I’ve heard both sides of the argument, and only God truly knows a person’s heart, but I can share a few thoughts. One thing is for certain: Salvation is a gift from God that cannot be earned.
One school of thought suggests that salvation cannot be lost, as in losing your car keys, but that it can be left, as in walking away from it. This may be why Jesus spoke of the man who said in his “heart”: My master delays His coming; therefore, I will turn from living a godly life. When the master returned unexpectedly, the servant was banished because he chose to turn from what he knew to be right. In another passage, Jesus said, “You have left your first love,” when speaking to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:4). James 5:19-20 adds: If anyone wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, a soul is saved from death. If anything, these Scriptures, and many more, reinforce the fact that we have certain responsibilities. We should never turn from what we know to be right. Jesus encouraged His followers to be watchful, prepared, and ready for His return. Are we watchful? Are we prepared? Are we ready? (See Matthew 24:45-51; Luke 21:34.)
The other school of thought suggests that some of those passages are dealing with people who never fully surrendered to Christ. As a result, they fell away. They heard the gospel, but never fully embraced it and turned from their sins; they only had “intellectual” knowledge of salvation. According to this view, the real question isn’t, “Can a person lose their salvation?” but, “Was the person really saved to begin with?” Titus 1:16 and James 2:14 both conclude that many people “say” that they know God, but deny Him by their lifestyle. I John 2:19 suggests that those who acknowledge Christ initially, but deny Him later, are not saved to begin with.
The important question is not, “Can I lose my salvation,” but, “What is the condition of my heart—have I truly repented and trusted in Christ as my Lord and Savior, or am I trusting in religion and tradition?” This may be why Paul said in II Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” Our actions do reveal a great deal about our relationship with Christ. A.W. Tozer said: “When people find that after being in the church for years they are not making much progress, they ought to examine themselves and wonder whether they have been truly converted.” He added: “True conversion means radical repentance, a changed life, conscious forgiveness of sin, and a spiritual rebirth.” Has your heart become so hard as to reject Jesus Christ? If so, you can change that.
I’m aware that I’m really driving this point home in my columns, but I’d rather err on the side of speaking too much about a committed relationship with Jesus than too little. If current statistics hold true, many in our postmodern culture will embrace a glamorized Christianity and be led astray. Life is a battleground, not a playground. My goal, therefore, is not to be politically correct, seeker-sensitive, or user friendly, but to speak the truth in love. II Corinthians 5:17 states, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Your past is forgiven, your present secure, and your future certain. Through Christ, you are a brand new person. Though the road ahead may be uncertain at times, the solid ground beneath will never shift.