It may seem strange to begin this Series on God's love talking about wrath and judgment.
But there's a good reason for it.
How can we approach God with unshaken faith if we have an unhealthy idea of who He is and of our relationship with him?
One of the things, I think, preventing us from experiencing God's love are the old sectarian notions we've inherited (such as those passed down from Augustine, whose teachings have tainted generations of believers with the idea of God's impassibility, meaning He can't be moved or affected by us; ergo, He is "without parts and passion").
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the evangelical teachings of predestination and irresistible grace that create an incomprehensible and arbitrary God.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we've got to accept the fact that we have inherited some really messy theology, and it is messing up our relationship with God.
Not My Problem?
Some might be thinking, "But Tim, buddy, I'm not Catholic or Calvinist. Why does this affect me?"
Well, even in the LDS tradition we bear the seeds of the Great Apostasy and the Reformation, the way a child carries the recessive genes of their parents.
Which is odd, I know, because if anyone should have a good perspective on God, you'd think it would be a Church whose founding father saw and spoke to Him, right?
The Church even has a correlation department ("Ministry of Truth") whose job it is to beat the rug until diversity is expunged from our ranks.
In the LDS Church, depending on which of God's attributes we focus on and who is talking, God runs the risk of becoming a caricature of milk-toast-tender-mercies or chiseled-chin-justice as implacable as granite.
It's like someone sending you a message on Facebook saying your spouse is not the person you think he is; that in fact, your spouse is a bloodthirsty, abusive offender.
And then those awful rumors start appearing in the press. Law enforcement (by which I mean, religious authorities) get involved. Throughout the investigation we aren't sure who to believe anymore.
We wonder, in the face of so much innuendo, did we ever really know our Sweetheart? How can so many respected community members be wrong?
And so we start to doubt.
How can we know what God is like when churches have such incompatible views on his nature?
Ignore what the Churches are saying.
If we want to know God, we're going to have to get to know him personally.
Dress Down, Not Up Another reason we're starting the Series this way is because of something the Lord said in 1831 to the members of the Church.
And He wasn't talking to mature, seasoned leaders. He was speaking to a group of young, inexperienced, knuckleheads:
Verily I say unto you that it is your privilege, and a promise I give unto you that have been ordained unto this ministry, that inasmuch as you strip yourselves from jealousies and fears, and humble yourselves before me, for ye are not sufficiently humble, the veil shall be rent and you shall see me and know that I am-- not with the carnal neither natural mind, but with the spiritual. (D&C 67:10)
That's a curious phrase: "strip yourselves."
What does that mean? Does the Lord really want us running around like members of a nudist colony?
Well, yes, I think he does. I think God would rather we be spiritual nudists than to be covered in the cloth of corrupt creeds and abominations.
(This reminds me of a time I streaked through the baptistry of the Provo Temple, but we'll have to save that story for another day.)
To "strip" is to remove our clothes and jewelry and accessories; to bare our souls without makeup or pretense, standing before God in our Spiritual Birthday Suit.
There are no fig leaves big enough to cover our sinfulness.
It is no use "dressing up" (by which I mean, playing dress-up) in order to appear righteous. We'll have to remove our robes of pomp and pride.
And we approach God naked as a babe in her mother's arms, disrobed of self-deception and hypocrisy, in all of its chubby glory.
But instead of being embarrassed and blushing, we smile up at the Lord's beaming face, stripped but confident.
How in the world can we be confident with our fat rolls showing?
Confidence in Christ
Maybe the secret to spiritual confidence comes not from admiring our own bodies, but Christ's.
Rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in [your] flesh.
As odd as it sounds, the more we strip off, the greater our confidence becomes.
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.
(1 John 5:14)
To bring this back to love before it gets any weirder, remember what the Lord told Joseph about confidence when he was in Liberty Jail?
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men and . . .then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God.
Love equals confidence.
Fear is the Mind Killer
There are several interesting things in that verse besides "strip yourselves."
1. It is our "privilege" (!) to know God. A privilege is something we have a right to. Jesus is saying we are entitled (in the good way, not the spoiled way) to know Him. He wants us to come boldly before Him. Don't be shy!
2. It is His "promise" to us. The Lord always keeps his promises.
3. But as long as we are fearful and jealous, the veil will remain dark and thick over our eyes.
4. There is no fear in love. In other words, the best way to overcome our fears is to love.
5. The effect of love upon the veil is astounding. The Lord rends the veil in and through his pure love.
6.We come to know the Lord not through natural means (book-learning or logical reasoning) but through our spiritual mind.
7. Beware. The carnal mind seeks the Lord through signs.
We're going to seek the Lord through humility and love.