As a Mormon I never related to Jesus on a personal level, but an impersonal one. By that I mean that anytime I referred to Him it was always “the Savior”, meaning He’s the savior of the world. I never thought of Him as being my Savior, as in He went to the cross to pay for my sins so that He could save me from the punishment I deserved.
Come to think of it I never called Him by His name either, but instead called Him “Christ”. Even when I left Mormonism I had a hard time breaking that habit, and it took me awhile before could call Him by His name, Jesus. And as for my prayer life, it never occurred to me that it was ok for me to pray to Him. Praying to Jesus isn’t something you do in the Mormon Church. Mormon prayers are always addressed to their “Heavenly Father”, and closed in the name of Jesus Christ.
They drop His name at the end of prayers, priesthood blessings, talks they give on Sunday mornings and lessons they give as if it makes everything they said all about Him. As if by just the mere effort of dropping His name at the end of it all it somehow has his stamp of approval. I’m not sure who they’re trying convince more that they truly worship Jesus, themselves or God. It all seems more like an afterthought to me, as a way to sound impressive as if it’s all about Jesus when it’s really not.
As a Mormon I was just as guilty of the “name dropping” when it came to His name. Anytime I was asked about whether I or my church was “Christian” I was very quick to mention that the “name of Jesus Christ” was in the title of my church, and that we closed our prayers in His name as well. And from what I’ve seen now that I’m in the ministry to Mormons things haven’t changed much, they’re still dropping His name any chance they get. It really means nothing if you don’t have the right Jesus (as in the case of Mormonism), and much less if all He is to you is a name.
In the Mormon Church my teachers and leaders never taught that I should pursue Jesus with all my heart. Instead He was put on the back-burner only to be taken off when ending a prayer or a talk, but was always pulled off when talking to non-Mormons. Mormons are well aware that most people don’t think of them as Christians. And despite their rejection of the basic tenets of Christianity they still desperately want to be considered Christians.
Even as a new believer I was still wobbly when it came to wanting to know Him more. Back then I still wanted to hold onto certain parts of my life as “mine” thinking that I could somehow have one foot in the world and one where God wanted me to be. I was afraid to give Him control of my whole life, and was still in the process of understanding that to follow Him meant it would cost me a few things.
This week during my devotional time I’ve been watching Matt Chandler’s study on Philippians. One of the main focuses of the study is how and why we should pursue and chase after Jesus. And to be honest up until recently I didn’t take a hard look at whether I was pursuing Him or not.
While I had repented and put my trust in Him for my salvation, I didn’t really make Him the center of my thought life. In Hebrews 12 verses 1-2 I learned that I need to throw off those things that will hinder me in my pursuit of Him. The verses read:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
As I sit here and think about it there’s so many things that can hinder my pursuit of Him. Even something like fretting about a situation after I’ve put it all in His hands is something that can make me wobbly in my faith. My problem is after I put it in His hands I want to take it out and say “oh no it’s ok Lord I can take care of this one.”
My children are a big part of my prayers but if I’ve placed them in His hands, I should have no cause for worry right? Deuteronomy 10:14 tells us everything we have belongs to God even our children belong to Him. It reads:
“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the highest heavens, the earth and all that is in it.”
If I know that He’s in control and reigns over everything what need do I really have to be anxious? In Philippians 4:4-6 Paul tells us –
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Why is that so hard for us to do this? (I say “us” now because I’m sure I’m not the only who struggles with this from time to time.) Why is it so easy for us to dwell on the “what could have happened”, instead of the truth that God is right there with us walking us through whatever it is we’re going through at the time? What we need do, what we should do is take it all to Him, take our anxiety, our fears, our worries and lay them at his feet.
You know, as a Mormon the first thing that would pop into my mind anytime one of my children was sick was “they need a priesthood blessing”. I relied on the actions of mortal men to heal my children, soothe my worries and calm fears. Of course I prayed for them to be healed I but I didn’t put it in His hands alone.
And what’s worse is I believed these men had a special power when it came to the priesthood and that somehow God needed them to say a prayer over my sick child so that He could act through them. Otherwise my child might not be healed; I believed the priesthood blessing gave a prayer that extra umph, that extra power boost it needed to work in the way I wanted it to.
I’m so thankful for the truths I’ve been taught since coming to Jesus Christ. I don’t know where I would be without Him. One of my favorite, current Christian songs goes:
“You rescued me
Now you are mine, and I am Yours
You rescued me
And I am Yours forever
You saved me, remade me,
Where would I be?” (Toby Mac –Me Without You)
During the Philippians study we were asked “What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ?” One of the things for me is wonderful worship music, and another is remembering where I was and how far He’s brought me. I’ve decided that I’m not going to let anything rob me of my affections for Him, not my past, my sins, and not when friends or family forsake me because I choose to follow Him.