I've studied some of your material and it is helping me understand better how to improve my relationship with God. I am unclear about three related issues.
On the one hand, you say:
We are not saved by the things that we do. [How can faith be combined with works?]
Yet, on the other hand, you say:
We cannot be saved without doing the things God requires of us. [Notes on Works]
It's an apparent contradiction. I've read the sections about how we are not doing our work but God's work for the second part. Still, though we are still doing the actual work ourselves if we say "I love God…" to be obedient. I don't see the distinction, other than that God is indeed helping us to obey His commands using the Holy Spirit within us because we can't do it alone. In any case, we are still doing the work under His instructions through His Helper. Is there anything I'm missing here?
Another issue is what exactly are the Commandments of God that we must obey as part of the requirements to be saved? Are they just the nine of the ten Commandments that Jesus repeated in the New Testament (excluding the fourth one - the Sabbath-keeping Law)? Are there others instead of or as well as those nine?
Finally, what happens if I break one of those Commandments, whatever they are? What do I have to do to be saved, assuming I have lost my salvation privilege by breaking His commandment? Repent and pray for forgiveness again? Anything else?
Salvation is available to man because of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. "In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace" (Romans 11:5-6). It has always been God's gift to man. A man never earned salvation through his own works. "Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity" (II Timothy 1:9).
Even when a person does the things that God requires of man, those works do not place God in obligation to man. No matter how man tries, there are always failures and man's sins earn the just sentence of death (Romans 6:23). Besides doing as you are told is not an earning of salvation, but a submission to God's will. What is gained does not even come close to the value of what a person does in obedience to God, so again it cannot be claimed to be something earned.
But when a person refuses to do as God directs, then he is demonstrating his lack of faith in God. "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23). God expects His followers to do as He directs. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
Therefore, God judges us by what we do to determine whether He will grant us His gift of salvation. "If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ" (I Peter 1:17-19). He does this because what we do reflects our faith and who we are inside. "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself" (James 2:17). It is a reflection of our love for Christ. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
Let me illustrate it with one of the commands placed upon the Israelites. God required that all Israelite men be circumcised. Can we say that having a piece of skin cut off earned the Israelite salvation? No. But could an Israel be saved without obeying this command from God? The answer again is "no." "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant" (Genesis 17:14).
I know of no verse that states that man cannot do the will of God without the direct aid of the Holy Spirit. If it required God's intervention to allow a person to do good, and we are judged by our works, then it would make God a respecter of people because He would be deciding who did good and who did not. The Holy Spirit does aid us in that He instructs us through the Bible as to what we should be doing, but he does not cause or allow a person to do good; that is a person's own choice. "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (Romans 8:3-5).
What we obey is God's teaching, which is the Bible. In particular, we live by the Law of Christ. "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:21-25). There isn't a minimum list of commands. "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:10-12).
Even the Israelites did not have just ten commandments. The Ten Commandments were merely the introduction or prelude to the Law of Moses. The people of Israel were expected to obey the entire law. It is no different for Christians under the Law of Christ.
There are requirements that a person must meet in order to be considered a Christian. See: What Saves a Person? Sin remains an ever-present problem for Christians. Christians ought not to remain in sin, but do something about sin when it rears its ugly head. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). What is required is that the Christian turns away from the sin (II Corinthians 7:10-11) and admits to God that he has sinned (I John 1:8-2:1). God then promises to restore that person to His fellowship.
Thank you for your detailed response to my questions. It does satisfy much of my concerns about what is true salvation, but not all. I will reflect some more and read the articles you recommended. If I still have a problem I will come back to you.