Living a Christlike Life

Elder L. Lionel Kendrick

 

Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

March 13, 2007

 

 

One of the main purposes for this earthly life is to prepare us for our eternal life.  The Savior created this earth as a place for the perfecting process to take place.  During this process the Savior said:

“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25)

The Savior explained the reason for the need to be proven in the perfecting process:

“My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them.” (D&C 136:31)

If we are to be prepared to live in the presence of the Savior in our eternal life, we must strive to live a Christ like life during our earthly life.  Amuleck warned that:

“This life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” (Alma 34:32)

He then pleaded that we should not “procrastinate the day of [our] repentance.” (Alma 34:33)

 

We cannot afford to procrastinate becoming as the Savior is and living a Christ like life.  Preparation leads to perfection, while procrastination leads to a loss of potential.

 

This perfecting and proving process is not always easy but it is essential for our exaltation.  There are no soft or slothful ways to become sanctified. 

 

We cannot be sure if we have developed the necessary Christ like characteristics until they have been tested with earthly experiences.

 

We must first understand the process of becoming Christ like and then apply His principles in our relationships and communications with others. 

 

PROCESS FOR BECOMING CHRIST LIKE

 The Savior set the standard for living a Christ like life during this perfecting process.  He gave the key in His question and self answer:

“What manner of men ought ye to be?  Verily I say unto you, even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27)

If we are to live the Christ like life, we must strive with all our strength to become as He is.  This sacred striving involves coming to know the Savior with His divine attributes.

 

We must develop the ability to think, feel and do as the Savior would as we face our earthly experiences.  This is the key to becoming as He is.  In this way we will emulate Him and live the Christ like life.

 

The process of becoming Christ like begins with having a willing and obedient spirit that is submissive to the will of the Lord.  This willing and submissive spirit leads us to doing the will of the Lord and not the will of the world.

 

As we continue to do the will of the Lord, we will become as the Savior is, developing many of His divine characteristics.

 

Willingness leads to doing which leads to becoming.  These are the keys to living a Christ like life.

 

1. Willingness

A willing spirit begins with a humble heart void of personal pride.  Willingness is submitting our will to the will of the Savior with no reservations or restrictions.  It is a complete surrender of our will to His will.

 

Once this divine decision is made to submit to His will, we will feel an increase of freedom in all our decisions.  The Savior gave the first key to becoming as He is when He said:

“Behold, the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind.” (D&C 64:34)

The Apostle Paul explained this principle when he said:

“For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted.” (2 Cor 8:12)

The Lord accepts our willingness even when we do not fully measure up to His expectations.  He is patient with us in our efforts.

 

Many desire to have a willing spirit but find that:  

“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matt 26:41)

2. Doing

Willingness leads to doing the will of the Lord.  Weakness of the flesh does not justify our good intentions.  The Savior warned:

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)

 

“And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

The scriptures are clear that the Lord not only expects a willing and submissive spirit, but he also expects that our willingness is directed into actions.  He makes it clear as to the things that we must be willing to do:

 

·        “Willing to take upon you the name of Christ.” (2 Nephi 31:13; D&C 20: 37,77; Moroni 4:3)

·        “Willing to submit to all things which the Lord sees fit to inflict upon you.” (Mosiah 3:19)

·        “Willing to do that which I have commanded you.” (3 Nephi 18:10)

·        “Willing to observe [our] covenants by sacrifice.”(D&C 97:8)

·        “Willing to serve God with all [our] hearts”(Mosiah 21: 35; D&C 20:37; Moroni 6:3)

·        “Willing to repent of [our] sins.”(Alma 7:15)

·        “Willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.”(Mosiah 18:8; Gal 6:2)

·        “Willing to mourn with those who mourn.”(Mosiah 18:9)

·        “Willing to comfort those that stand in need of comfort.”(Mosiah 18:9)

·        “Willing to stand as a witness of God at all times and in all places, even until death.”(Mosiah 18:9)

 

We must be careful of what we do in this life.  Every choice that we make carries with it a series of consequences.  This is in accordance with the Law of The Harvest the Savior taught:

“Whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.”(D&C 6:33; Gal 6:7)

According to the Law of The Harvest we will take into the next life everything that we have developed in this life.  This includes our personality, our character, our attributes, our thoughts and our feelings. 

 

Our earthly memories will be recorded in our spiritual memory bank and will go with us across the veil into eternity.

 

Death will not change these things.  It is no wonder that King Benjamin warned:

“If ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God… even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish.” (Mosiah 4:30)

Alma added his warning voice to this principle:

“For our words will condemn us, yea, all our works will condemn us;…our thoughts will also condemn us; and in this awful state we shall not dare to look up to our God.” (Alma 12:14)

Living a Christlike life is measured in part by our relationships and our communications with others.

 

CHRISTLIKE RELATIONSHIPS

Our relationships with each other are a reflection of the degree to which we have become as the Savior is.  These relationships can be measured by not only our feelings for each other but also by our responses to each other.

 

The scriptures are replete in counsel concerning our relationships with each other.  We must be concerned that we follow the counsel of the Lord and not the ways of the world.  Hypocrisy must be avoided at all cost.

 

The counsel is clear concerning our righteous relationships as the Savior would have us do. 

 

LOVING

We are commanded to love one another.  The Savior counseled:

 

“Love one another; as I have loved you…By this shall men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)

 

We are also commanded to love everyone:

 “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?” (Matt 5:46)

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”(1 John 4:20)

 

“He who loveth God love his brother also.”(1 John 4:21)

 

We must love those who are the least lovable.  This is the fulfillment of the Law.

 

DOING

In addition to the feelings of love that we should have for each other, the Lord has commanded that we do certain things as a manifestation of that love:

 

 

RESPONDING TO OFFENSE

There are times when we may feel offended by words or actions of others.  As a result we may feel embarrassed, hurt or even angry. 

 

All offenses should be perceived in their proper perspective.  Often others are not aware that they have offended us.

 

Some offenses come as a result of careless communication.  Occasionally come through misunderstanding the intentions of others, resulting in feelings of being offended.

 

Other offenses are deliberate and are meant to hurt and to harm.  Regardless of the cause, we must be careful to respond as the Savior has counseled us to do.  We must never loose sight that we are all children of Heavenly Father and spiritual brothers and sisters.

 

Doctrine

The Savior has given us the doctrine that we should apply when we feel offended. 

He has counseled that we should respond to offenses of others in a Christ like manner:

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good unto them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matt 5:44)(3 Nephi 12:44)

We should respond in a timely manner to these feelings of offense and not allow time to drive them deeply into our memory and into our heart.

 

If we do so there will be the tendency to magnify these negative feelings over time.  We need to take only the time necessary to think before we respond.

 

Principles

The Savior set the example for us to follow.  He gave us the principles to apply when we feel offended by someone.  We should love them, pray for them, serve them, forgive them, reconcile our differences with them and exercise self-control.

1.   Love Them

We are commanded to love one another as the Savior loves us.  (See John 13:34)   The commandment to love includes everyone even those who have offended us and those who may be considered to be our enemies.  (See Matthew 5:44)

If we are to live the celestial law we must rise above the offense and love the offender as we have been counseled.  A great philosopher once said:

“When anyone has offended me, I try to raise my soul so high that the offense cannot reach me.”   Descrates (Edwards, Tryon, comp.  Catrevas, C.N.;eds.  The New Dictionary of Thoughts: A Cyclopedia of Quotations. [Garden City, New Jersey]: Standard Book Company, 1961, p.449)

This may not be easy, but it is essential to our eternal salvation.  We must master the principle of love in order to master our emotions and gain exaltation.  Love is at the core of our Christ like character. 

2.  Pray For Them

The counsel is clear, we are commanded to “pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.”   (Matt 5:44) When we pray for those who offend us, we are keeping the higher law.  Prayers are an expression of our love for them. 

We should also pray with sincerity of heart for strength to avoid anger and bitterness towards those who have offended us.  We should pray for understanding.

 

Perhaps we may have inadvertently done or said something that caused another to respond in an offensive manner.

3.  Serve Them

The Savior counseled “do good to them that hate you.”  (3 Nephi 12:44) This principle is universal and includes those who have offended us.  The Apostle Paul counseled:

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shall heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20)

 When we render acts of kindness, we will eventually touch their hearts.

4.  Forgive Them

The Apostle Paul taught the principle of forgiving those who have offended us when he said:

“If any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Col 3:13) 

When we truly forgive a person, we will have love in our heart for them and will feel peaceful in their presence.

 We have been commanded by the Lord to forgive those who offend us.  He admonished:

 

I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you, it is required to forgive all men”

(D&C 64:10).

Peter inquired of the Lord as to the number of times we should forgive another person.

He Asked:

 “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  Till seven times?  Jesus said unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven” (Matt 18:21-22).  (See D&C 98:40).

The message of the Master is clear, we are to forgive others as many times as is needful.

 The Lord has given us a powerful promise if we follow His counsel to forgive others.  He promised:

 

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt 6:14).  (See also D&C 82:1).

He cautioned “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:15).

 

He also warned: “he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” (D&C 64:9).

5.  Reconcile Our Differences

The scriptures reveal three sequential steps that we should take to reconcile our differences with others.  First, we should meet with them.  The Savior counseled:

 

“Moreover if they brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him… alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained they brother.” (Matt 18:15) (See D&C 42:88)

 

We should not share our concerns with those who are not involved.  We must not be found fault finding, gossiping, or making public criticisms.

 

We should meet with the persons in private and in a spirit of love.  The purpose of this meeting is to express concerns and feelings and to make peace and reconcile our differences.

 

If this meeting is not successful the second step is to involve a third person in an attempt to reconcile differences.  The Savior counsels:

 

“But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” (Matt18:16)

 

Perhaps another person can act as a mediator in resolving the differences.  This brings a third perspective and may result in responding with reason rather than with emotion.  If this is not successful we are counseled to take the third step to become reconciled.

 

The third step in the sequence of reconciliation is to meet with the Bishop.  This is to take place when we have not been successful in one of the other two steps.

 

The Savior counseled:  

“And if he shall neglect to hear them [witnesses], tell it unto the church” (Matt 18:17).

If the person denies the offense or fails to reconcile, our only recourse is to put the matter in the hands of the bishop.

 

We should go to the bishop in a spirit of love, not to cause the person trouble, but to resolve the difference and encourage reconciliation.

6.    Exercise Self-Control And Not Let Our

Emotions Rule Our Reason.

 The Savior has given us the principle that we should apply when we feel offended:

“If men will smite you, or your families, once, and ye bear it patiently and revile not against them, neither seek revenge, ye shall be rewarded.

 

  But if ye bear it not patiently, it shall be accounted unto you as being meted out as a just measure unto you.

 

 And again if your enemy shall smite you the second time, and you revile not against your enemy, and bear it patiently, your reward shall be an hundredfold. 

 

And again, if he shall smite you the third time, and ye bear it patiently, your reward shall be doubled unto you four-fold;

 

 And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out.” (D&C 98:23-27)

 

If we apply the principle, we will indeed exercise self-control.  We will be patient and bear the offense well, being tolerant of those who offend.  We will seek no revenge, even in our heart.  Paul taught this principle to the Roman saints when he admonished:

“Recompense [repay] to no man evil for evil” (Rom 12:19). 

 

The Savior counseled: “for judgement is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay” (Mormon 8:20).

 

May we always remember who we are in our relationship with each other and with the Lord.  May we heed the counsel of President Kimball when he said:

 

“The spirit of revenge, of retaliation, or bearing a grudge, is entirely foreign to the Gospel of the gently forgiving Jesus Christ”   (Spencer W. Kimball,  Miracle of Forgiveness  p. 265).

 

Can we not be more sensitive to the feelings of others?  Can we not remain silent in response to slander and self-serving statements of others? 

 

Can we not remain calm and controlled in the face of confrontation?  Can we not love and lift those who are less than Christ like in their relationships with us?

 

To do these things is to emulate the Savior and to live the Christ like life.

 

CHRISTLIKE COMMUNICATIONS

Heavenly Father has given us a priceless gift in our capacity to communicate with each other.  Our communications are at the core of our relationships with others.  If we are to return home safely to our Heavenly Father we must develop Christ like communications with His children in mortality.

 

Our communications are reflected in our countenance.  Therefore, we must be careful not only what we communicate, but also how we do so.  Souls can be strengthened or shattered by the message and the manner in which we communicate. 

 

ACCOUNTABILITY

 We will be held accountable for all that we say.  The Savior has warned, "that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matthew l2:36.)

 

This means that no communication shall be without consequence.  This includes the slight slips of the tongue, the caustic communications that canker the soul, and the vain, vulgar, and profane words which desecrate the name of Deity.

 

CAUSTIC  COMMUNICATIONS

 There are certain kinds of caustic communications which destroy relationships and are not for our development but are for our destruction.  They result in a diminished opportunity of returning home safely to Heavenly Father.

 

One of the major ways that Satan uses to retard the development of righteous relationships is the use of gossip, rumor and slander on his communication network.  Perhaps the more common caustic communications are blaming, criticizing and anger.

 

l.  BLAMING

 

A first caustic communication is that of blaming.  This is a condemning communication. 

 

It is interesting that when the Lord confronted Adam in his fallen state, Adam began to place the blame on Eve for his actions.  He said:

 

"The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat" (Genesis 3:l2).

When Eve was confronted, she placed the blame on Satan.  She said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."  (Genesis 3:l3)

 

It has been from the beginning and will be until the end that the natural man will have a tendency to rationalize and to blame his behaviors on others or upon certain circumstances. 

 

When we attempt to place responsibility for our choices on others, we are responding in less than a Christ like manner.  Blaming is an unrighteous form of communication.

2.  CRITICIZING

 

A second caustic communication is that of criticizing.  Positive criticism is feedback given with the purpose of helping another person to grow and to develop. 

 

This is both helpful and needful and is generally accepted and appreciated.

 

Negative criticism is intended to hurt and often to defame and to destroy.  This caustic communication is cruel and tends to crush the character of those about whom it is directed.  King Benjamin urged his people to "not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peacefully" (Mosiah 4:l3).

 

We should surely follow this counsel and defend those who are desecrated by these denouncements.

 

3.  ANGER

 

A third is anger.  This is perhaps the most common form of a caustic communication.  Anger causes anguish to the souls of all those who experience the feeling as well as to those who are the recipient of this emotional explosion.

 

Anger shows a lack of self‑control and an inability to relate in a righteous way to others.  It is a senseless substitute for self‑control.

 

It is sometimes used as a selfish strategy to gain control of a relationship. 

 

President Wilford Woodruff counseled that "the moment a man or woman becomes angry, they show a great weakness."  (In Journal of Discourses 4:98)

 

            We are instructed to "let all bitterness, . . . and anger . . . and evil speaking be put away" (Ephesians 4:31)

 

The implication is clear. We have the capacity to control this caustic communication.

 

COUNSEL

 Much counsel has been given concerning our communications with others.  The counsel given by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesian Saints seems to be most appropriate for the Latter‑day Saints.  He cautioned:

"Let no corrupt communications proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good" (Ephesians 4:29.)

 He further counseled to "be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

 

CHRISTLIKE COMMUNICATIONS

 May we be found communicating with each other in a manner in which the Savior would communicate.  Christlike communications are expressed in tones of love rather than loudness.  They are intended to be helpful rather than hurtful.

They tend to bind us together rather than to drive us apart.  They tend to build rather than to belittle.

 

Christlike communications are expressions of affection and not of anger; truth and not fabrication; compassion and not contention; respect and not ridicule; counsel but not criticism; correction but not condemnation.

 

They are spoken with clarity and not with confusion.  They may be tender or they may be tough, but they must always be tempered.

 

The real challenge that we face in our communications with others is to condition our hearts to have Christ like feelings for all of Heavenly Father's children.  When we develop this concern for the condition of others, we will then communicate with them as the Savior would.

 

We then will warm the hearts of those who may be suffering in silence.  As we meet people with special needs along life's way, we can then make their journey brighter by the things that we say.

 

Christ like communications will help us to develop righteous relationships and ultimately to return to our Heavenly Home safely.

 

May we treasure the divine gift of communication, and may we use it wisely to build and to assist others on this marvelous journey through mortality.

 

CONCLUSION

 The results of having a willing and obedient spirit and of doing the will of the Lord, are manifest in our becoming fully converted and becoming like the Savior in our thoughts, feelings and actions.

 

We will then truly be living the Christ like life.  There is a simple way that we can know when we have reached that stage of spiritual development known as the condition of conversion.

 

It is found in the response of the people at the end of King Benjamin’s sermon from the Tower when with one voice they said:

“We have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually!” (Mosiah 5:2)

Elder Dallin H Oaks taught that reaching this spiritual state is to “have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16) He said that this means that the members:

“Are beginning to see things as our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, see them. They are hearing His voice instead of the voice of the world, and they are doing things His way instead of by the ways of the world.”

(“The Challenge to Become”, Ensign, Nov. 2000, 32.)  

             May Heavenly Father’s choice blessings be with each of you as you strive to live a Christ like life.  May the Spirit this day bear witness to you of the truthfulness of these precious principles. 

 

I bare my solemn and sure witness of the Divinity of the Savior and of the truthfulness of these powerful principles.  In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

 

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