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.I like his perspective. Believing that salvation comes from keeping a list of rules, with a focus on outward behavior, has a similar flaw to believing that God's rules don't require zealous effort on our part. Both reflect low expectations, as Papa D said.
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.
I believe a correct reading of the scriptures recognizes that our relationship with God really matters, and that relationship must be a covenant relationship, one that accepts His grace and the power of the free gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in a very serious covenant that includes conditions for our access to that gift. Keeping mere outward ordinances and rules is not the key to a healthy relationship with God, nor is merely believing in our heart. God wants us to be servants and friends, followers of Him who give this covenant relationship all that we can, serving Him with our strength as well as with our heart and mind. What we do matters, what we think and feel matters, who we are and who we seek to become matters.
There is a yoke to pull and a burden to bear. There is work to be done and tasks to be completed in our mortal journey with God. Christ invites us to hitch ourselves to His team and pull with all our might, but assures us that His burden is light and His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). And it is. Keeping His commandments is so much less painful than sinning, and having the joy and support that the Spirit of God brings to our lives makes the path back toward Him much more bearable even in the midst of mortal pains than the path down toward sorrow.
God is not interested in just handing us a harp and saying "you're saved." He wants us to progress and "become perfect, even as [our] Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). We are His sons and daughters and He calls us follow the path of "godliness" and to "put on the divine nature" and become more like Him (2 Peter 1:3-4). It is a journey that we must continue to the end (Matthew 24:13), not a single step in one moment of yearning.
In working with us on this journey, Christ may tailor His demands upon us to help us overcome our own personal barriers between us and Him, just as He did for the young rich man who had been keeping the commandments, but was letting his love of wealth stand between him and God. In Matthew 19, when Christ told him that "if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," things looked great for that young man for he had been doing so. But in spite of good outward observation of the rules of God, the relationship with God was flawed because of what was in his heart. There was one thing he lacked, and to overcome that barrier, the precise prescription for him (not necessarily all of us) was to sell what he had and follow Christ.
Building a relationship with God requires that we come to know Him. It also means that we know ourselves through regular introspection and examining our status before God, repenting constantly to remove what is flawed and seeking daily to better emulate the Savior. With this process in mind, we can understand why Paul, the great teacher of grace, would exhort his audiences to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14), to view our journey toward salvation as a race that we must run with patience and complete to win the prize (1 Corinthians 9:23-25; Heb. 12:1), to examine ourselves lest we partake of the sacrament (communion) unworthily (Acts 11:27-30), and to be concerned about the dangers of falling from grace (1 Cor. 10:12; Heb. 2:1). This is why Paul would say that "we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14) and why Paul would say that God offers eternal life to those "who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality" (Romans 2:7).
Eternal life, the fruit of the heavenly tree of life, is all about the grace of Jesus Christ, but as we are reminded in the closing words of the Bible, "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life" (Rev. 22:14)--in other words, following Christ and keeping His commandments is a necessary condition in our covenant relationship with Him for us to gain access to the fruits of grace.
Reaching the tree of life is a journey of many steps, not just one. Consider again the context of Peter's statement on putting on the divine nature, and observe how he describes this journey and its relationship to the goal of having our calling and election made sure:
3 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:We must be diligent on this journey as we pull Christ's yoke and bear His burden, but He blesses us and gives us joy and support as we seek to serve Him with all our heart, might, mind, and strength. He does the miraculous work of freeing us from sin and death, but since His goal is shaping us in a two-way covenant relationship to become true saints and God's sons and daughters in His kingdom, He asks us to do something that requires merely all we have and all we are, namely, to follow Him.
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall....