There are those who teach that once you are saved, indicating that salvation is a single, one-time experience, that you are sinless from that point forward, i.e. that you cannot commit a single sin and still be a Christian. Some will say that you lose your salvation every time that you sin and that you have to repent each time to get it back, or you are not saved.
And, then there are those who see salvation as a single, one-time event after which you are guaranteed eternal life with God no matter how you live your life from that point forward.
I believe the truth lies somewhere in between these extremes.
There are also those who teach that salvation from sin is totally God and that we have no part in it at all, other than to “believe,” which is often very ambiguous as to what that means exactly. I mean, even the demons believe, but they are not saved. Or else they misrepresent “belief.”
Some will even go so far as to say that God requires nothing of us for salvation – no obedience, no submission and no repentance, just an ambiguous faith. And, they will often accuse those who teach repentance for salvation of teaching works-based salvation.
But, then there are those who truly do teach works-based salvation in that they literally teach that we earn our way to heaven by our good works and that we really can’t know if we have eternal life with God.
Again, I believe the truth lies somewhere in between these extremes.
The Lord Jesus led me to read Philippians 2:12-13 (NASB).
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Vv. 12-13
I believe our salvation is of God, that it is initiated by God the Father, who draws us to Christ, and that the way made for us to receive it is by the sacrifice of Jesus on that cross for our sins. I believe that it is the Spirit who transforms us from death to life, in New Birth, and that there is nothing we can do, in our own flesh, to earn or to deserve heaven as our eternal home.
So, I believe it is by God’s grace that we are saved, and that this is not something we can accomplish through our own good works. It is the gift of God. But, the Bible says that it is “through faith” (See: Eph. 2:8-10).
Now, I believe that even the faith to believe is a gift from God, i.e. that faith means divine persuasion. It is only as we are persuaded by God with regard to his will for our lives, and of his saving grace, and it is only through the moving of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we are even able to believe. Some will differ with me on this, but I believe faith is God-given, too, and thus, since it is from God, it will submit to his will, repent of sin and walk in obedience to Christ.
Yet, we are not puppets on a string. We do have a free will to choose to obey or to not obey. Every day of our lives we have a choice whether to get out of bed in the mornings and go to work, or do whatever it is we do each day, or we can choose to be lazy and stay in bed. Also, we have a choice to get angry or to show grace, to forgive or to not forgive, etc.
We might be able to do some of this in our own flesh through behavioral modification, but ultimately, the ability, as a believer, to walk in obedience and not in sin is empowered by the Spirit of God, but only as we yield control to the Spirit and cooperate with God. So, this is how we can “work out” our own salvation, and that it is God who works in us, too. It is because the “work” is not the works of the flesh, but the works of the Spirit, and empowered by the Spirit in us, but as we yield control of our lives to God.
I also believe our salvation is not a one-time event whereby we either never sin again or we feel we can sin “to high heaven” (Rev. 18:5) and still be saved. The Bible says we are saved (past), we are being saved (present) and that we will be saved (future) when Christ returns and our salvation is complete. And, it says that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who walk (in lifestyle), not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-17).
Many of the verses, which give the impression of past belief as being sufficient for our salvation, are translated from Greek into another language, such as into English, which does not share all the same verb tenses with the Greek language. Thus, what many of these verses actually say is that, to the one believing (present tense), they have eternal life with God (Jn. 3:16), i.e. we are not saved on the basis of past belief, but on the basis of present and active belief.
As well, there are many scriptures which state that if we walk according to the flesh, or in darkness, or according to our sinful nature, or in sinful practices, that we will die in our sins, not have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. And, these are given to Christians as warnings not to set their hope on heaven if they are still walking in sin; practicing sin.
The overall message in scripture regarding eternal life with God and true salvation, and with regard to our sin, is that Jesus forgives us our sins, and that he delivers us from slavery to sin, but that if we should sin (1 Jn. 2:1-2), we have an advocate to the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. Scripture is clear, though, that if we make sin our practice and if we walk in it, that we should not expect to go to heaven when we leave this earth. So, it isn’t that we can never sin, but that if we walk in sin, we don’t have eternal life.
And, added to that, there are also many scriptures which say we must remain in Christ and in his Word, and we must continue in the faith we profess, and we must endure to the end, etc., if we want to have eternal life with God. The message is clear that the kind of faith which results in salvation, in eternal life with God, is the kind which endures, continues and which perseveres to the end. Again, we are not saved on the basis of past belief, but on the basis of present belief.
For His Good Pleasure
So, what does it mean to “believe” in Jesus Christ? The Bible defines true faith in Christ as that which results in death to sin and living to righteousness, and walking according to the Spirit, and no longer according to the flesh. For if you are walking according to the Spirit, and by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, you have eternal life. But, if you are walking (in lifestyle) according to the flesh, you don’t have eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25; Rom. 8:1-17; 1 Jn. 1:5-9; Gal. 5:19-21).
So, not only is true belief death to sin and living to righteousness, of the Spirit of God, i.e. it is repentance and obedience, because it is of God, and it is a lifestyle, not a one-time experience and “bam,” you have eternal life guaranteed no matter how you live your life from that moment forward.
If you look up the Greek word for “believe” (See Jn. 3:16), you will find that it means to be persuaded by God. If we are persuaded by God to believe, and not by humans, who may be persuading us the wrong way, then we will be persuaded to yield our lives over to Jesus Christ in surrender to him and to his will for our lives. Then, it is true faith and not human-generated faith which is relying on the flesh and not on the Spirit. It is not the kind of belief the demons have, but it is belief that is proved genuine by what it does.
So, are you relying on human belief to save you, or have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ, repented of your sins, and turned to follow Jesus with your life, because you are being persuaded of God as to his will and purpose for your life? Has the Holy Spirit taken you from death to life, from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God? Or, are you just trying to add faith in Christ on to your old life of living for sin and self?
Jesus, Lead Me
An Original Work / July 22, 2011
Jesus, lead me all the way.
Be my hope and be my stay.
Gently lead me where I should go,
So Your Spirit, I want to know.
Open up my heart to You.
Fill me with Your love and truth.
Make my heart want to obey.
Be my Lord today. Gently lead always.
Jesus, lover of my soul,
Cleanse my heart, and make me whole;
Be transformed in my heart today,
As I turn from my sin and pray.
Make Your will known to my heart.
May I not from You depart.
How I long to hear You now,
As I humbly bow. Jesus, hear me now.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 5:58 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from your word. Move in our hearts today, giving us the desire, the strength and the power to walk in your holiness and righteousness. Amen!