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Friday, April 19, 2013

165: DOES THE LORD REQUIRE ANYTHING FROM US?

I get comments from people that are not posted on this blog. I appreciate the feedback and learn from their words. Here is part of a recent comment regarding the last post entitled "Everything must be put on the altar".

“I don't believe that He is looking for a level of obedience or sacrifice or performances from me that will merit His favor. We needn't worry about "how much" we are willing to place at the altar, or sacrifice in the name of "righteousness." Free is free, at least in my mind.”

I agree with part of this comment. The Lord's mercy and love is greater than anything I can imagine or even merit. and I also agree that His grace is sufficeint and that free is free.

When it comes to describing the Savior there is this verse in the Book of Mormon in Alma 7:20: “He cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong."

If  the Lord asks something of us, we are free to choose whether or not to obey or not. His love does not change for us, but our progression might. It is not about "how much" we are willing to place on the altar, but it might matter if it is “less than” or “opposite to” what is being asked.

We are free to choose to do the Lord’s will or our own will. Since the time of Adam and Eve, altars were built and sacrifices made. Instructions were given and men could chose to be in alignment with or divert from it. Abel was obedient in offering what the Lord asked of him, Cain offered a different sacrifice. Cain choose what he wanted to offer, it is not wanted the Lord asked of him. Abel’s was accepted and Cains was not.

So my question is…. What does the Lord require of us if anything?  If he does require things, do we need to be obedient or can we act contrary to the things of God and act on our own desires?

I think the Book of Mormon answers this question really well. The voice of Christ was heard among the inhabitants of the earth saying “ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit.” Blood sacrifice and burnt offerings are done away with from that time forth, but from that time forth we are now asked to offer our broken heart and our contrite spirit.

What does that mean? I am sure there are many that have great answers. I just want to mention one... the broken heart. The word broken is interesting to me. When a horse is referred to as being “broken” it means the horse is now trained and ready to ride. The horse has been “broken” of its wild “natural man” behavior and his own desires. How well the horse has been broken” is determined on how well he actually “listens” and obeys the Masters voice.

11 comments:

  1. I would like to pose a couple of thoughts, the first in the form of a question:

    Let's say you and I are friends, and we have been for quite some time. You know that I've got your back, and you have shown time and time again that you have mine. We approach things differently but are appreciative of what the other one has to say. So one day I come up to you and ask, "What will it take for you to be my friend? What do you require of me? What do I have to do or say? How should I act?" What would be your response? Would you say, "You have to make me cookies once a week?" or "You have to make others cookies." or "You have to call me all the time and tell me how great I am."

    My guess is that none of things would apply. You probably would say, "Hey, if you want to be my friend, I would be honored. You don't have to do anything to prove it. Just be yourself."

    While I understand that I am injecting mortals into a scenario where the comparison involves deity, I don't see it any differently. While God doesn't change, we mortals ARE evolving. It just takes us a very VERY long time to get it through our heads. Able made sacrifices, as did those who practiced the Law of Moses up until the time when it was DONE AWAY and fulfilled in Christ.

    Regarding a broken heart and a contrite spirit, our tradition says:
    "What does it mean to have a broken heart? (To suffer extreme sorrow.) What does the word contrite mean? (Repentant.)”
    “The ‘broken heart’ spoken of in the scriptures is not the sorrow one feels because he has lost a close relative or loved one or suffered some other personal disappointment in life. Rather, the broken heart spoken of in the scriptures is the natural consequence of a person’s recognizing and admitting his own sins and imperfections.
    Knowledge of the following truths should lead a person to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit:
    1. All of us in our natural, carnal, and fallen state on earth have sinned and transgressed the laws of God, for which a punishment is designated by the law of justice.
    2. Jesus Christ is holy and pure. He lived a perfect life and was therefore the person least deserving of punishment for sin.
    3. Because of his great love for us, Jesus Christ paid the price for all our sins. He suffered the punishment for the sins of all people.
    We should realize that Jesus, the one who was perfect and had not sinned, has suffered awful punishment for all of us. Pondering the awful suffering of our Lord for us and our own unworthiness should be a heartbreaking experience.” (1993 Aaronic Priesthood Manual)

    In other words, we are told that a broken heart and a contrite spirit is a heavy guilt on our shoulders for being unworthy sinners. These approach is merely personalizing the concept of sacrifice involving animals. "If God experienced pain because of me, a sinner, then I too must sacrifice a pound of my flesh," goes the mantra.

    The phrase “broken heart, contrite spirit” appears in the Book of Mormon 9 times, from Nephi to 3 Nephi to Moroni. It does not appear in the New Testament, which is curious, because it seems that this would be rather important and something Jesus would have talked about (more on this later). It also appears in the Old Testament four times: twice in Isaiah and twice in Psalms.

    (to be continued)

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  2. If we replace “broken heart and contrite spirit” in some of the above passages, with “heavy guilt for realizing we are unworthy sinners,” it does not make much sense. Indeed, it paints a picture of an oppressive god who demands we, too, suffer in order to know what it was like for Jesus to be “punished.” A few examples:
    • And whoso cometh unto me with heavy guilt for realizing they are unworthy sinners, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost…
    • And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having heavy guilt for realizing they are unworthy sinners, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.
    • …yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with heavy guilt for realizing you are unworthy sinners, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.

    It is my opinion that this concept is one of the “plain and precious” truths which have been taken out from the Book of the Lamb (as hinted by Nephi when he calls it “the plain road.”) There is not one mention of it in the New Testament. Clearly, Joseph pulled the phrase from Isaiah and the Psalms so there would be a point of reference we could look to when we see it in Book of Mormon. The Nephites, too, presumably were quoting from the Brass Plates. The Lord thought it important enough to declare it to all the inhabitants (not just to those in Bountiful) after the three days of darkness. This is a significant, albeit very simple doctrine.

    Having a broken heart and contrite spirit appears to have more to do with an attitude of learning, as well as discernment regarding what is truth and what is not. Nephi asked that the stumbling block (of our delusions?) not be placed before him. Moroni tells the Gentiles that a BH&CS is associated with rending the veil of unbelief.

    Look and see how much more sense the examples make when we substitute “broken heart and contrite spirit” with “open heart and a childlike spirit, willing to sacrifice our false traditions:

    • "And whoso cometh unto me with open heart and a childlike spirit, willing to sacrifice their false traditions, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost…
    • And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having an open heart and a childlike spirit, willing to sacrifice their false traditions, might live, even unto that life which is eternal.
    • …yea, when ye shall call upon the Father in my name, with an open heart and a childlike spirit, willing to sacrifice your false traditions, then shall ye know that the Father hath remembered the covenant which he made unto your fathers, O house of Israel.

    An interesting point: coming to understand what “broken heart and contrite spirit” means (being open to a new definition) is the very thing that shows that we have it. In other words, if we are unwilling or unbelieving that a BH&CS is anything other than what we are told (feeling guilt), then it shows that our hearts are still hardened and our minds blinded.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comments. I like the definition of broken (open) and contrite (childlike) spirit. Yes it makes more sense in the scriptures that you used.

      With your analogy of the Friend. I do think there is some progression to becoming God's friend. I think Abraham, after all he went through was one of the few to be referred to as a Friend of God. In my opinion their is a progression involved and once achieved, your paradigm makes perfect sense. I believe we are first a son. A faithful
      Son learns and grows, and then evidentually becomes an heir. An Heir becomes a co-equal and friend to God. In other words, first and always son, Faithfully becoming an heir with the Father, and a then true and a Friend of God that continues on throughout the Eternities.
      David

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    2. It's a progression for sure, but I wouldn't say that it is something "achieved." I don't view my relationships with my spouse, my friends and family as an achievement, but I do increase in my love and appreciation for them. That comes through fellowshipping, serving and being served by them and empathizing with them the best I can. I think it is the same with God. Being His friend comes because I choose to look at it that way, not after accumulating enough brownie buttons that I move from the "Servant" to "Friend" category.

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  3. I think the question comes down to how much are you willing to keep the commandments. We are all free, free to choose. Can we merit anything? Not really, but we are free to choose how much we are willing to keep His commandments.

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  4. I thought the "broken horse" analogy was superb! It actually opened my vision to greater understanding and was sweet to the taste.

    Karen

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  5. If we give it willingly, is it a sacrifice? As such, who are those whose hearts must be broken? Broken hearted is the same as a soft heart, wherein seeds can be planted. This word, broken heart, is the same as the Buddhist word, Bodhichitta.

    "Chitta" means mind and also heart or attitude. "Bodhi" means awake or enlightened, or completely open. Sometimes the completely open heart and mind of bodhichitta is called the soft spot, a place as vulnerable and tender as an open wound, (skin that is broken). It is equated, in part, with our ability to love. Even the cruelest of people have this soft spot. Even the most vicious of animals love their offspring. As Trungpa Rinpoche put it, "Everybody loves something, even if its tortillas". Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion-our ability to feel pain that we share with others. Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. We put up protective walls made of opinions, prejudices, and strategies, barriers that are built on a deep fear of being hurt. These walls are further fortified by emotions of all kinds: anger, craving, indifference, jealousy and envy, arrogance and pride. But fortunately for us that soft spot-our innate ability to love and to care about things-is like a crack in these walls we erect (a broken heart). It's a natural opening in the barriers we create when we're afraid. With practice we can learn to find this opening. We can learn to seize that vulnerable moment-love, gratitude, loneliness, embarrassment, inadequacy-to awaken bodhichitta. An analogy for for bodhichitta is the rawness of a broken heart. -Pema Chodron-

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  6. >>"If we give it willingly, is it a sacrifice?"

    1) I would take this even further and say, "What if it is not only giving willingly, but it is the greatest desire of my heart? And what if the greatest desire of my heart is to see the covenants of the Father fulfilled? What are the covenants of the Father, anyway? And how do they involve the Gentiles?"

    2) Why is having a broken heart and a contrite spirit (bodhichitta) is so important? We are told that "Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto NONE ELSE can the ends of the law be answered."

    If our hearts are to be awakened or enlightened, would it not mean that before this happened, we were asleep? Specifically, is an open heart required to receive something unexpected or different than we had ever considered? What is this thing (the plain and precious truths) that can only come to those who are childlike in their approach to learning?

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  7. Namaste! I appreciate all the great insights and comments. Thank you.

    Just a brief comment to what Dan and Inspire wrote:

    "If we give it willingly, is it a sacrifice?" Good question.

    Unfortunately, we put a negative connotion on the word sacrifice. If we look at the etymology of the word 'sacrifice'.. it actually means to offer something that is sacred. It is a positive thing. It is a form of worship.



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  8. Dear Anonymous,

    Actually, there's always the possibility that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is simply beautiful and beautifully simple, and that it is we mortals who complicate it.

    It's been my experience that as we seek the Lord, we will find him. He is eager to transform the complicated to simple, the chaotic to orderly, the large to do-able.

    Thanks,

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