Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How the Father Draws us to Christ

John 6: 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

Some Christians interpret the Bible when it says that Christ is our only mediator with the Father (Heb. 1: 2, 1 Tim. 2: 5) that there is no more need for prophets, apostles, water baptism, temples, church organization, or priesthood authority. These same Christians see these gifts as somehow getting in the way of a personal relationship with Christ. According to this interpretion, Christ destroys the law and the prophets. However, the Bible also teaches that no one cometh unto Christ except the Father draws him. The Father does not deal directly with man since The Fall because we can no longer endure His presence. So, the Father uses instruments in His hands like prophets, Apostles, scripture, prayer, baptism and other ordinances to bring us the Christ until we have fully come unto Christ and seen his face and know that He is. Thereafter, Christ becomes our only mediator with the Father. But, the Father uses many instruments like baptism, prophets, apostles, scripture, priesthood, the temple and other sanctifying gifts of the Spirit to draw us to Christ.

Noone comes unto Christ except the Father draws Him (John 6: 44)
Christ is our only mediator with the FAther (Heb. 1: 1-2, 1 Tim. 2: 5)
The Holy Ghost testifies of Christ and leads us into all truth. (John 16: 13, John 15: 26)
The Scriptures teach of Christ (John 5: 39)
Prophets teach to come to Christ (John 6: 45)

Prophets --> Scripture --> Holy Ghost --> Jesus Christ --> Heavenly Father

Jesus Christ showed us the way to Salvation by entering into the ordinance of water baptism. Christ then told Nicodemus that unless a man be born again both of water and of spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. However, some Christians interpret Christ's words to Nicodemus to mean that there is no need for the ordinance of water baptism. They interpret John 3:3-5 to mean that man has already been born of water at birth, and needs to be reborn of the Spirit only. However, we know from the Bible that Jesus Christ was baptized and reborn by water immersion and that the same practice was done by the early Saints. However, some cannot rectify the need for this work with Paul's teaching that we are saved by grace and not by works. Had John 3:3-4 said "except a man be reborn of water and of the Spirit" then I suppose there would not be room for debate here. And several versions of the Bible are translated this way.

John 3:3-5 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Eph. 2: 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

Looking at John 3:3-5 again, Christ tells Nicodemus "except a man be born [from above]" he cannot see the kingdom of God. Christ in verse 6 then clearly explains that to be born from above [γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν, gennethe anothen] involves being born of water and the Spirit. Later in scripture, we clearly see the Early Apostles continue the ordinance of John of the Baptist's water immersion in the Early Church. Specifically, Cornelius is water baptized after the Holy Ghost comes upon him (Acts 10: 47), and Phillip baptizes the Eunuch (Acts 8: 38-39).

John explains in 1 John 5:5-8 that rebirth or being born from above like mortal birth involves both water, blood, and spirit. like mortal birth, if one of the three elements is missing; the result is a stillbirth. In the case of being born again (from above), the water is the ordinance of baptism by water immersion, the blood is the blood of Christ's atonement, and the spirit is the presence of the Holy Ghost. Again, without any of these elements, rebirth is incomplete and stillborn.

1 John 5:5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.

But if both the work and ordinance of water baptism is necessary for salvation, how do we rectify this with Paul saying that we are saved by grace alone and not by works (least we boast?). Never mind that Paul was speaking specifically about the "Law of Moses." Is the Bible being contradictory, or can we resolve the need for certain works with the power of grace?

When a person accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, the Bible says that that person becomes justified. But justification is just the first step in the process of sanctification and perfection. So, what is Justification?

Heb. 12: 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,

Justification is described as being acquitted from the law. Acquittal is what happens when a judge postpones or withholds judgement. In reality, acquittal does not prove innocence but says that evidence has not yet proven our guilt. Or that in this case, our guilty verdict will be postponed to a later date. In reality we really are guilty. But by justification the Holy Ghost can operate with us as if we are innocent. That is, the acquitted person who accepts Christ is able to receive the Holy Ghost by the merits and mercy and grace of Christ. The hope is that postponing judgement to the end, we will have been given time sufficient to prove our guilt or innocence. Whereas if we all were judged up front, we would all be guilty. God gives us time to repent and apply the saving grace of Christ's atonement.

But the atonement of Christ isn't just grace but also power. Christ's atonement is not just about sweeping our sins under the rug but also about changing us, purifying us like silver, making us new creatures, and turning us away from sin such that we have no more disposition to do evil but to do good continually. So as the Holy Ghost enters into the Justified, He begins the necessary process of sanctification leading to perfection. As the believer feels the spirit, power, light and love of God; sin looses all enticement. This is how our love may become perfect, even in the flesh and in this world (Titus 2: 12, 1 Jn. 4: 17).

How does the power and grace of Christ relate to works? Specifically, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that man is empowered to enter into baptism and the everlasting covenant in the temple. Believers do not receive these ordinances by their own power but by the empowering grace of the Holy Ghost. This is why Cornelius received the Holy Ghost before he was water baptized. If he hadn't temporarily received the Holy Ghost he would have no power to be baptized by water and later by fire to make the Holy Ghost a constant and continual presence.

So we see the Bible clearly teaches that the atonement is both grace and transformative power. Receiving the sanctifying ordinances of God is only possible by the grace and power of Christ. Therefore, ordinances like baptism are proof of that the empowing grace of Christ is working. Then after being justified by Christs blood, the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the covenants and ordinances work to purify, perfect, and sanctify us beginning in this world. Covenants and ordinances do not deny grace but show that the atonement is both grace and power that will empower us to action. This is why grace without works is dead. But even though works are required, it is still all God's grace. The works become a manifestation of the power of God's grace within the believer.

Sanctification is also a manifestation of the grace and power of God. Sanctification is a process. The believer is not perfected all at first but grows grace to grace, line upon line and precept upon precept. We become perfected as we allow the grace, power, love and light of Christ to grow brighter in us every day. God does not force Himself upon us. But He does reach down to rescue us, and as He said, stands at the door and knocks. But we then must open up the door and allow Him to enter.

We are saved from the beginning but through the process of sanctification, we receive a better resurrection and reward in the next life. Exaltation and Eternal Life being the greatest gift of God. Accordingly, we all must ask ourselves. Do I give my whole soul to God or do I keep part from him. If we still sin then we still are withholding part of our will from God whose spirit would purge and purify regardless of the flesh.

Alma 5: 26-27 And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? . . . Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble? That your garments have been cleansed and made white through the blood of Christ, who will come to redeem his people from their sins? And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New Ellenton Tornado: My Easter Sermon

Before work today, I did get a chance to attend my local 9 o'clock LDS Sacrament Meeting. I enjoyed a wonderful Easter Sunday service with a testimony and message from my Bishop and several Easter themed musical numbers by our ward choir. However, I think the most meaning full Easter Sermon I experienced actually happened the morning prior.

Sometime late Friday night January 10th into early Saturday morning January 11th, 2009 an F-3 Tornado tore a path from Beach Island, SC to New Ellenton, SC near Augusta, GA on the South Carolina-Georgia boarder. I happened to be working that night at the regional medical center in South Carolina and was helping to evaluation and treat some of the victims of the storm. There were several victims who were blessed to survive the tornadic winds that hurled their mobile homes through the air like soda cans before tearing them apart. In addition to loosing all their material possessions, the storm left many of them with lacerations, deep contusions, abrasions and a few broken bones. Among the victims, the mother of one New Ellenton family stood out.

Just before the New Ellenton tornado struck, this mother and her 3 daughters awoke to the ominous sound of a freight train and took cover in a central closet before their home disintegrated around them. To my surprise none of the 3 daughters, whose ages ranged from age 7 to age 14, had a bruise or scratch on them. But when it came time to examine mom, she had no obvious injuries until I lifted the back of her gown to inspect her back. While no bones were broken, the skin across her back was one large confluence of abrasion and bruising. And as I saw it, I could immediately picture in my mind the site of this dear mother hunkered down in that dark closet holding her precious babies in her arms protecting them from the ranging storm and shielding them from the scourging debris.

After the scene had faded from my imagination, I was speechless and awestruck for a moment after witnessing one of the great miracles of nature. And I was a little embarrassed trying my best to contain a bit of emotion that this brief experience had elicited. Witnessing this example of the love of a mother who would willingly use her own body to shield her children from the buffetings of the raging storm was just, Awesome.

At this Easter season, this mother's act of perfect charity reminded me at the same time of the greatest, most perfect and infinite act of charity. Just as this this New Ellenton mother had given her flesh and blood to save and protect her children, Jesus Christ also gave his flesh and blood to save all of us. And as several scriptures came to mind that night, I was amazed at how the prophets and Jesus Christ himself use this same storm motif and metaphor of protective arms to describe His perfect love for us.

Matt. 23: 37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Alma 34: 16 And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.

Hel. 5: 12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

D&C 104: 9 Inasmuch as ye are cut off for transgression, ye cannot escape the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption.

Alma 26: 6 Yea, they shall not be beaten down by the storm at the last day; yea, neither shall they be harrowed up by the whirlwinds; but when the storm cometh they shall be gathered together in their place, that the storm cannot penetrate to them; yea, neither shall they be driven with fierce winds whithersoever the enemy listeth to carry them.

Isa. 53: 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

LDS General Conference

This weekend LDS members enjoyed the 179th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Every six months the leaders of the LDS church including the president and prophet of the LDS Church, the quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the quorums of the Seventy instruct the members. Several of the talks I really enjoyed include:

Elder David A. Bednar spoke of the importance of the Temple. While members of the church covenant in baptism and the sacrament that we are "willing to take upon" ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, it is the temple were we in actuality take upon ourselves fully the name of Jesus Christ. Elder Bednar spoke of the spiritual protection from sin promised to those who "stand in holy places" and who have taken upon them and feel the "fire of the covenant." Elder Bednar challenged all Saints to regularly go to the temple and keep our temple covenants.

D&C 109:22-26 And we ask thee, Holy Father, that thy servants may go forth from this house armed with thy power, and that thy name may be upon them, and thy glory be round about them, and thine angels have charge over them; And from this place they may bear exceedingly great and glorious tidings, in truth, unto the ends of the earth, that they may know that this is thy work, and that thou hast put forth thy hand, to fulfil that which thou hast spoken by the mouths of the prophets, concerning the last days. We ask thee, Holy Father, to establish the people that shall worship, and honorably hold a name and standing in this thy house, to all generations and for eternity; That no weapon formed against them shall prosper; that he who diggeth a pit for them shall fall into the same himself; That no combination of wickedness shall have power to rise up and prevail over thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house;

Elder Quentin L. Cook spoke about several doctrinal "stumbling blocks" or misunderstandings that others have about the LDS church and our doctrine and about the true doctrine of Christ from the Bible and from modern scripture. Many Christians have been falsely taught that there is to be no more revelation or prophets after Jesus Christ. However, the reality of Joseph Smith's First Vision demonstrates that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Elder Cook suggests that it can be as difficult to accept miracles today as it is to accept the miracles of Christ such as the virgin birth, the atonement and the resurrection. In our modern technological age, we are still expected to live by faith. It is the message of the LDS church that the Lord's church continues to be led today by living prophets and apostles.

Elder Cook also spoke about the LDS doctrine on the salvation of man. Many Christians have been taught that only a small number of men will be saved by Christ and go to heaven while everyone else will be damned to hell with Satan forever. LDS doctrine understands that only some who willfully and knowingly rebel against God will not be saved. While there will be different rewards in heaven; the vast majority of mankind will be saved from Hell through Christ who will save all children who die before the age of accountability and those who hear the gospel in the spirit world, who had died without a knowledge of Christ and accept it with all their hearts will also be saved.


O, yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy'd,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

I also was very moved at the talk by our prophet President Thomas S. Monson. President Monson talked about the calamities, trials, tribulation, and adversity of our time. He said it is easy to become cynical, doubt, and fearful if we focus only on the negative and not the blessings in our lives.

2 Tim. 1: 7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

If we make the gospel of Jesus Christ, it will not remove the troubles from us, but it will help us focus on our blessings and prevail over all our trials. President Monson recounts the story of a German Woman living in East Prussia after World War II who was forced to take her 5 children 1000 miles to West Germany on foot in winter. She had already lost her husband in the war. During the journey, she buried all 5 children in the frozen earth, one by one, along the way digging shallow graves with only a spoon. After burying her last infant child with only her bare fingers, she was overcome with grief and contemplating suicide, the voice of God came to her pleading with her to kneel and pray for strength. She did so and was strengthened in the hour of her Job-like extremity. She was comforted knowing that through the Resurrection of Christ she would see her children and have the joy of raising them to adulthood. Despite all of her trial and adversity she was one of the happiest, optimistic and faithful saints. President Monson charged us to "fear not, be of good cheer; our future is a bright as our faith."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Free Will, Quantum Mechanics and Predestination

John Conway and Simon Kochen recently wrote a paper with a mathematical proof showing that particles exhibiting quantum mechanical behavior can be shown to demonstrate free will. John John Conway gave a lecture at Princeton University explaining the significance of their theorem and proof. The basic assertion of the paper is that if we have free will, then all particles must have some level of free will as well.

The idea of quantum mechanics as a proof for free will is not new with Conway and Kochen. This idea has been debated as a product of quantum mechanics since these theories were first discovered. I remember Cleon Skousen talking about this in a controversial talk on the atonement where he mentions quantum mechanics and free will but falsely concludes that God has to appease the intelligences. Nevertheless, this new proof of free will has profound theological and philosophical implications.

"Now if you’re interested in science, this will be very exciting information. Our most advanced research scientists in the pure research area have just proven this to be true. Matter does not function mechanically. It has an element of finite intelligence in it, they say. That’s what Bergsen called it–the French philosopher. It can distinguish, it can choose, it doesn’t always do what the rules say. Some of these little elements are just as ornery as you and me. They go wandering around–and in the aggregate we say that that’s the law of chemistry. In the aggregate, yes, but you look at them individually and they’re fooling around. As a matter of fact, Robert Milligan said that if all the elements were obeying all of the rules of chemistry, you would never die. Through rebellion in the flesh. And they’re called seeds of death–you may have heard of that before. Now at God’s command, element which has received intelligence attached to it, at God’s command it will obey."

Now, what do I think? In a nutshell, this theorem seems to be an explanation of randomness and seems to be attempting, in a way, to explain how God plays dice with the Universe despite Einstein's objections. I think it would be interesting to have a theological conversation with Dr. Conway with respect to his theorem. Free Will is an important concept to LDS. Skousen in his talk states that quantum mechanics suggests that matter is not forced to obey the classical laws of physics and therefore is free to act contrary to it.

The consequences of disobedience results in the universe as we experience it. In fact, this disobedience is counted on and serves God's higher purposes. It seems to go along with Romans 9 where Paul is discussing Foreordination and says that even the wicked Pharaoh ends up serving God's higher purposes. And in the same way, quantum mechanics also serves God's higher purposes. Satan tempting Adam and Eve in the garden to eat the fruit served God's higher purposes. But it is interesting to think about what a universe would be like that was completely obedient to God's laws. We talk about the ideal gas law. What if all matter and people behaved ideally? That would be heaven.

Rom 9: 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

I do wonder what Dr. Conway's religious and philosophical beliefs are. I am not sure he is really trying to make a religious statement other than saying people who believe in instantaneous communication by ESP are kooky. However, I believe that mankind do exhibit freewill. That is why social science is so unpredictable. And this freewill is an inherent aspect of our person and being. And, despite what Evangelicals say, it is this free will that is the only thing that we can possibly contribute and must contribute to our salvation. Calvinists would disagree and say that only Christ is free and that God's decision of who He predestines to salvation and who he predestines to damnation is random. God is not random. Rather, God is constant, unchangeable, and dependable like the speed of light in any reference frame. John in Revelations taught that Christ has come down and knocked on each one of our doors, and it is up to us to decide whether to open up to Him or not. Conversely, it is man who brings the randomness, arbitrariness and disobedience into the universe. God already knows our spin state from the first. He knows whether we love Him or not. But He allows us to prove ourselves to ourselves, so that we learn who we are and what we are made of.

Rev. 3: 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

I try to be cautious when it comes to debates where both sides argue to the exclusion of the other. So, when it comes to the free will vs. determinism debate, I would tend to believe that there is no dichotomy and both exist and co-exist. And I think that this paper finds that both free will and determanism can co-exist.

My other blog on this subject at brainbender.blogspot.com: http://brainbender.blogspot.com/2009/04/free-will-and-quantum-mechanics.html

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Different Covenants and Rewards

[The God of and covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob represents a progression of covenant and blessings from the telestial to terrestial to celestial. Being of Abraham is not enough for the highest reward in heaven. While all those who are of Abraham will be saved from physical death and hell, only those who are called of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) will be considered His seed and children of the promise. In other words, salvation and exaltation is not pass/fail but a graded system.]

Gen 3:22 And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Psalms 8:26 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.

1 John 32 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Philip. 3: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Gal. 4: 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Rom 8: 15-17 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received he Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

Mark 12: 25 For when they (Jewish woman with 7 husbands under the Jewish Covenant) shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

Heb 1:4-14 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? . . . And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. . . But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

Gal 4: 28-31 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

Rom 9: 6-9 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

1 Cor 15: 40-42 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.

Hosea 2: 23 (Rom 9:26) And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people (Gentiles), Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God.

Zech. 13: 9 And I will bring the third part (elect) through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God.

Rev. 3: 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

1 Jn. 5: 4-5 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

Rev. 21: 7 He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.