I don’t know about you, but I am really good at thinking about all the ways I need to change to be a better person. All the things I am bad at, or mess up, or quit. These things pile up in my head, and it can be pretty hard to get rid of them. I was thinking about that earlier, how I want to be better, but it seems so hard to sacrifice certain sins or difficulties.
And then I thought about Jesus Christ. His sacrifice. How willing and complete it was. And how He was glad to do it, in a way, even though it was difficult.
For a minute, I felt totally pathetic. I mean, Jesus gave up His life by choice, let Himself be tortured, experienced everything we’ve ever felt. He followed through with this infinite sacrifice, and it took me months to stop watching TV shows that were, well, the opposite of spiritual.
But as I thought about it more, the Holy Spirit reminded me that I’m not Jesus. He’s progressed far beyond where I am, and I am not expected to be Him.
God does want us to come to Him, let go of our sins, and embrace the Atonement and gospel of Jesus Christ. But we don’t get there on our own. That change comes through the Spirit and through a process of making mistakes and making changes.
Yes, we do need to make sacrifices to God – but our sacrifices are different than Christ’s. Our sacrifices bring us to Christ so He can change our hearts.
What We Think We Need to Give God
I think the feeling of not being good enough or not living up to the standard God expects comes from our belief that God wants us to give Him perfection. If we don’t hit that mark of perfection, we start chastising ourselves.
Sometimes we need chastising. But that chastisement comes from God and His Spirit, not us beating ourselves up. We need to learn, but self-abuse does not teach us. God does.
We are not asked to give God perfection right now. He wants us to work toward it, but He also knows that we cannot reach perfection ourselves. That’s the whole reason our Father sent Jesus Christ as our Savior – to give us a way to reach perfection and salvation.
Without Christ, we’d be stuck in sin and mistakes, and no matter how much we tried to be better, we’d have no chance. Even one mistake would hold us back from perfection.
And all of us make mistakes. So we’re all stuck without Christ.
Jesus fulfilling His Atonement was not a back-up plan; it was THE PLAN that God created to give us a chance to become perfect like He is. And we don’t do any part of it alone.
It’s time to let go of this idea that we can give God perfection right now. Handing perfection and salvation to God will let us get a better idea of what we can sacrifice to God right now.
And it actually is doable for us right now, no matter how imperfect we are.
What God Asks Us to Give Him
So if God isn’t asking us to be perfect right now, what is He asking us to give Him so we can access the Atonement of Jesus Christ?
In the Book of Mormon, it relates Christ’s visit to the people of ancient America after His resurrection. During that visit He told the people, and now us, what He and our Father ask us to give them:
20 And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not.
21 Behold, I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin.
22 Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth, and be saved.3 Nephi 9:20-22
Our sacrifice to God is our heart, broken, and our spirit, contrite. He asks us to recognize our weakness and come to Him with willingness to be changed and healed. We are also asked to be baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, and to repent.
We have to let Him help us. And once we do, Christ’s help comes in bounds and leaps, overflowing to the point that we can change.
God asks us to do these things – come to Him in weakness, repent, and have a complete baptism – right now because these are things we can do. We have the capability, imperfect as we are, to recognize that we need help. We can choose to come to Christ because we have the ability to choose what we do with our lives.
That’s what we’re capable of – choosing, learning, coming, following, repenting, and obeying. We may not do these things perfectly, but we can do them, even right now.
How We Can Sacrifice Our Favorite Sins
When we know what God wants us to sacrifice to Him – and that it is completely within our capabilities – there’s still the fact that we won’t be perfect that we need to deal with. And let’s be real, we all have things that we shouldn’t do that we sort of like doing. Or, even if we don’t like doing those things, we aren’t ready to stop doing them either.
It’s tough to face those things, but if we’re coming to Christ with a broken heart and contrite spirit, it’s even harder not to face them. In fact, it isn’t possible to hide from those things as His disciples because when we came to Him, we essentially asked Him to make us better since we can’t do that ourselves.
I’ve found that the more I come to Christ, the easier it is to let go of those “favorite sins.” His help is always there for me through the Spirit, and the more I experience His love, the more it replaces those things I thought I couldn’t let go of.
I mentioned struggling to stop watching TV shows that hurt my spirit. Back then, I thought that the shows were funny and a good way to relax, but some of the content of the shows started to bother me more and more.
I started to put more focus on my spiritual growth. I realized that watching those shows had changed me in little ways that I didn’t like. And this became more and more clear to me as I spent time in the scriptures, prayed, and learned more about Christ.
Eventually, I found that I wanted to change more than I wanted to watch those TV shows, and that was the point that I could walk away from that habit I had once thought wasn’t even a problem.
This might seem like a silly example. It’s just TV, right? But it made a big impact on me and taught me that coming closer to Christ pulls me away from things in the world that hurt me.
The process might vary a bit for each of us. And it may be more difficult for some of us than it is for others. But Christ sacrificed for us completely so that we could make the changes we need to make to return to our Father and eventually, through Christ, become perfect.
And each time we do sacrifice those hard-to-let-go-of things, we can come even closer to Christ, and let go of even more. It’s like going up a flight of stairs – each step takes us closer to our goal, and Christ is the one who built the stairs for us to take.