Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mormons are Saved by Grace Too (Or, The Brad Wilcox Show)

            You know that moment when melted popsicles are stuck to the kitchen floor, you can barely see the carpet through the toys scattered on the ground, dinner is boiling over on the stove, all the kids are whining for your attention, and your husband is working late?  I do.  Or maybe you are a single parent right now and a husband won’t be coming home.  Or maybe you are single and wish you were married and had messy floors and whining kids.  Either way, it is at these stressful, trying moments that our Savior’s grace is appreciated more than ever.  Sometimes I wish I could call upon the powers of heaven to clean my house and calm my children in one big bang!  That would be nice.

             During these moments when I want to retreat to my bedroom and scream into my pillow (and sometimes I do), I pray for grace. The bible dictionary defines grace as “divine means of help or strength, given through the bounteous mercy and love of Jesus Christ” (p. 697).  I need divine help and strength every minute of every day. Through the gift of grace, I receive peace.  I receive patience.  I can accomplish all that is required of me.  When grace is on my side, I am a WAY BETTER mom.

            Brad Wilcox, a member of the Sunday School General Board and an associate professor of Teacher Education at Brigham Young University, has given what I believe is one of the best explanations of grace and works.  (I am proud that I had him for a professor when I was at BYU!  I came away knowing more about children’s literacy in one semester than I had in learned in one year!)  In a speech titled His Grace is Sufficient, Brother Wilcox explained “Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His (BYU Devotional, July 12, 2011).

            Brother Wilcox compared this to a mother who pays for her son to take piano lessons.  Because Mom has paid the teacher, she can ask her son to practice.  Practicing does not repay Mom for paying the piano teacher; rather, it is how the son shows appreciation for the gift.  It is how he takes advantage of the opportunity to play. Mom finds joy in his playing and progressing, so she continues to ask him to practice. In the same way, Jesus has paid the price of justice through the atonement.  He has the right to say “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19) and “Keep my commandments” (John 14:15). 

             Sometimes the son may think his Mom’s requirement to practice is too overbearing. “Gosh, Mom, why do I need to practice? None of the other kids have to practice! I’m just going to be a professional baseball player anyway!”  In the same way, we may sometimes think Christ’s requirements are too much.  “Gosh! None of the other Christians have to pay tithing! None of the other Christians have to go on missions, serve in callings, and do temple work!”  If this is our attitude, maybe it is because we do not see through Christ’s eyes yet and we have not comprehended what He is trying to make of us.  His atonement is an investment He made in us.  Brother Wilcox explained when people of other faiths ask if we have been saved by grace, we can reply “Yes! Absolutely, totally, completely, thankfully – yes!” (Maybe we could throw in a Baptist-preacher type "Hallelujah!" and "Praise the Lord!") And then we can ask, “Have you been changed by grace?”

            Not only does grace sustain us from day to day, it also saves us from hell. “It is through the grace of the Lord Jesus, made possible by his atoning sacrifice, that mankind will be raised in immortality, every person receiving his body from the grave in a condition of everlasting life” (Bible dictionary, p. 697).

            Grace means that all of God’s children will be resurrected, and almost all of God’s children will go to heaven when they die. Hell is reserved for very few individuals: only those who have received all light and truth, and yet deny it. In the belief that all receive salvation through the grace of Jesus, our doctrine as Latter-day Saints seems to align with evangelical churches. However, we differ in the belief that heaven holds differing degrees of glory, and that is where our works come in.  Our works, which reflect our commitment to become like Jesus Christ, determine whether we ultimately make it to the Telestial (glory of the stars), Terrestrial (glory of the moon), or Celestial Kingdom (glory of the sun). These are the kingdoms referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: 40-41

            “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.”

            Brother Wilcox explained it this way, “We will all be resurrected. We will all go back to God’s presence. What is left to be determined by our obedience is what kind of body we plan on being resurrected with and how comfortable we plan to be in God’s presence and how long we plan to stay there.”

             Our ultimate goal is to make it to the Celestial Kingdom to dwell with God, Jesus Christ, and our families forever.  We believe that over time, we can eventually become Gods and Goddesses like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother.  This is not something we can earn; it is a gift that we are given as we grow into celestial beings through our works. Brother Wilcox stated, “Latter-day Saints know not only what Jesus has saved us from but also what He has saved us for.”

            The definition of grace continues, “It is likewise through the grace of the Lord that individuals, through faith in the atonement of Jesus Christ and repentance of their sins, receive strength and assistance to do good works that they otherwise would not be able to maintain if left to their own means. This grace is an enabling power that allows men and women to lay hold on eternal life and exaltation after they have expended their own best efforts” (Bible dictionary, p. 697).  This is why “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne 25:23). 

Here’s another Brad Wilcox goodie – this time learned from his book The Continuous Atonement.  This scripture is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that we should try to accomplish all we can without Christ, and then when we decide we need help we should call upon Him.  This is not how it is supposed to work!  We never have to try alone.  When the scripture says, “after all we can do”, the “we” should be interpreted as Jesus and us together – we are a team. I like to apply the scripture this way: “I know it is by grace that I am saved, after all Christ and I can do”.  Me and grace, side by side, every day.  Thank you, Jesus.

3 comments:

Cheltz said...

It seems like I sometimes catch a tiny glimpse of what grace is. For example, I was one time thinking about my inactive brother, and the thought occurred to me, that grace would bring him back someday. Someday, when my brother had repented, he would recognize that Christ had never left him, and had guided him back, and he would be so, so grateful :)

Anonymous said...

Understanding how God loves us is so important, because the love we allow ourselves to accept from Christ is a reflection of how we love ourselves and one another. When someone believes that Christ “requires” a proof of appreciation, then they are missing the whole point of love. Do we teach our children that when they give someone a gift that they should expect something in return? When we decide to have a child do we do so with a list of expectations of what they will do for us as “proof” of their appreciation to us? Is this the kind of love we want to reflect to our children? When someone gives their heart to Christ being 100% “in” and they trust Jesus above all man, when they accept Jesus into their heart, you truly go through a change in your spirit. You do good deeds not because they are law or a requirement “of proof” but instead you do them out of love for Christ (because he loved you first). Good deeds of love are a natural result of Christ living in you and you in him. Do you keep the commandments of Jesus because he tells you to, Or do you keep them because you love him? God knows your heart you cannot hide anything from him. God will know if we truly love Christ by our actions not by our words.

Ephesians 2:8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).


Steve Finnell said...

WHY SHOULD PEOPLE REPENT?

Is repentance a necessary act that is required by men for salvation or are men saved by "faith only?"

Acts 17:30-31 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.


People should repent because God commanded it and because all men will stand before Jesus on Judgment Day.


Luke 24:47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.


People should repent for the forgiveness of their sins. On the Day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem, men were required to repent in order to have their sins forgiven. They needed to make the commitment to turn from sin and turn toward God. Yes, they needed to repent in order to be saved. (Acts 2:38)


Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.


Men need to repent in order to not experience the wrath of God. A stubborn and unrepentant heart can make men reluctant to believe what Jesus said "and has been baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16) Shall be saved; follows water baptism and belief.


2 Corinthians 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.


People should repent because it leads to salvation.


2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.


All people should repent in order not to perish. Contrary to Calvinist teaching God wants all men to repent.


Luke 13:2-3 And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish.


People should repent because Jesus said "repent or perish."


Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


All men should repent so that they can have their sins forgiven and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.


It men believe (John 3:16), confess (Romans 10:9-10), repent (Acts 3:19) and are baptized in water (Acts 2:38) then they are saved. It can take 2 hrs more or less.


Repentance does not stop at water baptism. You also need to repent after you become a Christian.


THE APOSTLE PAUL WAS TALKING TO CHRISTIANS IN GALATIANS CHAPTER 5.


Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.


REPENTANCE IS A COMMITMENT TO TURN FROM SIN AND TURN TOWARD GOD. REPENTANCE IS A LIFESTYLE


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