Sunday, November 27, 2016

062. The Archetypes of the Seven Churches of Christ

Book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3 includes a series of brief messages to each of the seven early churches of Christ in the Roman province of Asia. "Churches" in this context refers to the community, fellowships, or local congregations of Christians living in each city, and not to the building or buildings in which they may have gathered for worship. The message to each church begins with a characteristic of the Lord (who gives the revelation through John), and then includes a description of the positive as well as not so positive qualities of each of the churches, and concludes with a challenge and promise to those who overcome trials and tribulation. There are many commentaries in existence about the various levels of symbolism embedded in these messages and how they apply to the churches in the past, throughout time, and into today by way of prophecy. Below is a brief outline of the key characteristics of each of the seven churches. As you read these descriptions, ask yourself these questions:

Of which of these churches are you?
What are the characteristics that the Lord approves of in each of the churches?
What counsel does the Lord give to the various churches that could apply to you?

1. Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)
Characteristic of Christ: He holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.
Commended: Dedicated, disciplined, and discerning. They were commended for their works and patience, they had detected and rejected false apostles, and had also rejected the deeds of Nicolaitans (many theories of who the Nicolaitans were have been put forth, but the most convincing in my mind is that they represented a movement to install a professional clerical class over the laity. In Greek, Nicolaitan literally means victory over the laity; see Wikipedia: Nicolaism).
Reprimanded: These saints were lacking in their love for the Lord with all their heart, might, mind, and strength (see previous post). They had left their first love, Christ, and lacked charity.
Counseled: Remember from where they are fallen and do the first works (faith, repentance, baptism, and seek the Holy Ghost).
Promise to those that overcome: "...will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." The fruit of the tree of life is the love of God. Those who keep the commandments, hold to the word of God, and are not led away and deceived will partake of this fruit.

2. Church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11)
Characteristic of Christ: He is "the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive."
Commended: Faithful in suffering great tribulations, poverty, imprisonment, and persecution.
Reprimanded: None.
Counseled: Told not to fear, but have faith in the Lord. Promised a "crown of life" if they endured faithful until the end.
Promise to those that overcome: "shall not be hurt of the second death." Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, they will overcome spiritual death.

3. Church at Pergamos (Rev. 2:12-17)
Characteristic of Christ: "he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;"
Commended: A few faithful followers were acknowledged for "holding fast my [the Lord's] name."
Reprimanded: Pergamos was a city filled with pagan beliefs and practices, and was referred to by the Lord as "Satan's seat". Temples dedicated to Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Asclepius (the healing cult) and Caesar dotted the city. The church had been compromised by idolatry, and accepted false teachings and those who promoted them. The Lord specifically singled out those who practiced the doctrine of Balaam (worship and idolatry of false gods, and fornication) and the Nicolaitan doctrine (idolatry of authoritarian leaders).
Counseled: Repent.
Promise to those that overcome: " eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."

4. Church at Thyatira (modern Akhisar) (Rev. 2:18-28)
Characteristic of Christ: "eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass;"
Commended: The Lord recognizes their "works, and charity, and service, and faith, and ... patience".
Reprimanded: The church allowed a woman named Jezebel, who called herself a prophetess, to teach them things that lead to their committing fornication and engaging in idol worship. This led the people away from Christ. Jezebel and those that followed her were given a chance to repent, they did not, and they were promised “great tribulation”.
Counseled: Repent and hold on to what truth they have until the Lord comes.
Promise to those that overcome: "...power over the nations" and "the morning star".

5. Church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-6)
Characteristic of Christ: "He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars".
Commended: A few faithful followers were acknowledged "which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy".
Reprimanded: The church is mostly upbraided for being Christians in name only. They did not do much with the truth that they were given.
Counseled: Watch, strengthen those who remain faithful, hold fast to the truth, and repent.
Promise to those that overcome: "the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."

6. Church at Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13)
Characteristic of Christ: "He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth."
Commended: They are loved of the Lord as they have kept His word and have not denied His name. They did not compromise with the world and the false teachings surrounding them.
Reprimanded: None.
Counseled: Hold fast to the truth they had been given by God and let no one take their crown.
Promise to those that overcome: "...will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."

7. Church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-21)
Characteristic of Christ: "the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God".
Commended: None.
Reprimanded: The church in Laodicea was lacking in every way. Its doctrines had been compromised, and Christ was not in the people's hearts. The attitude of the people was "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." The church was not hot or cold, but only lukewarm, and therefore the Lord wanted to spit them out of His mouth. The Laodiceans were wealthy and independent people, yet they lacked a spiritual richness. The Lord referred to them as "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked".
Counseled: To counter these deficits, the Lord counsels these people to "buy of me gold tried in the fire", procure “white raiment" (garments) from Him that the shame of their nakedness might be covered. He tells them to repent and "anoint thine eyes" so that their spiritual sight could be restored.
Promise to those that overcome: "...will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne".

There are some interpretations of the seven churches described in these chapters as representing seven eras of Christianity, with the Laodicean era being the time period in which we currently live. From history, we learn that Laodicea was a very prosperous city, the wealthiest of the seven cities named in these chapters. It was a banking and financial center, as well as a center of "modern" fashion and medicine. Although the city was destroyed in 60AD by an earthquake, it was rebuilt by its citizens and made even more magnificent. These characteristics made Laodicea strongly independent, which was reflected in its name, which in Greek means "the people decide" or "the people judge". Its imposing fortifications gave the city the appearance of strength and promoted a feeling of security, yet its valley location and its exposed water supply made the city vulnerable.

However, the Christians of the church at Laodiceans were condemned by the Lord for their lukewarm attitude towards spiritual things. They had allowed the strength, wealth, and prosperity of their surroundings to make them indifferent and not dependent on God. Although this city was known for its vast wealth and power, the Lord urged the people to procure gold from Him, tried in the fire. Meaning to obtain truth and things of value from God Himself (such as promises) that cannot be corrupted, instead of relying on their own wits, strength, and understanding. Additionally, although the Laodiceans were known for their production of fine black wool clothing, the Lord called the people of His church in this city naked. He told them they were in need of white raiment, meaning they lacked the holiness the Lord wanted to provide to them. And although the Laodicean medical school was well known for its eye-salve, the people of Lord's church in this city were blind to their own spiritual condition, which was a lack of spiritual discernment. The Lord urged them to anoint their eyes with His eye-salve so that their spiritual sight and understanding could be restored. The church of Laodicea was sophisticated, self-sufficient, and trusted in their own wealth, numbers, and understanding. They appeared strong, stable, and unified on the outside, but were internally divided in how they lived out their spiritual lives. Their independence led them to unknowingly reject Jesus Christ because they followed the democratic ("people-deciding" or "people-judging") process of the Laodiceans in decisions about doctrine, organization, and governance, instead of relying on the spirit of revelation to guide them.

These messages to the seven churches should help us all to understand that just because you have accepted and begun to follow the truth, the path is not always easy. There are all forms of deceptions and distractions lying in wait to pull you away. An understanding of true doctrine may be compromised and a person may deviate from that which he was given. However, the Lord lovingly urges us to repent and seek Him out again. The Lord explains in these same chapters that "as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent." (Rev. 3:19). He provides a way back. As evidenced by His interactions with these seven churches, He has not given up on them. He is trying to work with them to bring them back into His fold. Indeed, He says to those of the church of Laodicea: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20). The same applies to you or anyone who has left their first love, Christ, followed after false doctrines or practices, not lived the gospel they were given, been lukewarm in terms of following after wealth, fame, talents, their own knowledge, or just plain stubbornly independent and not reliant on God. He wants to be invited back into your own life more than you probably want Him in your life. He stands at the door of your life and quietly knocks....but you have to open the door. Ask God to open your eyes so that you can see your own spiritual condition, and then repent of any complacency, compromise, materialism, and stubborn independence. Follow only the Lord Jesus Christ and do not risk losing your reward. To him or her that overcomes trials and tribulations, great promises are made. Those are real promises. Do not fear, do not give in, and do not give up.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Rev. 3:22).

Of which church are you?

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

061. Hast Thou Left Thy First Love?

Chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Revelation contains a series of brief messages to the seven early churches of Christ. The first message was to the church at Ephesus, which was a port city on the Western coast of Turkey facing Greece. The city was known for its temple of Diana (or Artemis, Acts 19:27), and pilgrims came to Ephesus from all over the Mediterranean world to worship the goddess. Listen to the words given to those of the church at Ephesus:

 1 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;
 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou can not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars:
 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.
 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.

These individuals showed themselves faithful through their works, and their labor in the name of Christ, and their patience and perseverance. They were dedicated to the truth and did not compromise with the wicked. These individuals were able to detect those who said they were true apostles of Jesus Christ, but who were false apostles. Yet, these individuals were rebuked for leaving their first love, Jesus Christ. They were charged to repent of this offense or their light would be taken away. How can this be? How can a people be commended for their patience in laboring and enduring for Christ's name's sake on one hand, yet also be reprimanded for abandoning Christ on the other?

There are many today who have similarly realized that the leaders of their churches are not true apostles of Jesus Christ. These individuals have gone on to devote themselves as disciples of Jesus Christ, to follow Him alone. They have similarly labored patiently and diligently in His name, seeking His will and endeavoring to perform it. They have sought for the truth and are trying to live in accordance with it. However, similar to the ancient saints of Ephesus, is it possible to do such things, yet also abandon our first love, our relationship with the Lord? How would we know?

1. Do we keep the first commandment?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). Do you love the Lord thy God with all your heart (emotions, feelings)? With all your soul (will)? With all your mind (thoughts)? With all your strength (efforts, labors)? Those are very tall orders. How do you do that consistently? How do you maintain that kind of love on all those dimensions? Is it possible? The adversary will do all he can to divert your love of God away from Him on to other things and people. Do we delight in other things or people more than God? As we idolize things other than God, we are actually breaking this commandment and risk leaving our first love. How can you keep this commandment more diligently and faint not? Paul offered this advice: "...whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). If you strive to keep this commandment earnestly, the love of God will be with you.

2. Do we keep His other commandments?
Both those commandments spelled out in the scriptures as well as those that you have received through personal revelation? Your obedience to God demonstrates your love for Him: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love” (John 15:10). We can all be tempted to break God's commandments: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren” (James 1:14–16). Pray that you will be able to withstand temptation. Pray that you will be able to keep His commandments and therefore show your love for Him. God’s commandments will lead you toward what is good and away from what is evil. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). Obedience to His commandments brings true freedom and joy: "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:31–32, 36).

3. Do we seek to follow His Spirit or do we follow other voices? 
If you have detected and rejected one set of false apostles, are you now following another? Is Christ your Master and are you striving to know and follow His voice, or do you believe you need a guide, a guru, a healer, or a medium in order to commune with God? If the latter, does this demonstrate a lack of faith in Jesus Christ and are you inserting someone else in between your relationship with Him? Are such practices in accordance with the scriptures or are you dancing in the dark? Are the methods and practices of new age spiritualism (enchantments, divination), necromancy (communicating with the dead), consulters of familiar spirits (mediums), soothsaying, etc. included in the scriptures? Yes they are...but they are included among the pagan, heathen, and occult practices that are to be rejected as they are not of God. There are many willing to teach you the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. To what end? To puff up your ego, your pride, your false sense of greatness. To deceive you into believing you are doing something good and noble, when in reality you are drifting away from your first love, Christ. How can you detect the operation of true spiritual gifts from those that originate from the seemingly legitimate counterfeits proffered by the adversary? Many such individuals believe that they are servants of Christ, yet the fruit of their labors has the exact opposite effect, drawing those they perform their priestcraft upon further away from Christ. Therefore, they are (often unwittingly) among the false prophets, apostles, and teachers who are inspired by the false Christs foretold of long ago (Matthew 24:23; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1). They will lead you along in endless wild goose chases that pull you further and further away from Christ and His words as well as the words of His servants. Paying heed to such sources will erode your understanding and devotion to the Lord and His commandments. Again and again, anything that pulls our devotion away from Christ is orchestrated by the adversary who hates Christ because He cast him from heaven for rebellion. Take the scriptures for your guide, repent and turn to Christ to be healed, put in the effort to get to know the Lord and speak with Him directly through prayer. What is most rare and requires obedience to the light and truth that you have received is to come into contact with a true messenger of salvation. One that will encourage you to repent, humble yourself, seek to serve others, and seek no fame or name for yourself. True messengers orient or reorient others to Christ and to develop a relationship with Him. They do not foster in others a dependency on themselves. We are to receive their messages, but not turn them into an idol. Wrote Nephi: "O then, my beloved brethren, come unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name" (2 Ne 9:41). Only the Lord can save you, follow Him. Make that your personal motto.

4. Do we care for the poor and needy?
Christ said: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40). And also: “whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17). King Benjamin taught: "And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish" (Mosaic 4:16).

5. Do we love those that are different from us, even our enemies?
Christ said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34). “Love one another” is not a mere suggestion, this is actually a commandment. Do you treat others as you would want to be treated? We are to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27–36, Romans 12:20, and Matthew 5:42). Do you find that you are quick to judge and condemn others? Consider God’s love and mercy to you. Should you show similar mercy to others? If you want mercy for yourself, be merciful to others. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:10–11). The second commandment is: "Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matt. 22:39).

6. Do we seek the affirmation and love of the world instead of seeking approval from God? 
Christ was misunderstood and rejected because of His obedience to His Father. You will face similar situations as you seek to be obedient to Christ's will: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:19). Christ also taught: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:15–17).

7. Do we forgive our offenders? 
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20). Not forgiving others their trespasses against you, holding a grudge, or keeping score indicates that you have lost sight of the greatness of the Lord's forgiveness of your sins and your need for His continual grace (see Matthew 18:21–35). We are to forgive until 7 times 70 or an infinite number of times (until our forgiveness is complete). Unforgiveness leads to bitterness. Christ taught, “If ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). Forgive everyone, accuse no one.

Do the First Works
The disciples at Ephesus were commanded to "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." They were to repent and return to their first love, the Lord. They were to remember Him and their relationship with Him, and not just focus on their works alone. All our affection and devotion should be placed upon the Lord. He promises “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you” (Jeremiah 29:13). The first works include renewing our faith in Him, repenting, seeking baptism (or re-baptism) as needed, and then seeking for the Holy Ghost to be restored to us. As you focus more devoutly your life around His ways, he promises to lead you in "the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). If you have found yourself having left your first love, who is Christ, remember Him and do the first works...He is waiting with open arms to receive you. He loves you.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

060. Discipleship to Jesus Christ: Keep His Commandments

Some remarks I gave at a gathering last month...

The word disciple appears in each of the standard works for a total of 330 times. The word disciple is of Greek origin and meansa learner, student, or pupilwhofollows ones teachings” (Strongs Bible Concordance, Greek 3100-3102, p.154-5). A disciple of Jesus Christ is one who seeks to become like Him by emulating Him (John 8:31; 15:8) and abiding by His word at all times (John 8:31; 13:35; 15:8). A disciple of Jesus Christ is ultimately able to pass on His teachings to others. Thus, discipleship means much more than just the transfer of information, it involves the transformation of the individual.

The early disciples of Jesus Christ certainly included the 12 Apostles, but such a title was not restricted only to them (John 6:60-67). For example, Joseph of Arimathea and women such as Tabitha were identified as disciples of Jesus in the New Testament. The Book of Acts describes disciples as being those who simply believed upon and confessed Jesus Christ (Acts 6:1-2,7; 14:20,22,28; 15:10; 19:1, etc).

Call of Discipleship
Our path to Heaven includes coming to know and obey Jesus Christ, and then following Him faithfully until the end. Discipleship is about having an ongoing and living relationship with the Lord. So, how can you be a disciple of Jesus Christ today? As we believe and participate in the Doctrine of Jesus Christ we embark on this path of discipleship. We have faith on His name, repent of our unbelief and lack of knowledge, are baptized by immersion in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost by one holding priesthood authority, become as a little child, and then Christ promises He will baptize us with His Holy Spirit. That is the Doctrine of Jesus Christ.

Then, you will have His Holy Spirit to lead you. You will know and understand what God wants you to do with your life. He will put His words into your mind and in your heart, which you must listen and respond to. You can be guided and directed in the narrow path unto Eternal Life by following His Spirit on a daily basis. By listening to and obeying His Spirit, you can be further transformed into a new creation and become more like the Savior. You can become sanctified so that your body indeed becomes the temple that it is so that He can abide with you: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are Gods.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Then, the Lord will place you in His vineyard and you will become His servant. You will have the honor and privilege of having His Spirit with you at all times. And because you will know that Jesus Christ is with you, you will be able to speak and preach His gospel with much confidence and help bring others to Him. People whose lives you can touch will be placed into your life and you will be able to minister to them. After embarking on this path of discipleship, you must then endure to the end of your life as His disciple, being true to the light and truth given you.

Your good works alone cannot save you. Even if you have done many wonderful things that have led to the conversion of many people, that wont save you if your personal life and conduct is not right with God and if you havent come to know the Lord. You can write many books or blog posts, make inspiring movies, and baptize many people, you can fill every minute of your life with volunteering and service and with positive platitudes and smiles, but if your focus is not on the Savior and being His disciple, then those efforts will not save you. Your personal life needs to be in order according to the will of God. Where your mind goes, where your heart is, what your desires arethese are all important. If you have lost your way or have back-slided or have been carousing around in all kinds of unrighteousness, but have now realized the error of your wayshallelujahcry out to the Lord to help you. You can repent and overcome through His grace and mercy. Get on your knees and fully dedicate yourself to Christ. Promise to give your life to the Lord fully. You may have been baptized, you may have felt the Holy Spirit from time to time, but you may not be fully sanctified because you have not committed fully to follow Jesus Christ 100%. Do not give up seeking His presence and His Spirit. Christ can pull you out of the darkest abyss and free you. He will remember the covenants you have made with Him earlier when you took upon you His name. He can cleanse you and make you free. Joseph Smith taught: “You must be innocent, or you cannot come up before God: if we would come before God, we must keep ourselves pure, as He is pure. The devil has great power to deceiveIniquity must be purged out from the midst of the Saints; then the veil will be rent, and the blessings of heaven will flow downthey will roll down like the Mississippi river” (History of the Church, 4:605).

Once cleansed, then the Holy Spirit can abide with you fully and freely, and it will be your guide and your teacher. No longer will you need to follow other paths, gurus, false teachers and false prophets, or even your own aspirations, desires, or lusts anymoreas you abandon these things in all areas of your life you will be better able to only follow Christ. However, the Lord will not force anyone into this path. If you are more interested in chasing after your own goals, dreams, and talents, or too busy being involved in a zillion other things or if you find yourself sitting on the fence, then He will not force you to be His disciple. But you will not be following Jesus Christ if you continue to follow your own desires and will, instead of the will of God. It is 100% your decision, your choice. You have to give your life over to Him and He will open the way for you.

Requirements of Discipleship
This is the way of the disciples and apostles of Christ. It involves complete and total dedication to the Lordall your heart, might, mind, and strengthnot just a trite phrase, but a true dedication that sets you apart from others. It is not always easy to follow the Lord. Although He is merciful, He calls His disciples into an “all-or-nothing”, exacting, complete, unflinching, and deep commitment and obedience to Him that permeates all aspects of our lives. Matthew 16:24 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. And now for a man to take up his cross, is to deny himself all ungodliness, and every worldly lust, and keep my commandments.” Discipleship involves giving Him preeminence over the closest of our human relationships and over the desires and goals we have set for our own lives:
JST Luke 14:26-27,33
 26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, or husband, yea and his own life also; or in other words, is afraid to lay down his life for my sake, he cannot be my disciple.
 27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. Wherefore, settle this in your hearts, that ye will do the things which I shall teach, and command you.
 33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
The word hate in the first verse is not used in an emotional sense, but means to have a higher preference or regard for Christ over other relationshipsand the word forsake meansto renounce or to leave” (Strongs Bible Concordance, Greek 657 and 3404, pp. 39 and 165, respectively). These are stringent criteria. We have to leave behind our old ways and desires and our own will and trust in the Lord and love Him above all things. So, paradoxically, a disciple of Christ chooses to give up that which he or she cannot ultimately keep, in order to become a joint-heir with their Master, Jesus Christ, and receive all that He has instead. If we dont make that choice, we risk losing all in the end anyway, so why not just determine within yourself to fully follow Christ?: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matthew 16:25.

A disciple of Jesus Christ is also commanded to love others and to care for the poor and needy: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.” (D&C 52:40)

Path of Discipleship
As Christs disciple on His narrow path, it is important that you get to know Him. As you get to know Him, He will abide with you. You can know Him by studying His words carefully and prayerfully without biases of others or your own. You can fast and pray in His name diligently, listening for His voice to guide you. If you cannot hear His voice, then pray that your heart will be softened and that your eyes and ears will be opened. Dont give up until you come to know His voice. Expect false voices and deceiving spirits to try to lead you astraypray for the gift of discernment and ground yourself in the foundational bedrock of the scriptures. Stay squarely on the narrow path and do not deviate from the rod of iron.

D&C 93:1 provides a framework for our discipleship:
Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am;”
Later in this section verse 19 says:
I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness.”
There is an interesting phrase in that verse: “How to worship”. There is really nothing included between verses 1 and 19 about how to worship using our voices, the geometrical positioning of our bodies, what attire to wear, what symbols to use, or what other activities to engage in during our worship, at least in terms of what we might traditionally view or imagine as ourworship" of the Lord. The only “commandsor instructions apparent in these verses are included in verse 1, which are, again:
1.  Forsake sins, 2. Come unto Him, 3. Call on His name;
Those 3 could be conceived of as a part of our repentance.
Then, 4. Obey His voice, and 5. Keep His commandments.
Calling on His name, obeying His voice, and keeping His commandments could be conceived of as part of our discipleship. Thus, our worship of Jesus Christ entails our repentance and our discipleship. Then in verse 20: “For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of His fulnessand be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.”

What are His commandments? Is Christ only speaking in these verses of His universal commandments applicable to all mankind? The 10 commandments and so forth? Does a commandment need to be written in stone by the hand of God in order for it to be a commandment? No, a commandment can include any directive, impression, answer, or suggestion from the Lord to you. So, the Lord is also speaking in this verse of His personal commandments to you, as His disciple. He is speaking of the things He has asked you to do through communication of the Spirit. The commandments you have received are very likely different from the commandments that other people have received. As we keep His commandments to us individually, we can ultimately receive the same fulness from the Father that Christ also receivedIn verse 27 it reads: “And no man receiveth a fulness unless he keepeth His commandments.Likewise, Christ also said in John 8:31 “If you continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” Additionally, from D&C 41:5 “He that receiveth my law and doeth it, the same is my disciple; and he that saith he receiveth it and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple

Therefore, one way to worship the Lord is to obey His voice and keep the commandments He has given you. Christ taught us that we show our love for Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15). In speaking of the building of the temple in Nauvoo in 1841, Joseph Smith declared: Let those who come up to this place be determined to keep the commandments of God . . . and then they will be prosperedthe intelligence of heaven will be communicated to them, and they will, eventually, see eye to eye, and rejoice in the full fruition of that glory which is reserved for the righteous” (History of the Church4:273).

The scriptures are full of the accounts of individuals who received a commandment from God and acted upon it. That is what most of scripture entails….story after story of individuals hearing God’s voice and obeying it. When Christ asked Peter if he loved Him, and Peter replied yes, Christ commanded Peter to feed his sheep (John 21:15-17). That was Peters work, that was Christs commandment to him. When the rich young man came to the Savior asking what he should do to have Eternal Life, Jesus told him to keep the commandments. When the young man replied that he kept the commandments and asked about what he still lacked, the Savior commanded him to sell all that he had and then come and follow Him. When the ten lepers asked Christ to heal them, He commanded them to go to the priest. Christ gives commandments to those who follow Him so that they may know Him and show Him that they love Him. In John 15:5-10 we read:
 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
 7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
 9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
 10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Fathers commandments, and abide in his love.

We come unto Christ by doing His will and receiving Himreceiving His commandments and obeying them. When disciples of Jesus Christ obey His commandments, blessings come for both them and for those they serve. We must come to regard the directives that the Lord gives us as commandments. JST John 6:44 “No man can come unto me, except he doeth the will of my Father who hath sent meAnd this is the will of him who hath sent me, that ye receive the Son; for the Father beareth record of him; and he who receiveth the testimony, and doeth the will of him who sent meI will raise up in the resurrection of the just.Then, we can be like Nephi and pursue the Lord’s commands until we have accomplished them, even in the face of extreme hardship or trials. “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Ne. 3:7). Expect set-backs, delays, illness, opposition, but persevere in faith and dedication, with reliance on the Lord, trusting that He has spoken to you. If you fail to do what He asks of you, He will of course still love you and work with you in other ways, but as CS Lewis so eloquently puts it: Whatever you do, He will make good of it. But not the good He had prepared for you if you had obeyed him.” (C.S. Lewis, Perelandra).

During a particularly busy time during the Kirkland period Joseph Smith wrote: “No month ever found me more busily engaged than November; but as my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.” (History of the Church, 2:170; fromHistory of the Church” (manuscript), book B-1, p. 558, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.)

Fruits & Rewards of Discipleship
Jesus was quick to remind the inquiring disciples that there was a reward for following him (Mark 10:28-30):
 28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospels,
 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
Interesting promisesan hundredfold in this lifetimea community of fellow sojourners, striving also to follow and know Christ, a familyand also persecutionsbut also eternal life in the world to come! Discipleship brings us into the family of our Lord (Matt. 12:47-50):
 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
 48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?
 49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
As we come to know more fully our Savior Jesus Christ, we become more like Him. We begin to look, feel, and act more like the Master. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:18). And also, from the 5th of the Lectures on Faith, in describing theMind of the Father, or in other words, the Spirit of the Father: which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in himeven as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one.

And again from D&C 93:1, the Lord provides the ultimate promise that you “shall see my face and know that I amwhen you obey the Lord’s voice and keep His commandments.

Christ doesnt just want convertsHe wants disciples that will help Him do His work. It is our choice. It is hard either wayeither you follow your own will, which generally leads to darkness and despair, or you follow His will and keep His commandments. Doing His will may cause you to leave your comfort zone, change your behavior, and do things that are personally difficult. Christs disciples were always doing things that were contrary to the practices of the religion and traditions of the dayeating bread with unwashed hands, supping with sinners and publicans, fasting in a different manner than others, doing things differently on the Sabbath day. His disciples frequently offended other people with their practices, but they only paid respect to the commands of their Lord because they were focused on obedience to Christ alone. Christ commanded His disciples (Matt. 11:29-30): “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”. The demands of discipleship to Jesus are impossible for anyone to fulfill by themselves, unaided. However, He has not left us alone in this effort as there are reassurances along the way. We promise to “always remember him, and keep his commandments which he hath given” as we participate in the ordinance of the sacrament, and in return He promises His spirit to be with us. We are far, far better when He abides with us than we could ever be without Him. If you love the Lord, then do His will, keep His commandments, and obey His voice. What does God want from you? If you want to find yourself in the same company as the other disciples and apostles of the Lord who have gone before youthen deny yourself of all ungodliness, pick up your cross, and follow the Lord as His disciple. The greatest calling, the most fulfilling challenge, and the greatest source of joy, both in this life and beyond, is found in discipleship to Jesus Christ. In Jesusname, Amen.


John 14:
 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
 16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
18 I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.