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“You are from beneath; I am from above”

September 27, 2011 3 comments

The LDS “Plan of Salvation” is the core of all of its major and distinctive doctrines. One of the reasons for this is that it helps us understand what they believe about God and why, as well as their view of man.

According to Mormonism, we all existed as spirit beings with God before we came to earth in physical bodies. This is commonly referred to as the pre-existence. Simply stated, we were not created, but rather begotten in the spirit and therefore of the same type or species of being as God but at a different level of progression.

It is taught that at one point in time, God was once a man just like we are and was able to progress to the level of godhood that he enjoys now. This too can be our future if we follow the LDS system for salvation or “exaltation” as they say. In this post I don’t want to address the issue of the nature or progression of God, rather I want to speak of the idea that we all existed with God in the pre-existence before coming to earth.

Following LDS teaching, I lived with God as one of his spirit children and I was faced with a decision during the war in heaven to either follow Lucifer or Jesus. Anyone here on earth with a physical body chose to follow Jesus. Those who did not were cast out of heaven along with Satan now roam the earth as spirits.
To state the doctrine in a simple way…we all came from heaven and if we do what we are supposed to do here on earth, we will return there when we die.

In the course of my usual Bible study I have come across a couple of verses that to me teach something all together different.

We will start with 1 Corinthians 15:46-49.

46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

Notice that just as Adam was from the earth, so are we. The Man that is from heaven is spoken of in the singular form and is the Lord.

John 3:31
He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

John 8:23

And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

These passages in John point us to the fact that Jesus himself declares that He alone is from above and consequently above all. Our place of origin is this world, while His is not.

Why is this significant? Why take time to write about this? The answer is simple.
When we believe in doctrines that elevate or exalt us to the same divine origin as God it devalues Him and sets us up on a pedestal we don’t deserve to be on. The Bible is clear that we are created beings while Jesus is the only begotten of the Father. That means that naturally, only Jesus is of the same nature as God the Father. It is only through the principle of adoption that we become children of God and that is only possible when we see and accept our true state as sinners before a perfect and holy God and ask him to apply the blood of Jesus in our lives to wash away our sin.

Update:
A few days after posting this, a friend pointed out to me that John 6: 38-46 is another demonstration of this idea that Jesus claimed to be the only Man who came from heaven. Note also that it appears that the Jews of the time had no comprehension or teaching of a pre-existence. This is demonstrated by their confusion in verse 41-42.

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” 42 And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”
43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father.

Categories: God, Grace, Jesus, Mormonism, Salvation

Leaves or Leather

September 22, 2011 2 comments

God’s method of salvation never changes. It has always been about His way and not ours. Take Adam and Eve for example. After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil their eyes were opened to their sin and nakedness. Their attempt to cover their sin came in the form of fig-leaf aprons. While we don’t know how they managed to sew them together, my assumption is that they were relatively frail, full of holes and only thinly veiled the reality of their situation. God saw straight through their façade.

After they were called on the floor for not only what they did but how they tried to cover it, God demonstrated His solution to the problem. Every sin carries with it a consequence. For Adam and Eve it was expulsion from Eden and a heritage of sin and death passed down from generation to generation. He then did something that acted as a type and shadow of how He would deal with the issue of sin entering the world and specifically their sin. “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” (Gen 3:21)

This is significant for a few reasons. First, in order to make these clothes, the blood of an animal had to be spilt and a life had to be taken. This marks the first time death was used as propitiation for sin and it was a prophetic act pointing to the time when the Lamb of God, without blemish or defect, would die as a perfect sacrifice covering all sin.

These garments of skin are also significant because it shows us that the only way sin can be properly dealt with and covered is God’s way. He rejected Adam’s attempt to do so by declaring that those fig leaves were insufficient and totally inadequate to deal with their sin. The great thing about it though is that he did not just leave them there naked and shamed. He provided covering for them.

The same is true today. Our attempts to deal with and cover our sin to 100% useless. It is full of holes and always leaves us exposed. The great news though is that God has once again prepared robes for us but this time from a material so strong and eternal that it will never wear-out, shrink or come undone.

Isa 61:10 – I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness

Just as with Adam and Eve, they did nothing to make those robes. In actuality, God gave them to them despite their own efforts to not need them. Truth is, they did need them and we do as well. There is nothing we can do to cover our own sin, only relying on the blood of Jesus that was spilt will accomplish this.

God loved Adam and Eve so much that He made the first garment of salvation for them and if you receive and rely exclusively on His grace, He will clothe you with them as well.

The choice is yours. Do you want your sin to be covered with leaves or leather?

Categories: God, Grace, Jesus, Mormonism, Salvation

Porn-Again Christian by Mark Driscoll – A Review

September 19, 2011 1 comment

Porn-Again Christian…the title tells you just about everything you need to know about the content of this small but effective e-book produced by Mark Driscoll, founding Pastor of Mars Hill Church Seattle.

“Sure, the naked people you like looking at are hot…but so is hell.”

If you are at all familiar with Driscoll, you know that he does not shy away from truth and rarely holds back in how he presents it. In the case of this book, which takes head-on the issues and biblical teaching around pornography, masturbation and prostitution, I think his blunt approach is exactly what is needed. Part of his approach is due to his church demographic which is full of 20-30 year old men, many who are not married, and women of the same age with a high percentage of abuse in their past. He preaches old-school morals and gender roles to a sexually experienced, modern social group…and it works.

In the book he does a good job correcting a lot of misguided thought about women who are involved in making pornography. Many men rationalize their habit by saying the women want to be there, are having fun and are getting paid. Mark tells the story of a women he knows who was in the industry primarily because she was repeatedly sexually abused as a child which distorted her view of herself and lead her into a life of increased levels of promiscuity. The prostitution, magazine pictures and pornographic movies are a reminder of a past life that thankfully ended when she met Jesus. But Mark says something that really made me think.

“…I couldn’t help but wonder if there were men from my church out renting her videos to take home and masturbate to without knowing that she would be sitting in church next to them and singing songs to Jesus the following Sunday.”

A point Driscoll wants to make clear is that lust is an issue of the heart.

“Sexual sins are not “out there” in the media, strip club, or gal with lowrise jeans and hi-rise thong. Truly, the problem is “in you.” It is from the sinfulness of your heart that lust and sin proceed like sewage from a culvert. This is the painful, unvarnished truth.”

“Sinful sexual practices includes the sins of the mind where men amass a harem rivaling Solomon’s but only in their imaginations.”

One of the things I appreciate most in this book is the consistent discussion about how a man’s involvement with porn influences everyone around him, especially his wife. His counsel for men is to draw closer to their wives and to commit their eyes to her alone.

“The act of lusting after the unclothed body of a woman is not a sin. The issue is which woman’s unclothed body you are lusting after. If she is your bride, then you are simply making the Song of Songs sing again to God’s glory and your joy. If she is not your bride, then you are simply sinning.”

“Eve may or may not have been beautiful, but to Adam she was glorious because she was all he had ever known. Practically, he had no standard of beauty to compare his bride to-she was his only standard of beauty.”

“Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts full you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” If a man fills his mind with images of other women’s breasts, he will never be satisfied with his wife’s and thereby diminish her confidence and his marriage.”

Mark also outlines the prevalence of masturbation in today’s society but you might be surprised to read that he does not condemn it in all situations. There is a practical question/answer section where he responds to the most common questions he is asked on the topic.

He gives the following stats relating to men who admit to masturbating once a week or more from the Janus Report on Sexual Behavior and Sex in America:

Single Men – 48%
Married Men – 44%
Divorced Men – 64%

I found it interesting that the percentage between single and married men was not that different. That tells me that men carry this iniquity with them into marriage and must be in-part to blame for the high divorce rates we see in our nation. After all, without complete fidelity and trust in a marriage it will be hard for it to survive. Jesus made it clear that every married man who watches pornography is committing adultery. (Matt 5:27-28)

One of the more powerful parts of the book is a transcript of an interview between James Dobson and serial killer Ted Bundy only hours before he was executed. Bundy makes the link between his progressions from soft-porn to harder versions until even those would not satisfy his need, making the comparison to a drug, and his transition into real-life physical violence. He also says that all of the men he was in prison with had similar experiences with porn. Bundy made telling statements of warning that first, there are others like him out there and second, that if we are not careful our children will be exposed to the same “drug” that led him down his path to death.

To close the book, Mark hands the pen to Justin Holcomb for a sobering description of prostitution and sex trafficking. This is pointed to men in the military who are tempted, while deployed, to pay for sex. It is however something we should all be aware of. Over the last 12 pages, Justin goes into great detail describing the sex trade industry, how large it really is, how girls and women are forced into it and how profitable it is for those involved (except the women).

The goal of the entire book is to get us men to wake up to our own issues and deal with them through the empowering grace of God. In addition to that, Mark and Justin want men to look at women not as objects or tools to be used but rather as beautiful creations of God who should be valued, honored and protected. I could not agree more.

At the end of the book is a call to action:

“Prostitution and sex trafficking are not women’s problems or up to them to solve. Men are the perpetrators and women are the victims. Men are the problem. Sex trafficking is a men’s issue involving men of all ages and socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Men are not only perpetrators or possible offenders, but also empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers. Don’t remain silent.”

This is a book that every man should read even if you have never had an issue with lust, pornography or masturbation. Parents, please read it first before you give it to your children because some of the content may not be appropriate for your child depending on age and maturity level.

You can download Porn-Again Christian here for free.

To find out how you can get involved in the fight against sex trafficking please visit the following organizations.

The A21 Campaign

Sower of Seeds – Project Red Light Rescue

 

 

When God Resists Us

September 14, 2011 2 comments

A key point in my journey out of Mormonism and into Christianity was the distance I felt between God and myself. I spent the first 30 years of my life in the LDS system of works but only felt farther away from God as the years passed. It got to the point where I doubted the very existence of God because it seemed that no matter what I did, I could not see or feel him in my life. When I came to that point, I walked away from Mormonism and organized religion with little hope of establishing a relationship with God.

I could never figure out why, even when I was doing all of those good things, I did not feel close to God. That is, until now. God has been working with me on the issue of pride and He showed me something the other day that I think I need to share.

Pride is what was keeping me from the relationship with God that I so badly wanted. Let me see if I can explain. Any religious system that tells you that you can either earn your salvation or keep it by your own actions is a religion based on pride. That statement may step on a few toes but hear me out.

The Bible clearly teaches that it is only by grace that we are saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 is just one example of this. Since grace cannot be earned (Romans 11:6) than any attempt to do so is rejecting God’s gift to us and insisting that we pay for it even though the price is so astronomical that we would never be able to do so in a million years.

So here is the point, all of the righteous acts I do, as a Mormon or Christian, with the heart motive to earn or keep God’s grace and my place in Heaven actually puts distance between me and God.

James 4:6 says “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

When I read that a few days ago I pictured a dad playing with his child. When the child begins to think they can control the situation and even overpower the dad, he placed his hand on the kid’s forehead. At first he is still close but every time he struggled or worked to get closer, the dad slowly pushed him a small distance away. When the child began to push-back and even swing in vain to reach the father, he is pushed back even more until he is a full arms-length away and flailing his arms. The more he tries, the more he is resisted and kept at a distance.

Eventually, the child tires from the struggle, stops trying so hard and even collapses on the ground with no fight left in him. He has finally submitted to the power and authority of his father. It is at this point that the dad picks him up, gives a hug and demonstrates his willingness to forgive and show grace.

How many of us have played the part of that child, trying to establish our will or ability over the Father’s? How long have we struggled with our own attempts to draw nearer to Him but only on our terms? How many of us take credit for what God has done in and through us? I know I am guilty of all of these and pride is their root.

I got tired of pushing against God and in my pride thinking that I could possibly do enough to be declared righteous in His site. All those works I did as a Mormon could not begin to get me closer to God because they were born of a prideful heart that he resisted. It was not until I humbled myself and acknowledged my absolute brokenness and the futility of trying to “work-off” my sin debt that God drew me into his presence and gave me the grace I so desperately needed. Since that time, I have fostered a relationship with my Father through a lot of those same things I did before but my motive has changed.