Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Easter Message

Today we commemorate the day that the light and life of the world rose from the dead on the first Easter morning. Two thousand years ago, on a Sunday morning in spring Christ rose up and walked from his tomb. What does this mean? Why is it significant or pertinent? Today I want to share my testimony of Christ.

First, a passage of scriptures from the Gospel of John:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men... He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-14)

I believe that Jesus Christ was the mortal God of Israel, Yahweh, descended to earth to dwell as a man among his people. He was the very image of God the Father, with whom he shared such unity that there was no need to even distinguish between God the Father and God the Son. The Word, Christ, was with God and was God. He was made flesh, the very Son God who gives all who receive him power that they might also become sons of God with him.

That Jesus was the very image of God the Father is no small issue. The fact that God revealed himself in the form of a person is very significant. Jesus has been called our perfect example and he is an example not just of how to live, how to be happy, but how to find God himself. Jesus said: I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” (John 14:6-7) After this Phillip said that if he would show them the Father they would be content. Jesus responded saying: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.” (John 14:9-11) If we want to know who God is and what he is like we need look no further than Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way to salvation and eternal life. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to the world.

“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.” (John 3:16)

That we should know who God is the very heart of eternal life. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) I don’t understand this to mean that the way to eternal life is through knowing God and Jesus Christ. I believe that knowing God and Jesus Christ is eternal life. The verse is a definition. Eternal life is unity with God. To be with God, to be like God, to be one with God is eternal life. Why is it that we must know the only true God and Jesus Christ? Without Jesus Christ we do not know God. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:18) Even in the few instances when the Father has been seen he has spoken only through his Son. Jesus was one with the Father and it is through him that we may be one with them.

“That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

How can we become one with Jesus Christ and the Father? Christ has the power to make us one with him and the Father through his Atonement. The purpose of the Atonement is to make us “at one” with God. Christ was one with the Father and followed him in all things. “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Likewise we must do the things that the Son has done. How can we do that? Must we be crucified and rise again? Actually yes, not literally but symbolically.

Christ as God descended to live as a mortal man, pass through the pains and suffering of mortality and died. His mortal, imperfect body was transformed and he was resurrected into a second life of perfection in body and spirit. The death of the old self and rebirth into a new being is the way to follow Christ. This is represented symbolically in baptism.

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:3-11)

Being born again is a dramatic process. Symbolically, the old self is actually “crucified” with Christ. We participate in his death with him and die in our old self. Then we rise again. We are born again spiritually and resurrected with Christ in a new life. This transformation is significant enough to be described as a rebirth. We are given a new heritage and identity in Christ.

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)

“Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters” (Mosiah 27:25)

“And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters.” (Mosiah 5:7)

Being born again with Christ, becoming one with Christ is a process of justification, sanctification, transformation and (ultimately) exaltation. Through the redeeming blood of Christ and faith on him we are able to have all that the Father has through his merits. We are given power to become sons and daughters of God.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:16-18)

To be joint-heirs with Christ we must be willing to suffer with him as well as be glorified with him. Discipleship can be difficult. Jesus warned his disciples that they would be persecuted. The sorrows and pains of life are difficult to bear. But we do not have to bear them alone. Christ shares are burdens and sorrows and he knows how to comfort us.

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows...” (Isaiah 53:4)

“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)

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Atonement, to be at one with another person is the most intimate kind of relationship there is. Marriage can be an example of atonement. When two people are truly brought into unity and live as “one flesh” sharing both heart and mind they share everything. They share great joy and also great pain. This is the kind of relationship Christ has with us through his Atonement. The Atonement causes him tremendous pain and suffering. He opens his heart to us and makes himself vulnerable to repeated rejection. But he is always willing to receive us again. And in us his joy is full (3 Nephi 17:20). That same fullness of joy is imparted to all who share in atonement with Jesus Christ.

After two thousand years the story of Easter is as relevant as ever. In a world where people are seeking for answers Christ is the perfect revelation of God in the flesh. In a world filled with death we can still look to Christ and live. In the midst of spiritual darkness he is still the light of the world. Christ is still the way, the truth, and the life.

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