I used to believe that I could lose my salvation.
To be sure I prayed a prayer to Jesus Christ, asking him to save me, and my hopes rested on whether I had prayed that prayer faithfully enough. Had I said the right words? Did I really, really, really, mean it? etc.
I viewed my salvation, not in terms of the gospel as described in scripture, but in terms of whether or not I felt saved at that particular moment or not. To be certain I rarely felt saved. Prior to coming to Christ my sins hardly bothered me at all unless it meant I would get caught or humiliated on account of them. But once I saw myself as a sinner, and begged Christ to save me, my awareness of sin became overwhelmingly acute. Suddenly I saw that almost everything I thought, said, or did was sinful and I began to repent with as much strength and power as a man can repent.
The trouble was that I couldnt repent enough to be free from the feeling that I had plenty of room to go and consequently, I never felt saved. I would have bouts of horrible doubt was I really a child of God? Yes, God had delivered me from all manner of sinful living yes my life had turned a complete 180 degrees yes I was now in love with God, and reading scripture, and prayer but still I was failing in some areas. I redoubled my efforts lived for weeks in prayer yet that didnt stave off the doubts. I felt I was losing my salvation every time I left the throne of grace and soon, I wasnt even sure I was saved when I came to that throne.
None of this came from scripture mind you, I just felt that one who is saved ought to have some sort of salvation feeling you know something esoteric, yet tangible, that one can inwardly check and instantaneously and unerringly determine whether or not they are a child of God or deceived: I overlooked some of the things in my own life:
- the sudden sensitivity to sin
- the radical shift away from wanting my own will accomplished and towards wanting Gods will accomplished
- the sudden preference for goodie-two-shoes (Christians) who formerly made my skin crawl
- the sudden hunger to read the bible
- the sudden desire to know God more
- the peace found in prayer
- the new found joy in seeing God glorified
I never would have considered that these things bore witness to the presence of Gods spirit in my life.
Now, I dont want to confuse the issue I didnt feel assured of my salvation is all I am saying. But there is a difference between being assured and being secured. If you had the blood of the lamb on your lentil and doorpost in Egypt that first Passover you were secure. You might not have felt assured, but your assurance or lack of it didnt change the fact that you were secure. You could be resting comfortably sleeping like a baby trusting entirely in the blood of the lamb to save you, or you could be wide awake fretting about whether or not you applied the blood the right way to the lentil and the doorpost and worrying about whether you had enough of it, or if you put it on thick enough or what have you. Your fretting doesnt change your security you are under the blood because of the blood, and not because you were particularly good at putting it on your doorpost.
In the same way, I dont want to confuse assurance with security. One can be entirely secure and have absolutely no assurance whatsoever because they live their life in continuing sin, just as easily as one can be entirely lost but presuming themselves saved, resting in a deluded form of false assurance.
My point is that I was not assured of my salvation and in the strength of my doubt I felt that I was alternately saved or lost depending on how well my walk was going.
Most of my early faith therefore was not spent in pursuing Jesus, but rather in pursuing the feeling of being saved. The enemy kept me from growing very much spiritually in those days. My every thought was always and ever about whether or not I was a genuine believer, and so all my study and effort was focused on myself. I needed to stay saved, and as a result I wasnt a very effective witness for Christ, being as I was, always and ever wrapped up in my own efforts to keep myself saved, or convince myself that I was saved in the first place.
Now, praise the Lord, in this time I did have a tremendous hunger for Gods word, and in the strength of this hunger, I devoured the bible. I read it cover to cover again and again many times. Eventually what I understand now to be the truth began to sink in.
In the process of conception, not every sperm finds an egg to produce life, nor does every egg become fertilized. This might seem harsh and unfair to some but most of us accept it without giving it much thought. Some believe it is all random anyway but even these dont weep for all the sperm and eggs that never produce a life. When life is conceived, it is fair to say that the life that is produced was not produced in any way of its own accord. That is, the child that is conceived had no say in the matter whatsoever having not been a person until after conception.
Birth therefore is the perfect picture of our own inability. While everyone that lives today was born at some time none of us can say that we had any part in the decision to actually be born. We were passively brought into this live by forces outside our existence. Just as the wind blows wherever it blows we see its effect, but we have no control over it whatsoever. So too everyone who is born in the flesh is acted upon by outside forces, and life is breathed into them by God, not because of anything they have done but because God has chosen to do so. Yes, the babes heart beats, and the baby breathes and learns to eat and drink etc but the life comes from God, and only from God.
Now even if we had no bible, creation itself demonstrates that life originates with God and not with man that is what this pictures. Nicodemus was the teacher of Israel, but he missed that. Nevertheless, Christ himself uses the imagery of birth to picture the process by which God calls men to salvation.
If men actually saved themselves this sort of imagery would be inaccurate (at best). Christ used the imagery of being born however, because it is a perfect image of what is going on spiritually. We have as much a role in our being born from above as we have in our having been born physically and that is to say, none whatsoever.
The wind blows wherever it wishes and though we hear the sound of it, we still cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going to all we can do is sit and watch what it does. We have no active role in what the wind is going to do we are spectators, and passive participants. So it is with those who are born of the Spirit, just as it was those who were born of the flesh spectators, passive participants.
When I began to see that scripture teaches that God saves sinners, as opposed to sinners using God as a means to save themselves then I began to appreciate how secure my salvation truly was.
You see, when I thought I was saving myself, I was working like crazy to stay saved because my faith was in myself that is, my hope rested on my own ability to keep myself saved. I wasnt trusting God to save me I was trying to save myself and such a hope was sifting sand, as I was and ever will be, unable to keep the law perfectly as Christ kept it.
Then I realized the truth my righteousness, according to the gospel, doesnt save me.
I had to let that sink in. I knew it was true it is the very gospel itself but I began to let it really speak to me. I wasnt saved in the first place by my own righteousness in fact Jeremiah 19:9 tells me that all my righteousnesses are in fact unclean that is, if I am relying on my own ability to be good to keep me saved I am in fact relying on something that God Himself has openly declared unclean. What a mess I had made of it. Here I was trying to stay saved how? By works of righteousness of course!
Why did I do anything righteous? To prove to myself that I was saved of course all the righteousness I was doing was a filthy rag to God but I felt that if I was doing the best I could praying, studying the bible, going to church, being sincere, etc., that these things were going to keep me saved. But the reality is that I wasnt trusting in God to save me anymore I was trusting in my own arm to keep me saved and it was all contrary to scripture.
Yes, I could find a dozen proof texts that seemed to say that I could lose my salvation but I could also find in the rest of scripture a message that said loud and clear God chose me and not vice versa. I was not saved by a faith that I generated but by a faith that was given to me as a gift - if my salvation was something I manufactured, then maybe I could unmanufactured it but if God saved me, then I was saved indeed.
I could pull up all the proof texts to demonstrate that I am saved by God, and eternally so, but you asked for testimony.
If a man says a prayer in order to get into heaven, and having some assurance that no matter what he is going to go to heaven if that same person embarks on a life of sinful liberty trusting his prayer to save him, and having no remorse continues to do so until he perishes I do not doubt for a second that the man was a tare and not a wheat.
If a man says a prayer, and continues in the church for years, excelling only to one day plummet away from the church never to come again, and professing to no longer believe I do not doubt that the man is a tare and not a wheat.
These have not lost their salvation but have never been saved in the first place their conversion was false, and whatever external evidence was given as witness to their salvation was not given in love of the Lord, but rather in love of self to garner respect, or even to secure for themselves a certainty of their own salvation. Whatever the case they went out from us because they were not of us had they been of us they would not have gone out from us but the fact that they did go out from us demonstrates that they were never really saved in the first place.
So the person that falls away and no longer believes according to the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints as I understand it and I think I have the common understanding is not losing his salvation, nor is he keeping it he was never saved to begin with.
Once saved always saved doesnt mean that if you say some salvation prayer you are saved no matter what it means that if you are genuinely born again you will persevere to the end because you are genuinely born again. The fact that you persevere demonstrates the genuine nature of your salvation. If you fall away it demonstrates that you were not genuine.
Tares look like wheat that is the problem.
Daniel van de Laar