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Posts Tagged ‘works’


Friday I had an interesting encounter with 4 Mormons on my doorstep. It reminded me of my previous encounters with Mormons. This would take me all the way back to college.

My freshman year room mate in college was named Mark. He was from Salt Lake City. If I remember correctly his father was a Muslim and living in Bahrain at the time. His American mom lived in SLC. He spent much of his freshman year seeking the truth. During the course of the year he professed faith in Christ. Being a nominal Catholic engaging in a variety of sins at the time, I didn’t really care. He would borrow my tiny Gideon’s NT (the “littlest Bible” he’d call it) that I received years early while in elementary school, during school time (yes, the Gideons visited our public school!).

In addition to a 4 Spiritual Laws tract that ending up just wasting away in my desk drawer, he gave me a 10-12 page handout comparing the Bible, the Book of Mormon and Mormon doctrine. For some reason I didn’t throw it away.

Approximately a year after his conversion I was converted. As a new Christian I started taking some religion electives and one was about Religion in America. Our prof brought in some guest speakers to share with us and answer questions. When I knew the President of the Boston Mission was coming I dug up that handout and studied it.

I asked a lot of questions, most of which went unanswered. What I did get was an offer of the Book of Mormon if I would read it. I took it with the best of intentions, but fell asleep each time I started to read it. Let’s just say I never finished it. It was a frustrating encounter because I really didn’t get satisfying answers. He was one slippery kind of guy. If you ask me what I believe I’ll point you to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Mormons and Masons point you to obscure and confusing books and then when you summarize them they say “I don’t believe that.”

Fast forward about 15 years during my pastoral ministry in Winter Haven. I had a congregant named Tod who grew up in Wyoming and hasn’t met a Mormon ad he hasn’t responded to. One of his “ministries” is inviting them into his home to present them with the gospel. I think he’s been black listed so it might be time for him to move. Well one day he gave them my phone number. Thanks, Tod.

Mid-afternoon a sweet young lady called me as a result of Tod’s request. She may still remember he phone encounter with the Presbyterian pastor. What quickly became apparent to me was that she had never really read the Bible. While she encouraged me to read the Book of Mormon, I encouraged her to read the Bible to see what it really said and see if the BoM was consistent with it. Like the President of the Boston Mission, she pretty much avoiding giving me direct answers to questions. In her case it was not so much being slippery, but (I think) ignorance.  She was in way over her head but wouldn’t admit it. It ended with a “would you pray to God to see if the BoM is the Word of God?” My answer was that I knew it was not on the basis of what the Bible teaches. Tod was ever so delighted to learn that the Mormons had actually called me.

Fast forward another decade and another part of the country. For the first time they rang my doorbell. There were 4 of them so it must have been a training team. There was one woman, who was largely silent. One guy spoke most of the time, but the guy in the back seemed to be the trainer and evidenced some disapproving frowns at times.

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Jesus and His disciples hid from the Pharisees and Sadducees in Ephraim.  When the time for the Passover drew near, they began the long journey to Jerusalem.  It is fairly safe to assume that He spent much of his time with the disciples preparing them for ministry, teaching them truth and encouraging them.  These were the Thunderous Twelve, twelve men prepared to serve.

At long last they arrive in Bethany and the home of Lazarus and his two sisters.  A meal is prepared and Martha, as usual, is busy serving dinner.  It seems one detail had been overlooked.  The journey would obviously dirty the feet of the men.  They had just been walking the dusty roads of Palestine.  Their feet would likely be soure and the skin cracked.  Who would don the towel and cleanse the feet of the Master relieving His discomfort?  Peter perhaps?  Or at least one of the twelve, right?

Mary comes forth with some oil for His feet, very expensive oil at that, to ease the soreness of a long journey.  She offered up what was most likely a protion of her dowry in an act of loving service.  The benefit of this act extends beyond Jesus as the soothing fragrance of oil filled the house.

John in his gospel contrasts Mary with Judas, who only thought of himself though he pretended to care for the poor.  He longed for the opportunity to steal a portion of the expensive perfume’s sale price, to line his pocket with ill-gotten gain.  Though he had just spent time alone with Jesus, he completely missed the point.  He was not alone in this respect, for not on of the twelve seems to have attended to their Master’s needs.  Mary is known for her faith and love, while Judas is known for unbelief and betrayal.  Yet both were known, at this point, as followers of Jesus.

We, like the disciples, should train, prepare and study.  Too often though we fail to get our hands dirty by serving others.  We can easily deceive ourselves into thinking we are not yet ready to serve.  But note who was with Jesus during this time in the wilderness.  Judas, not Mary, was there.  All the training in the world does not make a servant.  Mary did not have the training, but had the heart of a servant.  Very little training is required to love other people, but still we can hold back.  Training is good and necessary, but let us not neglect the examples of Jesus and Mary.  Let us not think too highly of ourselves to serve others in the service of the Gospel.  Let us never forget the words of James who rightly reminds us, “so faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

[originally published in the July 1997 issue of Tabletalk Magazine (p. 37), published by Ligonier Ministries.]

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