Active Discipleship- Romans 2:15, John 8:9, 1 Timothy 4:2

Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;

And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

COMMENTARY

Their conscience also bearing witness, their thoughts accusing or else excusing one another
And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one
Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron

Yesterday I mentioned that all of us need to feel a motivation to follow God. We need something to convince us that life is better with Him as our companion than remaining on our own.
Well, it turns out that God has a way to accomplish this, and it is ingenious. He simply puts a little voice in us that urges us to do what is right, and “sears” us when we do wrong. We might try and say “I don’t need God, I can just live how I want.” We might try…but our conscience will not let us rest with that decision for long. We might settle into worldly comfort, but we will feel “convicted” in our soul.
The argument for complacency is that it is peaceful, but there can never be true peace when the conscience is distressed. If there is peace in the heart, though, then all is peace, no matter what tumult rages without. Thus no matter how we try to reason away our complacency, our conscience will always trouble us back to active discipleship.

Active Discipleship- Zephaniah 1:12, Malachi 3:14

And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.

Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?

COMMENTARY

The men that are settled: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither do evil
It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance
The only reason why any of us do anything in this life is because we expect to gain something worthwhile by it. The easiest actions to take are those that are immediately pleasurable, such as eating, sleeping, and pursuing entertainment. But we can even learn to endure actions that are momentarily inconvenient if they provide later benefits, such as exercising, gaining an education, or working a job. Even selfless acts of service still benefit us for the warmth of conscience we gain by them.
Indeed, we can perform any action and overcome any obstacle, so long as we are properly motivated by the promise of goodness afterward. But if there is something for which we see no gain, then we will struggle immensely to invest in it. The root of complacency then, is the lack of desire, the inability to see any reward in the striving. These verses I have quoted describe those that do not see the profit in following God. I have been in that state myself, where life seems pretty fine just how it is, so why should I distress myself with the difficult work of spiritual progression? Why should I lay up treasures in an unseen heaven, when there is mortal pleasure to be had in the here and now?
An object at rest will stay at rest. This is our natural and default state, it is the entropy to which all of us would be consigned if God did not come and disrupt our lives. But He does disrupt, and tomorrow we will examine how he puts the desire in us that we all need to push forward.

Active Discipleship- Question

My default state is to live as a passive disciple. This means to not do anything that might stretch or improve myself. It means to not live by faith, rather to only take steps that I feel I am totally capable of fulfilling without any outside help. It means knowing that God is important and all, but to not wanting to need Him. It means wanting to reach heaven by checking items off a list, with no messy life-altering transformations along the way.

Until recently I did nothing to challenge this default state of mine, but then, about three years ago, I took some steps to push against it and began to live with intentionality. Things have been much improved since then…but it would be dishonest if I said that I’ve never looked back since.

Even now I still find complacency to be a very comfortable robe, one that is all too easy to slip back into. I have to continually agitate myself to continually live as a more active follower of Christ. While some days are more successful than others, I have noticed some abiding changes in me that are invaluable. One of them is that I sharply recognize when I am falling back into my old cadence, and I remain restless until I get up and start moving again.

Living the life of an active disciple is hard by its very nature. Thus I am certain that I am not the only one entangled in this never-ending dance with my old ways, and not the only one that would benefit from a study on this topic. In my following research, I will be exploring how the scriptures advocate for a more active discipleship, and what wisdom they offer for how to maintain it.

In the meantime, I would love to hear from you how you have kept yourself on task. Does it always have to feel like a grind, or is there a point where it becomes a joy? How do you tell when you’ve slipped back to complacency? How do you rouse yourself once you realize that you have?

The Nature of Sacrifice- Summary

It is evident that God did not intend for us to remain static. We are not merely meant to exist, we are to thrive. To accomplish this, each one of us requires fundamental change, a complete transformation, to discover the divine potential that God has placed within us.

And, since the dawn of mankind, it has been taught that sacrifice is an essential element of that change (Moses 5:6). I have been taught this since I was young, and I believed in it, though like Adam I did not understand the full reasons behind it.

But the scriptures do not only teach us the behaviors that we are meant to follow, they reveal to us the purposes for them. It was for this reason that I began my study, and I was not disappointed. Through these passages I was able to find a few different reasons for why sacrifice is so essential to becoming who we were born to be.

Sacrifice is Choosing the Eternal Over the Temporal

When God created humanity, He commanded us to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion” (Genesis 1:28), and so we are justified in seeking our own preservation and well-being.
But we are also mortal, and it is in our nature to take this injunction beyond its intended measure. We do not limit ourselves to seeking security and nurturing, we fall into greed, and the appetites of the flesh are insatiable once we begin to feed them.
And so the spiritual side must strive to maintain control, to keep our ambitions within worthy bounds. God encourages this by asking us to do things that are repulsive to the mortal self, but pleasing to the spiritual. This trains us to surrender the temporary, in order to secure the eternal. These tasks, by necessity, must be hard. If they were easy for us to perform, then no lesson of self-control would be gained.
Luke 10:41-42- And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Matthew 26:41- Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Sacrifice Helps Us to Become as Christ

Sacrifice teaches us self-mastery, and weans our mortal appetites, but that is not all. As mentioned before, it also serves the purpose of effecting our transformation. Not a one of us came to Earth to stay the same, every one of us requires a fundamental change. If we come to earth and are not transformed, then we are as the servant who buried his master’s money, and was then deemed an unprofitable servant for having not improved upon it (Matthew 25:14-28).
Now I have been one of those Christians that says I need to be changed by Christ without meaning it. I have said it only because it is the thing that is supposed to be said. I have said it while still trying to save myself by my own grit and merit. I have said it believing it to be true of others, but that I was mostly alright just the way that I was.
And you know what? I have learned that I am totally inadequate just the way that I am. I have learned that I let myself down hard when I am just myself alone. I spent a long while trying to “find myself” when “myself” was the whole problem. I needed to be “finding him.” Or, I needed to be finding my “other self,” that self which is like Christ, that seed that was planted in my heart at birth and can grow to become like my savior if I stop worrying so much about being “just me.”
Galatians 2:20- I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
Matthew 16:25- For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

Christ Makes Sacrifice Work

Once, humanity required no transformation, and no sacrifice. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve interacted with God directly. They required no mediator to do so, for they were worthy in and of themselves. After the Fall they were cast out, and from that time on were no longer capable of enjoying God’s presence. They and their children began the pattern of sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-4), but that, in and of itself, would not have been sufficient to restore them to God. The death of an animal does not unveil divinity.
Even the spiritual sacrifices which accompanied the animal offerings (things like surrendering sin and devoting one’s heart to the will of God) would not be enough to undo the effects of the Fall. Each of us have taken the Apple in our own way, and each of us know that when we did so, we stained our soul in a way that we alone are powerless to expunge. No, the only reason why our sacrifices are not lost in the cold vacuum of eternal damnation is because of the enabling power of Christ’s atonement. Out of all of us, Christ alone never partook of his own, personal Apple. Christ alone was sired with the power to break past the limitations of mortal death. Since pre-Fall Adam and Eve, Christ alone is worthy, in and of himself.
Thus when we make sacrifice, we do not do it to appease God, that could never work. We do it, as we have already seen, to surrender our fallen parts in place of Christ’s risen ones. We do it to become a part of him, to be adopted into his body, and to rise with his glory.
Galatians 3:26-27-For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
1 Nephi 10:6- Wherefore, all mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer.
Matthew 10:38-39- And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.
He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

The Nature of Sacrifice- Matthew 10:28, Matthew 26:41, Luke 23:46

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

COMMENTARY

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak
I am opposed to the notion of despising one’s body, seeing it as a vessel purely for temptation and imperfection. Our lives are a gift given directly by God, and by extension, so are our mortal forms. So I am grateful for my body, and I believe it is a wonderful instrument unlike any other upon this earth…. But, I do acknowledge that it truly is “upon this earth.” My body is temporal and, therefore subject to the laws of our fallen world. Laws such as physics and entropy: it must obey them. If it is cut it will bleed, that is undeniable. If it is overly fatigued, its moral resolve will decline, that is undeniable, too. It must be sick at times, it must be tempted at times, it must even die at a time.
Thus, in the eternal scheme of things, does it really matter that the body might be made momentarily uncomfortable in the service of God and others? Yes, it’s inconvenient, but it is the loss of things that were only temporary anyway.
Perhaps becoming healthy and balanced does not feed our immediate pleasures. Perhaps setting aside gratification to help another seems like drudgery. Perhaps governing our bodies by the will of God sounds less fun. What do these mortal costs really amount to, though, when compared to the eternal liberation of the soul that is gained in return?

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost
Jesus came to fill the full measure of a man, and that included dying a painful death, even one administered at the hands of others. Though he had the power to rebuke their attacks, he did not. He willingly surrendered his body to their breaking.
Never, though, did he give them his spirit. That was reserved for one being, and one being alone. The Father. No matter what the world might do to his body, they never once had access to his divinity.
By the redeeming power of his sacrifice, Jesus is able to safeguard our own divinity as well. But in return he does ask that we follow his example of enduring whatever cross we are called to bear along the way.

The Nature of Sacrifice- Matthew 20:18-19, 28; John 15:13

Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,
And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

COMMENTARY

Even as the Son of man came not to give his life a ransom for many
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends

The way Jesus viewed his mortal life was quite distinct. Where so many of us covet our lives and insist on using them for our own purposes, he instead saw his as something to be given as a ransom, something to be laid down for others. We see our lives as a jealous possession. He saw it as a currency, one which could be spent for the redemption of others.
I think that when most of us hear the word “sacrifice” we think that we are giving something up to be destroyed. Essentially turning something of worth into no value. But the example of Christ is not that things sacrificed or made devoid of worth. Rather they are spent for the enriching of our fellow man.
While we are not called to die for the sins of all mankind, we too can make our lives a currency in the treasury of God. We can “spend” our time in the service of others. We can “give” our attention to enrich our brothers and sisters. We can “donate” our energy to spread humanity throughout the world.

The Nature of Sacrifice- Psalm 50:5, Exodus 24:8, Matthew 26:28

Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

COMMENTARY

Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice
Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you
For this is my blood of the new testament
There are some passages of scripture that I read, and I feel like I understand their reasoning immediately. Then there are some that I read, but I frankly do not understand them. Instead I get the sense that I am teasing at ideas that are still beyond me. One such example of feeling out of my depth is when I consider the three verses that I shared above.
It seems that there is something about sacrifice being a necessary component of our covenants with God. I’m not entirely sure why these two are so connected, but I get a sense that they really are. The Law of Moses was a covenant instituted by regular animal sacrifice, and the Higher Law was a covenant instituted by the great sacrifice of Christ.
In Hebrews 9:15-22, Paul gives us a small treatise on covenants and sacrifices, in which he states that no testament is in force until after the death of its testator. Why, exactly, I do not know, but there it is even so.
I suppose that performing a sacrifice as part of entering into a covenant makes the experience far more impactful in the heart of the disciple. Also, making that sacrifice would be a representation of what the covenant life will surely require multiple times in the years that follow.
But still I think there are things here that I do not understand, and so my mind continues to turn these verses over. I hope my thinking-out-loud on them is helpful for you, it certainly has been useful for me.