While we cannot earn salvation, clearly Paul, and the rest of the letter writers of the NT, expected a change in behaviour as evidence of conversion. Below are two translations of Acts 26:20. The Amplified highlights the expectation of a lifestyle change.
20 but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. Acts 26:20 (NKJV)
20 But made known openly first of all to those at Damascus, then at Jerusalem and throughout the whole land of Judea, and also among the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works and live lives consistent with and worthy of their repentance. Acts 26:20 (AMP)
I write this because we rarely hear repentance spoken of in the church anymore. I cannot remember a single sermon in recent years that has highlighted it. Granted I may have forgotten some, but my experience now is that evangelicals not only rarely talk about it, many will even argue about the need for it, that is, that we just need to trust in grace. My wife and I were recently talking with a couple and the fellow shared about a co-worker who claimed to be born again but was living in a common-law relationship (In modern vernacular, an ‘adult interdependent relationship’). He said he knew it was sin but it was ‘covered by grace.’
I think we need a return to understanding that turning to Jesus means living lives consistent with the gospel. After all, when Paul confronted the Corinthians over their claims to be following Jesus, when their lifestyle choices suggested otherwise, he said the following.
5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NKJV)
How are we doing?