SHARING THE SERIOUSNESS OF SIN

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Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Introduction

Jesus commissions all Christians to bring as many people as possible to heaven. Appointed by Christ, Christians represent Christ by being his ambassadors. A primary role of an ambassador is to deliver a message. How a person responds to the message is entirely God’s business. The Bible clearly states that only by the power of the message can a person receive saving faith.

The Truth in Love Ministry approach is to focus on delivering God’s message and let His Word win souls. As ambassadors for Christ, we take the time to learn how to deliver God’s message in a way that our audience can best understand.

Sharing God’s Word with Mormons

Christians who share the gospel with others sometimes find it easier to focus primarily on the wonderful news of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. The problem arises when we do not include the reason why.

Due to our sinful human nature, we cannot fathom or reason on our own the depth of God’s love and the purpose of Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. We cannot begin to appreciate or understand the gospel message unless we realize the urgency associated with the eternal consequences of sin.

In sharing God’s Word with Mormons, we must include a message about the seriousness of sin before the healing of the gospel. We must share that the commands of the Bible are not necessarily examples on how to live on this earth, and are definitely not a plan to follow on how to be righteous. The purpose of God’s commands is to convict us of our sin. We cannot appreciate the completed work of Christ unless we understand that we cannot contribute anything toward our righteousness before God.

“I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”  (Galatians 2:21)

Proclaiming the message of God’s Word with a Mormon begins by teaching God’s wrath over sin.

Setting Goals

Before you begin any conversation with a Mormon, Truth in Love Ministry strongly recommends that you establish goals. It is very easy to get sidetracked by discussing other topics that have nothing to do with sin or salvation. Establishing goals helps keep our focus on what is most important — namely, the work Jesus Christ already accomplished for us on the cross.

Here is an example of goals we can set to share what the Bible teaches about the consequences of sin with a Mormon:

1.   Establish a mutual understanding of the definition of sin.
2.   Help a Mormon discover what the Gospels teach on the seriousness of sin.
(Note: Most Mormons value the words of Jesus Christ over Paul’s epistles. They especially treasure the Sermon on the Mount. This will be our focal point.)
3.   Introduce the law and gospel message of John 3:16.
4.   Reveal what the Bible teaches about our predicament and the urgency associated with the consequences of sin.

 The rest of this article will provide an example on how to accomplish these goals.

Important point: The teachings of Mormonism uses terms familiar to Christianity. Without taking the time to study the sharp contrasts of key terms, a conversation with a Mormon can become very frustrating. Presenting the contrasts of definitions between the teachings of Mormonism and biblical Christianity is an important component to our strategy. To assist in your preparation, we are providing links in this article to the Dictionary of Mormonism prepared by Truth in Love Ministry.

What is sin?

Our strategy: Mormons must sense our love and respect for their sincere attempt to be religious and follow the example of Christ. When this happens, they will be far less prone to ignore or dismiss our words. We refer to this important process as building a bridge of trust before we cross over with the message of God’s Word. One of the best ways to begin a conversation with a Mormon is to ask them questions about their faith and to listen carefully.

Another way to build a bridge of trust is by exclusively using LDS resources as points of reference to begin a conversation. One excellent resource is a well-known LDS publication entitled True to the Faith. This small book gives definitions on many words associated with the Mormon Church and its teachings. The other resource is their official website lds.org.

Our conversation: We can begin a conversation with a Mormon by saying, “I wanted to learn more about the teachings of the LDS Church and how it compares to the Bible. I went to the website, lds.org, and came across an article on the Plan of Salvation.  As I understand it, sin entered into the world as a result of the Fall and mankind is now separated from God. Our purpose on earth is to overcome the effects of the Fall so we can be reconciled with Heavenly Father. I would like to ask you about sin and how to overcome its effect.”

“How would you define sin? (Listen carefully to their answer)

DefinitionsClick here to read the definition of sin from the Dictionary of Mormonism. A Mormon will typically understand sin to be knowingly choosing to do wrong or not to do right. They prefer to think of sin as an error or a mistake. Like a cross country runner who stumbles and falls, every person will make mistakes. What is stressed in Mormonism is the importance of getting up, brushing off the dirt, and continue running on the path toward the finish line.

What does the Bible say about sin?

Our strategy: By using Jesus’ Sermon the Mount, develop a mutual understanding on what the Bible teaches about sin.

Our conversation:  We can share with a Mormon, “I am interested in what Jesus teaches about sin. I specifically read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. I’m sure you are already familiar with the Sermon on the Mount, right? In fact, let’s open up your Bible and read what it says.”

[When reading verses aloud from the Bible, we highly recommend using the King James Version (KJV). Mormons are most comfortable with the KJV and are usually very uncomfortable with any other version because they will assume that it’s a version that is not translated correctly.]

We can continue, “In reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, I came across verses 21-22.

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”   (Matt. 5:21-22 KJV)

Ask your Mormon friend, “According to these verses, what defines sin?”  [Anger is the same as murder and deserving of the same judgment.}

“Let’s also read verses 27-28.”

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, “Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looked on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27-28 KJV)

Ask, “What defines sin?”  [Lust is the same as the act of adultery.]

“From what we read from the Gospels, would you agree that Jesus is teaching us that sin is not just what I choose to do or not do, but also what I think? My sinful thoughts as well as my sinful words and actions is what separates me from God. So, naturally, I’m concerned about the effects of sin.

The Consequences of Sin

Our strategy: Make a transition from the definition of sin to the eternal consequences of sin. Remember that one of our major goals in our conversation with a Mormon is to have them begin to grasp the seriousness of sin. It’s not simply a mistake or error that we can learn from, but the cause of our eternal damnation.

Our conversation:  We can continue by sharing with a Mormon, “In further reading about the Plan of Salvation, it says that as a result of sin, we are separated from God. This means that everybody will experience both physical death and spiritual death. I understand physical death in that we are all going to die someday. But what about spiritual death?

“Am I spiritually dead right now?”  (Listen carefully)

Definitions: Mormonism teaches the effect of sin is that all people are separated from God. It is up to every person to follow God’s plan of salvation. We are given the opportunity to overcome the effect of sin through our obedience and be reconciled with Heavenly Father. A Mormon will answer yes to our question. We are spiritually dead and separated from Heavenly Father. They may bring up that Jesus’ Atonement gave everybody a purpose and a plan in their life. Through our obedience, we have the opportunity to be reunited again with Heavenly Father.

Our strategy: It is okay to give them time to share about what they believe. When they are finished, we can attempt to take back control of the conversation by referring to the concept of spiritual death. Please remember that each conversation is going be very different. There are several ways we can share what God’s Word teaches about the consequences of sin. We can also be mindful of the Holy Spirit leading our conversation. Be prepared to follow His lead and go the direction He desires us to go.

Our conversation: We can share with the Mormon, “I would like to go back to the concept of spiritual death, because this seems to be a very important concept. As I understand death, once a person is dead they are dead. We really can’t do anything about it. I mean, if a dead person is lying in a coffin, they can’t do anything about their condition. When a person is dead, they are dead. Death means death. Perhaps there is a reason why God describes our condition after the fall as spiritual death. Since my eternal consequence is at stake, this is a question I would like to pursue.”

Introduce the law and gospel message of John 3:16

Our strategy:  John 3:16 contains a wonderful, succinct gospel message. Many Mormons are familiar with this verse and it’s commonly used in LDS literature. What many people don’t realize, even Christians, is that this verse also reveals the eternal consequences of sin. We will introduce 3:16 to a Mormon and go back to the Sermon on the Mount to read more about the seriousness of sin.

Our conversation: “Whenever I go to an athletic event and watch Christians hold up signs, or see a Christian billboard, it is common to see many references to John 3:16. Are you familiar with that verse? Let’s look the verse up in your Bible.”

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16 KJV)

“What does this verse mean to you?”  [Listen carefully. Remember we are not preaching to the Mormon, but discovering together with your Mormon friend what Jesus has to say about sin and its consequences.]

DictionaryClick here to read the LDS definition of Savior. A Mormon missionary once told me that he loves this verse because it gives him the reason for doing his work and a better understanding of his responsibility. Mormons believe that God sent His one and only son to be our Savior so that we can live like Him and follow His example of sacrifice. It is now up to the Mormon to do what Jesus did since He is our “measuring stick”.

Our conversation: We can continue, “In reading John 3:16, what does a person benefit from believing in Christ? (Everlasting life)  What happens if a person doesn’t believe in Christ?  (they perish)

So, can we make the following conclusions?

a)   If you believe, you will not perish.
b)   If you do not believe, you will perish.

The emphasis of this verse focuses on the eternal benefit of believing in Christ and the eternal consequences of unbelief. It seems that the use of the word “perish” means spiritual death — an eternal separation from God.

I would like to go back to the Sermon of the Mount again and see what you think. Let’s read verses 21 and 22 from Matthew chapter five:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”   (Matt. 5:21-22 KJV)

What are the consequences of somebody telling another person, “Thou fool!”?  (danger of hell fire)

A little farther along in the chapter, while Jesus is continuing His Sermon on the Mount, I found more verses with the same thought. Let’s take a look at verses 29 and 30.

“And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if they right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that they whole body should be cast into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

From reading this verses, do you get the impression that we need to take sin very seriously? [It will be important at this point to take full control of the conversation and only allow for a short answer or a slight shake of the head.]

From what we learn from the Sermon on the Mount, God takes sins very seriously. In fact, we discovered in John 3:16 that God takes sin so seriously that out of His love for us, He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, so that we may not perish from the consequences of sin.

Our strategy: We don’t want to rush, but allow our words to soak in a bit. With that in mind, we can make the transition to finding out the standards in how God will judge each person. One suggestion is the second chapter of James. This particular chapter in the book of James is a favorite of many Mormons. They will focus on verses 22 and 26 and will readily point them out to Christians to teach that we can be justified by works. In reality, when you read these verses in context, the writer is inspired by God to point to the truth that faith without works is a dead faith. Faith alone saves, but faith is never alone. Good works always follows true faith. But keep in mind, this is simply a frame of reference for the reader. Trust me, you do not want to walk into the rabbit hole of works right now.

Our conversation:  “Since this is such an important topic, I’m curious to discover the standards in how God will judge me. What is the dividing line between eternal life and spiritual death?

I’m sure you are familiar with the book of James. I found that the book of James gives us some insight to these questions. I discovered verse ten from James chapter two. Let’s look up that verse;

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  (James 2:10)

This verse is telling me that anybody who is sincerely trying to be obedient to God’s commands and only makes one mistake or error, is guilty of breaking the entire law. It seems that only one sin puts me into the precarious position of being judged unworthy of eternal life. It seems that only one sin causes death.

This verse fits with what Jesus is preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. When we go to the end of Matthew 5, Jesus is teaching all people who desire to know God and are trying their best to be considered worthy by Him. Jesus reveals to us the standard by saying,

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  (Matt. 5:48)

Notice that the important word in this verse is “be” not “become.” Is there a difference between “be” and “become”?

According to Jesus, the standard is perfection — to be perfect. According to James, only one sin makes us less than perfect. We have failed to reach the standard. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the consequences of not meeting the standard is eternal separation from God.

This brings me back to my original question. Am I spiritually dead right now?  According to the Bible, we are spiritually dead. This is our condition.

When a person is spiritually dead because of sin, they are dead. What can they do? More importantly, how can you be absolutely certain you can escape spiritual death? I want to know how I can be absolutely certain that I will escape spiritual death. [Pause and let them consider this point. This may be a good time to stop for now. This may be difficult, but refrain from sharing the gospel unless they ask. Instead, ask for another meeting. This will be a chance to share God’s solution for the consequences of sin and let God’s Word take effect.]

Conclusion

More than likely, a Mormon will not entirely agree with us. They may stubbornly point to what they can do to receive eternal life and conquer spiritual death. A works-righteousness religion will have a very difficult time grasping any concept outside of what they can do to earn God’s reward. We will not allow ourselves to be frustrated, or perhaps blame ourselves, but place our entire confidence in the fact that we successfully shared the truth of God’s Word. We pointed them to the Bible. We exposed them to what God’s Word teaches about the seriousness of sin and its consequences. Let God’s Word speak for itself. Pray for the soul of your Mormon friend.

Note: This is just one of several examples of how we can use God’s Word to teach about the seriousness of sin with a Mormon.

Check back regularly for more articles on how to share with a Mormon on the seriousness of sin. Another option is to visit pleaseopenthedoor.com. This initiative by Truth in Love Ministry focuses on how to share God’s Word with Mormon missionaries. By subscribing to the website, you will gain access to other articles that may be helpful in your witnessing.