The human understanding, once it has adopted opinions, either because they were already accepted and believed, or because it likes them, draws everything else to support and agree with them. And though it may meet a greater number and weight of contrary instances, it will, with great and harmful prejudice, ignore or condemn or exclude them by introducing some distinction, in order that the authority of those earlier assumptions may remain intact and unharmed.
â€“Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620
I believe that Scripture teaches that we can. (Answer to Leona’s question was so long I thought it should be a post.)
Clarification: A Christian (active Christ seeker/follower) cannot “lose” salvation, but we can CHOOSE to become non-Christians and walk away from God. Thus we are no longer saved according to scripture. Those who deny Christ and live in sin without repentance are NOT saved!
Certainly “no man” can take us out of Christ’s hand, and as long as we abide in Him we are most certainly saved, but if you search the scriptures carefully, paying close attention to what Jesus and His apostles said you will see that we can always choose to leave God – to take ourselves out of His hand. The Lord is looking for those who are committed to Him and to a relationship with Him. It is this relationship that saves us. We see in the parable of the seeds that some joyfully embrace the gospel, but then fall away because they are entangled in worldly things or have no ‘root’ in themselves (no real commitment). In the parable of the wayward son we see that the son was safe in his father’s household, but chose to leave. The father does not force him to stay, but allows him his free will. The father wants the son to return, and is joyful over the return. But not all do return. Hebrews 6 tells us: “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity….For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance…” We are warned several times in scripture that ‘those who endure to the end will be saved’, and that if we deny Christ, he will deny us before the Father (Matt. 10:32). Paul worried that, having run in the race, in the end he would find that he had run in vain. Even with all that Paul did in the name of Christ he still felt that he might be disqualified. How can this be? Christ tells us that in the end there will be those who will come to Him saying that they had preached the gospel, healed the sick, and raised the dead in His name, yet He tells them “Go away from Me you evil-doers, I never knew you.” Remember Christ’s warning in Revelation 2 for the church at Ephesus to repent or be removed.
Christ tells His disciples in Matthew 5, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” Read what Christ said about abiding in Him in John 15:4-10. There are many more passages, as this idea is a thread that continues throughout the New Testament. This is why we must “take up our cross daily, and follow” Him. I have seen those who have evidenced Christ in their lives who later fell away and denied Him. I’m sure you have, too. The fact is that I have done this myself, but God in His mercy allowed me to come back. In effect, we all do this whenever we sin, but God sees the heart and gives us grace. We can, however, get to a point where we are denying God to those around us, at which point, if we continue in it, Christ will deny us before the Father. Paul speaks to much of this in Romans 7 & 8, where he draws a line between the sinful flesh and our spirit’s desire to serve God. But what happens when our spirit no longer yearns for Christ? Is that possible? Sadly, we have seen this happen to people we have known. The lie however, comes in where “churched” people think that after an initial commitment to God, they can live their lives in sin and not worry about it too much because they “have their ticket to heaven”. Many are being fooled into thinking their future in heaven is secure. Remember, Paul warns us later in Romans (11:17-22) that we were grafted in, but can be cut off again if we do not continue in His kindness. We find the scriptures using the words abide, continue, remain, and endure (to the end) many times in describing our salvation. This is why we are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Do not misunderstand me: I am not saying that salvation is by works of any kind. I am saying that that salvation is by faith, and that faith means a relationship with our high priest Jesus Christ. He knows us because of that relationship. If we cut off that relationship then we have no way to confess our sins or to hear from God what he would have us do. We are then deciding to be our own masters, since we have cut off communication with the true Master. God sees the heart, and if the heart is sincere then we will seek diligently after our Bridegroom, wanting to spend time with Him and to hear His voice. Most people in our churches (I use the word loosely) made a commitment to God at one time but have become insincere about keeping it. They feel guilt and want to assuage that guilt by going to church and pretending to be Christ’s. They even fool themselves, because that narrow gate and hard road is just too uncomfortable. I say they, but I mean myself, too. We all do this, which is why we are instructed to continually renew our minds. If we realize that the gift of God is free, but we have the option of refusing it on a daily basis we understand that God is wanting relationship with us as His bride. This drives us to keep open the lines of communication with Him and not to deny Him. Being a Christian is not a passive thing, it is a living and vibrant relationship that we must work at. We must take the kingdom of heaven by force! (Matt. 11:12). This is what Christ wants: a lover who will stop at nothing to be with Him, not someone He doesn’t know!
I hope this answers some of the questions. Study, pray. The Lord will lead you to Truth, for He IS Truth. I would love to hear any rebuttal, disagreements or comments!