Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Lamp That Is Trimmed and Burning

There are dozens of places in the scriptures that define the gospel of Jesus Christ in clear and precise language. The fourth Article of Faith states:

We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.

In 3 Nephi 27, Christ explains that the gospel is possible because of His Atonement. With that made clear, he defines the gospel in his own words:

And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end. Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel" (v. 19-21).

This is the gospel of Jesus Christ: because of the Atonement of Christ, we can be saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God despite our imperfection through faith in Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. As Joseph Smith made clear in the articles of faith, however, these are only the first steps.

In D&C 33, Christ commands a group of missionaries to open their mouths and promises that their open mouths will be filled with the teaching of the gospel. After explaining that the gospel is the doctrine of faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost, Christ teaches the early missionaries:

This is my gospel... And upon this rock will I build my church; yea, upon this rock ye are built, and if ye continue, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you (v. 13).

Again, the gospel is only the first step. It is not the end, but the entry way to the strait and narrow path. Our testimonies are build upon the firm foundation-- the rock of Christ-- when they are built upon the scriptural gospel, but then we must continue. We must endure to the end.

Though frequently used, the phrase "endure to the end" and its synonyms (be faithful, be diligent, etc.) have a specific scriptural definition that may not always be considered when thinking of "enduring". Much more than simply surviving, or even actively pursuing salvation, the Lord teaches that there are specific tasks associated with endurance:

Remember the church articles and covenants to keep them... And the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your instruction; and the power of my Spirit quickeneth all things. Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your lamps trimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be ready at the coming of the Bridegroom" (v. 14, 16-17).

Keeping covenants, studying the scriptures, utilizing the gift of the Holy Ghost and praying always are necessary, by definition, for the type of enduring that leads to eternal life. Nephi said it this way:

Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do... If ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do... But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee... for the welfare of thy soul" 2 Nephi 32:3, 5, 8-9).

We enter the strait and narrow path through the gate of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. We endure as we study the scriptures, hearken to the promptings of the spirit, pray and keep our covenants. Only as we endure in this way will our lamps be trimmed and burning at the coming of the Bridegroom, who is Christ the Lord.

For anyone who has not yet entered the way, that is the first step-- and it must be taken first. I urge you to believe in God; believe that he is, that he created all things, that he is your Heavenly Father, and that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them. I urge you to believe in Christ, that he is your Savior and Redeemer, and that through him all things are possible. As you act on these beliefs, you will have a desire to be baptized by immersion for the remission of your sins and will prepare yourself to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. You can find someone authorized by God to perform these ordinances through the missionaries of the Church. When you are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, you will be on the strait and narrow path that leads to kingdom of God.

For those who have already entered in by the way and have felt to sing the song of redeeming love-- do you still feel the joy of redemption? Surely we all must re-enter the path from time to time, through the rebuilding of our faith, repentance, the renewal of our baptismal covenants through the sacrament, and the re-sanctification of the Holy Ghost. Are you enduring well? Are you feasting upon the words of the scriptures and praying always in your heart? Are you listening to the still, small voice of the Spirit and fulfilling your church covenants and responsibilities?

This is not intended to make you feel guilty, but if you feel impressed to improve in one area or another, now is the time to act. As you and I strive to improve ourselves-- to enter in by the way and endure to the end-- let us remember the words of Moroni and come unto Christ:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them (Ether 12:27).

Our lamps can be trimmed and burning, with oil ready, when the Bridegroom comes if we will accept and live the gospel and endure to the end. Is your lamp burning?

1 comment:

  1. Of course, once we've entered the gospel path and have lamps that are trimmed and burning, the next step is to, "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Missionary work!