New Testament 02 – Be It unto Me according to Thy Word

attitude
This is a lesson about attitudes. The Lord has a great work to do in each of our lives, but the attitude with which we face him and react to his challenges, and blessings, will make all the difference in what ultimately happens.

Note: I have divided the lessons into five days of structured study. The sixth day is open for the needs of the family or personal study, and Sunday will be a day when many of these topics will be discussed in class. Since this is the first time the Church is doing this, these lessons are an experiment. Please let me know if you see adjustments/improvements that could be made. It is a work in progress.

Day 1

Read Matthew 1:16-25 – Conditions of Joseph and Mary’s marriage

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. This might be just a thought, or it might be a whole paragraph of observations or impressions. If you are studying with others and have a lot you want to write about, give yourself the abbreviated version so you can expand them later when you are alone. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Who were Matthew and Luke?

To recap the manual, Matthew was a Jewish tax collector (publican) and wrote specifically to the Jews by emphasizing Old Testament prophecies about Jesus. Luke was a gentile (non-Jewish) doctor. He wrote to a gentile audience. He was one of the Apostle Paul’s traveling companions as Paul preached throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Luke included more stories about the women in the life of Jesus than any other writer.

What does this tell us about how scriptures in general are written?

Do you think the personal interests and views of the prophet writing the record has anything to do with what is included and what is not?

What difference does the religious background of the readers, those for whom the record was made, make in what is included in the record?

How well do you think the Jews in Jerusalem would have accepted Luke’s account of Christ, since Luke was not a Jew, and he included so many women in his record?

Do you think Matthew’s Jewish-centered record would have been as effective with the gentile audience as Luke’s record was?

Might the gentiles have been as interested in Old Testament prophecies as the Jews would have been? Why or why not?

Now extend your answers to the other books of scripture. Recognizing that the Lord required certain information and stories to be in the Book of Mormon, for example, do you think our experience with what was included in the book would be different had someone like Nephi, son of Lehi or Alma the Younger written the final record of their people? I think there is a reason the Lord chose certain people to record certain events for us in the form of scriptures. He knew his children and chose those who would give us what he felt was most important for us to read.

Just looking at what was included, and excluded, from the first chapter of each of these two New Testament books gives us a stark comparison of the difference of what can be included in a record based on the person writing it. In coming weeks you’ll have the opportunity to read the first chapters of Mark and John as well. Each of these four gospels paints a completely different view of the same events, all because of the perspective and focus of the one writing the account. (With this in mind, our appreciation of the prophet Mormon should be greatly increased.)

Day 2

Read Luke 1:5-25 – Zacharias is promised a son while in the Temple

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

God’s blessings come in his own time

Once I was thinking how seemingly unfair it was that those who died in the flood or before had to wait so long before they could be resurrected or even have the gospel preached to them in the spirit world. Upon further thought it dawned on me that we who are alive today had to wait even longer for our turn to come to mortality. Then I realized that in God’s time the whole mortal experience for his family only lasts just over a week’s time. And a week compared with all eternity is nothing to an eternal being.

Whether we come to mortality first or last we will all wait basically the same amount of time for the judgment. So the length of time it takes for some to hear the gospel in the spirit world may seem longer to us for some than for others, but all of us are on pretty equal footing in the time tables of the Lord. And it also became clear that most of God’s children will not hear the gospel message until they are already in the spirit world. This makes any delays in our personal blessings pale in comparison to them having to wait, in many cases, thousands of years before the gospel was preached to them.

Because we think like mortals, and only see from birth to death in our thinking, waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promised blessings can seem to take an eternity, or longer. But in actuality, all of his promised blessings will be fulfilled in short order. We just need to recognize that we only see the mortality portion of his plan. He sees the whole plan of salvation as one unit of time. There is no difference between pre earth life, mortality, and the spirit world, for he sees and comprehends them all at once. To him they are just three different rooms in the same house, and they have adjoining doors that let’s him see from one to the other at all times. We only see the room we are in.

Does it really matter that one of his promises to us will not be fulfilled in mortality? No, it doesn’t. But it sure feels like it does, because we can’t see the same eternal perspective he has. This is why we need to exercise faith in his promises. He knows what is coming in our lives, but we don’t. Hence the need for faith in his word to us. He sees what we do not. We must learn to trust him.

The Old Testament has a number of examples of those who had to wait upon the Lord’s timing. The children of Israel had to wait 40 years to enter the promised land. Abraham/Sarah were well past child-bearing years when Isaac was born. And the prophet Samuel’s mother had to wait many years for Samuel’s birth. In this lesson the birth of John is used as an example of one of those delayed blessings. Some will have delayed blessings in mortality. Others of us will not receive some of our promised blessings until well after mortality. But if we believe that our Father always keeps his promises then we will be able to muster the faith that will allow us to be patient and faithful while we wait for our promised blessings to be given to us.

What “promised blessings” do small children have to learn to wait for?

What “promised blessings” do teens struggle with?

What has been your personal desire that you have had to wait for?

How does faith in Christ’s promised blessings help us be more patient?

Day 3

Read Luke 1:26-38 – the angel tells Mary of God’s intention

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

The faithful willingly submit to God’s will.

Attitude is everything, even for the righteous. When Zacharias was visited by an angel in the temple and was told he and his wife, Elisabeth were going to have a baby, Zacharias was skeptical. Now Zacharias was a very good man. He was a faithful priesthood holder and servant of the Lord. Yet for all that, he and his wife had prayed for years to have a child, and after having to wait well past the child bearing years, with no answer to their prayers, now that an angel is telling him his prayers are being answered, his skepticism won out.

If you think about it, Zacharias was thinking with his brain, not his heart when he responded to the angel. My guess is that this was the first angelic visitor he had ever entertained, because he was afraid of the angel at first. Yet even though he was entertaining a conversation with a messenger who had been sent directly from God to answer his most ardent prayer, he let his disappointment of not ever having been able to have a child win out and he scoffed at the angel in disbelief. And for that disbelief he was apparently made deaf and dumb, for they had to write to him to communicate with him. Sometimes being older doesn’t necessarily make us wiser.

Mary, on the other hand, was visited by an angel and told that she, as a virgin, would conceive a child. Instead of assuming it was not possible, because she had never known a man, she asked the simple question, how can this happen when I haven’t ever known a man? She was willing to submit to the will of the Lord and was asking for directions and information.

The difference between the two is their attitude. Same angel. Same basic message – you’re going to have a baby. But two completely different attitudes in the reception of the message. Mary was willing to see how the Lord would perform this miracle. Zacharias assumed it could no longer be done. We must be careful not to let our personal biases and disappointments in life jade our ability to let the Lord do his own work.

When we are given counsel by the prophet, do we doubt, or scoff? Or do we ask how we can accomplish what he has instructed us to do?

Why does “knowing better” not always cause us to do the right thing?

Does conversion have anything to do with the answer to the previous question? Why or why not?

Day 4

Read Luke 1:39-56 – Mary goes to visit Elisabeth

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Mary testifies of Jesus Christ’s mission

I would like to include a quote from a BYU-Provo devotional given in 2004. This talk was given by Marleen Williams and is entitled, “A Gospel of Relationships.” The talk serves to illustrate a point I would like to make about eternal opposites.

Just as God has a gospel of relationships, Satan proposes counterfeit principles that eventually lead to the destruction of relationships, both with God and with others. God teaches you to love others and to learn to live in a Zion society. Satan encourages jealousy, competition, and uncharitable judgments. These keep you from feeling close and connected to others. God teaches you eternal progression and faith in the Atonement, while Satan teaches its counterfeit—perfectionism—which destroys your confidence in yourself and others. God teaches eternal marriage, where love lasts forever. Satan encourages relationships that are selfish and end when they become inconvenient.

The manual gives us three scriptural passages to compare with each other: Luke 1:46-55, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, and Matthew 5:4-12. These three passages all share a common point of view, that what God does is contrary to the way the world works. Sister Williams also points out that what God does goes counter to how the world behaves. God encourages love, while the world pushes hate and envy. The Lord teaches meekness, humility, and purity, while the world pushes dominance, pride, and corruption. Both Hannah and Mary understood that the Lord had done once again, that which the world could and would never have done, exalted the humble and meek, bless one considered by themself to be unworthy, and shown great mercy where none was really expected. These are all the kinds of promises the Lord makes in the Sermon on the Mount.

This shows us that the nature of our Father and his Son is to encourage and reward all the godly virtues. The laws of heaven are based on these virtues. It is important that we recognize that what we are taught to expect from the world is always the reverse, as Sister Williams points out, of what the Lord would have us think, feel, and do. To the Lord, this life really is pretty black and white. Any good comes from God, and anything that leads away from God is from Satan. Simple. It is up to us to learn to recognize which direction each behavior and attitude lead, and chose accordingly.

How can we teach our children or friends that goodness can be discerned or detected?

How do we show someone that it creates greater happiness to believe in the Lord’s ways than the world’s philosophies?

Is my current commitment to the Lord’s way of dealing with people in harmony with His way of dealing with people?

Day 5

Read Luke 1:57-80 – Elisabeth gives birth to John (the Baptist), and Zacharias prophecies.

Record your impressions in your journal or notebook. If you read through all of today’s material before doing your journaling, the questions asked in this day’s material might give you more to write about.

Why did the Savior need to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father?

Why indeed did Jesus need to be born of both a mortal and an immortal parent? The answer is given in the manual. He needed to be able to die, just like the rest of us, but he also needed power over death in order to perform his work in mortality. So Christ’s mortality came from his mortal mother, Mary, and his ability to control life and death came from his immortal Father.

The explanation in the paragraph above is simplistic and shortened. Think about the life of Christ. Nothing is normal about his life. Sure, he ate and slept, learned the Torah and went to Synagogue on the Sabbath, just like every other Jewish boy. But everything in his life was surrounded by miracles. There was definitely nothing normal about this child. His mother was still a virgin after giving birth to him, since she had known no man. His birth was timed with that of his cousin John so that John could prepare the people for his cousin’s ministry that would start six months after his own. Jesus was so intelligent that no one could teach him anything. He was so in tune with the Spirit that by at least age twelve we know that he knew that he had a special mission to fulfill and that his work was to be directed by the Father of all spirits Himself. The rest of us have to go through Christ to importune the Father, but Jesus spoke directly with God. There is a qualitative difference between our prayers to God and his prayers to God, but that is fodder for another article.

Even Christ’s resurrection, as unique as it was, is subject to some debate. If you look through the scriptures every member of the Godhead is given credit for resurrecting Christ. In one place it says that God resurrected him, in another the Holy Ghost, and in yet another Jesus claimed to have the power to resurrect himself. The prophets favor him resurrecting himself, but does it really matter? Everything the Godhead does is in complete unity anyway, but it makes sense that as Jesus worked out the atoning sacrifice by himself and completed all the work commanded of him by our Father, that he would also complete the last act of the atonement, the resurrection, by himself as well.

My point in all this is that there was nothing normal about the life of Christ. How many of us had prophets from the beginning of time foretelling about our birth? How many of us were products of miracles or were of immortal/mortal parentage? How many of us have the ability to die when we choose and raise ourselves from the dead at will?

All of this demonstrates how unique, how special Jesus is. Yes, he came to earth to experience mortality, just like the rest of us. But his mission in mortality was larger than the missions of all the other children of God combined, for his mission in life was to provide a pathway to salvation for all of God’s children. May we never be lulled into a sense that Jesus was just another mortal or that he was just a “special” version of a mortal. He was much more than that. Jesus was divine. He was the son of God himself. And Jesus, that babe in the manger, created the universe and the planet on which we live and breath.

Do I have any sense for the greatness of Christ, the man?

What does it mean when the scriptures say he is greater than all the intelligences God ever gave bodies to?

What do you think if would be like to have a child that is more intelligent than all the people to have ever lived?

What does that say of God’s choice of who He chose to raise His Son in mortality?

Ideas for family study and home evening

Matthew 1 begins with the ancestry of Jesus and Joseph. One of the principles most latter-day saints don’t realize is the power that passes down through one’s lineage. Our Father in heaven put us into family lines. Blessings, gifts, virtues, and abilities are often passed down through family lines. Any one generation can interrupt or create these blessings that are to be passed down. Have you noticed that often families are known for their characteristics or abilities? How often have the prophets or the Savior promised someone a blessing that would be passed down through their family?

When someone forsakes their covenants the Lord promises that the sins of the fathers will be passed down to the third and fourth generation. The same is true for blessings on the heads of those who love him. If we seek out our kindred dead and learn of them and their lives, we will get a much better picture of who we are and what we are capable of, what has been taught in past generations or what “runs” in the family. Knowing our ancestry is important for our future generations.

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

New Testament Lesson 02

About the Author:

Kelly is retired and living in Rexburg, Idaho, USA. He currently writes for gospelstudy.us. You can find articles by Kelly on ldsblogs.com, ldsliving.com, and moronichannel.org as well. He has also published multiple works, including Premortal Promises, and Contributions to the Kingdom, both available on Amazon.com.

8 Comments

  1. Kathy Marker December 8, 2018 at 7:19 am - Reply

    This is wonderful! Thank you. I didn’t realize that Matthew and Luke were different in their backgtou d’s, and it gives me new insight.

    The rest of it is very well written, with great pondering questions. I haven’t looked at the new manual yet, because I didn’t think the lessons began until January.

    I will share this piece in social media, plus with my friends I study with, and in my Sunday School class.
    Thank you so much!
    I look forward to reading more of them, and will try to find what you wrote about the 1st lesson also.

    • Kelly Merrill December 8, 2018 at 9:46 am - Reply

      Thank you Kathy. I am glad you found it useful. This is so different from the old lessons that it took a long time to figure out a way to do it that made sense to me. I hope it works for others as well. You will know when you have found the first lesson, because the image is the same for all the lessons. I just change the title. Since the manual no longer numbers the lessons, I took the liberty of numbering them and making a standard background image, so all that changes each week is the number and the title of the lesson.

      You are correct that the lessons don’t start until January, but those who write things for people to study have to get them out at least three to four weeks in advance so people have time to prepare if they are teaching the material. This year I decided to focus on the manual for individuals and families rather than what the teachers use. I figure it will help more people this way.

  2. Santa Molina January 7, 2019 at 3:32 pm - Reply

    Thank you for sharing this we already studied this week lesson last night but I will share it to my family for additional insight I’ve learned from you. I will also share it to my Facebook wall so that others will be enlighten also. Thanks!

    • Kelly Merrill January 7, 2019 at 4:03 pm - Reply

      Thank you Santa. That is kind of you. As I studied the lessons for this year it occurred to me that I would try to cover everything all at once on the first day of the week. Such is my nature. Then it occurred to me that if I broke up the week’s material into at least five days of study that would give me bite-sized pieces to study, and more time to reflect on each one. That is why I have organized these lessons in this fashion. It was more a benefit to work around my own short-sighted nature than anything else. I hope you find the rest of the lessons to be as equally beneficial.

  3. Janet January 12, 2019 at 11:38 pm - Reply

    I like your input on the lessons, thank you for all of the time/effort/prayer/intelligence you put into this. Your insights are valuable to me.
    I’m doing a 5 day study and journal on each weekly New /Testament lesson, Monday through Friday. Then Saturday is study of a few conference talks (every other Saturday I will include the Relief Society lesson choice conf. talk and it will be journaled). Sunday before church is a review for the lesson at church by reading/pondering my journal notes. Haven’t yet found a small group to be a part of, but hope to at least do that once a month since I’m a widow, no family at home.
    I can’t express the increased feelings of knowledge, joy, and power I’m feeling as I study this year, even though have studied everyday for years on end.

    • Kelly Merrill January 13, 2019 at 10:43 am - Reply

      Thanks for your input Janet. I agree with your assessment. There is something about this method of study that is making a big difference. My vote for that difference is in the journaling aspect. Writing out our thoughts gives us time and ability to feel our way through our reading and thinking experience that doesn’t happen otherwise.

  4. Maria January 14, 2019 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your prayerful efforts in as you state it, basically simplifying our understanding to these lessons, or overly the gospel principles for our understanding and learning. I am a mother of 3 all under 3 and having to read over your lesson inputs it really does help with my limited time to study and to myself. I really appreciate all that you do, and look forward to more spiritual insights as we continue to learn about the New Testaments.

    • Kelly Merrill January 14, 2019 at 5:59 pm - Reply

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Thank you. I will continue to do my best to provide helpful material for your studies.

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