That was the question a guy from a choir I once was a part closed his facebook post with. He had just told the story of a professional pastor, who after 40 years of been a Christian, denounced Christianity.
Not one for online diatribes, I put up a scripture text that I thought answered the question.
That was so naive of me. It brought out the man-of-action in another lady. She went to great lengths to tell me that it was impossible for anyone who had become a Christian to lose his or her salvation.
And that by continuing along that line, I was putting fear into the hearts of God’s people. Nothing I said connected with her. She wanted me to admit I was wrong.
Her reasoning and points made me wonder.
Do Christians ever lose their salvation?
Salvation In The Beginning
When I first became a Christian, the “convincer” for most of us was the fear of hell. Repent from your sin or you take the highway to hell.
After we did the sinners’ prayer, we were remindedregularly of the need to avoid sin. You sin and you are out.
I can remember a couple of times when I would wonder why Jesus didn’t just show up after I had said the sinners’ prayer
That would save me years of having to bother whether my next sin would take me out.
Living as a Christian meant living every day with the fear that my next sin could be the key to my eternal damnation
You probably wonder how I survived those early years!
And Now With The New
Some people figured that the “scare” message was not working. So, they came up with a new plan.
Or rather, they came up with a “bonus” plan. The salvation message became an added-value to include with your life to make it better.
Feeling blue, feeling down-on-your-luck? Get the Jesus booster. It’s guaranteed to give you the turnaround you need to make every day living-like-heaven.
Most of the people who joined the church believing this message weren’t told they needed to change anything.
And guess what? They didn’t change anything.
The only change for them was saying the sinner’s prayer.
Salvation: And The Verdict Is…
As you notice, we moved from one extreme to another. But the real deal is in the middle of everything.
Let’s get something straight.
There is nothing wrong in contextualizing the gospel message in a way to make it relevant to your audience
Paul did that in Athens when he claimed that he was introducing the unknown god they worshiped to them. (Acts 17:23)
By the way, there is a rather interesting story to the altar. According to ancient history, the city was experiencing some natural disasters. This was ascribed to the gods.
After appeasing all the pantheon of gods they had but seeing no end to the disasters, they figured they must have missed out one more.
They made one more altar to the unknown god and sacrificed. As it would turn out, the disasters stopped after this. So, Paul was really making a bold assertion with his declaration.
Back to my point on contextualization.
It’s clear from Paul’s example that it is OK to adapt the gospel message so it connects with the audience.
But it must never lose the essence that God through Jesus has paid the price for our salvation.
And because of salvation, we can live a life that celebrates God on this side of heaven. We continue doing this on the other side after Jesus makes a return.
Jesus is not the bonus tag-along to our lives – He is the main thing.
The Christian Journey Begins…
The first thing we must come around is the fact that God got us off a debt we could never pay. He did that by having Jesus step into our position.
It’s what theologians call substitutionary atonement. In simple English, Jesus died as the substitute for our sin debt so we could become one with God.
The sacrifice of Jesus means that all the sins we have committed and can ever commit in the future have already been paid for.
When we come to God, we are accepting that sacrifice by faith – faith in the word. This is the gift that God gives us.
It’s not because of what we have done or will do – it’s because of God’s great love
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
A New Life Begins at Salvation
After receiving the gift by faith, we now need to live out our faith. Or else our faith is dead. James 2:26.
We are children of God and God has an expectation for how His children should live
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.
No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.
1 John 3:1a,5,6,9,10
God expects His kids not to continue indulging in sin. This is why there has to be a “repent” in any gospel message. We have to change. There must be a change from the old to the new
But we are saved not because we do not sin. Rather, we do not sin because we have been saved.
Choosing not to sin is the result of our salvation not the basis of our salvation. Saved people don’t continue to indulge in sin.
Repentance is the outward expression of that faith and is a show of gratitude for the sacrifice of Jesus.
To continue to actively sin is against our new reborn identity.
The ReBorn Identity Explained
But this is where most of us get our knickers in a knot. We come to the conclusion that Christians should not sin because active participation in sin is against the reborn identity.
You probably understand the reason why some of us in the early days were in the fear of what our next sin could mean for our salvation. We were given that conclusion and so we thought any sin meant we were no longer on the narrow way.
But the transformation that faith in Jesus offers is a lot different than that.
In Christianity, the call is not to “live life without committing sins”. Rather, it is a call to “live life not to be committing sins”.
In the former, the conclusion is that you keep your faith by not sinning at all. This in itself is an impossibility as long as we are humans on planet earth.
The later, to live life not to be sinning, is the real call we have. This is the reflection of our transformed life through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.
We are not saying we will not sin but we have made a choice because of our faith not to make sinning a lifestyle. It is not part of our identity.
We don’t sin because it is not a reflection of the life that Jesus lived. And when we sin, we will not be thrown out of the house.
Rather, we have Jesus to speak for us because of our faith in the salvation that He bought for us.
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world 1 John 2:1-2
Who Keeps You On The Narrow?
If you are wondering if this means you have to do all the heavy lifting on your heaven-bound highway.
You make the choice, God does the keeping.
God is a keeper and that is the assurance that we all have. He will help us live out every commitment based on our faith in Jesus that we make to him
..being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6
He will also keep you firm to the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor 1:8,9
Our confidence to make it on the glory road rests on the ability of God to empower us to the end
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. John 6:39
How A Christian Can Lose Salvation
After you become a Christian, there is no sin you can commit that can separate you from God except the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
But choosing to deliberately live to be sinning is an expression of lack of faith in salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus.
It’s that choice (lack of faith) and expression of it that will remove you from being a Christian.
Let me give context to this with a few scripture references
My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins. – James 5:19–20
James makes it very clear that it is very possible for a Christian to wander from the truth. The effect of that wandering is that such persons are now on the road to death because of their sins.
Restoring such persons will give salvation from eternal death and bring him or her back under the cover of Jesus’s redemption for sin.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God – Heb 10:26-31
The writer of Hebrews hits the nail on the head. As Christians, we have made a choice not to deliberately sin. Anyone who does this deliberately is already making a confession – I don’t have faith in Jesus’ redemption.
It is not the “sinning” that condemns but rather the “motivation for sinning” that condemns. A “sinning” lifestyle is the “works” that shows the lack of faith in salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus
And if you still have doubts on whether a one-time Christian can fall out of faith, Hebrews gives us a cautionary note to consider
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. – Hebrews 6:4-6.
Why You Can’t Stop Being Saved
As the writer of Hebrews, I am “convinced of better things in your case—the things that have to do with salvation“. Heb 6:9
Unlike what happened when I first became a Christian and was afraid that my next sin would send me on the highway to hell.
I don’t live under the fear of what my next sin would do to me. It’s already been dealt with. Every day, I make a commitment to live right not focused on whether I sin or not.
When I sin, I confess and I push forward. If I don’t sin, I live gratefully and keep pushing forward.
My consistent position is always to live in grateful appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus.
Living with this mindset will help us push forward and bring us closer to living like Jesus lived when He walked the earth.
One of God’s reasons for leaving you on planet earth after giving you salvation is so you can give people around you a “Jesus Lifestyle” experience.
Don’t let the fear of falling into sin keep you from risking all your life living out the faith of Jesus that is now in you.
God has already taken the biggest risk so you have nothing to lose – you gain more.
You can’t stop being saved if you don’t let go off God’s hands. He won’t let go – you have to do the same.
You can’t lose your halo.
You are on the highway to Heaven
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:1,2
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A married guy with a precocious son who works his (I mean me, not my son - I bet you know, right?) day job as a financial guy trying to make real estate projects have some sense to the investor. I like to talk about what I learn along the way as I live my faith in life (family, work, friendships, fellowship, community and anything else you can put here).