I do wonder sometimes if over decades of a “seeker-friendly” approach to the gospel we have put too much stock in the profession of faith rather than in the possession of the evidences of faith. That when we ask for someone’s testimony, because we are so protective of grace being understood as a free gift, we expect only to hear how someone came to believe and expect almost nothing of how they currently behave.
But to talk of obedience isn’t legalism. To expect that those saved by God through the Son would walk according to the commandment of God by the Spirit, doesn’t cheapen grace. According to John, it actually validates grace.
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in Him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
(1John 3:18-24 ESV)
We can know that we are of the truth because we love in deed and truth. We can boldly approach God’s throne of grace with our prayers, confident He will hear us, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him. We know we’re abiding when we see we’re obeying, for whoever keeps His commandments abides in God. The Spirit will take the reality of our walk and affirm the reality of our faith. It’s by this we know.
To be clear, not saying that obedience saves us. Just saying that if we’re saved we’re gonna wanna walk in His commandments.
To be clear again, not saying that obedience is absent failure — after all, Jesus knows up close and personal the struggle of man in his current form. That though the spirit may be willing the flesh too often is weak (Mt. 26:41). But if we are serious about keeping His commandments we’ll also be serious about keeping short accounts. That when, not if, we stumble, fumble, and fall, we’ll pick ourselves up, make our way to the cross, and confess our sin knowing He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn. 1:9). Repentance is also an integral command to obey in the Christian walk. And it’s by this we know also that we really have been born again.
To believe is to behave. To be saved is to be sanctified. By this we know that we are of the truth. By this we know He abides in us. By this we’ll encourage others to walk as Jesus calls us to walk. By this we’ll exhort, admonish, and even rebuke one another so that we might together be reassured in heart before Him — that we truly are His and that He truly lives in us.
By this we know.
Because of grace. For His glory.