On Losing One’s Salvation

LENTEN RETREAT
Day 14 

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SALVATION is a gift, a pure gift from God that no one earns. It is freely given because “God so loved world.” [1]John 3:16 In one of the more moving revelations from Jesus to St. Faustina, He beckons:

Let the sinner not be afraid to approach Me. The flames of mercy are burning Me—clamoring to be spent… I want to keep pouring them out upon souls; souls just don’t want to believe in My goodness. Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 50

The Apostle Paul wrote that God “wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.” [2]1 Tim 2:4 So there is no question of God’s generosity and burning desire to see every single man and woman remain with Him for eternity. However, it is equally true that we can not only refuse this gift, but forfeit it, even after we have been “saved.”

When I was growing up, there was a heresy circulating among some of the Evangelical churches that “once saved, always saved”, that you can never lose your salvation. That from the “altar call” on, you are “covered by the blood of Jesus”, no matter you do. Sadly, I still hear radio and television preachers continue to teach this error from time to time. But to be certain, it has its Catholic counterpart as well, where some clergy have taught that, because of God’s infinite mercy, nobody will end up for eternity in Hell. [3]cf. Hell is for Real 

The reason that both these heresies are a dangerous and insidious lie, is that it is has the potential of stunting or even completely stalling a Christian’s growth in sanctification. If I can never lose my salvation, then why bother mortifying my flesh? If I can simply ask forgiveness, why not give into this mortal sin just one more time? If I will never end up in Hell, then why bother persevering in devotion, prayer, fasting and frequenting the Sacraments when our time to “eat, drink, and be merry” here on earth is short as it is? Such lukewarm, if not cold Christians, are the Devil’s greatest strategy in the spiritual battle to claim souls as his own. For Satan does not fear the saved—he fears the saints. Those, who with St. Paul can say, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” [4]Gal 2:20 And according to Jesus, they are few.

Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt 7:13-14)

This passage is typically understood as meaning that many go to Hell, and few reach Heaven. But there is another deeper meaning here to consider. And it is this: that the narrow gate to life is the gate of self-denial and renunciation of the world that leads to interior union with God. And truly, few are those who find it, few are those willing to persevere on what Jesus calls the “hard way.” Today, we call those who did “saints.” On the other hand, many are those who take the easy and lukewarm path that compromises with the world, and ultimately leads to the destruction of the fruits of the Spirit in one’s life, thereby neutering the Christian’s witness and his or her threat to the kingdom of Satan.

And so yesterday was an invitation to you and me to enter the narrow gate, to become true pilgrims who resist the easy way. The “way is hard”, but I assure you, God will make every possible grace and “spiritual blessing” [5]cf. Eph 1:3 available to you and me if we but desire to take this path. And that desire opens the fifth pathway, the fifth “highway” for God to enter the soul, which is where I believe we’ll pick up tomorrow.

But I want to close today’s reflection by briefly countering this heresy that we can never lose our salvation—not to scare you; not to create fear. But to draw your attention to the spiritual battle we are in that most notably is aimed at preventing you and me from becoming another Christ in the world. It was to St. John Vianney that Satan shrieked, “If there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined!” What if you and I actually enter what I will henceforth call the “Narrow Pilgrim Road”?

Okay, on to the heresy. Jesus warned that…

…the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. (Matt 10:22)

Speaking to the Roman Christians who were saved “because of faith”, [6]Rom said St. Paul, 11:20  he reminds them to see…

…God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. (Rom 11:22)

This echoes Jesus’s words that those branches that do not bear fruit will be “cut off” and those…

…branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:6)

To the Hebrews, Paul says:

For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Heb 3:14)

This confidence or “faith”, said St. James, is dead if it is not proven in works. [7]cf. James 2:17 Indeed, at the last judgment, Jesus says that we will be judged by our works:

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? ’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. ’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matt 25:44-46)

Notice that the damned called Him “Lord”. But Jesus says, 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. (Matt 7:21)

Last, St. Paul turns to himself and says,

I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:27; see also Phil 2:12, 1 Cor 10:11-12, and Gal 5:4)

That is, dear brothers and sisters, St. Paul entered the Narrow Pilgrim Gate and the way that is hard. But in this, he discovered a secret joy, “For to me life is Christ,” he said, “and death is gain.[8]Phil 1:21 That is, death to self.

 

SUMMARY AND SCRIPTURE

The “Narrow Pilgrim Road”, which is the path of renouncing oneself for the sake of Christ, leads to the beatitude of peace and joy and life.

Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ and advance to maturity, without laying the foundation all over again… For it is impossible in the case of those who have once been enlightened and tasted the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to bring them to repentance again, since they are recrucifying the Son of God for themselves and holding him up to contempt. (Heb 6:1-6)

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1. John 3:16
2. 1 Tim 2:4
3. cf. Hell is for Real 
4. Gal 2:20
5. cf. Eph 1:3
6. Rom said St. Paul, 11:20
7. cf. James 2:17
8. Phil 1:21
Posted in HOME, PRAYER RETREAT.