Sunday, January 11, 2009

Jesus Christ - Savior of the World

This year in Sunday School we are studying the Doctrine & Covenants. Today our lesson focused on getting to know Jesus Christ better and studying about His attributes. The D&C is the only book where the majority of the text is directly transcribed from the words of Christ. From the introduction, "Finally, the tetimony that is given of Jesus Christ -- his divinity, his majesty, his perfection, his love, and his redeeming power -- makes this book of great value to the human family and worth more than the riches of the whole earth."

One of the passages we talked about was in D&C 19: 15-18.
15 Therefore I command you to repent -- repent, lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore -- how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, how hard to bear you know not.
16 For behond, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent;
17 But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;
18 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 -- and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink --

The point was that exactly what Christ suffered for our behalf in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross is something so infinitely powerful that our simple human minds cannot fathom it completely. I've heard different times that this was the first time in His existence that Christ experienced the withdrawal of the Father's presence and that is much of what made the agony so crushing. These scriptures point out to us that, if we don't repent of our evil doings and become the people He wants us to be, we can look forward to that same fate in the eternities. Much is made about the mercy extended by Christ, but many people overlook that justice is also His.

Since we must be found spotless (sinless, forgiven) to live in the presence of God in the eternities, it seems plausible that the suffering these scriptures talk about is our separation from God should we choose not to repent and draw ourselves closer to Him. This would be justice.

Through His Atonement, Christ offered us a way to avoid the grasp of justice. But it comes with a big IF. It is dependent on us to accept the gift that He offers. This is how mercy works.

On a related side note, I've also read (though I don't have the reference handy right now) that if we choose to continue living in our sins, we would also choose living in eternal Hell over Heaven. To be fit for a Celestial glory, we must become a Celestial people. To be otherwise would leave us so uncomfortable in His presence that we would choose to be elsewhere.

So you see it really is our choice.

Another section we talked about is one that I've personally benefited from in the past. It has served as a humbling reminder that He understands whatever pain I'm going through because He's been there and worse. It's section 122 and the Lord is talking to Joseph Smith about his ongoing trials. That they are recorded for us to learn from today, tells me that the principle (thankfully not the circumstance) is also applicable to me. I'm going to quote verses 5-8 here...

5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can't you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murders, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

That really sums it up for me and anything I experience. No matter how bad it is, I am always humbled and thankful when I read that last verse... The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?

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