Sunday, January 16, 2011

thoughts on grace

the speaker in church today spoke on grace.

i'm going to be pulling from points he made in his talk that stood out to me to "write-through" my own feelings and understanding of the talk. hopefully i can make it coherent and maybe even insightful?

so in any discussion of grace there is the grace vs works debate; are we saved by grace or works. we are, of course saved by grace (though works do factor in) but bro. wilcox brought up the idea (and i agree) that the more important question is "have you been changed by grace?" i think that's when we start to understand how grace and works go together.

Christ paid the price for our sins to redeem us from death and hell. he already did it - we are redeemed. as stephen robinson explains in his book "believing christ" that "coming to Christ" is like getting on a train that takes us to "being saved" and that "If we stay on board--if we endure to the end--we have God's promise that we shall reach our destination and become all that he is and receive all that he has." Grace is the train that takes us there, but our "works" are our decision to stay on - or get off - the train.

that is why what we DO while we are on earth is so important. but even then it isn't MY ability to do that  matters. the bible dictionary explains that grace enables us "to do good works" that we "otherwise would not be able to maintain" on our own. so even in our "works" there is "grace" manifest. in the scriptures we are taught how we are saved by grace "after all WE can do"
2 Nephi 25:23 - For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

and so "let US cheerfully do all things that lie in OUR power"
Doctrine and Covenants 123:17 - Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.
The critical thing to remember there is that it's a WE and an US, which bro. wilcox pointed out isn't just a simple pluralization.  the we = Christ+me. Christ and I are working together, not just me trying to meet some quota and then christ "making up for" the rest, but me working within the framework of his Atonement, his grace, to do what he would have me do. because it's not just works for the sake of works.

and it's not me having be this specific something in order to qualify for grace. we ought to learn and do good. we can push ourselves because we love god and want to give/offer him all/our best... BUT he loves us too and therefor is willing to accept ANY offering. bro. wilcox said he is more concerned with the offerer than the offering. like c.s. lewis wrote, that while God will "in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty." 

so we must remember that KNOWING good things & DOING good things is good but BEING good is most critical. and it's kinda okay not to always know/do if you are becoming - that's what repentance IS. that's what the plan of salvation is.

The atonement is to save us through grace and works. Alma 34:15 states that Christ "shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance." we are able to exercise faith, to repent, to have works because of Christ.

bro. wilcox said that it's like how mom pays for piano lessons. she pays so she has the right to ask me to practice (because she has the ability to see the benefit a life of music will be) but the practice doesn't pay her back it's just the way for me to learn/become better.

the same for our good works and obedience. it doesn't pay Christ back or earn us a spot in heaven, but it IS what allows is to become who we need to be to be comfortable in heaven. bro. wilcox said we ought to ask ourselves "are the things I am doing going to help me be comfortable in God's presence? am I practicing for heaven?" (**see below)

because really, the unrepentant sinner will not be begging to stay in God's presence - it would be too uncomfortable - painful even - to know and to have the memory of your sins before you... Take the experience of Alma,
I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. (Alma 36:12-15)
bro. wilcox said it is more likely Christ will be begging the unrepentant sinner to use his atonement to be able to stay AND to want to stay. which takes us back to stephen robinson's train idea, because "our ultimate object, our goal, is to become what Christ is...Those who do not desire to become entirely as Christ now is will find themselves increasingly uncomfortable with the process and will eventually get off the train, some nearer and some farther from their proper destination. But nobody gets thrown off."

nobody.  "Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance" (2 Ne. 26:27).

so we ought to practice NOW for heaven. we must begin "becoming" and if we choose to accept it, grace will enable us to become despite/irregardless of our feeble efforts. grace will save us and grace will enable us...but the practice is good for us. it's the purpose of life. "For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32)

**this also fits with a tangent idea i read of in an article, that the gospel plan is for all of us to have with God the same special relationship of oneness that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ share. Philippians 2:5-6 - "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God..." we must practice being one with him, doing his will, because one day we WILL be!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

growing is forever

i started out only half paying attention...but i have to admit there was emotion welling up in my eyes by the end... (thanks angela)

Growing is Forever from Jesse Rosten on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Teaching Part 1

The church is an layman organization. This means we all, at one point or another, get to be teachers. Since most people do not go any further with this than the 3rd grade wish to be a teacher when i grow up! being called to a position to stand in front of classroom and "Impart Knowledge" = a lot of pressure and anxiety... which unfortunately often leads to classes that do not meet their potential.
I've been thinking about this lately, and really it IS a great responsibility to be a teacher but it's also an awesome opportunity! In D&C 50 the Lord commands us to "reason together" so that all "may understand" (vs 10) because it is our job "to teach the truth" (vs 14) and God will make us "strong" when we do so. He will make our reasoning/understanding/teaching HAPPEN. We are promised that when we impart (teach) and receive (learn) the truth "by the Spirit of truth" we will be "edified and rejoice together" (vs 21-22).  
Doesn't that just relieve a LOT of pressure?! It's not MY job to edify; the scriptures i.e. the gospel i.e. the truth + the Spirit is what does that. I'm just the facilitator: 
facilitate |fəˈsiliˌtāt|
verb [ trans. ]
make (an action or process) easy or easier
The responsibility of the teacher then is to make the edification come easier. To introduce the topics and ask the questions with the goal to bring the spirit. We don't have to be powerful teachers in and of ourselves; we can speak "by the power the Holy Ghost" which will carry the message "unto the hearts" of those you listen. (Once it is there they have the choice to receive it or not -- remember it only goes "unto" their hearts they have to decide to take it "into")

When we learn a principle through the spirit, when we are truly edified, it is a personalized understanding of a truth that is for our individual benefit. It is the Lord himself communicating with ME on how I can become closer to and more like Him.
And ultimately what you want is for your students (and yourself) to become like Christ. Let me repeat myself, THE GOAL OF TEACHING IS TO BRING ABOUT WORTHWHILE CHANGE. Of course, no one ever really changes because of what they see or hear -- we change because of what we FEEL.
Elder Henry B. Eyring describes this in a story about his 18-year-old son: John then taught me something about proving. He told us about a seminary teacher. He said: “You know, Dad, he knew something. He knew that you could bear testimony to young people. You could teach that the Atonement is something they need. You could teach them that they need to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to repent, and to be baptized. They need to feel the Holy Ghost. You can do all that, and they will hear you. But they may not believe you. They need to experience it before they will believe they need it.”
Then John described a teacher who had persuaded some students to prove something. The teacher’s challenge was to not go to inappropriate movies and to see whether the students could feel the effect in their lives. According to John’s report, they did. They could feel the companionship of the Holy Ghost returning.
John felt that all the sermons in the world trying to prove there was a Fall would not be nearly so effective as the person trying to do the right thing and then feeling the power of the Holy Ghost in his or her life. There is a difference we can feel between our fallen natures and our being lifted above them by the power of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the effects of the Atonement.
You want your students to see that their challenge is not to prove that the Book of Mormon is true but to prove to God that they—the students—are true. When they do this, they will know the book is true. And when they prove that they will do what the book says, God will tell them more:
“And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them." (3 Ne. 26:9–10).