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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 24: A Christ Centered Life

At this season of the year it is wonderful to have a lesson on how to live as Christ did. Let’s start this lesson with a quote from President Benson. “I testify to you that there is no greater, more thrilling, and more soul-ennobling challenge than to try to learn of Christ and walk in His steps.” Note that he did not say there was nothing more enabling, but ennobling than trying to walk in His steps. Learning to walk, to live as Christ did, is what it means to live a Christ-centered life.

Following are two quotes from President Benson. Jesus was perfect, yet despite our obvious imperfections he has commanded us to be perfect like him.

We are far short of the goal he set for us, but we must never lose sight of it; nor must we forget that our great climb toward the light, toward perfection, would not be possible except for his teachings, his life, his death, and his resurrection.

Nephi tells us in 1 Nephi 3:7 that the Lord never gives a commandment we cannot keep. He will always open a way for us to fulfill that commandment. That includes learning to live perfectly, which means living as a whole person, without defect or lacking anything.

… We must learn and learn again that only through accepting and living the gospel of love as taught by the Master and only through doing his will can we break the bonds of ignorance and doubt that bind us. We must learn this simple, glorious truth so that we can experience the sweet joys of the spirit now and eternally. We must lose ourselves in doing his will. We must place him first in our lives.

I am so grateful that he says we must “learn and learn again.” How many times do we try and fail? The only part that is important is that we keep trying, keep improving. The crucial part is that we are on the path to perfection, not so much that we have reached the end of the path. We have eternity to reach the end of that path. In this life we need to begin the training process of becoming like Christ.

The last sentence of that second quote is key. “We must place him first in our lives.” Hence our title for this lesson, A Christ-Centered Life. When Christ takes center stage, and all our thoughts and actions, feelings and emotions, center on Him and what he would have us do or feel, only then has be become the center of our lives. Is that a little obsessive? Yes. This cannot succeed if it is done casually.

Let’s look for a moment at what Christ tell us we need to do to put Him first in our lives. As we go through this list ask yourself if Christ himself did these things in his worship of His Father. If he did the same things then it is only fair if he requires the same standard of behavior from us. This list comes from section 2 of the lesson.

1. We need to “believe in Christ and deny him not.” (2 Nephi 256:28.) Christ was this way with His Father.

2. We need to trust in Christ and not in the arm of flesh. (2 Nephi 4:34.) Christ was this way with His Father.

3. “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” (Moroni 10:32.) Christ did only what He saw his Father do.

4. Come “with a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 12:19), hungering and thirsting after righteousness. (3 Nephi 12:6.) Christ humbled himself before the Father and spent a great deal of time praying and seeking guidance from Him so he could do God’s will.

5. We need to come “feasting upon the word of Christ.” (2 Nephi 31:20.) How often did Christ quote scripture and past prophets in answering questions and teaching principles of salvation? He had obviously done his homework.

As you can see from this list there is nothing being required of us that Christ did not do first. He was, in all things, the perfect example. We may not be as quick a study as He was, but that is why we are told we need to study the scriptures and pray for the Spirit to guide us on a daily basis. If it was not possible to do, He wouldn’t have commanded us to do it. He knows we can do it, so it is required of us. We see only our weaknesses. He sees our potential, despite our weaknesses.

The Importance of Our Thoughts

“If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts.” President Benson repeated this sentence again for emphasis. Here is a quote from my commentary on this lesson:

Only when we have learned to value purity of thought, and have learned to push out of our minds and hearts those things that will taint our souls, will we be able to learn to think like Christ. This is where the battle for our souls is being fought, in our minds. What goes on in our minds determines what we do with our bodies. Whomever wins the devotion of our mind wins our soul.

The war for our souls is not being fought with guns and tanks. It is fought with ideas and suggestions. Who we choose to follow determines the outcome of that war for our soul. When Christ tells us that we need to put Him in the center of our lives, it is for our own safety that He requires it. Only then will we be able to rely on His strength through the Spirit to bring us home safely.

Being a zealot

Being zealous or obsessed with putting Christ at the center of our lives is not something that comes naturally. Like all spiritual gifts the ability to center ourselves on Christ is given to us as a spiritual gift. President Benson refers to it as becoming “consumed in Him.” When we think of obsessions we usually apply a negative connotation to the term, but to be consumed in Christ cannot be a negative thing, for all good things come from God. He says in the lesson:

When we live a Christ-centered life, “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26). We “receive the pleasing word of God, and feast upon his love” (Jacob 3:2).

There is a long list of things Peter tells us in the New Testament we need to do in order to become more like Christ. President Benson briefly discusses these things that help to build a Christlike personality. I suggest you read that list and his discussion of it several times so it sinks in. It is focused on how to help us clean up our thoughts and develop love, tolerance, and patience that will develop us into people who walk, act, and think like Christ. This is the goal, and it can be achieved, if we are willing to follow the counsel of our prophets.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.

Read more of President Benson's teachings here

Lead image from LDS.org

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