Discussing Spiritual Differences- Matthew 10:16-17, 22-23; 1 Samuel 8:7

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

COMMENTARY

They will deliver you up to the councils, and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another

Jesus did not mince words when he told his disciples what to expect when carrying his message into the world. And one of the points that he stressed in particular was that they were going to be rejected…a lot. Though the disciples would work miracles, though they would speak with power, though they would dedicate their lives to this work, though they would convince many of the truth, there would always remain those who would not accept their message.
Recall that even the master orator Paul, after he had borne a masterful testimony to King Agrippa, was only able to elicit a response of “almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

For they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me
But is it any wonder that the disciples would be rejected when their master was as well? Jesus was turned away from cities, disputed against in the synagogues, and given up to death by his own people. Was it just because he didn’t know the right words to say, because he fumbled in his delivery, because he wasn’t skilled enough in the preaching his own message.
No, of course not. He and his disciples faced rejection for the simple reason that people have their freedom of choice, and some just choose to reject the gospel message and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t have to be that the one proselyting did anything wrong. They might have said exactly what they needed to, but the person hearing the message just didn’t want to receive it.
And that is an important truth for us to remember whenever we try to champion the right. I have known those who believe that if they can just find the right, magical words they will be able to unlock anybody’s heart and that simply isn’t true. No one has to accept what you to say. Anyone is able to turn you down, no matter how perfect your reasoning is. If you feel that you spoke with the words that were given you, that the point was made, that the truth was evident to any who would see, then you have done your part. Anything after that, acceptance or rejection, is out of your control. Whatever the outcome is, you must just accept it and move along.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- 2 Nephi 2:8, 2 Nephi 2:27

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

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.

COMMENTARY

Wherefore, men are free; and all things are given them which are expedient. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, or to choose captivity and death
Many of us spend a good portion of our lives avoiding any serious considering of what sort of person we’re going to be. As a child I would have phrased it as simply deciding whether to be the “good guy” or the “bad guy.” Today I might describe it as deciding whether to “meet my divine potential” or to “give in to my baser nature.”
Instead of facing this question we tell ourselves “yeah, I’m a pretty good person,” and then never commit to a life of greater purpose. But that is not taking ownership of our souls and we will remain stunted for so long as we won’t face the decision in sincerity. At some point we need to have a deeper, more sincere examination of who we really are now, and who we really want to be moving forward.
And it is not healthy for us to put off this decision. Making this determination must come before our great story can really take off. To just make this choice is the very reason why God put us on this Earth to begin with. Here, left to our own heart and reason, we are meant to decide who we ultimately want to be, and whether we will work to become that person. It is the single, most important decision we can ever make, and we each owe it to ourselves to face it.

Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth
When we do make the choice, though, and when our choice is to truly meet our divine potential, then we realize how important it is for everyone else to do the same. We look around and see people trundling along only half-alive and we want to wake them fully. This is why those that have been “born again” feel such a fire to proselyte to others, to show them the depth and breadth and beauty that is possible in life after one has fully chosen who they are going to be.
Indeed, it is more than a desire to proselyte, it becomes an obligation. One cannot be good to his fellow-man and still leave him to walk around half-dead. Not when one knows that there is a life that is so much better. Though it may be a difficult and touchy subject, though there is a great chance of being misunderstood, though the bold words may cause offense, though one’s very life may be threatened for proselyting, still one must speak forth.

The Epic Life- Doctrine and Covenants 58:27-28, John 14:2

Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

COMMENTARY

Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will. For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves.
Tied in with our desire for a life that is epic and meaningful is a desire for a life that is independent. We want to be an agent unto ourselves, not to be someone else’s pawn. And to be clear, freely electing to be a servant to my God is not at all the same as being some manually-controlled pawn. I can choose to be a servant and still retain my individuality.
And as we see in this verse, God’s intent is for us to have that independence. He wants us to freely choose many good works for ourselves. Our deepest spiritual joy does not come from sitting back and just idly thinking about God, it comes from receiving a charter and giving our all to to fulfill it!

In my Father’s house are many mansions
The world would try to convince us that being God’s servant is restrictive, destroys individuality, and turns us all into identical robots. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are many mansions in heaven, many different domains of good, many paths within His garden. The ways to champion God’s will are legion, and He intends for us to freely choose our own corner of the field to work in. Thus my great adventure of good works is very distinct and unique from your own, but both of them are still good. And when we find the good path that uniquely calls to us and give ourselves to it with all the power we have, then we find ourselves walking the truly epic life.

Calloused Hearts- 1 Nephi 2:16

And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

COMMENTARY

I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe
Yesterday I examined how our fallen, stony hearts are remade into something more alive and spiritual by divine interaction. That idea is further supported in this passage, where Nephi finds his own soul softened by heavenly ministrations.
Nephi opened the way but he did not change his own heart by himself. He had to let God do that for him. But there is a lot of significance in that “letting.” Nephi could have not reached out and not had his heart made soft, and things would have been very different if he hadn’t. It was a choice and an action on his part, but the transformation that followed was God’s.

Calloused Hearts- James 2:17-18, 26

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

COMMENTARY

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone
For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also
Yesterday I shared how we can only be made alive through Christ, and that means we need to be a part of Christ, and that means we are actively striving to live a Christ-like life every day. There are other factors, of course, such as the all-important role of grace, but our personal striving is a very real piece of the puzzle.
Which James further emphasizes in today’s verses: faith without works is dead.
We can and should pray to God for a fire to be lit in our hearts. We should show our faith by inviting Him to plant an active desire to do good within us. We should trust that He can remake us so that choosing the right becomes an easy and pleasant experience.
But in my life it seems that He often does not often pour that spiritual fire into my heart right away. He usually takes that prayer of faith and responds by giving me a small choice. Perhaps a twinge of conscience for something simple and good to do right then and there. And I’m sorry to say that sometimes I haven’t taken the invitation. The simple good action I am being offered seems disconnected from the greater good I was asking for the strength to do, and so I overlook it. And then my faith is separated from my works and my heart is left feeling dead.

Our Own Reality- Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

COMMENTARY

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Some of us believe that the company we keep won’t affect who we are, neither the media we consume, nor the interests we pursue. We believe that we can give an ear to corrupt minds, yet still retain our pure convictions. We believe that we can take mixed entertainment, yet look past the depravity that comes with it. After all, Jesus was a companion of sinners, wasn’t he? And he still retained all of his morals, didn’t he?
That is true…but also Jesus never succumbed to temptation, a feat that none of us can claim. Also there is quite a difference between lifting those in the world versus being a part of that world.
The simple truth is that we are far less impervious to our surroundings than we might imagine. For better and worse, the environment we dwell in does become a part of us. You might not be paranoid now, but spend your time researching conspiracy theories, and sooner or later you’ll start to believe them. You might not feel very spiritual now, but spend your time among the devout, and sooner or later you’ll start seeing the hand of God around you.
Thus a thin man might eat a fatty meal one day and look himself in the mirror and say “I am still thin…clearly fatty food has no effect on me.” Or an obese man might eat a lean meal and also see no effect. But if they continue with it over time, gradually the fat will become the first man and the lean will become the second. For reality becomes our repeated experience.

Our Own Reality- 1 Kings 12:6-7, 13-14

And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?
And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;
And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

COMMENTARY

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him
Rehoboam had a choice for what sort of king he was going to be. He sought counsel from two parties for how to present himself to his subjects, and received two different versions of the image he could bear. Ultimately he choose to fashion himself after the more foolish counsel, and lost the majority of his kingdom as a result.
Each of us likes to think that we are strictly in charge of our own formation. We believe we are impervious to advertisements and social pressures, that we make up our own mind and no one has a hold on us. But, frankly, that belief ignores the reality of our nature. We are beings that are composed of what we consume, and what we choose to fill ourselves with will then become what comes out of us after.
So if you spend all your time among any particular group, eventually their outlook will rub off on you. Rehoboam was naturally more inclined to side with those that he had spent his youth with. He framed his reality from the environment he had shared with them, even though it meant taking a stance that was so obviously foolish.

The Doing Muscle- Matthew 9:16-17

No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.

COMMENTARY

No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for the rent is made worse
Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break

Have you ever tried to make an improvement in your life and found that you not only fail to meet it, but also move backwards on other practices? Like a juggler who can keep three balls aloft, but when a fourth is added they drop the whole set.
I have certainly had the experience of feeling like I tried for too much too soon, and as a result lost what progress I already had. I have learned the wisdom of adding one small improvement at a time instead, keeping things manageable from one step to the next.

But they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved
But sometimes incremental improvements are not the solution. Sometimes the solution is realizing that the structure of your life will never be able to hold the changes that you need to make.
And so I have also learned the wisdom of occasionally throwing out the old bottle and starting again with a new vessel. I just let go of all the things that I “think I have to do,” resulting in a daily schedule that is devoid of anything at all. And then I start putting things in, the most important ones first, and being sure to include the new improvements that I know I need. At the end there are many old things left behind, but that is better than trying to cram it all in until the bottle bursts.

The Doing Muscle- Ecclesiastes 11:4, Doctrine and Covenants 64:25

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.

Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today.

COMMENTARY

He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap
I believe that most of us can relate to hearing a sermon that stirred our hearts, or having a our conscience pricked towards improvement, or having our minds taken by a thought of something good to do…but then saying to ourselves “not right now, though…I’ll worry about that tomorrow.”
And in that is a most pernicious lie. For each of us knows from experience that when tomorrow comes, we do not make the change then either. The deceit is in thinking that we can even make a decision for what we will do tomorrow. We can not. Indeed we never make choices for future events. We have before us only a single moment called “the present” in which to make all our choices, and everything else is off the table.
And thus there is only one choice that we are making when we say “I will do it tomorrow.” What we really mean is “I will not do it now.” That is the one choice. “I could do it now…but I will not. I could be someone different here in this moment…but I will not be.” And if we will not be someone different now, then how could we hope to be the sort of person tomorrow that would make the good choice instead? Rather we will be the same procrastinator then that we are today.

Wherefore, if ye believe me, ye will labor while it is called today
The only way that any of us will ever change who we are, the only way that we will ever improve in the ways that we must, is if we make the decision to do so right now. There has never been a person in all of history that changed their life “tomorrow.” Do it today, or it won’t be done.