Growing up in a southern Baptist church, the salvation process was fairly easy. There was a prayer to repeat, and a card to fill out. Many confessed and went through the process, but why did so many fall away? Why did they go back to living like the world? I think what we created was an immensely false sense of assurance in something that just wasn’t there.
Don’t get me wrong. Repeating a line and filling out a card aren’t necessarily bad practices. But what if that form of evangelism actually did more harm than good? What if we valued the numbers more than we did the salvation? We never taught them about justification, sanctification, or the necessary war on their sin. We never finished the whole gospel. When we called it a night at “you’re forgiven”, we left droves thinking they could pick up their cross, leave it at the church door, and go on living their lives without change. What a dangerous and false gospel we created.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Let me be clear, the goal here isn’t to give anyone a false sense of comfort. It’s only to warn against the tactic of the enemy. If your assurance of salvation is based on the belief that you don’t really have to fight your sin because it’s forgiven through the blood of Christ, you have bought into satan’s lie; in essence, losing your salvation. Not because you once had salvation in Jesus and now you don’t, but rather, you never had it to begin with. One of my favorite quotes from AW Tozer sums it up: “The Holy spirit never enters a man and then lets him live like the world. You can be sure of that.”
the power of the gospel
The gospel doesn’t end with “you’re forgiven”. That’s only the beginning. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24) To die to sin is to die to self. The old me was a slave to sin, totally depraved, and unable to escape the bondage of it on my own accord. Christ’s redeeming work on the cross changed this for me. He called me out of death into life, revealing my sin and my need for Him. He created in me a new purpose and a desire to glorify Him in everything I do. It would be a contradiction for me to claim this truth, yet continue practicing in sin. (Hebrews 10:26)
The reason that habitual, unrepentant sinning is a sign of an unregenerate person is because it reveals the heart’s desire. In Romans 6, Paul tells us that we are no longer slaves to sin if we are alive in Christ. In other words, the new desire in our hearts will be to glorify Christ, and we now have victory over sin because of Him. We don’t have to sin anymore. That life-long sin of lust that you just keep falling into? You have the power over it. The problem is that there is a false sense of assurance that we really don’t have to dig our heels in and fight being pulled in. We believe we can jump into the pit of sin because Grace abounds. Honestly the stakes in our mind just aren’t high enough.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (Romans 6:12)
We can’t put sin in our crosshairs until we attack the root. If we don’t attack the root and just attack the conduct, that is simply behavioral modification and not the gospel. The problem is rooted within, and that problem is preferring anything above God. That is what happens when we sin. We are telling God “my plan is better, and I desire this thing more than I desire you.” We must put our sin to death. Our salvation depends on it. (Romans 8:13) Not because we are a child of God one minute, and then the next minute we have sinned too much for the power of the Cross, but rather, if we go on sinning and aren’t convicted into repentance, we are fooling ourselves if we expect to enter the kingdom. I pray that God quickens our hearts to the gospel and moves our affections for Him.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep;
seek thy servant,
for I do not forget thy commandments. (Psalm 119:176)
I am in no way suggesting that we will live a perfect and sinless life after conversion. We see in the above text that it is possible for a saint to backslide and go astray, but we also see that the psalmist isn’t content with his backsliding. God’s law is written on his heart, therefore he longs for God to allow him to return. He is waging war on his sin.
Lean on the promises
God’s promises to His people are all throughout the Bible. Learning them to recite to yourself when battling the flesh is a good and wise practice. One of my favorite promises when temptation rears its ugly head is Matthew 5:8, Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. It reminds me of the wedge that is driven when I sin. I want to be reminded that communion with Christ is infinitely more valuable than this counterfeit pleasure.
Rest in the promise of your perseverance. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)
I urge you to make sure that you have assurance of salvation through the grace of Christ Jesus, lining up with the truth of the Bible, and not our own watered-down version of the gospel. In Philippians 2:12, Paul warned the church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Did we sign the card in the hopes of simply escaping hell? Or are we actually devoting our entire lives to the glorification of Jesus? Let’s be sure, because salvation is only found in the latter.