Friday, August 3, 2007

Covenants - Pt 1

During my reading today in "Intimate Issues", I read about the coveniance of the world and it's lack of being able to keep covenants they have made. This chapter, while in reference to marital covenants brought me back to something I have wrestled with since before we left the LDS church.

Am I to keep the covenants I made within the temple?

Numbers 30:1-2 NIV
1 Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: "This is what the LORD commands: 2 When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.

So tonight, I took a more in depth look at the covenants I made within the temple than I have before.

The Law of Obedience:
I couldn't find anything under "Law of Obedience" but since the (pre-recorded) voice also uses the term, "Law of the Lord", I thought I'd search under that as well. The term "Law of the Lord" is used by LDS leaders to reference back to the Law that Moses gave to the people.

Elder L. Tom Perry, We Believe All That God Has Revealed, Ensign (CR), November 2003, p.85
Thus, the Ten Commandments were given to mankind to follow and use throughout their lives. Obedience finally brought the law of the Lord to the children of Israel. Disobedience only delayed the progress of the children of Israel towards their promised land. They had to be worthy to receive the law of the Lord.

The end of Elder Perry's statement, caught my eye. "They had to be worthy to receive the law of the Lord." Yet, the Bible states that none of us are worthy. According to MSN Encarta Dictionary, "worthy" means:

1. deserving: fully deserving something, usually as a suitable reward for merit or importance
That remark is not worthy of a reply.

2. respectable: morally upright, good, and deserving respect
a worthy person

3. good but dull: having good qualities, good intentions, or the best of motives, but being boring and pedestrian

In the New Testament, a statement with the same implications as the statement Elder Perry makes, is made, "With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith." (2 Thes. 1:11). The word use of worthy here is from the Greek verb, "axioo" and means, "to think meet, fit, right, to judge worthy, deem, deserving." It would seem that here, the word worthy would mean - that the Lord has seen a person ready, able, and right to fulfill His calling on that person's life. Just as Elder Perry states that it was only when the children of Israel were ready, right, and deserving of the law. Only after they had proven themselves - deserving.

Paul, who was schooled in the Jewish law and traditions, makes the following statement, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: " (Romans 3:10) - when we see the words, "As it is written" we know that the Old Testament is being quoted. Here, it appears that Paul is quoting Psalm 14:3 in which the Lord in His omniscience looks down upon the world and sees not one who is good - not even David, the man and king after His own heart. For they have "together become corrupt" (Ps. 14:3a). The Lord knew and shares with us - no one is ever deserving of His grace or mercy. We know that the Law of the Lord was a mercy because we later learn that, "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24, NIV) The law was there so we might realize our shortcomings and come to Christ. It also testifies of the One - Jesus Christ - who would come and grant us mercy, grace, and through His blood - give us justification before the Father.

Paul also instructs us, "know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Gal 2:16, NIV)

I most certainly believe, that as a sincere follower of Christ, as one who wishes to be a disciple of Christ - meaning to be a student, to become like the teacher - that it is wise for me to follow God's laws. However, I can fully see that the Bible instructs us - from the Old Testament to the New, that we were never meant to be justified by the law - but by Jesus Christ and Him alone. We were never meant to achieve and deserve grace by the law. Noah, the only man that the Lord saved from the flood did not deserve to be saved, instead it states, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD" (Gen 6:8, KJV). He found - not deserved - grace from the Lord.

I have done nothing that is deserving of grace from God - yet through Jesus Christ, I am justified. Jesus' perfect blood and work from the garden, to the cross, to the empty tomb - did all the work I could never do. And He freely gives it to us because God, is and always has been a giver.

I do not have to work for my salvation.

The Law of Sacrifice:

Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander makes a beautiful comment about sacrifice, "Sacrifice sanctifies the sacred.". Beautiful.

In another statement, the Law of Sacrifice is explained in detail, "Sacrifice, the willingness to sacrifice for this the Lord’s work—and inherent in that law of sacrifice is the very essence of the Atonement. … Consecration, which is associated with it, a willingness to give everything, if need be, to help in the on-rolling of this great work. And a covenant of love and loyalty one to another in the bonds of marriage, fidelity, chastity, morality." (Bishop Keith B. McMullin, An Invitation with Promise, Ensign (CR), May 2001, p.61)

Sacrifice goes hand in hand with the Law of Consecration - meaning giving everything if called, to the work of the Lord. Specifically, the LDS church.

I actually wish that believers still heeded to the New Testament model shown in Acts when all the believers sold all they had and shared it with one another and lived in, "singleness of heart, ". They were one. I do believe sacrifice is often - well sacrificed for convenience or shortcuts. I do believe the Lord calls us to sacrifice so that we may mature in Him. However, I cannot see that sacrifice is a pre-req to entrance into heaven or the Father's presence.

Paul (my favorite apostle) states Biblical sacrifice best (in application to Christian living), "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Romans 12:1b, NIV). While presenting our bodies as those living sacrifices (taking up the new man, shedding the old; taking up our crosses, dying to self or flesh, and so forth) may also have us sacrifice other items in our lives, again, I don't believe I can simply sacrifice all that I have and that I will earn or deserve God's grace more than another person.

It's getting late and I'm getting a bit tired, so I'll pick up the other covenants, The Law of the Gospel; The Law of Chastity, and The Law of Consecration.

After researching these various laws, I do believe they are wise goals to live by and only something one can live by when guided by the Spirit, however, I don't believe adherence to any of these laws will grant me more favor with the Lord than if I did not adhere to them. The Lord loves me the same no matter my actions.

What I am pondering is - regardless that I unknowingly made these covenants under the pretense of falsehood, should I still continue to adhere to them (for joy and love of the Lord not for fear of punishment) to show the Lord, that I am faithful to the promises I make to Him? Or, by doing these things, am I holding myself in captivity and hindering myself from living an "abundent life that the Lord planned" for me?

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