Recently, I was at a retreat for mentors and mentees and there were a few pastors invited to speak on certain topics deemed foundational for successful Christian living. One of the pastor’s that spoke during this weekend shared from the perspective of his belief in the doctrine of eternal security. The doctrine of eternal security is the belief that the forgiveness provided by Christ to those who believe in Him covers past, present, and future sins, and since this forgiveness was provided without merit it can’t be loss due to any actions by the forgiven. What I have found problematic with this doctrine is the administration of it. I have found that those teaching it very seldom, if ever, explain what true belief looks like. Also, the Christ that is often the subject of this doctrine doesn’t match the likeness of the Christ documented throughout the holy scripture. Unfortunately, I find this same issue often in the teaching of the gospel of Christ. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of studying scripture yourself in humility with a desire to conform to truth and not look to have the truth conform to you. In my book titled, “Unleashing the Gospel of Christ,” I cover what true belief looks like and have a chapter titled “Meet the Savior.” The pride of mankind makes him subject to idolatry, which includes creating his own version of Christ. The whole conversation of eternal security is given relevance by the problem of sin.
Why is struggling with sin an ongoing topic among many Christians regardless of how long they have been converted? The conversation should really be about those who love Him and know Him versus those who do not. We never have to convince anyone who knows and loves Christ not to exercise their liberty, won by Christ through His suffering and shed blood, in the practice of sin. Christ said himself, “they that love me keep my commandments.” It is due to the rise of carnal doctrines which dismiss the requirements of our own tribulation and suffering as an integral part of our salvation. Things get really complex and confusing when we try to establish doctrines beyond the basis of the truth in GOD’s word. People who believe in eternal security struggle to make the case to support a belief that people who practice sin can at the same time love Christ and be surrendered to Him. The reason is because it is impossible. It is also impossible to make the case that people can know Christ through relationship and still be in bondage to sin. John covers these impossibilities in the book of 1 John.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6 NKJV)
7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:7-9 NKJV)
Let me explain what John is saying about sin in 1 John 1-3. John makes the statement that if we say we have no sin or that we have never sinned we are either lying or deceived or both. The sin we have in us through the Eden contamination infects everyone born of the seed of Adam without exception. If this were not true, there would not have been a need for a second Adam to redeem creation. Christ our Savior is that second Adam. Anyone not connected to GOD via Christ is powerless to overcome this darkness because He alone is the light of truth and righteousness. The good news is that through the power of Christ, they that acknowledge the need for rebirth in Him and surrender their sinful life to Him can be born of His righteous life.
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NKJV)
Christ raised Lazarus to show everyone that He has resurrection power, which is the power to displace death with new life. If we are convicted of a sin through the spirit by mercy and truth and we cry out to Christ confessing the sin and asking forgiveness, He is able to work a healing and restoration in our souls which breaks the power of that sin and frees us to choose the Way, the Truth and the Life. The choice to live away from the dominance of sin does not present itself until the light of Truth penetrates our darkness and we experience conviction. Then we must be willing to repent and willing to surrender our lust for carnal pleasure.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. 13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:12-14 NKJV)
Grace has purchased benefits for us through the blood of Christ that the blood of animal sacrifices could never accomplish. The life of the Spirit is in the blood of Christ, so as we receive the atoning blood of Christ, we also become partakers of His beautiful and righteous and divine life. That which is born of His blood through repentance and the death of the cross is raised in new life. This new life cannot sin because it is the life of Christ. Many people come to Christ looking to pacify their conscience and offload guilt and to find fire insurance, but with no true desire to put on His righteousness. People that come to Christ, short of total abandon, are like the rich young ruler in that they still have things they need to get rid of before they are fit for the cross and the eternal life that follows. These people who still love riches in this world find a haven in pseudo-Christianity by means of a false gospel that doesn’t require death of the old life to obtain salvation. Your life is only yours to give. Just as no man took Christ’s life, but He laid it down Himself to please the Father, we too must die in the likeness of His death. Christ is not going to take your life; you have to lay it down of your own will. You have to be honest with yourself when facing that decision. I have met many people who admitted they were not going to pretend to be Christian, because they knew they loved the pleasures of sin “now” more than suffering in the flesh for some intangible hope in the future. Of course they are mistaken about the blessings of Christ not having tangible benefits “now”, but until their affections shift, they aren’t really in a place to hear. Experiencing pain in the “now” of this world has a way of opening the ears and loosening the ties to the fleeting and temporary pleasures of carnal living. This is why the poor and the oppressed are closer to the Kingdom than the rich and affluent.
Those that hope in the false doctrine of eternal security are looking to assure themselves of salvation that doesn’t require suffering in the flesh or abandoning the riches of this world. Where a man’s treasure is there his heart will also be. This is just how are hearts were designed by the Creator. If you love this world and the things that are in this world, then your heart will be captive to the things of this world because it holds the things you value most. If you love the approval of men, social status, the pleasures of the flesh, and life without restraint, then you will see the cross as offensive and an unreasonable proposal. A doctrine that says the death of Christ is all that is required for ever and ever without us having to sacrifice anything to obtain the benefits of salvation is appealing to those that are unwilling to suffer in the flesh. However, Christ is clear, if any man will follow Him, he must take up his own cross in self-denial to follow. Why? …Because Christ is going to lead us through straight and narrow paths that are painful to the flesh. We have to be resolute in our commitment to accept this suffering, or just as the children of Israel did, we will revolt before reaching the promise land and forfeit our inheritance.
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. 7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:6-11 NKJV)
The doctrine of eternal security makes the example and witness that GOD gave us through the children of Israel of no effect. If the doctrine of eternal security was valid in its assertions regarding obtaining salvation, then the Lord would not have destroyed that first generation of Israelites that came from Egypt. They would have entered the promised land regardless of their idolatry and murmuring and complaining but that was not the case. The ones who made it in were the ones born after the crossing of the Red Sea. This signifies that those who will make it into the promise of GOD are those who are born again after taking the crossing of the death of Christ. Even after the kingdom of Satan is defeated and the blood of Christ spills like a red sea, the old man must be put to death because the new man is the only one that can inherit the promise. The point of salvation is reconciliation with GOD because it is the reconnecting to GOD that facilitates the flow of life which sustains us. We must choose to abide in GOD of our own free will. Our Lord is not a prison. He is an eternal resting place for those who seek refuge in Him. Those who sin willfully choose to rest somewhere else.
As the scripture exhorts in 1 John 3, don’t let anyone fool you. GOD is faithful and He says they that call upon Him for deliverance will be set free. Those who remain in bondage to sin after hearing the gospel of Christ must choose to, because if they choose a life in Christ, then He will certainly lead them to freedom. The scripture says, “all who have suffered in the flesh have ceased from practicing sin.” This means they have chosen rather to suffer affliction in the flesh to maintain spiritual life and communion with GOD, rather than satisfy the flesh at the expense of spiritual life and be alienated from GOD.
Our decisions are a reflection of our values. Our values are a reflection of what we treasure. What we treasure is where our heart chooses to call home. Those who are given eternal addresses in heaven are those who have hearts that are only at home with GOD.
14 For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15 And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:14-16 NKJV)