Hi. I know you get this a lot. Am I saved? I faced my sinful life and confessed to God. I know and believe Christ is God, came in flesh to fulfill the Law and atone for my (and everyone’s) sin. He died, rose again, and ascended. It is finished. My faith is a unmerited gift of His Grace. I want more than fire insurance. I want to know and feel Him, and do those “greater works”. But sh*t, I keep cussing, lying, lusting, smoking, gossiping, blah, blah blah. Help!
Thank you for your honesty here. Sometimes I get questions like this that are really asking, “Can I be saved and still act like I used to?” — as if they’re reaching for some excuse to have both Jesus and everything else. If that’s you, gut check your motives.
But in your question I really feel the earnest sincerity in wanting Jesus most. It sounds like you really want to be this Authentic Christian but you keep getting stuck at Square One. Your thought process might go: I thought I was doing better on this sanctification thing but then I let slip one of the bad curse words and I talked about this dude too long and I fell to porn for the millionth time and I went to the gas station but ended up with these cigarettes.
In other words, you’re basing your spiritual progress on everything that’s gone “wrong.” If we all quantified our Christian-walk like that, then none of us would be saved. Period.
Please allow me to share a quick childhood story: When I was a kid, I had to breathe on a medical machine for a certain amount of time everyday. I was a sickly child and my lungs were not fully developed. I had bouts of asthma and chronic bronchitis and was near death a few times. The machine kept me just functioning.
My dad, being a ninth degree black belt, kicked my butt to exercise and eat right. Eventually I got off the breathing machine and started winning trophies at tournaments. Today I’m a fifth degree black belt, I can jump kick over your head, and I can kill you in two moves. But occasionally, I’m still short of breath and I get sick very easily. I have never run over a mile in my life. And I’m allergic to almost everything.
Sometimes people tell me, “Why you get sick so much? Why you so allergic to everything?” And I tell them, “You should’ve seen where I used to be.” I explain about the breathing machine, the asthma, the trophies, and my two-move exploding throat technique. From where I was to where I am, it’s a pretty big leap.
Maybe you’re way further along than you thought you were. Every blip and spurt of righteousness in your life is nothing short of a supernatural God-made miracle, because naturally in our own fleshly skin, we’re incapable of True Good. Before you met Jesus, you didn’t even care about trying to live right or to make a difference or to help people — and if you did care, it was motivated by self-promotion, image maintenance, social standards, and Darwin-esque survival.
But after Jesus, you have the reason of No-Reason, because now you’re lit up by a Person who out of his own initiated love dared to die in your place on the cross and put His Holy Spirit in you to live out your true calling: which is to love him and love others without expecting anything back. You’re re-created with a new heart to care about what God cares about, and the Father is proud even of your stumbles. Any step forward into your purpose is like the birth of a new life: it is momentous, surprising, awesome, and worth celebrating.
The very fact that you’re questioning your own salvation is a good thing, because you care. The Devil will speak through false preachers and ignorant believers by making you doubt that you “have it” — when even logically, you don’t ever have it. God has you. True assurance is knowing the object of our faith, not our degree of it. God keeps working through you: and if at times you feel that your faith is a very tenuous, intermittent, strobe-light sort of walk, then welcome to Authentic Christianity. God is strong; humans are weak. God works; humans fail. Praise God then, yeah?
In that giant gap between who you want to be and who you really are, every other religion (including the evangelical church) tells you to “close the gap.” That’s religion.
Jesus is the only one who said, “I will meet you where you are. I am running backwards through the gap to YOU. And we will walk this together, one step at a time, me in the lead, and I will always be with you whether you feel me or not.” Faith is being more and more sure of this reality — it is NOT being more sure that you’re sinning less. It is not just running from sin, but running to Him.
You’ll find that the less you focus on trying to be better, you’ll automatically get better. The less you have a morbid introspection of your failures, the more you can look towards the Only Perfection. I’ve said it before: A Christian is a work in progress looking towards the work finished, Jesus. Stumble after him. Don’t think you have to run this marathon in one day. Sooner or later, you’ll be moving from trauma to trophies. Celebrate the small victories. Even then, be humble to recognize it’s all His work.