Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Agency: the ability to choose Salvation

People ask us a lot of questions. On a typical day, we will be asked anything from "Why are you wearing ties?" to "Why do I need to be baptized?" The secular questions are answered more easily (typically) than the spiritual questions--baptism is a much deeper subject than articles of clothing. Sure, we can answer questions, but do our immediate answers provide the inquiring minds a deeply instilled conviction to the principles we teach?

Of course not.

We can preach at people all day, but, until we pique their curiosity--until they have a compelling desire for answers--they will not listen. We have the truth but unless people ask with real intent, they will not act on what we tell them. Until they realize the importance of our message, they will not do anything about it.

"But I love Jesus...He'll save me in my sin. It doesn't matter what I do as long as I believe in Him. We're saved by grace, right?"

Two comments:
First, Jesus stated, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Christ will not save you in your sin (Alma 11:37). Can an "unclean thing" inherit the kingdom of God? Absolutely not.

Second, I agree that we are saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. However, belief is not enough to get us back to the presence of God. Paul clarifies that apostate philosophy, by saying, "For by grace are ye saved through faith..." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

"Through faith...a belief, right?"

False. James boldly destroys that doctrine: "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (James 2:19-20).

He says, in essence, "Great. You believe in God...so do the devils. Now what are you going to do about that belief?" Earlier, he poses a hypothetical situation concerning mere belief, or, "faith without works" as he terms it:

"What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:14-17)

Faith without works is dead; it's that simple. Look at these examples--what if these valiant men had simply believed in God but did not obey His commandments?

God commanded Noah to build an ark. What if he had believed God would save him without putting forth any effort? Answer: he and his family would have died a premature death. Evidence: everyone else on earth died from the flood. Why would Noah's family be any different if they did not obey and act on God's commandments?

God called Moses to be a prophet to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What if Moses had not acted on that calling? What if he was too scared to face the Pharaoh again? What would have happened to the Hebrews if Moses and shirked his responsibilities?

God, our loving Heavenly Father, "gave His only Begotten Son" (John 3:16) to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. Notice the verb John uses: "gave." He did not force Jesus Christ to suffer; He gave Christ the opportunity to be our Savior and Redeemer. Christ acted and, thereby, made it possible for us to repent and be pure again. What if He had let the "cup pass from [him]?" He asked the Father to remove that burden, but also understood the eternal damnation we would face without His Atoning sacrifice. Immediately, he clarified: "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt 26:39). How great was his love.

When looking at the scriptures, we see examples of extreme obedience, but what about the "little things" in our daily lives? How important is it to follow the commandments? Too often, I hear people justify their sin, "God loves me; He'll save me." They are mocking Christ's atonement. They are too lazy to change their natural behavior. If we are not willing to act and overcome our natural inclinations, how can we expect God to redeem us? Mercy cannot rob justice. We have been given the higher law; we know what God has commanded. We must act on that knowledge.

And if we do not, we will be held accountable.

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