What is the gospel of Jesus Christ? We know that the word gospel means “good news.” So, is the gospel of Jesus Christ simply good news that is meant to uplift and inspire us? Yes, it does uplift and inspire us. As we apply the teachings of Jesus Christ to our lives we are better people. Those who consistently apply the teachings of Jesus in their lives , that of love, compassion, service and charity radiate a light in their countenance. Yes, the gospel of Jesus Christ is all this and more. Paul teaches that” it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” (Romans 1:16) The gospel then is an actual power that can save us. From what are we saved ? The angel who appeared to Joseph explained to him that the baby Mary was carrying was of the Holy Ghost and that he would “save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:22 Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Not only are we saved from our sins, but we are also saved from death. John’s oft-quoted scripture in John 3:17 explains the dual nature of salvation.
John 3:17 16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
Shortly before his death Jesus explained to Mary in even more explicit language that he has overcome death.
John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Sin and death are the two irresolvable dilemmas of mankind. Death is the common lot of all mankind, indeed all living things, animals and plants. We are born to die. Our world is in a constant state of decay. We also all make mistakes. We each have regrets. Sometimes our actions are hurtful to others. We get angry. We say things we do not mean to say. Unintended accidents happen that are not our fault, yet cause harm to others. Our hearts may break because of pain we cause others. We may break the trust that someone else has in us. In a myriad of ways we may do things against our conscience or our higher self. Sometimes our actions are even more egregious. On a larger scale there are truly evil acts. What can compensate for man’s inhumanity to man? How do we undo the harm we may have done to others? How do we restore that which cannot be restored?
Man’s dilemma of sin
One of the things that distinguishes man from beasts is that we moral reasoning. Instinctively man knows that it is wrong to murder, steal, lie or have another’s spouse. He knows this “instinctively”. We call it man’s conscience. Interestingly a new study by the Infant Cognition Center of Yale University revealed that infants may be born with a moral code hard-wired in their brains. (Read more at: http://phys.org/news192693376.html). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls this the “Light of Christ.”
Doctrine and Covenants 84:46 “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.”
Mormon 7:16 “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil. . . “
With our God-given free will or moral agency, sometimes we choose wrong and experience remorse of conscience. (It is beyond the scope of this blog to discuss the criminal mind and those who apparently don’t have a conscience.) Man has an instinctive need to want to “get things of his chest.” to confess, to want to make things right. In her book “Guilt is the Teacher, Love is the Lesson,” psychologist, Joan Borysenko, writes the following:
“Holding onto dark, guilty secrets is similar to repressing trauma–it takes physiological work that leads to increased stress and illness. I was at a conference once where Dr. James Pennebaker presented studies on the health benefits of confession. His interest of first picqued by lie detector technicians who told him about all the birthday and Christmas cards they get from grateful prisoners who still remember the vast relief of confessing their crimes!”
This is man’s dilemma of sin. How does one make up for those things which we have done wrong? How is that searing conscience soothed? How are these wrongs absolved? Our conscience seems to require that a price be paid. Our conscience seems to be connected to what is called Divine Justice. Because we can’t completely pay the price that justice requires we need a Savior. Jesus Christ came to earth to be our Savior.
Elder Boyd K. Packer, an apostle for the LDS Church said the following:
“But sometimes you cannot give back what you have taken because you don’t have it to give. If you have caused others to suffer unbearably—defiled someone’s virtue, for example—it is not within your power to give it back.
There are times you cannot mend that which you have broken. Perhaps the offense was long ago, or the injured refused your penance. Perhaps the damage was so severe that you cannot fix it no matter how desperately you want to.
Your repentance cannot be accepted unless there is a restitution. If you cannot undo what you have done, you are trapped. It is easy to understand how helpless and hopeless you then feel and why you might want to give up, just as Alma did.
Restoring what you cannot restore, healing the wound you cannot heal, fixing that which you broke and you cannot fix is the very purpose of the atonement of Christ.
When your desire is firm and you are willing to pay the “uttermost farthing,”the law of restitution is suspended. Your obligation is transferred to the Lord. He will settle your accounts.”
The above is one of my favorite quotes. What a wonderful thought! What a relief! There is a way to restore, heal and fix our mistakes.
How does Jesus save us from sin?
The next valid question to ask is, “Lord, how is it done?” While we can never understand exactly how Jesus paid the price for our sins there are some things we can understand. Jesus is the Son of God. He lived a perfect, sinless life. His life embodied pure love and forgiveness for everyone. In a way inexplicable to us, throughout his life and in particular his suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross, he absorbed all of mankind’s misery, guilt and suffering. He “descended below all things.” He paid the price to divine justice for our sins. Through his infinite love he conquered evil and death. The Book of Mormon gives us some of the clearest scriptures about the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
Alma 7: 11 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.
12. 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 csuccor his people according to their infirmities.
13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.
Elder Merrill J. Bateman, a general authority for the LDS Church said the following in a general conference, October, 2005
For many years I thought of the Savior’s experience in the garden and on the cross as places where a large mass of sin was heaped upon Him. Through the words of Alma, Abinadi, Isaiah, and other prophets, however, my view has changed. Instead of an impersonal mass of sin, there was a long line of people, as Jesus felt “our infirmities” (Heb. 4:15), “[bore] our griefs, … carried our sorrows … [and] was bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:4–5).
The Atonement was an intimate, personal experience in which Jesus came to know how to help each of us.
The Creator of the universe has the power to become intimately acquainted with each of us. He learned about your weaknesses and mine. He experienced your pains and sufferings. He experienced mine. I testify that He knows us. He understands the way in which we deal with temptations. He knows our weaknesses. But more than that, more than just knowing us, He knows how to help us if we come to Him in faith.”
I, too, want to add my testimony that Jesus is my Savior. I am infinitely and eternally indebted to him for enabling me to overcome my sins and weaknesses so that I can return to live with Him again someday. In subsequent blogs I post about how Jesus overcame death and more about what the atonement means to me.