothing of ourselves without a place and the ability to do it.   It is clear however that God has given us a place to do something, make choices for which we will be held accountable and judged. Considering the fact of our existence alone indicates that everything comes from God and that without his grace we could do nothing.  This grace is universal in its application to all that have an opportunity to live on earth.

There is another level to grace having to do with the purposes for which God has placed us here.  After the creation of the earth, man was placed upon it.  This was to begin the plan of salvation ordained by God before the creation of the world and for which the world was created.  By God's planning and through the setting in the Garden of Eden, Adam's choice brought mortality with death and suffering to the human family. Spiritual and physical death became very real barriers to the spiritual progress of mankind.  Earth was created with the purpose that man act as agents with moral agency and freedom.  Sin and disobedience were are the result of this freedom to choose.  Overcoming it is our goal.

The Father of our spirits prepared the way to overcome these conditions of fallen man.  Angels visited the earth and taught Adam of his Savior who and redemption. A Savior had been prepared from before the creation of the world to come in the meridian of time.  The atonement is the central act of both redeeming grace and enabling grace in our lives.  Its infinite power extents forwards and backwards through eternity. Adam and Eve were the first on earth to exercise and live by faith in Jesus Christ and they taught their children to do likewise.

Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the barrier of physical death would be removed from all mankind and all would be resurrected to eternal life.  It is a free gift with no requirements other than being born. There are no conditions on it, it is truly unconditional. It is the full measure of grace. It releases men and women from something of which they had no part in causing.   


It should be pointed out that our death is not a punishment for Adam's transgression but a consequence imposed by God for Adam's choice. Man's fall was prepared with the blessings that come with the resurrection and the promise of immortality and greater opportunity for spiritual development.

With the fall of man came our acquiring knowledge of good and evil.  This opportunity to have knowledge of good and evil and to choose one or the other is how we have agency or free will.  


If there is no opposition to choose from then there is no agency.  This is how we know if we have faith in Christ or not. By our choices in life. These things contribute to our test in life or the trial of our faith.  God teaches us the good and our eternal worth through divine commandments and Satan tries to gain followers through falsehoods, deceit and selfish pleasures.  This is why salvation is an unconditional gift of grace and exaltation is by grace after all that we can do.

 A major purpose of this creation is to allow us to choose who we will follow without undue influence from the heavens.  As we choose to follow Christ we are blessed yet still subject troubles and trial.  This means we push forward with faith and not a perfect knowledge.  Sin and evil bring negative consequences yet not so overwhelming that people stop doing it.

Earth is the perfect testing ground for making choices by faith. This is why Adam fell from God's presence in the Garden of Eden. The rest of humanity likewise must experience the trials of death and mortality.  As we choose God and make covenants with him, the Holy Ghost lifts the barrier of spiritual death and brings fellowship with deity until we prepare to return to the presence of the Father and the Son.

Overcoming spiritual death requires that we make certain choices.  If choice is not ours to have, what do we really have? This existence would be a puppets life. Repentance is the path to overcoming spiritual death. These are the "works" that God requires of us.  To choose to repent and serve. This is a covenant relationship. They they would better be called the acceptance of divine gifts and choosing to follow the Savior.  They are the enabling grace that bring exaltation and eternal blessings to the faithful.

Our choices determine whether or not we return to God's presence for eternity or go to some other place.  Our choices determine whether or not we overcome spiritual death.   Grace avails to us this opportunity like all others but we must act to receive it.  Grace enables us to do things we would not be able to do on our own.

One traditional belief is that man can be saved/exalted by an act of confessing acceptance of the Savior.  It supposes that those who accept Christ are unconditionally redeemed from their sins and those that do not accept are condemned to some eternal hell. If in a single confession one is redeemed, their power of choice is effectively ended as it would not matter what they do after that.  


If deity were in fact able to save individuals in such a fashion then creation would not really be necessary because choice would not be necessary except for a single act.  If such a doctrine were true then creation would not be necessary since it would indicate that God has power to save without requiring the individual to be responsible for the rest of their life.  If the individual does not need to be responsible for their acts then no creation is necessary.  God could have just created the persons in a saved condition in the first place.

Spiritual gifts lift us from the methods and madness of carnal pursuits to the more glorious endeavors of serving God and our fellow man.  The scriptures speak of a final judgement where all men and women will be judged.  This means that we are accountable for our life and the choices we make.  


The parable of the talents and other passages of scripture explain this principle.  Those who do nothing to obey God will receive the free gift of the resurrection and whatever eternal glory his mercy will provide.  Those who love and serve God will be prepared to receive of the most glorious kingdoms prepared for their eternal life and exaltation.

Monday, March 29, 2010

What is Baptism?

Baptism is a gospel ordinance associated with a covenant.  A covenant is a promise.  In this case to follow divine teachings and direction.  Baptism is the ordinance that confirms our faith in Jesus Christ.  If we say we believe and do nothing about it we fail in our God given opportunity to act. 


The doctrine of baptism has faded as a teaching from many that say they follow Christ.   The philosophies of men prevail in the religious teachings of our modern era.  To be born again as taught in the Bible is to act upon hearing the word of God to repent.  Repentance is followed by baptism and the receiving of the gift of the Holy Ghost.

The scriptures are very clear that it is the binding act of faith. When someone comes to realize by witness of the Holy Ghost that they do recognize the ministry and atonement of the Savior as important in their life, something has to change.  

That change is symbolized and sealed by an ordinance and covenant.  We go down in the water dying as to the old person and coming out washed clean from sin or symbolically resurrected as a new person.  We go forward striving to keep the commandments and live a new life patterned after Jesus' example.  

This is also the entry into the church and kingdom of God. Those accepting baptism are known and joined in fellowship to nurture their faith.  Receiving this gift to repent, manifest by baptism enables the mercy offered by the Saviors atonement to take effect in our lives.

To be binding, ordinances need to be performed by someone that God has authorized to do them.  How can their be a covenant if there is no administrator of the covenant?  This is what the priesthood is organized and established for. It is authority to act in the ministry of declaring and bringing people to the Savior.  One does not choose to do it.  They are called to do it.  In this way there is no self assuming power associated with it.  So it was in Jesus day and so it should be in our day.  

Many say they act in the name of God, but where do they get their authority?  They say the Holy Spirit?  How can this be confirmed?  Anyone can say this. It is not something you get from a book or a college course.  The way a person is called to serve is documented in the Bible and no one takes the honor to himself.

When a person has faith in Christ and is ready and willing to repent of their sins and covenant with God to change they proceed to be baptized.   They then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and the right to be guided by its power and influence so long as they keep their covenant. Through this covenant the darkness of spiritual death is lifted.  


God will  never fail on his end of the promise to bless us and save us even though we often and regularly fall short.   He is willing to constantly forgive us and renew the covenants of salvation as we meet and worship in His church, which is the authorized organization for priesthood government and administration.


What is Repentance?

Repentance is a gift to mankind.   Through it our burdens of sin are removed. Repentance is the act of changing one's life in actions and attitude. It is our choice to accept or reject. When a person recognizes the error of a sinful lifestyle and accepts the message of Jesus Christ, they will see the things they need to change be they large or small.   Faith in Christ moves us to repentance.  That is his invitation.  Repentance is the process by which we become clean and worthy before God.

Repentance is the key that unlocks the door to the mercy and grace that comes through the atonement of the Savior.  It is the reason his blood was shed.  It is how we become clean from sin.  It lifts burdens of guilt.  It calms the soul.  It brings peace as we realize our real identity as sons and daughters of God and choose those changes that conform to that eternal truth.

Much of frustration in life is subconscious, as we pursue ambitions or ideology that does not measure up to our true eternal worth.  When we learn the truth and act on it and change through this merciful gift we find spiritual happiness and joy.  We gain eternal perspective in our life and hope is constantly renewed.


What is Faith?

Faith is a step beyond belief.  Faith is belief and hope compounded together and increased.  When a person believes something they may or may not do something about it.  While faith is a positive power, it is not simply positive thinking. 

When a person has faith they will act on the belief that is present in their mind.  That is why faith is a saving power.  Not because in and of itself it saves but because when a person has faith in God and Christ they will follow the divine instructions given by them.   There are many examples of faith in the scriptures that indicate that power flows from it.  

Power flows when an individual or group takes action and that action is blessed by the powers of heaven.  The most important facet of our faith in God is that it produces actions that invoke the saving powers of Jesus Christ into our life and a willingness to follow his example.

There are also examples of belief that show that no power comes from simply acknowledging a fact. Increasing faith, and faith to perform miracles is a gift of the spirit given to those that covenant with God to follow in their own life and serve him in ministering to His sons and daughters.  Faith in the first instance is something we develop by exercising our agency or free will.  Increasing it on a constant basis is also our choice but is boosted through mercy and gifts of the spirit and our willingness to obey God.

Faith comes about by evidence of some principle or fact.  It can be true or false. Acting according to the evidence and seeing the result one can gain an increase in faith and prove the true or false nature of the evidence.  The scriptures are evidence of God's dealings with mankind.  They are the primary evidence for faith in Him and of his existence and power.  Doing what is contained in them is the result of our faith and continuing to study them will increase our faith.

One can only gain true faith in God by having a correct understanding of his character and attributes. Thus the statement in John 17 "And this is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Any false notions or incorrect reasonings about who or what God is will reduce a persons opportunity to develop the full measure of faith that is available to us.


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