Monday, October 6, 2008

Last weekend Ben and I gave talks in church. An opportunity that many are blessed with in my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or mormon church). Usually just not so quick after moving into a new ward. I was grateful for it though. I had the opportunity to do some soul searching and learning... and yes I needed a wee bit of humbling too.... ( I know... I know hard to believe! lol... for ME too! lol)  

Well, for years now I’ve thought... boy it’d be nice if I kept a talk or two then when I’m called to give another, or teach... I can have somewhere to start. Of course I just never get around to recording it... but not TODAY my friend!! NOT today ;)
I know it’s a bit long, but if you have a chance to read it, it’s worth it. The words and thoughts below touched my life for good.... and heck, who couldn’t use a little good?
enjoy ;)

When I was given a talk on the Plan of Salvation, I really wanted to find a way that made it applicable on a day to day basis. Ben just gave an amazing overview of the Plan, and we can attest to it’s truth, but how does it affect us here and now?

I started thinking about the Plan of Salvation and I thought, another name for it is the Plan of Happiness.

So.... are we happy?

President Hinkley once said “Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured”

So.... are you enjoying it? really?....

If we really are using the Plan of Salvation in our lives then we should be happy. So, if your not happy.... why?  And who wants us to be sad?... well, Satan right? and the way he does it is with sin.

Satan is good at what he does too. He starts with a shade of grey so bright that you can hardly tell right?? It’s kind of like when you don’t bleach your socks for awhile and then hold them next to a new pair. They aren’t quite as white as you thought right?? But you had no idea how bad they were. Just with Satan’s flaxen chords, he points out the iniquities in others and shows you things that are way worse than what he wants you to do. Until that flaxen chord is your new standard of white, and thus it continues, the flaxen chord getting thicker and thicker until he has you bound with chain. Make no mistake, he’s patient. He’ll help you along that path and stick with it how ever slowly you need to take it.

Even the prophets of God aren’t free from this torment.

Think for a moment about the story of Jonah.

Jonah was a prophet of God who was commanded to go to the wicked Ninevites and preach repentance. Jonah sins because he doesn’t like the Ninevites and doesn’t go. Rather he flees on a boat to Tarshish. Along the way God, who is angry with Jonah, causes there to be a storm. Jonah is thrown overboard and of course swallowed by a whale. Jonah repents and is saved. He travels to Nineveh and preaches repentance. Nineveh repents and is saved. Jonah of course climes that hill and waits for Ninevehs destruction because he doesn’t believe that they could be saved.

Now before we judge Jonah too harshly you have to understand Jonah didn’t like the Ninevites because of what they had done to his people, AND because of what they were yet to do.
In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was a major city within the Assyrian empire, soon to be it’s capital. The Assyrians were brutal, war-mongering people, feared by all around them.
By this time the Assyrian empire included almost all of present day Iraq and Syria and much of present day Jordan and Turkey. For a time they even controlled Egypt. The assyrians had been raiding the borders of the northern kingdom of Israel for years, collecting tribute from them as well. Jonah knew from fellow prophets that the Assyrians would soon destroy the northern kingdom and lead his people into captivity.

The Assyrians had actually done many harsh things. They were actually sinful.  

So what was Jonah’s sin??

Well, first he ran to Tarshish which was of course disobeying the Lord. But what was his sin after that? After he repented and came to preach to Nineveh?

Is it wrong to think that people have wronged us?

 Well, lets look at the story again.

The book of Jonah is actually written as a chaisim. A chaisim is a Hebrew style of writing that is formated in an A-B-C-C-B-A pattern. Everything points to the center.

Here’s what the book of Jonah looks like.

          A. The Lord commands Jonah to preach against the wicked Ninevites.
                B. Jonah sins, not wanting Nineveh to be saved.
                     C. Jonah repents and the Lord saves Jonah.
                     C. Nineveh repents and the Lord saves Nineveh.
                B. Jonah sins, not wanting Nineveh to be saved.
          A. The Lord asks Jonah a question: Should not I spare Nineveh?

So, in order to answer the Lords final question we look at the center. If Jonah answers the Lord by saying, “No! they don’t deserve it.” then what is the implication about Jonah’s salvation?
But that’s not fair you might say. Jonah was a prophet of God. He had done so much good in the world. The Ninevites were clearly bad. They were clearly worse right??
Remember when I said that satan will point out the sins of others to make us feel good about ourselves?

Whether or not Nineveh is righteous is critical, but only for Nineveh. It has nothing to do with Jonah. If he thinks it does... if he thinks he is more deserving because he is somehow better than Nineveh than in that moment, he has been led away by the sin of others into his own sin, just as Satan would hope.

Really this is the way to look at it. 

We are all unworthy of Salvation. No one merits it. Salvation is an act of mercy for Nineveh, but mercy for Nineveh is no longer in question. The mercy that remains in question is mercy for Jonah.

So the implication of the Lords question is this:

Mercy can be extended only to those who are willing to extend it themselves.
The very center statement of the book of Jonah reads, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy”

Jonah has forgotten all his prior sins, he’s forgotten the mercy that he’s already received, and feeling no persona mercy, he’s locked in despair.

He’s unhappy right? He isn’t letting the Atonement fully work in his life because he’s denying it from others.

Many of these insights about the atonement I got from reading a book called “The Peace Giver”. In it the author also references a story found in Samuel chapter 25.

David is living in the wilderness, he’s fleeing from Saul who would have his life. There’s little food and supplies for them to live on. David hears of a great man with 3,000 sheep and 1,000 goats who’s name is Nabal. David hears that Nabal is having his sheep sheered in the wilderness. Well, in a dangerous time where little food is to be had David and the hundreds of men who have flocked to him protect the shearers and the flocks.

Verses 15 and 16 read:
 15 But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields:
  16 They were a wall unto us both by night and day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep.

Well, after all is said and done David sends a small group of young men to go to Nabal and let him know of the service they’ve provided. They ask him for provisions for the men to which Nabal says in verse 10 & 11:

10 ¶ And Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master.
  11 Shall I then take my bread, and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men, whom I know not whence they be?

Well, of course these men came back and told David and the others what he had said and in verse 21 David says:

21 Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath requited me evil for good.

He’s wronged me! Right? That’s what David is saying here.

So in verse 13 he says

13 ...Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.

Well, Abigail, Nabal’s wife, is told by one of the servants what has happened and she quickly prepares all the provisions and more that David has asked for. She then goes down to meet with him.

verses 23 & 24 read:

 23 And when Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground,
  24 And fell at his feet, and said, Upon me, my lord, upon me let this iniquity be: and let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak in thine audience, and hear the words of thine handmaid.

She pleads with David no to seek revenge.

2 Nephi 11:4 says
 4 Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him.

If all things typify Christ, lets look at Abigail for a moment. In what ways did she typify Christ in this story?

1. She brought to David all that he needed just as Christ does.
2. Just as we sin and need intercession, Nabal sinned and needed intercession
of Abigail.
3. But perhaps the most importantly, was this. When Abigail approached David
she didn’t say forgive Nabal. She literally took upon herself his sins and said
forgive thy handmaid. Forgive me.

If all things typify Christ, as the scripture says, then Abigail here is illustrating for us how Christ has taken upon himself the sins of others and stands before us as it were with living bread and water. He comes to us with that offering, inviting us to accept of his atonement for others’ sins.

The story of Abigail suggests that the Atonement is as much for the benefit of the sinned against, the victim of sin, as for the sinner. Her story goes beyond that though to suggest that one of the effects of sin is to invite those who have been sinned against (David, Jonah, you me...) to become sinful themselves.

This of course is what leads us to be unhappy. The Atonement, however, provides an escape from the temptation to sin.

Usually when we think of the Atonement we think of how the Savior bridged the gap for our own sins. We think of it as something he has done for us. Which is right... he has... but the story of Abigail invites us to look at the Atonement from a different angle. Not from teh perspective of how Christ has atoned for our own sins, but rather from the equally true perspective that he has atoned for the sins of otheres.

Part of the Atonement, Abigail suggests, is the idea that the Lord offers to those who have been harmed or potentially harmed by the sins of others the help and sustenance they need to be made whole.

-Those deprived of love, can find love.
- The companionless can find companion in him.
- Those with a cross to bear can find another who carries and makes it light.

The Lord has already atoned for the sins of all. When you are wronged, whether in the past currently or in the future, Christ has atoned for that sin and it is He who stands before us asking for forgiveness.

What greater cost for justice could we demand than what he had to pay?

Our peace and happiness is not determined by others, whether they be righteous or not, but by us, and whether we choose to come unto Christ. For when we come unto him, he blesses us with his mercy and basking in that mercy we find peace.

I invite all of you to think of the Atonement in this new way and let the Plan of Salvation lead you to true happiness. I testify that these things are true, that the gospel has been restored upon the Earth today and that the power of the Atonement will cleanse us from bitterness, sorrow and pain, if only we allow it to.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

1 comment:

Marshall Home said...

You seem to be a better writer than in High School. I am impressed with your post I wanted you to know your words touch someone today