Once saved, always saved? Or are we responsible for maintaining our connection with God and a basic standard of Christian behavior? If we don’t, what happens? What if I were to lose heart completely, come to despair over some sin in my life or become so angry at God over my pain and loss that I gave up and quit trying?
I have no intention of doing this, mind you. Even when I have felt these things and run away from God for a time, I have never been able to escape the conviction that it’s all true, every bit of it, God’s Word, the crucifixion, the resurrection, every unfathomable part of the Gospel story. And that leaves me with the responsibility to choose how I will respond and to work it all out (Phil. 2:12-13). Because the Scriptures are true, I’m not just a highly-evolved monkey on a random course that will some day die and never be heard from again. I am a creature of Almighty God with an eternal spirit. The conviction I have about the truth of the Gospel is something I must persevere in practically. But what if I didn’t?
Part of me wants to be freed from this burden, to rest in the assurance that God is holding me in His hand and will never let go of me, no matter what. And there is some truth to this picture. Jesus told us that “No one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 27-28). But is it possible for me to “walk” out of His hand?
I’m afraid that if I ever conclude that salvation is forever, there won’t be enough motivation left for me to be obedient to God. I have trouble enough obeying Him as things stand. It frightens me how I have abused God’s grace at times. What is to stop me going over the top if I should ever discover that all is forgiven—past, present and future?
Could it be true that God’s love is so great that all He wants is for me to be with Him no matter what? But how can I be with Him if I’m strung out on sin’s hamster wheel? And what kind of son will I make in Eternity if I arrive as some unprincipled ragamuffin?
But I don’t believe that will happen. The thought is repugnant. In spite of Scripture’s more terrifying declarations about sin and its consequences, my experience with God tells me that He is incredibly patient and kind. He has often sent hardship and turbulence into my life to help me get back on track. I find great comfort in Hebrews 12:7-8: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.”