Friday, October 25, 2013

Dual Nature of the Atonement: Part 1

The gospel of Christ is a gospel of progression.  Gospel means good news and the good news is, at it's heart, all about Christ's Atonement.  The Atonement is infinitely complex and there is still much I don't understand.  But one thing that I have learned with surety about the Atonement is that it has a dual nature.  First, the Atonement pays the price for our sins.  Second, it enables us to be more than we are.

The best way to imagine this is that each individual has their own personal bank account.  When we are born on earth, our account starts out at zero.  As we come to the age of accountability and begin to commit sin, (as we all inevitably will,) the sins must be paid for.  Therefore withdrawals must be made and we become deeply in debt.  Unfortunately, we have no power to make deposits into our account.  On our own, our only recourse is debtor's prison.  But Christ, through the power of His Atonement, can and will step in as our Mediator and pay off our debts.  As wonderful as that is, if this were the end of the story--if this were the full extent of the Atonement's purpose and power--our best hope would be to simply break even and end where we began.  This would mean no hope for progression, and instead at best maintaining the status quo.

I'm extremely grateful that this isn't all there is to tell, because the next part is what gives me even greater hope and motivation for my future.  Christ, in His infinite goodness, doesn't want us to only "break even" or end right where we began.  He wants to do more than just save us; He desires to exalt us!  He not only has it in his power to pay our debts, but also to fill our account to overflowing.  All this is possible through the enabling power of the Atonement.

To bring it out of the abstract and symbolic into something more concrete:  On any given day, as I accept the gift of the Atonement in my life, in addition to being forgiven for the many mistakes I make and sins I commit, the Lord can and will enable me to accomplish His work in a way that simply would not be possible with my own power.  He often does so through gifts of the Spirit.  He can bless me with greater faith, hope, charity, contentment, gratitude, diligence, strength, endurance, insight, peace, and joy.  I have felt this enabling power again and again in my own life.  We can recognize it easily because we will feel Christ's power working through us as we strive to live as He would have us live and listen to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  At those times, I know that I am an instrument in His hands and can take none of the credit for the good that He is accomplishing through me and helping me to achieve.

Pride is the only caveat.  Pride sets us back.  All too soon and too easily we slip into believing that we are somehow greater than we are, assuming that we have accomplished these things through our own power.  The moment we make this mistake the power leaves us, and we are left to recognize our own insignificance in the face of our struggling along without God's help.  When this happens, we are humbled and begin again to acknowledge our entire reliance upon Christ and His Atonement.

On the other hand, if we can successfully humble ourselves and stay humble, Christ can accomplish a marvelous work in and through us.  He can literally transform us and make us great in righteousness and goodness, and He can bless the lives of countless others as we follow His will.  Through the enabling power of His Atonement, He can and will help us to progress until we are exalted like Him.  This is the beauty of the gospel and the plan of happiness: Eternal Progression.

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