So I can lie, cheat and steal and still get into heaven…..sweet!

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A couple of months ago I was having a conversation about the meaning of Christian salvation with my two brothers, Jon and Joe.  Jon is currently studying to become a pastor at a Presbyterian seminary and Joe is an experienced personal injury attorney.

One could imagine how easy it would be for such a question to turn into a full on debate.  First, I was engaging one Christian who had the persuasiveness of a lawyer and secondly, I was engaging another Christian who was in the soul saving business.  I got some pretty direct and matter of fact answers to my question.  While I liked the simplicity and “security” that their answers lent, unfortunately, I’m not all that convinced that they accurately translated the commitment it takes to conquer the lost soul’s problem.  So again, the question is:  “Who gets this gift of eternal life?”

Jon, in his very Calvinistic way, answered with: “Well, those who were elected by God to believe that Jesus died and was resurrected receive eternal life.” 

Joe, in his very intellectual way quoted 3 bible verses about sealing and God never allowing anyone to pluck His people from His hand. 

It was no surprise to me that they had similar beliefs regarding what it means to be saved since they had attended the same church for several years.  They both believe once saved always saved, they lean toward the idea of election and used “God’s sovereignty” as their way of explaining this, and they noted that salvation was not contingent on anything that we do, therefore, it doesn’t matter what laws we break, or how many times we break those laws, salvation is done once and it lasts forever.

Probing a bit more I asked,   “Okay, so that’s it, believe the story about Jesus’s death and resurrection and then BAM, here’s your golden ticket? So basically 80% of American’s are on their way.  That doesn’t sound like a narrow gate to me.”

 “Yes!  You must confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.” Jon said quoting Romans.

Admittedly, I crafted a loaded question to Jon, “Okay, so I believe in the story of Jesus’ resurrection but I can curse, lie, cheat and steal and the gates of heaven will open wide for me….no matter what?  Wow.  Sounds like a good deal.  Can I be a mass murderer too?”

“Well, you shouldn’t do those things because God says so, but it won’t have any bearing on your salvation.”  He said.

Our conversation was much more in-depth than this (it’s actually still going on two months later) but I am convinced that the answer to this question is not as “simple” as most Christian church’s (or my brothers) would have me believe.  Yes, salvation is by believing and a free gift of God’s grace, but maybe we should redefine what “belief” actually is. 

Can we be both a habitual mass murderer and a believer in Christ?  I use mass murderer as my example because mass murderer is a sin that most of us judge as horrific, but really, we should be able to plug in any of God’s laws to that sentence.  Does the habitual law breaker get into the Kingdom of Heaven?  The man who covets his neighbor’s house continually?  The woman who lies every chance she gets…even when the Holy Spirit is constantly tugging at her to do away with such sin? 

I don’t think the answer is cut and dry for any us. And it shouldn’t be since we can’t judge people’s hearts, nor should we attempt to.  But what I will say (and what I think more Christians should be saying) is that salvation is not simply confessing that Jesus is Lord.  It’s actually having the type of faith that produces good works.  It’s a transforming kind of belief.  So of course we’ll still sin.  We’ll never be perfect, but shouldn’t we die trying to be? 

I can tell you that if Jesus Christ came knocking on my doorstep and I could touch his wounds, hear his audible voice, and sit down and enjoy a fish dinner with him, I probably would never engage in any type of work on the Sabbath EVER again.  Because I’d be a believer.  I think this is the kind of believer God commands us to be.   

I know we all struggle with faith and I understand that NO man is free from sin, but isn’t true salvation leaving our old lives and living new ones in Christ?  Aren’t our lives an indication of what we believe in our hearts and minds?

Personally, I think I was failed as a young Christian growing up in a church that had a Calvinistic background.  They spent so much time focusing on our sin in a well meaning attempt to show us the glory of Christ, that they failed to show us the people we could become with Christ.  People who did away with the old life and allowed the Spirit of God to transform them into law abiding Christians that mirror the Spirit of the man they believe in.

What does it actually take to be assured of salvation and can we ever be truly certain of it?

 

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13 Comments

  • Zee

    Zee May 26, 2010

    Heh… good questions you ask here (dang, and that sounded like Master Yoda)))

    okay… my take on salvation… (disclaimer: this is my thoughts and i am not saying that i got it all perfectly right)

    1. i don’t believe in “once saved always saved” - it simply does not make sense.

    2. i love Max Lucado’s quote re: salvation - “salvation is simple, but not easy.” what he meant by that was that although for us salvation is free, it cost everything to the savior (aka Jesus). I struggle with the “simplicity” of salvation too, but then… if He made it simple, then why should we complicate matters?

    3. Can we be both a habitual mass murderer and a believer in Christ? - yes and nope. i guess one’s gotta draw a line between “believer” and “follower.” if you ask any random person on the street whether they believe in God, 60% or more of the people will say “yeah, sure.” how many are FOLLOWING His (or whatever god they believe in) teachings, now THAT’s the real question. if you follow Jesus’ only command, “LOVE (God / neighbors / yourself)” you cannot really be a mass murderer… or cheater… or liar.

    4. i don’t think i believe in predestination… well… God does know everything ergo technically that rules out the choice, if you think about it. BUT, i don’t believe in predestination when it starts saying “well, he wasn’t meant to be saved at all. he was just doomed for hell from the very beginning.” i believe that if we are predestined for anything, it is for salvation. we are all meant to be saved. whether or not we make that choice, THAT’s what matters…

    okay, enough rambling :D it’s 12:21AM (oh, fun time) over here, so i am off to bed.

    Zee

    p.s. is it possible to subscribe to follow-up comments on your blog? that’s a useful feature…

  • VT

    VT May 26, 2010

    I love this. The holy spirit is truly guiding you.  Google the question ... In the bible where does it say that we are saved by “faith alone”?  Not to spoil the answer but you will see that the only time that phrase appears in the bible is when it says “we are not saved by faith alone”. Ergo, we must do something else. WHAT else?  Live the very life you describe. Therefore, you cannot rely solely on a profession of belief, you MUST do more.

    Follow your mass murderer example to it’s extrerme logical conclusion. What if you are a bible believing Christian. Your last act on earth is to enter a pre-school and kill the children. You are killed trying to escape. In TRUTH and in FACT your last act was a REJECtION of salvation. A denial of GOD and his will. Therefore you we’re NOT “once saved”. We must, throughout our live continually rededicate ourselves to God’s purpose. We must build a resume to justify ourselves to God - BUT - said resume will never be sufficient(b/c we all sin all the time). Untimately,we rely on the infinite mercy of Christ. Get used to asking for forgiveness.

  • VT

    VT May 26, 2010

    By the way, that verse is James 3: 24.

    “See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone”.

  • vt

    vt May 26, 2010

    OK, James 2 verse 24!

  • brett barner

    brett barner May 26, 2010

    Great question. Personally, I believe much of what your brothers do. (Less Calvanistic due to the issue of choice, but I know that’s not what we’re talking about here) smile

    I would say that salvation is a little more than Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s a belief that Christ was who he said he was and a confession of sinning against God.

    Simple enough to be achieved by anyone, complex enough to be discussing for over 2,000 years without an overwhelming victor.

    And yes, our faith is evidenced by our works. That wouldn’t be a blanketed rule per se, because who are we to judge another person’s heart?

    If I said that you aren’t going to heaven because we all know that bloggers don’t go to heaven, smile but I’m wrong and you know I’m wrong and you go to heaven, what does it matter? My judgments, hypocrisy, and assumptions mean nothing. God doesn’t consult with a jury of my peers. It’s about faith in Him and His son. That’s it. You believe or you don’t.

  • vt

    vt May 26, 2010

    “I would say that salvation is a little more than Christ’s death and resurrection. It’s a belief that Christ was who he said he was and a confession of sinning against God.”

    OK, if this is correct (which I think it is) then does it not follow that one must DO what Christ said to do?  Jesus said, “baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.  Jesus said, “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you do not have life within you”.  At the last supper Jesus said, “do this in memory of me”.  Jesus said to his apostles, “who sins you forgive are forgiven, whose sins you retain are retained”.

    All this shows that “faith alone” is not sufficient.  What will come of faith if you do not follow the explicit instructions of the Savior?  If “faith alone” is not sufficient, then “once saved, always saved” is not possible.  You can therefore “lose” your salvation.  God, in his infinite mercy, will always be willing to take you back but you will have to rectify your errors.  We do not judge the works of others, God alone judges your contrition for sin and your penance.  When you meet Jesus at the gate of heaven what question will he ask you?  He told us, “did you clothe me when I was naked?  Did you feed me when I was hungry”?

  • Jessica

    Jessica May 27, 2010

    I wish someone could explain to me (if they believe in OSAS) what James 5:19-20 is referring to:  “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins,”

    How could someone save a soul from death if there’s no way that we could lose our salvation?

    Clearly the “anyone among you” are Christians, right because they are wandering from the “truth”.  This verse just doesn’t make any sense to me and I’ve yet to get a good answer of what this means if it’s not how I’m interpreting it.

  • VT

    VT May 27, 2010

    Or Romans 11: 22 - 23
    “See, then, the kindness and severity of God: Severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.  And they also, if they do not remain in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.”

  • Gavin

    Gavin May 28, 2010

    @Zee - Comment subscription is coming, should be up by the end of the weekend.

    Don’t hesitate to let us know other ways we can make the site more enjoyable.

    Thanks

  • Nina

    Nina January 14, 2011

    I am a five point Calvinist who has been brought up to believe that I contributed to my salvation and that I could lose it. However, I have since realised that I have been asking the wrong question! The question should not be ‘can a Christian lose their salvation’ but rather it should be ‘can Christ lose a sheep?’ The answer to that question is a resounding no!

    I am a sinner who has been saved by grace alone! As it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” It is the acknowledgement that salvation from the wrath of God is based on God’s grace and mercy and not on anything good in us! The Bible clearly teaches that our hearts are “deceitful” and “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV) and that “there is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God” (Romans 3:10-11).  However, in our humanity it can be hard to acknowledge our total depravity and lack of abiltity to choose  God! We must remember that he first chose us  “We love him, because he first loved us.”—1 John 4:19 and that apart from the grace of God we would have no salvation!

    It is an amazing grace that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God saves us because of His mercy and goodness and not because of anything that makes us desirable to God or worthy to be saved. We cannot grasp how amazing God’s grace in salvation is until we first grasp how sinful we truly are.

    The Bible says there is “no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:11), the good news is that God seeks after sinners. Jesus said He came to seek and save that which is lost (Luke 19:10), not to wait for the lost to seek Him. It is God who acts first, God who draws the wretched sinner to Himself, God who gives new life to person who is “dead in their trespasses and sins,” God who causes a person to be “born again” so he or she can “see the kingdom of God.” 

    2 timothy 1:8-9 “... the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” This clearly shows that we have been saved by grace and not of works! 

    However, I do agree that faith without works is dead, since if God has saved you he will have given you genuine saving faith (by His grace) and this faith will cause you to do good works! If you do not have grace your faith is dead too. Works are not necessary for salvation but rather they evidence of of it! So to answer the question, you cannot continue to be a mass murderer and be saved because you have not been born again. How do I know this? You show no evidence of repenting and obviously don’t have the fruit of the spirit.  However, if you have been a mass murderer all your life and don’t come to saving faith until your death bed you will still be saved as the thief on the cross was. You are not saved because of works but works are evidence that you have been saved by faith which was given to you by Gods grace alone! Indeed, 2nd timothy also states that it is God who grants repentance! The spirit convicts of sin, God grants repentance and faith, a person is born again and the result is that they want to please God through their actions! Note their actions did not save but are evidence that they have been saved!  

    You cannot add to salvation or take away from it! As Paul said ‘shall I continue in sin so that grace abounds?!’ This verse is twofold, being regenerated we have been born again, justified and are being sanctified by Gods grace, consequently we should not bound by sin and therefore should not continue to be living in it!  Also we should not be bound by the law because Christ has fulfilled it for us! His grace is sufficient and as this verse shows we cannot add to it at all! Works cannot add to our salvation, because christ has done it all and His grace is sufficient!!  


    Please remember that the grace of God is always greater than your greatest sin!!!! 

  • Jessica

    Jessica January 17, 2011

    Hi Nina,

    Glad to see you join the conversation.  I am fascinated by 5 point Calvinism so I really appreciate your insights.  Can you tell me why a Calvinist would ever pray?  What would the purpose be if everything is predestined by God anyway?

  • Nina

    Nina January 19, 2011

    Hi! Yeah it’s good to chat about God! Nice to meet you!

    I get asked this quite alot. I suppose the answer must start at the beginning with the human condition. We are all “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1); “enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:17 John 8:34); blinded by the god of this world” (II Corinthians. 4:4); our hearts are hardened against God (Ephesians 4:18) and are so hostile to God that we rebel against His infallible will (Romans 8:7)! Since this is the case there is no hope for the sinner to come to Christ by their own effort. God needs to come and perform a miracle in them enabling them to see and come. Of sinners are left to their own “free-will” to come then there is no hope for anybody for a dead man cannot choose life and a hostile Heart so hardened against God cannot change of it’s own accord to do His will. But God is gracious and makes the blind see and the deaf hear! He by his sovereign will commands them to come and by his grace they are able! 

    However, If you believe that man must have free-will what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for Him? You can’t ask that God overcome the man’s rebellion, for rebellion is precisely what the man is choosing, so that would mean that God would have to overcome his choice and take away his free-will. If God did not act in His sovereign power and convict this man of sin and change his heart then how could he come?  But Christ can make the dead man alive again! He IS the ressurection and the life, He resurrects the dead in sin and gives them life! 

    Do you pray that God would enlighten his mind so that he may see the glory of God and come to follow Christ? If you pray this, you are asking God not to leave this man in sin which has chosen through his free will, but to change his heart so that he may see and believe!! And you concede that God determines who will come to trust in Him.  

    Our prayers are predestined but so are the answers. If we do not pray we will not get the answer. Prayer enables us to see God working, they strengthen our faith and enable us to come to the father through Christ! 

    Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God. And since"no one can come to Christ unless it is given him from the Father” (John 6:65,44), if God does not convert then no-one can come to Christ. 

     “I believe that “God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) I believe that God has predestined and chosen his people from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4,5), and I believe in praying that His will be done just as Jesus did! 

    Only the person who rejects free-will can truly pray for God to save the lost.   I will pray that God will “take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). I will pray that they be born not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God (John 1:13). And I will pray that God will grant them repentance and freedom from Satan’s snare” (II Timothy 2:24-26).

    I do not want a God who sits back and waits for people to change knowing that they are dead in sin and can’t! I want God to reveal Himself in all His splendor to those he would save by His grace! I want him to overcome their will, break their chains, give them life and draw them to himself! 

    God has chosen before the foundation of the world who would be converted but my prayers have also been ordained! “How shall the lost believe in whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach unless they are sent (Romans 10:14f.)?” Yes as explained in  (John 6:65; II Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8), belief in Christ is a gift of God but God has ordained that the means by which men believe  - through the preaching of men. It is just insane to say that if no one spread the gospel all those predestined to be sons of God (Ephesians 1:5) would be converted anyway because it overlooks the fact that the preaching of the gospel is just as predestined as is the believing of the gospel! God knows His people and will raise up messengers to win them, through preaching or through prayer. 

     “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (I John 5:14). Even When we don’t know how to pray or what to pray for “the Spirit of God intercedes for us according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

    As Paul says in Romans 15:18 “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles.” God works in us and his plans are accomplished through us because he has ordained what will come to pass and the means through which it will come to pass. 

    As spurgeon states: “Free will carried many a soul to hell, but never a soul to heaven.”

  • Jessica

    Jessica January 19, 2011

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments.  I have more questions:)  I hope that’s okay!

    “Since this is the case there is no hope for the sinner to come to Christ by their own effort.”

    I agree that without God we can not come to him because we are dead in sin.  But God’s gift of grace is for all believers.  So doesn’t the Holy Spirit draw ALL men unto himself?  Meaning, God acts first to soften our heart since it is something we can not do alone, but the next step would be ours.  The premise you’ve stated above is so rooted in how sinful we are that we can not actively choose God without His help, which I agree 100%, I guess my question is, why can’t his grace be for everyone, and then we choose it or deny it?  Which is why it’s a gift.  The same as any gift.  You can receive it, or reject it.

    “However, If you believe that man must have free-will what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for Him?”

    When I pray for an unbeliever, I pray for a crisis in his life to humble him enough to seek a Savior.  I pray God send the Holy Spirit to convict him, I pray for God to continue to soften His heart so that he would make the decision to follow.


    “If God did not act in His sovereign power and convict this man of sin and change his heart then how could he come?”

    Again, to this I agree to some extent.  Without God, he can not come.  God acts first ALWAYS. 

    Okay, so another question for ya… 

    Can you explain as a Calvinist James 5:19-20?  It appears to me that this verse is indicating that a believer can save another believer from spiritual death if you go and get that backslider and convince him/her to repent.  My question is:  How could he die if he was once saved always saved?  And how could he have ever lived if the answer is that he wasn’t really saved in the first place?

    I also struggle with Romans 11::21-22.  How can one be “cut off” if they don’t “continue in kindness”?  Why would Paul give such a warning if there was no way to lose salvation?

    Thanks for your insights.  I really love talking about this stuff:)

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