My friend Felecia Clarke posed this question on Facebook last week, and I decided to borrow it for my Friday Q&A. It’s a great question, and I would love for you all to give your insight too.
We seem to purport a "once saved - always saved" mentality; but will that alone get someone into Heaven? If we receive the salvation of Christ and then never obey God's command - surely He will say to us at judgment, "I never knew you."
And what about most "Christians" who struggle with complete surrender? Are we doomed to Hell?
To start, let me just say that these were the particular Red Letters from a sermon about the rich young ruler, culminating in Jesus’ strong words in the sermon on the mount, “I never knew you” that drew me from my religious darkness into the glorious light of relationship with Father. I can’t say it was fear that rose up in me, but a realization that though I espoused a personal relationship with God, I did not actually have any such relationship. Though I scoffed at “religion” as a way to the Father, I nevertheless was counting on my religious deeds and lack of bad works to gain me entrance to the Father’s house. The startling revelation that this rich young man who kept the commandments to the best of his ability, but held his life as his own, broke the heart of our Savior, and left him outside the kingdom, brought me to the realization that “I was that man.” Teaching Sunday school and leading Church groups may have been what God intended for me to do, but first I needed to know, and be known.
That said, now to the question at hand.
I have heard more than one person defend their sinful life style and their future in heaven because they prayed a prayer in a church, which majored on assurance of salvation. One young man, who was living a life of promiscuity declared to me that he was going to heaven. I asked him how he could ever think such a thing and he told me with complete confidence of his Sunday school prayer. The only thing he had faith in was this one doctrine of eternal security. That prayer, would save him. He knew nothing of Calvary love, or being buried with Christ, and being raised up in newness of life. The breath of life had never entered his un-regenerate soul, and he had no relationship, nor did he feel any accountability to the One whose name he took in vain every time he referred to himself as Christian.
I told this young man of that great city Nineveh which repented under Jonah, and was given a reprieve, but then a little over a century later was worse than ever, and suffered judgment without warning under the ministry of the prophet Nahum. It is a striking story.
Do I believe that you can lose your salvation? No, I don't think God will ever leave you or forsake you, but much of what we call Christianity, in our culture, is nothing like the saving faith that will carry you into the arms of the Lover of your Soul.
Many have left the word “Christian” of late due to negative connotations in the popular culture, and it has been replaced by Jesus lover, or Christ follower. I am good with those, but I find myself, particularly in writing, referring to folks as in a "covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.” I see this idea of being the bride of Christ as central to my understanding of what it means to have a relationship with God.
I see this walk of the Christian walk as a progression from our first meeting of Christ, where we take the identity of “slave” or “servant” or “bond slave” or even “love slave” of Christ. I don’t think we ever leave this status, as you can learn from so many of the writers of the New Testament refereeing to themselves as servant of Christ. The next step in our progression might be friend, then son of God and brother of Jesus, and finally as Bride, and partner in relationship and ministry with the Lover of our Souls.
Those who know nothing of relationship – any stage of relationship – can really not expect to be greeted by any other words than, “I never knew you.” However, you would have to know very little of scripture to think that a faith that falters now and then excludes you from the kingdom. We see if from the earliest days of faith of any kind. From Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Lot, David etc., right through to Peter and Paul contenting with one another, and Paul leaving Barnabas and going off with others.
So – to sum up – I do believe that once you are in a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ, it is for keeps, and I do not believe that failings of the faithful put them in jeopardy of hell fire.
Hope that helps.
Hey – do you have another opinion? I would love to hear it and consider your take on these matters.
Thanks for coming by.