My thoughts today fit well with a talk by Elder Robert D. Hales given October 7th, 2012. You can read or listen to the full talk here: https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2012/10/being-a-more-christian-christian?lang=eng .
What does it mean to be a Christian? A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the literal Son of God, sent by His Father to suffer for our sins in the supreme act of love we know as the Atonement. A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life. The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those holding His priesthood authority.
Through the scriptures and the witness of Joseph Smith, we know that God, our Heavenly Father, has a glorified and perfected body of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit whose work is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Godhead is three separate and distinct beings, unified in purpose.
With these doctrines as the foundation of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are Christian? Yet for every Christian, a simple question remains: what kind of Christians are we? In other words, how are we doing in our quest to follow Christ?
Consider with me the experience of two Christian disciples: “Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. “And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. “And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” (Matthew 4:18-20)
As Christians today, we have the opportunity to act just as decisively as Peter and Andrew did. Just as they forsook their nets, we too can turn away from our modern day nets and forsake worldly habits, customs and traditions.
I think of how much things have changed since I was born. When I was a kid we wrapped sandwiches in wax paper. All we had was wax paper or foil. Its hard to imagine life without plastic wrap or zip lock bags but we did it! I still remember the first time I saw TV in living color just like NBC said it was for all those years with their peacock showing its feathers. Yes, we've come a long way. How much are we willing to give up if asked to?
“When [Jesus] had called the people unto him . . . , he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”(Mark 8:34) Denying ourselves of ungodly behavior is the beginning of repentance, which brings a mighty change of heart until “we have no more disposition to do evil.” (Mosiah 5:2)
This change, called conversion, is possible only through the Savior. Jesus promised: “If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. . . . And my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27) As we are made new in Christ, our very natures change and we no longer want to go back to our old ways.
I remember when I first found the church and was learning. I had picked up bad habits after leaving home and had started drinking. I later learned that alcoholism runs through my family and I carried the gene. I was drinking two fifths of vodka each day ( the amount I was allowed to buy each day). I went out with the guys almost every night and drank with them also. Buy the time the missionaries were teaching me the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) I was in trouble and no one around me even had a clue I was drinking as much as I was. I checked into the Military Hospital when I realized how addicted I was. It was not a pretty site as I went through withdrawal. My boss showed up on day 2 screaming and ranting that he needed me on the job and they better let me out. He shut right up when they took him to see me. I was so far gone I had no clue he had come by at all. By the second week I knew I would never be able to do this alone. I called the missionaries and they arranged for me to get a blessing and with the Lord's help I did over come. It wasn't easy but several families at church took me under their wing and got me through those first 6 months. Then I shipped out to Japan. But with enough time on my knees with the Lord, He and I made it through. I never took another drink. I was made new in Christ and he has help me repeated over the years to overcome one bad habit after another. I'm far from perfect but with His help I'm much closer than I ever would of been.
I testify that through His infinite love and grace, we can become more Christian Christians. Consider the following Christlike qualities. How are we doing in strengthening them within ourselves?
Christian love. The Savior valued everyone. Kind and compassionate to all, He left the ninety and nine to find the one,(Matthew 18:12-14) for “even the very hairs of [our] head are . . . numbered” (Luke 12:7) to Him.
Christian faith. Despite temptations, trials, and persecutions, the Savior trusted our Heavenly Father and chose to be faithful and obedient to His commandments. Christian sacrifice. Throughout His life the Savior gave of His time, His energy, and ultimately, through the Atonement, gave Himself so that all of God’s children could be resurrected and have the opportunity to inherit eternal life.
Christian caring. Like the good Samaritan, the Savior was continually
reaching out to rescue, love, and nurture people around Him, regardless of their culture, creed, or circumstances.
Christian service. Whether drawing water from a well, cooking a meal of fish, or washing dusty feet, the Savior spent His days serving others—lifting up the weary and strengthening the weak.
Christian patience. In His own sorrow and suffering, the Savior waited upon His Father. With patience for us, He waits upon us to come to ourselves and come home to Him.
Christian peace. Throughout His ministry He urged understanding and promoted peace. Especially among His disciples, He taught that Christians cannot contend with other Christians, notwithstanding their differences.
Christian forgiveness. He taught us to bless those who curse us. He showed us the way by praying that those who crucified Him would be forgiven.
Christian conversion. Like Peter and Andrew, many recognize the truth of the gospel as soon as they hear it. They are instantly converted. For others it may take longer. In a revelation given through Joseph Smith, the Savior taught, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day,” (D&C 50:24) the perfect day of our conversion. Jesus Christ is “the light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth.” (D&C 93:9)
Christian endurance to the end. In all His days, the Savior never gave up doing His Father’s will but continued in righteousness, goodness, mercy, and truth to the end of His mortal life. These are some of the characteristics of those who hear and heed the Savior’s voice.
I so enjoyed this talk and realize there is so much more I should be doing. I am so grateful for the many blessings I have been showered with over my life time .
I pray this will be a blessing to all who read this!