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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Sacred Cows Keep You From God

19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4)

Jesus said true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The first barrier is to worship God in spirit, that is, sincerely with all one's heart, might, mind, and strength. But effort is not enough. It must be coupled with knowledge. The Samaritan woman thought that she worshipped the same God as Jesus. But Jesus possessed further light and truth (more law). The Samaritan woman both possessed beliefs that were not true, and was missing truths that Jesus possessed. Additionally, the Samaritan woman's faith--while obviously not passive--had not been sufficient to yield a knowledge of God. There is a necessary quantity of correct knowledge necessary to yield a knowledge of (meeting with) God. There also exist false beliefs that will prevent a knowledge of (meeting with) God. The woman believed in a God that had been constructed by man, not a God that had been revealed to man. Many of us do the same.

The Abrahamic sacrifice and being redeemed from the fall

I wrote this very important post recently that lays out some teachings regarding truth. If you haven't read that post, you really ought to before continuing.

Tucked away in that post was a paragraph that I will repeat here:
We can extend our capacity to accept new light and truth through penitent prayer and humility towards God. When we truly believe we know nothing, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we are totally willing to let go of anything we think we know, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we refuse to dismiss anything out of hand (as John instructs us--"try the spirits" or test new truth to see its fruits), we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we refuse to "set up stakes for God," or dictate to him what is right and what is wrong, we are much more willing to accept new truth. When we realize that what was right before and what God might have inspired us to accept before could be superseded by something higher (as happened to Nephi when God taught him a higher commandment regarding killing), we are much more willing to accept new truth. It is possible to come to the point where no truth pertaining to the Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial kingdom has power to derail you, despite the fact that you do not yet know them. This is when your calling and election is made sure, or rather this is what it means and what it takes.
Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. If you haven't read that story, or haven't read it recently, consider making it your next reading from the scriptures. Many people call Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac the "Abrahamic sacrifice," and use it as a type of what God requires from each of us before we can be redeemed from the fall. As important as this experience was, it was not the first time that Abraham was tried (incidentally, tried and tested are not the same thing; it is more correct to think of this as purging impurities from metal in a fire rather than a test you take in school). Abraham was tried as a child when he was assigned to guard his idol-maker father's wares and choose to destroy them. He was tried when exposed to textual accounts of Shem, Noah, and the fathers and their experiences with God, recognizing his father's religion was inferior and choosing to believe there was something better. He was tried when he was sacrificed by his father, and tried when he had the opportunity to forgive him. He was tried when commanded to leave his home in Ur. He was tried when his father and brother--whom he had rescued through his own merits and mercy--turned away from him. He was tried when his wife was taken by a rich and powerful ruler--twice--for long periods of time without his knowledge of her condition or any likelihood that she would come back to him. He was tried when he took Hagar to wife. He was tried when his marriages were ravaged by the jealousy of Sarah. He was tried when God told him that his beloved son Ishmael would not be his heir. He was tried when Lot, whom he had sacrificed so much for, selfishly chose the better section of land at their parting (not because he cared about the land, but out of sympathy for Lot and what he stilled lacked in spite of all Abraham's efforts on his behalf). He was tried when he went into battle to rescue Lot. He was tried when he parted ways with Ishmael and Hagar. And finally, he was tried when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac.

The Abrahamic sacrifice isn't one thing. And it isn't always giving something up. It is a repetitive process where God challenges you to change your paradigm, specifically by changing what you believe. Giving something up or taking something on are only the manifestations of that change in belief. The Abrahamic sacrifice is not a point event, it is a process. The goal of that process is to successively increase your trust in God until you are willing to yield completely to him without exception. This is the same as saying that you would do anything he might command, no matter what it is. This is the same as saying there is nothing that you would not do if he commanded it.

People who are not yet in this state sometimes have a list of things God has commanded people to do in the past that they would never do. Sometimes, they get rid of that list by transferring it to a list of things they believe God would never command them to do. There is no difference. These people sometimes say things like, "the God I believe in would never command me to _______." In a way, they are right. As Jesus said, "Ye worship ye know not what: we know what [who] worship." We know him because we have met him, and this is always the result of those who worship God in spirit and in truth. The God they believe in is of their own creation. He does not have power to reveal himself to them, and he does not have power to save. We are saved as a result of knowing the true God, not believing in a God of our own creation. We are saved because he possesses intelligence that exceeds our own, not because he matches what we in our fallen state consider to be right or wrong.

Ironically, those who put God in a box do so out of fear. They fear that if they let God out of their boxes, he would end up less loving, less merciful, or less good than they presently imagine him to be. That is ironic because it is only by removing your limitations of him that you can see just how loving, merciful, and good he really is. It far exceeds anything you can imagine when you box him up in false traditions. If you look at every person in the scriptures who came to know God, you will struggle to find someone who found him less godly upon getting to know him. Instead, you see the opposite. You see deep, loving, worshipful reverence increase in proportion to how well someone knows God.

Putting God in a box does not protect you from disappointment. It keeps you from a portion (a considerable portion) of his goodness and glory. You may have experienced God in some way--spiritual gifts, revelation, joy, or even visitations--but your experiences are limited and diminished. In the scriptures, there are those who had miracles, those who had revelation, those that experienced great joy, those that saw him, even those that touched him. But of the set of everyone who experienced God in some way, how many were able to abide in his glory? The answer is surprisingly few. With almost every experience, he held something back, sometimes considerably so. Every commandment you refuse to consider diminishes your potential glory, but it also diminishes the quantity of the Lord's glory you are able to abide. For each thing "your God would never ask you to do," you remove yourself from the opportunity to experience that much more of him.

I believe in a God who killed perhaps billions of people in a worldwide flood. I believe in a God who commanded Abraham and Isaac to lie. I believe in a God that allowed Hagar to be cast away. I believe in a God who has commanded Moses to slay cities of men, women, children, and animals, none of which had ever met their attackers. I believe in a God who choose to heal only one of the countless handicapped at the pool of Bethesda. I believe in a God who considers heeding a single prophetic dream sufficient to decide between the life and death of millions of people. I believe in a God who called David, a man who killed Uriah to cover the adulterous relationship with his wife, a man after his own heart. I believe in a God who asked Nephi to kill Laban.

Does your theology account for all of these things? If not, you must confess that this God is not the God you worship. Not yet, at least. What are you doing about that?

In spite of all of these things, my witness of his mercy, perfection, love, and glory exceeds that of those I have met who do not believe or cannot account for these things. This is because I have chosen to lay aside what I think I know and ask God about these things with an open heart and real intent, and he has given me convincing reasons for each and every one. These have not only answered my questions, but in the process revealed to me a deeper love, perfection, mercy, and glory than I had ever supposed he possessed. With each revelation, my faith and trust in him has increased, until it has become unshakable. There is nothing he could ask me to do that I would doubt, and nothing I would refuse.

Perfect love removes all fear. If you truly love God, than seek to know him on his terms, holding nothing back. Only those who put everything they think they know about God on the altar can come to know him.