Yesterday we spent time going through the Beatitudes to see what Jesus said defines true faith in Him. When Jesus used a little child to illustrate the character of saving faith: “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 18:3). A child was the perfect picture of obedient humility—under the authority of another and chastened when they do disobey—an object lesson about saving faith. Jesus used this illustration to teach that if we insist on retaining the privileges of adulthood—if we want to be our own boss, do our own thing, govern our own lives, and therefore, NOT humble ourselves to His lordship—we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.

But if we are willing to come on the basis of childlike faith and receive salvation with the humility of a child, with a willingness to surrender to Christ’s authority, then we are coming with the right attitude. But without the proper attitude of humility and obedience, we are warned: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt 7:21)

Jesus has used the entire Sermon on the Mount to show us that it’s not keeping the letter of the law that saves us, but it is what’s in our hearts that makes the difference. God isn’t mocked by outward acts that men think look good, the Lord looks at our hearts (1 Sam 16:7).

Scripture is clear that salvation is entirely by grace through faith, and not earned by good deeds (Tit 3:5; Gal 2:16; Rom 11:6; John 6:28–29). The Bible also strongly reminds believers that all people—even those who are born again—have sin which needs to be addressed (1 Jn 1:9–10; Heb 4:14–16). However, God’s Word also indicates that those who are truly born again will see salvation reflected in their attitudes and actions (Jam 2:14–17; Jn 14:15). Do others notice a change in you? “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17)

A life that is not transforming, is a life that isn’t saved (Eph 4:20-24). A similar tension exists in this passage—emphasizing that Christ, not deeds, is what saves (Jn 14:6). Yet submission to Christ, and His transformative power in our lives is an expected result of salvation. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? (Luke 6:46). Again, Jesus asks a pointed question that points to what is in our hearts, and it’s only what is in our hearts that saves us.

Faith obeys. Unbelief rebels. The direction of one’s life should reveal whether that person is a believer or an unbeliever. There is no middle ground! Merely knowing and affirming facts apart from obedience to the truth is not believing in the biblical sense. “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt 7:12) The Beatitudes (Matt 5:3–12) reveal the character of true faith as well as any passage in Scripture. These traits aren’t just an unobtainable legal standard; these characteristics are common to all true believers.