What does God command?
Do you remember the story of David and Bathsheba? David was the King of Israel at the time - a powerful king. One day, from his palace roof, he saw Bathsheba taking her bath, and from that moment on he wanted her. And what he wanted he took. Of course, the inevitable happened, she fell pregnant. To hide his adultery he brought her husband, Uriah, back from the battlefield so that the conception would be seen as his. The only trouble was that Uriah took a vow of abstinence while he was home on leave. David then took the next step and had Uriah placed in the forefront of the battle. He even had the troops withdraw to leave him stranded. Adultery had led to murder.
David, of course, was found out. Nathan the prophet exposed him, much like our journalists have exposed TV personalities, evangelists, politicians and the like. Maybe David's repentance was a bit like theirs, ugly to behold and hard to believe. It's interesting how we are always terribly repentant when we get found out, isn't it? Yet, it was genuine repentance and it gained David forgiveness in the sight of God. All those around him probably felt it smelt a bit, but in truth, David's standing in the sight of God had remained secure even though he had become a murderer.
In church recently we were studying the first letter of John from the New Testament section of the Bible. One verse from the letter said this, "We know that we have come to know Jesus if we obey his commands." Now that thought gets repeated quite a bit in the letter. For example, "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers." The point is simple enough, we can test whether we are a child of God - a Christian, a born again believer, saved (terrible terms some of those, aren't they?) - we can test whether we are one of Jesus' friends if we do the things he wants us to do.
Now there is a problem here. Is there anyone who can claim that they do what God want's them to do? If not, then none of us pass the test and none of us can have any confidence as to our standing in the sight of God. I can get around the problem a bit if I see God's laws, not so much as perfection, but as base line requirements - minimal standards of behavior. In those terms I could argue that I tend to be a person who obeys his commands, so have I passed the test? What of David, did he pass the test? The man was a rotter. In any case, I have met some irreligious people in my time whose honesty, integrity, kindness would leave me for dead. So they pass the test do they, and I don't?
I guess the answer is along these lines. If my life is oriented toward doing what God wants then that is an evidence that I am in a relationship with him which will extend into eternity. I may slip, even a big slip like David, but the orientation is what matters. On the other hand, if I am habitually acting against him, such is an evidence that I do not know him.
What does God actually want us to do? John in his letter gives us the answer. "This is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another." If in the surge of life we hold onto Jesus, then we are in. The loving, the doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, is the natural consequence of faith, and serves as a test of that faith.