I was reading the last chapter of the Book of Moroni the other day. Moroni is running short on time and even shorter on space on the plates at this point, so you know he’s gotta be really careful about what he includes and how he words his final messages to us. Not surprisingly, he spends the entire time testifying of Christ and the Atonement. During his last few verses– his “dying breaths” so to speak– he pleads with us to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness… and love God with all your might, mind and strength.” And, as with all scripture, this invitation comes with a promise: if we will accept Moroni’s invitation to come unto Christ, “then is his grace sufficient for you.”
The wording of that promise struck me. It sounds kind of backward, doesn’t it? I would have expected Moroni to say something like “If you do these things, then you are sufficient for his grace.” I mean, doesn’t that sound right? You do the work, and you qualify for the blessings of the Atonement to make up for your shortcomings? But instead, Moroni says our works do not make us sufficient for Christ’s grace– they make Christ’s grace sufficient for us.
Wait, what? Why would the grace of the Savior ever not be sufficient for us? We’re the ones who are imperfect– not the Atonement. When would the Atonement ever not be enough for us? Christ’s life and his mission were perfect. How could it possibly lack? And how could our actions possibly affect that?
I pondered on the wording and learned a few important lessons.
We are always sufficient for Christ’s grace
Satan is a master of twisting something good into something evil. Let me shed light on one of his cruelest and most cunning tricks.
When we honestly recognize the magnitude of our imperfections and mistakes, we see the enormous chasm that stands between us and the perfection that God expects us to strive for. We realize how tragically short we fall of that mark. This realization can seem overwhelming. King Benjamin’s people felt that overwhelming sense of distance from God when they “viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth.” Mormon likewise lamented, “O how great is the nothingness of the children of men; yea, even they are less than the dust of the earth.” And after Moses was blessed to see all of God’s creations, he cried out “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing.”
This is a good realization to experience. For King Benjamin’s people, it led to repentance. For Mormon, it led to a plea for righteousness. For Moses, it led to his call as a prophet. But if we’re not careful, Satan will try to twist that realization to his own ends. He will tell us, “Look how short you fall. You’ll never make it. It’s impossible. Christ could not bridge the gap for you. Or if He can, it will be impossible for you to deserve it. It’s not even worth trying.”
This is one of his most effective tactics. He tries to convince us that we could never be sufficient for Christ’s grace and qualify for Christ to receive us. This is an absolute lie.
The way we escape this trap Satan sets is to remember that Christ decides whom He is willing to receive. Christ decides who is sufficient for His grace. Christ is the One who extends His grace. Whether or not we qualify for His grace is not really our call. He has not left that decision to us. His standard is clear: we are all always sufficient for Christ’s grace.
We are sufficient for His grace when we make mistakes that keep us up at night. We are sufficient for His grace when we break our family’s heart. We’re even sufficient for His grace when we don’t want it! Christ didn’t just suffer the mistakes we regret and the habits we want to break– He suffered for all our sins. He paid for the sins we choose not to acknowledge. He paid for the sins we revel in. He paid for us even when we fight Him tooth and nail. There is absolutely no sin we could commit, no rut we could get stuck in, no despair so deep that we could escape the redeeming reach of God.
Yes, full redemption takes time. It takes effort. He reaches down but we still have to reach up. His gift is in front of us, but we must act to use it. But it’s never impossible and it’s never too late in mortality. We are constantly changing. It’s been said that “when we’re through changing, we’re through,” but not a moment before. Now is the time to change. Now is never too early, but it’s certainly not too late. No matter what our circumstances, no matter when we finally decide to turn things around, He is always there. He never gives up on us. We are always sufficient for Christ’s extended hand of grace.
But will we let Christ’s grace be sufficient for us?
So how could Moroni’s words be true? If we are always sufficient for Christ’s grace, how could His grace not be sufficient for us? Remember what I said earlier: Christ decides whom He is willing to receive. Christ decides who is sufficient for His grace. But the reverse is also true. We decide what we are willing to receive. We decide whether His grace is sufficient for us.
Think of it this way: Christ’s grace is a gift given to us to redeem us from our sins? Christ lovingly and freely sets it before us. So when we choose not to repent of our sins, what does that communicate to Christ? What does it tell Him about our opinion of His gift?
It shows Him that we are not satisfied with His Atonement. Maybe it’s not easy enough for us. Maybe it’s not convenient enough for us. Maybe we just “don’t have enough time right now” to repent. Whatever the reason we choose not to repent, we are showing Christ that His sacrifice, His redemption, His grace is insufficient for us to bother applying it in our lives. We are like a drowning man who is thrown a life jacket by the lifeguard but throws it back because the straps are itchy.
For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet.
I think when everything is said and done and we face the Final Judgment, I don’t think Christ is going to berate us over how often He had to save us from sin. I think He is going to look at our unrepented sins, and ask with sadness, “I paid to heal that. I paid for that healing with my own blood. But you didn’t use it.” And then He will look up at us and ask, “Was my grace not enough for you?”
This Christmas season when we’re looking back in time to when Christ came to give us the gift of His grace, let’s also look to today to see if we are truly receiving and applying that gift in our lives, and look forward to when we will give an accounting to Him of how we used it. Let’s not let His Christmas gift end up like so many Christmas gifts– unused and forgotten.
Note: The idea of grace and its relation to the Atonement of Christ gets really muddled. What is grace? Does grace save us from sin? Or is there more to it? Do we earn grace? Or is it free? If it’s free, why do we only receive it “after all we can do?” How does that even work? Does that mean we have to do everything we can in order to be forgiven? But isn’t doing everything we can perfection already? So I have to be perfect in order to be saved?
I struggled for answers to these types of questions for a long time. I wrote about my experience last year so hopefully someone out there could learn the lessons I learned the hard way. For anyone looking for a great resource about grace and the Atonement of Christ, I cannot recommend Brad Wilcox’s book, The Continuous Atonement, highly enough. It is at the top of my recommended Church reading list right under the standard works. It is one of those books where you want to read each paragraph 4 times because there’s so much there. It’s a very powerful yet very simple read. I really wish I had that book when I was a teenager. You can get a used copy for something like $2.00 on Amazon or eBay. Seriously, check it out.