What’s the Difference Between a Saint and a Sinner?

What’s the difference between a saint and a sinner?

It’s really simple. Are you ready?

A saint repents. And then sins, and repents again. And then makes another mistake, and (you guessed it) repents again. I’m not talking about a person who laughs at sin and continues to do it, knowing that they can “just repent later”, but real people, with real addictive behaviors, working each day, hand-in-hand with God, to repent and try to be better.

You may think that I’m being trite, but I’m not.

A sinner either thinks that there is no need for repentance (is in denial that there is such a thing as sin) or thinks that he/she is so bad that they are incapable of God’s love, or is mad at God and doesn’t want anything to do with Him … right now.

All of it is a matter of the heart. Let’s go to the scriptures to see what the Lord has to say  –

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).

I love that one. I love that the Lord wants to sit down and “talk shop” with us, “let us reason together“.

Here’s another one I love. This is for when the devil tells me that there is a quota on repentance –

But as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven (Moroni 6:8).

Here’s one for when the devil tries to tell me that I’ve gone beyond the point of repentance, that the Lord is so disgusted with me that He doesn’t want to be around me –

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39). 

And if that doesn’t work, I like this one –

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

But perhaps, one of my favorite scriptures of all, and the reason that saints go on repenting, and trying to be better –

Behold … I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love (Doctrine and Covenants 6:20).

A saint has felt the love of God in the most quiet reaches of the heart, in a place where no one else has access, and then desires always to have that love with them. Being a disciple of Christ is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work.  But the rewards are peace in this life and eternal life in the world to come (Doctrine and Covenants 59:23).

And here is the best part of this whole discussion. You and I and everyone around us can change from a sinner to a saint at any moment. Right now in fact. It is a matter of the heart. Going to God and confessing (telling Him what we did wrong) and forsaking (promising to not do it again), and if we mess up, confessing and forsaking again until we get better and better at making the distance between the sin and the repentance smaller and smaller. Until, eventually, we decide that we love God more than the sin and so we choose to pray through the temptation instead of committing the sin and praying after. Then, we begin to change our lives … to not be where the temptation is so readily available, to replace the bad in our lives with good.

We can do it. The Lord believes in us. I know that is true.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand (How Firm a Foundation, Hymn # 85).

Grace and Works – Becoming the Man or Woman of Christ

We just watched the Christian movie, “God is Not Dead” which was really fascinating. (Just as a heads up, there will be some SPOILERS AHEAD so if you want to watch it, don’t read the next few paragraphs). I liked the debates, I LOVED the conclusion that we all need to learn for ourselves, that God wants us to choose, but (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) the end just left me without any joy or hope. To have the professor hit by a car and then just before he dies, he breathes out a final, “okay, yes, I guess I do believe in Jesus” didn’t really ring true or fair to me.

Perhaps it’s the age old Christian debate about faith and works. I absolutely know that we can be saved through the Grace (or as I call it the atonement) of Jesus Christ. But if we are saved to do nothing more than just keep living a sin-filled life, has the miraculous sacrifice been truly appreciated or used in the way that it was intended?

The Apostle Paul talked frequently about us becoming new creatures in Christ. The heavens watched with “anxious anticipation” to see what these new Heavenly Creatures would be like. Paul constantly tells us to be better. Look at some of his thoughts from Romans 6 –

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members instruments of righteousness unto God.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (verses 12-16)

I had a Christian friend who kept telling me that he was saved, so really there was nothing else for him to do. No need to change bad and destructive habits, no need to try to be better or to help others, or to read scriptures, or to pray, or to have a close relationship with God. He was saved, so any sinning that he did didn’t matter, because he was saved.

How sad. How much more in life he could have been, could have done, if he had allowed the Grace – the ennobling power, the Divine means of help and assistance (see BD: Grace) work as a power within himself to become a greater being – the Man (or in my case Woman) of Christ.

That is why the movie frustrated me. (SPOILER, again) for years, the character of the professor worked at ripping down faith, and then to die and say, “sure I’m saved”, well it sure doesn’t seem fair to allow him the same heaven as those Christians who were sacrificed to lions for their testimonies.  A more ennobling ending to that film would have been to see the professor begin to unlock the power within as he came to accept his anger toward God and then try to work it out with God. To help him find the love of God would be so powerful. Yes, there would be a difficult path ahead, but he could use Paul’s life as an example. The Apostle Paul – talk about a man of Christ!

At the beginning, he tore down faith, but then, had an amazing conversion on the Road to Damascus. The Lord testified of Paul to Ananias, “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9: 15). The Lord knew that Paul could be so much more than he was.

He knows that about you and me as well.

More reading on the subject –

Romans 6, Romans 8

Blog-post that I wrote, Grace the Price has been paid, the opportunity has been opened.

Elder Oaks talk, The Challenge to Become

Accommodations for Exceptions Rather than Rule Change

Exception to the rule

Politics. Ahh – rrrghhhhh! They get so beastly … so nasty … so quickly. I have noticed a pattern as I have discussed points of view with many of my friends who agree and many who oppose my opinion. First of all, it seems to me that many of my friends who are liberal minded care deeply about  social issues that deal with exceptions to the rule. My friends who are more conservative minded care about those effected, but worry more about the oppression that will happen if we make those exceptions ‘the law’ rather than ‘the accommodation.’

Let me give an example using gay marriage. Previously, the law of the land was such that those who lived as homosexual partners were being oppressed (not given legal rights to care for children, have domestic health insurance, etc.). The accommodation to the rule, that I believe would have worked the best, would have been civil unions. This would have given the legal rights to the partners who desired to make a life together, while still upholding the views of  the majority (as evidenced by the vote of the will of the people in the cases of marriage protection acts) regarding marriage. Instead of having discussion and understanding others’ points of view and needs, Judges have overruled the will of the people and the exception has now become the rule (the far reaching affects of ignoring the voice of the people is a blog post for another day).

“Why should this matter?” say many of my friends.

Because, now the law becomes oppressive to the majority. Rather than finding a way to work together for a solution, the answer has become – “force everyone to act, even if that means to act against their moral conscience.”

Here are some examples – instead of a gay couple going to a photographer who would be happy to take their pictures they would rather force someone (by civil lawsuits) to act against their moral conscience. The same is true for bakers, florists, etc.  – instead of going to those businesses who would be over-joyed to serve them, they seek to force those who disagree to act in ways that go against their moral conscience. Many who are liberal minded shout “hooray” and say “it is the price of citizenship.

What will happen now when a priest refuses to marry a gay couple?

My liberal friends assure me that this will never happen. That homosexuals only want to work with people who agree with them. This (as evidenced above) is obviously not the case.

Which right in the Constitution is more important to be upheld? The first (which guarantees the free exercise of religion) or the 14th (which is the equal protection clause)?  We know from history that the law and the people of the land haven’t always been kind or tolerant of the free exercise of religion, and yes, vice-versa for the equal protection clause (but that’s another blog post for a new day).

Many people who are not religious will say, “what’s wrong with marrying them, or changing your religion to incorporate all views?” But if we did that, then our religion will cease to be a religion. We would effectively cut ourselves off from that Being which we believe in. We’ve been warned by Him about that [capitalization has been added by me for clarity] –

And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom He hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom He hath sent receiveth not Him; and therefore He will not receive them at the last day;

And it would be better for them if they had not been born. For do ye suppose that ye can get rid of the justice of an offended God, who hath been trampled under feet of men, that thereby salvation might come? 3 Nephi 28: 34-35

You see, those of us who have received the gift of Grace from the Savior are under condemnation if we turn our back on Him, do not carry our cross, or change His laws and statues. We do not have the right nor the inclination to do so. He paid a dreadful price for every act that each of us would commit, simply to give us the opportunity to repent, if we chose to do so. It was completely unfair, and unjust, but I am so grateful that He did. I will not proudly wave my banner in the air proclaiming the opportunity and right to choose to sin at so great a cost.

So now, instead of finding a way to compromise, to allow accommodations for those exceptions to the rule (so that the effected might not feel oppressed) we have created new rules that oppress others.

Unfortunately, this issue is FAR from over and it will only get more divisive over time as we continue to deal with questions that force a religious person to be a part of action that is against their moral conscience (i.e. a pharmacist who is forced to dispense the morning after pill, a doctor or medical person who is forced to perform or help with an abortion, etc.) Can we not find a way to deal with another’s accommodation (for example allowing a different pharmacist to fill the prescription?) Why must we live in a world that insists on ALL have to do it my way without accommodation?

In my job as a professor, I constantly ask my students to discuss matters of disagreement with civility. I ask them to take a look at other sides with an eye of understanding (not total agreement, but with respect toward those ideas and opinions that are different). Then I ask them to come up with solutions that will help. Sometimes we have to table a discussion with the “agree to disagree” compromise which leaves both parties with the ability to walk away with dignity. Mostly, my sweet young students come up with the “too bad, they just have to deal with it because it’s what I want to do” answer, which (though it makes total sense for a kid who truly feels that way) is not a way to live in society!

With the new changes in the US government, I ask my friends, both liberal and conservative to try to discuss rather than name call. To try to understand and allow for differences and accommodations rather than to try and force EVERYONE to go along with your agenda. To at least try to look for a third way that will allow all to live in harmony.

To the believer who hasn’t spent any real time with God, please understand that there are and have been TRILLIONS of God’s children here on the earth and He has a responsibility to all of them (living, dead, and yet to be born) not just to the world as you know it and have experienced it.

I ask my sweet religious brothers and sisters to remember that though we are trying to build a Celestial City, Zion Community, etc (depending on which form of Christianity that you believe in) we are not currently “in one” as a total society. Put away that all of that Righteous Indignation and let’s find kind and merciful ways to build that great Kingdom together (following the example of the Savior who lovingly accepted the person as they were, healed them, and then invited them to live a better life by saying, “go thy way and sin no more.” He did not crack the whip over the broken person’s head with a “you stop doing this or you will go to HELL” mentality. He only cleansed the temple twice in His entire ministry  – NOT on a daily basis on Facebook). I am NOT suggesting that we drop the fight for the souls of our brothers and sisters, but that we put down the whip more often so that people will actually want to listen to the amazing message of the Gospel.

To members of my faith who are currently trying to change the doctrine, I ask you to go and find out WHAT the doctrine is from the PURE source (that’s the scriptures and words of the living prophets, folks. Not the blog posts of the disgruntled who try to make laws based on exceptions to the rules. It takes study, and time, and humility to ask God why things are a certain way, but if you go to Him, He will teach you.)

To my atheist friend, I will always allow you to disagree with me with the mutual understanding that “we shall see” when we come to the other side. If you are right, I’ve lived a good life. If I am right, well … I’m open to a chat about religion anytime you want! 😉 (That’s how I left it with a sweet Bulgarian man who honestly believed in the principle of sharing the shirt off my back if I have two and my brother has none. I admired his goodness and desire to help his fellowman. He promised to listen to my message on the other side if I were right. We left with mutual respect and handshake of good fellowship.)

We can live together. We can find ways to hear each other out and work together to allow others to live freely.

 

 

 

The Difference Sinners and Saints

Curse these computers!!! 😉 I wrote a completely different post on my phone, and for whatever reason, it didn’t update on the site before I published it.  My apologies!  What follows is the post that I originally intended.

On a walk yesterday, I had a wonderful discussion with some friends about modernistic and post-modernistic movements and the arts.  One of the most interesting parts of the discussion was about a musical that teaches the recently well-worn concept about human existence –  that “good guys” do bad things and “bad guys” do good things.  This is not a new concept, and an argument that is very often used to “justify” a person’s standing – “well, those guys did this and they’re supposed to be good, so I’m okay”.

This mentality breeds complacency and will never be a worthwhile argument until this idea is added to the conversation – that the only difference between a Saint and a Sinner is that one continually repents and works on forsaking sins, while the other doesn’t.

After all  we are told –

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23).

and –

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy (Mosiah 4:19).

When I taught Seminary, I found a scripture that taught me an amazing principle about the atonement – And I pray the Father in the name of Christ that many of us, if not all, may be saved in his kingdom at that great and last day (2 Nephi 33: 12, emphasis added).

That phrase – “if not all” seemed to leap out of the page at me.  All of us…everyone could be saved by the atonement of Christ  – hinviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile (2 Nephi 26:33).  The only thing that can keep one out of the Kingdom of God is his or her own choice.  It’s a question of the heart and humility.

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel (Article of Faith #3, emphasis added).

That’s why it is vital to finish out the conversation about “good guys” doing bad and “bad guys” doing good.  Because Saints are only considered “good guys” because they continue to go to God and continue to try to be good despite (sometimes often) falling short.  A sinner does not, but the good news of the gospel is that a sinner can become a Saint any day of the week.

Reclaimed – The Power of the Atonement to renew, forgive, and forget

Happy Sunday!

As I was looking over my site, the video I put up on the last post had been replaced by this one.  I changed the videos, but was so touched by this one that I wanted to share it today.  It was created for the Youth, but I feel that it is for everyone, because, (as Elder Bowen stated in the general conference talk that the video is based on), “The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to each of us. It can clean, reclaim, and sanctify even you.”