Once Saved, Always Saved?
Part 1: Our Relationship with God
Christians are always talking about having a personal relationship with God. But, what does that actually mean? Before we talk about individual relationships with God, we must first look at relationships with other people. And, if we want to be truly honest, good relationships require a lot of work whether we are talking about how we relate to God or how we relate to other individuals. When we look at earthly relationships, we see that there are obligations which must be fulfilled for both friends and family including: communication and get-togethers which often require planning responsibilities such as birthdays, holidays, etc.
And, when we focus specifically on how we related to our parents, we have to acknowledge that relating to parents was tough for us as children and is arguably more difficult for us as adults. These relationships required some level of obedience, submission, charity, and love. We all know that these virtues are not always felt or displayed; nor is this a totally inclusive list of obligations, but you get the point.
What perspectives or behaviors make a relationship go bad? Let’s think of the relationships that have drained on our emotions, money, and/or time. How many people are in your life that are purely takers? You know, those people that come around every so often and to only ask for something from you. Have you ever pined for or loved someone that completely rejected you – leaving you distraught and pained? Once that person injured you in some way, regardless of how many times, and whether or not they were aware of the damage caused, how receptive were you to their subsequent requests for your attention and time? Sure, you may retain a love for that person, but if the injury was grave enough, society would consider you both right and just to distance yourself to avoid further injury. Worse, the distance remained between the two of you because the wrongful party willfully went on making selfish and destructive choices all while continuing to display zero regard for the damage they inflicted upon the relationship.
Does the relationship mentioned above sound familiar to you? More importantly, does that scenario parallel our daily relationship with God?
Before answering the above questions, we should consider the following:
- Do we repeatedly ask for what we think we need in an ungrateful fashion?
- How much time do we devote and spend with Him?
- When He refuses us our daily whims do we respond with petulance?
- Do we ask Him for things to satisfy His will or our own?
- Do we turn our back on Him while forgetting the thousands of blessings in our lives?
- Do we try to amend our lives and cease doing things that offend Him?
- Do we just assume that we can offend God without limits while never considering a consequence to our selfishness?
Now think of the person that has stung you the most. I mean really cut you deep to the point where the pain and damage possibly altered the course of your life. What if that person should suddenly walk back into your life and simply say: ”I’m sorry.” For the purposes of this discussion, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are sincere even if only for a time. Does that basic apology repair the relationship? Does an: “I’m sorry.” set everything right again? If you don’t think it does, then we agree that more needs to be done in order to balance the scales of justice in a personal relationship.
An apology with true contrition is a great start to mending a troubled relationship; but, it is only the first step in rebuilding. If one is truly sorry about the past, then clearly an attempt must be made to repair the damage that has been done. Even though the effort will never be enough to undo the past, justice demands, at the least, that such action must be attempted.
So what does this relationship talk mean to we Christians? We believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We believe in One God Who wants us to be with Him for ALL eternity. We profess and believe. And to this effect, we Christians are born again of water through baptism and have become members of the Church that Christ Jesus founded while He walked upon this earth. Just as we freely accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we can also freely reject Him and walk away. The Jews did this to His face while teaching and we do it through rejection of His Commandments. Once baptized we are no longer “children of wrath” as St.Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-5:
And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins, Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air (the devil), of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief: In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: But God, (who is rich in mercy,) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, (by whose grace you are saved).
Through baptism we live. We are reborn through water, alive in Our Lord Jesus Christ. This new life in us is sustained through our consuming of the Holy Eucharist. This holy food, the bread of life, the actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ that He gave to sustain us. Further, He told us that we cannot be saved without it:
I am the bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day. – Gospel of St. John 6:48-55
Just as we cannot be both alive and dead at the same time, and neither can light and darkness coexist in the same place at the same time; good cannot reside with evil and neither can evil reside with good at the same place, at the same time. Our Lord says in the book of the Holy Prophet Isaiah 59:1-4:
Behold the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have divided between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you that he should not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity: your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue uttereth iniquity.
Our Lord instructs us to dwell in the light in the Holy Gospel of St. Matthew 5:14-16:
You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Yet, we must remember that our light can be extinguished. And even if you are in a state of grace, then you must be wary of Satan prowling about as a roaring lion as St. Peter instructs in his first epistle (5:8):
Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.
So the “Rock” upon which Our Lord Jesus Christ built his church is teaching us that the devil is prowling about looking to devour unsuspecting Christian people. If there was no fear of Christians falling away from the light, why would St. Peter warn us about such a threat and possibly induce a panic amongst the faithful? Could it be that we are not as secure as we would like to believe?
This is a classic case of us (the humans) projecting our standards onto God. We would like to believe that only Hitler goes to Hell, and that everyone is saved; but, this contradicts Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel of St. Matthew 7:13-15:
Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat. How narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life: and few there are that find it! Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Our Lord Jesus Christ and the holy apostle St. Peter both teach that not only can a person be devoured by the devil but that many will be devoured and few will enter Heaven. We know that this number includes Christians because later in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
Fellow Christians: Please do not be lured into a false sense of security within the faith no matter how appealing such a message may be. The truth, according to Christ Himself, is that we are all struggling with carrying our crosses daily. We all have deficiencies and lack the ability to fix ourselves on our own. However, Christ has offered to fix us if we submit ourselves to Him. There is an enemy that seeks our destruction because of a seething hatred of our position in the order of creation and salvation.
Be heartened! For God loves us so much that He assumed human flesh through the Immaculate Virgin Mary and came to Earth to be with us, teach us, found His Church, and sacrifice Himself in order that we may not strive in vain for an eternity in heaven. Without the help of Christ Jesus we are lost. Yet, if we submit ourselves to His will, repent for our sins against Him, cooperate with His help to overcome evil, and apply our own will to satisfy the will of Almighty God, we will grow in sanctity. And as a result, He will rebuild us with His grace. As we put effort into our relationship with Him, this relationship will ultimately grow and deepen in more meaningful ways so that we may one day not only save ourselves but also help others to do the same.
In Part 2 we’ll discuss repairing our damaged relationship with God and the means that He has left us to do so within His Church here on earth.