Guest Post: Salvation in This Life

Another fine guest post from Ray, who blogs at Things of My Soul.

The Jewish leaders who facilitated the crucifixion of Jesus did so in part because they could not accept Him as the one who had led them (Jehovah) and/or would pay for their sins (Jesus). They said, in essence, “We don’t need you. We are children of Abraham. We are fine. We’ll do it on our own.”

We decry deathbed repentance, particularly for those who consciously choose to procrastinate repentance until the end – to do what they want to do until they are facing death and the possibility of judgment, largely because we see repentance as a process rather than an event. At the same time, too many members view grace, faith and works as follows:

“I must do everything I possibly can do; I must give my all; I must wear out myself trying to do what He has asked me to do – THEN He will accept my effort and help me do more.”

That might not be the exact same mentality as “deathbed” repentance, but it is at least “hospital bed” repentance. In very real terms, it is saying, “I will let you know when I need you,” which really is the same mentality as the one who procrastinates the request for help until his deathbed. It also means that I will not receive the help He can give AS I struggle – which means I will not experience His freedom and joy until my frustration nearly (or completely) breaks me. Yes, I will then be blessed, but I will have missed SO much in the meantime.

Hillary Weeks has a song entitled “Unwritten”. (Yeah, I know how uncool and non-intellectual it is to cite “Mormon Religious Pop music”. I don’t care.) The central message is, in my own words:

“As I review the pages of the book of my life, I am grateful for what I read (what I have experienced), but I am most grateful for what has remained unwritten – those things from which the grace of God has shielded me – those things I have not had to experience – those things from which I have been saved **in this life**.”

Jesus, as the Christ, saved us from the effects of our actions on the afterlife, but Jesus, as the exemplary man, showed us a way to be saved from much of the effect of our fallen existence in this life. In a very real way, not accepting what He paid so dearly to provide until we have exhausted ourselves is no different than not accepting that His offer was ever made in the first place until we are on our deathbeds, since they both tell Him to get lost until we get a handle on it on our own.

That’s worth pondering all by itself.

14 thoughts on “Guest Post: Salvation in This Life

  1. Ray, I’m getting worn down by the constant “you have to accept grace” stuff I see all over the place these days. I don’t disagree with anything you say here, except that I have seen WAAAAY too many people say, “I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior, therefore I am saved regardless of what I do.” I simply don’t believe that. If you really accept Jesus as your personal savior, you would work to become a better person and become more like Him. And, yes, that takes some work. Not “sacrificing animals” kind of work but instead working to control the natural man. To paraphrase Pres. Hinckley, the only worthwhile domination in life is the domination of self.

  2. My EQ President invited me to attend PEC for him Tuesday night. My Bishop read from James 2:14-18 for the spiritual thought:

    14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him?
    15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food,
    16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye agive them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
    17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
    18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.

    I think that scripture ties in nicely with what you had to say, Geoff, about if we accept Jesus Christ, we are willing to work to become a better person and to become more like Him.

  3. I have two good Baptist friends who have told me, If someone says that they have accepted Christ and then does not do His works, they are not sincere in converting to Christ. There are always a few weenies/hypocrites in any group

    Most Christians I know I very sincere in giving service, being Charitable and studying the Bible. I also know a lot of LDS members like this too. However I do know quite a few members who are too caught up with the checklist and their planner. These Pharisees turn their noses up at a Samaritan (someone who does not belong to their group), pass the wounded man on the road to accomplish the things on their list.

    Is that what you are talking about Ray? BTW lovely post.

  4. Its a very interesting debate and even more important concept. The idea of Christ as Savior is the fact that He drank from the bitter cup. All that he asks is that we drink from the sacrament cup so that we do not have to drink from that bitter cup. Grace plays a more important role in the life of the repentant than of that of the “righteous”. Grace will and has to eventually save. Grace is independent of works because grace is not contingent on works. Even though it is through our obedience that we are given the opportunity to exercise the atonement, our repentance affords us the ability to be saved through the grace of Christ. Clear as mud, I know!!

  5. The main point I am making in this analogy is that we can’t rely on ourselves to do it on our own and only THEN turn to him for help. We need his help all along the way, AS we work.

    I didn’t detail it in the post, but I like to distinguish between “works” and “fruits” – as I see fruits as the type of faith/works combination of which James wrote and “works alone” as the type of stubborn, personally chosen effort that Paul calls “dead works”. To try to clarify a bit:

    Fruit is produced through a connection to the vine, if you will. Fruit is used in lots of scriptural passages to describe how God works through us to accomplish his purposes. He plants us; he prunes us; he dungs about us; he prunes us some more – so that we will produce fruit (or grain) worthy to be stored and able to feed us and others. We become his fruit when we are connected to him and do what He wants us to do individually (become unique fruit, in a way) – not just some generic stuff that He requires of all, even though He does require some generic stuff of all.

    Telling him to get lost, in essence, as we wear ourselves out figuring it out on our own and doing what we can on our own is forbidding Him from reaching into us and letting us carry His yoke as He walks along beside us. I was thinking of posting something different on carrying His burdens, but I figured I’d lay the foundation first with this idea – that it really isn’t, “What would Jesus do?” – but rather, “What does Jesus want ME to do?” I can never know that if I tell Him to get lost until I need him – if I “do my best” first and then ask for His help only when I’ve done everything I can do. If I turn to Him initially, I think I probably can do more right away AND in the long-run – as He will be molding me into becoming what He wants of me for a much longer period of time and giving me additional strength in what I am doing.

    Honestly, the whole easy grace concept mentioned in the first couple of comments is a great example of why I agree that the core Protestant creeds of Joseph’s day were abominable – but I really don’t want this thread to pursue that tangent. As it relates to the topic, sure – but not just in general.

  6. Excellent, Ray. We tend to discredit grace because it seems as a weakness. But, in fact, the coming of the Son of God is the embodiment of grace. Without grace there cannot be grace. Grace is not “past tense” but “present and future tense” as well. Great stuff.

  7. Thank you, Ray. I found this very valuable, as my current state includes being in the midst of graduate school, dealing with the death of my beloved grandfather, and enjoying the busy life of a young family.

    I also appreciate your works/fruit distinction, something I will mention to my protestant office-mate, who found my description of temple activities and beliefs too works-based for her theological taste. Your description of fruits fits perfectly the concept I have of temple ordinances in this context.

  8. I really like your post Ray, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. However, in my own life, there have been many times in my life where I’ve been struggling and I didn’t feel the Lord’s support even when I sought it. One can argue that He was giving me support, I just wasn’t aware, but I’m not sure how meaningful that argument is when my perception was that I was on my own. My choice seemed to be to continue to thrash or to give up, and so I would thrash until I just didn’t feel like I could thrash no more, and then He would come along and bail me out.

    So, although I completely embrace your post, my personal experience seems to be the “hospital bed” repentance you cite, and I think many LDS share it.

    Probably the difference is perspective. When I think He’s jumping in to save me at the last minute, from His perspective it’s part of just continually helping me along.

  9. I should address Martin’s point, since I agree it is critical.

    I’m not saying that God always steps in and helps us actively. In practical terms, that would be no different than the puppet-on-the-string view of predestination – since He simply would be using me without any “work” on my part. That’s not what I’m saying.

    I think He leaves me alone all the time to work things out on my own – and I think he often leaves someone alone in order to “break” them, if you will. (I believe Joseph Smith finally “broke” in the Liberty Jail, and I believe even Jesus himself finally “broke” on the cross. I hope I never have to “break” like that, but I certainly believe it happens to many.) I just think I shouldn’t expect it all the time – that my “default” shouldn’t be, “Leave me alone. I’ll let you know when I need you.”

    I believe “I need (Him) every hour.” I don’t think He constantly takes my burdens away and does things for me (since there would be no growth in that), but I do believe I need to be willing at any moment to change what I plan to do if I feel impressed or inspired to do so. I think I always need to do what I think He wants me to do, and I think I always need to have a prayer in my heart asking him to step in and help me change my mind if there is something else I simply must do.

    The day-to-day application is hard to address, but I’m talking about the ATTITUDE that drives the application. I need to be willing to receive His help and guidance at all times, instead of dictating when I am ready to repent (meaning change).

    I brushed lightly over that point in the post (that we view repentance as a process, not an event), and I probably need to write a post about that all on its own. It really is the heart of what I’m saying – that I need to allow Him to participate in changing me, rather than trying to change completely on my own.

  10. Ray, interesting analysis, but Martin does bring up a point about tests. Sometimes we get tests that take us to our breaking point or point of exhaustion, and sometimes past it. Not every hand-carter had an angel help push when they reached their breaking point, some died.

    Sometimes we get the light of revelation before we reach the edge of darkness. Sometimes we have to take a step into darkness before the light catches up.

    What exactly were you referring to when you wrote: “… those things I have not had to experience – those things from which I have been saved **in this life**” ?

    I would imagine that someone who has repented of all major sins and is in a continuous state of repentance for minor ones (ie, one who honorably has a temple-rec), and is in good standing with the church and the Lord, and has the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is in a condition of being “saved” from a guilty conscience and “saved” from the burden of oppressive guilt that comes from unrepented sin. What more did you have in mind?

    I’m also thinking of how the GAs warn us that just because someone is doing all they are supposed to doesn’t mean they won’t suffer the vicissitudes of life.

    What other definition(s) of “saved/salvation” are you using as it applies to “this life?”

  11. Bookslinger, it looks like you and I were typing our comments at the same time, so you probably didn’t get a chance to read mine before you posted yours. However, I’m talking about any choices we would make naturally on our own but we don’t make because of some prompting – or any choices we would NOT make naturally on our own but do make because of some prompting.

    Again, it’s difficult to tie it to practical life, simply because there also are times when I know I’ve been prompted to do something that then had painful consequences – that I was able to see as a blessing only in hindsight. Further, there have been two instances in my own life where “doing the right thing” has led to very difficult times – and it’s only been after a few years that I’ve been able to see the benefit. However, being able to look back on my life now (as the song mentions), I can see how those decisions and promptings changed the course of my life and “saved me” from a path that would have not led to much of what I value most now.

    Again, I’m talking much more of the attitude of turning to Him only after we’ve exhausted ourselves on our own – not claiming at all that righteousness will bring a never-ending life of nothing but smiles and endless sunshine. I’m not using “salvation” here in its classic religious definition; I’m using it in practical terms. Also, to repeat, since I probably didn’t emphasize it strongly enough in the original post, I’m talking about looking back on one’s life and realizing those times when the Lord really did “save me” from something that I would have experienced without Him – or things that I did experience but that would have done irreparable damage without His assistance or strength.

  12. Ray, Could I summarize your thesis by saying: “By maintaining at least some level of effort in the right direction, then through the grace of God, we can receive promptings of the Spirit long before we have spent all our effort and long before we reach perfection” ?

  13. That is a pretty good rough sketch, Bookslinger. I tend to add too many disclaimers and addenda, but I can live with that as an approximation. *grin*

  14. Clearly not the point of your post, but…we do not have a good idea, quite possibly no idea, of why the people who sought Jesus’s life sought it.

    We have witnesses from the Jewish Christian point of view. We have no witness accounts from the Saducees, or the Pharisees, or the Zadokites or who ever it is that instigated his death.

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