John 3:16 reads, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
I love this verse. It is beautiful to me. It sums up, in perfect simplicity the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He died so we can live.
It is only through His grace and mercy that we can be saved.
There is nothing in this world or the next that I can do, to have everlasting life, without Jesus.
Once I started to really embrace that truth, I began to feel closer to my friend, Jesus.
You see, in the LDS world, we work hard. Work is good, and we should be always striving to be better.
But sometimes, I think we do a lot of things, with the hopes that perhaps if we work hard enough, and repent enough, we just might make it to the Celestial Kingdom.
And the scriptures are clear, that's not how it works.
Once I accepted the fact that NOTHING I do will get me to the Celestial Kingdom on my own, my relationship with my Savior expanded 10, 20-fold.
You can not work your way into Heaven.
No one can.
Jesus is the only person in the history of any world who was perfect. And because I think, Heaven would be very lonely if it was just He and the rest of the Godhead hanging out, and because our Parents in Heaven loved us enough to let their Son die for you and for me, we get to go back to be with them, with our loved ones, with each other.
And that makes me want to be better. It makes me want to earn that love, even though I can't. It makes me want to lessen the suffering that I caused the greatest human in history to feel.
What can we do?
We can accept the gift that He freely gave when suffered, died and was resurrected.
How do we accept it?
Have faith, repent, make and keep our covenants, and be ever thankful to the One who makes it all come together.
Once you let go of the pain and anguish and GUILT that rides along with trying to be "good enough" to get into Heaven, you will feel your heart lifted, and your spirit draw nearer to Christ, because gratitude will make you want to be better.
Gratitude is one of the only things we can give the Lord. He gives us all. We can be grateful and accept His grace.
Elder Richard D. Scott said, "My reverence and gratitude for the Atonement of the Holy One of Israel, the Prince of Peace and our Redeemer, continually expand as I strive to understand more about it. I realize that no mortal mind can adequately conceive, nor can human tongue appropriately express, the full significance of all that Jesus Christ has done for our Heavenly Father’s children through His Atonement. Yet it is vital that we each learn what we can about it. The Atonement is that essential ingredient of our Father in Heaven’s plan of happiness without which that plan could not have been activated. Your understanding of the Atonement and the insight it provides for your life will greatly enhance your productive use of all of the knowledge, experience, and skills you acquire in mortal life."
Be grateful and accept the gift as it is given. You can't get anywhere without Christ's atonement.
Accept the gift, and be grateful that when you fail (notice I did not say 'if") repentance is yours freely, as is the grace of our Savior to wash away your sins.
You will find, when you accept the Atonement with a grateful heart, that you will be nearer to the Giver.