If You're Worried about Losing Your Salvation

You might not actually have it.

All Christians will eventually question their salvation. For many, that moment will come after a relatively significant moral failure. Adults often feel too dirty to be received by God after committing adultery, but children might feel this way after cheating on a math test.

I should be unreasonably clear at this juncture. If you feel unworthy of Christ's sacrifice, you're not feeling the weight of your actions; you're feeling the weight of others' expectations. Scripture is clear: there is no condemnation in Christ and nothing can separate us from his love--that includes the worst sins imaginable.

The fact that children can feel unworthy of God's matchless love is criminal and deserves the millstone that Jesus suggested. Of course, some sins are quite devastating, but the only obstacles between us and God's love are ourselves and others. Be sure that your hatred of sin doesn't cause a little one to stumble over the very things for which Christ died. I'll help tie the knot myself.

If it's still not clear, I'm saying that you cannot sin your way out of heaven. Sin is not some sort of divine kryptonite that can scare Jesus off the cross. When he died once for all, he died for all the sins, present and future. There is no bad thing you can do that can water down the blood of Christ.

Some might call this eternal security or "once saved, always saved". It's a common doctrine among Protestants that claims our salvation cannot be lost once it's been found.

Support usually comes from Jesus' statement that no one can snatch us out of the Father's hand. Or Paul's words that we were sealed for redemption. Or Jude's promise that God will keep us from stumbling. Indeed, salvation is a divine work, so if there is nothing we can do to save ourselves, then there is nothing can do to unsave ourselves. Which rings both true and somewhat hollow.

Opponents will rightly point out Jesus' warning that those who do not remain in him are like withered, discarded branches waiting to be burned. Likewise, the apostle John confirms that those who do not abide in Christ's teaching do not have God abiding in them. And on a number of occasions, Paul places the condition of perseverance on our continued salvation.

And so the pious are divided into those who instill fear to encourage faithfulness and those who abdicate us entirely from the faithfulness equation.

In the case of the latter, Calvinists want you to believe that your salvation doesn't concern you at all and that you simply need to trust Jesus and he'll take care of everything. For them, Christ's sacrifice imputed righteousness into us and changed our status before God--we need only accept that such is the case.

In the case of the former, Arminians want you to believe that your salvation is dependent on continued trust and that Jesus can only save those who want to be saved. For them, Christ's sacrifice provided the means through which we could please God--we need only take to the opportunity to do so.

They're both partly right and both so, so wrong. 

Faith is not a status. We're not saved by a prayer nor unsaved by a particular sin. As James said, Abraham was credited with righteousness for believing in God, not sitting back and watching him work. But this belief is active and evidenced by good deeds, like when Abraham offered his son on an altar to God.

Similarly, there is no fear in faith. John says that the one who fears is not made perfect or complete in love. In other words, those who live in fear of punishment (i.e. going to hell) are not living in the confidence of Christ's love.

To be clear, arrogantly assuming that you have faith as the Calvinists do is not confidence. No, there's a difference between placing your trust in your theology and placing it in Christ's example. One requires nothing from you apart from having the proper doctrinal pedigree while the other requires you to die.

Calvinists are correct that salvation is God's work, not ours. But Arminians are also correct that we're not "once saved, always saved". You can't lose your salvation by doing the wrong things, but you can lose it by not doing the right things.

Victory over sin was never the goal of the Christian life. The goal is oneness with the Father by abiding in Christ and his teachings. And the sum of Jesus' teachings is loving God by loving others, or simply, good works. Not satisfying the flesh is a natural byproduct of following Christ; however, as Scripture testifies, we can't simply overcome evil. We overcome it with good.

Christianity is not a long list of don'ts, but rather an all too brief list of do's. A list so fatiguing that Paul had to remind the Galatians not to grow weary of doing good. That's what he meant by perseverance. As hard as it is to not sin, it's even harder to persevere in good works. Thankfully, we have everything we need to do so.

Faith is marked by love and confidence, not fear and false humility. Some wrongly say that caring enough to question your salvation is a sure sign you have it, but this is weakness. God promised eternal life to those who follow Jesus, not those who worry about whether or not they really are. Do good to all people and trust what God said.

Otherwise, if fear has you so paralyzed that you cannot get up and walk by faith thus denying Christ and his power, don't be surprised if he denies you before the Father.

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