The Bible warns us that, tragically, some people who, for a time, seem to be genuine Christians, will eventually turn away from Jesus. They might abandon Him dramatically. Perhaps because of persecution (Mark 4:17) or temptation (1 Thessalonians 3:5). Or they might drift away from Him more gradually (Hebrews 2:1) as, little-by-little, other priorities push Jesus out from the center of their lives (Mark 4:19; 2 Timothy 4:10). Either way, by walking away from Jesus, they reveal that they never truly belonged to Him in the first place (1 John 2:19). Sadly, Jesus is clear that only those who stand firm to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22). Those who do not abide in His love will be thrown into the fire (John 15:5-6).
Two solemn responsibilities
The Bible gives us two solemn responsibilities:
- to make our own “calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10)
- and also to encourage our Christian brothers and sisters to persevere so the will not be “hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13).
We must be careful not to be deceived by the devil (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10), by false teachers (2 Peter 2:1), or even by ourselves (Matthew 7:21-23; 2 Corinthians 13:5). Christians who arrogantly presume they are safe are in particular danger (1 Corinthians 10:12).
When we read these very serious warnings and responsibilities, it easy to feel nervous and start worrying: “How secure is my faith?” The good news, however, is that the Bible glows with encouragement for genuine Christians! If you are someone who follows Jesus, trusting Him and obeying His word, then you can be assured that both Jesus and our heavenly Father are holding you firmly. That no-one can snatch you out of their hands (John 10:27-30). Even if the whole world were to be led astray by false miracles and signs, God will never let you be deceived (Mark 13:22). Nothing in all creation will ever separate you from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39). Because ultimately, your perseverance depends not on your own strength, but on the power of God (1 Peter 5:10-11).
In fact, the reason you have genuine faith in Jesus today is that in eternity past God personally chose you (Ephesians 1:4) to become His child (Romans 8:29). And He sent the Holy Spirit to give you new birth (John 3:5-8) as you believed the gospel. If God has already done all this for you, you can be sure that He will never give up on the salvation project He has started in your life (Philippians 1:6). If you are a genuine Christian, then your inheritance is 100% secure in heaven (1 Peter 1:4). In heaven, your name has been written in the Book of Life since before the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8)!
Grow in faith
Is it possible to know whether God really has given you this genuine, persevering faith? Yes! Think, for example, of the Thessalonians. Even though they still had significant gaps in their theology (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and some of them were lazy (2 Thessalonians 3:11-15), Paul knew for sure that God had chosen them (1 Thessalonians 1:4)! Similarly with Timothy: he had much to learn about courage and self-control (2 Timothy 1:6-7). But Paul had become convinced that his co-worker’s faith, just like the faith of his mother and grandmother, was sincere (2 Timothy 1:5). Both for the Thessalonians and for Timothy, the evidence was the same. They believed when they heard the good news about Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 3:15). Both continued to serve Him – even joyfully (1 Thessalonians 1:6). Even though it meant suffering for Jesus’ sake (Hebrews 13:23).
Be encouraged if you have ever been through costly and painful trials, and you found yourself still loving and obeying Jesus in the midst of suffering and sacrifice. You have precious evidence in your life of genuine, proven faith (Luke 6:22-23; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:6-7). Give thanks to God, and be confident: He is working in you to make you “strong, firm and steadfast” to the end (1 Peter 5:10-12). Maybe your faith in Jesus has not yet cost you anything. If your faith is genuine, however, you can be sure that someday it will (2 Timothy 3:12).
Make it your priority to keep building your life on Jesus’ words, so that when the storm hits, your foundation will be secure (Matthew 7:24-27). If testing times have come, but you have turned away from Jesus, don’t despair! The life of the apostle Peter reminds us that Jesus still has grace, forgiveness, restoration, and good works waiting for you if only you will repent and return to Him (John 21:15-19 and 1 John 1:9).
Finally, if someone you love has turned away from Jesus, don’t lose hope! Let Samuel be your example (1 Samuel 12:23-24): pray for them to turn back to the LORD, and encourage them by your life and your words to remember the great things God has done so that they will respond to His grace by serving Him faithfully with all their heart.