Sunday Sermon: The Atonement of Christ
The Atonement: What is it?
It's a fancy LDS term that covers the sacrifice Christ made for us, starting with Gethsemane. So, what exactly does it mean? “As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.” – Dallin H. Oaks
Most people when they hear about Christ’s Atonement, or his suffering for us, often relate it to his crucifixion on the cross, but it didn’t start, or end there. Just a few hours before his trial, Christ knelt down in a garden at Gethsemane and took upon himself more than just the sins of the world:
“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” Alma 7:11-12
Not only did Christ take the punishment for every living soul, both in past, present, and future, but he also felt our pains. Each of us, individually. Imagine the worst day you’ve ever had, he knows that feeling. Your worst illness, he’s felt that too. Even the tiniest festering paper cut, he knows what its like, because he felt that in the Garden. All of this caused him to bleed from every pore! Look at your hand. Now turn it over so you see the back of it. Look at the back of your pinky finger and take the third lowest section that connects to your hand, count all those pores. How many is that? Now multiply that section until its large enough to cover the entire surface of your body. Can you imagine bleeding through that many pores? Ouch! Its incomparable! But that sacrifice allows Christ to heal us. “Succor” means “Rush to aid”
Effects of the Atonement
What does Christ's Atonement mean to you?
The Power of the Atonement in Our Lives
Some of us may have heard about how Christ can heal us, about how the atonement is there if we need it, but some of us may not know how to access it, or think we don’t need it. I’m going to tell you all a little story, a personal witness and conversion in my life:
When I was still serving my mission in Minnesota, I came to realize that a little over six months of service, God was calling me to complete my mission back home as a service missionary. This conclusion came after much diligent thought, prayer, and fasting. I had made my decision to follow that calling, and was to be sent home by the end of that month. This realization caused a real strain on me as an individual, and my focus and work in the field. I was a whirlwind of emotion, I couldn’t focus, or find motivation to keep going throughout the days, and this mood was causing a real strain on my companion. I couldn’t work like this, and I knew I needed to do better. One day, I said a silent prayer in my head. I told Heavenly Father I was a wreck, I couldn’t focus on my work, and my thoughts were jumbled. I told him I needed help during the last of my mission, and I needed all my stresses and confusion to be taken for just a little bit so I could think clearly. It was at this point I remembered something my friend sent me when she was on her mission “Give it to God” He’d already suffered through all this for me, I just had to let him have it. I said in my silent prayer “Jesus, I know you suffered the Atonement for us, and you can help me with this. I don’t know how it works, but please take this confusion from me” I imagined myself holding out a little box for him to take, and letting it go as I pleaded for his help. I ended my prayer, took a deep breath, and did my best to continue my work. I remember realizing at some point during the day, that all my worries had disappeared. It was like I’d never felt them in the first place! I could focus on my work and I was able to do what I needed, and it was that strength that helped my companion get through her tough spot.
Not all the time will the atonement be as immediate in our lives as this particular case was. And every time we need to show our part to Heavenly Father and Jesus that we are willing to put forth as much effort as we can, then Christ steps in and takes the rest of it from us
Christ is the Mediator
So, the atonement not only covers our sins, but helps us in need. Great! Is that it? Christ’s atonement merely unlocked the door that we couldn’t open ourselves, but he can’t make us go through it. We have our Agency, or the freedom to choose for ourselves. So, just how exactly does the atonement work for our benefit?
There is no "free ride" in life. In order to obtain freedom, or salvation, we must follow the terms Christ set for us. The things he taught the people during his earthly ministry, his example, his purpose, his commandments. So, what are the terms?
1. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and God. Faith is the foundation of all things
2. Repentance. Faith leads to action, believing in Christ leads us to want to change, repentance is a willingness to forsake our sins and follow Christ’s example.
3. Baptism. Christ himself was Baptized to “Fulfill all righteousness”. He didn’t need to be baptized because he committed no sin, but it was a commandment, and he humbled himself and was obedient. We too make this promise with God that we’ll be obedient to his commandments, and Baptism is the “Signing of the contract”
4. Receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Also known as Baptism by Fire, the Holy Ghost comes immediately after Baptism through the Laying on of Hands and purifies us of our sins. From this point on, the Holy Ghost is our constant companion and protector, he never leaves us, but we, through our actions, may leave him.
5. Endure to the End. We get the Holy Ghost and is that it? After you get your driver’s license do you just let the car sit in the driveway? No! You get in it and drive! The greatest part about it though, is even though we will slip up as we’re learning, we have the gift of the Atonement to be able to repent and keep trying.
Endure to the End repeats the cycle of having that Faith to keep holding strong, continually repenting as we slip up. Though we are only baptized once, those promises, or covenants we made at Baptism are renewed each Sunday through the Sacrement (or Mass as its known to some) and that cleanses us to keep that companionship of the Holy Ghost strong with us
Christ is always there for us, the atonement so readily available, but he's not just going to intervene in our lives, we have to let him in
You Are Never Too Far Gone
I have recently witness the power and miracle of repentance and the healing power of forgiveness of the atonement in my life and family. I want to add my testimony that no matter what we may have done in the past, the choices we’ve made, however great our regrets, pains, or damages may be, it is NEVER too late to be reclaimed. If we sincerely wish to change our lives and correct our mistakes, Christ is always waiting for us. We just need to turn to him, and allow him to heal us