I have been chewing on a thought for awhile now regarding grace. I am a firm believer that we are saved by grace. The minute that we start to try and run a balance sheet on our good deeds versus our shortcomings, the accounting is never pretty.
In Doctrine and Covenants section 130, we learn that any blessing, any blessing we receive is based on our obedience to a law.
Where and how does grace fit into this equation?
Nephi tells us that "it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23).
This is an old discussion, Paul declared that it is faith (in God's grace) that saves us (Ephesians 2:8-9) while in James, we read that "what good is it...if a man claims to have faith (in God's grace) but has no deeds" (James 2:14)
I think that the truth lies in a combination of these scriptures. It is absolutely accurate that we cannot pay the price of Gethsemane or Golgotha, but we are commanded to sanctify ourselves in the Blood of the Lamb.
The act of sanctification is a process through which we demonstrate to God our willingness to sacrifice something to draw ourselves closer to Him and His son.
I was looking for a book the other day and I came across a two inch binder from my mission. I pulled this binder out and started to leaf through the mementos and notes from my mission. In the back of this binder is every week-at-a-glance schedule from my mission.
In looking at my mission 30 minutes at a time, I realized that the reason that I felt so close to the Savior is that I had given Him my time. There it was sitting there in front of me. My offering to God.
Amulek teaches us that "this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God" (Alma 34:32) and "this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God, a time to prepare for that endless state " (Alma 12:24).
I realize that I cannot dedicate the same kind of time to the Lord as I did on my mission. I have a full-time job, a family, a calling, and lots of other excuses.
Time is the great gift. Amulek explains that time is the gift that God gave to Adam and his mortal seed to repent and prepare to re-enter His presence.
We know from the first law of thermodynamics that energy cannot be created nor can it be destroyed. It can be converted into various forms, but never destroyed.
This is the act of sanctification. We convert our base desires into discipleship and holiness. The energy that we apply to this process is not destroyed or wasted; but the second law of thermodynamics tells us that without an infusion of energy, this conversion will lead to entropy.
Entropy is the principle that the process of conversion causes the converted state to be less than the original state unless additional energy is brought into the conversion process.
Enter Grace, the antithesis of entropy. Entropy leads to chaos and destruction. If left to ourselves, our destiny is chaos and destruction. If we leave out the vital ingredient of grace, entropy enters our lives immediately, and we are "tossed to and fro" without an anchor.
In the book, "The Normal Christian Life", Watchman Nee explains that "Grace is God doing something for me, law means that I do something for God". Even in "doing something for God" we are relying on His Grace.
Our acts do not save us, but if we are able to continue to put effort into the process of sanctification even when "all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon" (Helaman 5:12) us, then our conversion is clear to God, and to ourselves.
The word of caution is that conversion is less like Hoover Dam and more like a beaver dam. Concrete conversion does not exist. You cannot say "Phew, I'm glad I finished my conversion today; I think I'll take tomorrow off".
The Beaver's dam is in need of constant maintenance. It is never completed. So it is with our conversion. Shortly before he passed away, President Heber J. Grant was heard to pray, "O God, bless me that I shall not lose my testimony and keep faithful until the end!" (Conference Report 1958, Pg. 70) If a prophet of God is praying for strength to remain faithful, how much more do I need to pray for that strength. If not tended with care, entropy or decay will enter and chaos and dismay soon follow.
We have all experienced this either directly or indirectly. Loved ones whose testimonies dimmed, then faltered, then failed them. It is our effort to convert our desires that unlocks the door to God's grace which will then battle and defeat the entropy that is inherent in the "grace free" conversion process.
His grace is sufficient for us if we open the door to him. He stands ready.