By Mike Willis
The Christian has been saved from his sins (Mk. 16:16). He wants to stay saved. The same desire which caused him to obey the gospel in the first place will motivate him to do what he can to stay saved.
A Subject Of Concern
This subject is important to a Christian. A person does not stay saved simply because he has obeyed the gospel. Doctrines which state that a Christian cannot fall from grace stand in opposition to the plain teaching of Scripture (Gal. 5:4; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). A Christian can fall from grace! Any doctrine which states that a Christian’s sins do not bring him into a state of condemnation stand in opposition to the word of God.
Paul wrote, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10: 12). A Christian can fall from grace unintentionally. That is why Paul warned that we should “take heed.” False teachers lead spiritually blind men into pernicious error (Matt. 15:13-14); sin blinds us and entraps us (2 Cor. 3:14; 4:4). Many people who once were saved from sin have fallen away from grace through following false teachers who led them into things such as mechanical instruments of music in worship, church sponsored recreation, church support of human institutions, and such like unauthorized things. Most of these brethren are conscientious brethren; they are brethren who “thinketh he standeth.”
Knowing the threat which sin poses to one’s soul, the weaknesses of the flesh, my own ignorances, and the existence of false teachers, I must be concerned about keeping my soul saved. What can I do to keep my soul saved?
Things Which I Can Do
Here are some things which a Christian should do to keep his soul saved from sin.
1. Study the word of God regularly. A Christian must grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). His knowledge of the Scriptures helps him to discriminate between truth and error, sin and righteousness (Heb. 5:11-14).
Not only do the Scriptures help a man discriminate between truth and error, they also build us up spiritually. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17). Even as my initial faith in Jesus came through the study of God’s word, my faith is increased and sustained by the consistent and persistent study of God’s word.
Sometimes brethren try to live without studying the Scriptures. They go long periods of time without reading the Bible. Their faith is not increased; indeed, it is weakened by what they forget about God and His Son. A period of trial comes in life. Rather than persevering, they fall. They did not persevere because they had not been building and increasing their faith. One of the things which I can do to keep saved is to keep studying God’s word on a day-to-day basis.
2. Associate with Christians. The Lord has warned us not to run with the wicked. “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not” (Prov. 1:10). “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall” (Prov. 4:14-16).
If we are truly interested in keeping saved, we will make a conscientious effort to associate with other Christians. We will be encouraged, edified, and strengthened by such associations. By contrast, associations with unbelievers will tempt us to do things which our conscience condemns; we will be tempted to make small compromises and each compromise leads to another, bigger compromise later. To avoid this, a Christian needs to make his closest friends Christians.
3. Listen to rebukes. Spiritually-minded Christians are commanded to come to the aid of a brother who has fallen into sin (Gal. 6: 1; Jas. 5:1920). When I fall into sin, spiritually-minded brethren should come to me and talk to me about my sin.
My attitude toward such brethren must be correct to profit from their rebukes. I must realize that their rebukes are for my own good. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities” (Psa. 141:5). “It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools” (Eccl. 7:5).
There may be times in the lives of a Christian when he heads down the wrong direction. When a brother comes to us to tell us of this error, will we be open-minded enough to listen to his rebukes? Though we should not be like a reed in the wind that is shaken by every little breeze (or wind of doctrine), we should listen to the rebukes of Christian friends who have our own good at heart.
Pray regularly. A Christian should develop a close communion with God. We should “walk with God” like Enoch (Gen. 5:22). When we study God’s word, God is speaking to us; in prayer, we can speak to God. Our communion must involve both God speaking to us and us speaking to God. That is the manner in which relationships are built between persons.
God cares for us. Peter writes, ” . . .casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). He is like our fleshly fathers in respect to hearing our petitions. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him” (Matt. 7:7-11). We need enough faith to call upon God for the needs of our lives.
There is another aspect of prayer which needs comment. The relationship with God which is built through prayer, Bible study, and obedience is broken by sin. The more intimate our relationship with God is, the more devastated we are by the alienation which sin brings. Let me illustrate this. There are some people with whom one does not get along. Alienation occurs. This alienation is passed off with some passing comment such as “that is just his problem” or “let him go his way and I will go mine.” However, let alienation occur between a parent and his child and notice the difference which that alienation makes. The parent frets and agonizes over the alienation. Why is this so? The difference is that the parent-child relationship was closer than the other relationship. Now make the application. Some people are not bothered too much by the sin in their lives and the alienation which that sin creates because they have never been very close to God. On the other hand, one who has enjoyed close communion with God is deeply troubled when he stumbles into sin because he realizes that this sin has intruded itself to create alienation from God.’. He misses fellowship with God. The feeling of alienation and separation will itself work toward correction of the sin in those who have close communion with God.
One of the things which I can do to keep saved is build a close communion or fellowship with God. This will make me sensitive to sin and make a broken relationship with God more difficult for me to bear.
5. Attend worship services. The public worship of the. church is for our own good. It is designed to “provide unto love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). It is a time when we. collectively praise God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). We offer thanksgiving to God in our prayers and praise. We remember the death of Jesus in the Lord’s supper.
One of the marks of spiritual sickness is missing the opportunities for collective worship. It sometimes reflects a misplaced priority, a neglectful attitude, and an unwillingness to do what God commands. Those who begin neglecting worship are not those who are spiritual people; those who neglect worship generally become more and more worldly. Bible study, prayer, and worship become less and less important in their lives.
On the other hand, those who always place worship as a high priority in their lives tend to grow in Christ, to be spiritually minded, to support the work of the church, and otherwise stay faithful as Christians. Hence, if a person wants to stay faithful, he should not willfully absent himself from worship.
God’s Second Law Of Pardon
Even as there is a first law of pardon whereby an alien sinner can be reconciled to God, there is also a second law of pardon whereby God’s erring child can be reconciled to God. Whenever a Christian falls into sin, whether that sin is committed in high-handed rebellion, through ignorance or weakness, he comes under condemnation (Gal. 2:14). He needs forgiveness of his sin.
The Lord has provided forgiveness for the erring Christian. This forgiveness is available to every erring Christian in the same manner as forgiveness is available to every alien sinner. The forgiveness is given conditionally, just like forgiveness is given conditionally to the alien sinner. The conditions which an alien sinner must meet to receive forgiveness are faith, repentance, confession, and water baptism. The conditions which an erring Christian must meet to be forgiven are repentance, confession and prayer.
A New Testament example of a child of God who stumbled into sin and received forgiveness is Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:12-24). This new born Christian, like many other new born Christians, reverted to his sinful life after becoming a Christian. His sin brought him back into bondage to sin (Acts 8:23). It reflected that his heart was not right in the sight of God (Acts 8:21). The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to reveal the conditions for an erring Christian to receive forgiveness of his sins. Peter commanded Simon, “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee” (Acts 8:22).
In order for me to have an assurance of salvation, I must repent of my sins and seek God’s forgiveness whenever I transgress His word.
Perhaps others could suggest other things which will help a person stay saved. These are a few things which help me to remain faithful to Jesus Christ. Perhaps they will be helpful to others as well.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 20, pp. 610, 631-632
October 18, 1984