Board index Salvation

How do we come into a relationship with God? What does that mean, and how does one go about that? How does somebody get to heaven?

Is it possible to want to be saved but not be?

Postby PowerlessProdigal » Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:43 am

Is it possible to desire to be saved, to be given the permanent status of salvation, but to be denied by God? I’ve doubted my salvation for years and all I know is that I either want to be saved, or I want to want to be saved. I either want to believe, or I want to want to believe, or I do believe and have doubts. I understand that salvation is granted by God, through faith in his son Jesus. But how can I have that faith in him? It almost seems like a chicken and egg paradox situation; we are saved by trusting in Christ but to trust him, Christ has to give us the faith to do so, which he gives to those who trust him?

Re: Is it possible to want to be saved but not be?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jan 29, 2019 1:02 pm

Great question. Excellent thoughts. Let's talk.

In answer to your first question ("Is it possible to desire to be saved, to be given the permanent status of salvation, but to be denied by God?") I can give a confident answer of No, that's not possible. John 6.37 says, "All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." In the phrase "I will never drive away" is the strongest Greek negation possible. It not only won't happen, but it's impossible. Anyone who comes to Jesus will not be rejected.

If I'm reading between the lines accurately, it seems that you just don't have the kind of settled, positive feelings that Jesus is there, that you're saved and it's a done deal, or that it's all real. Let me tell you, we all have days/months/years like that. It's one of the reasons God says that our salvation is a theological fact, not an emotional one. It's not that we're not to have any emotional involvement or any feelings that go with our thoughts, but our salvation certainly doesn't depend on them.

You know, I talk to a lot of people who seem to think that doubts are a bad thing, but I have a different viewpoint. I think doubt is what motivates me to find out more. It helps me to push deeper, to search harder, and to learn. Doubt, to me, is a very important part of my relationship with God. I have to be confident in what I believe, and doubt pushes me to know whether I am or not. Just my take.

You asked, "But how can I have faith in him?" I happen to be an evidentialist, which means that I need evidence to believe. I don't think the Bible ever asks us to believe blindly or foolishly.

In the Bible, faith is always based in evidence. God appears to Moses in a burning bush before He expects him to believe. He gave signs to take back to Pharaoh and the Israelite people, so they could see the signs before they were expected to believe. So it is through the whole OT. In the NT, Jesus started off with turning water into wine, healing some people, casting out demons, and then he taught them about faith. He didn't expect belief until they had the facts and some experiences that gave them evidence. And they couldn't possibly understand the resurrection until there was some evidence to go on.

When you read the Bible, people came to Jesus to be healed because they had heard about other people who had been healed. They had seen other people whom Jesus had healed. People had heard him teach. Their faith was based on evidence. Jesus kept giving them new information, and they gained new knowledge from it. Based on that knowledge, they acted with more faith. People came to him to make requests. See how it works? The resurrection works the same way. Jesus could have just ascended to heaven, the disciples figured out that he had prophesied it, and went around telling people "in faith" that He rose. But that's not what happened. He walked around and let them touch him, talk to him, eat with him, and THEN he said, "Believe that I have risen from the dead." Evidence is the basis of faith.

    - In Matthew 8.4 Jesus encourages the man he just healed to go show the evidence that it was true.
    - John 14.11 (and also 17.8): Jesus encouraged people to verify the evidences
    - Heb. 11.1: Faith is based on evidences
    - Romans 1.20 (the passage you mentioned). There are evidences, and we shouldn't be afraid to investigate them.

And so I pondered the existence of God and examined the evidences. I read the Bible and want to know the facts and the evidences behind it. I examined the evidences for the resurrection. I did my best to evaluate what the Bible has to say about Jesus and how I can know that is true. I also have to give consideration to the experiences of others, and my experiences as well. When I put that all together, I have come to the firm conclusion that God is real, that the Bible is reliably, that Jesus actually rose from the dead, that he indwells people and changes them, and that he indwells me. I'm firm on that stuff because I've been through so much, it makes sense to me both in my brain and in my experiences. So I've come to the point of subscribing to all of it. And on that basis, then, I also trust the theological parts that tell me that if I come to God, He will accept me and He would never be guilty of turning away any honest seeker. Some days I feel jes' fine about all that, and other days I have doubts. But those doubts just drive me deeper. At this point they can't overturn the truth of what I know, so I treat them as motivators, not as defeaters.

Let's talk more.
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Re: Is it possible to want to be saved but not be?

Postby PowerlessProdigal » Tue Jan 29, 2019 2:12 pm

What about Galatians 5:22 and the fruit of the Spirit? If I am saved then the Spirit should be transforming me more into the image of Christ and produce fruit that looks like Him. And when I first came to know who God really is, I experienced a radical difference and change. But one thing that terrified me was the parable of the sower; I didn’t want to be a seed that fell on the rocky soil, initially accepting the good news but later when trials or persecution come, turning away. Now, instead of producing the fruit and work of the Spirit, the fruit I produce is lust, anger, mistrust, hate, laziness, slothfulness, and self-indulgence. Romans 8:9 says “...Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” By the implications of Romans 8:3-11, I would think that means I do not have the Spirit of Christ in me, but that I am in the flesh, therefore not saved. What if I have turned away and have turned out to be the seed on the rocky soil? And if that is the case, it seems Hebrews 6:4-6 suggests I’m unable to be restored to repentance again. In other words, that if I am the seed on the rocky soil, that I cannot become the seed that becomes fruitful.

As far as evidences go, my greatest doubts are of God’s character. I find it extremely hard to deny God’s existence based on his creation. And the historicity of Christ’s death and resurrection seem equally undeniable. I can even look to my own experiences and say “I think that was God working in that.” But putting my weight on it and actually trusting God’s divine character is much harder, and it is the personal, transcendent experience where my greatest doubts camp. Even my own experiences where I think “I think that was God’s action” I question if are legitimately from God or simply bad interpretation on my part.

Re: Is it possible to want to be saved but not be?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 19, 2019 8:31 pm

Again, good questions! What a pleasure to talk to you.

As to Galatians 5.22, yeah, that should be what we're like or what we're becoming. You say that instead you "produce ... lust, anger, mistrust, hate, laziness, slothfulness, and self-indulgence." Quite a list. Since you accepted Christ, you were filled by the Holy Spirit and sealed for the day of redemption. It sounds like the Holy Spirit is doing His work, and He wants transformation. My guess is that these things (lust, anger, mistrust, etc.) are coming up for you to recognize that you need to deal with these things. In other words, when these thoughts and behaviors rear their ugly head, that's a signal that you need to focus on those areas for transformation. What you pray, then, is, "Lord, what are you trying to show me? And how can I work my way through this?" When these things arise, you have an opportunity to work on them. It's like the person who prays for patience, and then situation after situation frustrates and annoys them. Well, that's the only way to work on patience is to have those experiences! As you seek God, read the Scriptures, and pray, He will bring to your mind helpful thoughts and advice. And then during the day when you feel angry, or mistrustful, or whatever, you make the connection between what you read or that thought you had, and learn to think and act differently. Sometimes people find journaling helpful, also.

I don't know your background (Protestant or Catholic, atheist or Muslim, Pentecostal, what have you). In some churches people are taught in somewhat a mechanical way, rather than for real lifechange. They never learn that the Scriptures are given to us not to make us smarter but rather to make us holy. It's possible you've become aware of these behaviors because the Spirit is bringing that awareness to your mind and soul so that you deal with them.

Sometimes also people get hurt by others in the church, and that hurt becomes the lens through which we see Christianity. Sometimes these lenses are false and need to be "re-ground", so to speak. God is bringing those things out for a reason—so there can be transformation. Sanctification is a process.

It also sounds like you haven't put yourself into accountability with someone else and how you are acting. See how much I don't know about you, your background, or your experiences? So you have to take my words with a grain of salt. It can help us to find a friend to whom we can talk honestly, to whom we can be accountable, and who can mentor us. Possibly that's another route for you to take.

Make sure you are reading the Bible daily. God speaks powerfully through His Word. And talk to Him about these areas of frustration and weakness when they arise. It's simply amazing what God the Spirit can do through Scripture and prayer and renewing our minds and lives.

> Romans 8.9

This verse in particular is talking about the unsaved, not the saved who struggle. The power of the Spirit is available to all Christ followers. We are no longer slaves to sin. We don't have to put up with them.

How do we connect with God? First of all, we digest the Word of God and meditate on it. Here Paul uses the words “belong to Christ.” Belong to Christ? Ah, sure, Christians talk about “asking Jesus into your heart," which, even though it isn’t a phrase that is in the Bible, really isn’t a bad way to express what the Bible does talk about. So the deal here is “belong to Christ”. What does he mean?

Paul uses the same phrase in Rom. 1.6; 8.9. “Belong” has the idea of “possession,” but that’s clearly not the idea. The idea is much more of a love relationship. Probably the best way to think of it is a wife and husband. Even though the wife may even be from a different “world”, so to speak, he fell in love with her and absolutely adores her. He is so head-over-heels over her and he just lives to serve her. And his desire for her was so strong that he made a life-long commitment to her because he wanted her to belong to him. It’s all a model of how Christ feels about us. And what does the husband want in return—for you to “invite him into your heart”? Well, that’s not a bad way of saying it, as long as what you mean by that is that he wants you to dedicate yourself to love him back. That same thing is what the Bible talks about in our relationship with God.

Romans 8.9 talks about when the Spirit of God lives in you, you belong to Christ. Galatians 3.29 says that if you belong to Christ, you are part of the family and are in line for any inheritance that family members get. So belonging is not only a relationship of love, but it’s also a position of privilege and benefit.

Galatians 5.24 says that those who belong to Christ have “crucified the flesh with its desires.” In real words, that makes sense too. Because of the husband's love for her, she doesn’t sleep around as other women do, she doesn’t do things destructive to herself or to the relationship, etc. Paul’s point is not that the body or nature is bad and the mind or spirit good. It is about two ways of using the body, the one for a life that is worth living forever, the other for a life that is a good as death in the short time before it vanishes. The idea is not an angry sermon, but a shout to people standing hesitantly on a 30th-story ledge. Community is life. The failure of community is death. Paul is writing: choose life. Choose love. Choose to belong.

What best expresses this urgency is the image of crucifixion. This is what Christ did to save humankind from death. And the metaphor of “crucifying” antisocial passions makes that sacrifice seem to spill over from the metaphysical realm to the natural one: believers get not only eternal life but a life of the Spirit in community that begins right now. Christ stopped at nothing in showing his love for humankind. On his example, people must stop at nothing in showing love for one another. They must eliminate, at any cost, the selfishness that divides them.

So how do you plug in? Oh, it’s love. It’s a choice, and it’s one of recognition and gratitude. God WANTS you. And what he’s hoping is that you’ll invite him into your heart, meaning that you’ll respond with love and belonging, just like a wife did with her husband.

If you feel like your "seed is on rocky soil," the wise course of action is a renewed dedication to not allow distractions or shallowness to choke the life in you. I think anyone will agree that commitment is difficult. It's one thing to sign on the line (any line, no matter whether music, sports, a vocation, a relationship), and it's quite another to live it out, every day, growing in it and dedicated to it. It's tough, and Christianity is no different, since it's also a relationship as well as a commitment to a life-direction.

> As far as evidences go, my greatest doubts are of God’s character.

I know others who have struggled with the concept of trust, which motivated me to think about what we mean when we say we "trust" God, or are taught by the Bible to trust Him. What does that mean? To me, to trust God means that I get it. I understand who He is and how He works, I accept what the Bible says about Him and how He works, and I also accept that He will govern my life not particularly for MY best interests but for HIS (which, in reality, is in my best interests as well, but sometimes that's hard for me to see and understand). When I trust God, it's not that I'll never get sick, that my jobs will always work out, that my prayers will always get answered, etc., but that God has this, He's watching and working, and I can have confidence in that.

> transcendent experience

Yeah, I don't really have transcendent experiences, either. My life is pretty normal.

> Even my own experiences where I think “I think that was God’s action” I question if are legitimately from God or simply bad interpretation on my part.

We learn to see and recognize God's hand. And since He almost always works through the coincidence of normal circumstances and through other people, we have to learn God's ways and patterns to recognize His hand at work. Having been married for as long as I have, I've gotten to know my wife fairly well. I can tell you what she's thinking, what her motives are, and how she does things. So also with God. The more you're in relationship, the more you figure out and recognize. It's not science, but a love relationship.

Keep talking to me as you wish.

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