Recently during a sermon I declared that I am 99.9% sure that I am saved. By no means, did I mean that I believe that I could lose my salvation. My salvation is a free gift from God based only on the finished work of Jesus. I did not receive it by my efforts nor will I keep it by my efforts. The Bible is crystal clear that the one that God justifies will be glorified!
The reason I reserve one tenth of one percent has nothing to do with God’s power to save but rather because of the potential within me to deceive myself about my own salvation. Scripture is abundantly clear that people do deceive themselves and others in terms of their relationship with God. Far too many passages exist for me to even try to name them in this blog that warn us about “falling away” or “examining yourselves”. Even the apostle Paul was concerned about being “disqualified” if he was not careful how he ran the race and he also commanded Christians to entertain the idea that they might be those who fall away too.
Do you remember the words of Jesus from Matthew 7? 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
These people made some huge dents in the darkness. I’d say they impacted the darkness in ways most of us never have and yet they were not in right standing with God. They thought they were but they were mistaken. They had deceived themselves.
For too long we’ve stood on the promises of God and yet we have ignored His warnings. And no doubt we have brothers and sisters outside our Baptist denomination who have clung to the warnings to the neglect of the promises. But Hebrews 10 (the passage I was preaching on recently) brings together spectacular promises in Christ and also fearful warnings about falling away.
Most of us had never heard a sermon with both the promises and the warnings placed side by side and some couldn’t quite figure out what to do with that. Some walked away angry at me, concerned for me or just confused. Unfortunately this tension of eternal security and the potential of self-deception and falling away which are both biblical realities have been largely ignored for generations. They’ve been ignored because it seems like a contradiction at first glance and our tendency is to avoid what may seem difficult to understand or we assume that “those” passages aren’t talking about us.
The truth is, all of those passages are talking about people like me and you – people who claim to have fellowship with God. Furthermore, God’s promises about the security of our salvation and the warnings about falling away are not in conflict with each other, in fact, they compliment each other.
Think about what tends to happen to a person who only thinks on the promises about our salvation and ignores the warnings. They often become overconfident in their salvation. They ignore the biblical admonition, “If you think you stand take heed lest you fall.” And as a result they can easily fall into patterns of sinful behavior. This might explain why 2/3 of the members of all of our Southern Baptist churches don’t attend church anymore (at least not the one they are a member of). The promises without the warnings often result in license.
But also think about what tends to happen to a person who only thinks of the warnings of Scripture. They tend to be joyless, legalistic, duty driven because they mistakenly base their standing with God on their works. The warnings without the promises often result in legalism.
Could it be that the promises of our eternal security and the warnings about falling away are not in conflict but rather they are there by God’s design because we desperately need both? Could it be that the promises of God are designed to lead us to respond with “Thank you Jesus for saving me!” And that the warnings of God are designed to lead us to respond with “Jesus, I still need you to save me!” The promises prompt us to shout the victory of our justification and the warnings prompt us to cry out to God for our sanctification with a longing for our glorification. You see, when we unite the promises and the warnings as we should, it drives us to Jesus in praise for what He has already done and it drives us to Jesus in dependency for what He is doing and has yet to do. That’s it! Together, the promises and warnings drive us to JESUS!
So while I am as sure of my salvation as much as I possibly can be this side of meeting Jesus that still leaves me at 99.9% sure. Hopefully, by now you understand a little better what I mean when I say that. What is certain is that there is a better way for us to live than most of us are living. And that is to live in light of the whole counsel of God’s Word, embracing every promise as well as every warning. If we will do that every day we will be living grace lives until the very end, of that I am 100% sure.