“In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something.” (Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become”)
Do you often drive to work the same way? Are there restaurants you usually eat at or do you follow a similar pattern around the grocery store? It’s because we usually like patterns. They establish our understanding of “the way things are.” The scriptures are full of patterns. God and His prophets teach us the “patterns” we can follow to happiness, peace, and eternal life.
I’ve noticed an early pattern in my study of Come Follow Me.
The pattern started in John 1:12.
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
But wait, aren’t we already children of God? Why does this verse talk about becoming the “sons of God”?
This is the pattern. In the early teaching of the Savior he is trying to lift our thinking from earthly and temporal things to spiritual and eternal ideas. Yes, we are all children of God in the sense that we are spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother. We can sing “I am a child of God” with power and confidence.
We are also spiritual beings and as spirits we have to choose where how we want to grow and develop. Look at the first part of verse 12, “as many as received him.” Only those that choose to receive the Savior receive the “power to become.” That is a choice we made at baptism to follow the Savior and that is repeated every time we choose to keep God’s commandments.
John wasn’t talking just about the here and now. The physical existence of God and our relationship to Him as children of God. He was talking spiritually and eternally. Lifting our thinking to a higher level.
A pattern is more than one thing.
To be a pattern, this teaching (lifting our thinking to a higher level) should be repeated. And, John repeats it frequently in his early teaching.
John 3 starts with Nicodemus coming to the Savior and being taught this same pattern.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
The Savior teaches a clear principle about our need to change spiritually and uses being born as the analogy. But Nicodemus doesn’t quite get it. His thinking is still here and now. Physical and temporal. How can we possibly be born again when we are old and fully grown?
Verse 5 is the pattern. Instead of thinking here and now, physical and temporal, Jesus wants us to think spiritual and eternal. Think big. Think the length of eternity. He isn’t talking about physically being reborn, he’s talking about being born of the Spirit. A spiritual transformation that has to happen for all of us.
The pattern continues.
We aren’t don’t yet! Look at a few verses from there in John 3:14-15
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Moses was physical and temporal. He had a snake that would heal people of their physical ailments. But the Savior is more than that. He is being lifted up not to heal our physical ailments but to save us in our spiritual and eternal challenge of sin. Eternal life is the promise of verse 15. Moses gave them temporal. Jesus gives us eternal.
More of the pattern.
John 3:16 is possibly the most famous verse in all of scripture.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The final promise of this verse is the same. Everlasting life. The mission and teaching of the Savior are not just for the here and now, they are designed to save us eternally and give us everlasting life.
One more time with this pattern thing
John gives us one more example of the pattern in John 4:10-15. After asking the Samaritan woman for water, He begins to teach her—yep, you guessed it—about lifting her thinking from here and now, temporal and temporary to spiritual and eternal.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. (Jesus is talking about spiritual and eternal things here).
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? (She is focused on physical. How can he physically draw the water?)
Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?
Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:
But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (Spiritual water, eternal life.)
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. (She is still focused on physical things. How can she get this water so she doesn’t need to come to well anymore?!)
In multiple one on one conversations with people Jesus is working to lift their thinking to a higher level. Don’t just think about here and now. Don’t just think about temporal and physical things. Focus on the eternal. Focus on the spiritual.
Eternal growth. Spiritual growth.
I wonder if the Savior came and talked to me today. Would He remind me to stop focusing so much on the here and now? The temporal and temporary? Would He show me the same pattern of lifting my thinking to a higher, spiritual way of thinking?
Is that what He might do with you?