The Iterative Nature of Discipleship

The Doctrine of Christ—the Gospel—is, in the words of Elder Dale Renlund, “iterative.” That is to say, it is repeated and re-experienced again and again. We do the same things—have faith, repent, participate in ordinances (or sacraments as many denominations call them) and move forward along the path of following Christ, all the while being blessed—forgiven, and set right, and made holy by the presence of the Spirit.

This keeps the gospel always, at once, new and everlasting. We repent and act and move along as best we know how, according to the best knowledge we have. We know, to certain degrees, what sin is and what righteousness is. This has the effect of our giving more knowledgeable consent—we say yes to God—the more we know. This knowledgeable consent or rejection is a real decision with real consequences.

Part of the plan of salvation is using agency to choose Christ and the life he offers, or to reject it.  To do this fully, we must know fully what we are accepting and what we are rejecting. And we must make that decision, not in any way manipulated, yet at God’s urging, to knowingly, freely follow.  This of course must mean that we are also free to reject, as we see in the case of Sons of Perdition who receive all and yet deny and defy (turn away from fully). At any stage we are free to turn away.

The iterative nature of the gospel also means that we may often have the experience (like Father Thomas Keating in Searching for God in America) of living a life of Christian Discipleship, but having moments in which we seem to be starting all over—a new life given over to God, a feeling that so much has been building up to this moment when we can finally give our lives, our selves, to God. Though we know we are on the path and making progress in our discipleship of Christ, there may often be a sense in which we seem to be starting all over, like we’d never really known what this was all about until now.

We covenant to follow Jesus Christ to take his name upon us. We covenant to consecrate all.  Our lives will be his. At one stage our all may mean our all as far as we know and are able.  Later we may know more and be able to more fully give more, to more fully turn all we have over to him. And as we follow him there is more substance of/in us to give.

This may also be some of what’s meant when King Benjamin says we must always remember the greatness of God and our own nothingness—a thing he says will assure that we retain a remission of our sins and always be filled with the love of God (Mosiah 4). We see the dependence we have—the opportunity and the need to be connected to the greatness and goodness of God. A dependence that is not a matter of slavery or compulsion, but a free, grateful, beautiful condition of being wrapped up in, and sustained by, the overwhelming, overflowing goodness and love of God.

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The Path We Walk Together (May 2014)

The Path We Walk Together

This is  my devotional address given at BYU-Hawaii, May 27, 2014. I try to give a vision of the place Latter-day Saints believe marriage has in our discipleship of Christ.  The link goes to a transcript and a video of the address.  The video has my wife’s introduction, plus a couple pictures not in the written text.

On Doubt, Faith, and Being True (Oct. 2013)

Concerning doubt and faith: One of the things that has helped me is to remember to be honest both with questions and with doubts (and they aren’t always the same, though sometimes they might be or they might be related), but to also be honest about the truth or faith that you do have (however inexplicable or even indefensible to others). We rarely have full certainty and light (and with some things it’s honest to say “I don’t know” or “I’m uncertain” though I’d like to believe or be more certain), but what we must do is to be true to the light we have, whatever degree of light that is. Being true to the light one has includes, but is not limited to, intellectual and personal honesty. It is more profoundly marked by a life of loving, faithful living in Christ, who is the Light.

It might be with that kind of understanding that the Lord’s admonition to “Doubt not” would make sense. At the very least, in all the doubt and uncertainty that may arise, Christ is asking us not to doubt him (which implies we have something of knowledge/light of and from him). Doubts may/will show up. He asks us not to have a doubtful heart. I don’t know all that he means by telling us not to have a doubtful heart, though that implies that what we do, how we approach things, can have an influence with some aspects of doubt. The wise counsel “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your beliefs” may be one way, though not the only way, of saying be true to the light you have and work to not have a doubtful heart, to not receive what God sends with a doubtful heart.

Shrinking on Good Friday (2013)

“You can’t have resurrection on Sunday without crucifixion on Friday,” said one of my teachers, Arthur Henry King, years ago.  I believe the thought behind this and have tried not to gloss over the meaning of Good Friday, not to gloss over the negative to get too quickly to the triumph (which, without real suffering and real death, is a triumph over a straw man).

I was looking for something to read for Good Friday, some Christian thinker who could help me reflect and reconsider Christ’s time upon the cross—the meaning of it all.  Ready to go, once again, and plumb the depths of his suffering and, by extension, the implication of that for our own suffering in general, and for my personal state and the state of the world around me. I had only searched my bookshelves for a moment when, out of a kind of despair, sadness, laziness (not certain what to call it), I realized I’m truly not willing or ready to go there.  Not now. Maybe later.  That this would happen on this day of all days.  On the day when I should remember.

Let this cup pass from me.

Nevertheless. Thank God for Christ’s nevertheless and its meaning for me and for those times when I’m not willing to say the same.

The Consecration of our Studies — convocation address at BYU-Hawaii

Video

Text

These are links to the Convocation address I gave Fall 2010 at BYU-Hawaii.

He Inviteth All to Come unto Him and Partake of His Goodness

A Moment on Good Friday (2010)

A Moment on Good Friday

Christ died on a Friday afternoon.  They buried him before the Sabbath.  When he died – that moment he gave up breath — the world around him continued.  In Jerusalem, a relative few would be aware of his death.  For all that they may not have understood its meaning, they knew the reality, the concreteness of his crucifixion.  They saw the wood, the nails, the blood, the nakedness of his suffering.  They heard his words from the cross.  They saw him die.  At that moment, across the globe, people would be sleeping, waking, working, eating, waiting, fighting, sinning, suffering, playing, worshiping, being born, living, dying — all the things, from great to small, that make up life — these all continued as he died.

I don’t know that all on earth should have been made to pause at that time, or that those asleep should have been awakened.  Let life go on, he might say.  He had this to do alone– the wine press that only he could tread.  This was the solitary working out of our salvation. “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross,” he would later say.

“I am come that ye might have life, and that more abundantly.”  He suffered that moment that we might have life—tangible, abundant, and eternal—and so that every life turned to dust and death might be repaired and renewed. For this he was sent.  For this he died.

On Good Friday we deliberately pause to remember that moment.  The world and life continue on as they did then.  But now the difference because of Him and the cross he suffered.  Now it is fitting that we who have heard his gospel should take a moment to remember the life he gave and in our own way take up the cross in imitation.

Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise.
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own,
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

(“Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee” verse four to six–Frances R. Havergal)