One of the biggest mistakes we can make about our own security in Christ is to base the reality of our salvation on our feelings. Our emotions are affected by so many different things that it is misleading to base our security on them. Each of us grows up in an environment that leaves us with emotional scars. Some people feel anxious and tense because of events in their past. Others are afflicted with anxiety because of neurological disorders or imbalances in body chemistry.
Since salvation is based on belief in Christ and a choice to trust His death on our behalf, the road to assurance is not found in our feelings but in acknowledging and trusting what God has done.
As we voluntarily place ourselves under the influence of Christ and trust His Spirit to guide us toward behavior that is consistent with our confession of faith, we will experience spiritual healing–healing that will extend even to our feelings and emotions. This, however, is a gradual process, and one that may involve many setbacks.
It helps to share one’s doubts with a Christian friend, pastor, or counselor. Just talking to another person can help us see ourselves and our situation more clearly. We can also be comforted by the many Bible passages that emphasize the security of believers in Christ (eg. John John 10:28-30; 13:1 ; Romans 8:29-39 ; 1 Corinthians 3:15 ; 1 Corinthians 12:13 ; Ephesians 1:13; 4:20 ; Jude 24 ).
Although the Bible doesn’t teach that believers can lose their salvation, real believers can backslide and lose their joy. The New Testament gives us many examples of believers who drew back from their fellowship with Jesus Christ: the disciples ( Matthew 26:56 ); Peter ( Matthew 26:69-75 ); the Christians in Corinth ( 2 Corinthians 12:20-21 ); and the Asian churches ( Revelation 2:4,14-15,20 ).
But we should distinguish between backsliding and apostasy–departing from the faith. A true Christian can backslide, be disciplined by God, and repent and return ( Hebrews 12:6 ; Revelation 2:5 ). A person who has merely professed faith without a genuine encounter with Christ can depart, prosper outwardly, and never return. The apostle John said that some who had left the fellowship of believers and were now teaching false doctrine showed by their actions that they never really belonged to Christ ( 1 John 2:19 ). It may be impossible for us to make a judgment about whether the person is a backsliding Christian or an impostor. Sometimes, only time will tell.
The doctrine of eternal security as taught in Scripture is intended to comfort true Christians who want to live faithfully for Jesus Christ. People who once professed faith but are now living sinfully should not be comforted by the assumption that a profession of faith guarantees their salvation. We gain nothing by examining the nature of their past “decision.” They need to soberly consider their lifestyle in the light of passages like 1 John 3:4-9 . If they are genuinely saved, God will discipline them ( Hebrews 12:6 ).