Constantly stressing about whether you are saved or not reveals a heart issue.
It’s quite possible false-grace teaching was born due to a number of related issues, including the never ending torment that comes from wondering if one is saved or not. Additionally, many struggle to find freedom from sin and they ultimately throw up their hands and adopt a theology that better matches their experience. This theology argues that, even as Christians, we are all sinners, we sin every day and the only resolution that works for them is eradication of the penalty of sin—instead of the truth of true grace that enables us to find very real victory from sin itself.
Instead of declaring that the blood of Jesus truly enables us to stop sinning (through a process of sanctification), false-grace adherents commonly believe it’s ridiculous to presume Christians can legitimately find freedom. Instead, they attempt to lift the burden of sinfulness and where they will spend eternity by teaching that their sin has no eternal consequence.
In my Charisma Magazine article titled 5 Marks of the False Grace Message, I called this a theology of exemption:
A theology of exemption states that since we are saved, we are exempt from the penalties of sin. That there are parts of the Bible that no longer apply to us. Yes, it's a heresy. False grace removes bible-based responsibilities to respond to God in holiness.
The number of people who subconsciously or unwittingly embrace a theology of exemption is far greater than those who explicitly pronounce their agreement with this doctrine. Many subscribe to false-grace doctrines without realizing their deception.
Many have been lulled into a false sense of security while actually existing in an unsaved state. They are confident they'd enter heaven if they died, yet the reality is that they would not. They have come to believe they are exempt from certain parts of the Word of God that requires response.
THE ISSUE OF SALVATION IS WEIGHTY
You may be wondering why the title of this article is calling for us to stop worrying about our salvation. If it’s true that many professing Christians are actually not saved, shouldn’t we all be on high alert? Stay tuned. I’ll answer that in a moment.
I write about the topic of salvation quite a bit. I have no choice. My encounter with the forces of Hell over two decades ago changed me for eternity. (Read about it HERE.) In that encounter, it was clear that many who profess Christ will be shocked to find themselves in hell one day. This revelation matches up very well with truth on the matter in Scripture.
Since this is a life message for me, I receive a lot of email and other messages from people who are tormented, wondering if they are truly saved or not.
Remarkably, I have been counseled not a few times to tone down the message so as not to trouble people. Sadly, many argue that shielding people from biblical truth in favor of lighter, more affirming and satisfying messages will somehow help matters. This argument often comes from pastors and others who have a strong gift of mercy that they function from. They don’t want people to wrestle with the topics of eternity and hell. In fact, many will go as far as confirming their salvation just to alleviate their burden—a burden that should not be removed.
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26 (ESV)
The disciples had the same question that so many have today. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t give them a big hug and tell them that everything will be okay. He allowed them to continue to wrestle. He didn’t affirm their salvation, but rather presented a plan of salvation that is rarely shared today (he didn’t tell them to simply believe and to ask him in to their hearts!).
27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:27-29 (ESV)
Jesus tells them that those who honestly and radically surrender, in his name, will inherit eternal life. Can you imagine going home after that church service? The wrestling match would go to an entirely new level! Have I truly surrendered to that degree? Is Jesus really my Lord? The questions would reverberate from my mind to my spirit to my emotions.
So, again, I’m sure you are asking, what about the title of this article? I know, it seems I’m arguing against the prime point I’m attempting to bring to you. I actually am not. I’m simply laying a foundation that is very important—salvation is a very serious issue, and it would be foolish to become casual about it. We cannot adopt false-grace or eternal security theologies. Fear, trembling and a determination to endure to the end must drive us every day.
MY MOST CONTROVERSIAL BELIEF
My most controversial belief has to do with this very issue. There are many who get extremely upset about it. Others will start analyzing it and commence in tearing it apart and calling me out as deceived, or at least unbalanced. Those who affirm eternal security reject it with force. Here it is:
I give myself about an 80 percent chance of making Heaven.
Yes, that short, simple statement sends people of the rails. In fact, I’m ready for the emails and assaults as a result of this article. The issue of eternal insecurity (versus eternal security) causes a reaction that makes it more obvious than ever—many are at risk and this topic absolutely must be discussed.
My estimation is that I will spend eternity with Jesus, but it is not a guarantee. If it was, I would, by definition, be an adherent to the doctrine of eternal security. I am not.
Simply, if you don’t believe in eternal security, that means that every current Christian will have an opportunity to lose their salvation—to turn from Jesus. And, no current Christian would ever presume that they would do such a thing, but nonetheless many certainly will.
Why would we be immune from that temptation while multitudes of other Christians are not? I definitely am not immune.
Some of the points I address are:
I’m confident that if I died TODAY that I’d be with Jesus forever.
I don’t believe that one sin in the life of a Christian will automatically send you to Hell.
I do believe we don’t ever have to sin again.
I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
I don’t believe it’s easy to lose your salvation.
I do understand the miraculous, glorious work of the cross.
I do believe we must stay awake, pray and watch.
I don’t believe the state of our position in Christ is a mystery.
I’d strongly encourage you to read that article so you best understand where I’m coming from, and so the rest of this article is read from that place of understanding.
STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR ETERNAL POSITION
One of the points above that I break down and explain in the other article is: I don’t live my life in fear of Hell.
The most common presumption that people have about me when they hear me say that I am not convinced I’ll end up in Heaven is that I must be living in great fear. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
I am full of joy and am experiencing an abundant life in Jesus! Check this out:
1 John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
There is no fear in love. There are many who “got saved” to avoid torment in Hell. That is their motivation and their theology is keenly focused on the eradication of any threat of eternal torment. Though I have had an encounter with Hell, and I understand to a very small degree the horror associated with that place, I would never attempt to use God to avoid it. God isn’t one to be used for our own selfish pursuits. God is to be loved with immeasurable passion!
Let’s continue reading the passage in 1 John 4:
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
It’s not a theology of eternal security that casts out fear, it’s love. And, this is where it gets a bit more serious. It’s possible to subscribe to a theology that ensures our salvation while also hating someone—and go to Hell.
So, my focus isn’t on avoiding Hell. I’m not living in torment. If I were, I’d know that love was not being perfected in my life and I would certainly have cause for concern. My barometer is the manifestation of love in my life. My daily goal and continual desire is to be with Jesus in a place of joyful, love driven encounter. I crave his presence. I yearn for a deeper intimacy with him. I am free, alive and thankful for what Jesus has done for me. I have no fear. But I am sober. I am alert.
I believe worrying about our salvation is much different than wrestling. When we wrestle, we are aligning ourselves with the Holy Spirit as he guides us into truth. When we worry, however, a heart issue is revealed.
It becomes clear that were are more concerned with avoiding hell than we are in simply falling in love with Jesus. It becomes about us instead of him.
When troubled people contact me, asking how they can stop worrying about going to hell, or how to be sure of their salvation, I challenge them. What really is the purpose of knowing where we are going to spend eternity? Their goal should simply be loving Jesus and following him. Just spending time with him is so worth it! Then, wrestle. Let God have you fully.
Some might just give up hope, if they can’t be assured of their salvation, and just stop following Jesus. They are identifying with their sinfulness and have determined they will probably end up in hell anyway, so why even try.
This right here is the heart issue I’m talking about.
Do we follow Jesus because he’s our ticket out of hell, or do we follow him because we love him?
Let me ask you this question: If heaven was never guaranteed to you, would you still fall madly in love with Jesus and serve him with passion anyway? Or, is your quest for salvation more about you and your desire to avoid torment?
This is a weighty question and you absolutely should wrestle with it. Salvation isn’t mostly about living in a safe, happy place for eternity. It’s mostly about being undone and overwhelmed by the lover of our souls! It’s all about Jesus!
(If you are curious about how works and faith are both key in our salvation process, read this eye-opening article: Are works a part of our salvation? Let’s talk about Ephesians 2:8-9)
LET THE WRESTLING BEGIN!
10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 2 Peter 1:10 (ESV)
I wrestle with my relationship with Jesus continually. Part of that wrestling match includes a healthy (not unhealthy or unbiblical) fear of hell, a desire to live in heaven and a hunger for greater understanding. The bulk of it, however, is all about a more glorious revelation of Jesus! I want to know him better and to respond more wholeheartedly.
I understand my salvation is tied to my relationship with him, and I take that very seriously. I’m thoroughly enjoying my pursuit of Jesus and my growing experience in him. I’m also more aware than ever of my weakness and my humanness. My diligence and passion in loving Jesus holds the key to more than I understand. If I am diligent to confirm my calling and election, I won’t fail. If I’m not, I better wake up to reality, and fast. The wrestle can never cease.
So, stop worrying and start wrestling. Don’t turn salvation into a selfish pursuit of safety and eternal pleasure. Fall desperately in love with Jesus and let him prepare you daily for an eternity with him. He is so worth it!
11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12 (ESV)