Archive for the ‘Divine Mercy’ Category

A Critique of Brad Wilcox’s “His Grace is Sufficient”

“And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.”
(Matthew 12:7 ESV) 

by Michael Flournoy
I was born and raised in the Mormon Church, and in early 2015 I began a serious study on the topic of grace. One of the first videos I watched was a BYU devotional given by Brad Wilcox called “His Grace is Sufficient”. Not only did Mr. Wilcox revolutionize the way I viewed grace, his talk was largely responsible for my journey out of Mormonism and into mainstream Christianity.

I was surprised when I listened to it recently, to see how it sounded to my Protestant ears. I caught myself saying “amen” half a dozen times. I was struck by how useful his catchphrases were for explaining my own transition. He says for instance, that we aren’t earning heaven, we’re “learning heaven.” He uses a piano analogy where Mom pays for lessons and requires us to practice. Practicing does not pay for the lessons, nor does it pay back Mom. He goes on to say that we’re keeping the commandments for a different reason, “it’s like paying a mortgage instead of rent, making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt…”

To this day Brad Wilcox is a favorite LDS speaker of mine. However, I found a few problems with his speech. Namely, the way he describes Evangelical Christians is mostly false. He says his Born Again friends often ask him if he has been saved by the grace of Christ, and he replies with a question they haven’t fully considered: “Have you been changed by grace?”

This is a common misconception about Evangelical Christianity. Having been LDS, I recall thinking the Christian model of salvation was very 2-dimensional. Having passed through the veil so to speak, to the other side, I see now that Christianity is not what Brad portrays it to be.

In fact, as an Evangelical, my day to day lifestyle is not so different from how I lived as a Mormon. What has changed is my motivation for living the way I do: before, I was trying to earn heaven, and now I’m learning it. I was obeying from a place of condemnation, but now it’s from a place of acceptance. Before it was about fear, now it’s about appreciation. When I embraced Brad Wilcox’s grace, I found that I fit in with Evangelicals much more than my fellow Latter-day Saints. So in answer to his unconsidered question, here is my unexpected answer: yes, the grace of Christ is changing me.

As a Latter-day Saint, I scoffed at the idea that we were created for God’s glory alone. As I mentioned previously, it seemed 2-dimensional. I thought those who were “saved” would have no motivation to be better spouses, parents, employees, and disciples. I assumed as Brad stated, that Christians believed “God required nothing of [them]”. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, God’s abundant grace motivates Christians to improve and give their lives to Jesus.

He goes on to explain that Latter-day Saints can sometimes view God’s commandments as overbearing and say, “Gosh, none of the other Christians have to tithe. Gosh, none of the other Christians have to go on missions…” Actually, we do. To set the record straight, “other Christians” do understand the importance of obedience.

I was shocked the first time tithing was discussed at my Protestant church. I thought I had gotten away from all that! My pastor explained that we don’t pay tithing to get into heaven, but because we’re free. As a Latter-day Saint, my perception was that Christians viewed grace as a license to sin. I see now that grace is better described as insurance, covering us in case we sin.

In his speech, Brad Wilcox mentions several people who don’t understand grace: there are those who are giving up on the LDS church because they are tired of falling short, young men and women who graduate from high school and slip up time and again and think it’s over, return missionaries who slip back into bad habits and break temple covenants and give up on hope, and married couples who go through divorce.

He chides anyone who thinks there are only two options: perfection, or giving up. He does not seem concerned that such a huge swath of Latter-day Saints are ignorant about grace, even after admitting he used to picture himself begging to be let into heaven after falling short by two points. My idea of grace was not dissimilar to his. Ironically, he belittles Christians for having the same view of grace he has now, while turning a blind eye to Latter-day Saints who hold an opposing view, as if it were a coincidence.

However, these views against grace are not a coincidence, but a byproduct. My diagnosis is that Brad Wilcox understands grace, but he doesn’t understand Mormonism.

After all, Alma 5:28-29 in The Book of Mormon says if we are not stripped of pride and envy we are not prepared to meet God, nor do we have eternal life. Where’s the grace in that? Doctrine and Covenants 82:7 says if we sin our former sins return to us. Where’s the grace in that? Moroni 8:14 states that should someone die while thinking children need baptism, his destination is hell. Where’s the grace in that? Alma 11:37 says that Jesus cannot save us in our sins. My friends, there is no grace in a religion that says we must amputate all sin from our lives before Jesus can save us.

Mr. Wilcox conveniently leaves out covenants in his speech, which form the foundation of eternal life in Mormonism. According to LDS doctrine, covenants like baptism and temple sealings are required to enter the Celestial Kingdom. These covenants are two-way promises where God gives us eternal life if we keep our end of the bargain. The temple covenants include keeping the commandments, so a Latter-day Saint who fails by 2 points on judgment day will have no right to plead for grace. In Mormonism, grace is not enough.

I do love Brad Wilcox’s speech. I would not be where I am today without it. That said, I call upon him to repent for his false witness against Evangelical Christians and I pray he will see the error in defending an organization that tramples the grace of God. I can say from experience that coming into Protestant Christianity from Mormonism is like “…paying a mortgage instead of rent, making deposits in a savings account instead of paying off debt…”, it’s the difference between being a servant of your own free will, and being a slave.

mercy-and-grace-heat-map

About the Author
Michael Flournoy served a two-year mission for the LDS Church where he helped organize three Mormon/Evangelical dialogues and has participated in debate at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Born into Mormonism, Mr. Flournoy converted to Evangelical Christianity in 2016.

An Election Day 2016 prayer 

20130301-023109

Lord, You have told us,
Lord, You have promised
That if Your people would pray
That You would hear from heaven,
You would send Your mercy and
Touch us with Your strong, healing hand

So we’re calling out to You,
Crying out to you,
Forgive us of our sin, heal our land
As we seek your holy face,
We turn from all our wicked ways
Hear from heaven even now as we pray

Hear from heaven even now
Hear from heaven even now
Hear from heaven even now

(words and music by Tommy Walker)

From the album “Calling Out To You” by The C.A. Worship Band with Tommy Walker

by Michael Omartian

Add up the wonders,
And all of the numbers that people do,
So much comes to nothing.

They ride all their sorrows
On a wave of tomorrows,
Just to get them through.
Then watch the tide come rushing.

dreamwashedaway

But You can lift my spirits high,
Like no one has before.
You’re not like this world,
You’re something more.

And You have filled my life with joy.
There’s so much love around You.
Your freedom has freed me too.

Gather the gladness,
In the rush hour madness,
Sell it all for a dime.
Someone will come to buy it.

MorningRushHourFreeway

Make a short cut to living
Without any giving,
And wait for a time.
Someone will always try it.

But You can lift my spirits high,
Like no one has before.
You’re not like this world,
You’re something more.

And You have filled my life,
With all the love that flows around you.
Your freedom has freed me too.

On with the choices
And the unhappy voices,
on the telephone line.
Another day to work through.

cold_call

At the end of the maze
And the spiritual haze,
It will all be fine,
Cause I’ve got you to come home to.

(From the album “White Horse” by Michael Omartian)

worshipIntroduction:
I’ve been a Christian a long time and this simple song of Christ’s mercy, grace, and unmerited forgiveness still reduces me to a grateful, humbled puddle of devoted tears everytime I sing or hear it. Even after all these years I still come empty handed and unworthy of the great gift that I’ve been freely given or the tender mercies I’m daily shown.
— Fred W. Anson 

Majesty (Here I Am)
Words & Music by Martin Smith and Stuart Garrard

Here I am
Humbled by your majesty
Covered by your grace so free

Here I am
Knowing I’m a sinful man
Covered by the blood of the lamb
Now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine

Majesty
Majesty
You grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands


Here I am
Humbled by the love that you give
Forgiven so that I can forgive

Here I stand
Knowing I’m your desire
Sanctified by glory and fire

Now I’ve found the greatest love of all is mine
Since you laid down your life the greatest sacrifice

Majesty
Majesty
Your grace has found me just as I am
Empty handed, but alive in your hands

Singing
Majesty
Majesty

Forever I am changed by your love
In the presence of your majesty
Majesty

Singing
Majesty
Majesty

Your grace has found me just as I am
I’m nothing but alive in your hands

We’re singing
Majesty
Majesty

Forever
I am changed by your love
In the beauty of your majesty

Hillsong++Delirious+unified+praise

Video performance by Martin Smith with Delirious? and Hillsongs

Other inspiring performances of this classic praise chorus by Martin Smith

(Martin Smith with full orchestra)

(Martin Smith with Delirious? live at Willow Creek in 2006) 

by Steve Taylor

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Pope John Paul forgiving his assassin

Introduction
It all began with a simple magazine cover. I don’t recall ever being so moved by a photo as when I saw the image on the cover of Time Magazine of the Pope in a prison cell forgiving the man who tried to assassinate him. That single photo ended up being the inspiration for “To Forgive”.[1]

That one image really struck me, and it said so much to the world. It occurred to me that in many cases–I mean you’ve got this cycle of violence in Lebanon, in India, in northern Ireland, and when it comes down to it, the only possible solution for that is forgiveness, because otherwise the retribution and the cycle of revenge just keeps going. And here was a picture of the Pope shaking hands with a guy who tried to kill him. Regardless of who the Pope is–and some cynical people would say, you know, “well that’s his job” or something like that–it was a very, very powerful image.[2]

To Forgive
I saw a man
He was holding the hand
That had fired a gun at his heart
Oh, will we live
To forgive?

I saw the eyes
And the look of surprise
As he left an indelible mark
Oh, will we live
To forgive?

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

Follow his lead
Let the madness recede
When we shatter the cycle of pain
Oh, we will live
To forgive?

Come, find release
Go, make your peace

(The original version by Steve Taylor)

I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

(the cover by The Wayside that I prefer to the original version) 

I saw a man
With a hole in His hand
Who could offer the miracle cure
Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
I forgive

Oh, He said live
To forgive
(words & music by Steve Taylor)

51eo+Ajf-GL._SL500_AA280_Original version from the album “On The Fritz”

51ITnXzdCFLCover version from the album “I Predict A Clone”

NOTES
[1] Clone Club News Flash Winter 1986
[2] Steve Taylor, Crosswalk Syndicated Radio Interview, 1985