SUNDAY SERMON: Can you lose your salvation?

Rev. Stephen Baldwin

NT: John 10.27-29

FAQ: Can you lose your salvation? 

Some people like to argue. More people like to watch other people argue. If you need proof of that, just turn on the news or sports…most of their shows are built around people arguing with each other. 

I don’t like to argue, and I don’t like to watch people argue. What I do enjoy is a good conversation. Where people honestly go back and forth to better understand each other or to better understand an idea. Ask questions. Share your heart. Laugh, cry, and everything in between. 

Honest conversation is rare these days. Most people would just rather get angry. Argue. Yell. Make a scene, and record it on their phone. 

Over the summer, I’ve seen a good bit of arguing about today’s frequently asked question: Can you lose your salvation? What we need is honest conversation about this very important topic, and I’m hopeful this sermon will provide an opportunity for it. I’m going to share with you the way I see it from a Biblical perspective, a theological perspective, and my personal experience, and I hope you will do the same thing with your friends and family. Because a little honest conversation can go a long way right now. 

Let’s start with the question. Can you lose your salvation? That question assumes you won it in the first place, right? If you can lose your salvation, then you must have won it. When did you win your salvation? When you stopped in front of Kroger to let a family cross the street? When you paid for someone’s food at Wendy’s? When you joined the church? When you were baptized? 

No, all those good works are…good. But good works don’t save you. You can’t earn a merit badge for heaven. If salvation was dependent on our goodness, who would get in? Besides Betty Ralston, of course, the rest of us would be left out! 

As tempting as it is to believe in salvation by works, that’s not Biblical. It runs counter to what God teaches us and was flagged as a heresy in the fifth century. We can’t save ourselves, no matter how good we think we are. 

Can you lose your salvation? Let’s focus on what salvation means. Quite simply, it’s being in right relationship with God. And nothing we can do can get us there. 

Salvation is a gift from God. We are saved by grace through faith. In other words, we didn’t win our salvation…God granted it to us. How can we lose something God gives? 

We may be unaware of it. We may betray it. We may forget to open the gift and let it sit in the closet and get all dusty like Clark Griswold’s dingy attic. But salvation belongs to God alone. Only God can grant it. 

Some people say, “Well of course you can lose your salvation. I’ve seen people get baptized on Sunday and act a fool on Friday night! You can’t go right back to a life of sin and expect to still be saved!” 

I say, oh really? You can’t? You don’t sin? Of course you do. We all do. That’s the whole point of salvation. God saves us despite ourselves. Because if it was dependent on our goodness, we’d never achieve it. God saves, and when we start trying to pick and choose who gets it, who doesn’t, who loses it, and why…we are getting in way over our heads. 

That’s the point Jesus makes in today’s scripture from John 10. “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.”

Can you lose your salvation? That’s not up to you, because no one can snatch you out of God’s hand. No one! No thing! No sin! No temptation! No wrong! No one! Jesus gives eternal life. God saves. No one can snatch that from God’s hands. 

My friends were debating this question over the summer. One of them, who thought you could lose your salvation, said, “Well what’s to keep me from just living a life that’s not pleasing to God if I can’t lose my salvation? Why shouldn’t I just do whatever I want?”

There’s so much to say about that, but let me just say: I believe God’s grace is irresistible. Irresistible. In other words, when we realize that God has granted us salvation–and we all realize that at different points in our life, some early and some late–then we cannot resist trying our best to live out God’s grace. Irresistible. We would never want or even think to just snatch our salvation and then abandon God. Because God’s grace is irresistible. 

We want to worship. We want to sing God’s praises. We want to help our neighbors. Our very lives are a response to God’s irresistible salvation. 

Do you see the difference? Our lives are the effect of salvation, not the cause of it.  We can’t earn it on our own. We receive it as a gift from God, whom alone can save. 

“But what about my uncle Eddie?” you might say, since I’ve already invoked the Griswolds here today. “He will do better for a little while and then go right back to being a bad person. Are you telling me he’s saved?”

I’m saying it’s not your decision or mine or even Uncle Eddie’s. Because only God saves. We can’t earn it. We can become aware of it, and offer our lives as a response to it. But only God saves. 

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. These questions have been debated for millenia. We could use some honest conversation about it right now. I encourage you to have a conversation with your friends and family about it this week. Not a debate where you’re trying to score points, but a real, honest to goodness, back and forth, listening and learning, heart to heart, conversation. Because in doing so, you will be making room for God to lead you and the person you’re talking to closer together…and closer to being in right relationship with God. Amen.

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