Christ is the center of our worship
Scheduled for study November 4-10, 2019. Christ is and always should be the center of our focus when it comes to anything about the gospel. Without him we are rudderless in a boisterous sea, and lost in mortality among the cacophony of voices claiming, “Follow me!”

Day 1

Hebrews 1-6 – Giving up in order to get

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording spiritual impressions helps you recognize what the Holy Ghost wants to teach you. Acting on your impressions demonstrates your faith that those promptings are real.

The introduction to this week’s lessons brings up an interesting point that when it comes to anything spiritual in nature we must be willing to give up something in order to get something. Does it even make sense to give up to get? It may not be intuitive, but it works.

All spiritual knowledge has to be given to us from God. We are not capable of learning spiritual truths on our own. Why? Because we are earthly (mortal), and have earthly minds. God dwells in eternity and sees things from an eternal perspective. Only He can teach us of His ways and help us to comprehend His intentions and His methods for doing things.

I will suggest that there are three basic categories of people who give up similar things.

1 – Those who come out of the world and have to give up some form of lifestyle or belief system espoused by the world.

2 – Those whose background, like the Jews in Christ’s day, who were raised under a law that was no longer valid and carried with it all kinds of false doctrines.

3 – Those born and raised in the latter-day Church who have made covenants through priesthood power and authority, but are finally seeking true conversion.

Those who come out of the world have a measure of truth to which we add a lot more truth, including priesthood authority and priesthood power. Many who come out of the world and embrace the gospel of Christ don’t view what they had to give up in order to accept the gospel as much of a sacrifice. For others, especially where addictions were already in place, there may be significant life changes, as they give up substances, possibly friends and family, and even their entire lifestyle.

Those who were raised with a semblance of the truth, like the ancient Jews in Christ’s time or those in modern times coming from inactive homes or from homes belonging to splinter groups of the Church, have a lot of doctrine to sift through. They have to figure out which of the teachings they were raised with are true and which ones need to be surrendered for the truth. This can be a difficult move, because their upbringing already resembles the gospel of Christ in many ways, but there is much that needs to be discarded and replaced, including perceptions, customs, doctrines, and habits. Many of these may be close to the truth, but just a little off, while other parts of their upbringing may be way off base and need to be tossed altogether. This can be frustrating for the convert, because it takes so much time to learn what is truth and what isn’t. There is a degree of betrayal at play here – perhaps feeling like they were lied to in their youth, or even feeling like they are betraying the teachings and customs of their family and loved ones.

For those who were raised in the Church, there is no guarantee that we were all raised being taught all of the truth. We may have had parents who were intimidated by doctrine, so never really learned it for themselves. These people have to break new ground in their family by being the ones to dive in and try to understand the plan of salvation like no one in their family has perhaps ever known it. This also includes giving up personal habits that may have been convenient, but we realize they have to be changed for habits that will bring us closer to Christ.

A large percentage of the Church falls into this third category. Anyone who is raised in the Church from birth still needs to find their own path to true conversion. Most of us fall into unhealthy habits of behavior at some point in our growing and maturing process. We each have to learn for ourselves that what we have adopted as normal behavior may not be in our best interests spiritually. Only through seeking the help of the Spirit and God’s grace can we identify what parts of our lives need to be surrendered and replaced with better attitudes and behaviors.

No matter which category we are part of, we all must give up something along the way to true conversion. Every person’s path is unique to that person. No two people have to give up or accept the same changes in their lives. What may have been easy for you may have posed a great challenge for me. What I brought to the table in my conversion may have not been anything you had been exposed to prior to your search for putting Christ at the center of your life. We cannot judge one another for where they are or are not currently in the conversion process. We are all searching our own way to the Savior, and each person has challenges and struggles that will help to define their future strengths in their gospel commitment.

Day 2

Hebrews 1-5 – Jesus Christ is “the express image” of Heavenly Father.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording spiritual impressions helps you recognize what the Holy Ghost wants to teach you. Acting on your impressions demonstrates your faith that those promptings are real.

What does it matter if Jesus looked just like our Father in Heaven? If that was as far as the comparison went then I would say it didn’t really matter much at all. After all, appearance is superficial and has nothing to do with character. Let’s look at the expression “the express image” of God.

Jesus taught us that the true nature of God is that physically mankind is patterned after their Father in Heaven. He has two legs. We have two legs, etc. This helps us identify with Him as someone who might be able to understand us because He is like us, at least in some physical way. But what else might the expression mean to be in the “express image” of God?

So often people think of Jesus and think of kindness, love, benevolence, charity, forgiveness, and every other gentle attribute. But when they think of God, they are thinking of the God of the Old Testament and are thinking of vengeance, retribution, condemnation, and hell fire. What we forget when we fall into this trap of mis-thinking, is that the God of the Old Testament is Jesus, the same man who walked the dusty roads of Galilee healing the sick and feeding the hungry. This is the same man who said that God is unchanging and never varies to the right hand or to the left, but whose course is one eternal round. How can these two very different personalities be the same unchanging being?

Much of the misthinking comes in the form of assuming that the God of the Old Testament is God the Father. He was the vengeful one, but He sent His son to earth to offer us mercy and clemency. This makes Jesus the polar opposite in nature and attributes from our Father in Heaven. Yet Jesus says he is the in the “express image” of His Father. This means that in order for us to believe that we have to accept that our image or attitude towards our Father in Heaven is badly skewed and not correct.

If Jesus is truly just like His Father then all the good we attribute to Jesus he learned from His Father in Heaven. Doesn’t Jesus say over and over again in the scriptures that he ONLY does the works that His Father does? He obeys the Father in all things, and lives just as He has seen His Father live. This means that all those good things we attribute to Jesus actually came from God, our Father.

All those sermons where Jesus preached peace, love, service, gentleness of spirit, humility, and kindness, were sermons of how our Father in Heaven lives, were testimonies of His love for us, and of our ability to grow to be like Him, our God. Looking like someone means nothing except that you can be pretty sure you are genetically descended from that person. What is far more important than being in the express image of God physically is that Jesus represented God in every way it is possible to represent Him. He looked like God. He treated others like God, our Father treats others. He loved us like God loves us, etc.

Is it any wonder that Jesus told his Apostles that if you have seen him you have seen the Father? These two men are two peas in the same pod. Jesus imitates His Father in every aspect of his life. To come to know Jesus is no different than coming to know God, our Father.

Day 3

Hebrews 2:9-18; 4:12-16; 5-7-8 – Jesus Christ suffered temptation and infirmities so that He can understand and help me.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording spiritual impressions helps you recognize what the Holy Ghost wants to teach you. Acting on your impressions demonstrates your faith that those promptings are real.

I am sure I am not the only Latter-day Saint who doesn’t fully comprehend the character and nature of our Redeemer, Jesus, the Christ. When I think of Jesus I see only his perfect example in all things. He never flubbed up, never told a lie or bent the truth. He never did anything that was selfish or that even smacked of impurity of thought or behavior.

How am I supposed to look to this perfect example and feel like he understands me? How can he possibly know what I go through? What I am leaving out of the equation is that there is no temptation I have ever felt that he has not also experienced. There is no impurity of thought or behavior I have gone through that he hasn’t experienced either personally in his own life, or through his experience in atoning for my sins.

If ever there was someone who can comprehend, and feel for our sufferings and pains we go through in mortality, that person is Jesus of Nazareth. He may not have fallen to my temptations, but he still experienced them. He may not have experienced the impure thoughts I have experienced, because he didn’t entertain them when they were presented to him. But despite this, he did experience the pain and suffering I have experienced for all my multitude of sins.

If there is anyone we should feel we can approach with confidence and “boldness” it is our Redeemer. There is no depth of depravity we can descend into that he has not already visited, and then some, and returned unscathed. He not only knows and comprehends, understands with perfect clarity what we experience in mortality, but he knows how we can escape from our prisons of sin and he is waiting for us to come to him so he can show us the way out of our bondage, no matter what the nature of that bondage may be.

Jesus had to learn obedience just like we do. He had to learn to be faithful through trials and hardships, just like we do. Yes, he was successful, so he never had to, in his lifetime, experience regret, shame, and sorrow for his mistakes, because he never made any. But when he was in Gethsemane and beyond, he lived and experienced each of our regret, shame, and punishment for every sin we have all, collectively and individually ever committed. Could there be anyone more able to feel compassion for us? Could there be anyone more prepared or willing to nurture us and succor us in all ways needed to redeem our souls? This is what makes the Christ so special. This is why we need never feel inadequate to approach him. His joy is and always has been bound up in his ability to rescue us, his brothers and sisters. Nothing makes him happier.

Day 4

Hebrews 3:7-4:11 – In order to receive God’s blessings, I must “harden not” my heart.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording spiritual impressions helps you recognize what the Holy Ghost wants to teach you. Acting on your impressions demonstrates your faith that those promptings are real.

The hardening of the heart or the softening of the heart is a highly misunderstood thing. For example, the Old Testament states over and over again that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh fought against God’s servant. Joseph Smith translated this differently. In every case Joseph Smith renders the passage to say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Big difference!

What does it mean to harden or soften our hearts? To harden our heart is to deliberately choose not only to not believe what God has taught us or told us to do, but to resist doing it. This is something we have complete control over. So conversely, when we soften our heart it means we choose to believe the word of God and we exercise faith in that belief through obedience.

Our choice to either pursue a softer or harder heart alters the path we are on. Like Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon, who chose to harden their hearts, they were lead by Satan to commit great sin. Likewise Nephi, who chose to believe his father’s words and obey him had many things revealed to him and many things promised to him by God. It all boils down to what we are willing to believe and how we behave once we have made that choice.

Day 5

Hebrews 2:9-10 – What is a captain?

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. Recording spiritual impressions helps you recognize what the Holy Ghost wants to teach you. Acting on your impressions demonstrates your faith that those promptings are real.

When you sail in a vessel on the water, the captain holds a special position in your voyage. The lives of all those aboard are entrusted to the captain. He is expected to know the way, know the pitfalls and dangers of the journey, the safest passages and routes, and to be able to handle any unexpected events that might threaten the safety of the voyage. That is a lot of responsibility.

Spiritually speaking, Jesus is the captain of our souls. He points the way, tells us what we need to do in order to make the journey safely, and he rescues us if we fall overboard. When we commit our souls to the safety offered by the captain, we put our lives in his hands. Traveling over the depths of the ocean were the most dangerous journeys known to man, for once we left the safety of the harbor, the terrors of the deep could easily claim any and all souls. The knowledge and experience of the captain was all that the passengers could rely on to reach their destination safely.

Jesus is the captain of our souls. We have been launched into the abyss of mortality, with all its pitfalls and risks. There is only one way to reach home safely, and that is to do as our captain directs us to do. For only he can get us across the dangers of mortality and land us safely back into the arms of our loving Father in Heaven. We need to look to Christ in all things if we expect to arrive safely home.

Scripture Study and Home Evening

Trying different study approaches

Sometimes when we sit down to study the scriptures we act like we are in prison and are allowed only to read what is in front of us. No questions are to be asked, and no thinking about what we are presented – just read it! Nothing could be further from the truth about what we should be doing than to read the scriptures as I just described.

Assume you will read and reread the scriptures many times in the course of your life. So get creative! Are you curious about how the covenants provided to Abraham and his descendants make a difference in your life? Try reading the scriptures and marking any passage or scripture that makes you think about these covenants and how they make a difference to us. And don’t just read the Old Testament, but using that as your standard read all of the scriptures and see how many times you mark your scriptures with passages or verses that talk about or remind you of your covenants. You will be amazed at the number of times something is said throughout the Standard Works that recall your covenants or relate to your covenants. The more you find, the more your vision will expand and you will piece together understanding of your covenants you never knew had anything to do with covenants before.

This is the point of studying the scriptures. When you choose, deliberately, to pursue a course of study, and you are specific about the topic, you will begin to see that it shows up in the most unlikely places as you continue your studies. And your topic will not just be in the scriptures. Think about what you are searching for or wanting to understand as you listen to or read Conference talks and Ensign/Liahona articles. Bits and pieces of information will pop up all over the place.

There is more than one way to study the scriptures. Find one that appeals to you and try it out. But see it through to the end. Once you set out on a journey, be sure to read at least all the way through the book of scripture you have chosen to read. There is a lot to be said for finishing what you start, and ending what you begin.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

New Testament 45