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Christmas Thought on Grace


Calm

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13 hours ago, Calm said:

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865694194/Op-ed-The-Mormon-restoration-and-the-meaning-of-grace.html

Well worth reading the whole thing, I just posted the beginning and end.

"In the holiday spirit of gift-giving this Christmas season, we wish to share a first-century message of Christ’s redeeming grace described in the New Testament. Truly, the graceful gift is a giving that profoundly moves us to give in return.

A wonderful hymn in the LDS hymnbook, No. 219, powerfully expresses this thought, “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” This hymn should be sung at all times, but especially at Christmastime. In preparing to give Christmas presents, who wouldn’t say to themselves, “Because Jesus has given so infinitely much to me, I too must give”? And in feeling grateful after Christmas, who shouldn’t say, “Because I have received such treasures this Christmas, I too must give and show my thanks indeed”?

You see, a person is under no obligation to receive a gift that is offered. But once a person accepts that gift, there are natural moral obligations that become attached to that beneficence. This is because the bond of giving and receiving necessarily creates a special relationship between the giver and the receiver. And that amazing relational bond is what grace is all about.

Indeed, the word used consistently for grace in the ancient Greek Bible is charis. It has an unexpected meaning. That original meaning became obscure, centuries ago, when it was translated into Latin as gratia. That word meant “pleasantness,” or “favor,” and that makes it look to us like the English word “gratitude.” Gratia eventually evolved in modern Western culture to mean gratis or gratuitously given — with no strings attached. But the original meaning of the Greek word charis involved a relationship between two people — a patron and a devoted client. They gave gifts reciprocally to or for each other’s benefit....

First-century charis can be helpful and deserves to be highlighted in the current climate. Latter-day Saint scriptures and doctrines have always been consonant with this original meaning and understanding of grace. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoys a restored, first-century appreciation of grace, complete with its active covenantal soteriology. Its doctrines, practices and authoritative ordinances uniquely enable and empower all mankind, both living and dead, to choose to give themselves in response to Christ’s invitation to come unto him and become like their Heavenly Parents. Indeed, we believe that through the Atonement or gift of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by reciprocally offering their obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.

Gratefully, Joseph Smith and other modern prophets have restored and taught these plain and precious words, covenants and understandings. Through these freely available and divinely enlightened teachings, all people can choose to have a binding, loving, reciprocal relationship with an exalted, personal and loving Heavenly Father, because of the gift of his Son, who came down as flesh in our midst.

This season may all go forth as Jesus directed, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said that it adds blessedness to give and not just to receive (Acts 20:35)."

"You see, a person is under no obligation to receive a gift that is offered. But once a person accepts that gift, there are natural moral obligations that become attached to that beneficence. This is because the bond of giving and receiving necessarily creates a special relationship between the giver and the receiver. And that amazing relational bond is what grace is all about."

I'm sorry Calm, it may be that it's all in the eye of the beholder, because I don't agree with this quote from the article at all. Why would someone want a gift given to them that makes them beholden to the giver. It taints grace, IMO. 

And as a gift giver, I'd never want the person who I give it to, to think they had to have a special relationship with me. And in the quote they say once a person accepts the gift they are morally obligated to that beneficence. I don't like that at all. This quote shreds "grace". 

I guess my mind is not getting this article at all. And I never agreed to the D&C scripture about God being obligated to bless us when we are obedient to a particular commandment. So maybe I'm so far gone from the LDS paradigm, I might as well move on if this is how LDS are to believe. 

 

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You don't have to agree.

The first century Christians, meaning the Christians of Christ's time and the New Testament...this was their view of Grace.

You are, however, under no obligation to accept that belief and can accept the more Reformist/modified Protestant view.

Edited by Calm
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Describing how the ancients viewed "charis":

"Anciently, the recipient of a gift was expected to be obedient to the will of the patron and to do unconditionally what the patron asked to the full extent possible, by following instructions, keeping commandments, making covenants and reciprocating with gifts. In this process, the desire was for the client to become eventually like the patron or master.

While the actual word charis appears rarely, if ever, among the words of Jesus in the New Testament, the Savior taught this principle in his parable of the unforgiving servant. That servant’s king forgave him an unimaginably large debt — ten thousand talents — but then he did not reciprocate, as he was unwilling to forgive another who owed him only a relatively small amount — a hundred ordinary coins. The unforgiving servant’s conduct violated the ethic of charis (grace). This disappointed, dishonored and disgusted his Lord.

Gifts given and received in biblical times and in almost all other times and places in the world, according to anthropologists and sociologists, create a powerful relationship between the giver and the recipient. This information gives context and background to what Bible writers like Paul meant and how they were understood by their ancient audiences when they used the term charis as they talked about the obligations inherent in the acceptance of Christ’s gifts. This information can only deepen recent LDS conversations about the various possible meanings of grace.

Certainly the Savior’s infinite gift cannot be earned, merited or even repaid. His atonement cannot be overemphasized. We truly are unprofitable servants to him, as King Benjamin beautifully taught. Christ has already paid the price for our sins in Gethsemane and on the cross. But as Benjamin went on also to teach, if God has granted unto us whatsoever we have asked of him that is right, “O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another” (Mosiah 4:21). That’s charis. The gift is free, but that’s not the end of the matter. Instead, it’s a new beginning.

This almost universally understood client-patron relationship stands in stark contrast to the recent, materialistic “Santa Claus” phenomenon. While there is much delight and joy in the surprises of Santa’s generous, no-strings attached, freebee gifts, care needs to be taken to be sure that all are given the opportunity to choose to show thanks to the real giver.

Classicists and eminent Protestant and Catholic biblical scholars who have thoroughly studied charis over the past couple of decades have recognized the reciprocal and obliging essence of grace (charis), which most Bible readers have scarcely noted. And ironically, at the same time as Bible scholars are seeing that grace is not one-directional, some Latter-day Saints are now coming to emphasize the one-dimensional freedom of grace, trending toward some aspects of Reformation theology. But surely both halves of this sacred reciprocal relationship are necessary. The key is to maximize both the fabulous gifts we are given and also the total devotion we voluntarily consecrate in return.

First-century charis can be helpful and deserves to be highlighted in the current climate. Latter-day Saint scriptures and doctrines have always been consonant with this original meaning and understanding of grace. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints enjoys a restored, first-century appreciation of grace, complete with its active covenantal soteriology. Its doctrines, practices and authoritative ordinances uniquely enable and empower all mankind, both living and dead, to choose to give themselves in response to Christ’s invitation to come unto him and become like their Heavenly Parents. Indeed, we believe that through the Atonement or gift of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by reciprocally offering their obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel."

Edited by Calm
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2 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I guess my mind is not getting this article at all. And I never agreed to the D&C scripture about God being obligated to bless us when we are obedient to a particular commandment. So maybe I'm so far gone from the LDS paradigm, I might as well move on if this is how LDS are to believe. 

 

So, if we keep the commandments as best we can, and repent when we make mistakes, then we have no reasonable expectation that we will be forgiven?  That God relies upon a flip of a coin, figuratively speaking, or upon his whim at the time, whether we go to hell or heaven?

This notion of an obligation to bless you for keeping a commandment is so central to any kind of reasonable theology, that I don't see how anyone, LDS or not, could doubt it.  If God were so capricious that we could not trust his promises, then there would be no incentive to do what's right, for only blind grace would await us -- the flip of the coin.  One might as well eat, drink and be merry, for who could tell which God would greet us on judgement day?  The one giving our goodies, or the one burning us to a cinder?  

How did you treat your own children?  Rewards based upon your whim at a given moment?  Did you ground your son or daughter depending upon your mood at the time?  The fact of the matter is just that you followed that D&C scripture to the best of your ability when you dealt with pretty much everyone you had contact with.  I don't understand how you think God could be any different and still be God.

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4 hours ago, Tacenda said:

.............................................I'm sorry Calm, it may be that it's all in the eye of the beholder, because I don't agree with this quote from the article at all. Why would someone want a gift given to them that makes them beholden to the giver. It taints grace, IMO. 

And as a gift giver, I'd never want the person who I give it to, to think they had to have a special relationship with me. And in the quote they say once a person accepts the gift they are morally obligated to that beneficence. I don't like that at all. This quote shreds "grace". 

I guess my mind is not getting this article at all. And I never agreed to the D&C scripture about God being obligated to bless us when we are obedient to a particular commandment. So maybe I'm so far gone from the LDS paradigm, I might as well move on if this is how LDS are to believe. 

The mutual obligations mentioned  in the Deseret News article are the basis of covenants and treaties of all kinds, both in modern times, and anciently.  In the Old Testament, for example, the covenant relations entered into by Israel with God are laid out in detail and follow standard treaty format.  God agrees to provide certain blessings, and his people agree to obey his commandments.  So far as God's people follow his commandments, he is absolutely obligated to provide the agreed upon blessings.  Insofar as they fail to do so, he is no longer obligated, and can even punish his people (which they have agreed to in advance).  The kicker is that, since humans are basically flawed and imperfect, a form of reconciliation for sin (disobedience) is needed -- which is what the Atonement is all about.

These are the normal principles accepted by Protestant churches, such as In Touch Ministries of Atlanta, Georgia, https://www.intouch.org/read/life-principle-21-obedience-always-brings-blessing , and there is nothing at all odd about D&C 130:20-21 or Isaiah 58:6-11 stating that principle.  It is not an "LDS paradigm."  So, I am  not sure why you would find that so strange or problematic.  Of course we give gifts to many people we know without ever expecting anything in return, and the Savior graciously does the same for us -- that is what the Atonement was all about -- paying a bitter price for all of us sinners, so that we can return to our Heavenly Father at the end of this life.  But there is a catch:  We must accept that free gift.  We must have faith.  And it is by our obedience that we demonstrate that we have faith.  We must be reconciled unto God by repentance, and by faith in the healing, salvific power of the atoning sacrifice by Jesus.  The joyous  message of the Gospel (the "Good News") is that the offer is free.  He already paid the price for us.  We have only to accept it.  And he can know that we accept it by our actions.  We show our love for Jesus by our obedience to his commandments.  Jesus himself said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)  Pretty simple, huh?!  What is so weird about that, Tacenda?  Haven't you spent your life loving others?  Don't you love Jesus?  Who on this board would say, "no."

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1 hour ago, Stargazer said:

So, if we keep the commandments as best we can, and repent when we make mistakes, then we have no reasonable expectation that we will be forgiven?  That God relies upon a flip of a coin, figuratively speaking, or upon his whim at the time, whether we go to hell or heaven?

This notion of an obligation to bless you for keeping a commandment is so central to any kind of reasonable theology, that I don't see how anyone, LDS or not, could doubt it.  If God were so capricious that we could not trust his promises, then there would be no incentive to do what's right, for only blind grace would await us -- the flip of the coin.  One might as well eat, drink and be merry, for who could tell which God would greet us on judgement day?  The one giving our goodies, or the one burning us to a cinder?  

How did you treat your own children?  Rewards based upon your whim at a given moment?  Did you ground your son or daughter depending upon your mood at the time?  The fact of the matter is just that you followed that D&C scripture to the best of your ability when you dealt with pretty much everyone you had contact with.  I don't understand how you think God could be any different and still be God.

I've always liked the idea of doing right because it's the right thing to do, not for something in return.

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42 minutes ago, Robert F. Smith said:

The mutual obligations mentioned  in the Deseret News article are the basis of covenants and treaties of all kinds, both in modern times, and anciently.  In the Old Testament, for example, the covenant relations entered into by Israel with God are laid out in detail and follow standard treaty format.  God agrees to provide certain blessings, and his people agree to obey his commandments.  So far as God's people follow his commandments, he is absolutely obligated to provide the agreed upon blessings.  Insofar as they fail to do so, he is no longer obligated, and can even punish his people (which they have agreed to in advance).  The kicker is that, since humans are basically flawed and imperfect, a form of reconciliation for sin (disobedience) is needed -- which is what the Atonement is all about.

These are the normal principles accepted by Protestant churches, such as In Touch Ministries of Atlanta, Georgia, https://www.intouch.org/read/life-principle-21-obedience-always-brings-blessing , and there is nothing at all odd about D&C 130:20-21 or Isaiah 58:6-11 stating that principle.  It is not an "LDS paradigm."  So, I am  not sure why you would find that so strange or problematic.  Of course we give gifts to many people we know without ever expecting anything in return, and the Savior graciously does the same for us -- that is what the Atonement was all about -- paying a bitter price for all of us sinners, so that we can return to our Heavenly Father at the end of this life.  But there is a catch:  We must accept that free gift.  We must have faith.  And it is by our obedience that we demonstrate that we have faith.  We must be reconciled unto God by repentance, and by faith in the healing, salvific power of the atoning sacrifice by Jesus.  The joyous  message of the Gospel (the "Good News") is that the offer is free.  He already paid the price for us.  We have only to accept it.  And he can know that we accept it by our actions.  We show our love for Jesus by our obedience to his commandments.  Jesus himself said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)  Pretty simple, huh?!  What is so weird about that, Tacenda?  Haven't you spent your life loving others?  Don't you love Jesus?  Who on this board would say, "no."

 

Robert, read this site, tell me what you think. I quoted from it below. It's along it's lines that I believe, not completely though. In the article it mentions being in bondage. I know I could do better in my every day existance, but His gift is free. That's why it's so special. By our thankfulness in our hearts we do good works, or people that don't believe in God do good works for nothing at all. They don't even believe in an after life. How much better is that than someone who is doing it because we owe someone or want something. Doing it just because it's the right thing, because we love others and don't worry about ourselves. Or using our moral compass, not something outside of us telling us we must do this or that, but just by "being". 

The reason I don't like people doing things because they've covenated or promised or for the ability to be saved, bothers me. I can't trust it. Because I don't know how sincere it is. That it comes from the heart or not. I've seen how someone can change in a split second when they treat you well, until.....

http://www.whatisgrace.net/gods-grace-is-a-free-gift/

Many Christians still think that they are justified, that is made right with God (both before salvation and after salvation) by what they do. They judge their standing with God based on" their performance. That is dangerous and unbiblical because that kind of believe creates an unhealthy sin consciousness. Instead of the believer being conscious of the fact that he has been made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus—that he is as righteous as God (because of Jesus’ work alone), he becomes conscious of sin and the law and so again lives in bondage under the law. That is like a sow returning to its vomit.  We are righteous by faith alone and we should never judge our righteousness based on our performance. God’s grace alone is the power that initiates, sustains, perfects, and finishes our righteousness.

 

Edited by Tacenda
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3 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I've always liked the idea of doing right because it's the right thing to do, not for something in return.

Oh, most certainly!  I think it is important that we loved right more than wrong, and not just because of an expected reward. But if you do right, you'll be rewarded -- it's inescapable!  Imagine the reverse:  Let's say that you committed only one sin in your entire life. And further that, because you feared punishment, and for that reason alone you repented. Do you then expect that God will throw you into hell because you only repented out of fear, and not because you loved the idea of doing right?  If so, I would say that God has ceased to be God. 

The Lord made something very clear in the New Testament, when he said in Matthew 7:

7 ¶ Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, 
and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; 
and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he 
give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your 
children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give 
good things to them that ask him?

We look for a forgiveness of our sins, and through faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, as well as keeping ourselves as much as possible unspotted from the world we will achieve that, simply because Christ has paid for our sins -- that's the grace part of the Atonement.  And this will be so, regardless of whether we liked righteousness or were merely righteous because we feared punishment.  Inheriting the Terrestrial Kingdom is no small reward, and that's what we'll get for our merely doing right, even if we really wanted to do bad things but resisted doing them. Seems fair, to me at least. 

That's forgiveness of sin, and it's no small thing!  

But I believe you're right about the desire to do right for right's sake alone -- those who love right, and do it because it's right, they are the ones who are able to inherit all that the Father has.  They are the ones of whom Paul wrote: "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:16-17).  

I know you have doubts about the status of the LDS Church with respect to its divine authority, but consider what you have been taught over the years about the purpose of our existence here.  We have not been put here to amuse a cruel God as we twist around desperately attempting to prolong our useless lives, when in the end it will all be for nothing, regardless of our striving to do right.  He put us here in order to raise us up, if possible, to His own stature.  The famous couplet, "As man now is, God once was; as God is, man may become" is but a more explicit restatement of Christ's "Be ye therefore perfect," and of what the Lord said in Moses: "This is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man".  He cannot give these rewards to those who haven't desired with all their heart to do right, but how can He withhold them from those who have so desired it and have acted on those desires?  If in the end He were able to deny promised rewards, then how much of a God would he be?  It's inescapable, Tacenda: if you are righteous you will be rewarded. You can doubt all you want that being righteous obligates God to reward you, but if God could deny you, then He'd not be God at all.  Even He said that He is not a respecter of persons.  This means that He is objective -- if you've earned the reward, you'll get the reward.

Sorry for preaching.  I feel strongly about this, because I know He loves us and wants us to come live with Him.

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I think that many are confused about how "Grace" works. The oft repeated scripture that, "we are saved by Grace, after all we can do", confuses the critic and member alike. The purpose of "God's Grace", or more to the point the "Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ", which is made available to all, at least all who would receive it. Then we must ask, "what is our roll in all of this?" It can all be somewhat contradictory, when trying to view the "whole picture", through "a glass darkly", (to quote the Apostle Paul). We as mortal beings "can not", nor "could not",  ever keep track of our every sin, be our lives long or short. As I grow older, one thing I do know for sure, it is that I am more interested in "mercy", than I am in "judgement, or justice", which is why the vicarious working of Jesus Christ in Gethsemane, allows me to worry less and work more in HIS Kingdom. For I know I am covered by this Grace, and able to live a fulfilled life, only by his Grace. 

Edited by Bill "Papa" Lee
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On 2017-12-26 at 2:30 PM, Tacenda said:

I've always liked the idea of doing right because it's the right thing to do, not for something in return.

It is the right thing to keep our covenants with God out of Love for him, whether or not he rewards us.  Focus on the first part if you have a problem with the second.  That he rewards us is a demonstration of his love and desire to make our lives better and as a way to help us learn what is the right thing to do...a gift can be a signpost, a guide.

Edited by Calm
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34 minutes ago, Calm said:

It is the right thing to keep our covenants with God out of Love for him, whether or not he rewards us.  Focus on the first part if you have a problem with the second.  That he rewards us is a demonstration of his love and desire to make our lives better and as a way to help us learn what is the right thing to do...a gift can be a signpost, a guide.

What covenants does he want from us, other than to love him and others? I figure the rest come easy once we follow the first commandment.

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1 hour ago, Tacenda said:

What covenants does he want from us, other than to love him and others? I figure the rest come easy once we follow the first commandment.

We covenant to have faith in Him, repent of our sins, and obey His commandments (repenting when we fail) for our whole lives.  I don't know if it's easy to always having faith, repent, or obey Him though.  We all have our weaknesses and our favorite sins that we like to justify and hold on to.  

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1 hour ago, Tacenda said:

What covenants does he want from us, other than to love him and others? I figure the rest come easy once we follow the first commandment.

You just hit the core nail on the head: love Him and love others.  That's the core of all covenants. We promise to follow Him, be His witness, and do as He wishes.

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