Matthew Chapter 7
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Hebrews 6:4-6 (NKJV):
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
The Lord gave each of His created beings a free will. After we have accepted Jesus as our savior, we still have the freedom to turn back to a life of sin and to reject His grace. The Lord speaks about people being in danger of having their names removed from the Book of Life. (Exodus 32:33 & Revelation 3:5) Jesus also taught about those “which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Luke 8:13
Consider what Paul wrote in Colossians 1:21-23 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and blameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister.” Here Paul says that there is a possibility that Christians can fall away from the Lord if they don’t continue in the faith. Notice that he’s talking to people that are “in the faith”, meaning that they are believers in Jesus Christ.
Again, the same idea is expressed in Romans 11:22”if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” And again in 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
We don’t have to maintain good works in order to remain in Jesus (although the Bible teaches that if we really are in Christ then our lives will show it and good works will be present, Titus 2:11-12, Titus 3:8, 2 Timothy 3:17). Nor do we “lose” our salvation each time we sin. But what I don’t find in the Bible is the idea that after we accept Jesus, then we can live any kind of a sinful lifestyle that we want to and never repent and still expect to be in heaven. God won’t forgive us unless we want Him to. Of course, we can only repent through the power of Jesus and He will forgive any sin that we confess to Him (1 John 1:9). So the only people who “turn their backs on Christ” are those that fully return to a life of sin and never seek to turn back and be forgiven.
The Bible doesn’t tell say that once we’re saved, we turn from all responsibility of continuing to hold onto God’s hand. Jesus will never let go of us, but we can let go of Him if we choose. The danger of the teaching once-saved-always-saved is that it takes away free will. But we’re always free to choose to love the Lord or walk away. “Christian, know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24–27). In other words, Paul is saying that it was possible, even though he had this spirit-filled saved relationship, to be cast away.
On the other extreme, some think that you need to walk every day in doubt of your relationship with the Lord. But the Bible is clear that you can have an assurance of your relationship with Him. The Bible says you can know that He who has begun a good work in you will perform it to the day of Jesus; He is the Author and Finisher of your faith, that you might know that you have everlasting life. God does not want us to live in fear. He said that we can know we have eternal life. We can know as long as we abide in Him, we have nothing to be afraid of. It’s when we take our hand out of His hand and we choose to turn from His will and go our own way that we are in danger. That’s why I believe that it’s important for us to daily rededicate our lives. Paul said, “I die daily.” He chose every day to say no to living for myself, to die to self, and be born again unto God. On a daily basis, rededicate yourself to God. It doesn’t mean that you’re lost and saved, lost and saved, lost and saved, like a roller coaster. Indeed, dying to yourself daily means that you will keep your relationship with God.
So in conclusion, the answer is: Yes, a Christian can turn away from God and miss out on the joys of heaven. Out of His love for us, God gives us all the power to choose our own course. Christians can choose to depart from Jesus just as sinners can choose to be saved. But here’s the good news: Jesus Christ will never give up on anyone! “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that comes unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 we can live a doubt-free life because we know that Jesus is on our side!