I don’t think the doubts have completely gone away, but recently I hear fewer people asking the question, “Can I lose my salvation?” I fear that may be because more people presume upon God’s forgiveness. ‘Of course, God wants me in heaven!’ But reassuring ourselves with false hope is not a path of honesty or true confidence. Last month, a well-known Christian author and former pastor announced that he was no longer a Christian. Many of you have read at least one of his books. He wasn’t one of those preachers that makes people cringe when he opens his mouth. He was a thoughtful, conservative evangelical. But is no longer. I think his announcement raises some important issues for all of us.
1. God doesn’t promise that you won’t abandon your faith.
When someone abandons their faith, it throws many people off because they think that the Bible promises that no one that we think is saved will ever turn from their faith, but the Bible doesn’t promise that. In fact, it warns that it will happen. The apostle Paul said, for instance, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1). And Jesus spoke of those who “believe for a while” but fall away in a time of testing (Luke 8:13). To be clear, to abandon faith in Jesus is to abandon the salvation that He alone offers. And there will continue to be people who abandon what appears to be faith in Jesus.
2. Abandoning your faith is evidence that your faith wasn’t real.
People often struggle with this, but the Bible says that people who leave their faith didn’t have saving faith to start with. They may have acknowledged certain truths but didn’t have a true personal faith. The author of Hebrews, for example, says, “we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14). True participation in Christ’s salvation is evidenced by continuing in our faith. John wrote something similar. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19). People had recently left the church and appeared to abandon their faith. John is saying that this showed that their faith wasn’t real to begin with.
3. You can think God has saved you when He hasn’t.
I think we often have a disconnect with the Bible when it comes to saying that some people’s faith isn’t real. If someone has prayed a prayer or been baptized or attended church with us faithfully, we think we can know with certainty that they’re saved but we can’t because we can’t know a person’s heart. The Bible cautions that many people whom we think are saved actually aren’t. Jesus famously warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21) and talked of people who appeared to have done remarkable ministry but didn’t actually know Jesus (Matthew 7:22-23). Paul talked about one of his coworkers named Demas who deserted him out of love for the world (2 Timothy 4:10). Presumably, Paul thought Demas was a believer when he enlisted his help, but his life later seemed to indicate otherwise.
4. God is the one who keeps all who truly turn to Him.
Should all of this leave us wondering whether we will abandon our faith and lose our salvation? Absolutely not. Those who truly repent and turn to Jesus are kept secure in Him. Jesus promised that it was God’s will that He not lose any who believed in Him (John 6:39-40) and assured His followers with the now famous words “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand” (John 10:27-29). God doesn’t want you to worry about whether you will lose your salvation; He’s taken care of that for you. The only question we do need to ask ourselves is whether our faith in Jesus is real. Have we truly repented? Do our lives evidence that? Have we truly put our lives in Jesus’ hands? Do we trust Him? If we have, God will keep us secure both now and forever.
In awe of Him,