Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Atonement Defined II: Sanctification

Click here to see also: The Atonement Defined I: Justification

Sanctification:  Sanctification represents the actual cleansing of one’s soul from sin through the shedding of the blood of Christ. We are sanctified by the blood of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is the process through which we are made holy as our natures become truly changed (or converted)

In order to be saved one must be both justified AND sanctified, or in other words, as it says in the scriptures, one must have both clean hands and a pure heart (see Psalm 24:3-4; Alma 5:19). Elder David A. Bednar explained what it means to have both clean hands AND a pure heart:

“Brothers and sisters, it is possible for us to have clean hands but not have a pure heart...Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better. All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us.” (David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 80–83).

If justification removes (or transfers to Christ) the consequences of our past sins by declaring us guiltless, then the process of sanctification strips us of the very desire TO sin and so actually makes us perfect. In freeing us from the desire to sin, sanctification frees us from the bondage of sin itself, forever. In this respect, sanctification is closely associated with the principle of being “born again”. According to the apostle John, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (KJV 1 John 3:9).

This principle of total conversion is so crucial to our eventual salvation that Christ himself declared that, “…Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Christ then went on to explain exactly what that meant to a puzzled Nicodemus, who wondered how a man could be born a second time: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (See John 3:3-5).” The Lord expounds on this point in Moses 6:57-60 and explains why this has to be:
Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ, a righteous Judge, who shall come in the meridian of time.  Therefore I give unto you a commandment, to teach these things freely unto your children, saying: That by reason of transgression cometh the fall, which fall bringeth death, and inasmuch as ye were born into the world by water, and blood, and the spirit, which I have made, and so became of dust a living soul, even so ye must be born again into the kingdom of heaven, of water, and of the Spirit, and be cleansed by blood, even the blood of mine Only Begotten; that ye might be sanctified from all sin, and enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory; For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified;
“The gate of baptism leads to the strait and narrow path and to the destination of putting off the natural man and becoming a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord (see Mosiah 3:19). The purpose of our mortal journey is not merely to see the sights on earth or to expend our allotment of time on self-centered pursuits; rather, we are to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), to become sanctified by yielding our hearts unto God (see Helaman 3:35), and to obtain “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

We are commanded and instructed to so live that our fallen nature is changed through the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost. President Marion G. Romney taught that the baptism of fire by the Holy Ghost “converts [us] from carnality to spirituality. It cleanses, heals, and purifies the soul. … Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, and water baptism are all preliminary and prerequisite to it, but [the baptism of fire] is the consummation. To receive [this baptism of fire] is to have one’s garments washed in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ” (Learning for the Eternities, comp. George J. Romney [1977], 133; see also 3 Nephi 27:19–20).

Hence, as we are born again and strive to always have His Spirit to be with us, the Holy Ghost sanctifies and refines our souls as if by fire (see 2 Nephi 31:13–14, 17). Ultimately, we are to stand spotless before God.” (David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 80–83).

Note that, as Elder Bednar points out,  we "sanctified by yielding our hearts unto God."  What exactly involved in yielding one's heart to God?  Ezra Taft Benson explained:

"Considering all that [Jesus Christ] has done and is doing for us, there is something that we might give Him in return.

Christ’s great gift to us was His life and sacrifice. Should that not then be our small gift to Him—our lives and sacrifices, not only now but in the future?

Those who are] captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. … Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30.) They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29.) Not only would they die for the Lord, but, more important, they want to live for Him." (Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 89–101).

Sanctification is a process and not an event, and so it is also closely tied to the principle of enduring to the end. It is not enough merely to be baptized, but we must also seek to "live for" Christ, which describes the process of becoming a saint, holy and spotless, and in so doing to eventually become like Christ. In living this principle we are expected not only to merely endure this life but rather to press forward steadfastly with a perfect brightness of hope and a love for all men. Enduring to the end is ultimately about personal conversion and growth. Conversion and growth to what end, you ask?

“The gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses much more than avoiding, overcoming, and being cleansed from sin and the bad influences in our lives; it also essentially entails doing good, being good, and becoming better. Repenting of our sins and seeking forgiveness are spiritually necessary, and we must always do so. But remission of sin is not the only or even the ultimate purpose of the gospel. To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin.” (David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 80–83).

If we adopt this way of "doing good, being good, and becoming better" and implement these principles into our lives, Christ will extend to us the gift of his grace, and we will be cleansed by the shedding of his blood through the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:32-33). This cleansing makes it possible for us become “holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:33), and ultimately purifies us “even as He [Christ] is pure” (Moroni 7:48).

Sanctification is ultimately the process through which we grow (and are changed) to become like Christ, or as Paul puts it, “ to measure up to the stature of the fullness of Christ” (see Ephesians 4:11-14) so that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (See 1 John 3:1-2, Moroni 7:48). The ultimate end of all this is that we might “enjoy the words of eternal life in this world, and eternal life in the world to come, even immortal glory (Moses 6:60).”

As the Lord explains in Moses 1:39 these two stated aims are God’s whole purpose for us: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” To the end that we might receive this “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17), the Lord has called us through his prophets with this urgent exhortation:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:32-33).

To review: In order to undergo the process of sanctification one must:

1) Come unto Christ (i.e. yield one’s heart unto God-see Helaman 3:35) through faith in him. (Moroni 10:32)

2) Deny oneself of all ungodliness and be born again through repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end (see Mosiah 5:2, and Alma 5:13-14, 26-28).

3) Love God (and to only a slightly lesser degree, one’s neighbor) with all one’s might, mind, and strength. If one truly loves God and all of his children that person will have no desire to sin. (See Matthew 22: 36-40; Romans 13: 8-14; 1 Timothy 1:5; James 2:7-9)

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