Gospel Teachings: Overcoming the World

Gospel Teachings:

Overcoming the World

By Neil L. Andersen

Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity.

Many years ago,  David O. McKay told of a beautiful experience he had while sailing on a boat toward Samoa. After falling asleep, he “beheld in vision something infinitely sublime. In the distance,” he said, “I beheld a beautiful white city. … Trees with luscious fruit … and flowers in perfect bloom abounded everywhere. … A great concourse of people [was] approaching the city. Each one wore a white flowing robe. … Instantly my attention … centered upon their leader, and though I could see only the profile of his features … , I recognized him at once as my Savior! The … radiance of his countenance [was] glorious. … [The] peace about him … was divine!”

President McKay continues, “The city … was his … the City Eternal; and the people following him were to abide there in peace and eternal happiness.”

President McKay wondered, “Who [are] they? [Who are these people?]”

He explains what happened next:

“As if the Savior read my thoughts, he answered by pointing to [words in] a semicircle that … appeared above [the people], … written in gold … :

“‘These Are They Who Have Overcome the World—

“Who Have Truly Been Born Again!’”1

For decades, I have remembered the words: “These are they who have overcome the world.”

The blessings that the Lord has promised to those who overcome the world are breathtaking. They will be “clothed in white … and [named in] the book of life.” The Lord “will confess [their names] before [the] Father, and before his angels.”2 Each shall have “part in the first resurrection,”3 receive eternal life,4 and “go no more out”5 from the presence of God.

Is it possible to overcome the world and receive these blessings? Yes, it is.

Love for the Savior

Those who overcome the world develop an all-encompassing love for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

His divine birth, His perfect life, His infinite Atonement at Gethsemane and Golgotha assured the Resurrection of each of us. And with our sincere repentance, He alone is able to cleanse us from our sins, allowing us to return to the presence of God. “We love him, because he first loved us.”6

Jesus said, “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”7

Later He added, “I will that ye should overcome the world.”8

Overcoming the world is not one defining moment in a lifetime, but a lifetime of moments that define an eternity.

It can begin as a child learns to pray and reverently sings, “I’m trying to be like Jesus.”9 It continues as a person studies the life of the Savior in the New Testament and ponders the power of the Savior’s Atonement in the Book of Mormon.

Praying, repenting, following the Savior, and receiving His grace lead us to better understand why we are here and who we are to become.

Alma described it this way: “A mighty change [is] wrought in their hearts, and they [humble] themselves and put their trust in the true and living God … [remaining] faithful until the end.”10

Those overcoming the world know that they will be accountable to their Heavenly Father. Sincerely changing and repenting of sins is no longer restraining but liberating, as “sins [of] scarlet … [become] white as snow.”11

Accountability to God

Those of the world have difficulty with accountability to God—like a child who parties in his parents’ home while they are out of town, enjoying the ruckus, refusing to think about the consequences when the parents return 24 hours later. 

The world is more interested in indulging the natural man than in subduing him.

Overcoming the world is not a global invasion but a private, personal battle, requiring hand-to-hand combat with our own internal foes.

Overcoming the world means treasuring the greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”12

The Christian writer C. S. Lewis described it this way: “Christ says ‘Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want You.’”13

Overcoming the world is keeping our promises to God—our baptismal and temple covenants and our oath of faithfulness to our eternal companion. Overcoming the world leads us humbly to the sacrament table each week, asking for forgiveness and pledging to “remember him and keep his commandments,” that we “may always have his Spirit to be with [us].”14

Honor the Sabbath

Our love for the Sabbath day does not end when the chapel doors close behind us but instead opens the doors to a beautiful day of resting from routine tasks, studying, praying, and reaching out to family and others who need our attention. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief when church is over and frantically running in search of a television before the football game begins, let our focus remain on the Savior and upon His holy day.

The world is incessantly pulled by a flood of enticing and seductive voices.15

Overcoming the world is trusting in the one voice that warns, comforts, enlightens, and brings peace “not as the world giveth.”16

Unselfishness

Overcoming the world means turning ourselves outward, remembering the second commandment17: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.”18 The happiness of our spouse is more important than our own pleasure. Helping our children to love God and keep His commandments is a primary priority. We willingly share our material blessings through tithing, fast offerings, and giving to those in need. And as our spiritual antennas are pointed heavenward, the Lord guides us to those we can help.

The world builds its universe around itself, proudly proclaiming: “Look at me compared to my neighbor! Look at what is mine! See how important I am!”

The world is easily irritated, disinterested, and demanding, loving the cheers of the crowd, while overcoming the world brings humility, empathy, patience, and compassion for those different than yourself.

Safety in the Prophets

Overcoming the world will always mean that we will have some beliefs that are ridiculed by the world. The Savior said:

“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.”19

Russell M. Nelson said this morning, “True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world.”20

A disciple of Christ is not alarmed if a post about her faith does not receive 1,000 likes or even a few friendly emojis.

Overcoming the world is being less concerned with our online connections and more concerned with our heavenly connection to God.

The Lord gives us safety as we heed the guidance from His living prophets and apostles.

President Thomas S. Monson has said: “The world can be … challenging. … [As we go to the temple], … we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. … We will be renewed and fortified.”21

With increasing temptations, distractions, and distortions, the world attempts to beguile the faithful into dismissing the rich spiritual experiences of one’s past, redefining them as foolish deceptions.

Overcoming the world is remembering, even when we are discouraged, the times we have felt the love and light of the Savior. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained one of these experiences this way: “I had been blessed, and I knew that God knew that I knew I had been blessed.”22 Although we may temporarily feel forgotten, we do not forget.

Overcoming the world does not mean we live a cloistered life, protected from the unfairness and difficulties of mortality. Rather, it opens the more expansive view of faith, drawing us to the Savior and His promises.

While perfection is not complete in this life, overcoming the world keeps our hope aflame that one day we “shall stand before [our Redeemer]; [and] see his face with pleasure,”23 and hear His voice: “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”24

Bruce D. Porter Bruce was born with a kidney defect. He had surgery, but over time his kidneys continued to decline. He knew … that Heavenly Father would take him home. He was filled with peace.”27 Years ago, Bruce wrote these words to his children:

Jesus is Our Compass

“The testimony I have of the reality and love of Jesus Christ has been the compass of my life. … It [is] a pure, burning witness of the Spirit that he lives, that he is my Redeemer and Friend in every time of need.”28

“Our challenge … is to come to know [the Savior] … and, through faith in him, to overcome the trials and temptations of this world.”29

“Let us be faithful and true, trusting in him.”30

Bruce Douglas Porter overcame the world.

May we each try a little harder in our efforts to overcome the world, not excusing serious offenses yet being patient with minor slips and falls, eagerly hastening our speed and generously helping others. As you trust more fully in the Savior, I promise you blessings of greater peace in this life and a greater assurance of your eternal destiny

 

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Judeo-Christian Culture: Discipleship Definition

Judeo-Christian Culture:

Discipleship Definition

Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ

By Robert D. Hales

The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.

What does it mean to be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ? A disciple is one who has been baptized and is willing to take upon him or her the name of the Savior and follow Him. A disciple strives to become as He is by keeping His commandments in mortality, much the same as an apprentice seeks to become like his or her master.

Many people hear the word disciple and think it means only “follower.” But genuine discipleship is a state of being. This suggests more than studying and applying a list of individual attributes. Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.

Listen to the Apostle Peter’s invitation to become a disciple of the Savior:

“Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

“And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”1

As you can see, weaving the spiritual tapestry of personal discipleship requires more than a single thread. In the Savior’s day, there were many who claimed to be righteous in one or another aspect of their lives. They practiced what I have called selective obedience. For example, they kept the commandment to refrain from work on the Sabbath yet criticized the Savior for healing on that holy day.2 They gave alms to the poor but offered only their excess—what they did not need for themselves.3 They fasted but only with long faces.4 They prayed but only to be seen of men.5 Jesus said, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”6 Such men and women may focus on mastering a specific attribute or action but do not necessarily become as He is in their hearts.

Of these, Jesus declared:

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

“And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”7

The attributes of the Savior, as we perceive them, are not a script to be followed or list to be checked off. They are interwoven characteristics, added one to another, which develop in us in interactive ways. In other words, we cannot obtain one Christlike characteristic without also obtaining and influencing others. As one characteristic becomes strong, so do many more.

In 2 Peter and in Doctrine and Covenants section 4, we learn that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation. We measure our faith by what it leads us to do—by our obedience. “If ye will have faith in me,” the Lord promised, “ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”8 Faith is a catalyst. Without works, without virtuous living, our faith is without power to activate discipleship. Indeed, faith is dead.9

Virtue, Knowledge

And so, Peter explains, “add to your faith virtue.” This virtue is more than sexual purity. It is cleanliness and holiness in mind and body. Virtue is also power. As we faithfully live the gospel, we will have power to be virtuous in every thought, feeling, and action. Our minds become more receptive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ.10 We embody Christ not only in what we say and do but also in who we are.

Peter continues, “Add to [your] virtue, knowledge.” As we live virtuous lives, we come to know our Heavenly Father and His Son in a special way. “If any man will do [the Father’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine.”11 This knowledge is personal testimony, born from personal experience. It is knowledge that transforms us so that our “light cleaveth unto [His] light” and our “virtue loveth [His] virtue.”12 By our virtuous living, we make the journey from “I believe” to the glorious destination of “I know.”

Temperance, Patience to Godliness

Peter exhorts us to add “to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience.” As temperate disciples, we live the gospel in a balanced and steady way. We do not “run faster than [we have] strength.”13 Day by day we move forward, undeterred by the refining challenges of mortality.

Being temperate in this way, we develop patience and trust in the Lord. We are able to rely on His design for our lives, even though we cannot see it with our own natural eyes.14 Therefore, we can “be still and know that [He is] God.”15 When faced with the storms of tribulation, we ask, “What wouldst Thou have me learn from this experience?” With His plan and purposes in our hearts, we move forward not only enduring all things but also enduring them patiently and well.16

This patience, Peter teaches, leads us to godliness. As the Father is patient with us, His children, we become patient with one another and ourselves. We delight in the agency of others and the opportunity it gives them to grow “line upon line,”17 “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”18

From temperance to patience and from patience to godliness, our natures change. We gain the brotherly kindness that is a hallmark of all true disciples. Like the Good Samaritan, we cross the road to minister to whoever is in need, even if they are not within the circle of our friends.19 We bless them that curse us. We do good to those who despitefully use us.20 Is any attribute more godly or Christlike?

I testify that the efforts we make to become disciples of our Savior are truly added upon until we are “possessed” of His love.21 This love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”22

It is faith, hope, and charity that qualify us for the work of God.23 “And now abideth … these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”24

Brothers and sisters, now more than ever, we cannot be a “part-time disciple”! We cannot be a disciple on just one point of doctrine or another. The constellation of characteristics that result from faith in Christ—including the ones we have talked about today—are all necessary to our standing strong in these last days.

As we earnestly strive to be true disciples of Jesus Christ, these characteristics will be interwoven, added upon, and interactively strengthened in us. There will be no disparity between the kindness we show our enemies and the kindness we bestow on our friends. We will be as honest when no one is looking as when others are watching. We will be as devoted to God in the public square as we are in our private closet.

I testify that everyone can be a disciple of the Savior. Discipleship is not constrained by age, gender, ethnic origin, or calling. Through our individual discipleship, we build up a collective strength to bless our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Now is the time to recommit ourselves to being His disciples with all diligence.

Brothers and sisters, we are all called to be disciples of our Savior. May He bless us in our eternal quest to become devoted and valiant disciples.