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Can I lose my salvation? ~ Friday Q&A

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Ok – so I know that I am stepping into controversial territory here. As you can see from my home church’s statement of faith, those who formed this church and wrote this document clearly are in the 'once saved always saved' camp.

We believe that salvation is the free gift of God, entirely apart from human merit or works, and is received through personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and that believers are kept secure in Him forever. Ephesians 2:8-9; John 10:27-30; John 3:16-18, John 14:6; Acts 4:12

It would be fair to say there are good solid passionate Christians on both sides of this issue.

I could (and have) argued this from scripture on both sides of this issue.

There are scriptures that sound a lot like you could walk away from faith, like this:

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. - Hebrews 6:4-6 NASB

Right on the other hand there are passages like this from Romans 8 that make it seem incomprehensible that anything could ever break a relationship forged by God Himself.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39 NASB

I have known people who have been “Christians” for decades and later renounced Christ. So did they know Christ, or were they faking, or deceived into thinking they were something they were not.

Were they play acting all along, and finally just decided it was not worth playing games.

Here’s the thing. I think the problem is not with the Gospel, and the ability of God to hold onto Christians.

I think the problem is with our gospel and the fact that we are substituting lists of things to think (creeds) for relationship. We are convincing people of facts about Jesus, and they get passionate about this information, but eventually when someone comes along with better information, or a better argument, or more charisma, they finally give up and drop the argument.

Isn't that in effect what happened with Israel time and time again? At the outset God wanted a relationship with people, but the people He chose sent Moses, and said - you talk to God for us, and tell us what He wants us to do. That is the pagan approach to a deity. What He, God, wanted them to do is talk to Him and walk with Him. Over and over in Jeremiah and Ezekiel particularly God says, 'then they will be my people and I will be their God.' (Jeremiah 24:7; Ezekiel 11:20; 14:11; 37:23; 37:27)

I am not persuaded that someone who has genuinely received a new heart from the Lord, one who has gotten a heart of flesh, with the law of love written deep within could ever renounce that. I don't see how anyone into whom the Lord God almighty has breathed the breath of life, could turn their back.

We are not good at making disciples (learners under discipline) but we do OK with making converts.

Converts can be converted, disciples are ruined for life. [Tweet This]

I understand that the Bible is ambiguous in this area, and I am ok with that – in fact – I might be a tad ambiguous here too, just to keep it fair.

My plan for life and my advise to you:
Keep your relationship with the Lord real and current. Stay in His word, and obey what He tells you. Listen for His voice, and keep His Word.

Jesus only did what he saw the Father do, and only said what He heard the Father say, and that obedience served Him well. The disciple is not above His master, so you and I need to walk like Jesus.

The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. - 1 John 2:4-6 NASB

There is grave danger in the "Once saved, always saved" attitude as I learned when I went to share the gospel with a young man who I knew to be a womanizer at the time. He was living a loose life and boldly so. When I asked him about his faith, he told me he was a Christian. He had asked Jesus into his heart as a young boy, and was counting on that "prayer" to get him into heaven.

I told him the story of Nineveh, the city that repented and was 'saved' in the book of Jonah, only to be condemned in the book of Nahum without even the briefest opportunity for repentance. They had repented of their repentance. In Jonah, they repented out of fear, but they never believed, put their faith and trust in the God of Israel.

The only secure place is in the vine. If you will abide in the vine, in Jesus, and let Him abide in you, you will do well and your salvation is secure.

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by.

Abiding in the vine,

Ben

20 thoughts on “Can I lose my salvation? ~ Friday Q&A

  1. Felecia

    Loved this post because I while I was firmly camped in the "Once Saved Always Saved" camp, reminding me of Nineveh was the tipping point. Which also leads me to think about the Israelites wandering with Moses. I always chalked it up to a lack of faith that that generation was unable to enter the promised land. Perhaps, when they so easily fell back to other worship other gods, they worked themselves out of salvation. No promised land, no Eden, no Heaven. After all, if it was just a momentary lack of faith that could separate us from God's love, we'd all be in the wind, wouldn't we?
    Thanks for wrangling the tough stuff and making me think!
    Felecia

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      I am with you - I don't think for a minute that some moment of weakness makes us unfit for the kingdom - it is still the blood of Jesus that get's us in, and no effort on our part could get us in. I just see too much in the word to be super dogmatic, and I see way to much abuse to just jump up and say - if you prayed a prayer you are good to go.

      If you have a new heart - given by the Lord - and your hope is in Him, you are in a great place. If you are in a muddle - call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved.

      But, as i said - there are tons of my dear loved ones in Christ who would disagree, or be way more dogmatic on both sides of this coin.

      Thanks much for weighing in.

      Reply
  2. Heidi Viars

    What a great way to start the day, thinking about my salvation 🙂 My early adulthood was marked by always walking as close to the edge of the cliff as I possibly could. If there were boundaries, I wanted to cross them. If there were rules, I wanted to break them. God calls that rebellion. God warns against it, the pride of life and the thinking we are in charge. You see when I hear if I can lose my salvation, my natural rebellion causes me to want to walk right up to that "cliff". How much can I get away with and still make it to heaven. Give me the rule, and tell me that I am always saved.
    I think God's purpose in evading a set answer for us is for our own good. In this mystery we learn to trust and love Him. Out of that love we want to grow holy in conduct, not because we want to make sure we make it in, but because we love Him so much and recognize His love for us.
    I think the question, if I can lose my salvation, has at its root rebellion. The question, of a Christian, who has understood the love of God, has to be, how can I grow in grace.
    Maybe God in His sovereign love for us, has given the hearts that love Him His assurance and the hearts that live with rebellion (thinking they are Christians) a stern warning that our ways always lead to death.
    His Word is perfect, so I have to submit that Him leaving out a clear answer is the answer 🙂
    LOVE this thought-provoking post, Ben!
    Blessings to you, brother

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      Wow Heidi - I love what you have said - 'I think the question, if I can lose my salvation, has at its root rebellion.' That is perfect. Sounds a lot like Dietrich Bonhoeffer in "Cost of Discipleship." He makes that point about the question of the rich young ruler. Jesus tells him to keep the commands, and he presses for more info, rather than simply obeying by faith. It is only then, that the account tells us He looked on him and love him, and told him...

      thanks for your encouragement Heidi.

      Reply
        1. Ben Nelson

          just finished it, and now reading 'Discipleship' as a follow up. I am thinking about leading a study through this work - it is fabulous. So thought provoking.

          Reply
  3. mtsweat

    Great thoughts Ben. Getting one's hands around this is like trying to firmly grip jello. It just keeps going everywhere. Do you see, when reading Scripture, an almost three-tense presentation of salvation? Sort of like "we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved?" ...leading to the ever present need to always be examining one's life to ensure we are of the faith?

    By the way, "Discipleship" is my all-time favorite Bonheoffer read... powerful and engaging.

    Loved this thought, "I think the problem is with our gospel and the fact that we are substituting lists of things to think (creeds) for relationship. We are convincing people of facts about Jesus..." The passion must be for Jesus, not His stuff.

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      yes - for sure - three tenses and therefore tension! by the same token, we can get so hung up on introspection that fear creeps in and undermines our forward progress in grace. We must be convinced of our security in the one with whom we have this love affair going.

      The only insecurity is in an ambivalent - bored relationship.

      Reply
  4. Flo

    The question above this little text window is ... "so, what are you thinking?" My answer, I am thinking a lot .... a lot more than anyone is going to want to read, probably. I have camped out in both camps and one or two in between. After finally studying the scripture regarding these issues, the whole thing boils down to the total depravity of man. The Bible says that we are DEAD in sin. There's no getting around that word. Dead is dead (that was for LOST fans), it means no life, not even a breath, no hope, nothing ... just dead! After I read a heap of scriptures pointing to this fact, all the arguments that didn't follow this simple truth fell off ... and the miraculous work of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead became more real to me than ever. Jesus did this so we could see He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He called Lazarus out. Lazarus had no choice in the matter ... when the Savior says you come alive, you come alive, just as Adam came alive when God breathed life into him.
    The example of the young man who said he was a Christian, but living a life of impurity and little desire to walk with God is a no brainer ... the Lord says we are known by our fruits. A person is in various states spiritually - he may be saved and going through a very difficult battle giving into the lust of the flesh - for which they need a serious rebuke. If he is partaking of communion and fellowshipping at church, then someone should follow the pattern set by Jesus .. 1. rebuke them alone, 2. rebuke them with another brother or sister, 3 bring them to the church leadership and 4. dismiss them from membership and fellowship until they are ready and willing to repent. The fact that this procedure may have been abused by some churches, is not the excuse to not do it, and do it lovingly, correctly, patiently and with no judgment. Obviously if the person repents after any of the these steps they should be lovingly lead through steps of repentance. The fact that the guy said "the sinner's prayer" pffft. That means nothing. I know tons of people who said "the prayer" and they are nowheresville spiritually. I know people who were pastors, youth leaders, key elements in youth groups ... all on their way to hell ... it breaks my heart. They weren't taught about sin and repentance .. they were told "God has a wonderful plan for your life." bla bla bla ... Oh and now it's "You can have your best life now." gag me.

    There is also the possibility that the guy is definitely not saved, but calling himself a Christian, so in that case, since we don't know his heart, we hold him to the higher standard of a Christian and lead him through the above mentioned steps. And during any one of those steps he may truly realize his sin, and repent.

    And there is the possibility that the guy is not saved at all and a plant of Satan to drag others into sin and depravity. So the steps above will call him out, and eventually make him leave the congregation, protecting the sheep from a wolf.

    So the steps of "church discipline" as it is known is really a gift to the body of Christ, but not many churches follow it. Because churches today are more concerned and interested in performing for and entertaining goats and not feeding sheep. And that, I believe is the answer to the dilemma of a guy who says he's a Christian but lives like the devil.

    So, now, do you want to know what I'm really thinking 🙂 Hope this helped a little. Sorry for all the words, there's a whole bunch more words but I'll spare you.

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      Wow Flo - thanks for weighing - great comments all!

      the guy in question actually ended up in a homosexual relationship, and no longer speaks of himself as a christian at all. My only reason for bringing him into the conversation, is that there are many who look back at a point in time as their "saving moment" and not to a living breathing relationship with the lover of their soul.

      thanks again for taking the time to answer.

      Reply
  5. Mirada

    Plenty of good points in this Friday class, Prof. I've always been glad I believe "once saved, always saved"--for such a long time, that was all I had, "crumbs". I am more glad now to have a vital relationship with our Lord Jesus. I know that He held onto me through the dark desert decades when all I knew was tears and doubt, and He did that because He knew what I didn't--that We would get to the good part; not that it would be without struggles, but they would have vastly greater meaning and be paved with substantial ("substance") Faith, the knowledge (secure certainty) of His great Love--and the dew of Joy, falling when I need it most to moisten my fevered soul. Even the less than good days are worthy of a Hallelujah. So thankful, and praising Him for His faithfulness to me, that powerful "unfailing love" He's got goin'. I don't have to strain to cling to Him--He's got a mighty hold on me. God bless you.

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      Good word - nothing can separate us from the strong arms of Jesus. Amen. I love that when all you can cling to is your hope in a seemingly distant Christ, it is enough. I know i have times of desperation wishing He were somewhere I could sense Him, and then others when He is so close, the most natural thing in the world is to just start talking with Him. Have a great weekend, and I'm asking for plenty of blessing flowing your way.

      Reply
      1. Mirada

        Thanks for your prayers, same back to you. And I can't believe you said "strong arms of Jesus"--as I had just finished writing my Haiku Sundays-4 post, and I'll leave you in suspenders to read it then! Must tend my 2 pots of chili now, and I'm baking beer bread to go with it.

        Reply
  6. debbestillandlisten

    Wow, this is some good reading and thought provoking today, Ben! You know I think so many are deceived into thinking if I'm a good person I'm going to heaven. The church I grew up in believes that and what's sad is that they don't want to even hear the truth because it is different than what they have always been taught. I mean even when you give scripture references and everything there is no convincing them of the truth. I know it is not my job to convince them but to plant the seed. But when it comes to my family I really want to talk until I'm blue in the face in hopes they will get it, receive it. You see it was a long time before I became saved, in fact, 39 years and now that I am totally head over heels in love with my Savior I can't imagine any reason I would ever turn from Him. The best part is that my son gets to grow up in a church that preaches the whole truth. Amen! I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that I agree with Felecia's comment the tipping point was Nineveh for me.

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      The good thing is that you know it sometimes takes times - even 39 years! - and that you and the Father are hoping and working toward the same end - the salvation of your loved ones. I love your heart and the way it so clearly longs for the life of Christ to be manifest in yourself and your family and friends.
      Blessings to you Deb!

      Reply
  7. cshowers

    Ok, I have to weigh in on this one... I do believe that nothing can ever separate me from the love of God. And I also believe that the enemy cannot pluck me out of His hand. I believe that I didn't choose Christ -- HE chose me.

    However, I also believe that mankind has a choice. God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son... for every man, woman, boy and girl from every tribe and tongue and nation, and He is not willing that any should perish, but each one must choose to accept the gift of eternal life. And once we accept that gift, we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.

    I did a post on this doctrine last April...

    http://burningfireshutinmybones.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/truth-or-lie-once-saved-always-saved/#more-3560

    And one of the scriptures that makes me question the doctrine of once saved always saved is Hebrews 2:1 - "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." The "we" that the writer was referring to were the Jewish believers. If we don't heed the Word of God, we can drift away, according to this scripture.

    And how can I believe in once saved always saved in light of Hebrews 6:4-6? 4 "For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come— 6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing Him to the cross once again and holding Him up to public shame."

    I believe that Jesus saved me by His grace, and there was nothing that I did or could ever do to earn that salvation. It was His gift to me. However, I had a choice when He offered that gift to me - I could either receive it gratefully, or I could reject it. Now that I have received that gift, and I am a new creation, have I lost my will? Of course not. I still have to choose whether I will walk in the flesh, or whether I will walk in the Spirit. And, I have not lost the freedom choose to keep His most wonderful gift or to reject it.

    And if I choose to reject the gift that He has given me, after having experienced the good things of heaven and sharing in the Holy Spirit, it would be impossible to bring me back to repentance. And by making such a choice, no one can say that the devil plucked me from His hand, because it would have been my choice and my will. As Heidi stated earlier, my choice would be rebellion against God, His Son and His Holy Spirit.

    I am born again. Praise God, I'm a new creature - the old has passed away, behold, all things have become new, BUT, my old sinful nature still rises up against me, waging war with the Spirit within me, and one of my prayers, like David's is for a willing spirit. Father, please give me a spirit that is willing to submit to You... a spirit that is willing to humble itself before You... a spirit that wants to seek Your will and not my own. Father, I know that nothing can pluck me from Your hand, but Lord, please don't let me jump out of Your hand.

    I know that's an awful lot said, and I know that some may not agree, but everything that I've studied in God's word, and everything I've experienced in my own life shows that even after we are saved, we still have to choose to walk out our soul's salvation, or to walk away from it.

    Much love to you and many blessings,
    Cheryl

    Reply
    1. Ben Nelson

      There are clearly good strong scriptural approaches to both sides of this issue. A few years back, I remember stating exactly what you have said here - word for word - you don't lose your free will when be are saved - no one can pluck me, but i can sure jump.

      I never would stand behind the phrase "once saved, always saved" because i believe the statement in it self is approaching salvation from a man centered stance, and so smacks of humanism. I am pretty convinced that this particular doctrine "once saved, always saved" is a doctrine of demons (that might get me in some trouble)

      I must say though that there are some promises that God makes about the truly redeemed man or woman that make it hard to imagine that I can undo them.

      I was born with a heart of stone, I did not create or choose that heart of stone. God took it out and gave me a heart of flesh. He created me a new creature, a new species with no sin nature.

      These are some of the reasons i am not too quick to say that I can undo what God has done.

      I will not take a dogmatic position on an issue that has so much scripture on either side. I spent years of my life making things one sided, where God has left ambiguity. If He was ok with ambiguity, i need to be as well. If a topic is too big for me to hold all possible outcomes in my mind, I am OK with Him being bigger than I am.

      I still say that the only truly secure believer is one with a vibrant and current relationship with Jesus.

      You comments did raise one question in my mind that I have tossed around only recently, but I wonder, do we lose our free will in heaven?

      But that is a question for another day.

      Blessings and thanks much for taking the time to write this thoughtful and detailed response.

      Ben

      Reply

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