Jesus Christ, Our Great Deliverer

March 6, 2018

Shawn Jensen

Design & Construction Management Faculty Member

Shawn Jensen was born in West Jordan, Utah.  Soon after returning home from his Laotian speaking mission to Minnesota, he married his high school sweetheart, Hilary Bateman.  He was on the Ricks College wrestling team, and in 1996 took 2nd in the nation at his weight class, bolstering his team to a 3rd place national finish.

Brother Jensen earned a bachelor's degree in construction education and a master's degree in construction technology from BYU, and a doctorate degree in educational leadership from Washington State University. He became a BYU-Idaho faculty member in 2008.

Brother Jensen has been an elder's quorum president and young men president, and is currently the bishop of the Rexburg YSA 68th ward.

He and his wife are the parents of 5 children.  Their oldest son is serving in the Washington Yakima Mission, Spanish speaking.



 

Spiritual Preparation

Pre-devotional Discussion:

One of my favorite hymns is Mack Wilberg's arrangement of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." As I listen to those words, I am inspired to look inside my own heart and see how I can give more to "the God I love." We all feel "prone to wander" at times, as the hymn states. How important is it then to continually check our hearts and then give them back to God. "Here's my heart Lord, take and seal it," should be our anthem each day, each hour. During our time together on Tuesday, I would like to invite the congregation to join in singing this hymn as a way of expressing our devotion and our testimony. 

In preparation for Tuesday's devotional, I invite you to visit the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Blog and read about the history of this wonderful hymn and listen to each of the three videos, showing three very different renditions of the hymn, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing."  Once you have visited the blog site and have watched the videos, please write your thoughts and feelings regarding this hymn on the discussion board.

My dear friends, it is a great honor for me to speak to you! I have felt impressed to focus today’s message on our Lord Jesus Christ and His power to deliver us from death and hell.

Let me share a personal experience with you that has helped me understand this delivering power with new eyes. I call this my “scary scuba story.”

About 20 years ago, I decided to enroll in a series of scuba courses. Throughout my training, we practiced things like what to do if my mask filled with water, how to share air with another diver in need, and other similar types of scenarios. By the time I was finished, I was looking forward, with great anticipation, to trying it out on my own. So one day I decided that I was ready to explore the underwater world of Flaming Gorge Reservoir, in eastern Utah.

When I arrived at the lake, I found an isolated dock, where I started to “gear up.” I wriggled into my wetsuit and strapped my air tank to my buoyancy compensator device, or BCD for short. Now, the BCD is the dive vest that inflates with air to help keep one balanced in the water. Next, I slid on my dive fins and then pulled my mask over my face. Once dressed, I waddled my way to the edge of the dock, put my air regulator in my mouth, held my hand to my mask (just as I’ve seen it done in the movies), and then stepped off the dock.

As I began to swim towards the middle of the lake, I noticed that I was gradually sinking beneath the surface of the water, in spite of my best efforts to keep from doing so. As I continued to sink, the atmospheric pressure of the surrounding water also continued to increase with depth. Consequently, I began to sink at an accelerated rate, and I quickly found myself 10 feet deep! Then, before I even realized how fast I was sinking, I was suddenly 15 feet below the surface!

I found myself out of control and sinking deeper with every second into the dark, seemingly bottomless waters of that lake. I could literally watch the light disappearing around me as I fell through those dark waters, now at a depth of 20 feet below the surface!

“How could I stop this uncontrolled fall?” I wondered. Then I remembered something that I had learned from my training: If I borrowed air from the oxygen tank and placed it into the dive vest, or the BCD, the added air in the vest would compensate for the increased pressure of the surrounding waters and help keep me from falling deeper. However, when I tried this, nothing happened; I just keep sinking! Faster and faster, deeper and deeper I dropped—25 feet, 30 feet, 35 feet. I was in a full-blown panic when I finally landed hard on the bottom of that lake about 40 feet deep and surrounded by cold, dark, murky waters.

No matter how hard I pushed off the bottom and kicked my legs, straining and fighting to make it back to the surface, I continued to land back in the same place, four stories underwater, trapped and terrified. Over and over I tried to swim my way to the surface without success. After multiple attempts, and now exhausted, I realized that I needed to change my tactics if I were to escape those dark, cold waters.

I considered the idea of abandoning my scuba tank and my vest on the bottom of the lake, filling my lungs with one last deep breath, and then racing to the surface. I knew that this was extremely risky, but what other options did I have? Just before proceeding, I fortunately remembered learning about a condition called the “bends,” or decompression sickness. This condition can occur when a diver ascends too quickly to the surface, causing nitrogen bubbles to form and then expand in the body. The effects of this condition can result in severe pain, paralysis, or even death.

“I might be able to make it to the surface on one breath of air,” I told myself. But doing so without incurring some level of decompression sickness was very unlikely. No, there just had to be another way.

As my mind raced, I thought of a second option. “Maybe I could swim along the bottom of the lake until I reached the shoreline.” However, this too was risky as the water was so murky that I could hardly see one foot in front of me. And because of those dark muddy waters, I completely lost my sense of direction and had no idea which way to even start swimming. I could easily swim myself into a much worse predicament—farther from the shore and without any air in my dive tank. I felt trapped, confused, and afraid.

Brothers and sisters, what would you have done if you were in this situation?

Well, in that moment of panic, confusion, and terror, I did what you probably would have done right from the start—I prayed. In fact, it was really more of a cry than anything else. I literally knelt down, right there on the bottom of the lake floor, surrounded by the circling darkness of the muddy waters, and pled for deliverance. I expressed my deep regret and sorrow for choosing to dive alone. I explained to my Father in Heaven that I had done everything I could think of to get out of this predicament but continued to find myself in the same situation. I pled with Him to help me return back to the surface and back to the warmth and light of the sun that I so desperately craved.

When I was pouring out my heart, my mind reflected back to minutes earlier, when I was safely back on the shore. In my mind, I saw myself picking up rock after rock and filling my vest pockets completely full of those rocks. You see, shortly after I had arrived at the lake, I had realized that I had forgotten to bring my dive belt.

Now, those of you who have been diving know the quandary I was in. The weighted dive belt helps compensate for the added buoyancy of the wetsuit and the oxygen tank. Without the properly weighted dive belt, I would not be able to submerge underwater. So, in an attempt to counterfeit the proper weight and use of the dive belt, I loaded my pockets with rocks.

After the Spirit had helped me recognize my obvious error, I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to be delivered. Now, in a very calm manner, I took off my gloves, unzipped my vest pockets on my BCD, and began removing the rocks that I had placed therein. One by one, I removed each of those rocks. Once they were removed, I was then able to inflate my vest with air to its full capacity, and immediately I began to ascend up towards the light.

You see, the rocks were the problem. They were restricting the amount of air I could add to my vest. I can still clearly remember those feelings of fear, anxiety, and cold being replaced with feelings of warmth, safety, and comfort as I slowly ascended and then broke the surface of the water. Through prayer and by heeding the promptings of the Spirit, I was delivered from that terrifying situation.

I know there are at least a few of you listening today to my “scary scuba story” who are questioning my sanity and even my level of intelligence, and I don’t blame you. You might be asking yourself, “Why would you do such a reckless thing as go diving alone?” Or maybe you are wondering, “Why did you fill your vest pockets with rocks in the first place?” Or perhaps your question is, “Why didn’t you recognize sooner that the rocks were the problem?”

I admit that all of those questions are valid, and, believe me, I’ve asked myself those same things. But, spiritually speaking, couldn’t similar questions be asked of each one of us at different times in our lives? Think about it. If we are honest with ourselves, couldn’t we all say that we have made poor decisions and reckless mistakes that have led us into spiritual captivity at one point or another? Have you ever asked yourself, “Why did I put myself in that situation?” or “Why did I do or see or say that awful thing?” Or perhaps you have asked yourself, “Why did it take me so long to realize that obvious mistake I made?”

Now, using my scuba experience as an analogy, let’s each do some self-reflection and consider what “worldly rocks” we may be carrying that are weighing us down. Is it the rock of idleness or fear or self-pity that’s holding you captive? Perhaps it’s the “worldly rock” of addiction or sexual transgressions or pride. What rocks do you need to discard?

I want to extend the first of two challenges to each of you today. I challenge you to examine your life and ask the question, “What worldly rocks am I currently carrying that are holding me captive and are keeping me from spiritually progressing?” Recognizing these rocks is so critical in letting go of them! Picking up the rocks is one thing, but holding on to them is what really sinks us. Recognizing and then removing those rocks from your life will allow the Holy Spirit to fill you and help you ascend to the Son—spelled S-O-N—where He is waiting to deliver you and where you can feel of His warmth, His light, and His peace again.

Perhaps one of the more notable examples of the power of deliverance is the remarkable account of Alma the Younger. You’ll remember that he and the sons of Mosiah were in a state of apostasy when an angel appeared and said unto them, “If thou wilt of thyself be destroyed, seek no more to destroy the church of God.”[1] This rebuke caused Alma to recognize his sins and to feel godly sorrow for his actions.

Once Alma recognized the worldly rocks he was carrying, he then had a choice to make. He could continue in his path of spiritual self-destruction, or he could turn his heart to the Lord and be delivered. We all have that same decision to make when we recognize our own individual sins. Perhaps the Spirit has helped you recognize a few worldly rocks that are hindering your spiritual journey. You and the Lord know what they are. Now, what will you choose to do?

It is my prayer that you will follow Alma’s example and turn your heart to the Lord. Our Great Deliverer can and will free you from bondage. Listen to Alma’s words:

As I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, ... I remembered ... the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.

Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.

And ... when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.

And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold![2]

Dear brothers and sisters, I testify that our Great Deliverer can and will free us from spiritual bondage, but only if we choose to be delivered. Alma was delivered from his pain and guilt only after he recognized his mistakes and then “cried within [his] heart” to the Lord. Similarly, I was not delivered from my precarious situation 40 feet underwater until I cried to God for help. He then opened my eyes and helped me recognize my error of picking up and holding on to those rocks. Only then was I shown the way to escape. Brothers and sisters, we must choose to be delivered, and yes, it is a choice!

I love the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” because it reminds me to give my heart to God each day. We are all fallen and are “prone to wander,” as the hymn states. We have all felt those “natural man” tendencies to pick up worldly rocks, and we will continue to be tempted to “leave the God [we] love” as long as we are in this mortal state. How important is it then, for each of us to give our hearts to God every day, even as we commit to being better the next? We demonstrate our trust in Him by saying, “Here’s my heart, [Lord,] take and seal it.”

The first few lines of that great hymn are as follows: “Come thou fount of every blessing / Tune my heart to sing thy grace. / Streams of mercy never ceasing / Call for songs of loudest praise.”[3] Let’s take a few minutes now to share our individual and collective testimonies of the goodness and mercies of our “Great Deliverer”, Jesus Christ, as we stand together and with “loudest praise” sing this beautiful hymn. Please stand.

Come thou fount of every blessing

Tune my heart to sing thy grace

Streams of mercy never ceasing

Call for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above

... Praise the mount I'm fixed upon it

Mount of thy redeeming love

 

Here I raise my Ebenezer

Hither by thy help [I’ve] come

And I hope by thy good pleasure

Safely to arrive at home

 

Jesus sought me when a stranger

[Wandering] from the fold of God

He, to rescue me from danger

Interposed His precious blood

 

O to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be!

Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee

Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love

Here's my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.[4]

My second challenge to each of you is this: Give your heart to God every day! I testify that our Great Deliverer—the fount of every blessing—has all power over death and hell. Trust in Him! Turn to the Lord with all your heart, and He will deliver you!

Our Great Deliverer can, and will, free you from feelings of guilt, shame, fear, and self-doubts. He can, and will, deliver you from the worldly rocks that weigh down the natural man, including laziness, pride, self-gratification, and other lusts of the flesh. The God that we worship wants to deliver you from these things. This is His greatest desire. He wants all of us to come to Him even as a child turns to their father for love, comfort, and peace. Our Great Deliverer said, “Repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you.”[5] All He requires of us is our “heart[s] and a willing mind.”[6]

Now, as you work to give your heart to God every day, I feel impressed to warn you of two specific worldly rocks that can weigh you down. They are the worldly rocks of pride and fear.

The worldly rock of pride keeps us in bondage by persuading us to believe that we are not carrying any rocks at all. If we believe that lie, then we cannot progress. President James E. Faust said it this way: “Perhaps worse than sin is the denial of sin. If we deny that we are sinners, how can we ever be [delivered]?”[7] If the Spirit has helped remind you of a worldly rock or two that you need to discard, but you have either ignored that prompting or justified why you feel the need to continue carrying those rocks, then “beware of pride”![8] Instead, admit your mistakes and turn your heart to God!

The worldly rock of fear inhibits growth. After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, Satan convinced them to hide from God. I’m sure they were fearful of the consequences of their transgression and feared the thought of facing God unclean. However, when the Father called to Adam and Eve, they bravely came forth and confessed what they had done. Can you see how their growth and spiritual progression would have been damned if they had remained in their hiding place, allowing their fears to control them? Please, do not hide your sins! Like mold, when we try to keep it hidden and in the dark, sin only grows. Instead, bring it into the open and into the light! Shining light on the problem helps slow the growth, and eventually that light will overcome it.

If we are not careful, the worldly rocks of pride and fear can keep us from being delivered. For example, let’s assume that a person is struggling to remove the weighty worldly rock of viewing pornography from their life. After each “viewing session,” feelings of guilt and shame well up, and a commitment to never do it again is made. This person can see how their senses are becoming dull and their mind is being warped by the graphic lies associated with pornography. In spite of the commitment that was made, this person continues to find himself or herself back in that same situation time after time, pledging those same promises to “never do it again” and “I’ll be stronger next time.”

Brothers and sisters, can you see pride in this example? This person is convinced that he or she can overcome their pornography problem without help, even though it’s obvious that help is needed. The heavy rock of pride is holding this person captive at the bottom of those dark, muddy waters. Vision is clouded, and direction is confused. Spiritual progression is impossible in this current condition!

Let’s assume that this individual realizes the need for outside help and considers meeting with their bishop. However, now the worldly rock of fear begins to pull and weigh on this person. Satan plays on that fear by telling them that everyone will be disappointed if this worldly rock comes to light, that the consequences are just too great, and that it will be easier to keep it hidden.

Fortunately, in our example, this individual overcomes the worldly rocks of both pride and fear and makes an appointment with their bishop. Through specific and loving counsel, this person begins to ascend towards the light and to draw closer to the Son.

As I serve in my current calling as a YSA bishop, I have felt great joy when an individual humbly comes to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, admitting to have picked up one or more of those worldly rocks, and asks with all sincerity to be delivered. The depth of love I feel from the Savior for those individuals who have chosen to turn their hearts back to Him always overwhelms me.

Just last week, Sister Neill F. Marriott invited us to open our hearts to God. She said, “As trust in Christ grows, we are responsible for letting Him in and allowing Him to make our hearts as gold.” She also gave us this promise: “As we break our hearts before the Father, in the name of His Son, we will feel a rush of relief and peace.”[9]

Please remember today’s challenges. The first challenge is to recognize those worldly rocks that are keeping you from progressing. And the second is to turn your heart to the Great Deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ, every day and be freed of those rocks. Do whatever it takes! If you need to speak with your bishop, schedule it within the hour! There is no reason why we should allow our pride, fears, or habits to keep us in spiritual bondage when deliverance is available to everyone. It does not matter how many worldly rocks you have picked up or how long you have carried them or how deep you feel you have sunk in that proverbial lake; deliverance is available to you. Trust in His delivering power.

I testify that the Great Deliverer will free you from any worldly rock that you may have picked up along your journey of life if you but turn your hearts to Him. I know it because I have experienced it. “The God I love” has always been there, ready to deliver me each time I have turned my heart back to Him. I have felt His love. I have felt of His peace. And I have felt of his desire to deliver all of us from those dark, murky waters of spiritual bondage. He lives, brothers and sisters, and He loves us so very, very much. His greatest desire is to deliver each of us from all of our afflictions, sins, and pains. Please, let the Atonement of Jesus Christ find place in your heart. I promise you that when you freely give your heart to God, He will gladly “take and seal it.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

 



[1] Alma 36:9.

[2] Alma 36:17–20; emphasis added.

[3] Robert Robinson, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”; lds.org.

[4] Robinson; lds.org.

[5] 3 Nephi 9:13.

[6] Doctrine and Covenants 64:34.

[7] James E. Faust, “A Crown of Thorns, a Crown of Glory,” Ensign, May 1991.

[8] Doctrine and Covenants 23:1.

[9] Neill F. Marriott, “Test of the Heart” (Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, Feb. 27, 2018); byui.edu.

Jesus Christ, Our Great Deliverer

Audio of Shawn Jensen's BYU-Idaho devotional, Winter 2018


BYU-Idaho Radio Interview

Audio of Shawn Jensen's BYU-Idaho Radio interview for his Winter 2018 devotional.