Atonement – Part 4

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While Jesus was in the garden it says in Luke 22:43, God sent “an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.”  What do you make of that?

In the garden, Jesus was preparing to face the most extreme and ultimate suffering imaginable – being separated from His Father on high.  Satan was not about to leave our Lord alone when He was about to embark on the only act that would overcome the devil and its powers, once and for all. 

THIS was the trial of the garden – Jesus overcoming the very natural temptation to let this cup pass.  It says in Matthew 26:39, 42-44 that Jesus prayed to have the human strength to endure the brutal beatings and torture of the cross. 

So, the moment Jesus relinquished Himself into the hands of sinful men, the atonement began?

Precisely!  The binding, the slapping, the spitting, the mockery, and the scourging – all fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53:5 “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities…with His stripes we are healed.”  Therefore, the beatings, the torture, the fatigue, and humiliation all culminated in His crucifixion and death on the cross, which were all part of His atonement for our sins.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us that for our sins Jesus “endured the cross, despising the shame.”

before Jesus was put upon that cross, only the most vile and abhorrent men hated by society hung there.  Anyone who was crucified was, seen as the lowest of low.

What you just described is a perfect picture of the state of our lives in sin.

It should disturb us when religious leaders, who call themselves prophets and apostles, distract our attention from Christ’s suffering atonement on the cross – causing people to focus on things that are not right or true. 

LDS Church leaders got their inspiration on this doctrine from two passages: Doctrine and Covenants 19:18 “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit – and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink.”  And in the Book of Mormon, Mosiah 3:7    

For one thing – both passages were written or translated by Joseph Smith in 1829 to 1830.  During that time, Joseph Smith was still a monotheist.  That is why it is God himself who is suffering in those verses.  But the point I want to make is that neither reference mentions the Garden of Gethsemane.  

President Nelson in his October 2018 conference address said it was “In the Garden of Gethsemane” where Jesus suffered for the sins of the world.  Statements like his cause people to miss the cross, to see another Jesus, to discount the meaning of His suffering, and revise the truth of Jesus’ atoning work. 

It is what I call a twisting of the Scripture.  Think of it like this – If Satan can get people to take their eyes off the truth of the gospel and redirect them to something that is a lie – he has won a victory. 

If the LDS Church is really a restoration, why does the Mormon prophet and apostles create a new narrative for the New Testament?  Neither Jesus nor any author of the New Testament claims Gethsemane had anything to do with the atonement of Christ.  Instead there is an abundant number of references to the cross where Christ suffered and died to pay the debt for our sin.                            

The Bible stands on its own, testifying of exactly what his suffering and death on the cross accomplished.  Here are some passages I would like you to read when you have the time: 

Psalm 22:1, 6-8, 15-16;

Luke 9:23;

Romans 5:6-11;

Romans 6:6;

1 Corinthians 1:17-18, 23;

1 Corinthians 2:2;

1 Corinthians 5:7;

1 Corinthians 15:3;

Galatians 3:13;

Galatians 6:14;

Ephesians 2:16;

Philippians 3:18;

Colossians 1:20-21;

Colossians 2:13-15;

Hebrews 2:14;

Hebrews 9:13-16;

Hebrews 12:2;

1 Peter 2:24;

Revelation 13:8

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Atonement – Part 3

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In a recent General Conference address, LDS Church President, Russell M. Nelson made a comment about the location of where Christ atoned for the sins of the world. 

LDS.org under the talk titled: The Correct Name of the Church.  “In the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior took upon Himself every pain, every sin, and all of the anguish and suffering ever experienced by me and by everyone who has ever lived or will ever live.  Under the weight of that excruciating burden, He bled from every pore.  All of this suffering was intensified as He was cruelly crucified on Calvary’s cross.”

In light of that statement, I have to mention that neither the Bible nor any Mormon Scripture specifically state that the atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Because to have the atonement occur in the garden would be contrary to the narrative of the entire Word of God.

In Old Testament times, redemption was demonstrated through the ceremonial sacrifice of an animal.  God made it clear that forgiveness would be provided only through the DEATH of an innocent substitute that represented the payment for the penalty of sin. 

But never did an animal sit somewhere alone in a pasture and suffer as a substitute sacrifice for sin.  The LDS focus on the Garden of Gethsemane has absolutely no biblical connection to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, which was a picture of the shedding of the Lord’s blood which occurred where?  On the cross. 

But the New Testament does say that He suffered great agony in the garden. 

The garden is where He suffered great agony in His humanity over the impending pain and suffering that would culminate with His death on the cross.  His will was to do the Father’s will, but His flesh was shrinking at the thought of being beaten and crucified.  Can you imagine how scared any of us would be if we were put in the same situation?

But it say’s here in Luke 22:44 that “his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground.”  Isn’t that considered “shedding blood?”

The way it is written suggests that His sweat was so profuse that the drops of sweat were heavy like what great drops of blood would look like.  The fact that only Dr. Luke, the physician, records this account makes it more likely that he was using a figure of speech. 

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus prays in the garden three times to the Father that if it be possible, “this cup” – meaning His taking on our sin – would pass from Him, but that God’s will be done. 

Once Jesus was outside the garden facing the temple soldiers, Peter acts rashly by cutting off Malchus’ ear.  Jesus then says to Peter as recorded in John 18:11, “Put up thy sword unto the sheath; THE CUP which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

Jesus is implying to Peter, “I just overcame the temptation to follow My own will.  And now you are stepping in to impede what I was sent to do, which is to take away the sins of the world by drinking THE CUP.  Put away your sword and let me precede to the cross, that I may do my Father’s will.”

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Mormons, now non-Mormons

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In a recent General Conference, President Nelson said, speaking of Jesus, “When we omit His name from His Church, we are inadvertently removing Him as the central focus of our lives.” 

The irony is that Joseph Smith used three different names for the Church in the span of eight years.  Why would Jesus instruct Joseph Smith in 1830 to call it the “Church of Christ”, then change it in 1834 to the “Church of Latter Day Saints” and, then change is once again in 1838?

Was Joseph carelessly removing Jesus as the central focus of LDS members lives during that time period?

One possible reason it took Smith eight years to settle on an official name for the Church is the fact that God wasn’t involved at all in the decision. 

President Nelson said that “For much of the world, the Lord’s Church is presently disguised as the ‘Mormon Church.’  But we as members of the Lord’s Church know who stands at its head: Jesus Christ Himself.  Unfortunately, many who hear the term Mormon may think we worship Mormon.  Not so!  We honor and respect that great ancient American prophet.  But we are not Mormon’s disciples.  We are the Lord’s disciples.”

In my entire life I’ve never heard or read of anyone having the silly idea that the LDS worship the “ancient American prophet”, Mormon.  Most people aren’t that naïve. 

President Nelson spoke of the revised style guide that should be used.  Quote: “It states“It states: ‘In the first reference, the full name of the Church is preferred:   When shortened second reference is needed, the terms ‘the Church’ or the ‘Church of Jesus Christ’ are encouraged.  The ‘restored Church of Jesus Christ’ is also accurate and encouraged.”

The Bible Jesus never mentioned what the future church would be called.  That’s because it was never intended to be a formal organization.  They were simply believers in Jesus Christ.  Those believers were known by a number of titles: like, “the Way”, “Christians”, “Nazarenes”, “Church of Christ”, “Church of God”, “Church of the Firstborn”, even by location such as the “Church of the Thessalonians”, etc. 

The term “Church” comes from the Greek word “Ekklesia” which means “a called-out assembly or congregation”.  It is a gathering of people “called-out” to follow Jesus.  What it is NOT – nor ever has been – is an institution that serves as the gatekeeper of salvation or eternal life. 

I see what President Nelson is trying to do here.  Calling the Mormon Church “The Church” or the “Church of Jesus Christ” or      ” would be an acknowledgement of Mormonism’s truth claims.  However, non-members will recognize that those are more than titles and people outside your faith should not give validation to those designations.  

It would be an admission that the “Great Apostasy” really occurred.  Thus, the need for the Church to be “restored.”  And, Christians certainly do not support that doctrinal position. 

Besides, how is it any better to call it “The Church” or “The Restored Church” if the name of Jesus is still absent?

Look!  It’s hard to break old habits and I believe the terms “Mormons” and “LDS” will be used by members and non-members till the end of time.  President Nelson has taken what seems to be his personal, opinion and used his authority as CEO to persuade others that it is God who is making this “correction” in the name of the Church. 

By declaring as Prophet that members are not to refer to themselves anymore as Mormons – He has in, essence declared all Mormons – “non-Mormons”. 

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