The Test of Discipleship
There is no evidence of genuine repentance unless it works reformation. When an earring sinner comes to God and becomes a partaker of God's pardoning grace, love springs up in the heart. Every burden becomes light: every sacrifice, a pleasure. The path that before seemed shrouded in darkness becomes bright with beams from the sun of righteousness.
The loveliness of the character of Christ will be seen in his followers. It was his delight to do the will of God. Zeal for His glory was the controlling power in our saviour's life. Love beautified and ennobled all his actions. Love is of God. The unconsecrated heart cannot originate or produce it. It is found only in the heart where Jesus reigns: "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). In the heart renewed by divine grace, love is the principle of action. It modifies the character and governs the impulses which control the passions, subduing enmity and ennobling the affections. The love cherished in the soul sweetens life and sheds a refining influence on those around.
There are two errors against which the children of God need to guard, especially those who have just come to trust in His grace:
The law of God is an expression of His very nature, an embodiment of the great principle of love and hence, it is the foundation of the government in heaven and earth. If our hearts are renewed in the likeness of God, if the divine love is implanted in the soul, will not the law of God be carried out in life? It is when the principle of love is implanted in the heart that man is renewed after the image of Him who brought in the new covenant: "I will put my laws into their hearts and in their minds I will write them" (Heb 10:16). And if the law of God is written in their hearts, will it not share the life? Obedience and manifesting love is the true sign of discipleship: "This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. He that saith, `I know him' and keepeth not his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1 John 5:3). Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ which enables us to render obedience.
We do not earn salvation by obedience: salvation is the free gift of God to be received by faith. We know that Jesus was manifested to take away our sins: "In him there is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not. Whosoever sinneth hath not seen him neither knoweth him" (1 John 3:5-6). Here is the true test: if we abide in Christ, if the love of God dwells in our feelings, our thoughts, our purposes, our actions, we will be in harmony with the will of God as expressed in the precepts of His holy law. "Little children, let no man deceive you. He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous" (I John 3:7).
Any so-called faith in Christ which professes to release men from obedience to God is not faith, but presumption. "By grace are you saved through faith," "but faith if it hath not works is dead" (Ephesians 2:8; James 2:17). Jesus said of himself, "I delight to do thy will, O my God. Yea, thy law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8). Before he ascended to heaven, he declared: "I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). "Hereby we know that we know him if we keep his commandments: he that saith he abideth in him doth himself also walk even as he walked" (1 John 2:6-8). "Christ has also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye follow in his steps" (1Peter 2:21).
Fibion Ngozi (Banket, Zimbabwe)