The Only Way to Eternal Happiness

When Christians hear the words “only way” connected with “eternal happiness” most will immediately think of Jesus’ words in John 14:6.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  Note how exclusively Jesus speaks.  He doesn’t say he is “a” way; rather he says he is “the” way.  And he doesn’t leave us wondering what that means when he continues by saying that the only way anybody can come to the Father is through him.

Further note that he doesn’t add anything to his being the way.  No, it’s all about him.  Whenever the Bible talks about coming into God’s presence it speaks exclusively of Jesus’ works – how his obedient life and sacrificial death is all that is needed for us to confidently come into God’s presence.  As Paul wrote to Titus:  “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3: 4-7)

Now compare that to this statement Elder L. Tom Perry, one of the LDS apostles, made at last April’s General Conference.  “A useful way to think about the commandments is they are loving counsel from a wise, all-knowing Heavenly Father.  His goal is our eternal happiness and His commandments are the road map He has given us to return to Him, which is the only way we will be eternally happy.” (Ensign, May, 2013, p. 88m my emphasis).  That’s quite a bit different from what Jesus said.  Jesus said he is the only way, Perry says the commandments are the only way.  Even more striking is that in this talk Elder Perry mentions eternal happiness a few times.   But not once in the talk is there any mention of what Jesus did for us!

Rather his entire talk is about our obedience and how that is what is important to our eternal happiness. That comes out already in the title of his address: “Obedience to the Law is Liberty”.  Furthermore, he quotes LDS Scripture to make the point that there is no such thing as undeserved blessings:  “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated – And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21)  Talk about something that is the furthest thing from being Christ – centered!

His talk is not only another in a long list of examples vividly demonstrating the vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but it also serves as a good reminder to Christians of why it is so important to emphasize with their LDS friends that eternal happiness does not depend on our obedience but rather on Christ’s obedience for us.  Yes, out of love and gratitude to our gracious God we strive to keep the commandments.  But our striving is not only terribly imperfect but it is also the result and not the cause of our eternal happiness.  Jesus’ obedience, and only his obedience, is what makes us worthy to enter God’s presence.  To him be all glory.

2 Responses to “The Only Way to Eternal Happiness”

  1. 1 JRSG
    August 14, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Why do mainstream Christian’s NOT believe in following the commandments? I have read Christian sites that say it is important to follow the commandments, and other sites say it is not necessary to follow the commandments. Here you say it is not necessary to follow the commandments.

  2. 2 markcares
    August 14, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Hi JRSG:
    You ask a good question. It is extremely important to keep the context in mind when looking at Bible verses that talk about keeping the commandments or doing good works.
    1) For people who think they have the ability to keep the commandments and think that the way to gaining God’s favor is keeping the commandments, the Bible, in essence says, if that is what you are trying to do, then you have to keep them perfectly. That was the case of the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-21. That was also the mindset of Paul before he became a Christian. He was blind to the seriousness and extent of his sinfulness. Because this is how we all think by nature – that we have to be good to earn God’s favor – one of the main reasons why God gave the commandments or law was to show us that we can’t keep them! “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)
    2) When the context is being saved in the sense of eternal salvation then the Bible clearly says that everything depends on what Jesus has done for us and nothing on ourselves. Think of Jesus’ answer in John 3:16-18. He never brings in our works. Or Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
    3) But Paul continues: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) Carefully note the order: we are not saved by works, but we are saved to do good works. Christians do believe that they do good works but those works contribute nothing to their salvation because they come after salvation. They are the result and not the cause of salvation. That is why the Bible also describes them as fruit. They are the fruit, not the root. As is true in so many areas of life, being clear on cause and effect is vitally important. It is never more important than in the matter of eternal salvation. It is essential to see that works are the effect and not the cause of salvation.
    4) Good works then become evidences of faith. That is important when we are trying to determine who has faith and who doesn’t – since we can’t see into a person’s heart. That is the context of James 2. Vs. 18 of that chapter makes it clear. James 2 is not talking about how God justifies people, but how we justify each other. We can only do that by seeing what a person says or does – his works. And the greatest work of all is confessing that Jesus has done everything to earn salvation for us.
    I hope this somewhat lengthy answer helps. You ask a critical question and I encourage you to dig into the Bible to explore this further.
    Thanks for asking.

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August 2013

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