Our salvation requires action. Even the most liberal versions of Christianity expect people to believe in and confess Christ even if they say you don’t have to do anything after that. And scripture takes it several steps further, saying that believers are also to repent of their past sins and then commit to following Jesus.
God wants relationship with us. Like all relationships, this is a two-way street. We’ll never be able to out-give or out-love God, or even come close to matching what He offers us. But He still wants us to give Him what we do have to offer: our hearts, minds, and souls. He wants commitment and faithfulness from those who’ve asked to be in relationship with Him.
Parables and Responsibilities
Near the end of His life, Jesus’ disciples asked Him about signs signalling the end of the world and His second coming. After answering this question in Matt 24:3-44. He moved on to what’s expected of His followers while they wait. He tells them to watch and be ready, then He beings a series of parables.
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has set over his household, to give them their food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord finds doing so when he comes. (Matt. 24:45-46, WEB)
The people waiting for Christ’s return are supposed to be doing something. In this particular parable, it has to do with how they treat their fellow servants. God cares about how you interact with the people around you. Having a relationship with Him is meant to transform that area of your life.
Next, Christ gives the parable of the ten virgins. Only half make it into the wedding because they weren’t all prepared to meet the bridegroom. Last-minute scrambling to get into God’s kingdom isn’t good enough (Matt. 25:1-13). Once you’ve been given the truth, you’re supposed to act on it.
Then, Christ compares the kingdom of heaven to a man who entrusted each of his servants with a certain amount of money before going away. Upon his return, the man rewards the servants who did something with what they were given. The one who didn’t was called an “unprofitable servant” and cast “into outer darkness” (Matt. 25:14-30).
Finally, Christ’s parable of the sheep and the goats shows Him dividing people into two groups at the end of the age. This division is based on the actions these people took when interacting with others. The ones who did not act rightly “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:31-46).
Don’t Reject God
We’re not left in the dark about what God expects us to be doing. Nor are we given the right to decide for ourselves what it means to be prepared, responsible, and righteous. The standards are set by God and He shares them with us. There are areas where we’re left to out best judgement and we’re given freedom within His righteous standards, but we are still expected to follow what He says (and repent, be forgiven, and turn back to Him when we slip-up).
Truth is defined by God and it’s absolutely essential for Christians to know and love His truth. The law was never intended to save people, though it is a revelation of God’s character, priorities, and wishes. Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we’re offered a new covenant with God established on better promises. But God’s character hasn’t changed. We’re still to conform to God’s righteous standard. The difference is that we can now accept the gift of salvation and then truly walk in newness of life.
For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification. Therefore he who rejects this doesn’t reject man, but God, who has also given his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thes. 4:7-8, WEB)
Leading up to this, Paul reminds his readers that he’s already taught them how “to walk and to please God” (1 Thes. 4:1, WEB). Now, he’s exhorting them to do this even more; to follow the instructions given and abstain from lust. He’s telling them not to sin, which means he’s referencing God’s law (Rom. 7:7). And he says if we reject God’s teachings on how to live, we’re rejecting God Himself.
Choose Your Master
Many of us don’t like the idea that God has a right to expect things of us. We like to think we’re in control. But we’re not. We have free will, but at it’s most essential level it comes down to just one of two choices: life and good or death and evil. We’re always serving something. Either we’re in bondage to sin, guiding ourselves, and serving God’s adversary, or we choose freedom from evil and life as a servant of God.
What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that, whereas you were bondservants of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were delivered. Being made free from sin, you became bondservants of righteousness. (Rom. 6:15-18, WEB)
Romans is a fascinating study of the transition between old and new covenants. It’s packed with Paul talking about the sort of things Peter described as hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). But these passages we just quoted in Romans 6 are about as clear as you can get. Under the new covenant of grace, God still requires obedience. He is seeking faithful followers.
It’s not enough to accept Christ’s sacrifice and then twiddle your thumbs or, worse, go back to living as a servant of sin. God wants faithful servants; Jesus wants a faithful bride. They’ll forgive us when we slip up; They know we’re human and Jesus lived as a human so He can sympathize with all that that that means. But the closer grow in relationship with Them, the more our character should line up with Theirs and the less we should even want to sin. Grace, salvation, the holy spirit — they’re meant to change our lives. And they will if we commit to faithfully following God and let Him build a relationship with us.