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It was never “just” a prayer.

I received this question from an attender and wanted to address the important question what it actually means to give your life to Jesus.

I think the heart of your concern rests in the following questions that you asked:

Why did the people who accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior go to hell? If all you have to do is say that Jesus is Lord and repent for your sin once, then why do we need to strive to be more like Jesus? It seems like you should but don’t have to. Why does the Bible tell us to always be aware, to not drift away? Why would it say it if once we say the sinner prayer, we are saved for good?

Let me respond as best I can here by email, understanding that conversation in person will usually be more helpful and thorough. As you have heard me say before, I do not believe that people can lose their salvation.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says

“you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

If you believe in Christ and become a follower of Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit, who is a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” In other words, the Holy Spirit in you is a sign to you that you have saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved.

In John 10:28, Jesus indicates that none that He has been given can be snatched from his hand.

Romans 8:33-39 says

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This means that we don’t have to be fearful of losing our salvation or of someone taking it from us. If we are chosen by God and have chosen to follow Him, we do not need to live in fear of being taken away from His promise. In this way, I do not believe that anyone who accepts Christ as Savior is sent to hell.

What I would do is say that we need to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. You asked, “If all we have to do” is say a prayer once and repent, then why do we need to become more like Jesus. I believe the Bible teaches our growth and includes warnings about falling away because the Christian life was never just about one prayer. The prayer is an outpouring of the heart of the believer towards God, it is not a one time transactional contract. We have instead a covenant with God that lasts a lifetime. God didn’t intend for the Christian life to be a one time magic set of words that got us out of hell and into heaven. The Christian life is indeed about a relationship with God and working out our salvation with fear and trembling (says Paul in Philippians 2). This does not mean that we can earn our salvation or save ourselves, it is a gift of God (Romans 6:23). What it does mean is that it is much more than a one time prior. Giving our life to Jesus means just that; that we give our lives to Jesus. Not just our words. Not just our prayers. We become more than believers in Christ. We become followers of Christ that walk in relationship to and with him.

The Holy Spirit is given as a seal to be able to accomplish the work of God in our lives and apply to us the work of Christ on the cross. It is a relationship. Think of the relationships in your life. None of them are just a one time meeting or a one time set of words. They are on going. Gordon Fee says it this way

“For Paul, life in the Spirit begins at conversion; at the same time that experience is both dynamic and renewable.” – Gordon Fee

Fee is saying that while we are given the seal of the Holy Spirit at conversion, the relationship is one that grows, is renewed, and expands. That is what we look for in our relationship with God, and if we indeed have the Holy Spirit in us, we do not need to worry about salvation being taken from us. In the end, the prize that we get is God himself!!

Denominations have many different takes on these issues and I think it is helpful to learn from the denominations and the truth that they present. There is no one denomination that has the corner market on who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. And so, we learn and discern what the denominations have to say. Much of that is a lifelong process as well. We discern what the traditions say, compare them with the Scripture, discuss them with others, and ask the Spirit to guide us into all truth, as Jesus said he would. I agree with your assessment by the way, that Orthodox churches seem to have a lot of traditions and protestant churches seem to have none. It may be helpful for both sides (and there are many more) to center upon Jesus and submit their rules (or lack thereof) to His Spirit as we work out our salvation together.

I’ll conclude with a story about a man who once came up to the world famous violinist Itzhak Perlman and said, I would give my whole life to play the violin the way that you do. Perlman grinned and said, “I did give my whole life.” What showed that Perlman was a violinist: saying the words that he was a violinist or spending a lifetime playing? (See James’ talk about faith and deeds!) It’s a fantastic reminder to see that we have an opportunity as followers of Christ to give our whole lives (selves) to him, not just a one time prayer. And the good news is that our being save doesn’t rest on us, but on the Savior who will not lose one that the Father has given (John 6:39). You can’t earn your salvation, but you can give him your life. And that is a lot more than a prayer!

 

Friends, I received another question that I wanted to respond to on here. On power and authority.

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Jesus said he has all power and authority in Earth and Heaven, yet I’ve also heard Satan the “The Prince of this world” or is in control of Earth.  When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days fasting, Satan told him he would give Jesus the Earth if Jesus would kneel to Satan, reinforcing that Satan has control over Earth.  I’ve also read that we humans were given Earth to have domain over.  It seems confusing.  If Earth’s domain is our gift from God, why can’t we cast out Satan.  If Jesus has all power over Earth, what is stopping him from booting the devil out now?  I’m not sure if there is an answer or not but would love to hear your thoughts.

God, as Creator of the universe has authority over all of the universe. We learn that all things were made through Jesus in John 1:3. As such, He is Lord over Creation. God (meaning the Father, Son, and Spirit: one God, three Persons) has supreme authority over all Creation and all creatures. By nature, Creation worships (obeys) the Creature. Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God.” But, creation does not worship/obey (the words are often connected) by God controlling or dictating. He is not a tyrant. There is choice involved and Satan chose against the Lord. In doing so, Satan removed himself from participating in the authority of God and instead simply became under his authority. When Adam and Eve sinned against God (and chose against his authority), the human race also removed themselves from participating in the authority of God and simply became under His authority. God did not lose authority over Creation, over Satan, or over humanity. But, Satan, a third of the demons, and humanity chose to operate outside the authority of God. God, being a good and loving God, gave the option for this choice.

I hope you are seeing the picture here: you can operate in the authority of God (as part of His authority) or you can operate outside (against) His authority. Either way, He does not lose His authority, but He allows for choice to operate in His authority or not. So, Satan is cast out of heaven and allowed to roam the Earth. Again, God does this lovingly, knowing that He will give humans the same choice. Ultimately, this is to display not only His power and His authority, but also his love.

When Jesus comes, we are told in Philippians 2 and John 17 that he had the glory as God prior to being born as human. He was fully God already, which means that He fully had authority as God. But, He didn’t consider it something to be grasped. Or, in other words, He didn’t see being God as something to be used for His own benefit, but for ours. And so, He placed Himself under the authority of the Father and submitted to His authority throughout His life. He said, I only do what I see the Father doing. He said, not my will but yours be done. He was the perfect example of acting in the authority of God. And so, it makes perfect sense that He says, I have been given all authority on heaven and earth. Yes, Satan has been given the option to operate outside (against) the authority of God on this earth. As such, any authority that Satan has comes from what God has allowed in His lovingkindness to give people choice. When Satan temped Jesus, the actual temptation was for Jesus to operate outside (against) the authority of God and join Satan. This is why Jesus responds that you should only worship (obey – remember the words are connected) the Lord your God. Jesus chose to continue to participate in the authority of God, rather than operate outside the authority. Now, we have the same choice. God gave the Adam and Eve authority over the earth, but it is only rooted in participation with God’s authority. As soon as we act outside (against) that authority, we are no longer participating with God. In reality, we are now participating with Satan. This is why Jesus says you are with me or you are against me.

If we choose to operate in God’s authority, following in the footsteps of Jesus, we participate with him. We reign with Christ (see 2 Timothy 2:12)! That is why Jesus says that all authority has been given to Him (in Matthew 28) and why the disciples were told they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them (Acts 1:8). It is by the power of the Spirit that we are able to operate in the authority of God continually. So, Jesus saves from the effect of sin but also from the power of sin. We are not under the power (authority) of sin, but rather under the power (authority) of God. 1 Peter 5, John 16, and Hebrews 10 note that this situation on the Earth and its battle regarding authority will only go on for “a little while.” This is because God has not lost any of His authority in the process. He is instead “patience toward you not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Hi friends! I received this question today and wanted to spend some time to give an answer. On Salvation and Overcoming Sin.

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The question that has been bothering me for a while is whether or not people can loose their salvation? If not, then who does 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (and other verses like that) refer to? What does it mean that Jesus gives us the power to overcome sin (since I know that we all keep sinning)?

(1) Some hold that you can lose your salvation if you are not faithful.
(2) Some hold that you cannot lose your salvation, but that you can choose to no longer follow Christ.
(3) Some hold that once you are saved you are always saved.
I am in the third camp, personally. I believe that once you have been saved, God will not allow you to be unsaved! See John 6:39 – “I shall not lose one that the Father has given me, but shall raise them up at the last day.” Also, John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life…No one can snatch them out of my hand.” The emphasis is that Jesus does the saving, that salvation is a gift, and that giving the gift, he will not take the gift back. That is my view based on what I see in the Bible.
The most important verse in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is verse 11, which says: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Paul is describing what life WAS like without Jesus. Fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, etc. These are some of the sins and lifestyles that carry with them consequences of separation from God, death, and eternity in Hell. (There are many more, lest we think that these are the only ones). Romans 6:23, the “wages of sin is death.” Apart from Jesus, these things keep you from inheriting the Kingdom of God. But, Paul says, such WERE some of you. You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God. In other words, Jesus has done the saving and has kept you from the penalty of the sin. In the next post, I’ll respond more about the power of sin. Because, God saves us also from the power of sin. When we talk about going on sinning and overcoming sin, we need to be saved from the power of sin. And so, we turn to the Spirit. Stay tuned.