Saturday, October 6, 2018

The glory of God: Persistent godly character in the midst of chaos

God knows things as they really are. He has a perfect character.

What do you think the glory of God is? It is maintenance of a perfect character despite an awareness of what is. God can endure the chaos that exists outside of the bubble of this mortal sphere. We cannot.

The gospel is a mechanism that will enable us to endure the chaos to the degree we submit to the process of getting there.

We live in a world of illusion. The spirit of God reveals things as they really are (see Jacob 4:13). As he reveals to us what he knows, we are subjected to what was previously unknown to us. The challenge is to grow in our capacity to persevere in obedience to God and trust in him amidst ever-increasing levels of chaos.

It is naive to assume that these mysteries are things that are delicious to the taste and very desirable--pleasing to the carnal flesh. Instead, when God reveals these things to us, they can be and tend to be awful. They tear us apart. Think about it. Think about the last time something surprised you in this life. Your dad died. Your wife left you. You got cancer. Your son died. Your business collapsed. Whatever. These things were real, and if you knew all things, like God does, they would have been ever present before you, long before they happened.

In a sense, these things don't *happen* to you, they are *revealed* to you. Many times, we contemplate the process of salvation as being refined--having things removed from you. This is good, but incomplete.

It isn't like the game "operation" where God takes some forceps and yanks some undesirable quality out of you. Instead, he exposes you to a measure of your ignorance of reality through revealing things as they really are. You then get to choose: Do I ignore this tidbit, do I let it fester, or do I fix it by changing my understanding of myself and the world? Most people flee from it, choosing to ignore the tidbit. Others let it fester, which typically results in their throwing out every piece of previously comfortable truth associated with it along the way. Some very few will consistently rejoice in the correction, opting to grow closer to God by embracing more of what it is he knows and becoming more of how he is.

The fires of chaos constantly surround God. As Joseph Smith said, "God Almighty Himself dwells in eternal fire; flesh and blood cannot go there, for all corruption is devoured by the fire."The truth is, the fires of chaos will surround anyone who subjects themselves to them, and that the reason you don't is that you would be destroyed. Seeking the fires of chaos is the same concept as hungering and thirsting after righteousness. It is a quest to acquire more light and truth, assimilate it, and dispense it. This is the gospel. Going back to Joseph, "flesh and bones quickened by the Spirit of God" *can* endure that fire. What does it mean to be quickened by the Spirit of God? To be endowed with a greater knowledge of things as they really are.

Have you ever wondered why both the presence of God and the pains of hell are described as fire? They are the same fire. The difference is merely the condition of those who abide in it. Those in hell are exposed to the same chaos as God dwells in, but because they did not acquire the requisite knowledge of dealing with it, they suffer, while God emanates glory. Consider these two quotes in light of the idea of God possessing the capacity to endure the chaos, and the gospel as a mechanism of helping us learn to do the same:

"Knowledge does away darkness, supense and doubt, for where Knowledge is there is no doubt nor suspense nor darkness. There is no pain so awful as the pain of suspense. this is the condemnation of the wicked; their doubt and anxiety and suspense causes weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. 4 In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because he has greater Knowledge, and hence he knows how to subject all other beings to him." (Joseph Smith, WOJS 8 April 1843)

"At 10 Prest. J. preached on 2nd Peter Ch 1. He shewed that knowledge is power & the man who has the most knowledge has the greatest power. Also that salvation means a mans being placed beyond the powers of all his enemies. " (WOJS 17 May 1843)

"Knowledge saves a man and in the world of spirits a man can't be exalted but by knowledge. So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments he must abide without salvation. A man is his own torment. 115 Hence the saying they shall go into the lake that burns with fire & is as exquisite as a lake & so is the torments of a man" (Joseph Smith, WOJS 7 April 1844)
Hell is not some arbitrary punishment. It is the experience of enduring a realization of reality beyond the degree that you can endure. The happiness of heaven is not some arbitrary reward. It is to possess the capability to endure reality.

The Lord Jesus said that he will save the righteous, even by fire.

14 And every nation which shall war against thee, O house of Israel, shall be turned one against another, and they shall fall into the pit which they digged to ensnare the people of the Lord. And all that fight against Zion shall be destroyed, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.
15 For behold, saith the prophet, the time cometh speedily that Satan shall have no more power over the hearts of the children of men; for the day soon cometh that all the proud and they who do wickedly shall be as stubble; and the day cometh that they must be burned.
16 For the time soon cometh that the fulness of the wrath of God shall be poured out upon all the children of men; for he will not suffer that the wicked shall destroy the righteous.
17 Wherefore, he will preserve the righteous by his power, even if it so be that the fulness of his wrath must come, and the righteous be preserved, even unto the destruction of their enemies by fire. Wherefore, the righteous need not fear; for thus saith the prophet, they shall be saved, even if it so be as by fire.
18 Behold, my brethren, I say unto you, that these things must shortly come; yea, even blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke must come; and it must needs be upon the face of this earth; and it cometh unto men according to the flesh if it so be that they will harden their hearts against the Holy One of Israel. (1 Nephi 22)

For the time speedily cometh that the Lord God shall cause a great division among the people, and the wicked will he destroy; and he will spare his people, yea, even if it so be that he must destroy the wicked by fire. (2 Nephi 30:10)
How do you think he will save the righteous, even by fire? Do you think he will magically remove you from a situation while he subjects everyone else to it? Or, like the friends of Daniel, will he put you right into the hottest part of the fire? He is going to shake you just as much as everything else here--perhaps even more, because those who cannot take it (like the guards who were consumed in the act of placing Daniel's friends in the furnace) will fall apart and quit before they get through the fire.

Struggles? Pain? Problems? These are not punishments for those who love God and obey him. All things work together for the good of those who love God. These are not punishments, they are gifts. If you love and obey God, these things are given because God trusts you and knows you have the capacity to overcome them, to use them to expose the principles and understanding you lack. The suffering is for a moment, but the benefits last forever if you trust him and turn to him and learn what it is he is trying to teach you.

The time is coming when an awareness of the chaos will be universal. The true nature of this fallen world will be revealed. It is much, much worse than what you perceive now. God will kick out the crutches he has gracefully provided, and the world will see what man and nature are without an overflow of grace from God.

Why will he do this? To bless the righteous. As those that love God increase in light and truth, the wicked will increase in opposing them. Eventually, those that love God will live sufficient light and truth that the wicked will be driven to kill them. Many will die according to God's purposes, but some must be preserved. God will increase the level of chaos to a) allow further progress among the righteous until they achieve Zion and b) to preserve the righteous from the wicked.

As God exposes this earth to more and more of the chaos that he is currently shielding us from, like a baker folds eggs into dough, all the glory of the world will be shown to be worthless. Consider the following account from a sermon of Joseph Smith:

"He spoke of the importance of our understanding the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life, and of death; and the designs and purposes of God, in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence—that it is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter—the ignorance of the world in reference to their true condition, and relation. Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things, can only be obtained by experience in these things, through the ordinance of God set forth for that purpose. 3 He remarked that the disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection, would be indescribably dreadful. That the organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeably to the most perfect order and harmony—that their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to by themselves—subscribed to upon the earth—hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth. He assured the saints that truth in reference to these matters, can, and may be known, through the revelations of God in the way of his ordinances, and in answer to prayer. The Hebrew church "came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant;" but what they learned, has not been, and could not have been written." (Account of Discourse by Joseph Smith, WOJS 9 Oct 1843)

He said whatever is not by his power will collapse as he shakes this world. Whatever is not by him will be ground to powder.

And at my command the heavens are opened and are shut; and at my word the earth shall shake; and at my command the inhabitants thereof shall pass away, even so as by fire. (Ether 4:9)
13 And everything that is in the world, whether it be ordained of men, by thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name, whatsoever they may be, that are not by me or by my word, saith the Lord, shall be thrown down, and shall not remain after men are dead, neither in nor after the resurrection, saith the Lord your God.
14 For whatsoever things remain are by me; and whatsoever things are not by me shall be shaken and destroyed. (D&C 132)

He is going to shake you. He is shaking you already. How is he going to strengthen you to stand in that fire? How are you going to outlast the shaking? You have to trust him, and you have to learn from him. You are going to be ripped apart. You think you know what it means to suffer, but you have no idea what it means. You think you know what it means to be lonely, but you have no idea what loneliness means. You think you know what unconditional love means, but you have no idea. Not yet. But you will learn all these things. You will be thrown into the fire, and he will be right there next to you. As you ponder his character, and how he not only endures but thrives in this chaos, you will realize how you can acquire or modify your principles to become more like him. You will learn to delight in the shaking, because you will learn that it is the only way to grow closer to God, and that it is the best way to help others.

Enduring the shaking does not mean learning not to feel. Pure love casts out all fear. It overcomes pain. Pain doesn't go away--it is more intense than ever--but it is swallowed up in the love of Christ. In the midst of the greatest suffering, you turn to those around you, who are suffering far less, and attend to their needs. This is exactly what the Lord Jesus did on the cross, when he concerned himself with the thief who hung with him, his mother who wept at his feet, and the soldiers who had put him there.

Conclusion

The Marines have a saying--everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die. I've heard "everyone wants to be a beast, until it's time to do what beasts do." Why are you running away from the battle? The battle is why you were born. It is why you are here. The battle calls you. Run to the sound of it. Don't try to escape from reality. Don't try to avoid pain. Embrace truth. Run towards it. Get excited about it. Pain is the revelation of a lack of understanding in you.

When you are consumed by love, you stand in the fire in peace. You can sleep on a boat in the midst of a terrible storm, as Jesus did. You can feel consummate joy while being stoned to death, as Stephen did. You can preach the gospel while being burned to death, as Abinadi did.

The purpose of this life is to learn to distinguish between good and evil and to choose good. Human beings are inherently rational. We do not choose evil because we love evil, we choose evil because we are blind to the true consequences of choosing evil. Satan's main tactic is to misrepresent the true consequences of sin. We are blind to the true consequences of evil because we love evil and do not search in the light. In order to search for further light and truth, one must be ready and willing to part with any and all false traditions. This means having a willingness to have what are now positive things in your life turn bitter. It is gutwrenchingly unpleasant. To those who will let him do it, God will show that there is nothing Telestial that is worth the cost. The only thing in this kingdom that is worthwhile is to keep God's commandments, because God's commandments belong to a higher state of glory than where we find ourselves at present. Many are frustrated in their attempts to overcome sin because they are trying to defeat problems of this kingdom without obtaining knowledge pertaining to a higher kingdom. They think that sin can be overcome if one feels guilty enough about it, or if one has enough negative worldly consequences (such as peer pressure), or if one prays hard enough for God to suspend their agency and magically take sin away. Those solutions will not change a person's character. The only way to overcome sin is to learn to see things as they really are--as God sees them. This requires new knowledge. New knowledge changes your perspective on all things in life. New knowledge brings you to the point where sin has no power over you--not because you have been magically changed or because God has suspended your agency, but because you are a rational being, and God has revealed to you parts of the equation that were previously unknown to you. These are mysteries of Godliness, and God cannot reveal them to the world. It would be unmerciful to do so because Telestial beings cannot bear them. Telestial beings require the illusions of this life to endure the pain of this life. If God revealed to them the truth of the things they treasure, life would be so miserable as to guarantee suicide (though even suicide is no consolation to those who see things as they really are). Only as they submit to the Spirit can they become strong enough through faith in Christ to endure the suffering of this kingdom without the counterbalance of Telestial (counterfeit) comforts and pleasures. One is saved no quicker than he can obtain knowledge because it is your degree of knowledge that determines your degree of sinlessness.