A common question for many is, “Can I lose my salvation?” I’ve heard both sides of the argument, and only God truly knows a person’s heart, but I can share a few thoughts. One thing is for certain, salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned.
One school of thought from the Arminian perspective suggests that salvation cannot be lost, as in losing your car keys, but that it can be left, as in walking away from it. This may be why Jesus spoke of the man who said in his “heart”: my master delays His coming; therefore, I will turn from living a godly life. When the master returned unexpectedly, the servant was banished because he chose to turn from what he knew to be right. In another passage, Jesus said, “You have left your first love,” when speaking to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). James 5:19-20 adds, if anyone wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, a soul is saved from death. If anything, these Scriptures, and many more, reinforce the fact that we have certain responsibilities. We should never turn from what we know to be right. Jesus encouraged His followers to be watchful, prepared, and ready for His return. Are we watchful? Are we prepared? Are we ready? As I often say, “You don’t want to live your life with a question mark here.” (Read Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 21:34.)
The other school of thought from the calivinist perspective suggests that some of those passages are dealing with people who never really believed. As a result, they fell away. They heard the gospel, but never fully embraced it and turned from their sins; they only had “intellectual” knowledge of salvation. According to this view, the real question isn’t, “Can a person lose their salvation?” but, “Was the person really saved to begin with?” Titus 1:16 and James 2:14 both conclude that many people “say” that they know God, but deny Him by their lifestyle. I John 2:19 suggests that those who acknowledge Christ initially, but deny Him later, are not saved to begin with: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” (See Hebrews 6:5-6.)
We all sin and fall short, but the important question to ask is what is the condition of your heart—have you truly repented and believed in Christ as your Lord and Savior, or are you trusting in religion and tradition? This may be why Paul said in II Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” Again, our actions do reveal a great deal about our relationship with Christ. A.W. Tozer said: “When people find that after being in the church for years they are not making much progress, they ought to examine themselves and wonder whether they have been truly converted.” He added: “True conversion means radical repentance, a changed life, conscious forgiveness of sin, and a spiritual rebirth.” Hebrews 3:13 warns us not to “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Has your heart become so hard as to reject Jesus Christ? If so, you can change that today. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 is a great encouragement to me, “And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us,who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” The word “seal” means “to authenticate, confirm, or guarantee.” The Holy Spirit is our “guarantee” and our “deposit”; He seals us until the day of redemption.
We cannot forget the fact that we don’t choose God as if He’s sitting in heaven waiting to be chosen. He chooses us. He invites us. He calls us. In John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “Men do not seek God first; God seeks them first; and if any of you are seeking him today it is because he has first sought you.” The relationship between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is interwoven throughout the Scriptures. Our responsibility is to repent and to believe, and to live a life that reflects that decision. “God’s law will not save me, but it can instruct, warn, and guide me” (J.I. Packer).
Scripture compells me to believe both truths: God is soverign, yet we have responsibilities. We are commanded to repent and believe, yet we are totally dependent on God. We must do our part, but we can’t do His. It is God who makes us stand firm in Christ (II Corinthians 1:21). Seek Him.
Granted, life will seem unclear and confusing at times, but God promises that He will guide you. Had I become angry and unwilling to change my rebellious attitude toward God, only the Lord knows where I’d be today. Don’t let discouragement and failure stand in your way. I could write an entire book on my failures, but instead, I strive to follow the apostle Paul’s advice and I encourage you to do the same: Forget about those things that are behind you. Instead reach forward to those things that are ahead of you (Philippians 3:13). Forget your past mistakes, but remember the lessons learned because of them.
As you move forward and draw from God’s wisdom for guidance, you will understand why C.S. Lewis said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”