Look and Live
Become who you are.
'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; And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.' Mosiah 27:25-26 The need to change and become more like Christ is real and daunting. Alma provides incredible insight on how we can become the version of ourselves Heavenly Father created us to be. We look and live. Looking to Christ redeems us from our fallen state - whatever that might be. We come to Him as we are. Look to Him, learn and feel His love. Retaining a remission of our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ over time changes our nature.
Change can be hard to understand because it is so difficult. Can a leopard change his spots? (Jeremiah 13:23) A shift in focus helps. Alma was rebellious and angry toward the church his father had organised and fought against it. Like Saul in the bible, he was confronted with the sharpest question - WHY? 'Why persecutest thou me?' Acts 9:4 Mosiah 27:13 In answer to this question Alma was dumb and Saul was blind. There is no answer. Consider the scale. All sin is essentially selfishness. Imagine approaching Father in Heaven, seeing His infinity-wide scope of outreach and empathy then trying to explain your own self-importance. From Alma and Saul we see change is less what we do and more why.
'As I was...racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!' Alma 36:17-20
The Saviour is a strong and powerful catalyst to changing motives. Love begets love. In our sorrowful state, recognising our faults or needing help, we can reach upward in prayer, research inspiration and look for our angels. In a unique, personally timed way, Jesus or His messengers will come to any one who reaches to Him, accompanied by the Holy Ghost. Alma describes this as marvellous light and joy. The bounty of this blessing to us 'unworthy creatures' Mosiah 4:11-12 can change our heart dramatically from focusing inward to looking outward. We look and live.
'Cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day...
Do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.' Alma 37:36-37,46
It is worth recognising millions of people are unselfish and feel great love and joy without thinking of God, heaven, Jesus or anything like that. The joy of love is reason enough for living a good life. There is no competition. Does God think as we do? Does He compare us to each other? I don't think so. I have never felt knowing Christ makes me 'better'. The difference I have noticed is knowing the source of my gifts. We all have gifts from what created us. They have been inherited, passed on, taught or developed but always due to liberties of circumstance. Our freedom to choose is all we have that is completely ours, and the devil constantly seeks to take this from us. Choosing to 'look' and recognise Jesus as the source of my gifts helps me to recognise them, use them, submit when they are taken, celebrate gifts in others and live gratefully.
In the difficulty of changing behaviour, appetites. moods, character and nature, 'retaining a remission of our sins' (Mosiah 4:12) is the greatest help I know. Notice the emphasis. The focus is on Christ. Our tendency is to dwell on fault. We may even be carrying weight of failures we did not cause or cannot control. 'For behold that all little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent.' (Moroni 8:22 emphasis added) Baptism, observing Sunday as the Lord's Day, partaking the sacrament, prayer and service to others are key tools in retaining a remission of our sins. These keep our focus on Him and promise the gift of the Holy Ghost. This is what makes us clean and helps us feel forgiven.
Ultimately it is our neglect or use of gifts we have been given that determines eternal outcomes. In the parable of the talents, or labourers in the vineyard the reward is the same regardless of how much they had or did. Looking to Christ, then discovering and developing our gifts is, for me, becoming who we are. Living! With this mindset criticism and correction becomes constructive. Church and family are imperfect but terrific training grounds. Life is adventurous. Happiness and accomplishment overwhelm trials as we achieve goals, watch our development, abandon long held vices and faithfully leave perplexing injustices at His feet. Even with stubborn habits clinging our shoes, trust in Christ's atonement bringing a remission of ours sins motivates us to press forward in hope, be a little better each day and see in ourselves a hint of divine nature. 'Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.' 2 Peter 1:4-8