Friday, April 11, 2014

No ordinary church

The painting on the right is one I always find moving and inspiring. It shows a pioneer family burying their child in an unmarked grave on the prairie, which they will leave shortly.  They will bear their sorrow and turn their faces toward Zion and begin pulling the handcart through the trackless snows.

It is this legacy of sacrifice that inspires us to keep moving forward.  If we quit, their sacrifices to give us this kingdom are all for nothing.  We understand that to inherit the glory they received from God in eternity, we must live to our covenants and never give up.

In yesterday's article, I related the story of a so-called TBM (true blue Mormon) who has apostatized, but has made the evil decision to stay in the Church and "fake it," while he works to bring the Church down from the inside.  One of the things he said has stayed in my mind:
" sunday I was sitting there thinking "why the f*** do I have to do all this stuff just to worship god?"- home teaching, calling, responsibilities, tithing.. this is not what an ordinary church would do." (Capitalization and punctuation in the original)
He has unwittingly hit upon the answer to his own question in posing this one.  This is NO ORDINARY CHURCH.  

Why do most people go to Church?  In my experience, being a convert to Mormonism and having attended and studied many religions in my search for truth, most people go to Church to feel better about themselves.  For some, they like the social contacts with others, the reaffirming that they are not alone in their opinions and beliefs.  For others, they feel an emotional uplift from singing, praying, and sharing feelings.  

Others go to assuage feelings of guilt.  Their parents pressured them when they were young and they feel guilty if they don't go.  Hearing messages of forgiveness and reconciliation are comforting and give them hope.

Some people go because it's a social necessity.  If they don't go, people might talk.  It's like President Obama, one of the few presidents who's not a big church-goer.  He gets flack for that.  If you're a community leader, a politician, an entrepreneur, or hold some public position, it assures others that you're an honest, God-fearing person.  You're trustworthy.  

There are probably lots of reasons for attending any church, but one more I'd like to mention is hypocrisy.  Some people go to church services (in any denomination) who go there simply because they like to feel better about themselves because they can look down on others disparagingly.  They donate time, money, and service to earn the praise of men.  

In most cases, people don't want to have to do anything.  Church meetings, especially among Protestant evangelicals, have become religious entertainment.  A Methodist minister once lamented to me that he found it absolutely draining to have to "fill the cups" of his congregation every week.  In his view, a true Christian church would have people come together, some with spiritual cups brimming to share, others half-full, and others needing filling.  Ideally, he said, they should be sharing from one another's cups.  Instead, because that didn't happen, he felt the obligation to try to fill his cup each week, only to have it drained to the dregs by a bunch of spiritual parasites.

Is that what this brother wants--to become a spiritual paradise?  If he wants to find a church that will require no obligations of him, there are a lot of choices out there.  There are churches that have concerts every week.  Some are like holy pep rallies.  Others are sedate, tranquil places where the pastor drones on in soothing tones, gently numbing the conscience to the incessant call of the Holy Ghost to repent. There are churches where he won't have to wear a tie or a suit or even clothing!  Yep, there are even nudist churches.

With such a variety of choices, why not pick another church instead of trying to destroy his own?  It doesn't make sense.

Meanwhile, if you're really into Bible religion, as most claim to be, you should be looking for a Church that demands the surrender of everything.  Sacrifice, service, and obedience are what Jesus demanded of those who joined his Church.  Consider this passage from Matthew:
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
39 He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 10:37-39).
And this one... 
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me (Matthew 19:21).
And this from Luke...
57 ¶And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.
62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke chapter 9:57-62)
When a man came to Jesus asking how to have eternal life, Jesus simply told him "...[I]f thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).  He didn't tell him to accept Jesus as his personal Savior and then sit back with a free-grace-get-out-of-hell-free card in his pocket.  The Lord Jesus told the guy that he needed to keep the commandments.  Obedience is necessary.  Anyone who says otherwise contradicts the very words of Jesus himself.

Jesus isn't trifling with you and me, brother.  He demands it all.  He wants your entire heart, soul, and mind.  He wants your absolute devotion.  He wants no other gods before him.  He wants you to walk the walk, not talk the talk.  He wants you to pray and to serve and to give until you are spent.  Only then will you find that the reservoir of faith you have spent gets refilled with something divine.  The wellspring of the Holy Ghost refills you and sanctifies you.  It changes you.  You become a better person, one more like Jesus.

You're not going to get that in one of those religious pep rallies, not matter how hard you try.  That's the churches of men, not the Church of Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith taught that a religion that does not demand the sacrifice of all things doesn't have power to save a person into the celestial kingdom.  If you are going to spend eternity with people like Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Peter, and Paul, you are going to have to be the kind of person that they were.  You are going to have to clear a high bar of faith and devotion.  Imagine yourself in heaven consorting with these men, those who gave all to the Lord's cause.  Many of them laid down their lives for their testimonies or offered huge personal sacrifices for the cause.  What will you have to compare to them--you didn't go to the Gap on Sunday?  What kind of sacrifice is that!

Indeed, if you intend to inhabit the celestial worlds with our forebears who pulled handcarts across the plains, you're not going to get there by complaining to God about home teaching or holding a calling.  Be real.  Heaven is a real place and it's not for the spiritually lazy.  Time to man-up, brother.  Stop complaining.  Put your hand to the plough and don't look back.  Don't spend time looking back in the rear-view mirror pining for the ease of Egypt when a Moses is leading you to a promised land that flows with milk and honey.

This is no ordinary church.  It is the Church of Jesus Christ himself. It is the one Church that has the keys, powers, and authorities to save your soul.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I needed this reminder. Hard as it can be sometimes, He asks no less of us. But He makes up for it in more ways than I can even begin to fathom.


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