Thu - Mar 20, 2008 : 12:17 pm
Talk For This Sunday
Imagine for a moment you had no idea about the atonement of Christ.
Now imagine you sitting there and listening to what I have to say.
And the first thing you hear are the words, "God demands perfection for salvation."
Not sure about you, but for me, that creates a sort of sinking feeling inside... I put "perfection and me on one side of the equation and that math just doesn't work at all."
Well, due to the fact that God cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance, he can demand nothing less.
This, of course, is quite bad for us, since we all fall short of this demand.
No matter how we try, none of us can rewind time, nor take back anything we say, do, or think. Neither are we in any position to ask God for mercy, since he demands perfection.
To bring this point home, Jacob, Nephi's brother, wrote the following words, when referring to this state, "our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more. And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself"
Now, so far, the picture painted for a person who knows nothing of the atonement is pretty bleak indeed. There's no doubt about that, BUT! In order to know the sweet, we must also know the bitter. And for me, there's nothing more bitter than imagining life without the possibility of salvation.
Jacob wasn't about to leave it at that, however, as he continues, "
O the greatness of the mercy of our God, the Holy One of Israel! For he delivereth his saints from that awful monster the devil, and death, and hell, and that lake of fire and brimstone, which is endless torment. And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam. And he commandeth all men that they must repent, and be baptized in his name, having perfect faith in the Holy One of Israel, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God. And if they will not repent and believe in his name, and be baptized in his name, and endure to the end, they must be damned; for the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has spoken it.
God demands perfection, and Jesus Christ was perfect. He had already gained the right to his own eternal life. But, for Christ, this wasn't good enough. He loved us so much, that through an excruciatingly painful atonement, he somehow paid the price for the imperfection of the entire human race, thus making it possible to satisfy God's demands for perfection, and allowing us to live with our Father in Heaven for all eternity.
Christ most definitely is "the way, the truth, and the life".
Now, the request I made earlier about imagining no atonement does have a point, because during my mission in Cali Colombia, I met a woman who was in that frame of mind. She didn't know much about God, the requirements for salvation, nor did she know of any atonement for her. In fact, the first time I met her, I thought she was a fairly evil person.
Her name was Beatris Ospina Walker and the first time I met her, she was intent on doing not much other than sucking on her cigarette and blowing the smoke at my companion and I, and mocking us as we were trying to teach her sister, Patricia.
You see, a fellow missionary had found Patricia on a bus, talked to her, got her information, and found she was in our area.
We then went to teach her, and found she had a lot of very antagonistic family living with her. The first and foremost being Beatriz.
I don't remember how many discussions we taught Patricia, but it wasn't more than a few before we noticed that other family members had lost interest, and we were left teaching just Patricia, but Beatriz was always hanging around, paying attention.
Not long after that, Beatriz asked if she could listen in on the discussions, too, and she was quite interested indeed.
It wasn't but a couple of weeks later when we came by for a scheduled appointment, and Patricia answered the door with a very concerned look on her face. She told us that Beatriz needed us.
We went up and found her crying. She must have been crying for hours, and she just kept shaking her head and saying, "I can't..... I can't...." Then she looked up at us and said, "I can't believe all of this will work for me... I've done too many wrong things in my life...."
At this point, I believe Beatriz's feelings were putting more emphasis on the "perfection required for salvation" part, and not accepting the "atonment" part. She was definitely feeling the "bitter" part.
But after the bitter.... .... comes the sweet.
After a lot of troubles, trials, doubts, problems, family and friends trying to persuade against it, Beatriz Ospina Walker was baptized.
It was one of the most beautiful parts of my mission.
I'll never forget when I brought her back up out of the waters of baptism, through tears of joy, she embraced me and I heard the words, "I'm clean! Finally, I'm clean!"
I testify that Jesus Christ is the indeed the way, the truth, and the life.