Sermoncitos, a family tradition
The Journey Towards God
It is the end of April; the sky is clear; the wind is calm; by late afternoon it will be 67 degrees. The lilac bush is just now showing its leaves. Here and there a brave plant is coming out of the ground. I say brave, because at the moment it is 15 degrees, typical for this time of year high in the mountains of New Mexico. It is a time of change. Winter is trying to hold on, and gets its chance to try every night; but by day the sun gives us hope of springtime. We start to look forward to the warmth of summer. We are moving step by step toward the light and heat of summer, but winter keeps trying to maintain its place in our lives. So is the journey we take away from the darkness of sin toward the light of Christ. When we start moving towards God, we always meet opposition, the enemy trying to keep us in the dark. I want to review some steps we heard about in Stake Conference this weekend. As we understand the process, we can overcome the pull of Satan that strives to keep us from the journey towards God. In the early steps we are still pulled back. In later steps the pull toward God is strong.
1. Initiation. Recognize the need to repent, and start moving towards God. “Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31).
2. Opposition. When Satan sees us attempting to move away from his influence, he will most certainly try to distract us from the quest (2 Nephi 2:11, 15).
3. First sacrifice. Quit the bad habits. “And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins” (Moroni 8:25).
4. Forgiveness, receive the Holy Ghost. “And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32). “Yea, and as often as my people repent will I forgive them their trespasses against me” (Mosiah 26:30).
5. Keep your eye single to the glory of God (this is a challenge, because we want to be delivered from temptation, but tend to stay in touch with it, not letting go of the world) “And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things” (D&C 88:67).
6. Second sacrifice, consecration. (Endowed with power from God in the temple) “...the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).
7. Divine tutorial (as a friend of God, not offended by God’s correction). “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).
8. Sanctification (be like God). “Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft, and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (Helaman 3:35). By following the light of Christ we can move from the winter of darkness into the warmth of God (John 12: 46).
Jesus often spoke of “the father which sent me” (John 12:49). He promised to go to his father and prepare a place for us (John 14:2, 28; 16:16). “Oh righteous father, the world hath not known thee; but I have known thee... (John 17:25). Jesus recognized that his father loved him “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). He said that we also can, indeed we must know the father. While praying to his father, Jesus declared, “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”. We know God by loving him, and show that love by obedience (1 John 2:1-6). This requires faith.
King Benjamin, who knew God well, called upon the people to “believe in God, believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom; and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9). The first step in developing faith in God is to have hope, and exercise that hope by pondering God and his role in our lives.
In order to know God, we must consider his works, his words, and the testimony of others. Paul reminds us to study the scriptures from childhood, for “all scripture is given by inspiration from God, and is profitable for doctrine... that the man of God may be perfect... (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Nephi was inspired to understand that obtaining the scriptures was worth the risk to his life, that the prosperity of his descendants depended upon their obedience to the commandments, and for that they needed the scriptures (1 Nephi 4:14-17). Nephi knew that their would be many voices to deceive the people, so he wrote plainly “that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation... for we labor diligently to write,, to persuade our children,, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God... (2 Nephi 29:18-23). We have the writings of the prophets, we can build our faith and knowledge of God by reading the scriptures.
It is a sure thing that our faith will be tried (James 1); yet we are not left alone to struggle with our knowledge of God. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God; that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him; but let him ask in faith...” (James 1:5, 6). Alma taught his sons to pray continually to God: “let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever; counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord; that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 37:36, 37).
The most sure way to know God is to follow him. “If a man love me he will keep my commandments; and my father will love him, and we will come unto him; and make our abode with him” (John 15:23). Martin Luther King said we must be willing to die for a cause in order for our life to be worth living. Joseph Smith said that a religion that does not require sacrifice does not have power to save. Alma said, “preach unto them repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil... teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls” (Alma 37:33-34).