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My family and I love living in St. George, Utah. It is a beautiful place to live, and we have great neighbors. I am convinced that one of the major reasons that our neighbors are so polite and helpful is that many of them are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The behavior that is in accord with the teaching of their religion helps to make them great neighbors. In light of all that glowing praise for my LDS friends and neighbors in St. George, it is reasonable that I explain why Desert Ridge Baptist Church would host a conference the purpose of which is to present the reasonable questions that evangelical Christians have regarding the truth of LDS doctrine.

The meat of it is that the Bible teaches that being right with God is not possible through good works. So, while I am glad to affirm what wonderful neighbors my LDS friends are, that is an entirely different subject than how to be right with God.

What does the Bible say about being reconciled to God, or being right with God or justified before God? It is clear that living a good life does not make us right with God. Isaiah wrote, "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment" (Isaiah 64:6a). Paul wrote, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith.' But the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them'" (Galatians 3:11-12, quoting first Habakkuk 2:4, then Leviticus 18:5). Paul acknowledges that keeping the law makes one right before God, if one keeps them all perfectly. The problem is that none of us does that.

Paul, again, wrote, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). James explained, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it" (James 2:10). There are many verses that could be quoted here, but these two establish our problem: none of us have kept the law perfectly; we have sinned. And the terrible consequence is found in Ezekiel 18:4--"Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine: the soul who sins shall die." The death of the soul is described in Revelation 21:8 as "the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

So this is THE problem for all humans. None of us is perfect. God requires perfection. Our sinful failure means that, because of God's perfect justice, we are all condemned to the lake of fire. But . . .

GOOD NEWS! God has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. Jesus the Messiah, God the Son, has become our substitute and on the behalf of His people, He has been and is perfectly obedient to the law of God, and has taken in the place of His people, the wrath of God that justly should be applied to all sinners. This is the message of the Bible, the Word of God.

The exclusivity of this good news for salvation is reflected in Paul's statement, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28). Jesus Christ is the only way to be right with God. Jesus + nothing = salvation. Those who have repented of their sins and put all of their trust into Christ alone for salvation are in fact saved from the wrath of God against sin.

1 Corinthians 15:3 is a summary of the facts of the gospel: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scritpures."

When this atoning work is applied, an individual is born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13; 3:1-21). Then, the regenerate person, who has been saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, is spiritually alive and serves the Lord through good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

This is the message of the Bible, the Word of God.

Some quotes from LDS sources demonstrate that there have been at least some LDS leaders that do not agree with the biblical plan of salvation listed above. Here are three examples:

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." -- 2 Nephi 25:23 (italics mine).

"One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of 'justification by faith alone,' which has entered into the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called 'reformation.'" --Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the LDS Church, in The Restoration of All Things, The Deseret News Press, 1964, page 192.

"But it [the doctrine of justification of faith alone] is repulsive to reason, absurd to the understanding, and contrary to the teachings of primitive Christianity." --B.H. Roberts [one of the Seventies], Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 1992, 1:318.

REMINDER! Romans 3:28 says, "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." The law of non-contradiction demands that we recognize the great difference in what we find in Romans 3:28 (and throughout the New Testament) and the views represented by these 3 LDS quotes.

In addition, Galatians 1:6-10 states:

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Thus, we do not evaluate the message based on the messenger, for both Paul himself and an angel from heaven would be quite impressive messengers. Yet, Paul says here that if the message ever differs from what his hearers had already heard, that is, from "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints," (Jude 3), then that messenger was to be accursed, which means eternally condemned.

All of the objective evidence demonstrates that the Bible is the absolutely trustworthy revelation of that faith. So, no matter how impressive anybody might be, the message evaluates the messenger!

Bottom line, I am participating in this conference, in which I will point out inconsistencies in LDS claims according to the Bible, because I love God and I love people. I want God's Truth known, and I want my neighbors to know it so that they, like me, can be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! I want the best for them, and dear reader, for you. That is why I am participating in this conference. Soli Deo Gloria.

I recently received an email with a request for some help in understanding the relationship between Jesus and Satan (Lucifer). The LDS view is that Jesus and Lucifer are spirit brothers. Actually, according to LDS doctrine as I undertand it, all members of the human race on this planet are spiritual brothers and sisters, since we are all the spiritual offspring of the sexual union of Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother, just like Jesus and Lucifer. The following is my response. It is not exhaustive by any means, but I hope it states clearly and gives good evidence that Jesus is not Lucifer's brother, but rather Jesus is Lucifer's Creator! Here it is . . .

 

The question is whether one will choose to believe the Bible or the "prophets" and general authorities of the Mormon Church. There is a mountain of evidence in both the writings of LDS leaders and the Bible to show that what each teaches is in direct conflict with the other. So, if your co-worker wants the Mormon sources, a great help is a compilation of the writings of LDS leaders called In Their Own Words, edited by Bill McKeever. This has been very helpful to me. It's not a book that tries to explain what Mormons believe written by a non-Mormon. It's just a book of quotes from Mormon leaders compiled according to topics. Here is an example on the LDS explanation of the Virgin Birth of Jesus . . .

 

"Begotten means begotten; it means Christ's mortal body was procreated by an Eternal Sire; it means God is the Father of Christ, 'after the manner of the flesh' (1 Ne. 11:18)." --Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 3:141.  Cited in In Their Own Words, page 174.  What McConkie is claiming (among many, many other Mormon leaders) is that the Father both spiritually and physically begot Jesus through a sexual union with a female, in other words, the Father himself came to earth and had sex with Mary, and Jesus was the product of this physical union. In the eyes of biblical Christianity, this is blasphemy.

 

Concerning the question of Jesus' relationship to Satan, the Mormon position is stated clearly on the pro-LDS website fairmormon.org. On the page dealing with the question, "Do Latter-day Saints consider Jesus to be the brother of Satan?" is the following partial quote . . .

 

"Jesus, Satan, and all humanity share God the Father as their spiritual sire. However, moral agency led Jesus to obey God the Father perfectly and share fully in the Father's divine nature and power. The same agency led Satan to renounce God, fight Jesus, and doom himself to eternal damnation. The remainder of God's children—all of us—have the choice to follow the route chosen by Satan, or the path to which Christ invites us and shows the way.

Divine parenthood gives all children of God potential; Christ maximized that potential, and Satan squandered it."

The link for this page is . . . http://en.fairmormon.org/Jesus_Christ/Brother_of_Satan.

 

The essence of the message of Christianity is at stake. If we are all "spiritual children" produced by a sexual union between the Father and some Heavenly goddess Mother, including Jesus and Lucifer, then the Bible cannot possibly be true. The Bible presents Jesus as existing eternally as the second person of the Godhead, and in the Incarnation (His coming to earth as a human), both fully God and fully human. The following attributes and characteristics are taught in Scripture about Jesus . . .

He was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-2)

He was God in the beginning (John 1:1)

He created everything that has ever been created, including Satan (John 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16), when God claims to have created everything by Himself  (Isaiah 44:24)

He is eternal as evidenced by His presence during the days of Abraham and the meaning of His Name, I AM (John 8:52-59)

He is the fullness of Deity (Colossians 1:19; 2:9)

He is the before all things, and the One by whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17)

He is worshiped by the Apostle Thomas as Lord and God (John 20:28)

He is glorified by God the Father as God (John 8:54) when the Bible is clear God will not share His glory with another (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11)

He is called God by the Apostle Paul (Titus 3:5)

He is called God by the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:1)

He was rejected by the Jewish religious leaders because they understood that He was claiming to be God, not just a god (John 5:18; 10:33)

Here is a link to a great web site to help with this topic . . . http://www.alwaysbeready.com/index.php/deity-of-christ/94

 

There are many other passages that could be listed that clearly teach that Jesus is the eternal, uncreated God, the 2nd person of the Trinity, the Agent of Creation Who created everything that has ever been created. The only possible way that Jesus can be both God and the Son of God is the reality of the Trinity. That is, God exists as one God in Three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is God, but He is distinct in personality and personhood from the Father and from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but He is distinct in personality and personhood from the Father and from the Son.

That's Who Jesus is. Lucifer is a fallen angel, a created being, absolutely different and distinct from Jesus in essence. Jesus is God the Creator. Lucifer is a rebellious created being. They do not share the same essence. One is Creator, the other is creature.

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Today, September 11, 2013, is the anniversary of the infamous terrorist attacks that killed so many Americans, mostly in the twin towers of the World Trace Center in New York. What a terrible day. It was a day that is unfortunately always possible in any of our lives due to the fact that we live in a fallen, sinful world, and each of us is a sinner by nature. Days like September 11, 2013 cause many desperate questions like, "Why?" and "Where is justice?"

The Bible has an answer to these questions. While we aren't told about the reasons behind the specific events that happen in God's universe, we do know that the general reason for evil in the world is . . . us. Sin. Sinners. Us. Romans 3:23 tells us "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Ecclesiastes 7:20 declares, "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins." Very few people try to deny this claim. Romans 3:10-12, quoting from Psalms 14 and 53 says, "None is righteous, no, not one . . . no one does good, not even one." This doesn't mean that no person ever does anything with any goodness at all, but rather that everything that everyone does is tainted by the fact that everyone is a sinner by nature. That is the identity of all of the sons of Adam. Sinners. Some people may live morally better lives than others when measured by external consequences. However, James 2:10 instructs us, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it." We are either perfect or imperfect. Righteous or unrighteous. There are only 2 categories. God makes up one, the sons of Adam are in the other.

This is the situation for everyone who is a son of Adam. Remember, Jesus is not in that category, as His conception was miraculous, and He is the sinless Son of God. For all other humans, we are sinners. This includes Muslim terrorists who fly airplanes into buildings in order to kill large numbers of people, as well as emergency personnel whose job it is to rescue victims of terrorist attacks and other disasters.

What makes this bad news worse is that God has already pronounced judgment on sinners! Ezekiel 18:4 says, "Behold all souls are Mine [God's] . . . the soul that sins shall die." A few months ago, I had some discussion with a nice lady who believes that this means that the souls of those who die in their sins will be exterminated, or, annihilated, i.e., they will cease to exist. But the terrible truth of the meaning of this verse, when taken with the message of the entirety of Scripture, is that the death of the soul includes the end of physical life on this earth as we know it now, but actually refers to an everlasting state of destruction. Luke 16:19-31 (Jesus' story of the rich man and Lazarus), Revelation 14:11, and Revelation 20:10 describe the state of the wicked as an everlasting torment, without end.

Even more telling is a study of the word used for "destroy" in Matthew 10:28b, which says, "fear Him Who can destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna]." The word for "destroy" in the original koine Greek, is apolesai from the root apollumi. In the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT), edited by Gerhard Kittel, the definition for the New Testament use of the verb apollumi concludes that the meaning indicates "definitive destruction, not merely in the sense of the extinction of physical existence, but rather of an eternal plunge into Hades and a hopeless destiny of death." In addition, the noun form, apoleia, (see "destruction" in Rev. 17:8, 11 e.g.), indicates the same. The TDNT concludes, "What is meant here is not a simple extinction of existence, but an everlasting state of torment and death."

For the definition and the use of Greek words, TDNT is recognized as a scholarly authority. In light of the meaning of the verb apollumi and its noun form apoleia, and verses like Matthew 25:46, "these [wicked] will go away into eternal punishment [kolasis], but the righteous into eternal life," we conclude a terrible truth. Those who die in their sin, are sentenced by the perfect Judge of all creation to spend eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15; 21:8).

The GOOD NEWS! is that God has acted! God the Son has suffered the wrath of God as a substitute for all those who place their faith and trust in Him. Justice is a reality from the perfect Judge of creation. Either sinners will answer for their own sinfulness, or Christ as the substitute has paid the sin debt demanded by God's perfect justice! Dear reader, will you face eternal destruction for your sins, or will you flee to Christ, beg for mercy, give yourself to Him, and receive forgiveness? The reality of the punishment of sinners demanded by God's justice is terrible, but the reality of the gospel [good news] is great!  Whether you are a terrorist or a law-abiding citizen, you are a sinner needing to be saved from the justice of God. Come to Christ!

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While contemplating Matthew 5, I read portions of a sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon, called by many the "prince of preachers." At the end of his sermon, "A Call to Holy Living," preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England on January 14, 1872, he offered a brief prayer that sums up what is needed for the Christian life. [Link to sermon: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1029.htm]

Great and true and essential doctrines of Christianity are present in this prayer: the sovereignty of God, the substitutionary, penal atoning work of Christ that provides expiation and propitiation for our sins, and the necessity of the spiritual new birth by which believers are empowered to live for God according to the same power that raised our Lord from the grave! I add my "Amen" to this prayer:

"God bring us to Christ, and nail our sins to his cross, and give us life in our Savior's life. Amen."

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Often we are tempted to pray most specifically and with the most intensity when we are praying for deliverance from some suffering or difficulty. In the preface to the updated and expanded edition of his book, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, John Piper articulated a prayer for pastors that is most certainly Bible-driven and God-centered. I wanted to share it here . . .

"Banish professionalism from our midst, O God, and in its place put passionate prayer, poverty of spirit, hunger for God, rigorous study of holy things, white-hot devotion to Jesus Christ, utter indifference to all material gain, and unremitting labor to rescue the perishing, perfect the saints, and glorify our sovereign Lord. In Jesus' great and powerful name. Amen."

To that, I only add my own "Amen."