“For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain”

I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

(Galatians 2:21)

I find this an interesting verse to mull over. Sometimes it seems our reaction to sin and bad habits is to try and conquer them purely through our own efforts or mortal means. But this isn’t possible. What is true of addictions is really true of all our sins: we, as natural men (and women) cannot overcome them by our own efforts (indeed, in this light addictions are simply the adversary getting smarter about how he preys upon our fallen natures), no matter how hard we try.

But Christ did not die in vain. Freedom from sin, from addiction, from bad habit is possible, but only through his power. Through him, we can be cleansed from all wickedness and have the power to put off our fallen natures to which we are otherwise prone:

Now I say unto you that ye must repent, and be born again; for the Spirit saith if ye are not born again ye cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore come and be baptized unto repentance, that ye may be washed from your sins, that ye may have faith on the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, who is mighty to save and to cleanse from all unrighteousness.

(Alma 7:14)

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

(Mosiah 3:19)

2 Nephi 16

In the year that king Uzziah died, I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

Above it stood the seraphim; each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

And one cried unto another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.

And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

Then said I: Wo is unto me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.

(2 Nephi 16:1-5//Isaiah 6:1-5)

I can’t say that I’ve seen the Lord directly, and I don’t know anyone personally who has. I do know that I’ve found the thought terrifying at times. Like Isaiah, we’re all unclean in some way, and so the thought of coming into the presence of a being who is so Holy and beyond our comprehension – let alone the actual experience – is unsettling. At least for me; some people seem far more relaxed about the prospect. I’m not sure if that’s proper spiritual confidence (D&C 121:45) or complacency; I guess it varies. I suspect that when one realises ones own state and who God is, then unless one has received the confidence spoken of in D&C 121:45, some degree of consternation like Isaiah’s is the only proper response. This is particularly the case when we realise that one day, all of us will come into the presence of God to be judged.

Fortunately the Lord is merciful, and able to cleanse us:

Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar;

And he laid it upon my mouth, and said: Lo, this has touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

(2 Nephi 16:6-7//Isaiah 6:6-7)