The “influence of a broken heart”

I have a client let’s call him Mark, who a deep crush on his seventh grade classmate, lets call her Nina.  Mark had a crush on Nina in sixth grade. In seventh, Nina left his friend group and Mark started drinking beer every day.  Although the two went different paths in life the human connection was real. Twenty years later Mark found Nina on facebook and chatted her up. Impressed by the attention, and nostalgic for Mark’s 12-year-old style of romance, Nina agreed to meet him at a restaurant. Mark seemed his same sweet self, if dim-witted, self. He told her of his rambling life of drugs and petty crime, his being in and out of jail, his desire to make a new life for himself. Nina  refused his invitation to be his girlfriend, but she agreed to give him a job selling purses and accessories at trade shows.

Mark worked for Nina three or four times, but she fired him because he was an irresponsible worker. Mark became angry, later that day he came to her house, punched her and took her car.  During the year he spent in jail he wrote her every week. The letters became more  insistent that she respond, he threatened to send people to hurt her family. He called her as much as he could, dialing her ten or twenty times in a stretch. She was afraid to be at her home because of the harassment.

When he was released from jail he was fitted with a GPS device.  He went to Nina’s house, waited for her to arrive with her son, and pushed her inside. Her son went to the backroom and called the police. Mark savagely beat Nina until the woman next door came and in and told him to stop. The neighbor found him standing over her her, holding a tire iron. He fled when she told him to leave. Clumps of her hair were found in various places in the room.

Nina’s life was never the same.  She was still plagued with health problems due to the internal injuries from the attack, which remained after three surgeries. She lost her business as crippling anxiety kept her from selling in public as she used to.  At the time of Mark’s trial, she was struggling to make ends meet, having been denied disability benefits.

After the trial, Mark wrote the judge in an effort to receive leniency in sentencing. He explained:

I admit my wrongs and I am aware of what caused me to act in such a inhumane manner, I understand I am not the best of people, but inside lives a person who does have good intentions but unfortunately I struggle of substance abuse & misfortune – I do believe I acted under the influence of a broken heart.

Undoubtedly Mark was right.   Human behavior is always worse under the influence of a broken heart.  After spending his teenage years drunk or stoned every day, after his criminal record made him unemployable, I am sure he was heartbroken to realize that in the state he was in, he would never be valued by anybody. If Mark was more introspective he might have turned his rage and violence against himself.  Instead, his pride, combined with his heartbreak  — an unceasing disappointment in his own condition–  led to a sustained rage against the woman with whom he was so disappointed.  Having nothing but his pride to lose, he turned to violence for satisfaction. It is an all-too-familiar story.  The “influence of a broken heart” plays out in almost all violence and passion, collective and individual.

Mark is the sort of man that David referred to as a miscarriage in the 58th Psalm — among those who “go astray as soon as they are born”.Whatever that thing we call Mark is — a soul, a person, an animal, a monster, a child of God — it is not going to be worthy of our love and forgiveness.  Reason and our law of right and wrong have made Mark forever guilty of bringing his brand of heartbreak on this woman and ruining her life.  His crime cannot unhappen, and his disappointment will remain as long as he has reason and memory.  Like the vindictive king, many of the people of California would have been happy if he had been aborted before birth, and at the very least, condemned to prison for as long as possible. What sort of salvation from himself or his community can he find under these circumstances?

No matter what church you hail from, is there something that your religion can point to that will free him the expectations he had of himself, the expectations that his community had of him? Is there some reprieve from the ultimate source of these expectations?

A scientific materialist might say that nature offers no reprieve for Mark. They might agree with King David that there is no hope for such people, that they cannot be saved, and are better off dissolved to nothing, imprisoned, condemned or aborted.

The LDS might tell Mark that he can find joy now through first abandoning his evil mind and adopting the right practice. If he does, the Spirit will be there to help him do that if he really wants to be good. If he is worthy, he will be blessed and exalted, if not he will find himself loved by God after he suffers for his sins.

To the LDS, I would ask, is there something that offers joy and love to the worthy and unworthy alike?  What words will point Mark to that joy?

 

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50 thoughts on “The “influence of a broken heart”

  1. From a clinical perspective, and, more specifically, from a spiritual perspective: I see “Mark” behaving in an irrational and criminal manner. This is based on the descriptive prose provided here. The one component that is missing here is regarding treatment for substance use disorder and/or mental health treatment.

    It appears “Mark” had some very strong irrational beliefs. Albert Ellis refers to three “musts” that are the root of our irrational thought process. Carl Jung referred to a patient of his as “utterly hopeless” unless he had a real spiritual awakening of his condition.

    The scenario presented is one of tragedy for both people, and all others affected. The issue is whether or not he truly is ready to admit complete defeat and come to realize he needs something more powerful than his own will and desire and that of his substance use and mental health/cognition.

  2. “No matter what church you hail from, is there something that your religion can point to that will free him the expectations he had of himself, the expectations that his community had of him? Is there some reprieve from the ultimate source of these expectations?”

    Accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who provides unlimited forgiveness of sins.

  3. Gundek, slowcowboy and Tim have the answer. May Mark find forgiveness and healing in the Lord Jesus, who paid an awful penalty for Mark’s awful sin on the cross. May Nina find power to forgive Mark and also physical healing for her own body. Jesus’ death provided power for both!

  4. I don’t think you beat some one with a tire iron and pull out their hair because you have a broken heart. That’s what you do when you are angry. In this case, a long time anger. Regardless, it’s not just Nina in trouble. Mark could easily be a danger to other people.

    If Mark truly wants to change, he would need to be honest with himself as to why he did what he did. Then call upon God, not for forgiveness, but to help him repent from the way he thinks and behaves. The trouble is, Mark was disgustedly selfish. He didn’t get what he wanted from some one so the answer was to beat her to death. Praying for personal forgiveness is just another act of selfishness, if there has been no effort to change behavior. Recognition of being self centered is the first step. He needs to make an big effort, with the Lord’s help, to “lose himself”. In doing so he will “find himself”, the self that all of us wants to come forth.

  5. Ray, according to my understanding of the gospel, Mark would first have to obtain forgiveness for all his sins by turning his life over to Christ, by making Christ his Lord. Then and only then would he have access to God, to Christ, and to the Holy Spirit. Such access would give him power to change, to push out the selfishness by replacing it with Christ’s unselfishness. Do you agree with that?

    You said, “I don’t think you beat some one with a tire iron and pull out their hair because you have a broken heart.” That thought crossed my mind as well. I imagine that minimizing the sin would lead only to minimal change. That seems to be your main point, eh?

    Have a nice day, Ray.

  6. Hi Cal, been a while.

    Yes, that is my point. I think when we accept Christ, there are degrees of acceptance. Some people take it seriously, some take it casually and every place in between depending on what led them to that point in their life and their maturity level. Probably explains why so many people who have accepted Christ or grew up in the faith can fall away so easily.

    Back to the subject, Mark had a murderous heart. If the neighbor had not shown up, she would have been dead. Mark knew full well bashing some one with a tire iron will kill them. My observations in life tell me that the harder someone’s heart is the harder it is to have faith on a level that can redeem them. Now, that is not to say, it can’t happen.

    The Lord has more power to help us repent and save us than we have power to sin.

    However, we can only access the Lord’s power by truly humbling ourselves, recognizing we need the Lord and asking him to help us in the deepest of humility and then following through.

    Mark, who is using the excuse of a broken heart which caused him to become an attempted murderer is outrageous! Mark, is no where near humble and if regretful only because he got caught. It would take an enormous amount of recognition of his own sins and humbling and prayer to get Mark to a place where his faith could grow to allow the Lord to work a personal miracle in his life.

  7. Mark is in the humblest of circumstances. With No hope for redemption. A broken heart is a powerful motivator in those circumstances. A drowning man will naturally take people down with him.

  8. Cal, glad to know you are still around this site!

    >>>How do you go about truly humbling yourself without access to the Lord?

    I believe the Lord leads us when we don’t know it. Circumstances or another person or even an out reach can spark a desire for us to question how we think and behave and start the process of accepting the Lord completely.

  9. Just so I understand you correctly, with the exception of setting up favorable external circumstances or personal encounters God does not directly affect the heart of the sinner towards faith and repentance?

    Or to put it another way, the affects of the atonement are not given to the sinner until they come to a recognition and repentanceof their sin on their own?

  10. Jesus said he is always “knocking at the door” but he won’t come into your life or apply his atonement unless you accept him.

    I take it that “knocking at the door” are the circumstances he creates or people he sends to touch us to lead us to that effort. Many people ignore this knocking. And at judgment many people will say ‘but I didn’t know about you and the Lord is going to say but I did this and I did that and I sent him, them and her. But you ignored what you were feeling in your heart from pursuing it because you loved sin more than me’.

    That is clearly the case with Mark in the example. He is ignoring and looking for excuses to cover up what he did.

    The Lord helps us but we choose. He will not force us.

    >>>the affects of the atonement are not given to the sinner until they come to a recognition and repentanceof their sin on their own?

    The Lord will “knock at the door”. But we must open it. So, correct, the atonement has no effect until we accept and repent. However, the Lord can help us repent and will do so, if we ask him diligently.
    I used to believe if you accept Christ, you are cleansed automatically. But after observing many people who have done this and then after a while go back to their old ways, I’ve come to believe something different. That in some cases where a person has great faith, they are cleansed immediately and they are fully repented immediately and endure to the end, but in most cases, new believer’s faith is low, and it needs time to grow, like the mustard or redwood seed. With that growth the repentance process comes along to the point the atonement has full effect. This means I do not accept once saved always saved. I’ve seen too many people accept Christ then go on to live a life without God, without morality or honesty but filled with sinful behavior. No just or loving God is going to be okay with that. These people have no faith and therefore no effective atonement and no paradise in the spirit world after they die.

  11. In my own life, I was a die hard atheist. But along the way, a few things happened. One person I really respected was mockingly questioned about deity, in a room full of atheists. He stood firm and claimed he believed in God. This was a nice man and very intelligent and I could tell he was nervous. But his words, that statement that day, put a serious crack in my atheist armor. I made a mental note of the experience at the time and it has stayed with me always. This, I credit to the Lord as “knocking on my door”. It started the process of humbling me, that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. But there was no direct spiritual experience because I didn’t have faith in God at the time. But looking back, I clearly see the Lord’s hand in it.

  12. In American there seems to be two competing themes when looking at the lives of the downfallen. First there is the Franklin school of thought that “God helps those who help themselves.” Then there is the Bradford school that “There but for the grace of God, go [I].” From my observations these themes can be found in just about every denomination regardless to the theological tradition.

    I think you might lean a little more to the Franklin school than I’m comfortable with.

  13. Ray said,

    “Cal, glad to know you are still around this site!

    >>>How do you go about truly humbling yourself without access to the Lord?

    I believe the Lord leads us when we don’t know it. Circumstances or another person or even an out reach can spark a desire for us to question how we think and behave and start the process of accepting the Lord completely.”

    Ray, sorry to take two days to get back to you. I assumed the conversation was over.

    Thanks for being glad I’m around. I agree with you that the Lord draws unbelievers toward himself without them knowing it. I think we believers can be encouraged by that. We may be influencing unbelievers without knowing it. If we concentrate on loving people, as the Lord shows us how, and as he empowers us to, we’ll affect everyone around us and most of the time not know it. I wish I could go back to those who influenced me before I became a Christian and thank them—I bet I’ll get a chance to in heaven. I’m sure it looked to them at the time that they were having no influence on me.

  14. Ray, so I read your comment as saying that we can only Judge a person’s faith by looking outward. This is to say, I see you as saying that we are only confident of a person’s standing before God by their outward actions and not their heart.

    Forgive me if I them say this is pharisitic.

    While I sympathize with the notion that people do fall, there is also a reason Jesus spent time with the ‘sinners’ of his day. There’s also a reason Jesus called out the group that was outwardly pure.

    I also see in your post a neutering of God, as if God is dependent on us to force his will. For example, so you really not see your awakening as a direct spiritual experience even though you proactive God pointing you in a particular direction? That seems pretty direct to me and pretty spiritual.

    You can define your experiences as you wish, of course…

  15. Excellent post Cal! I can relate to all of it.

    >>>I wish I could go back to those who influenced me before I became a Christian and thank them

    I have had this thought many times.

  16. We should all be thankful for when God works when we don’t know it. We should strive to be in tune with the Spirit so we better understand when he does. I am thankful that he continues to work around me, and for me, when I let him down. The amazing thing is that he does, and always will.

  17. Cowboy,
    Only WE can judge by outside actions but God can judge by more than that. I am aware some believers fall into sin and even agnosticism but there is still that part of them that says ‘this is wrong’ or ‘I don’t truly feel good about this or that’. Some people will say, this is God talking to them and some people will say this is their upbringing talking or their prior beliefs trying to make a come back or their conscience. It is probably all of those explanations to one degree or another depending of the individual. But some people go so far down the road of sin, they never recover: their conscience is gone, their upbringing beliefs are destroyed and God is not present.

    Now, when I look back at that experience I referenced where a serious crack had been made in my atheistic armor, I am sure God had his hand in it. But it was not a direct spiritual experience. The experience didn’t make me believe in God or change my ways or anything that would give solid evidence that God was working directly in my life. But later, after I had a conversion experience, I could see God’s hand with many experiences and how He led me down the path which eventually brought me into his fold. And as Cal pointed out, this probably happens with everyone but we must accept him.

    As far as God goes he has limitations. For instant, God can not lie, so the NT tells us. But God also does not force us to believe. That is why Jesus said he’s always at the door knocking. But only we can open the door to let him in.

  18. Of course God cannot contradict himself. That’s a tired argument. What I am trying to say, though, is that I believe God is always in 100% control. You don’t seem to think so. He can intervene as blatantly as he wants, or step back, but he’s always there and in control. My point about you describing your experience as indirect gets to that point. It was a direct action from God, I believe. God wants you to believe, and he was pulling you near him. It was not something indirect. Even God’s ambassadors, and those who influence us who don’t know it, are moved by God. There is nothing indirect about it.

  19. Gundek– I don’t want to hijack the discussion any more than it has been but I just finished reading NT Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus. I found it very interesting, and in the end, solid. There are some interesting points in it, but I was wondering if you have read it and your thoughts on it.

    I would encourage everyone to read it, as it does offer some challenging views of Jesus, such as, for example, that Jesus did not “know” he was God in a tangible way, like we know our occupation. I do think it should be read by Christians and Mormons alike…

  20. >>>Of course God cannot contradict himself. That’s a tired argument.

    I don’t think anything in the New Testament is old and tired.

    >>>Even God’s ambassadors, and those who influence us who don’t know it, are moved by God. There is nothing indirect about it.

    And that’s what I’ve been saying. Just from my point of view, I didn’t feel the Spirit in any way I am familiar with. I never denied God had a hand in it, in fact, I said just the opposite several times.

    >>>is that I believe God is always in 100% control. You don’t seem to think so.

    Now, this is an interesting belief. If you don’t mind maybe you can explain this concept further.

    First, is there any verse in the New Testament which implies God will supersede man’s freedom of choice?
    Second, if God is “in control” of men’s freedom of choice, then why will the vast majority of mankind not be going to heaven, since the vast majority of people who have lived on the earth have never heard of Jesus? Do you think God is controlling so many people to end up in eternal hell?

    See, I believe God “influences” people’s decisions, as I explained in my personal life, but it’s people’s choice to follow or not. You seem to think God “controls” everyone. Or at least, that is how it is coming across.

    These are sincere questions and I’d like to know what led you to believe the issue of God’s “control” of every one’s choices. Or am I misunderstanding what your claims are about God’s control?

  21. Gundek, I was just wondering. Its interesting and informative, and since you seem to be quite the Biblical scholar, I thought you might have and I wondered what your thoughts were on it.

    Ray, the minute we start thinking we are in control we assume we have more power than God does. While God may give us some freedom, and I think he does, he can take that away at any moments notice. He is God; we are not. While God does give us the freedom, it is something he gives us and can take away. In other words, we cannot resist him if he so desires a certain thing from us. To demonstrate, I point you to Romans 9:18, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.” Pharoah also had his heart hardened, as did the Egyptians, Canaanites, and others. Just the same, it is a curious thought to wonder if Paul could have resisted God in his life, or what would have happened if she decided not to do what she did. She was told, that God chose her for this moment, if she didn’t follow through, someone else would have been given the opportunity. She took it, as she was chose to do it. Its also telling that Jesus knew who would betray him. I could go on about examples.

    Now, you ask some good questions, that I don’t have precise answers for. We are told God wants all of us to be saved, so why would he choose to harden someone as stated in Romans 9? I don’t know, but God knows what he is doing. I am not big enough to question it, and to me, to us, much of what he does is a mystery. I won’t deny that.

    But Paul does give us an answer. I suppose it depends on w hat you do with it. But just after vs. 18, in Romans 9, Paul writes this:

     You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

    This is one of saying that God does what he does always to show his glory. And who are we to question him?

    Another point to consider is that we are never told there will be a universal salvation. In fact, we are told only a few will reach heaven. Therefore, that many fall is hardly surprising. At the end, all will see God’s power, but that does not mean they will see it in their lifetimes.

    As I said, it is a mystery, but who am I to second guess God?

    Returning this discussion to a) your post about the indirect spiritual movement of God and b) this post by Jared and the topic of forgiveness, I’ll say that God is in control, and yes, his hand is in everything, even the fellow described in this post. Sometimes we don’t get why things happen, but God does. God also forgives infinitely to those who ask for it, including Mark. And the forgiveness is not tied to anything. There are not steps in receiving full forgiveness. And when we are forgiven, we are made whole, complete, clean. That’s what forgiveness is. It does not mean we necessarily forget, as God knows everything, but it means saying, something akin to “You do did that to me, and it was horrible, but so what?” Why does God do this? Because loves us. Because God’s glory is shown when people turn their lives around.

    Who are we to question that? Are we concerned more about our glory, or God’s? What are we telling God when we get ticked that someone like Mark is given full access to everything we already have? Are we suggesting that we know who deserves what? On what basis do we dare go there?

    So, I suppose there is more an answer than that it is all a mystery. The answer is what Paul wrote in Romans: God does what he does to show his glory, and while we don’t always understand how that plays out, we are to trust in God’s wisdom apart from our own. He’s smarter than us, don’t you think?

  22. Okay Cowboy. Let me summarize. You are saying people have free will to make their own choices between choosing right and wrong but at anytime God can and does turn certain people into people who are unable to choose wrong and just do God’s will or turn them into people who won’t do God’s will.

    Well, I agree with one point God certainly has power to do anything even that but I think it’s been made clear all through the Bible that God will not forcibly override our freedom of choice.
    The verses in Romans 9 is certainly interesting. Paul is, of course, one of the more difficult authors to understand. But when making one point, as was done here, only one aspect of why God does things is mentioned (show his glory). That, is very small in consideration to the rest of the Bible where God does what he does because he loves us, all of us, including the bad vessels.
    Anyway, I do not see Romans 9 saying God overrides our free will. But irregardless, God having given us complete freedom to choose whether we follow him or not is by no means saying we are greater than God. I do not understand how you come to that conclusion.

    On forgiveness, I think there are steps that are taken whether we recognize them as such or not. First, I don’t know anyone who has been forgiven of their sins and unless they asked for forgiveness. In order to ask for forgiveness, you must recognize that what you have done is wrong and offensive, not just to people but to God himself. Then, you must become humble to ask for that forgiveness. And as Romans 9 states, the Lord will have mercy on who he wants. So forgiveness is not automatic just because one says a prayer. Additionally, the NT is replete with repenting of one’s sins, which one needs to do to become humble. I think if you look any serious Christian’s life you’ll see all of these things are involved.

    Mark, standing over Nina with a tire iron after he just finished pounding her with it was in no personal state to ask God for forgiveness and get it. He would have to go through the things I described to become remotely worthy of God to answer his prayers.

  23. Ray,

    I have read Mormons describe God’s direct spiritual intervention bringing a person to repentance as the beginning of the atonement in that person’s life. Mormon academic Terryl Givens describes the light of Christ as, “a divine influence or power that pervades the universe, and is manifest at the personal level as conscience, or a universal moral faculty.” Mormon Professor Adam Miller claims that “without waiting for us to make the first move, God’s grace is already working to gather and seal the whole human family as join-heirs with Christ.”

    Jared used to write quite frequently about the Mormon beliefs in the light of Christ on this blog.

    As I read them Givens and Miller are proposing a much more active and spiritual role for God in the conversion of a sinner that you are. From my Protestant perspective Givens and Miller seem to be influenced buy passages like the parable of the lost sheep when it comes to the unbeliever, where you prefer the Revelation to the Church in Laodicea.

    It seems that a God who actively seeks the lost, provides a divine influence or power to the personal conscience, and does not wait for us to make the first move are the exact words of joy that a Mormon would offer to a person in Mark’s situation.

    Am I misunderstanding these writers that Mormonism believes that God takes some form of imitative in bringing about repentance? Do you think Givens’ and Miller’s position somehow violates free will?

  24. Hi Gundek,
    I do believe God takes the first step and is pro-active in bringing us to salvation. I don’t know what I wrote to makes you think other wise. I believe I wrote repeatedly that Jesus is always knocking at our door meaning he is trying to reach us one way or another. I explained in my case, that is exactly what happened. However, I didn’t have enough faith in the early stages of my conversion to recognize this was God in action. And I maintain that most people don’t recognize it either and many never will recognize it in their lifetimes. And that is why the vast majority of mankind will not enter the highest heaven where the Lord resides.

    I am sure that Mark had these experiences of the Lord reaching out to him for many years, just like everyone else. But he ignored them and continued to ignore them and completely ignored them while he was trying to beat Nina to death. Thank the Lord for the unexpected arrival of the neighbor.
    I have no sympathy for Mark because he is still trying to use the excuse of a broken heart for what is obviously extreme anger in his attempted revenge murder of Nina. When Mark admits that he was in a constant rage because he didn’t get the relationship from Nina he wanted and that was wrong and he feels guilty for it, then I will know he is serious about making his life right with himself, society and maybe God.

    >>>Am I misunderstanding these writers that Mormonism believes that God takes some form of imitative in bringing about repentance?

    You are not misunderstanding. I think you might misunderstand that us mortals need to respond to these non-obvious invitations of Christ.

    >>>Do you think Givens’ and Miller’s position somehow violates free will?

    >>>”“without waiting for us to make the first move, God’s grace is already working to gather and seal the whole human family as join-heirs with Christ.”

    God is working for the purpose of sealing the whole human family as joint-heirs with Christ does NOT mean the whole human family will be joint heirs with Christ. Christ is always knocking at the door waiting for us to open. Rev 3:20 is as clear as day. His words, not mine. Only then is it possible to be a joint-heir with Christ.

  25. Ray,

    I am curious what you would do if you were to die simultaneously with someone like Mark and saw him in heaven after he said the prayer you say is not enough, and you knew hed had prayed it.

    Would you be joyous or ticked off? Would you feel he did not deserve it?

  26. I don’t have any problem with the idea that we sinners must respond to Christ. Principally nothing could be more clear in the New Testament. Christ came to save sinners (Mat 9:13; 1Tim 1:15,16) and we sinners must believe that to be saved (John 3:36; 6:40; 11:25f).

    What I don’t understand is how you can have no sympathy for Mark even if he only has lame excuses. Although according to Ezekiel Mark may not be as far off as you think. The question then becomes how does Mark go about replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh?

    I think you may be taking the metaphor of opening a door (Rev 3:20, 21; Luke 12:36) to far if we are to expect Mark or any sinner to make their life right with themselves and society without first claiming, through a Spirit given faith, the hope that is within Christ.

    The same is true for Nina, savagely attacked her personal and material security were unjustly robbed from her. Without Christ this monstrous crime can become the seed of hate and misery that robs her of any peace in life.

    When Jared asks, “is there something that offers joy and love to the worthy [Nina] and unworthy [Mark] alike? What words will point Mark to that joy?“ My understanding of the New Testament is that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

    That is the paradox of the Gospel, I think, the most worthy person on Earth today needs the person and work of Christ as much as Mark. The trick is the most worthy person on Earth knows, through faith, that they need the person and work of Christ. In fact the most worthy person on Earth knows without the person and work of Christ they could very well be sitting in the same position as Mark, in need of a new heart.

  27. Hey Cowboy,

    >>>I am curious what you would do if you were to die simultaneously with someone like Mark and saw him in heaven after he said the prayer you say is not enough, and you knew hed had prayed it.

    >>>Would you be joyous or ticked off? Would you feel he did not deserve it?

    As hard as it is for you to believe, I am an extremely forgiving and sympathetic person.

    To answer your hypothetical question, I would not be angry or ticked off. I know the Lord is a righteous judge and if what you described happen, then I believe the Lord knows things about Mark which are not apparent to us. For instance, Mark may be seriously mentally ill. I’ve avoided that topic thus far because I am assuming Mark is fully accountable like the rest of us here.

    But remember, the Lord “can not lie”. The totality of the NT clearly implies, a simple prayer, is not the end of salvation but the beginning of it. Mark, will be judged according to his works like the NT makes abundantly clear. If Mark, right after committing such a grievous sin and in some flash of guilt remembered what some preacher taught and said the prayer, then dropped dead that would be the first step in a long repentance because on the other side change is much harder than here in mortality.

  28. Gundek,
    I primarily agree with everything you said.

    >>>What I don’t understand is how you can have no sympathy for Mark even if he only has lame excuses.

    >>>I think you may be taking the metaphor of opening a door (Rev 3:20, 21; Luke 12:36) to far if we are to expect Mark or any sinner to make their life right with themselves and society without first claiming, through a Spirit given faith, the hope that is within Christ.

    Mark needs to be going down the path of the Lord to some degree. I never claimed he should be completely perfect Christian but I did say there needs to be some evidence of repentance. Sorrow, for instance, guilt for the reason it was wrong not because society is going to deal with him now.

    I feel sorrow for Mark because he has gone so far down the wrong path that normal thought processes are screwed up. Forcible restraint and time will help him see he did the wrong thing. At that time perhaps he will be receptive to going down a real Christian path and maybe he will see his incarceration as the Lord bringing him back to normal thinking so he can accept living by the laws of a much higher being: God.

    As for Nina, she is in great danger of developing a heart of stone, which is the wrong path too. Tragically, great sins lead people into further sins.

    Both Mark and Nina need to call upon the Lord for personal help and follow a Christian path.

    My words of hope to both of them is the Lord will help them if they ask and if they are patient and aware they will each already see the Lord is helping them. The neighbor coming is a blessing for both of them. For Mark it kept him from becoming a murderer. And for Nina it kept her from being a murder victim. When they recognize the hand of the Lord was right there, that should give them pause to realize despite this terrible situation, the Lord sent some one to intervene. They both should be grateful.

  29. >>> let me add another detail: “Mark” is in heaven in a completely equal position as you.

    Same answer Cowboy.

    I won’t be surprised if there are Christians such as yourself that may end up at a higher level than me. Part of judgment is what we truly believed in our hearts (which is one form of ‘works’). There are many Christians who really do believe on a mental level but are out there committing adultery which indicates their heart is not as good as we think. (FYI, I’m not one of them)

    So, what ever the Lord does for whatever reasons he does them, I’ll be fine with it. I have faith that he will make things right for everyone. No one will be overlooked.

    The NT tells us there will be those who are angry and bitter for the judgment they receive. I have come to a conclusion those will be the people who have not been honest with themselves or are demented about how good they are or how much the Lord is going to ‘let go’ all their unrepentant sins at the first judgment. I said a sinful life distorts how one thinks. Mark is but one example. Many of the Pharisees at the time of Christ suffered the same delusion only for different sinful reasons.

    I think of the words of Jesus when he said, ‘at judgment there will be those who have come to the Lord reminding the Lord of the miracles and great deeds they worked in his name’. And the Lord will say, “depart from me, ye that work iniquity, I never knew you”. Workers of iniquity or sin will be rejected by the Lord.

    I think every Christian, LDS especially, should pay strict attention to these words. It is a warning that we can do great things in the Lord’s name and still not be in the Father’s House at the end. I am far more concerned of that, than some one like Mark who was an extremely wicked person being given exaltation.

  30. Ray. Consider this prayer:

    “Dear Father, I come to you in need of a savior. I am a sinner who cannot reconcile my sins without your grace. Only your righteousness can set me free and your righteousness was born on earth when you came and offered your son Jesus Christ, who died on a cross bearing the sin of mankind, including my own. With his death he took the sins upon himself but his death and resurrection three days later provided all who believe in him final victory over death. I believe in him, and ask your mercy and grace. Be with with me as I seek to grow closer to you. Give me your spirit so I can know you deeply and help me live my life pleasing to you and not the world. I need you, father, and I ask you into my life. Amen.”

    This prayer is one I just typed as an example of the type you first said is not enough then later said can propel someone beyond yourself in the Mormon afterlife. It’s curious that you say it is not enough and then say it is, and that God’s decisions are always right if some one just says the prayer and advances filurther along the exaltation trail just by saying it.

    It makes me wonder why one would ever need something more. Faith in Christ is enough, and you seem to agree, at least on the surface. I suspect you think, though, that there is more. But maybe you really don’t, but if so, why do you need the Mormon church and it’s belief system? If the prayer above can advance you pretty far within Mormonism, why do you need anything else? What’s the point?

  31. The prayer you quoted is one where the person has a great deal of knowledge and humility about the Gospel. Just saying such a prayer without the understanding behind it is pretty meaningless. Most people who ‘go forward’ at some meeting and are removed to a private room to repeat the words of such a prayer are usually not on that level of spiritual understanding. They are far less than that. But mental understanding is one thing. Sadly, many atheists have a better understanding about the Gospel than many Christians. But they have zero spiritual understanding.
    And then there is every one in-between these two. So, if I sound contradictory, it is depending on the person and situation. God will be a fair judge.
    Now, I ask you a question, if someone says such a prayer as you provided, would they not be very humble?

  32. Ray, what is complicated about the prayer? It can take many forms, even as simple a form as “Jesus, Come into my life.”

    Additionally, you are quite presumptuous about the person praying. After all, how do you know their level of understanding or the state of their heart?

    Don’t forget, also, that the message presented in these prayers is the Christian message. Its not hard. Remember, too, Jesus’s message about coming to him as a child; we are not expected to know everything. We are to soak in Jesus as children soak in a loved uncle and with the same, trusting fervor.

    You ask about humblesness. And yes! Those saying these prayers should be humble. That’s a given, and that’s the point. Who are we to say who is humble? Why must we demand evidence of their humbleness if we are not the judge? And that is what I pointed out to you early in this thread. Outward motions, expecting more, of a person is not our job. Doing more to prove our faith also proves nothing more to God: we do it to prove to others our faith rather prove it to God, who knows everything already.

    So, Mark can be saved immediately, just as saved as the mature believer. Nothing more is needed besides accepting Christ into our lives. The prayer simply puts words to the accepting of Christ in our lives. The words themselves are not magic- what matters is the opening of our heart to Christ. If Mark has done that, he is saved.

    Now, just because Mark may have accepted Christ does not mean he will never sin again, nor does it clear him of the earthly consequences awaiting him for his actions towards Nina.

    But this discussion of Mark could be about any of us. Accepting Christ is all we need, though for most there will be a process towards maturity, and the earthly consequences are still there for our sins. But we do become new creatures, and all Jesus wants is our heart. And we give him our heart by opening it up, which is what the prayer represents.

  33. I think we are saying (seeing) the same thing from two different angles of view. I emphasize the things I see from one angle and you emphasize things you see from another angle.

    >>>what is complicated about the prayer?

    The prayer you posted involves a fairly significant understanding of the Gospel which most new believers are not familiar with. When I accepted Christ I certainly couldn’t have said a prayer on that level. But for ‘seasoned’ believers like you and I that would be fairly easy.

    >>>“Jesus, Come into my life.”

    That is the most elemental step. And if a person died immediately after sincerely offering that prayer I believe they would gain the highest place as the mature believer will. But, if he doesn’t die immediately, then they go through a growth period in which they demonstrate to themselves and God that they will follow. The NT continually says, “repent and be baptized” among other things and “endure to the end”.

    Now, if the new believers, who said the prayer, don’t follow through, then they become like the people Christ taught in the parable of the sower. They are the seeds which sprout up in bad or rocky soil and die before they can grow to maturity. And those people, who like the seeds, have died spiritually, will not be saved when they die.

    >>>Who are we to say who is humble? Why must we demand evidence of their humbleness if we are not the judge?

    The Lord knows what is in someone heart. I don’t need to know.

    In the case of Mark, he was pounding Nina with a tire iron. Have you ever held a tire iron? Just one blow can inflict serious bodily damage and pain and permanently alter some one’s life if they survive. Now, I already said, I feel for Mark. That he became so sinful he confuses love with a wicked act of violence. My best advice to Mark is to get real with himself. Admit what he did for the wicked selfish reasons he did it. Once he does that and starts to change we will all be able to see his humility. It will be obvious. I don’t require him to be humble, the Lord does.

  34. Ray, it’s not as simple as describing things from a different angle, our positions.

    This morning at church we sang Amazing Grace. Did you know the author was heavily involved in the slave trade and openly mocked believers? And Mark hit someone with an iron. And you’ve glanced twice at a woman. You’ve been angry unnecessarily. You’ve manipulated facts to your benefit. So have I and so have all of us. And John Newton recognized the power of Jesus’s grace and it’s power to transform. That Mark did something so violent is no different from you glancing at a lady let alone gathering up people and sailing the across oceans in horrendous conditions to sell their freedoms away to the highest bidder.

    Talk of viewing salvation messages as different as ours is not describing two sides of the same coin. Not only have you inferred Mark’s sin is worse but you have avoided talking about what needs to be done to prove oneself worthy. You talked about someone like Mark dying just after conversion being gifted Grace and maybe an advanced position in the afterlife, but you mentioned that they must prove themselves faithful if they live on. See, you’ve not discussed precisely how they do that. One wonders if being a good person and serving the poor would be enough to reach exaltation, as these things clearly involve a humbleness and dedication to serve, and if they accepted Christ then one can safely assume they do these for Christ.

    Is that correct, that doing good things enough to reach exaltation in Mormonism? Or is something else needed? If so, what? However, if doing good alone can get you exalted, what is the point of Mormonism?

    If doing good alone gets you there, and everything is predicated on the moment you accept Jesus into your life, why is anything else needed? You’ve talked around this, inferring something else is needed. Please share what else is needed and in a way that is more specific than mere generalities.

  35. Hey Cowboy, I do like talking with you because it does cause one to think about different situations and our role in God’s plan.

    >>> Did you know the author was heavily involved in the slave trade and openly mocked believers?

    I did not know that, so I looked him up and found his life to be very interesting.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amazing_Grace

    >>>And John Newton recognized the power of Jesus’s grace and it’s power to transform.

    Grace is one aspect of God’s power and can help us transform. However, in Newton’s case, two near death experiences woke him up to his mortal existence. Those experiences are the things I’ve talked about that Christ is always knocking at our door. In my case, it was the man I respected who stood up to the group of atheists that put a crack in my unbelieving armor. And as the article shows, for many years Newton was fine with the slave trade after he started believing and changing his life and eventually he went against slavery or so the article says. That is spiritual growth. That is the maturing we’ve been talking about. Now, I believe he will be saved at judgment based on this. But my point also has been, if later on, he went back to his worldly ways and remained in his sins, then he would have been like the parable of the sower implies and not been saved.

    I think our main difference is you believe ‘once saved always saved’. I believe once ‘saved’ then we will be saved if we don’t go back to worshiping Satan by living a worldly life. But the love of God is strong, so if some one is spiritually weak goes back to living a worldly life again, they can still repent before they die. But repentance is not a single prayer. A single pray is the beginning stages of repentance. And even if you don’t completely repent of all your sins, as long as you are on the path of repentance, faith and charity, you will be saved. Someone blatantly turning against God and his ways after receiving them, is as Jesus said, “not fit for the kingdom of God”. His words, not mine. From the NT, not Joseph Smith.

    >>> That Mark did something so violent is no different from you glancing at a lady

    This is true in that God will not accept any unclean person in his kingdom. That is where Christ comes in. He has atoned for those sins as long as we repent and take upon him his name. Which means live a Christian life.

    However, the idea that all sins are of the same magnitude is not true. First, we know there is one sin of which there is zero forgiveness and that is denying the witness of the Holy Spirit. Christ made that crystal clear.
    Second, in the OT Christ, through Moses, laid down the rules of punishment for those who commit sins, or crimes and the punishment varies. A murderer shall be put to death but a thief shall have his hand cut off. This alone implies to God there are varying degrees of sin.
    Third, Christ rated the commandments. What are the two greatest commandments? This means some commandments are more important than others and by contrast then some sins are greater than others.
    Fourth and most importantly, the greater the magnitude or egregiousness of the sins, the harder it is to repent even with the Lord’s help. Addictions to drugs, sex, gambling, thrills and other common things are very hard to overcome. Many of these people who believe need additional help via counseling, in some cases medical treatment and so on to help them repent. In the case of Mark, he needs to be locked up a long time until he even recognizes the severity of the thing he has done. Ultimately, people sin out of selfishness. When your sins are so selfish they threatened the life of other people, therefore seriously violating the second greatest commandment, Satan has tremendous control of you. This is why I probably come across so hard on Mark. I recognize the seriousness of the situation. If Nina was my friend, sister or daughter, I would be outraged, not forgiving. That he is making excuses for his actions so he can serve less jail time is beyond ridiculous! The man is no where near feeling remorse, other than he was caught. Mark has an addiction: Nina. And Nina is not safe if he gets out of jail, unless he repents. And he will need, not only the Lord’s help, but other people as well.

    More shortly…

  36. >>>If doing good alone gets you there, and everything is predicated on the moment you accept Jesus into your life, why is anything else needed?

    Doing good alone will not get you there. Hamas does a lot of good to the people in Palestine. They feed destitute families and aid the widows in their towns. But then try to kill Israelis in mass. Christ will be saying, “depart from me, ye that work iniquity, I never knew you”.

    Being good is great if you’ve never heard the gospel message. You will be judged on what you know is true and the way you lived. But there are many people who do good who reject the Lord. Hollywood, atheists and agnostics from certain political persuasions do a lot of good but have rejected the Lord.
    The Lord has one specific thing he requires of us. The total commitment. “Enduring to the end” means a life long effort.

    The fellow who seriously accepts the Lord, then dies very shortly thereafter has endured to the end. But those of us who live on decades more still need to endure to the end with a life long commitment.
    So, Cowboy, I hope I covered what you were bringing up. If I missed something or misunderstood you just let me know.

  37. Ray, thanks, but if I fail to perform the appropriate temple ordinances, I cannot be exalted. If I reject Smith as a prophet, there is also no hope for exaltation. You continue to avoid these things.

    Additionally, I urge you to consider Luke 7:36-50 and Mark 2:13-71.

    I also ask you to read Mat. Chapters 5-7. And here are some other of Jesus’s words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”. We can include “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” To add one more, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”

  38. Cowboy,
    >>>if I fail to perform the appropriate temple ordinances, I cannot be exalted. If I reject Smith as a prophet, there is also no hope for exaltation. You continue to avoid these things.

    Can I be saved if I reject the teachings of Paul? Can I believe Paul was a religious zealot who never knew Jesus and therefore I can discard 53% of the NT and still be saved?

    If Jesus says I must be baptized and I refuse or continue sinning have I really accepted him?
    Luke 6:46 “And why call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Then read verses 47-49 which says what happens if we don’t obey the Lord. We fall. Which means we lose our salvation.

  39. Ray, you still skirt around so many issues, not least of all the requirement of keeping the commandments. You know full well that failure to do so is a demonstration of not being faithful enough, and you seem to think you can compare Paul to Smith and avoid discussing the requirements and content of their messages.

    The topic of baptism is huge, but suffice it to say that even under your position the newly saved believer has an opportunity for exaltation may not be as accurate as you said above. A requirement is a requirement, and while God has mercy, he is selectively giving it under your presentation. That selectivity plays out as such: if you die now you are not required to do certain things because of God’s mercy, but if you don’t you do not die now, God’s mercy will not apply– you have to follow the commandments for the mercy to be relevant. So it is with baptism.

    Additionally, your post and position seems to ignore all the times that Jesus says we are to forgive constantly and without end, and that Jesus came to save the sick, the sinners. You also completely ignore that Jesus tells us quite directly that lust equals adultery and that anger equals murder. Jesus tells us these, and so many more things, are not matters of specific acts but matters of our heart.

    So, we see three things that you have not addressed of Jesus specific words in the paragraph above. Jesus came to save sinners. Jesus tells us we are to always forgive. And Jesus tells us that the acts are not the problem but our hearts. Now, two questions come from these three points. First, who are the sick? Second, would Jesus act differently than what he tells us to do? Answering them, we are all sick, in one way or another. All of us need help. And, no, Jesus does not act differently than what he tells us to do. So, with the question of forgiveness, Jesus forgives endlessly.

    Its interesting that you seem to suggest we cannot discount Paul but you discount these attributes and sayings of Jesus. Its interesting that you don’t seem comfortable expressly stating that keeping the commandments is a crucial part of enduring to the end. You do reference Luke 6 46-49, but what does Jesus tell us to do? I have already given an answer to that, and I suggest you review Matthew Ch’s 5-7. It is also summarized above in this post.

    The question of once-saved-always-saved is not really at issue here. But, since you brought it up, consider Luke 6: 43-45, just before your reference. We are to know a person by his or her fruits. What they do, what they say, what comes from their hearts, is what we use to determine a person’s faith, just like Jesus tells us in Matthew, and even elsewhere in the Gospels. A saved person will always demonstrate a growing maturity and will ultimately produce good.

    I wonder if you think that we are able to fully and completely rid ourselves of our sinful nature. To do so would be the only way that we could ever be sure we could be saved, unless we have someone there to forgive our sins, even after we believe. Without such constant forgiveness, we are doomed. As Paul says, we always do that which we don’t want, and our acts and works are like feminine hygiene products to God. Only God’s forgiveness, which comes through faith in Christ, is sufficient. And since God’s forgiveness is unending, I can be comforted in my eternal salvation.

    Final two thoughts: all of this is under the assumption that a professed believer actually believes. You are right to say that saying words is easy and doesn’t count for much. A true believer will turn away from sin, though the turn may not be immediate or easy. We are still humans addicted to certain behaviors. Sometimes, we will continue to drink, lust, lie, etc. However, our view of these actions will shift such that we recognize the gravity and begin to turn away as guilt develops and a desire to do God’s will takes over our lives. Our consciences become more active and we seek God to help us more and more.

    This addresses the topics of justification and sanctification. Justification is the immediate working of God to save us whereas sanctification is the process by which we mature in Christ.

    The second final thought is this: none of this gives license to sin, which is why I address the sanctification issue. Though we will sin, we must start moving away from it. As Paul says, we are not to continue sinning. So, please, Ray, I ask that you rid that thought from your beliefs about traditional Christianity. We do not think believers should continue sinning. To the contrary, we take it very seriously, and a professed believer who continues to flaunt sin in the church should be dealt with appropriately, including expulsion from the church. However, just the same we are to be patient and forgiving always, ready to take everyone back. The reason is not to question their ultimate salvation, but to protect the church.

  40. Hey Cowboy,
    It’s been busy lately but I would say a few things in regards to your last comment. The more you say, the closer we seem to be, yet it seems you think we are farther apart than ever.

    >>>you still skirt around so many issues, not least of all the requirement of keeping the commandments

    I attempt to address all relevant issues. As far as keeping the commandments, obedience is necessary for salvation. I think the pigeon hole at your end, is you seem to think Mormons can work their way to heaven, which they can’t. There is only one perfect and sinless person and that is Christ. The rest of us should do what our abilities will allow us calling upon divine help in our desires to follow Christ.

    >>>I wonder if you think that we are able to fully and completely rid ourselves of our sinful nature. To do so would be the only way that we could ever be sure we could be saved,

    I think there are rare instances when an individual can rid themselves of sinful nature (Enoch, Melchizedek, Moses). And even then, we can’t do it without the aid of Christ. I think that is what we should strive to do. To say more prayers and practice good and spiritual living is certainly going down that path. You call it “sanctification” or becoming a more mature Christian. All I have said on the subject is one must be on that path to be saved. One can not go back to deliberate guiltless sinful living and think they will be saved.

    >>>none of this gives license to sin, which is why I address the sanctification issue. Though we will sin, we must start moving away from it. As Paul says, we are not to continue sinning. So, please, Ray, I ask that you rid that thought from your beliefs about traditional Christianity.

    I think there are factions in Christianity which think you can sin all you want of Saturday night but attend church and say a prayer on Sunday and all is well. Additionally, when you come back to “once saved always saved” then the whole issue comes back up again. If Traditional Christianity recognizes that a person can lose their salvation by falling away from the Lord through sin then bravo for them and I cheer them: they actually believe the direct words of Christ as written in the New Testament. This issues seems to be the one, you Cowboy, seem to skirt around. You have all but agreed with me on the topic, but won’t come right out and say it. Why?

    >>>A saved person will always demonstrate a growing maturity and will ultimately produce good.

    Generally, I agree with this statement. However, there are those who are young who accepted Christ and his ways and lived a Christian life for some years. Then they go off to some secular school and reject Christianity for a time say 3, 5, or even 20-30-40 years. They have moved away from Christ and lived a worldly non-spiritual life. (This describes millions of American Christians today). Eventually, some of them may come back. Then the questions comes to mind. One, were they actually saved when they were younger? Two, because they accepted Christ when younger and reject him now, are they still saved if they died right now? Three, if they later come back, were they first saved, then for a time not saved and had they died been worthy of hell, but since they came back they are saved again?

    Ultimately, the Bible sheds light on this quite clearly, which is why I take solid positions of these types of questions. Now, I also think the LDS Church from it’s beginning have pushed this doctrine with great warnings of not turning our backs on the Lord. Some critics will claim, it’s the cult way of keeping people in line with fear. I, of course, think that is non-sense. I think, once some one turns their back on the Lord and go off to live a worldly life, there are very few instances when people behave as the prodigal son or lost sheep and return back to the fold. Mostly, they never return and therefore are eternally lost. And because of this statistical fact, all religious leaders, LDS or Evangelical Christian preachers, should never neglect the significance of this extremely important doctrine.

  41. Hey Ray, just happened to check in today. I understand about busy…

    Anyway, I am glad you are well.

    But the point I am making about the obedience is not to make a point about you being a works-based system, but that you mislead when you state obedience is key and not state what the obedience is to and what that entails. Yes, I do think you follow more of a works-based system than you admit, but that is not the point here. It is simply that it is misleading to ignore, especially when pressed by a non-believer, this very key aspect of your faith. You know full well that obedience requires following the commandments and failure to do so when you have an opportunity will preclude someone from gaining the highest level of heaven. You know this, yet you gloss over it. Yes, I find that misleading. Its not as if not following the commandments is optional. Its not optional if you want to be given the highest honor possible in Mormonism: exaltation. If you want to putz around, maybe, but the culture in Mormonism is not to putz around.

    Sin in the church should not be tolerated. I know of no church that willingly says sin is OK. There are many churches that emphasize forgiveness greatly, as they should, but they may ignore the problem of sin in that emphasis on forgiveness. Forgiveness is key to the Christian faith, but a church that does not condone it is in a dangerous state. And I know of none that do so when directly confronted with it. A church that does not care if its members sin is no church at all. Nonethelessw, Ray, don’t confuse people who party Saturday night to return to church as if nothing is wrong with the church being OK with the behavior. Sinners are welcome to church, at least they should be. But that does not mean the church is OK with sin.

    The once-saved-always-saved is a debate we will not solve here. I think the answer t the question is largely found in the parable of the seeds scattered. Some will sprout quickly but die quickly. Some will never sprout at all. Some will grow consistently and well. You bring up some hypotheticals that answering get into dangerous territory of judging hearts. A person who believes, leaves the faith, then comes back is a bona fide believer, assuming their heart truly believes. There’s no question about that, as that would be what we should pray for: a return to the faith. But a person who believes then leaves probably never believed to begin with. To those that come back or change throughout, I ask you, who cares? What is the state of their heart? We can never know here in this life, only when we see who is in heaven will we know. So, if a person leaves but comes back, ought we not be joyful about that and not waste time wondering what was or may have been?

    I believe I asked this same question earlier, and I don’t recall if you ever really answered it, but shouldn’t we be joyful when people return to the faith? I know I asked if someone gets exalted, in your faith, without doing everything he is ‘supposed’ to do here, what you would think. I am not convinced based on your responses that you truly would be joyful. As you consider this, I pray you consider the Father’s response in the story of the prodigal son to the brother who had stayed. That, I think, is more important than the story of the prodigal returning. How do we react when we see a prodigal return?

    Now, Ray, Jesus came to save you. Yes, you. All you have to do is accept that. You don’t have to be obedient to the commandments. There are no issues to be swept aside. You accuse me of not addressing the issue of someone losing their faith and salvation. You know, it may be that people can lose their salvation– this is not a new point of contention. I won’t pretend to know the answer to that with certainty. My belief is that they do not. We know these people by their fruits. A faithful life will bear fruit. However, it is naïve to think we grow and mature linearly, and that there will be no stumbles along the way. Of course there will be. Some of us will stumble more, perhaps even falling away for a long period. But the true believer will come back. Those who are not, will not.

    And I am aware that this is a self serving argument. You can’t really argue against it because you don’t know who is on what side. We, again, can never know a person’s heart. But we can always pray for these people, and those who have never believed, and hope they come to know Jesus in a real and personal way, and accept the gift, not a contract, that he offers.

    We can get lost, and often do, in these questions. Don’t you think? Can a person lose his salvation? Do we choose God or does God choose us? What do the rewards mean in heaven? How do we get them? Do our works matter on earth? If they do, do some matter more? Can we lose points? To each of these, and many, many, more, the answer is yes and no at the same time. I think it most valuable that we are thankful to God of sending his son and that we seek to constantly worship him with all our hearts. This is not to say these are unimportant questions, but it is to say we can lose sight of Jesus himself through these questions, and I think you have done exactly that when you allow the question of what happens to those may have once believed to go in so many rabbit trails.

    At the end of the day, we cannot know someone’s heart. At the end of the day, we must trust God to work in these people. At the end of the day, we must trust that Jesus knew what he was talking about, and he says that some will indeed fall away but just the same will never let go of those who are in him, that those who drink of his water will gain eternal life. We cannot know who those people are. We are not God. He is.

  42. Merry Christmas! I hope this year has been productive ultimately uplifting as we discussed difficult topics. They have been challenging and thought provoking. God bless!

  43. Hey Cowboy, thank you for the well wish! I’ve been super busy with must do’s so sorry I haven’t responded.
    Merry Christmas and we pray for a safe and prosperous New Year for you and your family!

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