Monday, 9 November 2015

Sermon: The Gospel & The Church

Both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day church of Jesus Christ are true and divine, and there is an essential relationship between them that is significant and very important. Understanding the relationship between the gospel and the Church will prevent confusion, misplaced priorities and failed expectations in the Church. Such understanding will prevent disaffection and will result in great blessings. As I attempt to describe the relationship between the gospel and the Church, I pray that a perspective will be developed that will enhance the influence of both the gospel and the Church in our lives.
 
The gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine and therefore perfect plan. It is eternal, unchanging, and is universally applicable to every individual regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Gospel principles never change as they come from an unchangeable and perfect God.
 
The Latter Day Church of Jesus Christ is the kingdom of God on earth, it is administered by the priesthood of God with a prophet at its head. The Church has authority given to it by God to teach the principles and doctrines of the gospel and to administer its essential ordinances.
 
The gospel is the divine plan for personal, individual salvation and eventual exaltation or oneness with God in his ascended state. The Church is divinely commissioned to provide the means and resources that implement this plan in the individual’s life. Procedures, programs, and policies are developed within the Church to help us understand the gospel and the blessing it brings according to our individual capacity to learn. Under the divine direction from God, those policies, programs, and procedures may be changed from time to time to fulfil gospel purposes.
 
It must be understood that almost every aspect of the Churches administration and activates revealed and have a place in the scriptures. As individually and collectively we increase our knowledge, acceptance, and application of gospel principles, we can more effectively utilise the Church to make our lives increasingly gospel centred. As we strive to live the gospel and participate in the Church, the conformity we require of ourselves and of others should be according to God’s standards and not our own. The orthodoxy upon which we insist must be founded in fundamental principles, eternal laws, and direction given by those authorised in the Church by God.
 
Our understanding of the Gospel grows by studying and pondering the scriptures. Reading the scriptures, will help us learn the gospel as it is taught by the prophets of old in a variety of circumstances, times, and places. As we study and read we will come to see the consequences as the gospel is accepted or rejected by individuals or nations and as its principles are applied or not applied. In studying the scriptures we discover that varying institutional forms, procedures, regulations, and ceremonies were utilised, all divinely designed to implement eternal principles. The practices and procedures change, but we see that the  principles do not. Through scripture study we learn eternal principles and how to relate them to the church and its programmes. As we learn the scriptures we can better utilise the restored Church to learn, live, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
A best example of what I am talking about is found in the Old Testament in the book of Leviticus. Leviticus is basically a handbook for the Hebrew priests of the day and it contains rules, regulations, rituals, and ceremonies many of which seem very strange and impractical to us today. However it also contains eternal principles of the gospel which are familiar and very much applicable to everyone no matter the time in which we live. In reading the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus, let us take great care in noticing the principles and the rules and the practices. In the first two verses we read, “And the Lord Spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel.” (Lev. 19:1–2.) In this we see the principle of revelation. So we see that God speaks to his children through prophets, and he still does today. Continuing, the Lord said to Moses, “Say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” (Lev. 19:2.) Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:50.) Here the Lord is giving us an eternal gospel principle to be like unto him and become perfect, for this reason are we here to belike unto him, this therefore a gospel principle not church one. There are lots of other eternal principles found in the scriptures, some from the Ten Commandments some from other sources, these are universal gospel principles. Also included in the scriptures are the rules and programs intended to implement these gospel principles among the ancient Hebrews. The best example of this is the divinely directed responsibility to care for the poor. This is a great example of a program being presented, namely, providing food for the poor by leaving the gleanings of the crops and not reaping the corners of the fields. (See Lev. 19:9–10.) Yet another principle is given in verse thirteen of Leviticus, the principle of honesty. This principle is taught and accompanied by a rule requiring employers to pay employees for their work at the end of each day(Lev. 19:13). The eternal principle of honesty is implemented by these rules and practices. Again another example of rules and programs can be found in verse 27 which contains a rule about personal grooming (Lev. 19:27).  You will notice that neither of these examples is an eternal principle but they are intended to help us implement and share gospel principles. The principle of forgiveness is set forth in the same chapter of Leviticus, verse 18, concluding the second great commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” with the added divine imprimatur, “I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:18)
 
As members of the church of Christ we should always obey the commandments and counsel of church leaders, but also through study, prayer, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit, we should seek and obtain an individual, personal witness from Christ that the principle or counsels we receive are correct and divinely inspired. Then we can give enlightened, enthusiastic obedience, utilising the Church as a means through which we can give allegiance, time, talent, and other resources without reluctance or resentment. When we see the harmony between the gospel and the church in our daily lives, we are much more likely to do the right things for the right reasons when they are asked of us. We will exercise self-discipline and righteous initiative guided by the prophet and a sense of divine accountability. The role of the Church is to help aid us in our effort to use our freedom and agency to choose correct principle creatively, not to invent our own values, principles, and interpretations, but to learn and live the eternal truths of the gospel. Gospel living is a process of continuous, individual renewal and improvement until the person is prepared and qualified to enter comfortably and with confidence into the presence of our Father God and dwell with him in eternal ascension, after all that is the goal that we set ourselves before we came here and now we must do what the gospel teaches with the aid of the church to live the gospel principles and do whatever is necessary to reach that goal.
 
My brothers and sisters, I have strived since my twelfth birthday to live my life according to the principles of the gospel contained in the holy write of God, I continue to do so. However, that which I know most surely and which has most significantly and positively affected my life is that the Holy Spirit has witnessed to me and I know Gods lives and that he is the Son of our Father God and it is for that reason alone that I strive to live my life according to the principles of the gospel. In conclusion it is by that same Spirit that I testify that God is our Father, that he has ascended and attained celestial glory, that Jesus of Nazareth is his Only Begotten Son sent to dwell in the flesh, and that he is the Saviour and Redeemer of all mankind. Through his atoning sacrifice, redemption and exaltation are offered to us as a free gifts if we will accept by faith, repentance, and sacred obedience to the principles of the gospel that he is. It is my prayer that each of us will continue to learn and apply the eternal principles of the gospel, utilising fully and appropriately the resources of the divine, restored Latter day Church of Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Prophet Matthew P. Gill

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