What do I mean by "Salvation"?

When I first began hearing Christians use the word "salvation", I wasn't sure what to make of it. I was taught, for over thirty years, that salvation comes after this life. It is something one receives after being tested and tried, and is only certain when the gavel comes down on Judgement Day.
"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." ~2 Nephi 25:23
My understanding of salvation has shifted somewhat, into an understanding that allows for an exponentially higher degree of hope and joy in this life: being saved, during our lives, from sin and death through the merits of Jesus Christ. There are three degrees of salvation:

  1. Salvation from the punishment of sin: hell, the place of eternal separation from God where lucifer and his angels dwell.
  2. Salvation from the effects of sin: pain and suffering, both mental/emotional and physical.
  3. Salvation from the presence of sin: existence in Heaven with God.

The first degree of salvation comes about when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and begin our walk as believers.

The second degree of salvation is when we progress in our walk to the point that we trust God enough to believe that Jesus truly overcame sin AND death, and we allow Him to heal us. The baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit usually happens sometime during this phase.

The third degree of salvation happens after this life is through, and we are taken back to the God who gave us life.

So do I mean, then, that salvation is finished and all we have to do is receive it, with nothing required of us for the rest of our lives?

No. I'm not preaching a "do nothing gospel". Not by a long shot. Lip service alone will not work in you the transformation necessary for you to be comfortable in the presence of God. And I know this because scripture is abundantly clear on this point:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 
~Matthew 7:21
If you want to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, your life must actively fulfill the will of the Father.

Peter wrote, pertaining to being able to receive the fulfillment of the promises offered by Jesus:
5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins
10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
~2 Peter 1:5-11
What I am saying, earnestly, is that when we are truly able to receive the love of Jesus Christ, when we truly trust Him, believing what He said (which is the natural result of actually accepting Him as your Savior), you choose the influence of the Holy Spirit. That bears fruit, as the word proclaims clearly:
 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 
~Galatians 5:22-23
 When you choose Jesus Christ, and begin to walk as a believer, learning of Him and following Him, your life changes. You choose differently, because you believe what Jesus said. You begin to change as God teaches you (Romans 12:2), and He begins to transform you into His own image, the image of God.

The life of a believer, who receives what Jesus offers, the walking out of salvation before God, is a beautiful, powerful, transformative thing. It's not stasis, comfort and flattery. It's challenge, it's being called to deeper and higher levels of discipline and service, and it's learning to receive the comfort Jesus offers as the old life is stripped away to reveal the new creature in Christ Jesus.

If anyone has any questions, please do let me know.

What Will I Choose?

Earlier yesterday evening, I thought over how I had let the day get away from me early on, not staking out time to spend in the Word of God. And I regretted it. I had needed the strength that comes from time spent in scripture, as had my family, and yet I didn't have that strength to offer, that day.

In discussing a few things with Vern shortly thereafter, I shared that I felt like I lived some kind of strange, dual life; that half of the time I felt capable and confident, that I could handle whatever came my way, and things would be all right; but the other half, I felt overwhelmed, frustrated, utterly incapable and full of despair. It seemed surreal, to me, that I could alternately experience such totally different states of mind, and that whichever one I was in seemed just as real as the other did when I was in it.

Not long after that, Holy Spirit brought to mind a little grain of knowledge I had tucked away: the word "psychology" comes from the Greek word psycho.
Origin
from Greek psukhē ‘breath, soul, mind.’
Current practitioners call psychology the study of the human mind, but as the Lectures on Faith explain:
"And he [Jesus] being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fulness of the glory of the Father—possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, . . . "
 I continued to think on that little revelation into the evening, meditating on how it applied to my earlier heart cry. How could I experience two such totally different states of mind, states of spirit, and have them both feel like actual reality? Then this came to mind:
And so now we find ourselves having to choose. It's a healthy thing. You ought to have to choose. You ought to have your salvation at peril on how you choose. . . . You should have to choose. And your eternal peril should hang in the balance as you make that choice. That is a perfect conundrum, in my view. Grow up. Accept the burden. Find out. Learn about God. Or be damned by your carelessness, by your indifference, by your refusal to go forward. It ought to be so. And it ought to be put to you plainly. And you ought to have to choose. And you ought to have to choose every time you hear [the enemy] offer something to you. . . . Because [he is] either offering you something . . . that will save you, or [he is] offering something that [he] hope[s] will damn you, because [he's] signing you up on the wrong team. It ought to be so. Everlastingly, it ought to be so" (Denver Snuffer, Lecture 2, "Faith", September 28th 2013, Idaho Falls, ID).
It's a choice.

Which do I want?

Do I want to exist in the reality of damnation?

Or thrive in the reality of salvation . . . the reality determined by the wishes of the enemy of my soul, or the brilliantly-lit and deeply powerful reality framed by the words of the Living God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the One who gave His all for me, the perfectly loving, perfectly just and astoundingly generous Jehovah?
For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.

Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you. 

Then you will seek Me, inquire for, and require Me [as a vital necessity] and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  


(Jeremiah 29:11-13, AMP)
Who do I choose to believe?

To whose words do I give power?

I've spent years and years under the rule of the lies of the enemy . . . lies of defeat, of believing I had to give my all first, and then hope for salvation at the judgement day. That I had to laboriously trudge through life, hungering for the occasional crumb from the Lord's hand to palliate the desperate nature of my existence. And the crumbs would always come . . . God gave them to me as soon and as often as I would accept them. But I didn't look for His grace, I didn't understand His love or His extravagant generosity, and so I lived the life of a spiritual pauper while the riches of Heaven lay strewn all around me.

I think you can guess Whom I choose to believe, now.

Image found here.


Which "reality" I choose is up to me. God has said a LOT about my life, about all of our lives. In Him we WILL overcome. He hasn't abandoned us. He won't abandon us.

We can't do it on our own, but with Him, we can do ALL things.
And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me. (Moroni 7:33)
Jesus said, "If ye will".

It's a choice.

And I choose FAITH. I choose LIFE. I choose Jesus Christ.



When confusion's my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near

When I'm caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I'll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

My help comes from You
You're right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness
all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don't have to see to believe
that You're lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don't have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don't have to see it, ‘cause I know,
‘cause I know it's true

~For King & Country, "Shoulders"

Some thoughts about Jesus

"Though thousands crowded around Him daily, He was sensitive to the needs of the individual- the infirm who touched the hem of His garment, the small of stature who sat in in tree to see Him over the multitude. 
After being betrayed by one he called Friend, the Lord of Hosts was taken by a mob to an illegal trial where He, the Great Lawgiver, was falsely accused and incriminated. The King of kings was then judged by mortal rulers, and taking the place of a seditious murder, the Scapegoat of Israel was condemned to death. 
At Pilate's command, the Gentle Healer was scourged, bruised, broken, and torn. Then the Carpenter from Nazareth carried his wooden cross through scorning crowds to Golgotha, where in ultimate irony, He, the only perfect person to ever walk the earth, descended below all things, being raised up between two criminals to justify a guilty race. 
Though appointed to be the judge of all mankind, He plead for the forgiveness of His tormentors. And while the world trembled in distress of His agony, He worried about the welfare of a woman, His mother. His death brought darkness to the earth. His resurrection brought light and eternal life. 
Little did the hypocrites who consented to His death know when they cried for His blood to be upon them that one day untold billions would plead for His blood to be upon them, not to condemn but to redeem. 
To us is His promise that those who lose their life for His sake shall find it, that through Him, scarlet sins may become white like wool, and that those who deny themselves of all ungodliness will inherit all that God has. 
Though the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head, He has prepared many mansions for us in His Father's house. May we take comfort in knowing that the Creator of worlds without end still numbers the hairs of our head. He who clothes the lilies of the field will clothe us in spotless robes of righteousness. The One who cried, "Why hast thou forsaken me," has promised that He will not leave us comfortless. Someday the Man of Sorrows will wipe all the tears from our eyes." ~T.G.

"Come Unto Me", by Jon McNaughton. Used with permission.

About that path . . .

"I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.  When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble." -Proverbs 4:11-12 ESV

David taught Solomon that his steps would be sure and strong, that he would find solid solid footholds where he went. I had always assumed the path along which God would grant that travel looked a lot like this:




But reading this morning, I realized that there was no guarantee of level ground or mild weather in those verses . . . that sometimes the path our Lord leads us over looks like this:


Father of Heaven and Earth, I trust You. When You speak, I choose to BELIEVE what You have said above ALL ELSE. Above the wisdom of men, above traditions, above what my own eyes and flesh and intellect may assert. When You say my steps will not be hampered and I will not stumble, I will step out boldly, in full confidence in Your Word! You ARE the God Who Provides, the God Who Heals, the God Who is Faithful. You are Truth, Love and Light! I rejoice that faith is such an unconditional thing, that I need not second-guess or labor long and hard to decide whether or not You are Trustworthy. When I seek You, You ARE found. When I dive into Your Word, You feed my soul. When I turn my heart and mind to You, You do not leave me with deception and emptiness, but fill me with pure knowledge that enlarges my soul and fills it with faith, hope, and love. Lord, lead me today, I pray with all earnestness of heart. Whatever You have in Your heart for me, I will accept, for You are the Lord God Almighty . . . the One who desires nothing more than true closeness with me, with each of Your children. You long to care for us, to bless and strengthen us; and Lord, I accept whatever You have before me, today. I choose to lay my life down for those You have placed in my care, for those I am called to love, and to lead to freedom in Christ, in the name of Him Who I love every bit as much as You, my wonderful Jesus. Amen!

Redemption: I do not think it means what you think it means.

"25 Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
27 Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself." ~2 Nephi 2:25, 27
Now, every LDS seminary student has heard these verses a thousand times. Most Mormons folk have heard them nearly that much. They're Scripture Mastery verses, intended for memorization, just two of the 25 passages from the Book of Mormon course.

Such a stellar job had been done of teaching these two verses that I had never paid much attention to what lay between them on the page: verse 26.
"26 And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given."
When I read that, I did a triple-take. Did that just say what I think it said?

I read it again. 

And again. 

I stared, then stared some more. And I saw this looking back at me from the page:
"And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day . . ."
There it was! The doctrine of grace, explained. In the Book of Mormon! The way my own baptism of fire taught me to understand it! I was seriously stoked for days about this discovery, and told at least a half dozen people. (And have continued to share it ever since. I'm still pretty stoked about it. lol)

You see, this verse is what informed my understanding of salvation for most of my life:
"23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." 2 Nephi 25:23
Until the baptism of fire, I had understood the underlined words to mean we had to work our behinds off during our lives, and then, after it was all over and we left this life, THEN Jesus saved us, because we still weren't good enough. (Remember King Benjamin's "less than the dust of the earth"? Yeah. That.) 

We were saved by grace after we've done everything right we could possibly do right on earth. That's what "after all we can do" means, right?

Wrong.

All my life, I had ignored verse 20:
"20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err. And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them, and also gave him power that he should smite the rock and the water should come forth; yea, behold I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved." 2 Nephi 25:20
 This verse speaks in a context of grace. The story of the brass serpent is such a powerful example of this . . . they only had to believe enough to look! And the water springing from the rock: Moses only had to ask. And even then, when he messed up and hit the rock instead of speaking to it, the Lord still gave His people the water they needed.

Key elements of 2 Nephi 25:26 have different meaning for me now. Here they are:

1) Redeemed from the Fall.

The Fall sent Adam & Eve out of the Garden of Eden, and out of the presence of God. It was the introduction of sin into the world, of mankind's willful following after of his or her own nature. So what does "redeemed from the fall" mean?

It means we have been brought back into the presence of the Father & Son.

This doesn't mean that if we try really, REALLY hard, we'll be brought back into the presence of the Father & the Son. It means we already have been brought back into the presence of Ahman and Jehovah. Their presence is all around us. Always. 24/7/365. Never a minute that we're not literally swimming in their presence. We're just deaf & blind to it, utterly unaware because we haven't been taught it's there . . . or even that it's possible to be in God's presence.

I'm reminded of a phrase from the 80's movie "Better Off Dead" that I watched on TV in the 90's, (since I was only nine when it came out), when Lane & Charles are at the top of the insane ski run. Lane is psyching himself up to take off down the mountain, and crazy Charles is freaking out about the snow that's everywhere, all around him, throat tight with excitement and nearly guy-screaming: 

"This is pure snow! It's everywhere! Do you have any idea what the street value of this mountain is?"

We're all in that very same situation, surrounded by the presence of God . . . and we wander around, wondering when we'll ever get to experience these things we've heard so much about, possibly even shushing those who, in their excitement, are trying to tell us about it. We have so many barriers in our minds, so many "I'll be worthy when's"  that we don't open our hearts & minds to what's available to us right now.

There are different levels of the presence of God, from spiritual awareness, to hearing, feeling or seeing in the Spirit, and then on to hearing, seeing and feeling in the flesh. But no matter which of these different ways you experience being in the presence of God, you're in the presence of God! Isn't that awesome? Amazing? Wonderful?

As our hearts become more open and willing to accept Him, to submit to Him, we can experience the presence of God more fully. For some, like King Lamoni's father, Paul, and many others, it's nearly immediate. For some, it takes more time as we figure out how to soften our hearts and leave behind the unbelief and unforgiveness, the fear and anger that shuts Him out. (More on unbelief/fear and unforgiveness/anger later.)

But whether the wind-up is long or short, the forgiveness we are told to receive is instant, complete, and changes us fundamentally.

2) Knowledge from Fall + Jesus' Atoning Sacrifice = free forever
Knowing good from evil*  is where humankind was up until Jesus won. When He claimed the victory and was seated in heavenly places upon His Father's throne, He then claimed the right to forgive everyone.

Everyone.

Forgiveness isn't simply not wishing someone harm, or even saying you wish them well. It is opening your heart to God fully, not keeping in reserve any corners of anger or pain, so His love can flow through you totally and fully for others. Forgiveness is allowing that love to flow through you for the person you have forgiven, in fullness. Nothing hindering or redirecting that gift that God gives so freely to us, and that we must give freely to all if we are to receive it in any measure.

Jesus loves everyone, unconditionally. He forgives everyone, totally. The only unknown quantity here is who will turn to Him and totally let go of what they're holding in their hearts so they can receive what He has to offer. Receiving a remission of your sins is instant. The Baptism of Fire and the Holy Spirit comes and burns it all away. You really do receive not only a remission of your sins and become a new creature born from the ashes, but can receive visions and feel as though you're surrounded by warmth. Some feel surrounded by fire, but not burned, or even uncomfortable.

*(We come to know good from evil as we make wrong choices and mess up. how else do you actually know what wrong is, until you've done it? You can know about wrongdoing, as Adam & Eve did after being told by God to not eat the fruit of that tree, beause they would die. But they didn't know what all that really meant, didn't know what the sorrow or consequences really were until they experienced them.)

3) We will NOT be acted upon until "the great and last day" of judgement.
Up until Jesus' Victory, God was required by justice and according to the law to strike people down. A whole lot of them, if the Old Testament is any example.  But since the battle was finished and Christ was seated on His Father's throne, the mercy of God has held sway. Mercy is what sustains us in our current state, what allows us to have access to the Love of Jesus Christ despite our uncleanness before Him. 

People still bear many of the consequences of their actions according to natural law and the agency of others, but God no longer is required to actually mete out direct punishments, like the earth opening and swallowing hundreds of the camp of Israel. Yeeee-ahhh. I'm so glad Jesus won. Aren't you? ;o)

We are not saved by grace after we've done everything. We are saved by grace, despite all we can do.

So.

What are we waiting for?

(We'll talk about that next . . . )