I know some who live in constant fear of being lost. They are keenly aware of their flaws and failures, and believe their soul is continually in jeopardy. Deep down they feel they are safe only immediately after they have prayed to God, “Please forgive me of my sins.” I am sure a few even hope they will die “in church” or right after asking God for forgiveness, because beyond this (they feel) their salvation is anyone’s guess.
They believe in Jesus and love Him with their whole heart, are committed to good works, and are trying to live a pure and godly life, but are not experiencing the joy and peace that comes along with assurance. What a tragedy! They are so conscious of their shortcomings that they have no hope.
On the flip side, I know many others who feel they can never be lost once they have been saved. This popular (yet flawed) belief in Christendom, called “once saved, always saved,” teaches that once a person is saved from sin, there is nothing they can do to be lost (and if they are lost, they were never saved to begin with!).
Never mind the frequent biblical accounts of Christians being urged to remain faithful – or risk being damned (Acts 14:22; Heb. 4:1; Heb. 12:15, etc.). Never mind the early Christians who returned to practicing Judaism (Gal. 5:4) or paganism (2 Pet. 2:20-22). Never mind Jesus telling entire churches to repent otherwise He would remove their lampstand (Rev. 2:5). Never mind the apostle Paul’s belief that he too could become “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).
Hoards of people believe in “once saved, always saved” because they trust in some man (whether it be Luther, Calvin, Knox, Edwards, or their preacher) rather than the abundant warnings of Scripture.
So if it is possible for a Christian to once again become lost, what must I do to stay saved?
Ask If You Are In Christ
Many think they are Christians when – according to the Bible – they are not. Only “in Christ” can we have “redemption through His blood” and “forgiveness of our trespasses” (Eph. 1:7). Only “in Christ” can we be free of condemnation (Rom. 8:1). There is salvation in no one else but Jesus (Acts 4:12). How do I get “in Christ?”
Baptism is the only way to get into Christ. Baptism is how we identify with Jesus and begin our new walk with Him (Rom. 6:3-4). The Bible instructs: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).
Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, upon being asked by the believing crowd what they needed to do to be saved, commanded: “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).
Walk In The Light As He Is In The Light
No Christian is immune to sin and temptation. If a Christian had to be perfectly sinless, then no one could ever be saved. Furthermore, if a Christian claims to have never sinned post-baptism, he/she is being dishonest (1 John 1:8-10).
So what’s the difference between a non-Christian and a Christian? Christians are actively fighting against sin (Rom. 6:1-2; 1 John 2:1a). Even though a Christian may occasionally sin (perhaps unknowingly), sin is still a foreign element in his/her life.
Despite these moments of weakness and imperfection, faithful Christians can still have assurance! Note what the apostle John writes:
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
Christ’s blood continually cleanses me, even at times when I am guilty of sin (1 John 2:1b).
Do you hear me, Christian? You don’t have to be perfect to go to heaven! You must simply “walk in the light.”
This offers no hope to people who willingly or consciously sin. This offers no assurance of salvation to anyone who knowingly breaks one of Christ’s commandments – unless they repent. Remember, “If we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:26).
But for those who “keep walking,” Christ “keeps cleansing.”
We must simply give Him our best. While Christians will never be perfect, perfection must always be the goal. Why? Because we are to love God with every ounce of our being (Mark 12:30).
Develop Humility & Contrition
But we can’t stop here. We must develop the right attitude about all of this.
While God has given us a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” in His Word, Christianity is more than just completing a sort of “checklist” (but it is certainly not less). Being a Christian is about developing our character until we are more perfectly in compliance with Him.
This is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My word (Isa. 66:2).
In other words, following God isn’t just about getting short answers to technical questions. I must cultivate a close relationship with God – one that causes me to grieve over things that cause God grief – and to rejoice over things that cause God to rejoice. And at all times, we must recognize that we are not worthy of God’s grace (cf. Luke 18:13-14). Humility is the answer.
I can’t develop this kind of relationship simply by listening to someone else or reading self-help books from the “Christian Living” section of the bookstore. It requires personal contact with God.
God has spoken through Scripture and put the power in His Word to convict and convert us. And He has promised us this conviction if we will just pay attention.
Then, He waits for us to speak to Him in prayer – with the promise that He will listen. We need to do this daily, just as we eat daily. To be so-called “religious” without personally communicating to God is to risk rejection. Jeremiah wrote:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. (Jer. 17:7)
We can have the assurance of salvation if we are willing to walk with the Lord.
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