Click here for previous posts in this series and why I’m writing this children’s book.
Christ can’t force us to receive His gifts of life and joy. For us to be like Him and receive all that the Father has, it requires our participation. God can’t just make us become as He is because at the deepest level, we all have agency or free will, and that cannot ever be taken from us. Agency is the ability to choose who and what we will love and how we will use our power to pursue our desires. At our core, we have always existed with agency.
Since we all will die, sin, and hurt ourselves and others, we all must accept the gift of Christ’s atonement to overcome physical and spiritual death. For us to be one with Christ like He desires us to be, we must accept His atonement by learning to love God and others. Jesus has set up a system of agreements and efforts for us to demonstrate our acceptance of His work on our behalf and He uses servants who hold the priesthood in His church to administer these agreements or covenants.
The gospel’s first principle is to have faith in, and be faithful to, Jesus Christ. Having faith in Christ means we decide to believe He can do what He says He can do, and we act accordingly. He promises us we will have internal peace in this world and complete joy in the next life. If we try to do what the Spirit directs us to do and to keep His commandments, He also promises that if we become His children, then along with Him, we will inherit all that Heavenly Father has and is. He also promises us that everything we may think is negative about our lives and experiences on this earth will be turned into good for us. If we will have faith in Christ and His atonement, all the negative effects of the Fall, all the pain and suffering in this world, will have no lasting impact on us; rather we will eventually be grateful for ALL of our experiences.
For us to receive all that the Father has, we have to be able to receive those gifts. Just like a baby wouldn’t know what to do if she were given a computer, we also have to grow and be like Jesus to know how to receive all the blessings Heavenly Father wants to give us. Repentance is turning away from anything that keeps us from being like Jesus so that we can receive the blessings and love that God wants us to feel all the time. Whenever we do something we know we shouldn’t, we sin. When we sin we hurt our spirits and we hurt our ability to see and respond to others’ needs, which makes us miserable. Sin keeps us from loving others and feeling love. Sin will keep us from enjoying the full companionship of the Spirit, which would fill us with peace and joy. Repentance is deciding to stop doing what we know to be wrong, decide to not do it again, and then to love others. This can sometimes be very hard, but we must believe that Christ can help us and that He loves us.
When we have a sin that sometimes makes us feel good, we need to have faith that giving it up will make us happier; that the sacrifice will be rewarded by God. Being part of Christ’s family means we will sometimes have to sacrifice things we think we need so that we can grow. But we are told that the most important sacrifices we can offer are our hearts and spirits. Jesus said we need to have a broken heart and a contrite spirit. A broken heart and a contrite spirit cause you to look outside of yourself and to serve others. We can want to change, we can try to change, we can fell sorry about the things we do wrong. We can feel guilt, we can feel remorse, and we can feel shame. Having those feelings can lead to a focus on ourselves though, and are feelings that won’t necessarily bring about change. To have a broken heart and a contrite spirit is more than just regretting having sinned. It is to truly see and feel that the consequences of our actions are far reaching, whether they are harm done to others or harm done to our own spirits. It is to recognize that others are just as important as ourselves and that we must respond to others’ needs in order to be joyful. While we do need to repent from specific sins and bad habits, what we need more is to repent from an orientation that leads to sinning, and that orientation we must turn away from is selfishness. To repent means to love others more fully and sacrifice our time, skills, and resources for them, just like Christ has loved us by sacrificing for us.
Christ wants us to remember a specific moment in our lives when we accept His sacrifice. Baptism is the means by which Christ asks us to receive Him as the father of our new life. The act of baptism reminds us of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection from the tomb. And like Christ’s death and burial, when we go under the water our old way of living as a “natural man” also dies and (like a newborn baby) we are reborn and come out pure and innocent. If we approach baptism with pure intent, signifying that we will do anything Jesus asks of us, we become one with Him and receive His name as His child. We become a member of His family and can one day be where He is, be like Him, inherit what He has, and love others like He loves us.
THE GIFT OF THE HOLY GHOST
When we enter the covenant of baptism, to be a disciple and child of Christ, He gives us the gift of the Holy Ghost as an assurance that our commitment is accepted by Him. The gift of the Holy Ghost is our opportunity to know our standing before God at any time. When we sin, we weaken the hold of our covenant with Christ and the Holy Ghost leaves. He returns after we turn away from selfishness and repent. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost confirms the fact that we are members of Christ’s church, and therefore, of Christ’s family. The Holy Ghost is called the Comforter because His presence assures us that our sacrifices are acceptable to Christ and that we are still claimed as Christ’s children. Just like you do chores for the benefit of your family, Christ expects us to help Him in His work and to serve others as members of His family.
The Holy Ghost is able to teach us all things. If we obey His counsel and warnings, we receive confirmations and knowledge that, in turn, increase our faith. As we know more of God’s character, trust Him more, develop trustworthiness in ourselves with good habits, we can eventually be brought to know Jesus Christ personally (in this life or the next; D&C 93:1). Being a Christian (which is taking His name upon us and becoming a child in His family) means we try to keep Christ’s commandments and always remember Him. By doing this, we are blessed with a member of the Godhead as a constant companion, to bring us to perfect joy through receiving more glory. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is offered to us on a weekly basis to keep us remembering our baptismal covenants and that we are member of Christ’s family. The sacrament carries the same commitments and blessings as does baptism. These ordinances are how we obediently signify that we accept and receive the atonement in the way Christ has asked us, by repenting of our sins and seeking to obey Him. It is Christ’s atonement that cleanses us, not the ordinances alone, yet they are how Christ has asked us to demonstrate our acceptance of Him as the Father of our new lives.
Only one chapter to go (yes, it is about enduring to the end)! Help me see the error of my ways before I corrupt my children; I look forward to your comments, critiques, and suggestions.