This is a continuation of our series on “A Call to Obedience,” how Christ-followers should respond to his commands. Previously, we have discussed “Cheap Grace” and legalism, identifying both as against God’s will, and are now investigating the response of obedience.
In the last post, I asserted that obedience is evidence of saving faith in our lives. Not that obedience saves us, but that it naturally flows from that salvation.
Sadly, I believe there are millions presently living who are, and millions more dead who were, convinced of their salvation, believing along with the demons without the faith of the saints. Convinced of their own holiness – whether by the false promises of cheap grace or those of legalism – they place their trust themselves, not their Creator. And so, they continue their lives to the end, like the passengers on the Titanic, trusting man’s constructions while being blissfully unaware of the cold, hard death that lies in their future.
Our break with the world will be the direct outcome of our changed relation to God. For the world of fallen men does not honor God. Millions call themselves by His name, it is true, and pay some token respect to Him, but a simple test will show how little He is really honored among them. Let the average man be put to the proof on the question of who or what is above, and his true position will be exposed. Let him be forced into making a choice between God and money, between God and men, between God and personal ambition, God and self, God and human love, and God will take second place every time. Those other things will be exalted above. However the man may protest, the proof is in the choices he makes day after day throughout his life.
(A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God)
More concisely, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). If there is no evidence in a person’s life that this new creation has come, there is no evidence he is in Christ. His salvation is in question.
This is not to say that a Christian is always obedient. As Jonathan Leeman writes in Church Discipline, “The ‘old man,’ to use Paul’s language, pops up in a believer’s head and tries to dominate the ‘new man,’ but the new man fights back.” Christians are disobedient. Christians sin. But when there is no attempt to be obedient, Leeman continues, “There’s no evidence of a struggle between an old man and a new. There’s just the old.” In these cases, it is right to question whether the person is truly a Christian, and that should make him shudder along with the demons. Certainly there is no good way to enter hell, but perhaps it is even more tragic to do so while crying out “Lord, Lord!” only to hear Jesus respond, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (see Matthew 7:21-23).
Having said that obedience is a necessary and inescapable result of our receiving God’s saving grace, let us not return to our pursuit of legalism, thinking that by being obedient, we can earn salvation. Such legalism will draw us not into joyful obedience but dutiful compliance, which will be the topic of the next post, “Obedience: Submission vs Compliance.”
Where are you today, beloved? Is there evidence of saving faith in your life?