5. The Atonement is not just about immediate perfection but also eventual perfection.
Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment if that perfection is not attained. Because Christ took that punishment for us, He can now provide a different arrangement. He calls for eventual perfection and offers to support us throughout the process. We don’t go to church and partake of the sacrament because we are perfect but because we are willing to be perfected. We don’t go to the temple because we have made it, but because within those walls God and Christ are making us more like Them. They could change us in an instant, but strength so easily attained is not strength at all. This is why, as Christ and Heavenly Father change us from human to divine, They typically do it the same way that a child learns to walk—over time. Time is the medium through which the power of the Atonement is made manifest in our lives.
Enduring to the end doesn’t just mean to the end of the week, month, year, or even the end of this life. Enduring to the end means enduring to our ultimate end— becoming more like God and Jesus.
6. The Atonement is not just a reward for the righteous but the source of righteousness.
Grace is the divine help and enabling power that is available throughout the entire perfecting process. Christ stands ready to forgive, but also ready to mentor, strengthen, and empower us.
These gifts are not a reward waiting for us once we get our acts together, break all our bad habits, and become worthy of His help. They are an unearned and undeserved gift throughout our quest. We must be careful not to see Christ’s grace as somehow supplementing our works or our works as somehow supplementing Christ’s grace, as if we have to meet some sort of minimum height requirement to get into heaven. It is not about height. It is about growth.
We do not reach heaven by supplementing but by covenanting. A covenant represents a warm relationship between two friends who are working together toward the same end. Instead of speaking of His part and my part, I try to speak more of His heart and my heart loving and reflecting one another.
7. The Atonement is not because we are good but because God and Christ are good.
They love us not because we are always loveable, but because They are always loving. Understanding this helps us feel Their love even when we don’t see any reason to love ourselves. “I’ll never do it again,” we say. Then we do it. “Now I really mean it. I will never do it again.” And then we do it. At such low moments, it is easy to become discouraged and lose hope. We have such a hard time forgiving ourselves that we mistakenly believe God and Christ must be feeling the same way. We think each setback is devastating, but God and Christ simply recognize them as growing pains.
Jesus suffered for our sins—plural. That means multiple sins, but that also means multiple times we commit the same sin as we learn how to break bad habits once and for all. “Never again” may be the ultimate goal, but in the meantime we can set more realistic milestones to reach along the way. Each time we repent and start again, we are one step closer to our ultimate goal—usually much closer than we think. The love of God and Jesus is perfect—offered consistently through our moments of great success or utter failure. Although we often want to give up on ourselves, God and Jesus will never give up on us. Their hearts simply cannot and will not let go.
8. The Atonement is not just the best way but the only way.
Christ is not just one of several possible correct answers on a multiple choice exam. He is the only correct answer. In today’s world, it is not popular or politically correct to speak of absolutes. Some claim truth is relative and constructed by each person individually. They don’t want to abandon sin and get comfortable with God. Rather, they wish to abandon God and get comfortable with sin. None of this changes Christ’s reality and their absolute dependence on Him.
As Latter-day Saints, we know Christ and His Atonement are the source of all spiritual blessings. As King Benjamin taught, “There shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ” (Mosiah 3:17).
Over the years, Brad Wilcox has become a name that many Church members look to in order to find new insights into the Atonement. From The Continuous Atonement to The Continuous Conversion, this beloved Latter-day Saint author’s books are a great source of inspiration.
If you’re hoping to help your teen apply the Atonement more fully in their lives, then check out his latest work, The Continuous Atonement for Teens. This is the perfect gift for teens or tool for parents with teens.
To help children understand the Atonement, don’t miss Practicing for Heaven: The Parable of the Piano Lesson. Find these and other Brad Wilcox books at Deseret Book stores and at deseretbook.com.