Dear God why? Why does it have to be so hard to be good? Why am I confused about heaven and salvation? Does it take just faith, or faith and being good? Father obviously I don’t want to go to hell. You designed hell so no one would want to go, but yet so many of your creations do. I guess fear is supposed to be the ultimate motivator. If Heaven were attainable by believing in you Lord, I would feel better, but later in my life I have been told it takes more. Because supposedly if you are truly saved you will not want to do bad anymore. You will not be as tempted by sin. A truly saved person wouldn’t find themselves in a bar, EVER. A truly saved person wouldn’t listen to certain music…… If it takes more than faith to be saved, how can a little 8 year old child be saved? They know enough to believe, but I will never believe that 8 year olds are not selfish, or envious. They do not start out the day with the intention not to sin. Their biggest temptations have yet to hit them. What is truly saved God? I truly believe, I truly feel convicted, I have all my life, but I have been through vicious cycles with you… I’m a goody goody, I’m not… I’m on fire… I’m not… but I feel like when I am backslidden I am not saved……
I decided that it would be best to answer as if I were directly responding to this concerned individual. Here is my reply:
I appreciate how honest you have been with me in your struggles over your spiritual life. At the same time, I really think that the only way we can resolve the deep issues you raise is by turning to God and His Word. It is through His revelation in Scripture that we can understand salvation, faith, being good or doing good works, and heaven.
So let's begin by looking at Ephesians 2:8-10: "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them."
By studying this text, we can come to a few conclusions. First, salvation comes by faith. God became one of us in Jesus, living a life of perfect obedience to the Father, then sacrificing Himself on the cross for our sins. Three days later He was raised from the dead, showing that He overcame sin and death for our deliverance. When we turn away from our rebellion against God and embrace Jesus Christ as the One who has reconciled us to God, we are saved.
Second, all of salvation is a gift of God. Nothing we can do changes the fact that we stand condemned before our holy God, deserving His wrath. But God Himself did what we can never do through His Son, Jesus! Jesus delivered us from the guilt of our sins, taking the wrath we deserve upon Himself. Not only this, but when we are united to Christ by faith, we are perfectly righteous in Him. God no longer sees all of our shortcomings, he sees Christ's perfect righteousness. What wonderful good news!
Obviously, if God is the one who saves us, then our salvation is not a result of being good or performing good works. We are not good and righteous because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us! As a result, we cannot boast. Nothing we do earns our salvation. We are not better than anyone else. We are saved by God's grace!
Nevertheless, salvation does change us--God saves us for a purpose. Christians have been created in Christ Jesus for good works. Through the power of His Holy Spirit, we will become more like our Savior. As the Apostle Paul says elsewhere, we are "predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son" (Romans 8:29). This doesn't mean we will overcome all sin and become perfect ourselves in this life. Just look at how Paul himself struggled with sin (Romans 7:15-25)! But God will never let go of those who are His, and over time we will become more like Christ.
Are you saved? Do you have eternal life? The Apostle John devoted an entire letter to help you answer these questions: "I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1 John 5:13). I highly recommend studying 1 John in-depth to evaluate your relationship with God. You may want to read a commentary to assist you while working through this biblical letter as well. One commentary I'm sure you'll find helpful is The Letters of John by John R.W. Stott.
I also strongly recommend checking out a few other books: 1) Donald Whitney's How Can I Be Sure I'm a Christian?, 2) John Piper's Desiring God, and 3) John Piper's When I Don't Desire God.
I will pray for you and hope that you will continue to talk with me about these essential questions.
Because of His grace,