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Ask Dr. Stanley: The Truth About Backsliding

Are you still saved if you walk away from God?

Charles F. Stanley March 22, 2023

It is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we can be forgiven of our sins and united with the Father. This is a free gift of God—something we do not deserve and cannot earn. Such a gift should inspire us to serve the Lord always. But what happens when a person receives salvation and then lives pretty much like everyone else? Our works can’t save us, but what do they say about us? Today’s email addresses this question:

How can a person receive salvation, backslide into a life of sin, and still be saved for all eternity?

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Here’s the promise of Jesus: Once you trust Him as your personal Savior, He says, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish” (John 10:28). Not if, not but, not when. Never.
If a person has received salvation in Christ, the Bible says he or she becomes “a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Cor. 5:17). In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus described it this way: “Unless someone is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, emphasis added). Why did He use that term? Because once born, you’re born. You can’t be unborn, and you can’t be unsaved.
The reason we can’t lose our salvation is because we didn’t earn it in the first place. We’re not saved because we deserve it, and we don’t stay saved because we deserve it. Scripture says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). If you have received salvation in the Lord but return to a life of sin, your new nature hasn’t changed. Salvation is both a present experience and an eternal one.

The reason we can’t lose our salvation is because we didn’t earn it in the first place.

So, what’s happening when Christians return to a life of sin? Their awareness of God’s presence seems to disappear. They feel unworthy and separated from Him. There is a heightened sense of guilt, shame, fear, and emptiness. Believers who embrace sin will waste rich opportunities. They’ll miss not only God’s plan and blessings in this life but also rewards in heaven. (See 1 Cor. 3:1-23.) Notice there’s a difference between losing your salvation and losing all the things I just mentioned. Jesus never promised that believers wouldn’t suffer.
So, can a person be saved by the grace of God, slip back into sin, and still go to heaven? Yes. But it is a very expensive trip. You lose and lose and lose; there is no “getting away with” sin. Because of the eternal loss—not of your salvation but of your heavenly reward—it is a costly experience to walk away from God.
Trust me, anything other than a life submitted to God is a waste of time—something you’ll see eventually, if not right away. Whatever’s holding you back, ask Him to help you lay it down. When you walk with Him, the life you always wanted is much closer than you think.

Editor’s note: This Q&A was adapted from an archived broadcast of In Touch with Dr. Charles Stanley.

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