The scriptures are filled with examples of newness. We hear parables of new wine in old bottles. We read of the Lord, as God of the Old Testament, requiring the new construction of temples and places of worship. More importantly, we learn about the newness that comes as a result of sincere repentance
The Lord delights in newness.
O sing unto the lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things: his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory (Psalms 98:1).
Of all the wonderful new things that you have ever gotten, how does this compare to the greatest thing you ever whispered in Santa’s ear or put on a wish list for your parents?
And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19).
Sometimes we resist the new because we are just so comfortable with the old. The council of Paul to the Romans, a group of saints who struggled giving up the Law of Moses, speaks to what the Lord can do with us as we strive to change and conform ourselves to the Lords will. The Saints in Rome were learning about the blessings and covenants associated with the atonement of the Savior. The process of repentance and keeping the higher law was new to them. Paul expressed this newness that comes through the Savior’s atoning sacrifice in terms of the change that could come to them as they repented and applied the atonement in their own lives. He wrote:
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
Newness comes through repentance and conversion
This newness is great, and like many new and great things in our society, we often ask “how can I get one of those?” This newness is a product of the Lord accepting our broken heart and our contrite spirit, and by our taking up our cross. We become malleable to his will and he in turn can provide us a new heart. We then can be transformed by the renewing of our mind and receive his image in our countenances.
Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy (Proverbs 28:13b).
Of confession and repentance, we learn that:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all righteousness (I John 1:9).
We seem to be very keen to change ourselves and “turn over a new leaf.” Plastic surgery, weight loss clinics, personal coaches, and motivational speakers are all highly sought after in this day and age. We relish the idea of change. We desire forgiveness because we seem to be keenly aware of our own shortcomings. We turn to the Savior to forgive us and eagerly seek his promise to “remember them no more.”
In all of this seeking forgiveness and change, are we willing to extend to others that willful forgetfulness that we so desperately seek for ourselves?
We are no doubt familiar with the account of Saul of Tarsus found in the book of Acts. We read about his consenting as a young man to the murder of Stephan, a newly ordained Seventy, who was stoned for administering the word of the Lord to the poor and the needy. A little later, we read of Saul and his taking the lead in these types of persecution.
As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and hailing men and women commit[ing] them to prison (Acts 8:3).
Saul (now Paul) himself recounts this time in his life when he had a spiritually blinded and misguided devotion to the destruction of the church:
[I] was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women (Acts 22:3-4).
After his conversion, we read about the works and life of Saul, now Paul, throughout the New Testament. We see how he built the kingdom. He was a great man and a great apostle and disciple of the Lord. However, an often lost character in Paul’s story is that of Ananias.
Ananias was a disciple at Damascus. Damascus was a bustling city of commerce with an active branch of the church. Damascus was Saul’s destination and his most recent target of persecution. Instead of entering the city as the agent of havoc and mayhem for which he was infamously known, Saul entered the city significantly wounded (both physically and spiritually). His companions led the now blind Saul to the home of a man named Judas, and here Saul stayed for three days. For three days Saul neither ate nor drank but addressed the Lord in prayer. We do not know a lot about Ananias other than the fact that he was a disciple worthy of revelation. Ananias was instructed by the Lord to go to the home of this Judas and inquire after Saul. Ananias was informed that Saul was praying, and obviously Ananias was to be the answer to Saul’s prayer. Needless to say, He was a little troubled by this direction. Ananias knew who this Saul was, and what danger his journey to Damascus brought to this branch of the church. When we realize that Ananias very well may have been an explicit target of Saul’s persecution, we can understand his hesitation:
Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name (Acts 9:13-14).
Ananias, a man marked for prison and maybe even death, was being asked by the Lord to visit the very man who would tear him away from his home and his family. What would have been your reaction? Would you have set sail to a proverbial Nineveh? Would you have denied the gift of revelation?
Ananias was assured of the Lord that Saul was a “chosen vessel” and that he would be an instrument in bearing the gospel to the Gentiles and even testify before kings. (v15) Then the Lord said a curious thing:
“For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).
Saul did suffer. In fact, he gave his very life for the testimony he gained on that road to Damascus. In hindsight, after all we know about Paul, we can see that Ananias had nothing to worry about. Ananias however had foresight and the gift of revelation. After some natural human doubts, Ananias “went his way and entered into the house.” Now I am touched by Ananias’ response to Saul.
He put his hand on Saul and said “Brother Saul.” Brother Saul?
Think about that a moment.
”Brother Saul.” Think of those in your life who have offended you. I would be willing to say that most of those offenders were not looking to cast you into prison or see you crucified. Have any of these offenders come to you and you put your hand on them and said “Brother or Sister?” That grace, forgiveness, and even forgetfulness that we so eagerly seek for ourselves is sometimes not so readily extended to others.
I would ask us to learn to forgive and remember no more the offenses that we suffer. I would ask that we extend the mercy we seek to those around us. Ananias, doubted yes, but he did not set sail to Nineveh. Ananias did not deny the gift that was in him, he followed the Lord’s revelation.
Saul received his sight at the hands of the priesthood and was baptized.
Now you may say, well that’s great. Ananias a leader in the church with priesthood authority was able to overcome the fear and threat of persecution. “But he received revelation,” you say. It’s fine for my Bishop or Pastor or Corp Officer to get out there and find those lost sheep. But Saul did not just ride off into the sunset a changed man. He tarried “certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus” (Acts 9:19). Saul stayed and came to church. Saul was brought into the fold and I am willing to bet that the saints followed the admonishment of a prophet in our day who said that every new convert needs three things: a friend, a responsibility, and to be nourished by the good word of God.
The scriptures tell us that he “increased the more in strength” (v. 22). Saul began to become the great missionary that we all know he did. He did it in a little branch of the church in the town of Damascus where he was nourished and fed both physically and temporally. Paul was who he became because a man named Ananias obeyed the spirit of revelation. Ananias and his congregation extended the very grace and forgiveness to Saul that they sought so eagerly for themselves.
Can you put your arms around a prodigal who may have hurt you? Can you look him in the eye and say “Brother” or “Sister?” We know we need to repent, but do you allow others to repent?
The Lord instructed Saints in our day that:
“Wherefore I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin. I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men” (D&C 64:9-10).
In life and business
This council to be forgiving is of primary efficacy in our families and congregations, but it extends beyond that. We need to become a gracious and forgiving people in life and business. Now that does not mean that we don’t maintain standards and that we do not hold each other accountable, but rather we discipline with love then forgive and move on. “Love you say in business?” Yes, love in business! Eternal principles are principles that work in all facets of life. I assure you that as you apply this principle in all areas of your life, your life will change for the better. The Lord’s promises are sure and his principles eternal.
As you increase in grace, benevolence, and forgiveness in all areas of your life, you will have greater access to the spirit and be able to make wise decisions in your church responsibilities, your family, and your business.