Christians are not saved by external obedience to the law. That would be legalism. They are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). But obedience is not legalism when the motive is love to God. Those that happily respond to the Lord’s call “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15) are not giving obedience to try to earn salvation. The Bible says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (James 1:22). Here, James refers to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 7:21–27). It is not enough to remember what we hear or even to be able to teach it to others. We must daily practice the “word of truth” (v. 18) in our personal life. Thus the apostle James is in perfect agreement with the teachings of Paul: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13).
Some are taught to just believe that God will forgive them, but not enough to believe that He will give them total victory over sin. It’s a “gospel” that says God accepts you as you are and doesn’t care enough or isn’t able to give you victory. While this seems easier because it doesn’t require change, it is a false gospel (Galations 1:6, 2:17-18, Romans 6:1-2). We can’t just give in to what we want to hear, but obey God’s word from our heart (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Romans 6:15-19).
God loves us enough to have sent His Son to help us overcome sin (Hebrews 2:17-18). His mission was given before He was born, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus came to save people from their sin, not in their sin. When Christ comes into your heart, it is then He who gives us the power to obey (Galatians 2:20, Philippians 4:13).
The Lord can transform you so you become a new creature. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the miracle of conversion that God does in the lives of those that invite Him in.
A Christian is defined by a changed life. Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). We can’t call ourselves Christians if we don’t do what He says. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Doing the will of God means not living in sin. This becomes possible only through the grace of God.
God will work with human efforts. Jesus says, “Take up [your] cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). And He adds “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). He who truly loves Christ will delight to do His will because he has been given a new nature by God (Psalms 40:8). “And he said, the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27).
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In His service,
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