Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jesus Christ = Rescue


My Heavenly Father has been taking me through a big spiritual transformation recently.  Currently, He still is.  He has always been trying to teach me how to become like Him and, by doing so, how to be happy and free.  But, for whatever reason, only recently, has the Lord seen fit to show me that I need to go beyond just knowing about Him, about the Savior, having the limited faith that I do, and progress to really having His will for me, His word, His gospel, His peace, His nature, His love, written in the very sinews and fibers of my soul.  It's like He wants me to take the faith I already have and take it to the next level, to not just knowing things in my head and feeling them in my heart, but having it all become ingrained in who I am, really coming to know Him on a personal level.

I remember in a talk called "The Mortal Christ" by Jack R. Christiansen where He mentions the difference between knowing about Jesus vs. knowing Him. He spoke about how it really is such a wonderful, good thing to know about Christ, but that really coming to know Christ as a member of our spiritual family and most importantly as our Savior and Redeemer, is so much better.  We need to come to know Him as our Advocate with the Father in taking upon Himself the pivotal, paramount role of our Savior, Exemplar and Master and Leader.

And that is where I want to introduce my idea behind the title of this entry.  I'll be doing a series of entries about what Jesus Christ means to me in an effort to come to know Him better.  I found out, in the process of preparing the most recent talk I gave in church, that when I prepare something spiritual to share with anyone, Heavenly Father always uses it as an opportunity to teach and transform me in some way, if I seek the Holy Ghost to guide me in what I should say.  I'll try to write this in a way that makes sense not just to members of the LDS church, but to everyone.

First - rescue

When I was preparing my comments about agency for sacrament meeting this last week, there were some things that became a little more clear to me.  One of them was the redemptive role of Jesus in the Father's plan.  While I was serving as a missionary, I read in one dictionary the definition of redeem as "to regain possession of by paying a price... to set free."

Set free from what?

According to modern revelation regarding the fall of Adam and Eve, the effects of the fall are death and being permanently separated from God.  In order for God's plan of us returning to Him to work, we had to be freed somehow from death and from the effects of sin.  There was no way we could make up for our sins on our own, so there had to be a way for God to, as the earlier definition said, "regain possession" of us, His children.

This is where the role of Jesus Christ as our Redeemer comes into play.  The core doctrine and supreme truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is that God loves us, that He lives, and that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, the Only Begotten Son of God, that He lived a perfect life, showed us a perfect example of how to live in happiness and, in all senses, lived, suffered, died and lives again, with the purpose of rescuing us from the effects of sin and death.

His entire focus His whole life was to carry about the plan of the Father by making a way for us to return to Him.  According to Alma 7:11-13 in The Book of Mormon the Lord "[went] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind ... And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities ... the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance."

He lived a perfect life, so He didn't need to suffer those things for His own sake.  His thoughts, words, actions and attitude were perfect and flawless.  Taking upon Himself the weight of the total sum of human suffering, death, weakness and sin throws the scales of justice and mercy off balance.  He had to be rewarded somehow for this submission to the Father's will.

President Boyd K. Packer made a great analogy about a debtor and a creditor to illustrated what the life, sufferings and death of Christ give Him the power to do.  To make a long story short, a summary of the analogy goes as follows.  A young man wanted something very much, so much that he willingly took on a great debt to receive it.  The creditor with whom he took on the debt gave him a period of time in which to pay back his debt, setting a firm deadline.  The young man saw the deadline as something so far away that he postponed paying back the debt, so when the due date came, he ended up being trouble.  The creditor came to him and demanded payment.  An argument ensued with the debtor asking for mercy and the creditor demanding justice.  Both laws of mercy and justice needed to be met, but it seemed impossible to satisfy both, until a friend of the debtor came and offered to pay the price of the debt in full and offered to be the new creditor to the young man, in return for His following the new terms of payment he would set.

In the same way, our Lord, Jesus Christ, has taken upon Himself the whole of our spiritual debt to God, our Father, and in return, He asks for us to be allowed to return to God's presence and live in eternal happiness provided we follow His example and, with His help, become like Him.  His life, suffering, death and resurrection give Him the power to plead our cause and rescue us from the full consequence of our sins. By doing this, justice is satisfied because the debt is paid and mercy is satisfied because we can be free.

But, something I'd like to point out here is that He didn't just rescue us from the effects of sin, but from a sinful nature.  From modern scripture we know that "the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (emphasis added).

Notice how it does not just talk about doing good things, but becoming a different person, making it so that we want to do good things, simply because it is right.  Part of gaining experience in this life is experiencing what it's like to be enticed by both good and evil things and being given the choice between one of the other, but the Atonement of Christ, His sufferings, death and resurrection, gives us a way to overcome, as The Apostle Elder David A. Bednar said, "both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin."

The purpose behind God's plan was for us not only to follow Him, but want to follow Him.  In Alma 34:34, also from the Book of Mormon, "...that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world." So our desires do not change at death.  Those who don't want to be choose to be good by following the Saviors example now won't want to then either.  What we want is a part of who we are, as Brad Wilcox put it "The miracle of the Atonement is not just that we can be cleansed and consoled but that we can be transformed.  Scriptures make it clear that no unclean thing can dwell with God but, brothers and sisters, no unchanged thing will even want to ... the more I understand this wonderful plan of redemption, the more I realize that in the final judgment it will not be the unrepentant sinner begging Jesus, “Let me stay.” No, he will probably be saying, “Get me out of here!” Knowing Christ’s character, I believe that if anyone is going to be begging on that occasion, it would probably be Jesus begging the unrepentant sinner, “Please, choose to stay. Please, use my Atonement—not just to be cleansed but to be changed so that you want to stay.”

So, to wrap up, I will ask the question again.  What was the Atonement of Christ for? What does it rescue us from?  If we apply it to our lives fully, it rescues us from sin, the desire to sin, weakness, and our pains and suffering.  It rescues us from our mortal selves.