The Bible says we are saved by faith and faith alone. But, it has been said, it is a faith that does not come alone. Faith is trust. If someone tells me to do something, and I trust them, I do it. If I don’t do it, then why didn’t I do it? I suggest it is because I didn’t trust them. If I don’t trust them I don’t have faith in them. So faith or trust implies obedience and obedience implies faith or trust. If I have one I have the other. If I don’t have one I don’t have the other. If I say I have faith (which can’t be seen), and I don’t have obedience (which can be seen), I am deceived. Can I show you my faith by my refusal to obey Jesus? Or, can I show you my faith by my obedience to Jesus?
What does this mean practically? Simply that if I believe I am going to heaven to be with Jesus because I made a decision to follow Him, or prayed a prayer that I believe in Him, or had an emotional experience AND at the same time my life is not gradually (or rapidly) radically changing from doing what I selfishly want to do, to doing what Jesus wants me to do, I need to do a reality check.
Jesus said that reality is, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me.” Now, I fail every day to perfectly follow Jesus. But, I do sense an increasing dependence on, allegiance to, and obedience to, the One who gave up His life to give me mine. Not that I can directly do this on my own. My obedience grows with the help of, and amid an intimate love relationship with, God the Father and His Son Jesus through God the Holy Spirit.
How do I develop an intimate love relationship with God? Again, Jesus showed the way when He said, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me.” To hear His voice I first need to learn to recognize His voice. I do that by getting alone with Him and reading the Bible and obeying what I read. If I obey what I read God will entrust me with more of His truth. If I just read and don’t obey I deceive myself into thinking I am a follower of Jesus when I am not. I also need to talk to Him and listen to Him through prayer. What I “hear” God saying will never contradict the Bible. If it does, even in the smallest way, it is not God speaking.
Then as I talk, listen, read, and obey I develop an intimate love relationship with the One who loved me first and loves me most. And as I sense His love, my love for Him grows and my obedience to Him grows. And I gain great assurance that I am God’s child, that He is my Father and that we are one in purpose.
There is an old hymn that says it all, “Trust and obey, because there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey.”