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.

The Nature of Sacrifice- Moses 5:6-8

And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.
And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth.
Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore.

COMMENTARY

I know not, save the Lord commanded me
I feel that Adam’s reasoning for performing sacrifice perfectly captures the simple faith behind so much of our own obedience. Why do you go to church? Pay your tithing? Hold back that insult? Tell the truth that harms you? Perhaps for some of these things we have learned the reason why, but at some point I think the answer for each of us is “I dunno…it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Now I am a firm believer in doing the right thing because it is the right thing, that is more than reason enough, but at the same time I do believe that there are deeper reasons, even if I do not yet comprehend them. Just as I believe that there are reasons and rules for every behavior in physics, even if I do not know what they all are.

This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father
Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son
In this case we learn what the reason for animal sacrifice was: to signify the greater sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Performing this ritual was to help the disciples of the Old Testament understand that their sins required atoning, and that it would be the blood of the lamb which would ultimately fulfill that need.
But this second line, the one about doing all that we do in the name of the Son, gives us the reason for our other types of sacrifice. Why do you give up your addiction? Your anger? Your idle wastes of time? Because by the Son’s sacrifice you were purchased, and his name is upon you, and now you are to become an embodiment of him. You are to do the things that he would do, and not the things that he wouldn’t. So sacrifice, that you may better become him.

All or Nothing- John 6:67-69, Matthew 13:45-46

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

COMMENTARY

To whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
Not all of Jesus’s followers stayed with him. Sometimes the doctrine he taught caught them off guard, and disciples that were offended by the message abandoned him. At such a time he turned to the twelve and asked if they, too, would leave him.
Peter’s response is an important lesson to us all. The Savior offers us things that simply cannot be found anywhere else. If we leave to pursue other paths, we are closing the door on things that will never be replaced.

When he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
In the parable of the merchant and the pearl, we similarly see a man who finds a treasure of greater worth than any other. It doesn’t matter what else fills his coffers, none of it can compare to this one ultimate jewel. So he lets all other possessions go, and gladly. At this point they would only get in the way.
It is worth considering whether we view the gospel of Christ with the same reverence as this merchant and Peter. Do we view at as just a nice thing that we accept parts of, but then abandon as soon as it challenges us? Or do we hold it as the ultimate treasure, irreplaceable by any other, and worthy of every sacrifice to obtain?

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- 1 John 5:1-3, Luke 16:13, Revelation 3:15

Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

COMMENTARY

We keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous
There are two types of disciples: those that are social disciples and those that are actually disciples. Social disciples maintain a connection to the environment of the gospel. They like the culture that surrounds it, but they aren’t very devoted to the actual doctrines being taught. They are afraid of judgment, and because of that try to keep the commandments, but have little love for them.
I have certainly been one of these social disciples. I was raised in a gospel-centric home, and that made it easy to take my beliefs for granted. Of course I was a Christian, it was all I knew, how could I possibly be anything else?
But then passages like this one from John stuck with me, because absolutely there were commandments that felt grievous to me. Since I was convinced that I was already best pals with Jesus, I didn’t feel any need to know him better. And because I wasn’t actively trying to know him better, there were all manner of vices that I was susceptible to.

No servant can serve two masters
I would thou wert cold or hot
For a long time I was too terrified to admit that I wasn’t really a Christian in my heart, just someone who happened to have a lot of trivia knowledge about Christianity. But frankly, once I was able to admit that I was “cold” in my discipleship, then at last I could begin looking for ways to bring my temperature up.
Furthermore, I found that God wasn’t disappointed by my admitting that I wasn’t following him very well. Quite on the contrary. He was already abundantly aware of my tepidness, and thrilled that I was finally ready to do some honest work.

What Sort of Disciple Are You?- Matthew 26:33-35, 73-75

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

COMMENTARY

Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man
My general assumption is that Peter was not lying when he avowed he would follow Jesus to death. I think it is perfectly believable that he really thought he would be faithful to the end. But as he learned, the imagination of martyrdom is far different from actually being faced with it. It is easy to be a hero in one’s imagination.
Not all things in life are worth dying for, but some are. Liberty, truth, and the lives of others to name a few. It is good to be willing to sacrifice anything for these virtues, and those that can do so are extremely noble.
But when we say that an action is commendable, it does not necessarily mean that the inability to perform that action is condemnable. We should not be too hard on Peter for shirking when his great test came. Yes, he was lacking, but he was not bad. He was simply a work in progress.
Being willing to do all things for God’s cause only comes after years of exercising our faith. If we are not there yet, if we are still lacking in any way, if there are commitments we are not yet ready to make, then we can attest that we are still a work in progress, too. And yes, hopefully we are authentically working to make that progress, but if so, then it is alright to not be perfect just yet!

What Sort of Disciple Are You? -Question

Whichever belief system you subscribe to, are you a good one? Do you believe in it wholeheartedly? In my youthful years I was convinced that I was as devout a disciple as there could be! Later I came to appreciate how little I really knew in my heart. This moment of self-doubt led me to explore my faith, and I would say that as I result I am a stronger disciple now than when I was young…though also far more tempered in how I describe that spiritual strength.

Of course there are also those that think they are weak in their faith, but when tested are surprised at how well it holds. Also there are those that are a disciple in name only, openly admitting that they don’t really follow the teachings they have been given.

Honest self-appraisal is the first step towards changing oneself, and no matter how positive or negative the outcome of that appraisal, one is progressing just by having done it. So long as one remains deluded about the convictions of their own soul, there is nothing for them to do. With this study I’d like to consider how we can take an honest inventory of ourselves, and work on what we find.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about the development of your own spiritual maturity. What dramatic shifts have you had in your perceptions of your faith-commitment? What events caused you to see yourself more clearly? How did that awareness enable to you to reach for something more?

Knit Our Hearts- Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 6:7

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

COMMENTARY

For where two are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
And began to send them forth by two and two
Yesterday we observed that God believes in the power of individuals united together as one. In these verses we see that Jesus shares fully in that sentiment! He didn’t send the disciples out alone, he sent them together, and further he promised them that whenever they bonded together, he would join that union.
There’s something about coming together with our fellowman that unlocks the spirit of Christ among us. Living life as a “lone wolf” doesn’t only deny us the companionship of another mortal, it denies us the full presence of our Lord.

If two of you shall agree on earth and shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father in heaven
I have always been familiar with the promise Christ gave of being in the midst of two or three gathered in his name, but I did not remember the additional promise mentioned here as well. When two of us agree in what we feel is right, we can ask it of God and He will grant it.
When I read this it gave me quite some pause, it seems a remarkably potent promise! I’ve frankly wondered why we would be trusted with such power. One thought that occurs to me is that people have a lot of differences in perspective and desire, but the parts of their beliefs that overlap tend to be the holy parts. For example we may disagree on specific political and ethical matters, but we each share a desire for the wellbeing of society. Whenever two people can find something that they don’t differ in, it is because they have found a part of God inside of them. That agreement can give them confidence, then, to pray in faith, knowing God will bless their petition.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- John 21:3, 15-17, 19

Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

COMMENTARY

Yesterday we read about how Peter the apostle had a trial of identity during Jesus’s own trial, and how he ultimately found himself falling short, unwilling to be the disciple he had thought he would be. The passages for today are taken shortly after the death the Savior. Here Peter and a few other disciples decide to go out fishing, returning to the pattern of life they have always known. It is hard to blame Peter. He had been tested and found wanting, perhaps he didn’t feel worthy of his calling anymore.
In this moment Jesus comes and, as at the first time, calls Peter back to the work. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland paraphrased in his October 2012 address entitled The First Great Commandment:

Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish? What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs.

I can definitely sympathize with Peter. I too have felt ashamed of going astray, and have felt that the call to become no longer applied. I have returned back to what I was comfortable with, wanting to identify myself with something lesser, something that doesn’t require faith.
But like Peter, I have found the Savior doesn’t give up on me, even if I have. He ever calls me to try again, to become the child of God he knows I truly am.

The Differences Between Knowing, Doing, and Becoming- Matthew 26:33-35, 73-75

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.
Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.

And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

COMMENTARY

Yesterday we observed that Peter had a testimony of the Savior, yet Jesus declared that he still needed a conversion. That Jesus was correct in this appraisal is evident from the passages above. Peter claimed that he would stay by his master’s side to death, and likely he sincerely felt he had it in him at the time. But when the prospect of martyrdom drew uncomfortably near he gave in to fear and denied his discipleship.
Notice that the accusation made to him is not of what he knows, or what he does, it is of who he is: “thou art one of them.” He denies that, and by so doing confesses that by word and deed he may have been a follower of Christ, but a part of his heart has still remained unconverted. There is some becoming that he still lacks.
Fortunately his journey does not end here, as we all know he eventually does become the rock upon which Christ can build his church. Tomorrow we will study how that process of becoming occurred.