(Continued from last week…)
QUALIFYING THE SAVIOR’S GRACE
It’s interesting that when we talk about the Lord’s saving grace—as a gift, as something we can’t earn—so many Latter-day Saints feel the need to qualify it. For instance, years ago, I was asked by an organization in the Church—not by the Church itself, mind you, but by this organization—to write a song for an approaching conference they were having. I did so, and one of the lines of the song said something like: “Christ can cleanse us when we fall.” They objected to this simple statement. They wanted to qualify it in the song, when most of the song had already alluded to our need to go about doing good. Their reasoning felt like something akin to the following: “Yes, the grace of God’s atonement is a gift, but in order to receive that gift of grace we must keep the commandments, and repent of our sins, and be baptized, and do our home teaching, and go to the temple, and be at all our meetings, and pay a full tithing, and have a year’s supply of food, etc.” (I couldn’t fit all of that into the song.) Why are we so afraid that we have to qualify His grace? Because, when I think about it, I’ve almost never heard someone qualifying it the other way. For instance, when was the last time you heard someone say: “Remember, we need to pay our tithing. But, even if we did, it still wouldn’t save us without the Lord’s grace.” Or, “Remember to keep the Sabbath day holy. But you know what, even if you did, you’d still deserve to suffer in hell for your other sins if it weren’t for the Lord’s gift of salvation.” We don’t qualify it that way. Or, finally, “The Lord wants us to obey Him in all things, but even after all we can do, it’s still His grace that returns us to His presence. In fact, His grace is right there all along, helping us do all we can do. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to keep His commandments nearly as well as we should.” This is what it tells us in our own Bible Dictionary. But, do we talk about it?
I wonder sometimes if we are not guilty of trusting so much in our own arm of flesh, and relying so much on our own achievement to get to heaven, that His arm gets overlooked.
FOCUS AND TESTIMONY
If the Church, as an organization, feels paramount in our focus and testimony—if the precepts, the rules, the programs, and requirements feel like the most important part of our devotion—almost our worship, as it were—then the moment you and I fail to fulfill all the demands and requests of the Church, we droop in despair and begin to question our beloved place in the Lord’s heart. If we as a people talk more about what is asked of us and not enough about our faithful Redeemer, who with outstretched arms yearns for our love and friendship, we miss the mark completely as did Jesus’ own people. And no one was more devoted to the requirements of their religion than the Jews. But so many of them missed Christ’s grace-filled gift of salvation. Are we like them? Are we missing the beauty and majesty of our Savior’s generous offering to us? Are we failing to recognize His incomparable love for us?
GETTING IN TO HEAVEN?
There was an elderly gentleman in my home ward, who, because of age and sickness, hadn’t been able to come to Church much anymore. One day, he asked his daughter: “Do you think I can still go to heaven?”
Have we talked so much about what we need to do to be saved, and so little about Him who saves us—this amazing Being who loves us with a determined and unfailing love—that when we don’t quite do all we need to do, we fail to look to Him who can save us, and, instead, looking at ourselves, we become discouraged? Soon enough, we will start to believe that we’ll never make it.
No wonder the prophet Zenock said: “Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son” (Alma 33: 16).
I beg of you to remember, that while we need to work at fixing our own hearts on Christ, the great thing is He has already fixed His heart on us and is determined to do everything in His power to bring us home. Certainly, we can reject Him if we wish, but that will be by our choosing, not His.
JESUS WANTS TO BE LOVED
The first and great commandment is this: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind and strength.
“Jesus loves to be loved. He [thrills at] those…who have the most personal affection for Him….Any Love for Jesus which does not include an intense desire to see and be with Him is below the standard of affection which He [desires] of us. They please Him most who Love Him personally and ardently up to their capacity” (G. D. Watson, Soul Food, pp. 15, 18).
Do you and I love the Lord, Jesus up to our capacity? I pray that we will.
I pray that we will give our Savior more time in every facet of our lives, more natural mention of Him in our conversations, more thinking of Him, more rejoicing in Him, and that we will come to Him, and dwell in Him in all we do, that our spirits may truly have life…in Him.