Jeff Hampton - May 29, 2005
Opening scripture: 1 - Deuteronomy 8
Tomorrow being Memorial Day, I wanted to come up with a theme for this morning that would go along with the holiday. When you think of this holiday, you think of honoring those who have served this country in times of war, whether they're alive or dead. You think of all those events you see on TV in which leaders around the nation will be giving speeches or participating in ceremonies at national cemeteries. You might think of our veterans marching in parades. On the other hand it's also a day in which people look forward to having a day off from work, and to spend the day at the lake or cooking out at home with friends and family. And that's fine. There's nothing wrong choosing these different ways to observe Memorial Day. But no matter how people choose to celebrate this holiday, there is no doubt that the main purpose of Memorial Day is to take time to remember important people or events in the history of our country. But what about remembering God? Along with the men and women who served this country and the freedom that we have like no other nation on Earth, how many times do we stop to think and remember the commandments that God has given us? How often do we, as a nation, remember the things that He has asked us to do for Him in return for the countless blessings he has poured out upon us? How many people look at this day to not only remember those who have given their lives for this land, but also remembering the sacrifice that Jesus Christ made for us on the cross? Do we take time away from our B-B-Qs and parades to remember the covenant we made with him in the waters of baptism? I think, unfortunately, that many times the answer is no. I think the reason for this is because we, as a nation, have forgotten our God. I believe that the people of this country have forgotten our Christian heritage. And I'd like to talk a little bit this morning about how the Lord has commanded us to always remember those important events in our life, as well as remember Him and the blessings that he continues to pour out upon us. I'll also talk a little about what happens when people forget or choose to not remember the Lord.
Now in the scriptures, there are numerous examples of marked events in which the people have done something to commemorate a time in their lives in which the Lord intervened, or moved in their lives in some way. We have a good example of this in the book of Joshua. For those not familiar with the story, we are at the point in which the Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness for forty years, and they had come to the banks of the river Jordan. A few of them begin to wonder how they are going to make it across into Jericho. By commandment of the Lord, Joshua tells the priests to take up the Ark of the Covenant and go before the people into the river. And as the feet of the priests touch the river, the waters are cut off, and the Israelites are able to cross over into Jericho. (2 - Joshua 4:1-7) So after the people safely cross the river, the Lord commands Joshua to have twelve men, take twelve rocks and stack them one upon another, as a memorial of this event. Not only to those people, but to all the children of Israel. This was such an important event, that the Lord saw fit to establish a small monument, for the future people of Israel. There's the story of Jacob's ladder, in which Jacob has a dream about angels climbing up and down a ladder reaching into the heavens. When he wakes up he says "Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not." He takes the rock he was using as a pillow and sets it up as a memorial to let future people know that they were on holy ground. What about in our own day? When we take communion, we are remembering the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, as well as remembering the covenant we made with him in the waters of baptism. No doubt a very important time in our lives that we need to always remember. There are several examples through the scriptures in which Jesus tells us to remember his words. The Ten Commandments tell us to "remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy". So we see through countless examples that God's people are told to remember. Told to remember him and his commandments. And as a society, as a church, we have several symbols or icons that we use to remember certain things. We wave flags. We have erected statues and monuments to remember people and events. Those who are married wear wedding rings to remember the promises we made to our spouse on our wedding day. We tie yellow ribbons around trees in memory of those who are overseas defending freedom. And of course we have the Christian cross, which we see in churches around the world and some wear around their necks. But I think we sometimes get too wrapped up in the outward symbol, whether it be a statue, memorial or icon, and we forget the inward reality of that symbol; what it's really supposed to remind us of. There is a difference between wearing the cross, and bearing the cross. Do we live in a land in which people remember the commandments? Do we live in a land in which the Sabbath is kept holy? I would argue that the answer is no. And we as Christians are just as guilty for this as anyone. But I believe that our nation as a whole has forgotten our Lord. I believe that we have forgotten his commandments. And we have evidence of this in just about every facet of our society. How can we say that our nation remembers God when we allow a small minority of the population to eliminate him from just about every public facility? How can we say we remember God when He, as well as Christianity, are ridiculed and made fun of in the media? We see pride and corruption in churches and the government. We see lying, stealing, murders, and perversions. People are obsessed with material things and getting gain. More and more, sin is creeping into our society, and it's accepted. These does not sound like a nation that is seeking to serve God. These are the characteristics of a nation that has forgotten Him.
I'd like to go back to my opening scripture, because I think it's one of the best examples of what happens when God's people choose to remember the Lord or not. (3 - Deut. 8: 1-2) After years of slavery, the Lord led Israel out of Egypt and out of bondage. And he continued to bless them after that. He led them through the Red Sea; he provided a cloud of smoke by night and pillar of fire by night to guide them. But what happened when Moses went to the mountain to get the Lord's commandments and he didn't return for a long time? The people began to get impatient. They thought that Moses was dead. So they asked Aaron to make them gods out of gold. And they worshipped these gods. They forgot the Lord, and the commandments he had given them. They forgot that it was God who led them out of slavery. And I think we all know what happened to the people of Israel when God punished them. He caused them to wander in the wilderness for forty years. Forty years of humbling, learning that God leads his people and that His word is true. An entire generation missed out on the Promised Land. All because they did not remember the leadings of the Lord.
Let's read on in Deuteronomy. (4 - Deut. 8: 5-6) Here the Lord is telling his people to remember his chastening. Don't forget what happened to you when you chose not to remember my blessings. But He's also making an interesting comparison here. He says as a father punishes his son, so does He punish his people, and nations. He's not punishing them because he's a mean, vindictive God. He's punishing them because he loves them, as a father loves his son. Hebrews, chapter 12, verse six reads: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son he receiveth". I think the two verses that exemplify this the best are verses 3 and 4. (5 Deut. 8: 3-4) Even though the people are in the midst of a 40-year period of chastisement, the Lord fed them, they had clothing and it says, "neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth me." What a wonderful example of the love that a father has for his children, and what a wonderful example of the faithfulness of God to his people. So we have seen that in many areas in the scriptures, the Lord has called his people to remember Him and those times that he has blessed them. And just as the Lord called his people in the scriptures to remembrance, He calls us to remembrance even today. He has called us to remember his leadings. To remember those times that he has blessed this nation. There have been times when the future of our country has been unsure. There have been times when our basic freedoms have been under attack. When our founding fathers were forming our country, and stood on the battlefields of the Revolutionary war, they were unsure of the future of this land. The only thing they could do was put their faith in the Lord. And the scriptures tell us that because of this faith, the Lord was with them and led them through those hard times. In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord speaks of the "laws and constitution of the people which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles, that every man may act in doctrine, and principle pertaining to futurity". And also, "And for this purpose have I established the constitution of this land, by the hands of wise men whom I raised up unto this very purpose, and redeemed the land by the shedding of blood". Time and time again, the Lord has led this nation through times of difficulty. And even though sometimes the outcome hasn't been quite what we had hoped for, we cannot deny the Lord's hand in those events. In the 200 plus years of this nations existence, we have been the most blessed land on the face of the earth. Bountiful harvests. Incredible wealth. Protection in war. Blessings of freedom. There is no denying that this is truly a land of promise. But just as the people we read about in the scriptures, what has happened to us? Pride began to creep in. We started to chase after things of the world instead of spiritual treasures. We began to trust in ourselves instead of the Lord. We let sin creep into our lives just as those people we read about in the scriptures. Just turn on the TV and watch the news or look at a newspaper. You see stories of abortion; drug and alcohol abuse running rampant; the overall moral decay of the people. God has been taken out of just about every facet of our society. Crime continues to rise. Today's youth are being bombarded by temptation from every side. And what about our own homes? What is happening in our own homes that might displease the Lord? Are we letting things of the world leak into our houses and pulling us away from God? Are we letting these things keep us from prayer, fasting and worship? We live in a world where people are searching for answers and instead of finding them in the scriptures, they find them in drugs, alcohol, lusts of the flesh, crime. And the scary thing is, most people seem to be content with this way of live. Searching after things of the world instead of things of Heaven. Being puffed up in pride, lying, stealing, corrupting. We have read in countless places in the scriptures of the wrath of the Lord coming upon nations, when they do not follow him, and it is be swift and mighty.
[Eth 1:31] And now we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise, and whatsoever nation shall possess it, shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fullness of his wrath shall come upon them.
[Eth 1:32] And the fullness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity; for behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God, or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God.
[Eth 1:33] And it is not until the fullness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off." Are we ripe in iniquity? Have we gotten to the point where the fullness of the wrath of God will come upon us? There was TV show featuring Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, in which they talked mainly about the attacks of September 11th. They said that their belief was that God allowed these things to happen because of the sins of this nation. More specifically, Jerry Falwell said "I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feministsthe ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who try to secularize America...I point the thing in their face and say you helped this happen." And as you can imagine there was a huge backlash from all sorts of different groups saying that they were trying to be decisive and that they were trying to take the blame away from the real criminals, the terrorists, and put it on other groups to further their own agendas. But I ask you, isn't there just the tiniest bit of truth in what they said? Isn't it possible that the attacks of Sept. 11th were the beginnings of the judgement of God coming upon this nation? Isn't there a little bit of truth to that?
Eth 1:32] And the fullness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity; for behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God, or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God.
The Lord has called us to remember. He has called us to remember his blessings, his commandments, his leadings and his faithfulness. He has called us to repent and return to him. He is looking for a people who are drawn apart from the world, seeking to do his will, and remember those commandments that he has given them. We see time after time in the scriptures, examples of people who serve the Lord, and as a result are blessed and they prosper. But soon as they begin to search after their own desires, and forget God, they are punished and swept away. It is my prayer that we would always remember the blessings of the Lord and that which he has commanded us to do. That we would make a true effort in these latter days to bring a remembrance of our Lord and our Christian heritage to whomever we can.
[Eth 1:34] And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God, that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fullness come, that ye may not bring down the fullness of the wrath of God upon you, as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done.
[Eth 1:35] Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it, shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ who hath been manifested by the things which we have written.
Sermon - Jeff Hampton - 3/11/07
Opening scripture: Mosiah 2:13-1
I would like to start this morning by asking a question. What do you believe? And it’s question that I really want each of us to think about. What do you believe? Do you believe in God and His son Jesus Christ, and that they created the world in which we live? Do you believe that God created man in his own image? Do you believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin? Do you believe that He grew up and performed miracles such as raising the dead, casting demons and feeding 5,000 people with a few fish and loaves of bread? Do you believe that He was judged of the world and died on the cross, taking upon Himself the sins of the world in order that we might have eternal life? And do you believe that He laid in a tomb for three days, only to be raised up by His Heavenly Father? Do you believe that He has power over all things, both in Heaven and on Earth? Do you believe that we can repent and receive forgiveness of our sins and be washed clean by the blood of our Savior? And do you believe that these scriptures are the divine word of God, translated by the power of the Holy Spirit? Do you believe in all those things that I just listed? I know this might sound like a silly questions. It might be a little strange for me to stand up here and ask everyone if they believe if some of the very basic parts of Christianity. But I think it’s important to stop and consider what we truly believe. For what we believe makes us who we are. It defines us and individuals and it defines us as a church. What we believe makes us that peculiar people. So that is why I ask, do you believe in those things that I just listed? If you do, if you truly believe in all those bullet points, then what are you doing to show the world that you believe them? What in your life is a testimony of your believe in God, in Jesus Christ and in the scriptures that we hold so dear? How does your belief in all these things, and everything else that goes along with it, manifest itself in your life? Does it manifest itself in your life? If we say that we believe in these scriptures and everything that it teaches us, then the way we live our lives should show it. We should show it in the way we live our lives. We should show it in the way we deal with our fellow brothers and sisters. We should show it in the way we raise our children. We should show it by sharing this gospel with those who are searching for something better in their lives. We should take those things that we say we believe and make them manifest in our lives. In other words, we need to practice what we preach. This is something that is sorely lacking in our world today. How many times have we heard stories in the newspaper or on the TV about people who say they believe something, but their actions suggest something totally different? How many times have we chastised someone for something wrong they have done, but we turn around and do the same thing, or something equally as sinful? How many times in our own lives have we caught ourselves living in a manner that is contradictory to the manner in which we say we believe we ought to live? Shortly before King Benjamin died, he spoke these words to his people:
“And now, I say unto you, my brethren, that after ye have known and have been taught all these things, if ye should transgress, and go contrary to that which has been spoken, that ye do withdraw yourselves from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in you to guide you in wisdom's path, that ye may be blessed, prospered, and preserved. I say unto you, that the man that doeth this, the same cometh out in open rebellion against God; Therefore he listeth to obey the evil spirit, and becometh an enemy to all righteousness; Therefore, the Lord has no place in him, for he dwelleth not in unholy temples.” -Mosiah 1:79-82
A person who does this, who knowingly sins and goes against those things that he has been taught and professes to believe, is in open rebellion against God. That’s kind of a harsh way to describe sin; open rebellion against God. There’s another way to describe someone who professes to believe one thing but does another. It’s just one word: hypocrite. We hear many times that we need to do more than just come to church on Sunday mornings, and more than come to prayer and testimony service on Wednesday nights. We are told that we need to take those things that we hear and see, those words and commandments of God that we hear when we are within these four walls and apply them to our lives. To live what we have been taught and not just think about them once or twice a week. But use them to become sons and daughters of Christ. But how many of us leave these place on Sunday mornings and forget what we have been told? How many of us go back out into the world and fall into those traps that Satan puts before us. How many of us leave this place and don’t live the way that we say we believe we ought to live? Think about those things I asked you about earlier. Do you believe them? If so, then are we taking them with us out into the world and applying them to our lives? Are we sharing them with people around us? Are we teaching them to our children so that they will grow up to be servants of Christ? If we say that we believe these things, but then live in a manner that is contradictory to them then we are living in open rebellion against God. We are hypocrites. I shared this a while back after Theresa and I went to a concert in Dallas over the Christmas holidays. We went to see a Christian singer in Dallas and one thing he said that stuck with me, was that he believed that 10% of the work of the church should take place within the church building on Sunday mornings. And that the remaining 90% should take place outside of the church walls. That is exactly what I am trying to convey today. When we leave this place, we need to take what we hear and what we believe out into the world. What good does it do to sit here once or twice a week and tell each other that we believe, if we don’t do the same thing in the world? The familiar verse in Matthew 5 reads:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I give unto you to be the light of the world; a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Behold, do men light a candle and put it under a bushel? Nay, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light to all that are in the house. Therefore, let your light so shine before this world, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” -Matt 5:16-18
As this scripture suggests, do we hide our light? Do we hide it away so that nobody can see it? Or do we proudly display it so that the world can see it? Do we display it so that we can show those around us that we believe in, and we stand for, Jesus Christ? I think we all have, sometimes, hidden our light. Put in under a bushel, as the scripture tells us. Maybe we were afraid of being ridiculed for what we believe in. I know that has been an issue for me on many occasions. I have dealt with a lot of ridicule in my life because of what I believe, and I’m sure that I’m not alone. And because of that I have hid my light and have not let it shine as we are told to do. But that is of course exactly the opposite of what we are told to do. We are told to go out into the world and teach them and spread this gospel; to testify of what we believe. And to not be worried about those who would mock us, ridicule us or hate us for our beliefs. From the 15 chapter of John, verse 18:
“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” -John 15:18-19
From the 6th chapter of Matthew, verse 25:
“And, again I say unto you, go ye into the world, and care not for the world; for the world will hate you, and will persecute you, and will turn you out of their synagogues. Nevertheless, ye shall go forth from house to house, teaching the people; and I will go before you.” -Matt. 6:25-26
And from the 6th chapter of Luke, verse 22:
“Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from among them, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for behold your reward shall be great in heaven; for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.” -Luke 6:22-23
If we truly believe in God and His son Jesus Christ, then what have we to fear? And if we truly believe, then how do we show that in the way we live our lives? I found a quote on a Christian web site the other day, I don’t know who said it but it caught my eye and made me stop and think when I read it. “The single greatest cause of atheism today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." If you stop and think about it, there is a whole lot of truth in that quote. If there are those around us who are non-believers, and the way we live our lives is contradictory to what we say we believe, than how can we expect to make a difference in the life of that person? How can we expect to make a difference in the life of any person we lead a lifestyle that says to the world that we do not believe in Jesus Christ; or if the way we live our lives says to the world that we say we kind of believe, but not enough to do anything about it. What we do is as important as what we believe. It is not enough to just say we believe. We have to show that we believe. We have all heard the scripture in the book of James,
“Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble…” -James 2:19
You believe in God? Good! Great! But you know what? Satan believes in God too. His demons believe in God too. Any they tremble.
“…thou hast made thyself like unto them, not being justified. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how works wrought with his faith, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” -James 2:19-23
What we do is just as important as what we believe. It’s very popular in some churches today to say that it is enough to believe. All you have to do is believe. But the scriptures tell us that it does not stop there. We need to believe, yes. But again, what we do is just as important as what we believe. Let’s look again at my opening scripture, in the second chapter of Mosiah, when King Benjamin is speaking to his people. He says:
“Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things both in heaven and in earth; Believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; Believe that man doth not comprehend all things which the Lord can comprehend. And again: Believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you: And now, if you believe all these things, see that ye do them.” - Mosiah 2:13-17
When we believe, and when our lives reflect that belief, that is when we will be an influence on those around us. Our lives will be a testimony of Jesus Christ and of the love that he has for us. And when we live according to the way we believe, then when we share with those around us they will be more open a receptive to it. In the 5th chapter of Matthew, Jesus shares these words in His sermon on the mount:
“Blessed are they who shall believe on me; and again, more blessed are they who shall believe on your words, when ye shall testify that ye have seen me and that I am.” -Matthew 5:3
More blessed are those who believe our words when we testify of Him. This speaks of the blessings that come with faith in our Heavenly Father. Blessed are those who saw Jesus and heard Him speak His words and perform His deeds. But more blessed are those who believe on Him because of their faith. This sounds a lot like another familiar scripture in Matthew. In the 16th chapter starting in the 14th verse:
“And when Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I, the Son of Man, am? And they said, Some say John the Baptist; some Elias; and others Jeremias; or one of the prophets. He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 16:14-18
Peter did not believe that Jesus was the son of God because a man told him. He knew because the Holy Spirit revealed it to him and because he had faith. Do you believe? Why? Is it just because it’s what you were raised to believe? Is it because your pastor or someone else just told you? Or is it because you have faith in the words that you read in these books? Is it because you read the scriptures or you hear the word preached, and know inside your heart and your mind that this is true? Or did you have an experience in which the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of this gospel to you? Regardless of how we came into our belief, that belief means nothing unless our lives reflect our beliefs and convictions. If we don’t, then we are as the hypocrites that Jesus speaks about in the scriptures, saying “O ye hypocrites! will did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draw nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” What we do is just as important as what we believe.
So what do you believe? Do you believe in God and His son Jesus Christ? Do you believe that your Savior was born of a virgin? And that He died on a cross to take away the sins of a people whom He has called to preach His gospel and build His kingdom? And do you believe that these scriptures are the divine word of God? If we do, then we need to live like we do. We need to strive to make our lives living testimonies to the goodness, mercy and love of Jesus Christ. We need to share this word and share of the salvation that can be obtained, as King Benjamin said to His people, “And moreover, 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.” Our lives should be a reflection of our belief in our Savior, not a contradiction. There are so many people in this world who are searching, or that have become lost. And we can help them find their way only if are walking down that same path that were are trying to guide them towards. So it is my prayer that we would show those around us what we believe not only in what we say but how we live our lives. As we read in the 15th chapter of 2nd Nephi, the 5th verse:
“And the words which I have written in weakness, will he make strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.” -2 Nephi 15:5