Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven.
 22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works?
 23 And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (3 Nephi 14:21-23)

This scripture can alternatively soothe and discomfit us, depending on the elements that we focus on.

Jesus uses the phrase “Lord, Lord” to encapsulate the pleas for entry into heaven by those who believe they are entitled to a place there, but who have fallen short in some important respects in a way that blindsides them at that crucial moment.

These pleaders argue their case that they deserve admittance on the grounds of:
·      Prophesying “in thy name” (bearing testimony—the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophesy)
·      Casting out devils “in thy name” (bringing others to repentance)
·      Doing many wonderful works “in thy name” (doing good words and even miracles)
Their argument sounds pretty convincing, yes?  That they do all these things in Christ’s name makes me think these could even be church members who have used the priesthood.

The terrifying reply comes back, “I never knew you.”  What?!  Never knew these people when they were doing all those things in Christ’s name?  From the very beginning they were off track?  How can this be?

“[D]epart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  For the longest time, I thought Jesus meant that these people were doing bad things that they thought were good things.  I recently realized that Jesus meant that these people had never REPENTED.  They knew they could repent, they knew all things should be done in Christ’s name, they knew they should do good,…. But they never actually repented of their sins in the first place..or afterward either.  This is why Christ says He never knew them.  The atonement is meant to blot out our sins and reconcile us to God, to make us at-one with Him, so that we know Him as we become like Him.  But if we never repent, then we are yet estranged from Him and He won’t know us.  (I think that “knowing” is in the sense of “accepting someone to be what is claimed, accepting them and acknowledging them” as He would one who had finally become reconciled with Him.)  He knows whether we’ve repented or not.  We can’t fool Him, we only deceive ourselves.  

Another thing we learn from these verses is that the good things that we do will not blot out our sins, as some believe.  (Yes, there are people who think that the good things they do will cancel out or balance out the bad things they’ve done.)  The truth is, only Christ can blot out our sins, and only when we repent of them.

Too often we may read these verses and say, “It’s those people in those other Christian denominations who are workers of iniquity; they think they are doing things in Christ’s name, but they aren’t.  We aren’t doing iniquity.”   (Do you ever comfort yourself this way?  I know I have..)  The problem with this line of thought is that it prevents us from remembering that all are sinners except Christ; ALL have committed sins.  So if we think it is those other people over there who have sinned and not us, our own sins remain and we won’t be freed from them.  We will be like the Pharisee in the parable:

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
 10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
 12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)

I think the deeper message that Jesus was trying to get across was that all the acts of spiritual discipline and discipleship without sincere repentance will be insufficient to save us.  Yes, those acts are important—every tree that doesn’t give good fruit will be hewn down—but by themselves, they are insufficient to save.

I think sometimes repentance is a tricky thing to learn about in our church.  I don’t mean it is hard to learn about it in theory, but I mean learning about it in practice.  When I think of how well I learn by example, I realize that I don’t often get to see visible examples of repentance.  (You may be saying, “Well duh; repentance is very much a matter of the heart.”)  How often do we hear people share with us the experience they had as they repented?  I think our cultural teachings against confessing our sins publicly have made it so that it is difficult to even get an idea of who else in our church knows how to repent or knows what things we should we repent of, besides the serious sins that require confession to the bishop. 

In My line-upon-line education on the Atonement , I talk about some of the things I’ve learned about repenting and applying the Atonement.  Will you share with me your experiences with learning how to repent?  (No need to share details of the sins..) 


Ramona Gordy said...

I have heard sermons on those scripture, and now realizing that they may not have been "rightly divided" for their full explanation, I was bothered by them. Paul the Apostle seem to have a companion scripture in Romans,but he seems to touch on "the Doctrine of Christ"
ROMANS 3:23-25
23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God"

I had a moment of clarity while teaching 3 Nephi in Primary. My girls asked the question why were certain Nephites spared and others weren't? And if these people were more righteous than those who were killed, why did they have to repent? (Again we have all sinned and fallen short..)

3 NEPHI 9:13-14
O all ye that are spared; because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?
14 Yea verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive, and blessed are those who come unto me.

So in Nephi chapter 11, the Savior gives a plain and simple discourse on what he requires; Faith, repentance and baptism. It should have literally rung a bell with those Nephites, because it rung my bell.
3 Nephi 11:38 And again I say unto you, ye must repent, and be baptized in my name, and become as a little child, or ye can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.

When I have had opportunities to answer questions concerning my faith;I am often asked if baptism is still necessary. I always testify with an emphatic yes, baptism is alive and well and required. And some people are offended that "baptism" would be a "stumbling block" for their progression. I know, because I struggled with it while I was investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS. I had to believe that any further progressive relationship with Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father had to include baptism, as well as my faith and repentance. (sorry this is so long)
Thank you Micheala

Lily Whitfield said...

I enjoyed your post, as I've often pondered the meaning of this same scripture. You asked "How often do we hear people share with us the experience they had as they repented?" I'd say not at all. However, I like to believe that those brethren that we perceive to be very humble likely have done much repenting. I don't believe prideful folks practice much repenting.My challenge in life is to not assume or judge someone who seems a bit prideful as not a repenter.
Another aspect that I've pondered are those giant souls in the scriptures that plead (repent) for their city, country, peoples. I've often wondered why they would bother...well I do know-they're hearts are much softer than mine :)

Michaela Stephens said...

Ramona, your primary girls are pretty sharp; that was a very good question they asked! I also know what it is like to have people I talk to about the gospel reject the need for baptism.

Lily, I too like to think that there is a lot of repenting going on that I don't know about.
As for those souls in the scriptures who plead for their people to God, they are types of Christ, who pleads to the Father for us. In the Old Testament, the high priest would offer sacrifice and prayer on behalf of the people one day a year (the Day of Atonement) as a type of Christ's advocacy and sacrifice for us.

catania said...

As usual, you have my mind swirling right now. :)

A few thoughts.

When the Lord says "I never knew you," I love what you bring out. I hadn't thought of it in the way you presented before. Also, as I was reading, I was thinking of Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-2 Here verse two says: "The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes;" - this calls to mind how the Lord isn't bound by time. He sees all things in one. So, even if we presently believe and even repent, the Lord sees all...(not sure...just an idea)

Also - as far as repentance goes - it is deeply personal. It is hard to express. It is especially hard to express without divulging sins and weaknesses.

I also wonder if - when people express a testimony of God's love - it is a part of the forgiveness/repentance process that they have experienced.

I love the story of the woman who washed Christ's feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair for this reason. She had been forgiven. Her forgiveness implies repentance. And how do you express forgiveness, other than crying at the Master's feet?

A few years ago, while I was single, I went through a hard time. I had been in a bad (dating) relationship. I was aware of the shortcomings I had. Not only at that moment, but throughout my life. Yet, I was blessed. When I met my husband we dated, courted, and began the process to cancel the temple blessings from my first marriage. It was intense. I went in to my bishop, and he asked me to look at a picture of the Savior. He asked me if I knew that Christ loved me, and how I felt about him. My only remark was, "I know how the woman felt." I understood why she did what she did, and was grateful that there was someone who did serve the Savior in this way. Anyways - I kind of wonder if often, when people talk about repentance, they often focus on the blessing of forgiveness rather than the process may be helpful for us to talk about repentance more (in general terms)...

long comment...but thanks for the post.

Michaela Stephens said...

Catania, that's interesting that you bring up the story of the woman crying at Jesus's feet and wiping his feet with her hair. That was kind of public gratitude there. And you're right; it does seem like it was expressing a sense of being forgiven, but maybe there was repentance there too.