Monday, May 26, 2014

My sacrament meeting talk- 25 May 2014

So often in life when we or a loved one makes a mistake, we repeat the affirmation, "nobody's perfect." We have all come to accept that as fact. And it is true that the only person to ever live a perfect life was our Saviour, Jesus Christ. He knows better than any of us just how prone we are to imperfections. Yet we read throughout the scriptures His command to "be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48). Why would Christ give us such a direct command that He knows perfectly well we cannot fulfill? In the footnote to that invitation in Matthew, we get a better understanding of what is expected of us. It explains being perfect as being "complete, finished fully developed, suited, ready." To me, that is the Saviour pleading with us to become who Go wants us to be, and to use His Atonement to get there. So who are we now and who are we meant to become?

"For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord."- Mosiah 3:19

Our task is to become a saint, become perfected, through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. This verse in Mosiah goes on to give some good suggestions as to how we can do that, which the prophet Moroni sums up in the invitation to "come unto Christ and be perfected in Him" (Moroni 10:32). President Ezra Taft Benson said, "The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behaviour, but Christ can change human nature."
This change can only happen if we allow it to. Thats why Moroni's invitation is to come unto Christ, not wait for Him to come to us. We absolutely need the enabling power of His Atonement to make any lasting or positive changes in our lives. In the Bible, James says, "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" (James 4:10). You can't do anything of eternal value of our own strength.
Elder M. Russell Ballard said, "It is only through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ that people can overcome the consequences of bad choices. No matter how hard we work, no matter how much we obey, no matter how many good things we do in this life, it wouldn not be enough were it not for Jesus Christ and His loving grace. Works- as good as they may be- are hollow unless they are accompanied by a complete dependence on Christ."
WE need Him. We are like a lump of clay. We can't become a sculpture or a vase or anything but a lump of clay without the Sculptor or the Potter molding us in His hands. So be humble enough to put yourself in His hands. We become trusting enough to put ourselves in His hands when we understand better His grace.

I meet a lot of really great Christian people that think we as Latter Day Saints don't believe we are saved by grace. It is definitely only through the grace and mercy of the Saviour that we are saved. We cannot earn salvation on our own. But what would be the point of reaching that salvation without being changed? The goal of the Father's plan is for us to return to Him better than we left Him. Maybe we should focus more on being changed by His grace, not just saved by it.
"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that wemay obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
These invitations to come unto Christ, come boldly to the throne of grace, mean that Christ will not force His grace upon us. So when does His grace become sufficient for us?
"Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength,then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God" (Moroni 10:32).
As we "deny ourselves all ungodliness" we avoid temptation and sin. When I was 13, I was learning to play French horn. My teacher would often tell us, "Practice makes permanent." If we make it our practice to give in to every temptation that comes our way, we may find ourselves permanently subject to the adversary. But if our practice is to "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit," the changes we make in our lives to become more like the Saviour will become permanent. He has given us tools to work at this perfection He expects:

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect" (2 Tim 3:16-17). As we study the scriptures diligently, we can receive the guidance we need to become perfected.

"And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some,evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12). Listening to and following the counsel of our prophet and priesthood leaders can guide us down the road to perfection.

"Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in [our] faith" (1 Thessalonians 3:10).  Praying and making God a major part of our decision making can help us make the decisions that will lead us to real growth.

A mission president by the name of Lawrence Corbidge said, "You are the sum total of all that you have thought, done, said, seen, heard, and felt in this life and before. You change immediately with each good act, each good thought, every good word changes you for the better. When you willingly obey the principles of the gospel, you are changed by the Spirit of God to become incrementally more like Him. The degree of change with each small step of obedience may be small, but it is real and immediate."

I know as we consistently come unto Christ through the laws and ordinances of His gospel, we will become perfected in Him. This perfection will take time. And it won't be easy, because nothing worth doing is ever easy. In a revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord said, "Ye are not able to abide the presence of God now, neither the ministering of angels; wherefore, continue in patience until ye are perfected" (D&C 67:13). Be patient with yourself. His grace is sufficient for you as you put forth your best effort to be changed. I love the Saviour and this amazing opportunity He gives each of us to be changed and to grow into the person the Father wants us to become. I know He lives, and He has restored the truths and authority necessary for us to make the right changes through a prophet of God today. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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