This is a copy of a talk I gave in church December 11, 2016. I hope it can lift and inspire you as you read it, and that you’ll feel the heart I put into it. I felt every word deeply.
This may have been one of the hardest talks I’ve ever written. Simply because I could not for the life of me find my direction until the last minute, it seems.
The subject I was given was the document released in 2000 titled “The Living Christ.” It is essentially a testimony of Christ and who He is to us.
It’s so broad, that I had a very hard time narrowing down a subject to talk about. Finally, I decided that I would simply cover a few points that stood out to me as I read it over and over and over again. So the topics I have chosen are ones that are near and dear to my heart.
The first phrase that stood out to me is found in the opening paragraph. It reads, “We offer our testimony of the reality of His matchless life and the infinite virtue of His great atoning sacrifice.” (end quote)
Let us remember this Christmas season, as we come to the commemoration of His birth, the reason for it in the first place. To save those of us who have fallen. To offer an infinite atonement.
What does that mean? Well, the definition of infinite is “Limitless or endless, impossible to measure or calculate.” The definition of virtue, as it is used here, is “the useful quality of a thing.”
Christ’s atonement is not only endless in its scope, it is endless in its usability.
As one of my favorite quotes wisely points out,
“It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christ’s Atonement shines.”
Think about that.
In that aspect, none of us are truly lost. We all have the chance to find redemption. We all have the potential to be saved. No matter how low we’ve sunken.
Going on with that thought brings me to a scripture passage that we all know well.
“For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23)
But what is grace? How does it save us? Well, it goes back to that phrase in The Living Christ.
Grace is an aspect of the atonement. The atonement has two main purposes.
First is to pay the debt of our sins. Through utilizing the atonement, we can become clean from our sins. Because of Christ, our debt has been paid in full. We have been bought with an infinite price. Truly, we are His.
The second purpose of the atonement is referred to as “the enabling power of the atonement.” It is not enough to simply be clean. We must become like Christ. We have to go through a meaningful change. That is one of the great purposes of this mortal life.
As He himself said in Matthew 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
That is the goal. To become like God. We began that process in our premortal existence, and we are to continue that process here on earth.
To do that, we need to utilize both aspects of the atonement. We need to use the cleansing power as well as the enabling power.
This is the power to become more than we are with the personal help of Christ. It’s the power to change. To become perfected.
Another name for it is grace.
I believe if we want to truly understand the Savior, to come to know Him, we have to understand how His grace works-Because it plays such a large role in His personal relationship with each of us.
A few months ago, I bore my testimony on grace. I tried to explain my understanding of it, and in my view, left much lacking.
Now that I have my notes in front of me today I hope you’ll excuse me if I give it one more try. And at the risk of being redundant to some of you, I am going to utilize a post I wrote on the subject a month ago. I feel that it’s that important to understand.
We know that it is by grace that we are saved. But what many don’t realize is that grace isn’t something we earn.
As important as our works are in this life, grace has no prerequisites we have to achieve before it kicks in. There is no “our part/their part.” It is simply there from the start.
We have access to the grace of Jesus Christ and the enabling power of His atonement from the very beginning.
When speaking of responsibility, people many times describe a “gap” between our efforts and perfection. Or sometimes it is illustrated as a ladder that comes up too short. And they say that Christ’s job is to fill that gap.
It’s another lie that so many people buy into because they don’t adequately understand grace and the atonement.
The truth is that there is no gap. There never was.
Christ paid for us in full, not simply a portion.
We aren’t responsible for any part of that debt other than to accept that it has been paid.
We don’t have to pay for a portion of our sins or our shortcomings.
Once we realize that, we access the power of the atonement and His grace.
When we accept His payment for our sins, when we allow ourselves to be cleansed by His blood, we become free. Free to move forward. To change. To grow.
That’s when the enabling power of the atonement kicks in.
It is the power to do more, to be more than we are. It is the power to become like Christ.
That is where our works come into play. What are we going to do with that power? That is what we will be judged on.
So many seem to have this idea that Christ is waiting for us at the top of our ladder, ready to help us jump a gap “after” we’ve done “all we can do.”
But the reality is that Christ is standing right beside us before we even take the first rung.
We are climbing HIS ladder, and His ladder doesn’t come up short.
Perhaps the “we” in the phrase “after all we can do” doesn’t mean just us, and the “after” doesn’t imply a gap to be filled or even a timeframe.
Perhaps “we” can be read as “Christ and myself.”
We. After all WE can do.
Because that more accurately describes reality.
The reality that He ascends the ladder alongside us.
We don’t have to prove ourselves before we deserve His help. He’s not waiting at the top of some unfinished ladder.
We don’t have to rely on our own strength and efforts- even for a moment.
That is the power of grace. That is the power of the infinite atonement of Christ.
He is there every step of the way.
He experienced what it is like to be utterly alone so that we don’t have to.
He is the one who gives us the power to climb.
I don’t believe that it is simply “by” Christ that we are saved. It is “with” Christ.
His grace is sufficient. His grace takes us and makes us into more. We just have to use it.
I am so grateful for the infinite virtue of Christ’s atonement, and for the enabling power of His grace. That He can take me, someone with so many flaws, and turn me into something more. I know that with His help I can reach my potential. And I don’t have to spend even a second alone. So can you.
The next phrase that caught my attention is found in the second paragraph of The Living Christ.
It is “Under the direction of His Father.”
Six words that most people probably wouldn’t give a second thought to, but they made me ponder. I’m not sure you could find a much better phrase to describe Christ’s life than this.
We are all God’s children, and we all have the ability to be led by Him, but Christ was His perfect son. He followed His Father perfectly, in a way that none of us has been able to replicate.
I believe this perfect obedience came down to the fact that Jesus Christ aligned His own will with His Father’s seamlessly. Of His own free will and choice, He chose God. Every time.
One of the greatest gifts God has given us is our agency. The ability to choose.
What better gift could we give Him in return than to use that divine ability to choose Him?
To essentially say, ”You’ve given me the gift of my own free will. I’m going to now use that gift and choose your will and make it my own.”
Maybe it’s just me, but there is something so supremely poetic and beautiful about that concept.
And isn’t that the whole point of this test? To see if, given other options, we would still choose our Father?
Christ, as in every aspect of His life, did this perfectly.
Even in His moment of ultimate trial, when I am sure He struggled to make our Father’s will His own, He still chose God.
Because He chose us.
That is true love.
When we are faced with trials, do we have the courage to do as Christ did? Given the options, will we still choose our Father? Will we place His will above our own?
I believe that there is a moment in everyone’s lives where we reach a crossroads. We’ve progressed in our faith, we’ve fed our testimonies, and now it comes down to one thing.
Are we willing to give up anything to know God?
Are we willing to finally say the words “Thy will be done.” And mean them with our hearts and souls?
Are we willing to put our lives “under the direction of our Father?”
That is the definition of conversion. It’s a mighty change of heart. To move beyond testimony, and to use one of our greatest gifts – the gift of choice- and, in a way, give it back to God.
To put Him in control, when He’s given us the option to take it ourselves.
It is in that moment, that we give our hearts to God and become one with Him. One in purpose.
I believe that this is when we shall experience the greatest freedom- as it is described in Mosiah 5:2,
“And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”
And again in Ether 8 where it says,
”The time may come that Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men, but that they may be persuaded to do good continually, that they may come unto the fountain of all righteousness and be saved.”
This mighty change of heart, this conversion, this choice to align our will with our Father’s gives us freedom as Satan loses his hold on our hearts.
Because our hearts are not ours anymore. We’ve given them to God.
Just as Christ gave His.
Christ lived His whole life “under the direction of His father.”
May we have the courage and the faith to do the same.
Just as Christ came to earth to live as our perfect example, and just as He came to atone for our sins and offer us His grace, He also came to die- and to be the first to live again.
Which brings us to our final phrase: “We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.” (End quote)
Over 2,000 years ago, Christ came to earth in the most humble of circumstances. A baby, born in a stable, and laid in a manger. But that was not the beginning of His life, just as His death on the cross was not the end.
One of the most beautiful things about this gospel is that we recognize that our God is a living God.
We have a living Christ. One who is keenly aware of each and every one of you, and who loves you personally and infinitely. And just as His life neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary, neither did ours. It is a truth lost to many, but it should be so precious to us.
The knowledge that we lived before- that we knew God, and He knew us, is amazing. It makes us more than simply creations that He took pity on. It makes us literally His children.
And though we may not remember that former existence, and it may seem like our relationship with God is barely beginning, He has not forgotten.
He knows us. He knows you. And so does His son.
Because Christ came to earth, lived, and died for us- we too can all live again. We know that though death is a part of mortality, it isn’t the end. There will be a resurrection, and loved ones who have been separated will be reunited once more.
All because of one man, who loved us enough to die for us so that we can live again.
He is Jesus the Christ. The Living Christ.
I’d like to end my talk by reiterating the words of our apostles and prophet.
“We bear testimony that Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. He is the great King Immanuel, who stands today on the right hand of His Father. He is the light, the life, and the hope of the world. His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.”
I say these things in His name, Jesus Christ, amen.