A week ago, we discussed salvation being a free gift available to us through the grace of Christ—but one that must be received and, hence, does not come without condition. He requires us to be completely committed—“all in,” as they say. He requires our whole hearts and all that we have and are. Consider:
“And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
“And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.
“And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62)
For what it’s worth, here’s my translation of the original Greek text in plain Juchau English…
“A random man comes up to the Savior and says to Him, ‘I’m committed to you. I will go anywhere you want me to go and do anything you want me to do.’ To which the Savior replies, That’s great, really great—but you must understand what it’s like to be sincere about being with me. It will not be the least bit easy and there will be little if any rest. You’re going to have to buckle up, big time.’
“Then the Savior says to a different man, ‘Follow me.’ And the man says, ‘Yes, of course, but first I must tend to my father’s funeral.’ And the Savior replies, ‘There are no ‘buts’ in following me. Following me comes first—ahead of the otherwise most important things in your life, including your family. Come now, right now, and help my cause.’
Then a third man says to the Savior, ‘I’m committed. I’m in. But before I really get started, I need to run tell my family good-bye.’ The Savior shakes his head sadly and says, ‘You must not have heard the previous conversation. There are no ‘buts.’ There are no false starts. You’re in or you’re out and if you’re in you’re all in—in which case you’re going to be with me for a long time—otherwise…not so much.’”
The Savior expects this kind of commitment from us. And he expects us to publicize and formalize our commitment through actual covenants made with him in sacred and symbolic rites, such as baptism and others in LDS temples. Through these covenants we promise to follow the Savior, keep His commandments, remember Him always, and steadfastly strive to be like Him. They’re not casual promises—at least they shouldn’t be, which He made clear, Himself, in Luke 9.
Of course, promises made must be promises kept. Or… hmm… how true is that, really? I fell short of perfection well before I promised the Savior that I would strive to be like Him and making those promises didn’t fix all my imperfections, unfortunately. I’m still impatient, rude, lazy, and myriad other bad things much too often. What if I don’t really keep completely my promise to follow His commandments and be like Him?
Well, this is where we come back to the heart. “I, the Lord, require the hearts of the children of men.” He wants our promises to be sincere. He wants our commitment to represent true dedication. He wants us to give our all in frank and honest effort to show that our whole hearts, minds, and souls are with Him. But He knows we will fall short and so He agrees to forgive our follies if we strive with sincerity—and even to forgive our more significant sins if we return our hearts to Him and reset ourselves on the path of honest striving after we have erred. It is the best deal ever offered to anyone at any time.
I cannot earn my salvation. If I had to, it would be utterly hopeless. Only the Lord can give it to me. He will do that if I receive HIm: if I commit to Him and if I am truly sincere and devoted in my efforts to follow Him. If my commitments are real and my efforts sincere, I can enjoy knowing that, in fact, I don’t have to be perfect today (or even tomorrow) and I, along with the Lord, can tolerate with patience the time it takes before He, ultimately, makes me complete. THIS is what living after the manner of happiness is all about. I’m going to swing for the fences, miss, and still circle the bases. He’s going to lead me around them.
[A topic for another day is the formality of those commitments and the authentic authority under which they are required to be made.]