The crimson thread of redemption that reveals the infinite love that the Savior has for all humanity flows through the entirety of the scriptures. His story is the GREATEST story ever told. From Bethlehem cradle, to preaching in the temple, to the sermon on the mount, to His last hours with His disciples, to His intercessory prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and the ultimate betrayal by one of His own, to the mockery of trials that were illegal according to Jewish law and custom, to the cruel Roman cross on Golgotha Hill, to His glorious Resurrection – there was one central message written in RED. That message was simple, yet powerful. That message to us all is “I LOVE YOU!”
On this glorious Easter morning, as we celebrate His Glorious Resurrection, I share my personal witness and testimony:
I bear solemn witness and testimony of a loving Savior who loves all of us so much that he willingly gave His life for us as sin’s final sacrifice. With His very life, He paid a tremendous debt that He did not owe, a debt that none of us would ever be able to pay on our own. He took upon Himself all the sins of humanity – past, present and future. He who knew no sin became sin for us. When He cried “It is finished!” the plan of redemption was fully put into place and because of His vicarious death on that cruel Roman cross on Golgotha Hill, the gulf between sinful man and a loving Heavenly Father was finally bridged providing for each of us a way back home to the arms of a loving Heavenly Father who awaits us. The Good News is that His death upon that cross did not signify finality. Three days later He triumphed over the grave and arose and is alive forevermore seated at the right hand of God the Father. Because of His glorious Resurrection we too look forward to the day when we shall be resurrected and we shall see Him and know Him as He is. He is the Son of the Living God! He is the Christ! Of these things I do so testify and bear solemn witness, in the sacred name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
The Piano Guys, Peter Hollens, & David Archuleta get together to sing “Angels, From the Realms of Glory”
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” ~ Isaiah 9:6-7
A shepherd may be referred to as one who leads, herds, guards, and tends sheep. A good shepherd is very protective of the flock which he has been entrusted to care for, and if necessary, in the act of caring for his fold, will give his life. Therefore, sheep are completely dependent on their shepherd for provision, guidance, and protection.
The Psalmist reminds us in Psalm 100:3 to “Know (ye) that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Sheep are figurative of believers who follow their Shepherd. Jesus Christ is our Divine Shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture. He provides for, guides, and protects us in the same manner as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his fold. In referring to the purpose and mission of the Divine Shepherd in each of our daily lives the late President James E. Faust, former Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught:
The Divine Shepherd has a message of hope, strength, and deliverance for all. If there were no night, we would not appreciate the day, nor could we see the stars and the vastness of the heavens. We must partake of the bitter with the sweet. There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless. (James E. Faust, “The Refiner’s Fire“, Ensign, May 1979)
In the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), Nephi, the founding king and prophet of ancient inhabitants known as the Nephites taught:
And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture (1 Nephi 22:25).
Nephi also taught:
And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth (1 Nephi 13:41).
In describing the Lord as a shepherd, David wrote out of his own personal experiences from his early years of caring for sheep. Amidst the world, the Church is a sheepfold, exposed to deceivers and persecutors. The Divine Shepherd of the sheep knows all that are His individually by name, guards them by His providence, guides them by His Spirit and Word, and goes before them in the same way as Eastern shepherds go before their sheep, to set them in the way of His steps.
As ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints help to care for the sheep of the Divine Shepherd’s fold by tending to their spiritual needs and concerns through their Church callings and other acts of unselfish service. As they do so, the Spirit of Christ sets before them an open door.
His sheep know Him as: (1) the Good Shepherd – “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:11); (2) the Great Shepherd – “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20,21); and (3) the Chief Shepherd – “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4). With this knowledge and understanding that He is the only True Shepherd and “he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (see John 10:1), the sheep of His fold will see their Shepherd, and be cautious and shy away from strangers who would attempt to draw them away from the fold.
Most Christians are familiar with the 23rd Psalm. The Psalm does not necessarily focus on the animal like qualities of sheep, but rather on the discipleship qualities of those who are followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When a person recognizes the voice of the Divine Shepherd he should be willing to follow Him. When he allows Christ, his Shepherd, to lead and guide him, he will find peace, contentment, and safety for his soul. However, if he chooses to ignore the Shepherd’s voice and wander away from the fold, he will have no one to blame but himself when he falls into the snares of those who seek to destroy him.
Because of the subtle uncertainties of life, each of us should be willing to follow the Divine Shepherd who offers us eternal confidence. Even if we may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we need fear no evil: for our Shepherd is with us; His rod and His staff give us great comfort. (see Psalm 23:4). It is He alone who is able to walk us through the valley and bring us safely to the other side. Christ, the Divine Shepherd and Host, promises to guide and protect us through life and to bring us safely home to live in His presence forever (see Psalm 23:5, 6). He gives us the blessed assurance, “Wherefore, I am in your midst, and I am the good shepherd, and the stone of Israel. He that buildeth upon this rock shall never fall” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:44).
In the Book of Mormon (Another Testament of Jesus Christ), Alma the Younger,a prophet and “chief judge” of the Nephites, as recorded in Alma 5:59-60, exhorted:
For what shepherd is there among you having many sheep doth not watch over them, that the wolves enter not and devour his flock? And behold, if a wolf enter his flock doth he not drive him out? Yea, and at the last, if he can, he will destroy him. And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.
When we were born, our parents gave us a name. However, there is no name given among men that is comparable to the matchless name of Jesus Christ. His name is above all names, and it is only through His name that humanity may gain salvation. This is what His name means to me:
C – The Christ-child who in Bethlehem’s manger lay. Born of a virgin, a choice and blessed daughter of our Heavenly Father. Not an ordinary child by any means, but One who was born King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He whose name is Immanuel – God is with us.
H – He was born of a humble birth and in humility Christ our Savior came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. He who knew no sin paid the last sacrifice for sin by becoming the Sacrificial Lamb for the slaughter thus taking upon Himself all the sins of humanity – past, present, and future – for those born, and those who were not yet born.
R – His Resurrection was glorious. Death and the grave could not hold Him. On the third day He triumphantly arose from the grave and lives forevermore seated at the right hand of God the Eternal Father. Because He lives we too shall live and one day we shall behold Him and see Him and know Him as He IS – our Lord, our Savior, our Master, and our King.
I – His atoning love for each of us is infinite, unconditional, and matchless. No greater love hath any man than He who willingly laid down His life for those whom He loves. For a few, men may willingly give their lives, but none will ever pay such a high price as this One who with His life, and because of His infinite love for us, paid a tremendous debt that He did not owe, and one that we could never pay on our own.
S – He is the Savior of the world. Read and meditate upon the words of John 3:16 – 18, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” He is the Life and the Light of the world for “in him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (see John 1:4,5). “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
T – In a day and time when it sometimes becomes difficult to discern between what is truth and what is not, some may ask the pointed question, “What is truth?” He is the embodiment of all truth. He declares in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” And again in John 8:32 He declares, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth” (see 2 Corinthians 13:8). He is the God of truth and He cannot lie. “For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45).
In my last treatise I addressed the subject of how we can be saved. In the course of that discussion I made mention of the fact that there are some who teach and believe that a person has to perform a certain number of works in order to merit receiving salvation. Then, in the summation of the subject, I stated that it is by grace that we are saved, through faith, it is the gift of God, not of works, for there is nothing that any of us could ever do on our own to merit salvation. We needed a Savior who would and did willingly give His life as the sacrificial lamb for the slaughter to atone for all of our sins – past, present, and future. He is our Advocate with the Father, and it is through Him alone that we are freely justified.
However, that still leaves a question for some concerning “works”. Are “works” a necessary part of our faith? Consider the words of James as recorded in James 2:14-26:
|14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?
22 Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?
23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.
24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
I believe that James is teaching us that it is good to have faith, but faith as it stands alone profits nothing. We develop and maintain our faith through our works.
For example in the Old Testament book of Genesis, in Genesis 22:1-12 we read of the account of Abraham being commanded by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac:
|1 And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
7 And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?
8 And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.
9 And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood.
10 And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.
11 And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.
12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.
In order to fully understand this account we must first realize what God was not doing. God was not tempting Abraham. God was not enticing Abraham to do wrong, but was testing him to see if his faith was strong enough to be obedient to His will and do what was required, and giving him, thereby, the opportunity to understand the Love of his Heavenly Father and the glory of obedience. God was not instituting or condoning child sacrifice. As seen in Deuteronomy 12:31 God abhors child sacrifice: “Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods” (see also Leviticus 20:2-5, Jeremiah 32:35, Ezekiel 20:26, Isaiah 57:4-5).
It is important to remember that God prevented the sacrifice from actually occurring. He did not desire the sacrifice as an act of worship or for any other reason beyond testing and developing Abraham’s faith. God has the right to take human life and therefore could have authorized Abraham to take the life of his son Isaac in this particular case, but He did not. However, had Abraham decided of his own accord to sacrifice Isaac, he would have been wrong and his act would have been condemned by God.
Why then would God give this command? The point was for Abraham to come to understand that he trusted God completely and placed Him above all else, even his own son. Though God already knew that Abraham had faith in Him, it was necessary for Abraham to expand his faith through his “works”. Because of his “works”, not only God, but Abraham, his family and future generations knew that Abraham trusted God. This trust was important because it indicated that Abraham had the proper relationship with God, and thus he could benefit from God’s plans for his life.
James records that “Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, that in Isaac shall thy seed be called: accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
And so we “see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24).