I just finished an online class entitled, “Path of Stone Tables.” It was awesome! It was about the Biblical Tabernacle and how it relates to the path of discipleship, as well as modern temples of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which I am a member. The content was beautiful and I was taught many new truths about God, the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost and as I’ve been pondering the content of today’s lesson, the song, “How Gentle God’s Commands” continues to run through my head. Jesus Christ is amazing and I know that He is the way, the only way, in which we can return to God. He is the truth, the source of all truth and righteousness. He is the life, the source of all life, and the giver of eternal life.
When I consider the love of my Heavenly Father and his innumerable gifts to us, his children, I well up with tears. The thought that he has a plan for all of this, for all of us, and that there’s nothing we can do to destroy the plan for anyone but ourselves, floors me and amazes me. What amazing love and trust and confidence in the plan, in himself, in Jesus Christ, and in us. There really is nowhere to go, but up, toward him, if we but choose. The gift of agency, or the ability to choose our path, is founded and grounded in so much love and comprehension of our mortal limitations, that I’m astounded that the devil has any power here, but alas, he does. Repentance is real and true and available to all. Turning back to God all day, every day, is a never ending punch card, redeemable through our Savior.
We are taught that there are only two paths to take, one toward Jesus Christ, and one toward the Devil. How can the way of the devil be so alluring? When put so simply, it’s easy to choose?
Hmmm…. do I want to increase in light, goodness, love, peace, and joy OR do I want to increase in torment, misery, hate, anger, ugliness, unrest? That’s a tough one, what should I choose?
Of course, in the day to day… it isn’t that simple, but something I’m slowly learning to comprehend, is that it can be. It can be easy to choose, and of course the Savior taught the way.
In Matthew 7:15-20, he says, “Beware of false prophets (any influence that mocks the truths and values you embrace, and asks you to follow them instead), which come to you in sheep’s clothing (or which come to you and appear harmless and small), but inwardly, they are ravening wolves (seeking to destroy you, especially in spiritual ways). You shall know them by their fruits (the way to see is easy, pay attention to what they produce. Look at the consequences that result from following them).
Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles? (Can you gather grapes from a thorn bush? Can you get figs from thistles? Is it possible to get a sweet fruit from a plant that only produces caustic fruits that injure man?) Even so (listen up), every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit (A good tree brings good fruit and a corrupt tree brings evil fruit. No, you can’t get grapes from a thorn bush. You can’t get figs from thistles. It is impossible for a good tree to produce anything that is evil), neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit (and it is impossible for a corrupt tree to produce anything that is good). Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down (in the end, the only thing that can be done with a corrupt tree is to bring it down and destroy it), and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits, you shall know them. (So, Jesus is warning us, look at what is being produced by the influence, and then you’ll know if you should attach your precious soul to it.)“
I think the hardest part is to be aware that there is always a choice, not actually the choosing part because most things when put into proper perspective, eternal perspective, become very easy to discern.
The ancient Israelites fell, and we fall too, when we lose the meaning behind our daily devotions, our service, our faith, our repentance, our actions. Basically, when we forget the “Why” and perform our religious observances out of habit, convenience, obligation, and/or expectation. None of these words show that we’re intentionality choosing the right. Nor do they explain why. When our actions become rote and we do things to prove ourselves to man, we are no longer following God, we are walking the ways of the world.
Sometimes we forfeit our choice as well by unconsciously following the influences around us. Meddling media, mixed messages of social acceptability, comparisons to others, time wasting distractions, and a constant attack on our worth and our value and it becomes easy to see why, if you’re not paying attention, the gentle commands of God can be brushed aside for another day.
I’ve learned that my main objective, and the way that I can keep God (the Father) and Jesus Christ at my center is to learn to love them with all of my heart, might, mind, and strength, and to love others as myself and this takes intentionality. As I go through this life and make that my objective, and learn and grow in this area, I find that I’m much more intentional with the messages that are fed to me. I look for the love He has for me and I can see it everywhere.
When I learn, “How kind His precepts are” and how to “cast my burdens at his feet and trust His constant care”, that “I’m beneath His watchful eye” and that under that eye, “I can securely dwell”, my heart swells and my spirit soars. The devil has no place in me. I feel it down to my core and I know that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I do that difficult thing of being intentional. No one accidentally dwells in the presence of God but many accidentally commit themselves to lower degrees of glory every single day.
So I invite you to learn to trust and love, “That hand which bears all nature up” and find out for yourself, “That he guards his children well.”