Monday, April 30, 2012

Faith, Works, the Atonement

Joseph Smith, the first modern prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, went through the Bible and through the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of his assignment, retranslated parts of the Bible that had been inconsistent or confusing. Here is one example:

Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.
My bishop (equivalent to minister or pastor) shared the story of a lesson he taught a children's Sunday School class to illustrate this principle, that we need faith and works together.

With the class full of children, he turned off the light and said, "Ok guys, I need you to use your faith to turn the light back on." Many of the kids bowed their heads and concentrated, but the room stayed dark. He repeated, "You must not be using enough faith. Try harder!", and more of the kids concentrated and he could tell they were praying hard. When that didn't work, he asked one child, "Can you walk over and flip the light switch?" He explained that even though we can't see electricity, we know it works. We have faith that the light will turn on, but we need to act - to flip the switch - to make our faith effective.

For me, it also helped to refer back to the proverbial image of faith as "taking a step in the dark." If someone is standing at the edge of what they know, they may have faith that Christ will be there to take care of them when they don't know what's next. However, unless they take a step forward - an act of faith - they don't make any progress, and their faith isn't taking them anywhere. Thus, for our faith to be useful, we have to act on that trust we have and move forward.

That's one way that I can try to use the Atonement more in my life. Often there isn't tangible proof that "now I've used the Atonement and I'm forgiven," so I need to use faith. For me that means that when I've done what Christ has said is necessary for repentance, that I really am forgiven - I'm clean again. If I keep beating myself up over a mistake I've made, then I'm not showing faith in Christ's ability to redeem me. If I have faith in what Christ says, then I'll trust that doing what he says is sufficient, and I'll be willing to move on.

Just some cool thoughts from the weekend; I hope they're useful.

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