Low Standards: The Key to Happiness??

On a Shanghai forum for expatriates (mostly English-speaking foreigners), I saw a discussion of things that bothered people the most about the Shanghai experience. One commenter said that the problem many Americans have in coming to Shanghai is that they expect it to be a typical international city and are disappointed with some of the unsavory realities of life there. His key to happiness there, he said, was “lowering your standards.” I was taken aback since I’d been overwhelmingly happy with the city, and while I know there are some unpleasantries one must cope with (occasional noisy throat clearing and spitting on the street being one of the most common annoyances), it never occurred to me that I had to lower any standards to love the place. Maybe my standards were just naturally low. (Yes, street spitting is unseemly and crude, in my opinion, but I shrug it off.)

In thinking about this, I realized that my ability to accept imperfection probably has been essential in finding so much delight in Shanghai. I also think it’s part of why I can find so much meaning and joy in a divinely inspired Church that is loaded with imperfect mortals. There are those who essentially demand perfection in prophets and scripture–perfection being a grand standard and a powerful tool for rejecting all manner of divine messengers and messages. In comparison, yes, I have low standards, or rather, I’ve lowered my expectations to account for the reality of human error. It’s not such a bad thing and I suggest you consider taking the same approach. If you’re not convinced, read “‘Well Nigh as Dangerous’: Latter-day Prophecy and Revelation; Infallibility and Blind Obedience” by McKay V. Jones over at FAIRLDS.org. Awesome review on the issue of fallibility in mortal leaders and how we can wisely cope with it. It’s a tremendous essay–nearly perfect, by my standards. Enjoy.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

65 thoughts on “Low Standards: The Key to Happiness??

  1. The link described how the teachings of the prophets are sustained through the members (because the members use the spirit and what not). Correct me if I'm wrong on that.

    It still doesn't account for the diversity in spiritual feeling among the membership, though. This can especially be seen in the New Order Mormon group.

    Anyways, I guess that means my rejection of spiritual reasoning lies with how humanly flawed it is. But if I lowered my standards to account for human error in spiritual reasoning, a lot of varying and sometimes contradictory beliefs would be upheld.

    What do you think?

  2. Defending a stance about your ability to accept the mortal influence in a divinely inspired organization is almost for naught. I would say one of the hardest things for people is to separate the divine from the human. Joseph Smith is the best example as his 'mistakes' made the biggest impact on personal lives. Emma Smith will receive a better glory than most of us for what she went through in mortality yet she walked away when her husband died. I just don't think that is becoming of someone to say they can remain strong and faithful in the face of human error when I feel many cases will find God's mercy.

  3. The point is not to fall to pieces when mistakes happen, for they are inescapable when mortals are involved. For example, a great leaders relies upon a readily available source for a story in General Conference, but the source butchers the historical details and the errors in the story become enshrined in Church lore. Do we grow angry and disappointed, wondering how this could happen in the Lord's Church, or do we recognize that such unfortunate errors are just as likely today as they were in New Testament and Old Testament times, even when prophets and writers of scripture were involved. How could such things not happen sometimes when mortal are present?

  4. "High standards for yourself + low expectations of others = happiness!"

    Good advice, JM. Years ago I lowered my expectations for the prophets so much I could no longer believe them to be prophets at all. I've been happier ever since!

  5. "In comparison, yes, I have low standards, or rather, I've lowered my expectations to account for the reality of human error."

    Ha ha. There you go again, teasing us in with the title, but then using a slightly different definition or term. (Are you sure you're not really a "marketer"? 🙂

    I was going to jump on your case for using the word "standards", and then when I read you were really talking about "expectations", I can now agree with your point.

    I almost made the same mistake as the guy who jumped on your case for your use of the word "marketing".

    Ah yes, lowered expectations. Or as people sometimes say: "Pessimists are disappointed a lot less than optimists."

    But, durn it, if anyone's an optimist, it's Jeff Lindsay. How do you do it?

    Are you an optimistic pessimist, or a pessimistic optimist?

  6. I think what you mean is "Low expectations". I've found that works for me, especially in my ward. Expect imperfection, and you won't be disappointed. After all, the atonement makes all that little stuff not matter anyway.

  7. Imperfect prophets. (with a hat tip to Jeff's "Lie Chart" blog post.)

    Let's look at some of the mistakes, goof-ups, and various failures that prophets and other leaders in the Bible made:

    Adam raised a murderer.
    Lot was willing to sacrifice a daughter to the mob.
    Abraham was willing to kill his son.
    Moses had a lot of screw-ups:
    Moses took the law into his own hand and killed an Egyptian.
    Moses lied: he told the children of Israel he was taking them to the promised land, but then said they were not going, and they were going to die off in the desert.
    Aaron made a golden calf for idol worship.
    Moses engaged in nepotism: he ordered the execution of thousands of those who worshiped the calf, BUT he spared his own brother who MADE the calf. (Was that "fair"?)
    Moses disobeyed God and struck the rock at Meribah, instead of speaking to it.
    The sons of Israel went to war on their own a few times, once wiping out a whole town just because ONE of them raped their sister.
    King David, who was a prophet too, who had conversations with God, had some problems with sin too.
    Hosea married a prostitute (well, God told him to, or at least that's what he claimed.)
    Peter denied Christ.
    Peter and Paul didn't get along at times, and sniped/snarked at each other in some of their letters.
    Paul and Barnabas had a falling out.

    And why don't we have more sermons and letters from the early apostles? Why don't we have more records of Peter? He was the head apostle. How did we end up with more stuff by Paul?

    And the missing books? The OT and the NT makes references to books by prophets that we can't find. And all those OT references to the more detailed "Chronicles of the Kings", where are they?

    And the early saints? Most of Paul's letters were to correct problems going on in the churches.

    Jeff's right. We shouldn't expect modern prophets and other church leaders to be more perfect than previous ones.

    Today's Christians have a similar problem to the ancient Jews: It's easier to believe in dead prophets than live ones.

  8. "There are those who essentially demand perfection in prophets and scripture–perfection being a grand standard and a powerful tool for rejecting all manner of divine messengers and messages."

    God's standard for His Word IS perfection, but He uses imperfect prophets to reveal His perfect word. Happiness isn't a matter of lowering our standards to allow for imperfect prophets…all that does is allow you to accept the words of all men (since we are all imperfect).

    God's testimony about the standards of prophets is not that THEY are perfect, but that through their words they:

    1. Perfectly (always) lead people to the true God-Deuteronomy 13:1-3
    2. Perfectly produce prophecies which are consistent with past revelations from God-Isaiah 8:20
    3. Perfectly predict things that occur-Jeremiah 18:5-10
    4. Perfectly declare revelation from God-Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28

    In both the Old and New Testaments, God used prophets and/or the gift of prophecy to reveal truth to people. God also proclaims that the Bible contains all the revelation we need for life and godliness-2 Peter 1:3.

    As a result, the gift of prophecy transitioned from primarily being a declaration of new revelation from God, to primarily (or exclusively) being a declaration of what God has already revealed, as recorded in His Word.

    By giving us His word and the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide and teach us are no longer in need of prophets to reveal new truth about God to us. Today, through another person's gift of prophecy we may be given new chances to hear God's revelation in ways that are needful in our lives.

  9. I love Bookslinger's list of imperfect prophets. 🙂 So I have a question for you, Jeff. Actually, probably a whole boatload of questions since I'm considering China. Two would be, "What websites are allowed in China? If Blogger isn't allowed, how do you access it?" Could you email me? michelleglauser AT gmail.

  10. Cindy,
    Are you sure that Peter was talking about the bible we currently have? They didn't have the Bible then as we are used to. So how could he be referring to a book that didn't exist? The information available to Peter may have very well contained what he said. But do we have access to that same information in the form of the Bible?

  11. I'm with Rich on this. Cindy, the moment when Peter wrote that God had given us all things that we need, why did he keep writing? Why did he later go on an write several more chapters of text? Did we need those, too, after that moment when he had just written that God had given us all things? What shall we say about all the other things that God chose to do and say through his servants after that glorious day when Peter penned 2 Peter 1?

    Maybe the "things" God has given us aren't limited, static, inanimate things, but endless, dynamic, living things like His Son, who continued to lead His living Church through living prophets and apostles who were there to receive continuing revelation to guide mankind. So the "things" that God has given us must include His Church and the principle of ongoing revelation through apostles and prophets, as we read in Ephesians 4:11-14.

    No book scribed, compiled, translated, edited, and printed by mortals can be infallible and can perfectly represent God on all matters. That's why there must be ongoing revelation from God's servants to clarify and teach and respond to the changes that society and mankind faces, not to mention changes in language and understanding.

    To treat an inanimate object as the source of all knowledge when we have the Living God who speaks and teaches still is a tragic self-imposed limitation, accepting just a part of the glorious whole that God offers us. I urge you to accept "all things" that God has and continues to give us, and not to let mortal philosophies close your mind to His endless and living Word.

  12. FWIW, I'm not so sure I'd want to criticize Hosea for marrying a prostitute.

    To me, the greatest "failing" of a prophet is the way Joseph Smith treated Emma after he started marrying other women. Imagine how she felt when Smith wrote that bit in D&C about how if Emma didn't like her husband's decision to marry other women, she would be "destroyed." That was so low I don't even have the words.

    Also note that it's pretty silly to think that a historical Lot was literally willing to offer his daughters up to be raped. In the Sodom and Gomorrah story, this incident is not meant to be read literally; it is used figuratively to demonstrate the strength of Lot's commitment to the old code of hospitality and the town's lack thereof (hence Ezekiel's statement that the "sin of Sodom" was its unwillingness to share its wealth).

    When we're tempted to read scripture too literally, we should remember that the gospels depict Jesus himself as warning against it.

  13. I understand what you are asking about 2 peter in terms of the "things" being more than inanimate, but the focus of Peter's entire letter is to help the reader's to remember the Holy word of the ancient prophets and the apostles. That is was gained

    "through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness."

    That is was not of man:

    "For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty."

    That is was attained while in the actual presence of Christ:

    "And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed."

    All in order that those of us who would read it later could take confidence in it:

    "so that you can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets, and the commandment of our Lord and Savior [given] through your apostles."

    Truly "When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth." but that truth will have to be in line with what was given in the Bible.

  14. Cindy, you might be interested to know that 2 Peter 1 is one of those classic passages of special significance to Latter-day Saints that seems to challenge what many critics throw at us. It speaks of the divine potential of man, the potential to partake of the divine nature through Christ, and of the need to make constant progress. it also warns of the potential of falling from grace and teaches the importance of enduring in faith unto the end "to make our calling and election sure." Great stuff, a beautiful passage, filled with many doctrines that get us labeled a non-Christian cult by some vocal leaders of "mainstream" Christianity.

  15. Cindy, how do you conclude that Peter's "all things" is focused on the writings of the apostles, when the apostles hadn't finished writing yet? It surprises me that one could take the reference to "all things" to mean that there can be no more new scripture, when it was actually written in the midst of the process of adding new and still incomplete scripture. You might as well take it as evidence that God didn't want apostles and prophets guiding his Church or revealing His word–that would have the same level of credibility. Peter is in the act of demonstrating that the things that God had given the Church included living apostles continuing to teach and write inspired words from God. And after he wrote that "all things" that we need had been given, he kept writing and teaching and leading the Church through revelation, exactly as the Church was supposed to be led. How can his words possibly mean that we are not supposed to have more revelation and leadership from living prophets and apostles???

  16. Jeff,
    I didn't mean to imply that Peter was saying that "all things" mean there was to be no more scripture, as I recognize what you are saying in terms of the books of the Bible being incomplete and/or in a different order than we currently know. But doesn't it seem that Peter was saying that the SOURCE of scripture is complete?

    Given either to those who were in the presence of Christ:

    "And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed."

    or to those holy prophets of the old testament:

    "so that you can remember the words previously spoken by the holy prophets, and the commandment of our Lord and Savior [given] through your apostles."

    He sure seems to be issuing a clear warning against those who teach anything but that which was taught through the OT prophets and/or current apostles.

    "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies"

    and all of chapter 2 serves as a warning against them.

  17. Jeff,

    "You said that I "might be interested to know that 2 Peter 1 is one of those classic passages of special significance to Latter-day Saints that seems to challenge what many critics throw at us.the divine potential of man, the potential to partake of the divine nature through Christ, and of the need to make constant progress. it also warns of the potential of falling from grace and teaches the importance of enduring in faith unto the end "to make our calling and election sure."

    Can you tell me how you come to this understanding from this chapter? (I'm really asking…I don't see how you come to those conclusions, and I wonder…)

  18. Great post, Jeff. I've said much the same thing numerous times on my personal blog – that my joy is full largely because I try hard to not expect more of others than they are capable of giving. I think it's one of the core aspects of true charity.

  19. Hi Cindy,
    "But doesn't it seem that Peter was saying that the SOURCE of scripture is complete?"

    Could you elaborate a little here so I can understand where you are coming from a little better? It seems as though you are saying that the purpose for scripture was to announce the coming of Christ on then document his life and some acts of his apostles after his death and resurrection then the purpose of scripture is complete. I could be wrong of coarse but that is what I think you mean.
    I believe the purpose of scripture is for God to reveal his will to us through prophets. He is able to guide us and give us the help we need through continual revelation so that we can know how to return to the mansions prepared for us in heaven. Instruction on how to live as Christ would have us. How to pray, what not to do, commandments, and stories to promote faith. I don't see these things coming to a point where we don't need them. Leaving us to figure out on our own from the Bible what is the correct doctrine to follow has brought us 1000s of churches. Even though some may be close, they are different enough to cause confusion. I can't see God wanting us to live a life of confusion concerning his gospel. When eternity is on the line, nothing less then perfect clarity is acceptable. The only way to keep us on track is to continue with revelation to Prophets. When we rely on ourselves to understand and follow the gospel our fallibility causes error, if we don't turn to and rely on God we end up down the wrong path.
    Having a prophet doesn't change the fact that we need scriptures, study, spiritual guidance, or prayer but it is another important tool for God to guide his people on earth. Having a standard of lower then perfection is most likely the key to happiness because we are all human and make mistakes. God demands and expects perfection but also realizes we all fall short of the mark.

  20. Fwiw, I see the purpose of scripture as creating a record of humanity's interaction with God.

    I think limiting the ability to have and record that interaction to one group of people is perhaps the greatest arrogance and pride that exists within religions.

  21. I agree with PapaD that scripture is "a record of humanity's interaction with God." This makes much more sense to me than the idea of scripture as an "instruction manual for life," as it is sometimes called, or, as Rich called it, "instruction on how to live as Christ would have us." PapaD's formulation just seems to conform a lot better with the scriptures' incredible variety and frequent lack of clarity. Much of scripture is in the form of stories, and stories, unlike good, clear, straightforward instructions, always have to be interpreted. The story of David is quite different in kind from "Insert Tab A into Slot B" or "Inflate the tires to 44 psi."

    Some parts of scripture, such as the Ten Commandments, seem much more like "instructions," but even these are embedded in stories (and in the case of the Ten Commandments, there are two quite different versions). And because of the specifics of the story in which the Ten Commandments are embedded, it is not immediately obvious whether they should apply to everyone equally, just to the Jews, or what. In other words, they must be interpreted and hence are not much like instructions.

    I also like PapaD's idea that "limiting the ability to have and record that interaction [of humanity with God] to one group of people is perhaps the greatest arrogance and pride that exists within religions." I would add that this record is not limited just to the kinds of texts we typically call scripture, but is found also in much of the world's great "secular" literature. (Personally, I'd say there's more religious wisdom in The Brothers Karamazov than in the Pearl of Great Price.) We habitually distinguish between "religious scripture" and "secular literature," and between "prophets" and "Great Writers," but I think these categories are not really so clear-cut.

  22. " I see the purpose of scripture as creating a record of humanity's interaction with God."
    And I agree with that, but to what end? Why give us a collection of writings documenting human interaction with God? For what reason do we have these collections? Is it just a read? Or are we to learn from their lessons and learn to treat each other certain ways? Are scriptures then not there to help us understand what we need to do, or how we should act? They are simply stories about human interaction with God, nothing more?
    I think the scriptures have a purpose far more important then being a read about an ancient peoples interaction with God. There are a great many good things in all kinds of literature and I think we can learn from all of them. I don't limit myself to only scripture for interaction with people.

  23. Rich asks a great question re scripture: "to what end?" The answer he seems to be looking for is, "To reveal God's will to us." Me, I don't think that literature necessarily has any end at all. Or rather that stories with an easily discernible end tend not to impress us as very good literature but instead tend to strike us as "preachy."

    Good literature, scriptural or otherwise, works in multiple and very subtle ways. It doesn't simply reveal information. It invites us to identify with certain characters or viewpoints. It places general, abstract concepts into particular, concrete circumstances and helps us understand how they might play out in real like. It innoculates us against reductionism by taking seemingly simple things and reminding us of how complex they are. It prompts us to discuss topics that otherwise might never occur to us.

    Great literature (including but not limited to religious scripture) does not merely teach us things; it helps develop in us an outlook and a sensibility. It orients us differently to the world. It broadens the range of things we think about and discuss. Good literature is never "just a read," even when it doesn't teach any identifiable lesson.

    To think of, say, the story of David merely as "teaching" us this or that "lesson," and, in the stultifying Sunday school manner, subordinating the story to some doctrinal end, seems to me to be very limiting (and to do the story itself a great injustice). Whatever lessons such a story might "teach," it does many, many other things that are more important than merely imparting lessons.

    BTW, all of the truly valuable stuff done by great stories has nothing at all to do with the stories' historicity. It doesn't matter to me one bit whether there even was a historical David, or Nephi, or Jesus. The scripture is just as valuable either way, just as the value of Huckleberry Finn is not affected by the fact that Huck never actually existed. It DOES matter that prejudice and exploitation existed (and that they still exist today), just as it matters that in New Testament times there really did exist (as there exists today) widespread darkness and misery illuminated by visions of hope and justice.

  24. I don't find anything to disagree with in your last post. I wasn't trying to suggest that the scriptures are an instruction manual. But that through reading the stories we can learn to understand what things we should do. I'm not looking for the reveal God's will to us answer actually. While that is a part of it, there is so much more then that. My contention was that scriptures were there for the purpose of having Gods dealings with humanity written down. That, to me, is what scripture is, not it's purpose. It has many purposes and I think you mentioned those very well.

  25. Rich,

    I believe the purpose of scripture is for God to reveal his will to us through prophets. He is able to guide us and give us the help we need through continual revelation so that we can know how to return to the mansions prepared for us in heaven. Instruction on how to live as Christ would have us. How to pray, what not to do, commandments, and stories to promote faith. I don't see these things coming to a point where we don't need them.

    This statement seems to assume a need for us to add our efforts to Christ's perfect sacrifice in order to gain access to the presence of our Father in heaven.

    Do you believe on the name of the Son of God? God's promise is that if you do, you will know that you have eternal life.

    These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 1 John 5:13

    Once we die to the idea that we have to earn eternal life, isn't that when we can truly produce the fruit we are commanded to produce?

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die , it abideth alone: but if it die , it bringeth forth much fruit. John 12:24 KJV

  26. There is a great deal of discussion about the purpose of scripture here as well. In a search of the LDS site for purpose of scripture, an Ensign article seems to sum it up quite well:

    "Men can get nearer to the Lord, can have more of the spirit of conversion and conformity in their hearts…can gain a better understanding of the doctrines of salvation…because of the Book of Mormon" I assume (I know you aren't supposed to do that!)that relates to other forms of scripture as well.

    I'm not sure exactly what constitutes scripture though as there seems to be some question:

    “The First Presidency … and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles… counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price).”

    But then Ezra Taft Bension said:
    "The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works."

  27. Yes Cindy I do believe in Christ, the same one of the Bible. I do believe he did everything necessary for my salvation. I guess it depends on your definition of work. Does that in clude keeping the commandments? "If you love me keep my commandments." We are judged according to our deeds, so they must be important.
    Psalms 62:12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work
    Eccl 12:14 For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.
    Matt 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
    Rom 2:13 For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

    Only Christ can do the work that saved us, him and him alone. That doesn't excuse us from the necessity to also add our own deeds to show that we love God through our actions. So again it depends on your definition of work, to me that is.

  28. OK, so Ezra Taft Bension said "The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works."

    Did he by any chance say that while he WAS the living prophet?

    😉

  29. that Benson quote is from Speeches of the Year, 1980 [Provo: Brigham Young University, 1981], p. 26)

    Benson became the prophet in 1985 so he wasn't the prophet when he said it but I would venture to guess that he knew where his calling would take him. Of course if we are going to mock him for proclaiming the importants of his calling, to be consistent we would have to mock Jesus for proclaiming that He is the way the truth and the light. Personally I have nothing against following Jesus or any his disciples who understand their calling and aren't shy about proclaiming it. It isn't arrogance if it is true.

  30. The question, of course, is whether it's true.

    It's possible to argue in good faith that both Jesus and Benson had a true understanding of their calling, or that one did and not the other, or that neither did.

    Perhaps more accurately for this discussion, it's about the truth of the claim that "The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works." It seems to me that's a statement Jesus could make with a lot more justification than Benson.

  31. Rich said, "Only Christ can do the work that saved us, him and him alone. That doesn't excuse us from the necessity to also add our own deeds to show that we love God through our actions."

    The question to Rich is whether he believes that his works are a necessary addition if he is to be saved in God's Eternal Kingdom. If Rich merely means that our works are evidence that we love God, but in no way efficacious in the salvation equation, then I would agree with such an analysis. Is this what you're saying, Rich? The word "add" that you used causes me to be uncertain as to what you are really saying regarding works. Could you please clarify?

    Peace…

  32. Hi Jackg,
    our works are evidence that we love God, but in no way efficacious in the salvation equation
    Is that really possible? Can things we do have ZERO effect on our salvation? Don't you need to do some things to be able to say you are "saved"? Even if you always deny your works/deeds have any effect on salvation, you have to reach a point where you can declare yourself saved. Even if the only thing is that you must believe in Christ and accept him as your savior, it's still a requirement for you before you can be saved. It's something a person must do for their salvation. That one thing makes it near impossible to hold the position that our works mean nothing. After being saved, your actions show whether or not you are really saved. That means that your actions have an effect on your salvation. I think those few scripture passages I cited show that we are judged according to our works/deeds. If we truly are judged according to our works, they have an effect on our salvation.
    So I do believe that our works show that we love God AND they play an important role in our salvation. The Bible does teach us that we are judged on our deeds and if we are judged on them then they are part of the salvation equation. If they were not, there would be no reason to be judged for them. Even when Christ had the opportunity to answer questions of what we must do to enter the kingdom of God, he didn't say believe I am your Savior and that is enough.

  33. Hello to you, Rich,

    I can understand why you believe the way you do. I have to say that I agree with half of what you say…that's better than nothing, right?

    You said, "After being saved, your actions show whether or not you are really saved. That means that your actions have an effect on your salvation." I absolutely agree with you on the first half of this statement. This is why I and others will argue for what is referred to as a genuine confession of faith in Jesus Christ. I know lots of people who say they confess Christ, but their lives don't reflect that. So, I'm with you on this. However, salvation comes through Christ alone, which is what the Reformers called "sola Christus." This means there is nothing we can do to add to what Christ did on our behalf, and we say that what He did is sufficient to save us. When we talk about being judged for our deeds, Christians believe that. However, and this is a big however, salvation is a gift to those who believe in Jesus Christ. This is not to say that we will receive rewards in heaven–or not receive rewards in heaven–based upon our deeds. It's just that salvation is not a reward for good behavior, but the gift of God to those who believe in His Name. This takes us back to why I believe that a confession of Christ as Savior has to be genuine, and our response via our works is the evidence of this.

    Now, you said: "So I do believe that our works show that we love God AND they play an important role in our salvation." Yes, our works, or obedience, reveal that we love God. But, I have to maintain that they don't play a role in the salvation equation simply because I believe in "sola Christus."

    We share a belief in the importance of works in our lives. We differ as to where they come into play–before or after one is saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

    Peace…

  34. To the point of lower (or, for me, more realistic) standards being the key to happiness, I think it's interesting that those who argue a "confess-only-and-be-saved" position basically are employing the lowest PRACTICAL standard for themselves possible to define salvation. Of course, everyone who argues it will say that relying totally on Christ and de-valuing our own actions is the highest form of worship and trust in Him – but, from a purely practical standpoint, it really is the lowest possible standard for their own actions.

    On the flip side, those who argue a "personal-works-only-earn-salvation" position do the exact same thing – but with an opposite focus. They use the lowest possible standard for Jesus' actions and the highest standard for their own. **Both are extremist positions.**

    Both bring a form of happiness (complacency), imo – since they are simple and give no real reason for what I believe to be "true" repentance. I see repentance as the result of a perceptual balance, that makes it harder to simplify into one fairly brainless formula, that leads to a degree of angst and concern and contemplation, that leads to self-reflection and effort to change – which is the definition of repentance.

    It's basing that repentance on faith in Jesus as the Christ that creates the balance I see when I read the Bible – the type of balance that James teaches when he says that faith without works is dead, being alone, AND that Paul teaches when he talks of the need for faith and not just reliance on "dead" works. James seems to emphasize works, while Paul seems to emphasize faith – but they both teach a balance of the two.

    Lower (more realistic) expectations of others (and even God, as described by others) is one thing – something I endorse, even as I try to help people improve in whatever way they can; lower expectations of EITHER God OR one's self as His child is quite another thing altogether, imo.

  35. Hi Jack,
    I'll take half agreement over none. I'm not sure how to take into account your statement, "This is not to say that we will receive rewards in heaven–or not receive rewards in heaven–based upon our deeds.", with regard to several passages that don't express this belief.
    Matt 16:27
    For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
    Col 3:24,25
    24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

    25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

    I agree we can't add to the work Christ did. That gift of salvation is meant for all. And was given to all. But yet not all are saved. At some point we have to become receivers of the gift. Which means to me that we have to do certain things that put us in the position to receive his gift. If not one person was able to be saved because not one single person believed in Christ, there would be no gift given. Even though it doesn't change the fact that Christ did the work that saved us all and gave that to humanity as a gift, we have to be the partakers. That still makes it hard to hold the belief that our works aren't part of the salvation equation. While they do nothing for what Christ did, Christ isn't the only part of the equation, just the biggest. Without adding even just belief in Christ, you have no salvation. Even if it's a fraction of a mustard seed in the grand salvation equation, our works are there and the equationisn't complete without them.
    I know we still probably will end up agreeing to disagree, but I have no problem with that and I appreciate your insight.