The idea for this article had its beginning in a talk given by Elder Neil L. Anderson, a modern-day Apostle, in April of this year. It made me think and I hope it will make you do the same. Anyway I found it interesting and this is my blog, so…
Jesus once asked the Pharisees, “What think ye of Christ?” For all of us here on Earth, whether we know it or not, our answer to this question is the single most important decision any of us will make. Whether you’re a Christian or not, whether you believe in God at all or not, and unless you’re part of some hidden indigenous tribe lost in the Amazon, you can’t escape it. There’s a quote from C.S. Lewis that I think fits perfectly into the dilemma we face concerning Jesus Christ:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. … You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
“This is life eternal” Jesus once prayed, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” That sounds like pretty serious stuff, right? Indeed it is. Because if what He said is true, and he is the literal son of God, then we had best be about the business of listening to him. We had best do what He commands us and invites us to do. He would know far better than we do what is best for us. If He is not the son of God, then he was a delusional madman. There isn’t any middle ground, as Mr. Lewis says.
This throws into a better light what He said that is not often quoted, but nevertheless true: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” You can look that up in the 10th chapter of Matthew. What does a sword do? It divides. Yes Jesus came to suffer and die for our sins, and to be resurrected. In fact I’ve written an article on this. But Jesus also came for the purpose of dividing the righteous from the wicked, and the believer from the unbeliever. The kind of devotion He expects is given in those next two verses in Matthew: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.” Now this is a very different side of Christ than we see on bumper stickers or refrigerator magnets. He delivered a message that demands you make a decision regarding it. What think ye of Christ?
Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Christian philosopher. He’s a prime example of a Renaissance Man, good at a whole bunch of things. One of the things he was evidently known for was called Pascal’s Wager. If we ask the question “Should I believe that a Christian Theistic God exists?” purely in pragmatic terms, how will we decide whether or not to? Pascal says there are only four possibilities. First: I believe God exists and live my life according to that belief and He does exist. Result: I receive an eternity of happiness. Second: I believe God exists and live my life accordingly and He does not exist. Result: I have lost very little. Third: I do not believe God exists and refuse Him, but He does exist. Result: I receive an eternity of despair. Fourth: I do not believe God exists and refuse Him, and he does not exist. Result: I gain very little. As you read this, purely on an intellectual level, which do you think is better? We’ll see that a pragmatic wager is insufficient to believe in God over the course of a life, but it’s a decent starting point and points out that still there are only two choices on which everything hangs. What think ye of Christ?
The reason this decision is of such critical importance is because our lives will be markedly different depending on how we answer it. If, one of the one hand, we decide to not believe Jesus is the Christ, we tend to follow after our own hearts and to do whatever we believe is best. We do good sometimes, we get fooled sometimes. Our attitudes and opinions tend to change and reflect the times we live in. We may marry, we may not. We tend to think we know what’s best, but are not really sure what makes us happy. We are more likely to believe that money bring happiness. We are likely if we are treated badly to treat others badly in return. If life gets bad we tend to blame others, or blame ourselves and be miserable. We are more likely to do what feels good and what gives us pleasure, because it’s easier to have immediate gratification. We tend to rationalize behavior that our parents or good friends might disapprove of, because the only consequence we fear is getting caught. In fact that is the only consequence, because nothing in this life matters anyway, it’s all gone when we die–or at least since we don’t know what happens, we’ll worry about it then.
If, on the other hand, we decide to believe that Jesus was who He said He was, we will lead a very different life. He was very clear on what believing and following Him would entail. “If a man love me, he will keep my words.” “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” He even told a story based on those who listen and do, and those who don’t, perhaps you’re familiar with it: Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it. This goes along with James’s saying “Faith without works is dead.”
What are the things that someone does if they decide they believe Jesus is the Christ? We will follow his commandments. The ten commandments are pretty famous, and certainly they would be kept as perfectly as possible. They would follow the Golden Rule, found in Matthew chapter 7: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” Also, we would not be judgmental of others, we would love God with all our heart and would love our neighbors as ourselves. We would also pay tithing, strive to be humble, merciful, a peace maker, forgiving of others, we would not lust after others, we would turn the other cheek, love our enemies and overall attempt to be as much like God as we can. We would remember the poor and “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” We would not be always seeking after money and recognition from others, because “no man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon(the world).”
Why would we do all this? Because we believe all of the good things that Jesus promises in return. The second half of a previous verse about keeping his words promises “…my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” We would believe that we have peace, as Jesus promises “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” We would believe life becomes easier, not more difficult as one learns and follows Him. “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” We believe in peace and happiness in this life, as well as strength to weather the difficulties better, and eternal happiness in the world to come. If we are confused about messages that our current society teaches us, we will compare it to teachings of Christ or His apostles and prophets and look for an answer there. We will also pray for guidance, believing we have the right to pray and be answered individually from God Himself. We believe in a God that loves us more than we can conceive, and is waiting to reveal himself to us. And there are greater blessings than this, and I can’t help but quote one of my favorites:
For thus saith the Lord–I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory. And to them will I reveal all mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom. Yea, even wonders of eternity shall they know, and things to come will I show them, even the things of many generations. And their wisdom shall be great, and their understanding reach to heaven; and before them the wisdom of the wise shall perish, and the understanding of the prudent shall come to naught. For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will–yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.
Given the importance of What Think Ye of Christ, the key problem becomes how do you know? How do you know if He was the Lord or just a nice deluded guy? We can’t totally rely on the tools that we have at hand, such as what we can see or hear. This would be like attempting to measure the temperature using a ruler. If those things only existed that we can see or hear, none of us would believe in gravity. You need the right tools! Jesus has three ways we can know. Here is one tool: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” In other words, pray and ask Him point-blank. One man who didn’t know did exactly this, saying “… and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee…” We are taught to pray to God in the name of Jesus Christ. In other words, start your prayer with “God,” “Heavenly Father,” “Father God” something like that, and end it “in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.” Say whatever you want in the middle. In fact we are commanded to pray, so if you do pray you’re killing two birds with one stone. Just realize you have to really want to know, it can’t be some casual thing. If God exists, he doesn’t consider it casual! Prayer is a form of work, but if you do it and stick to it, Jesus has promised we will get an answer. In the words of another prophet, “Even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.”
That’s one way to put Him to the test. Here’s a second tool, which is also a commandment: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” If we don’t read the teachings of Jesus and of those disciples that follow him and prophets that have lived how can you know if you believe Him or not? It’s like being asked what you think of any of Shakespeare’s plays without ever having read or seen one. You’re in a vacuum and cannot be expected to have any opinion. Start reading the scriptures, see what’s taught in there. Start with the New Testament since it’s a bit easier to follow. Read and ponder what you read until you have gained some understanding. As a member of the LDS Church, I would also highly recommend the Book of Mormon. Use your first tool and pray a bit about what you read, there’s nothing wrong with that. See what thoughts and impressions and feelings come up as you read. This is a second way you can test Jesus, to see if there’s anything there.
After stating that he was repeating God’s will he says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” Here we are given the third tool. Try it out! He has given commandments, try keeping one and see what happens in your life. Jesus has promised that if we do it, we will know. James seconded this when he said “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” Jesus was big on service. Try giving some service, see how you feel and how you act while doing it. You don’t like that one? Pick another one, and really try living it for some trial period. A week? A month? Whatever. It has to be something you don’t normally do, otherwise how can you test it?
There is a scripture which says “…in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” You have been given three different tools that can witness whether Jesus is the Christ or not. I can say that I myself have studied, and prayed, and lived the doctrine and now have answered what I think of Christ. I think Jesus is the Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the son of God. I take his side on every issue, I seek to become the kind of disciple Job was when he said “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
I give my personal belief and faith by quoting another scripture, because I can’t say it as well myself: “I say unto you that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent.”
This the day to learn and decide, because the day is coming when our time will run out. As Mormon, a prophet-historian has said, “I write unto you, that ye may know that ye must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, yea, every soul who belongs to the whole human family of Adam; and ye must stand to be judged of your works, whether they be good or evil.” I witness that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He suffered and died for our sins and rose the third day. He is resurrected. In a future day, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the Christ. At that time, our eyes will be fixed on Him, and our souls will not be wondering what we thought of Christ, but rather we will be riveted on the question, “What thinks Christ of me?” That day is coming. Now is the time to discover the answer for yourself.