The Atonement: Power to Cleanse and Sanctify

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ This blog post is part of a series of posts that will explore the Atonement by studying Christ’s life in the New Testament. If you want to find the assignments, you can download my eBooks for Matthew, Mark, (Luke, and John coming soon).

The Atonement and Your Personal Relationship with Christ–Assignment for Matthew 3

Read Matthew 3. Ponder the following questions. Write your own thoughts in your scripture journal.

  1. In Matthew 3:11-12, we learn that Christ will baptize us with the Holy Ghost. We also learn that He will purge His wheat, and burn the chaff. What does this mean? How does it relate to the Atonement? How does Christ’s Atonement sanctify those who choose to follow Him into the waters of baptism? How does His Atonement save the good and destroy the wicked?
  2. In verses 13-17, Christ is baptized. How is this a part of the bigger picture of the Atonement that He will perform?
  3. As you know, Christ was baptized even though He was holy. Think of your own baptism. Who made baptism possible for you? When you are baptized, you are then able to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. How has this Gift helped you in your life? How have the covenant of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost impacted your relationship with the Savior?

  4. New Testament Study Companion: Matthew

I have a few thoughts about this set of scriptures–especially when I think of the Atonement. Mainly, I’m struck by the idea that the Atonement can both cleanse us from our sins and sanctify us.

In Matthew 3:11-12, we read:

” I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matthew 3:11-12

Baptism

John the Baptist is speaking to a group of people in these verses. They understood the need to be baptized, and came to him to have this ordinance performed. They understood that in order to receive salvation, they would need to be cleansed from their sins through baptism; they knew they needed to covenant with God.

It is Christ’s Atonement that enables us to make this covenant and be cleansed in the water of Baptism. Jesus teaches:

“And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.” – 3 Nephi 27:19

In order to enter into the kingdom of God, we must “wash” our garments in His blood. Christ truly shed His blood for us in the garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross at calvary. We “wash” our garments in His blood when we covenant with Him in the waters of baptism. In this way, we are clean, and then worthy to enter into the kingdom.

But the thing is, we know that it doesn’t end there. John the Baptist teaches that we will not only be baptized by water, but that Christ will baptize us with the Holy Ghost. This leads us to…

Sanctification

In order to be baptized (with water), we must repent and have faith in Christ. The cleansing effect of the baptism by water prepares us for the next step: Sanctification through baptism of fire (or the Holy Ghost).

It is easy to want to think that being cleansed=being sanctified. But…they are different

If you look up the word sanctify in a dictionary, you will find the following definition: “To make holy to set apart as sacred; to consecrate.” When Christ baptizes us with the Holy Ghost and with fire, He sanctifies us. He makes us holy. He sets us apart as sacred beings. He consecrates us. Then we are able to enter into God’s kingdom, as we are both clean and Holy. Again, in 3 Nephi, Jesus taches:

“Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day.” – 3 Nephi 27:20

***

The thing that really strikes me is that the audience who is listening to John, as I mentioned earlier, is pretty much faithful. They are willing to be baptized. They want to covenant with God. Yet, then he teaches about Christ saying, “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

I’ve always thought of this verse as having to do with those who accept the gospel and Christ vs. those who don’t. And in some ways, I suppose that’s true. But, as I think about this verse, Christ’s role as our Savior, Redeemer, Atoner, and the fact that most of the people hearing John say this are already faithful, then I come away with a new understanding.

One
Jesus has the fan in his hand. He’s ready to fan the flames. He will turn up the heat, so to speak. We who have covenanted with Him and who are righteous are gathered and saved in the garner. Those who aren’t probably didn’t even make it to the threshing area. They were most likely bundled with the weeds long before.

Two
In this verse, John uses the imagery of wheat and chaff.

Now, time for me to turn to the dictionary again. If you do, then you will learn that chaff is not a separate plant. It isn’t a tare or weed. It is the husk of grain that is separated during threshing.The chaff is, originally, a part of the blade of wheat. So…when it was gathered from the field, it was part of the “good” plant.

However, the chaff is a useless part of the plant. In order to get to the seed, the good and useful part of the plant, then we must get rid of the chaff–exposing the useful, edible part of the plant.

We are like these wheat plants. We have been gathered in, and now we’re being separated–our fruit from the chaff. Through the Atonement of Christ, what is good and useful inside each of us can be made available. Christ will rid us of our chaff–through sanctification: baptism by fire and the Holy Ghost. This purging isn’t always easy. I think that sometimes getting rid of our rough, “useless” edges is kind of hard. We don’t really want to let that stuff go. This purging means that we will begin to recognize the ways that we need to change in order to become more like our Savior and Exemplar. Such change is only possible through Christ’s Atonement. Through His Atonement, the Lord will “thresh” us–separating the “chaff” – or natural man, from the “seed” – our divine nature and true identity.

***

When we choose to covenant with Christ in the waters of baptism, we let the power of the Atonement work in our lives. In the waters of baptism we are cleansed. After this initial cleansing, we are purified through the Holy Ghost. It is Christ and His Atonement that enables us to be clean and holy.

***
As you study this scripture block, what do you learn about Christ, the Atonement? How does this knowledge strengthen your relationship with Him?

Are Mormons Christians?

I have heard the question Are Mormons Christians asked more than once. And every time, I give the answer Yes!

Mormons are Christian.

Sometimes, I wonder the root of the confusion. So, here are a few facts that should help anyone understand the relationship Mormons have with Christ.

Jesus Christ – photo by AllAboutMormons. Click image for source.

One
The official name of the church is: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in Jesus Christ. We believe that this is His church.

Two
We believe in God, the eternal father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. (See Articles of Faith 1:1.)

This is the first thing anyone should know about Mormons. We believe in God, and we believe in Jesus Christ – His only begotten son.

Three
Not only do we believe in Jesus Christ, but we believe that He is our Savior. We believe that He has atoned for our sins, and has made it possible for us to overcome death and hell.

We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. (See Articles of Faith 1:3.)

***
I could give all sorts of examples that show how we believe in Christ, but I want to only include one more scripture plus my own testimony:

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” – 2 Nephi 25:26

I have been blessed, throughout my life, to have faith in Christ. When I was younger, I don’t really know what motivated my faith. In some ways, it seems like I was born with this faith. It was simple, and brought me peace as a child and young adolescent.

But unexplainable faith only lasts a short time, then it needs to be strengthened. It needs to be tested. My faith in Christ was tested as a youth. I was grateful to have it tested. I wanted to have more than a miraculous faith in Christ. I wanted to have an abiding, deep faith in Christ, that would ultimately become true knowledge.

I have come to know the Savior more over the years. I have searched for Him in the scriptures. I have also done what I can to keep my covenants with the faith that obedience will be rewarded with increased testimony. It has – my mind has been enlightened and my heart has been filled. I can’t accurately describe what I have felt, but I am confident that if you want to know your Savior, you can also experience a spiritual manifestation of His existence and His role as the Messiah.

One of the strongest testimonies I have, in regards to Jesus Christ, is that He loves us. Not only have I felt His love – through blessings and feelings. But I have also felt the love that He has for others.

A few days ago, I was in the hospital (for a hysterectomy). As I was going through recovery, the shifts for nurses changed, and I had a new nurse – Sara. She was efficient and business-like. In fact, she almost seemed cold. She wasn’t a bad nurse, but everything was just quick and to the point. It didn’t really bother me one way or another.

About an hour into her shift, she had to take me for a walk. Now, as I mentioned, I had just had a hysterectomy. Walking is important in recovery, but, as you can imagine, I wasn’t going anywhere fast. We walked, slowly, down the hall. I was feeling a little uncomfortable, and had the thought that I should ask her a question.

My nurse had an obvious accent, so it was an easy conversation starter. I asked her where she was from. And she answered: “Yugoslavia.” I have never known anyone from Yugoslavia. I told her this. And I began to ask her more questions. When did she come to the U.S? Why? She explained that she had been displaced because of the war, and she lived with her family in Germany for years first. When the war was over, she had no place to return, so she an her family moved to Phoenix.

I told her, it must be hard – to be so far from her home. She agreed. Then I asked how she had liked living in the U.S. She explained that it had been good up until this last year – her husband died five months ago.

When she said this, my heart filled with compassion for this woman. I took her hand, and said, I’m sorry. She tried to stay strong, and only looked at me. We both started crying. Laughing she said, “Oh! I didn’t mean to make you cry! I’m sorry.” I assured her that it was okay. It was a sad thing, and that I wanted to hug her. I was glad that she had told me, and She shouldn’t apologize.

She seemed relieved when I said this.

The rest of the evening went well. We talked a lot. She was warm and kind. But the thing that made me stop in my tracks was the realization that I had as we shared that first small cry: Jesus Christ (and Heavenly Father) love her so much. She is a beloved spiritual daughter. I felt compassion – not because I am some kind of loving or Christ-like person. I felt the compassion that the Savior has for her. I felt like a conduit of His love. I knew that Christ loves her and wants to bless her, and that I – through listening, crying, and loving her, was helping the Savior express the Love He has for her.

I was overwhelmed by this feeling – of the Savior’s love for this little Yugoslavian woman. I prayed for her (in my heart) immediately. I wanted to be a blessing to her. I also became cognizant of the fact that – not only does the Savior love Sara, but He loves everyone. He Loves me. I was reminded of the compassion that He has had for all of us – even to the point where He sacrificed His own comfort and even life, so that He could succor us and save us. I was reminded, while in the hall of the hospital, smiling and comforting Sara – that Jesus Christ knows each of us personally. Nothing happens in our lives that He’s not aware of. He wants us to make time for Him. He wants to bless each of us. He wants us to be happy.

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. I know that He Lives. I know that everything that He has ever done or will do is for our sake. He is perfectly selfless. He will bless us with the best blessings, and he delights in doing so. I know that Jesus will bless us through one another or other mysterious ways. I know that we can become more aware of His love for us as we come to Him in prayer, in the scriptures, and through Service.

Do you know that Jesus Christ is your Savior? Have you felt His love? How have you felt it?

Do you have more questions for Mormons? If so, you can read more of the Mormon FAQ’s on my blog. You can also find out more about what Mormons think of Jesus Christ here. You can find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints here.

Jesus Christ Appears to the People of North America in the Book of Mormon

In the Book of Mormon, we learn that after Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected, he visited the people that inhabited the Americas.

In John, Jesus proclaims,

“And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” – John 10:16

The contemporaries of Christ thought that the “other sheep” were the Gentiles, but they misunderstood. Jesus Christ wouldn’t teach the gentiles. We see this in the exchange he has with the woman of Canaan, when he tells her that he was only sent to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (See Matthew 15:22-28.) The other sheep were the lost members of the house of Israel, and they would literally hear His voice. We are able to read of one such experience in the Book of Mormon.

The people of the Book of Mormon were once inhabitants of Jerusalem. You can find out more about their history here. These people, known as the Nephites and Lamanites, were true members of the house of Israel. They had made covenants, kept the law of Moses, and, like the Jews of Jerusalem, were looking forward to the coming of their Messiah. Even though Christ wouldn’t live among them, they knew that he would come to the earth and fulfill the will of God by suffering for our sins.

Some time after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, Christ came and visited these people. This visit is recorded in the book of 3 Nephi in the Book of Mormon. It is the highlight of the Book of Mormon.

Shortly before Christ came to the Americas, the people who lived there experienced many natural disasters. There were earthquakes, tornadoes, mudslides, and fires. Then, after the destruction, the land was covered in darkness for three days. After this, the people who had survived began to rejoice because they had been spared. Many gathered at the temple to talk about what had been going on. While gathered there, they heard a voice from heaven, but couldn’t understand it. Again, they heard the voice, but again, they couldn’t understand it. Finally, they could hear, and they understood:

“Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.” – 3 Nephi 11:7

After this pronouncement, they saw a Man, the Savior, descending out of Heaven.

Can you imagine this? I honestly can’t. I wish that I could say that, Yes, I could understand. I can’t fully grasp the horror of the disasters and then the joy of the promised Messiah. Even though I can’t completely imagine this event, I know, in my heart, that it happened.

When Christ visited the people, he testified of Himself, he let them come, one by one, to see the nailprints in His hands and feet, and to feel His flesh, and called apostles and set up His church. He also taught the People the higher law of the gospel,he healed the sick, and he blessed the children. As a result of His visitation, the people lived in complete peace and happiness for a couple hundred of years.

The entire account of Christ’s visitation to the Nephites, those who inhabited the Americas anciently, is inspiring. One of my favorite parts of this is the pattern that is taught by the Lord, himself:

“…will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” – 3 Nephi 9:13

Healing is what Christ is all about. He came to Jerusalem, and he healed His people. He came to the Americas, and he healed His people. He offers us healing, too – from the effects of sickness, our sins, the sins of others, and death. We can feel the comfort that the Healing Power of Christ, and His Atonement brings into our lives if we will only 1)Return to Him, 2)Repent of our Sins, and 3)Be Converted.

I have felt the healing power that the Savior offers in my life. I know that He loves us. I know that He has loved us always – enough to appear to His children throughout the world. If you are not familiar with the experience of Christ’s visit to the Americas, I encourage you to read about it here. You can also find out more about the Book of Mormon here.

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