In the previous post, we examined the question, “If God has testified that His children can know that they have received eternal life in Jesus Christ (I John 5:11-13), why do so many Christians still have doubts about their salvation?”  If, at the time our sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb, we believed that we had been saved and were headed to heaven, at what point between then and now did we lose that confidence?  When did we stop “knowing” that we were saved and start “thinking so” or “hoping so?”

For me, it took less than 24 hours to move from confidence to doubt. 

I confessed my faith in Jesus and was united with Him through baptism in His name on a cold, January night in 1973.  My faith was very simple at that point: I believed that I was a sinner and that Jesus was my only hope of salvation.  That was faith enough.  My family and I were staying with my grandparents on their farm in Middle Tennessee at the time as we awaited our visas to move to Monrovia, Liberia.  During those few months, I attended the rural, K-12 school from which my father had graduated years before. 

On the bus ride to school the next morning, I made a comment that drew a quick response from a friend.  I have absolutely no recollection of what I said, whether it was grossly inappropriate or just mildly off-color.  But, I can never forget the reply of this young lady who was aware of my baptism the night before.  She said, “Well, it’s obvious that last night didn’t do you a bit of good!” 

Her comment stung me and stunned me; and nearly 40 years later I can still remember the tone of her voice and the expression on her face.  It was contemptuous. 

Was she right?  Was I really any different?  Had anything changed?  Had my sins really been washed away?  Was I really a Christian?  Was God mad at me?  Was I still going to heaven?  I didn’t know.  And just that quickly, doubt and anxiety replaced the joy and excitement that I had felt only 12 hours earlier.

My problem was that I had not yet worked out the difference between faithfulness and flawlessness.

The God who saved us through Jesus Christ expects, even demands, faithfulness and obedience as a demonstration of our faith and love for Him (I John 2:3; 5:1-3; John 14:15; et al.).  John Stott writes that throughout the letter of I John, the author repeatedly identifies three marks (or tests) of the new birth: belief, love, and obedience.

However, we know that the obedience demanded by I John 2:3 cannot mean sinlessness or perfection because of what precedes it in 1:6 – 2:2, an affirmation of our ongoing struggle with sin. 

Revelation 2:10 instructs us to be faithful until death; faithful, not flawless!

My imperfection is an inherent and understood part of my faithfulness, not a denial of it.

For 23 years I have been a faithful husband to Kim.  A perfect husband?  Are you kidding?  I’ll gladly let you call me a “work in progress” as a husband, but I will get in your face (metaphorically and rhetorically, of course) if you accuse me of unfaithfulness in my marriage.

I can know if I’m faithful.  I can know if I’m not.  Does that make sense?

This is getting long.  Part Three to follow…