Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sacrament talk on being committed & being converted to Christ

The following is my talk I gave in church this last Sunday about being committed and being converted to Christ. I had to cut some of it out in the interest of time, but I wanted to post the whole of it here as I would have liked to give it. The opportunity to research and bring my life in harmony with this topic was a great blessing to me, and I was so happy to share what I learned about it with my ward. Read on..


Definition of commitment—

“the trait of sincere and steadfast fixity of purpose”;

“the act of binding yourself (intellectually and emotionally) to a course of action;


Scriptural language for being committed expresses it in different ways:

· Coming to the Lord with full purpose of heart. (3 Nephi 10:6)

· Offer your whole souls as an offering unto him (Omni 1:26)

· Loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37)

· Having a determination to serve the Lord to the end (D&C 20:37)


I wanted to see what Jesus had to say about being committed.


26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea,

[or husband, yea and his own life also; or in other words, is afraid to lay down his life for my sake; cannot be] my disciple.

27 And whosoever doth not

bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

28 For which of you, intending to build a

tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

29 Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him,

30 Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

31 Or what king, going to make war against another

king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?


32 Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.

33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-33, emphasis added, JST added in square brackets)


There are two important analogies Jesus uses to teach about being committed in this section. In the first, he compares it to counting the cost of building a tower. It’s about considering what effort it is going to take to do what must be done to get the final result (which is eternal life). Being committed to the gospel for our whole lives is like building a tower. But it isn’t done all at once. To make the best progress, we have to do all the building we can every day of our lives. Are we going to stop in the middle and say, “Okay, that’s good enough for me,” or are we going to get to a certain level one day and say, “Whoa, I’m starting to be scared of heights here,” or are we going to say “I’m getting really tired of this”? If we start, we have to finish it.


In the second part, he compares being committed to a king going to make war with another king, consulting to see if he has enough men to beat the opposition. The lesson is that we are going to face opposition in living the gospel and we have to be willing to do what it takes to fight and overcome whatever Satan attacks us with, even though we are outnumbered. We have to be ready to fight, no matter the cost.


Next, there were some interesting conversations Jesus had with two disciples that are instructive:

19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

21 And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

22 But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead. (Matthew 8:19-22)


Here two different people want to follow Christ and He shares with them some important information about being committed. The first one is very enthusiastic and says, “I’ll go wherever you go.” Jesus tells him that unlike the animals, Jesus has no place to sleep. I don’t think Jesus was trying to discourage this man; He was just being honest about what the man would experience if he were to follow Jesus around everywhere. The scribe wouldn’t have his own bed anymore. He had to be aware that there was going to be discomfort and a lot of traveling. Jesus wanted the scribe to make his choice based on full information about what was required to come along so he could be fully committed. The message for us is that you can’t take a rest from being a disciple of Christ. Being a disciple of Christ isn’t a 9-to-5 job; disciples of Christ are always on the clock.


The second man wanted to come with Jesus…but wanted to do it…later. He wanted to wait until after his father was dead. Maybe his father wasn’t excited about his interest in following Jesus and was making life tough for the man. In response, Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” In other words, he was to not let his father get in the way of following Christ. The message for us is that commitment to Christ is something we have to do NOW. It can’t be delayed until conditions are right; that would be like waiting to start a trip until all the stoplights have turned green.


How do we stay committed to follow the Lord when it is hard?


And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)


I used to see this scripture as meaning that one decision is enough to last us through our whole lives, but I recently began to see it in a different way. When it seems really hard, we just need to break it down into manageable pieces. One day at a time. Make a firm decision that TODAY you will follow and serve the Lord. Make it the best day possible. (We can handle a single day, right?) Then, tomorrow, make a firm decision that THAT DAY, you will follow and serve the Lord. And make that firm decision each day of your life.


Personal Experience: For the last few months I’ve been struggling with internal chatter of the doubtful, fearful variety that was causing me to waver when I wanted to be firm. I wondered for a long time what I could do about this. I prayed for courage, and I struggled as best I could. When I was asked to give this talk, I realized immediately that commitment and conversion was exactly what I needed. I also knew that I would not be able to give this talk until I strengthened my own commitment to the Lord. So I began taking steps immediately. Whenever that negative chatter started tearing at me, I would say strongly to myself, “I will follow the Lord.” I repeating that to myself as often as necessary, “I will follow the Lord.” It said that to myself quite a lot for the first three days. I worked to be more vigilant in my small choices. I also asked my husband give me a blessing so I could escape the buffettings of Satan. And each day I would recommit myself to follow the Lord that day. It really helped me.


How do we show our commitment to the Lord?


It starts with obedience to the basic principles of the gospel-- faith in Christ, repentance, then baptism, then receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.


We continue to show our commitment and renew that commitment when we take the sacrament and keep the other commandments that we’ve been given.


What kinds of experiences have people had when they’ve made a commitment to the Lord?


There are a number of examples in the Book of Mormon that illustrate how commitment brings great blessings, but in the interest of time, I thought I would focus on the stripling warriors.


The stripling warriors were committed both to following the Lord and to fighting in all cases to protect the liberty of their fathers. What the scriptures have to say about their character never ceases to be inspiring to me.


· They were “strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day” (Alma 58:40)

· They kept God’s “statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments continually” (Alma 58:40)

· They “[stood] fast in that liberty wherewith God [had] made them free” (Alma 58:40)

· They had “exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe” (Alma 57:26)

· “Their faith was strong in the prophecies” (Alma 58:40)

· They put their trust in God continually” (Alma 57:27)

· “They were…true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted” (Alma 53:20)

· They were men of truth and soberness” (Alma 53:21)

· They were “exceedingly valiant for courage” (Alma 53:20)

· Were “firm and undaunted” (Alma 57:19-20) when many Nephites were “about to give way” (Alma 57:20)


I so want to be firm and undaunted.


Story told by Elder John B. Dickson of the seventy:

In 1979…missionaries began proselyting in a lush, green area called the Huesteca. 52 people joined the Church in Panacaxtlan. … A short time later, a meeting was called in Panacaxtlan at which Church members were given the following options: denounce the Church, leave the village, or be killed (not an idle threat). The members, particularly the women, said they knew the Church to be true and would not denounce it. They also indicated they had worked just as hard as the rest of the community to secure their homesteads, and they would not leave. Boldly stepping forward, they told their taunters if they were going to kill them, to get on with it. The moment grew tense as machetes were raised, then finally lowered while the Latter-day Saints stood up for that which the Spirit had testified to them to be true. These Saints eventually learned, as most of us do, that it is harder to live the gospel day by day than to die for it in an instant, but their early commitment came because the Spirit had touched their hearts and changed their lives. Their conversion process had taken place as the Book of Mormon helped build their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (“The Incomparable Gifts,” Ensign, Feb. 1995, 7).

What blessings do we receive when we commit to follow the Lord?

Ezra Taft Benson said:

“Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], 361).

CONVERSION


(from the Bible Dictionary) Conversion “Denotes changing one’s views, in a conscious acceptance of the will of God. If followed by continued faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism in water for the remission of sins, and the reception of the Holy Ghost by the laying of hands, conversion will become complete, and will change a natural man into a sanctified, born again, purified person—a new creature in Christ Jesus. Complete conversion comes after many trials and much testing. To labor for the conversion of one’s self and others is a noble task.”


What shall we compare the conversion process to? Let’s compare it to taking an old car out of the junkyard and fixing it up. Let’s say it is a ’62 Chevy pick-up truck. It is a rusted-out dented shell, with torn leather seats, cracked and broken windows, birds nests behind the grill, blown head gasket, bent axel, a real clunker. Little by little, you take it apart and replace everything bad with new parts of the highest quality. You replace the body panels, put in new seats, replace all the glass, put in a new engine and new axel. You give it a gleaming, new paint job. It’s still a ’62 Chevy pick-up when you’re done with it, but it isn’t the same as it was.


Or, compare conversion to a caterpillar that makes a cocoon for itself and then comes out at the end of a time as a butterfly. It’s still the same animal, but in a totally different form. It can do things it couldn’t do before. It doesn’t become a butterfly all at once. It takes days of tiny incremental changes for the transformation to occur.


Why must we be converted?


"And [Jesus] said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3) Conversion is absolutely necessary.


King Benjamin said, “For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19)


Conversion is both instantaneous, and it is a process.


It is a change of view, which is then followed by a process of transformation of action and character, from grace to grace, from glory to glory. Grace, or the power of God, is what makes this change happen.


When King Benjamin gave his great sermon to his people, they believed him, and their hearts were changed. Mosiah 5:2-7 has a list of all the things they felt that characterized their conversion:

· Knowing the surety of the words because of the Spirit they felt

· A might change in their hearts

· No more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually

· Great views of that which is to come through the manifestations of the Spirit

· Feeling as if they could prophecy of all things if they had to

· Great knowledge

· Rejoicing with exceedingly great joy

· Willing to enter a covenant with God to do his will and be obedient in everything to the end of their lives


So now, I would ask of all of you, like Alma asked his people, “if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?”(Alma 5:26)


As I was studying for this talk, I started to see that I have had moments of conversion throughout my life, and that they arose out of specific commitments I made.

· I remember when I was baptized and how clean I felt afterwards. I knew I had been changed.

· I remember the conscious commitment I made to start reading the scriptures on my own and the change that happened in me because of it.

· I remember the commitment that I would try to express my individuality by being a better person, instead of rebelling.

· Or the commitment I made to pay tithing, even when it was hard.

· Or the decision I made that I would be brave enough to admit the times I was wrong.

· Or the decision I made to keep the Sabbath holy.

· Or the decision I made to forgive a difficult roommate rather than harbor resentment.


Each of those commitments and many others have been part of my conversion process. Going back to the analogy of fixing up a truck, it has been like a new axel here, a new leather seats there, and so on. I have more commitments to make, and so do you.


The power of Christ’s atonement is such that not only does it make sinners into saints, but it will make saints into gods. He gives us the power to maintain good works that we otherwise would not have power to continue on our own. I can testify that is true. I have seen it in my life more times than I can count.


I pray that we will follow the Lord today, then tomorrow, and onward until our faithful commitments have allowed the Lord to seal us His, and complete our conversion into rightful heirs of the celestial kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

1 comments:

RGG said...

Thank you
Everything you said and more. When I was investigating the church.when I finally made a decison to get baptized, I was convinced that I was in the right place. But my prayers were that I would be able make a firm comittment. I jokingly told my missionaries that I would"try it" for 30 days. So much has happened in my life in 4 short years and even now I have been blessed with that "over abundance" of love and information,new friends, everything.
But it is not always so easy and sometimes I get really discouraged about a lot of things. But I feel more than ever that the Savior is with me, that the Holy Spirit is so close to me and constantly whispers in my ear,my heart. The one thing that helps me to put this fantastic journey is my patriarchal blessing. It's like a love letter.