Sunday, July 31, 2016

Religion vs Relationship

March 27th 2016

About 2000 years ago, Christ the Son of God condescended to this world, dwelt among men, took upon Himself the sins and pains of mankind, was crucified and died on the cross, and was resurrected on the third day. Why did God do all this? Was it to establish “Christianity”, a new religious institutional system which man must follow in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven? God’s “religion”, although presented differently according to the conditions of the children of men, (D&C46:15) has always been same since the days of Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses, to Christ, and to our present day. That religion, the purpose of this life or the plan of salvation, is to come to know the Father in heaven the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent. (John 17:3) The purpose of this life is for you to come to know God personally for yourself.

So the purpose of Christ coming to Earth 2000 years ago was not to establish a new “religion”, but to establish a relationship with YOU. He fulfilled the law of Moses, which points to just that - entering into His presence. (Alma 25:15) Without Christ, man could not come to know God. Christ is the mediator between us and the Father (John 14:6). The main purpose of the atonement is not just limited to us being justified and receiving forgiveness. IT is SO much more than that! The purpose of the atonement is to make us AT-ONE with Deity. Just as the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and Christ in the Father, and the Father in Christ, and the Father and Jesus are one (3rd Nephi 11:27). Likewise, we become one with the Father, and Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, through the at-one-ment. In the great Intercessory prayer given by Christ just before suffering for our sins He shows us the purpose of the atonement in the garden of Gethsemane as He petitioned the Father on our behalf, as recorded in John 17:19-23.

“And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.”
(John 17:19–23)

Often times we forget the whole purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. We get so caught up in our outward religious practices that we neglect our relationship with the Savior. Often times through our organized, correlated religion, we become as the Pharisees and Scribes, so heavily devoted to our practices, daily and weekly routines, traditions, rules, policies, checklists of ordinances, and loyalty to our church organization and its authorities that we become blinded by looking beyond the mark of our salvation (Jacob 4:14). We cannot even recognize the Son of God when He is right in front of us. Just as the Pharisees and Scribes did, you, too, can live your whole life devout to a religion or church, and never come to know God. IF by your religion you have not established an actual relationship with your Savior Jesus Christ, becoming of one heart and one mind with God, the religion you are practicing is in vain. The traditions you abide in are nothing but dead works.

”Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. For the day soon cometh, that men shall come before me to judgment, to be judged according to their works. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I say, Ye never knew me: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
(JST Matthew 7:21–23)

Did we not serve proselyting missions? Did we not magnify our church callings? Did we not give a tenth of all we have in tithes and attended our church meetings? Did we not get baptized at the age of eight into the church and were we not married in the temple? Did we not follow all our traditions as given to us through our church? All these wonderful works are pointless if we have not developed a relationship with the Lord, personally, with Him ourselves. It is the Father’s will that we receive Christ and have a relationship with Him. It is the will of the Father that we receive the testimony of Jesus Christ for ourselves. (JST John 6:44) It is NOT the will of the Father for you to simply stay in the boat, go to church every Sunday and temple once a month, pay your tithes, obey your leaders, and repeat that pattern till you die. Abiding in Christ is so much more fulfilling and desirable than abiding in ignorant traditions. So live the “pure religion” of God by coming unto Christ.

Now I am not saying that religious ordinances are not necessary to obtain a relationship with God. However, consider the following statement by Joseph Smith… 

“You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half--that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.” (TPJS pg 314)

You can be baptized into a church, but if you haven’t come unto Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit and been baptized by Him with fire and with the Holy Ghost…if you have not established that intimate connection with God, is the baptism even worth anything?

I am full of gratitude that Jesus Christ, the God of the universe, with His countless worlds, would condescend to this pathetic and wicked world we live in to suffer the pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind for us. (Alma 7:11-12) I am full of awe and amazement that God would have the patience, compassion, and charity to have a relationship with a weak and lowly sinner like myself. The power of the atonement of Jesus Christ is a real thing. It is the only thing that can truly change our hearts, sanctify our souls, and make us perfect. The awesome thing is, is it is available to ALL who will believe! It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done, ANYONE can have a relationship with Jesus. He invites all. (2nd Nephi 26:23) He wants you to be close, to be one, with Him.

If you find yourself stuck and trapped in your mundane religious traditions seeking for a relationship with God by relying on a church or someone else, you are not going to find it. You are not going find what you are looking for in a man, or an organization, or in anything of this world. You will only be able to find what you so desperately yearn for through Jesus Christ. No one else can give that to you but our Savior Himself. We must live a pure religion by coming unto Christ.

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