Sunday, November 14, 2010

# 14 ~ Jesus Christ & His Atonement

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Jesus Christ & His Atonement

I am grateful for Jesus Christ and His atonement.

I could quite possibly spend hours and hours writing all the reasons that I am grateful for Jesus Christ and His atonement. Just think about the subject matter. The Savior of the world and the greatest act in the history of mankind. It is such a huge topic, but I will try to keep it short... try...

First, I will share a few reasons why I am grateful for Jesus Christ. I am grateful for His example. He lived a perfect life full of service and love for all men. I am grateful for His friendship. He is a friend who will never let us down. He will always be there waiting for us to come to Him for help and guidance. He loves us and He wants us to be happy. He does not abandon us. It is we who abandon Him if there is any abandoning being done. He is a Friend, a Brother, a Savior, a King, our Advocate, our Perfect Example. I am also grateful to Jesus Christ for His atonement.

Which brings me to the other part of this posting that I am grateful for...
So, I just finished that book called 'The Peacegiver' again. I talked about it a few postings ago. I know that the atonement of Jesus Christ is too complex for us to even be able to fully comprehend, but the small amount that I do understand, I am amazed by. I stand in awe at its awesomeness. It is infinite and eternal... something that I cannot wrap my mind around.

In that book, aspects of the atonement became a little more clear to me. It still blows my mind. I still cannot wrap my mind around the power of the atonement in its fullness, but I love learning a little more about it, piece by piece. Some of the thoughts and feelings that I had as I read this book again are tender and very personal, but I do want to share a little bit here.

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This is an excerpt from the one of the last chapters of the book itself:

"In order to redeem mankind from the predicament of our captivity to sin, the Savior had to take upon himself that captivity - in its fullness - and then find a way to break free from it. Because of the power that Satan obtained through the Fall [of Adam and Eve] over the will of the flesh man's agency could be redeemed only if all the powers of captivity that had been hardwired into the flesh by every sin of mankind could be overcome by an opposing power - by someone who could take our captivity upon him and yet escape from it, thereby providing a way of escape for us. This is what the Savior did. In order to free us from the captivity of sinfulness, he took upon himself all the sins of mankind, the 'iniquities of us all'. (Mosiah 14:6)

... in order to redeem us from the chains of sin, the Savior had to take upon himself all of the chains that bind us to sin - in the words of Paul, to be 'in all points tempted like as we are.' (Hebrews 4:15) He had to shoulder 'the burden of the combined weight of the sins of the world' - our sinful desires, our predispositions and addictions toward sin, our darkened hearts. The scriptures declare that he suffered as well everything that might lead us to sin - our 'pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind' (Alma 7:11) - so that 'he might blot out [our] transgressions according to the power of his deliverance.' (Alma 7:13) It was as Paul said: He 'who knew no sin' was 'made to be sin for us.' (2 Corinthians 5:21)

With all of this sinfulness heaped upon him, he then had to withstand the unimaginable onslaught of the entire power and fury of the forces of hell, and do so, as Paul described further, 'yet [remaining] without sin.' (Hebrews 4:15) For Satan knew that if he could wield the power of his captivity - the chains of our sinfulness that lay ready to bind the Savior - and entice the Savior to sin, he would bring the Savior into his captivity as well. Then the destruction of agency would be complete, and mankind would be left without a way for their hearts to be purified and cleansed. There would therefore be no way for any of us to return to the Father, where only the clean and pure can dwell.

...the powers of darkness [were] upon him in full force and fury. The term Luke used to describe this assault - the Greek word agon, translated as 'an agony' - means, literally, 'a contest, struggle, or fight, facing an opponent.' And that is what Gethsemane was. It is what latter-day prophets have referred to as 'indescribable anguish' and 'overpowering torture', a 'supreme contest with the powers of evil,' an 'hour of anguish when Christ had to meet and overcome all the horrors that Satan could inflict.' And he suffers all this for us.

This means he is taking upon himself all the sinfulness of your heart. This night in Gethsemane, the Lord is taking upon himself all of the specific chains that bind and lead you captive. As he takes upon himself the desire [to sin], and then breaks free from it, he will provide the way for you to break free as well. Your rage, your disappointment, your despair - the Lord will overcome all ... and forge for you a new heart - clean, pure, undefiled, free.

And he does the same for all - the addict, the abuser, the chronic complainer, those whose spirits are depressed. His struggle ... is for all of mankind, but only because it was for each of us, individually and specifically.

But praise be to God! The Savior has withstood in aggregate what no man has been able to withstand individually: He refused to submit to Satan's will even though he was fully subject to it. Even with all of the mortal effects of our sins heaped upon and pulling at him, and with Satan and his hosts attempting to drag him down by that power to sin, the Savior was able to withstand and resist.

The captivity of sin has been broken! The Lord God Almighty has risen 'with healing in his wings.' (Malachi 4:2) He stretches forth his arms to the world, feeling after them with his Holy Spirit. He comes to each of us, ... pleading with us, ... to forgive, and literally dying to give us his Spirit and the new heart he has forged that will free us from the chains of our sins. If we harden not our hearts and stiffen not our necks against him, he will facilitate the breaking of our sinful, stony hearts and will give us what Ezekiel called his new 'heart of flesh,' (Ezekiel 36:26) saving us from all our 'uncleannesses.' (Ezekiel 36:29) This is the miracle of Gethsemane."

~ 'The Peacegiver' (James L. Ferrell)

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This excerpt mostly talks about Christ taking upon himself our sins, our desires to sin, our sinful hearts. When I try to imagine (which is impossible) what Christ suffered, it makes me cry. It brings sorrow for the excruciating pain he suffered... and he suffered it for us. And he didn't only suffer for our sins, but he also suffered for our weaknesses, our sorrows, our insecurities, our anger, our unforgiving hearts, our depression, our own agonies, our worry, our fears, our physical and emotional and spiritual pain, our sadness, our anxiety, everything... and he suffered it all for us. He suffered it so that he could truly understand all of what we experience here on this earth. He suffered it so that he could help us to bear our burdens, help us to overcome all of it, walk with us and lift us up.

'For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
But if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I;
Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit...
Nevertheless, glory be to the Father...'
~ Doctrine & Covenants 19:16-19

Imagine the burdens that we feel in our own lives... our individual lives. Imagine the pains and all of the different emotions that we feel as we experience trials and adversities. Then multiply all of that by however many people have lived and will live upon this earth... and imagine the burdens and sins and pains of all of them heaped upon Jesus Christ... one man. Incomprehensible, right? But it happened. He did it... for us.

He suffered for more than just our sins, he also suffered for the pain and struggle and heartache we go through as we try to overcome our sins. He overcame these things because we could not overcome them for ourselves. We needed him... and still need him.

Besides the fact that we could not return to live with God if Jesus Christ did not atone for our sins... Jesus Christ suffering for all of our pains and sorrows... why would he need to do that? One of the things that helps me to understand why he did this is when I think of the bond that I feel with other widows that I talk to. Because they understand what I am going through and the pain that I am feeling at the loss of Aaron, I feel safe and comfortable talking to them and know that they understand what I am telling them. They are not going to judge me, but they will make me feel validated because they are living through it as well. They too know the pain and heartache of losing their husband.
Because the Savior suffered all of these things for us, we can feel safe as we come unto Him and know that he truly understands what we are feeling. We have a friend who not only knows, but who also loves us more purely than anyone else. We know we can turn to him and he will bear us up.

* WHATEVER we are going through, He knows. He has suffered it. He has suffered it for us. He felt the fear that I felt as I waited for them to try to save Aaron's life. The pain and anguish I felt at the very moment they told me that they could not do anything more to save Aaron's life... Christ felt it. He felt that exact pain. He felt the fear I felt. He felt my insecurities. My heart that was breaking into a million pieces... He felt that same pain. Real pain. All of the moments since then when I have felt painfully lonely and my heart aching because of missing Aaron, he felt that as well. He felt those things so that I could have a friend to turn to who knew... a friend who understood exactly what it felt like for me to lose Aaron. Because He felt it as well. This is how it is for anything that any of us goes through.

And because of this, not only can He sustain us through the sorrow and the sadness and the pain, but He can also take our burdens from us if we let Him.

'Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee...' ~Psalms 55:22

He can also bring us peace and comfort and joy as He helps us through the difficult times of our lives... again, if we let Him. Because He has already overcome it all. For us.

'These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.' ~ John 16:33

And for all of this, I wish that words could ever express the gratitude and love that I feel in my heart and in my soul for my Savior and for the infinite and eternal gift of love and redemption that he has given to each of us in the atonement. But even though words cannot express my gratitude and love for Jesus Christ... my heart feels it... which means He knows it.

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