Can you loose your salvation?
Frankly, I am a bit surprised that this one made it onto the sermon list. With a little room for semantic tweaking, I think most evangelical Christians believe that salvation is something that CAN be lost.
So, what is the semantic deal?
Well – died in the wool Calvinists would argue that God does the choosing and being God, he does not choose those who will end up turning their backs on him. They would say that someone who appears to be saved, but then turns his/her back on God at some later date was never saved to begin with. They may have thought they were saved at some point, but they never really were because they were not one of the elect.
Those of the more Wesleyan tradition would argue that while God knows who will accept him, he offers us a role in the process. He allows us the freedom to choose. If we can choose to follow Christ we can also choose to cease following Christ. More plainly stated, we can loose our salvation.
Both groups agree that those who follow Christ to the end of life will be saved. The idea that a person can be saved as a child and then live a demented and immoral life, all while still saved is not theologically sound in either camp. The difference lies in the starting point, not the finish line.
Jim also pointed out that losing one’s salvation (Wesleyan interpretation) is not an easy thing to do. For example, he does not believe that a person who’s last mortal act is driving in excess of the speed limit will, necessary, suffer in hell for breaking the law of the land. He argues that there are certain sins – so antithetical to the nature of God – that they might preclude a person from the reward of heaven and destine them for hell. In his sermon Jim stated four such sins: sexual sin, gossip, drunkenness, and greed – but did not give a scriptural reference for any of these.
There are a couple of places in scripture where “deadly” sins are listed. The first is in Proverbs 6 and the sins are as follows:
A proud look
A lying tongue
Hands that shed innocent blood
A heart that devises wicked imaginations
Feet that run to mischief
A false witness that speaks lies
And a person that sows discord among brothers
Since three of these have lying at their root I would say that telling the truth is pretty important to God.
Galatians 5 has a pretty impressive list as well:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (KJV)
A careful reading of this passage certainly does include the four Jim mentioned, but it adds several others – and a few of them ill-defined in modern day English.
Finally, the Catholic Church has traditionally defined seven deadly sins – so called mortal sins – that would destroy the life of faith. In other words, cause a person to loose their salvation.
These are: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.
I think it is pretty easy to see where Jim came up with the four he chose to highlight, and he never implied that it was a complete list. But we must be careful not to pick and choose. We might not struggle with drunkenness, but gluttony… I think a quick post-church survey all the buffet’s in Anderson can answer that one for us.
Let’s take a look at the three lists and see where the commonalities lie.
Pride – 2/3
Lying – 1/3
Killing the innocent – 1/3
Wicked imagination – 1/3 or 3/3 depending on how you define it
Running to mischief – 2/3
Sowing discord – 2/3
Gluttony – 2/3
Drunkenness – 1/3 (you could lump this with gluttony, but American Christians would really be uncomfortable with that)
Envy – 2/3
Wrath – 2/3
Lust/sexual sin – 2/3
Nothing directly shows up on all three lists – so it is probably best to avoid all of these sins or risk losing your relationship with God.
More recently, the Vatican has compiled a new list (not exhaustive) that is more apt for the modern age. Although these are more national than personal in nature, they are still an interesting representation of the larger issues the church must now face. The so-called seven modern social sins include:
Infliction of poverty
Morally debatable experiments
Violation of the fundamental rights of human nature.
What do you think? Is it possible to lose your salvation? Is committing these sins the key or is it something deeper? Perhaps, the only unforgivable sin, the real deal breaker that will cause a person to lose their salvation (if they ever had it to begin with) is a continuing attitude of rebellion toward God’s offer of the free gift of salvation.
Remember - I do not claim to have the answers, I am just trying to get the discussion going.