Firm in Faith

Over the past few years I have seen and talked to people who have struggled in one of two ways:

  1. One is that they feel compelled to DO things (witnessing, devotions etc) not out of wanting to magnify God, but out of a mentality of keeping God happy with them, Not because they’re grateful, but because they’re afraid of backsliding or losing their salvation.
  2. The other is a feeling of condemnation where every day they are living under the fear of being condemned by God because they’ve failed somehow.

While this topic may not be relevant to you personally right now, I’m certain there are most likely people around you, or people you know dealing with one of these two issues, and we need to be able to help them.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” – John 3:16-18

These two issues flow out of essentially the same thinking. They come from a wrong understanding of both the gospel and our hope in Christ.

Our hope in Christ is borne out of an understanding of our security in Him. If we have no security or safety in Him, then what hope could we have. Hope can be a confusing word, because in our day it carries the meaning of maybe, possibly, I ‘hope’ so. ( I hope it’s sunny tomorrow ) ( hopefully I’ll get that job), But Scripturally it is a firm assurance, a certainty. We have hope in Christ’s return because we KNOW God keeps His word. This certainty and hope of salvation can only occur if we are certain we are in Christ and will remain in Christ.

The importance of rightly understanding salvation

I want to start with looking into the issue of security. Security is a fascinating concept.

The dictionary puts it like this:

the state of being free from danger or threat
the state of feeling safe, stable, and free from fear or anxiety

We all enjoy security and it’s something we can easily take for granted. With no need to worry, or fret. Some may remember the days when you didn’t have to lock your car or house. And when you lost your wallet you could go to the police station to get it back (at least where I grew up).

Nowadays, our society is wrapped up in fears, and anxieties because they don’t have security.

Security has a conjoined twin called Peace. When there is no security, there is no peace. When there is no peace or security, we’re usually only left with fear. And when fear rules, people often freeze and do nothing. Even when it comes to the economy, when there is fear people tend towards doing nothing. But God doesn’t want us as Christians to do nothing. He gives us Peace through the promises in His word and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, which removes the shackles of insecurity and liberates us to serve Him.

Peace is essential for victorious Christians.

Maybe it’s just me, but when you have a weight bearing over you it prevents you from going about normal tasks of life. Often when fear overcomes someone they freeze up and feel like crawling up into a ball. In a spiritual sense, when we are constantly unsure of our salvation, we will tend away from activities like witnessing, fellowship, and bible reading, because our peace, joy and motivation are missing. Some may go to the other extreme and do all they can to work up a feeling of salvation through works, but this will always erode away over time.

I remember many years ago, I went through a time when I was questioning if I was really saved. I had a continual tug of war in my mind:

Left: You can’t be a Christian, you sin too much.

Right: But my trust is in Christ

Left: You don’t read the bible enough

Right: But I long to read it more

Left: You don’t pray enough either

Right: Your right, and I hate that I don’t pray enough.

I remember going through a study that went through biblical points of salvation. Unlike the fleshly mind that likes to make up a list of works (witnessing, bible, prayer etc), this went through fruits of salvation (Gal 5:22-23). I still remember the joy & peace that flooded in as I went through the promises of God to those who’s trust is in Him, and the reassurance we have when we trust and believe in His word. It’s good to stay refreshed with God’s faithful promises, so the devil doesn’t get a foothold in our minds.

Common misunderstandings

There are numerous misunderstandings when it comes to salvation and security, and I want to just cover some main ones.

Firstly the two I mentioned earlier were in regard to a works mentality. We humans are so geared towards works that even Christians can move towards a works mentality. We start to think that we need to do this task or that task or we will slip out of God’s hands. As if somehow God is unable to raise His children. We need to examine our motivations and thinking. Are we doing what we do, because God has saved us, because He is worthy, and because we’re grateful? Or because we want to make sure we get to Heaven? Herein lies the danger. The thought that we can add to our salvation or contribute to it in anyway is contrary with the gospel. This thinking is more in line with Mormons who believe they must do all they can to earn salvation, and then Jesus makes up the leftovers. What an insult to the work of Christ on the cross, to think that His work wasn’t quite enough.

Be honest with yourself: If you were to stand before God when you die and He says “Why should I let you into Heaven”, what response goes through your mind? For many people in Christendom I imagine it would go something like this: Well, I read my bible every day, (ok, most days). I went to Church every Sunday (except grand final day). I spent most my life telling people about You. And right there the real problem comes to the service. The reason they think they should go to Heaven is all based on what THEY have DONE. But no one goes to Heaven because of “Works” that “They” do.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matt 7:21

What is God’s will? 1 John 3:19-24 “This is my Son, hear Him.” “God is not willing that any perish, but that all would come to repentance.” “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Gal 1:3

So why is it you do the things you do?

The other misunderstanding is the notion that you lose your salvation every time you sin. This one is truly tragic.  I’m not sure exactly where this one comes from, but I’ve heard it on more than one occasion. Let’s have a quick look at this one.

The thought that Christ’s work on the cross was only able to remove past sins is a little crazy. In fact it’s actually quite Roman Catholic in nature. They have to continue to go to confession and do penance so they can avoid purgatory. But the Bible give us hope in this area, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” 1 John 2:1

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” Philippians 1:6

Some of this misunderstanding might be due to a misunderstanding of 1 John 3 “He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” – KJV

Unfortunately the King James doesn’t quite get the idea John is trying to portray. Other translations get closer. “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” – ESV

The Dangers of having wrong thinking about salvation and hope

Where is your peace? If your salvation depends on you being perfect, or in you keeping the OT law, is it then a Gospel of grace or works? How is it that these people assumably believe they are saved by grace through faith, and yet they apparently lose it because of works. Either salvation is gained and remains by grace through faith OR it starts and continues with works.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph: 2:8-10

How does continual re-salvation reflect on the saving power of Christ! If it’s true that you become unsaved every time you sin, then what does that say about the saving power of Jesus and His work on the cross. In fact what does that say about the work of the Holy Spirit. If this was the case, He’d have no time to guide and teach you, He’d be forever packing His bags, moving in, moving out, moving in, moving out.

If God has saved you, God will keep you and He will sanctify you. If you’re disobedient or wayward He will chastise you. In fact, if you never feel the chastisement of the Father then you’ve got bigger problems. Chastisement is an act of Love, not an act of dis-ownership. I discipline my children because I love them and want the best for them. My chastisement is for their benefit. (see Hebrews 12:4-11)

Can the person who thinks they’re continually losing their salvation have hope? Can you really have hope if you’re unsure whether you’ll make it through the week without losing it? Hope is based on something solid and secure. Both of these are found in our Saviour, and His saving power. Both are solid and secure.

This wrong thinking is based completely in works, and is not what the Scripture teaches. What must this do for the persons anxiety levels? You can only imagine the anxiety levels of someone who holds to this wrong teaching. But with right thinking (from the scripture), and true faith, we can have a peace that surpasses all understanding, and a hope that will never fade.

Back before I was a Christian, I use to continually give my Heart to Jesus. Did I have hope, maybe, but it was very short lived. Just up till I stuffed up again, and had to start all over again. Churches are filled with people who continually go up with an alter call, rededicating their lives to Jesus, week after week asking Him into their hearts. I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall Jesus commanding us to ask Him into our hearts. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to REPENTANCE.

God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in Righteousness.” Repentance also has a co-joined twin, called FAITH.

Salvation by grace

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” Titus 3:5

Romans 8 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Then next part of this verse continues on from chapter 6 and 7 which is about being under grace, not law.

What does this mean for your security in Christ? If you can’t work your way into the kingdom, then I’m certain you can’t work your way out? Did Christ save you because you were perfect, and now that you’re not is He going to kick you out? Romans 6:14 speaks clearly when it say “we’re not under the law, but under grace.” The common objection is “well then we can go and sin.” And this is precisely what an unregenerate mind thinks. But Paul deals clearly with this in this same chapter:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus have been baptised into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.” Roman 6:1-6

Those who we might refer to as GRACE abusers have other issues that need dealing with, such as “The Fear of the Lord” and Galatians 5:19-21. In fact now-a-days if you say you have a sure hope in Christ, some people think that this will lead to grace abuse, so what they’re effectively saying, is: In order for them not to abuse Gods grace, salvation must hinge on them not sinning so they don’t take His grace for granted.” Notice what this is, works, works, works, works.

If we are in Christ, if we abide in Christ we will earnestly seek to not sin, because we don’t want to sin against the one we love. True grace turns people away from sin. Cheap Grace will lead them back to sin.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus, 14who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14

What are some of Christ’s promises

Heb 13:5 “I will never leave you nor forsake you.

What can separate us from the love of God, nothing. Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” vs 39 “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” John 10:24

Here are some questions I want to leave you with is:

Are you firm in Faith?
Is your faith in Christ alone for salvation, or is it dependant on you?
Are you in Christ? Are you trusting in His work alone to save you from God’s wrath?
Do you believe and trust His word above man, or do you have a works mentality/theology?

Do you find yourself doing good works to make sure you get to Heaven? Or because you already have the sure promise of life eternal, so you glorify God in Heaven with your good works. If it’s the former you need to repent of these dead works and put your faith in Christ finished work on the cross.

Do you experience the peace promised by God? The peace that surpasses all understanding.
Does your hope lie in earthly circumstances, or eternal promises?
Are you resting in Christ, the unchanging One?

What does Christ offer those who come to Him?

Forgiveness of Sins:

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” Ephesians 1:7

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:38-39

Freedom from the second death:

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” Revelation 20:6

All things that pertain to life and godliness:

seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” 2 Peter 1:3

Life eternal:

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believes not God has made him a liar; because he believes not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:10-13

Eternal hope enables and motivates us to live a righteous life. When we rightly understand our position in Christ, and His sure promises we can go about His work without fear and worry.

An example of a works mentality thinking would be: “What if I put all this effort into being a Christian, and I still don’t get to Heaven”. Notice the focus. It has nothing to do with Grace through Faith, but everything to do with works. A better thought might be: Having been saved by such a gracious God, what else can I do to glorify Him and show my love for him.

So in Closing, look unto Jesus the author and finisher of your Faith, and help those whom you may come across who are struggling with these issues.

~ Published by Chris Sandford

This message was originally written for a Sunday morning sermon and was first preached on 4th December 2011 at Cornerstone Gospel Church in Frankston Australia. Quotations may be taken providing they remain in context with the message. Permission is granted to use and distribute this document providing it remains unchanged and attribution is provided.