There is a prevalent fear among Christians that we can lose our salvation by failing to ask forgiveness for misdeeds. This sentiment was expressed by a reader who commented on a previous post, “[My childhood prayer] seemed to set up the idea that my salvation was in question. Every night the same question and hope that I was saved. It has carried over into my adulthood in some ways–am I being good enough, have I asked forgiveness for every sin, etc.”
It’s a concern I have heard before and wonder about myself from time to time. If we go to sleep without repenting of our sins or–more frighteningly–we are unaware of a mistake and we “die before we wake,” will we go to hell?
Is our salvation so precarious? Where does the notion come from?
Often it comes from the pulpit of our churches. The primary thrust in some churches is evangelism and there is little discipleship to teach new believers how to live the Christian life. Once a person has put their trust in Christ, the message doesn’t change. Week after week they are told to turn from their sinful ways lest they incur the wrath of God. The result can be discouragement and some have turned some away from Jesus all together to avoid a cloud of guilt and shame.
While it is important to clearly explain the Gospel requirements for right standing with God–which do require us to change our minds about who Jesus is and surrender to His Lordship–once this transaction is complete, it is finished once and for all time. The sinner positionally becomes a saint in God’s eyes.
Another reason we can feel this sense of fear is because of that old liar, the devil. While “it is written” that God has removed our transgressions as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and that He remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12), Satan wants to bury this truth.
The enemy knows our weaknesses. He knows that as a man “thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV) and so takes wicked glee in being the accuser. If he can convince you that you have messed up, that you can’t live up to God’s perfect standard, that you could die in your sleep and go to your damnation for some unrepented action, he is satisfied. He might not be able to take Heaven away from your eternity, but he can keep you in hell on earth and rob you of receiving God’s blessings–not because they are not offered, but because your guilty conscious stops you from accepting them. John 3:21(NLT) reminds us, “Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence.”
As John points out in the verse above, it can also be our own guilty conscience that condemns us. It can help to remember that when you accepted Christ, your spirit was cleansed and made perfect, sealed by the gift of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13). It is as perfect as it will ever be. But our bodies are on a downhill slide and the mind, will, and emotion are still in need of an overhaul. If we look at our body, our behavior, and scan our own thoughts, it is easy to be self-accusatory, but Jesus has promised to take us on a journey to become more like Him, not to condemn us for our feeble efforts (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It is written:
“But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. Hebrews 10:12-14 (NLT).”
We were MADE perfect; we are BEING MADE holy.
What other lies that trip you up on your spiritual journey?