Can I Lose My Salvation?

Can I Lose My Salvation?

1 John 5:9-13

Dr. Jim Denison

On Sunday morning, September 9, 1973, I asked Jesus Christ to forgive my sins and become my Savior and Lord. But when I finished praying, nothing happened. I saw no lights; I felt no weight lift from my shoulders. My first thought was, “Is that all there is to it?”

And my intellectual questions about God didn’t evaporate. I still wondered about creation and science, world religions, why God allows evil and suffering. And so I doubted for many months whether my salvation and faith were real.

Was I alone?

The renowned historian Will Durant mailed questionnaires about the meaning of life to a number of famous people. After reading their answers, he published them in a chapter he titled, “An Anthology of Doubt.” Who hasn’t written in that chapter?

Researcher George Hunter says, “The number one factor in the secular audience today is not guilt but doubt. Secular people doubt the claims of the Gospel, partly because of the plural truth claims confronting people today. They also doubt the intelligence, relevance, and credibility of the church and its advocates.”

And Christians are certainly not immune from such doubts. I was not. You’re not. What do we do when we doubt our salvation or our faith or our God? How can we help others else deal with their doubts? These are precisely the questions this part of John’s first letter was written to answer.

Trust God’s word (v. 9a)

Start with his promise: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” We can “know” with absolute confidence and settled assurance that we have eternal life. How?

First, by trusting the Bible, the “testimony of God” (v. 9). Why should you trust it? When doubts come regarding the Bible, what do you need to know?

The Bible is God’s word because it keeps its promises. For instance, the Old Testament makes at least 28 specific predictions about the coming Messiah, each one fulfilled completely by Jesus Christ. As you’ve heard me say before, the odds of Jesus’ fulfilling just eight of these predictions, as calculated by mathematician Peter Stoner, is 1 in ten to the 17th power. That’s a one followed by 17 zeroes. Get the picture in your mind: fill the state of Texas two feet deep with silver dollars, mark just one, and give me a chance to find it blindfolded. The odds are the same as those for Jesus’ fulfillment of just eight of the promises about the Messiah. The Bible keeps its promises.

The Bible is God’s word because it agrees with itself. 66 different books written over 1,500 years by at least 40 authors, with no discrepancies regarding doctrine or faith practice—clear evidence of the trustworthiness of God’s revelation to us.

And the Bible is God’s word because it has been transmitted accurately to us. The ancient world wrote on papyrus, a thin paper which disintegrated in time. So we have no originals of the Bible, or Caesar’s Gallic Wars, or the Histories of Tacitus, or the work of Aristotle, or any other ancient book. But we have copies. How accurate are they?

We have 5,000 ancient Greek copies of the New Testament, and 10,000 in other ancient languages. These copies go back to 40 years after the originals were written.

Compare the Bible to Caesar’s Gallic Wars, with only nine or ten manuscripts, none early than 900 years after Caesar. The Histories of Tacitus were 14 books; only 4½ remain, none closer than 900 years after Tacitus. Of Aristotle’s books, only five manuscripts remain of any one work, none earlier than 1,400 years after Aristotle.

Some scholars estimate that the Greek New Testament we have is 99.2% the original, and the remaining .8% affects no matter of faith or practice.

Trust the Bible because it keeps its promises, it agrees with itself, it has been given to you accurately. Examine your doubts in its light. Find what God says on the subject, and know that it is true. And many doubts will disappear in the light of the word of God.

Trust God’s Son (vs. 9b-12)

So first we trust the Scriptures. Next we trust the Son these Scriptures reveal. Verse 9 continues, “It is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son.” Trust God’s word, and trust God’s Son.

Historians says you can. Ancient Roman and Jewish scholars such as Thallus the Samaritan, Pliny the Younger, Seutonius, Mara bar Serapion, Tacitus, and Flavius Josephus tell us that Jesus lived, died at the hands of Pontius Pilate, was believed by the first Christians to be raised, and was worshiped as God. Historians say you can trust in God’s Son.

Former skeptics say you can: C. S. Lewis, the brilliant atheistic literature professor who became the most important popular Christian writer of the twentieth century; Cyril Joad, the atheistic philosopher, converted by the truth of the Christian faith; Sir William Ramsey, the brilliant archaeologist, converted by examining the historical truth of Scripture; Josh McDowell, an intellectual skeptic who was changed by the truth of Jesus and now convinces crowds around the world. Former skeptics say you can trust in God’s Son.

You can experience him for yourself, right now. Verse 11 promises that you can have “eternal life” by meeting Jesus. John 3:36 makes the same claim: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.” Whoever—anyone. No matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been. Anyone.

And verse 13 promises that you can know that you have this life.

A literal translation would be, “We can actually and with full assurance know intellectually and personally that we have eternal life.”

This phrase does not mean that we gradually grow into assurance, but that we can possess here and now a present certainty of the life we have already received in Jesus. You don’t need to wonder if Jesus is real and your salvation secure—you can ask him for yourself, meet with him personally, right now.

Deal with doubts in faith

So we stand on the sure foundation of God’s trustworthy word and his divine Son. Now, when doubts arise about our faith, what practical things can we do?

Be prepared for your doubts. According to C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, doubt is something we must expect to happen to us. The stronger your faith, the more likely you will be subjected to attack by doubt. Doubt is part of Satan’s strategy for paralyzing and crippling your faith and preventing your use by God. The stronger your faith, the greater a threat you are to the enemy. So be prepared for doubts to come not because your faith is weak, but because it is strong.

Be realistic about your doubts. Our doubts and questions about God so often come from asking questions whose answers we cannot understand. We want to know more about the nature of God, or his eternal plan and why this crisis fits into it. But our minds are finite and fallen. We want to know more than we can comprehend. Augustine was right: “If you can comprehend it, it’s not God.”

And remember that faith is a relationship with God, and no relationship can be proven. You cannot prove to me that someone loves you. Absolute, scientific, logical proof for love, friendship, or faith does not exist. As Tennyson wrote, “nothing worth proving can be proven.”

So be realistic about your doubts. Do you question what you cannot humanly comprehend? Are you asking for proof which cannot exist?

Be honest about your doubts. The only doubt which does permanent damage is the one we won’t admit. Isaiah 1:18 in the original Hebrew records God’s invitation, “Come, let’s argue it out.” God knows your questions, your doubts, your struggles. Be honest about them with him.

Be biblical about your doubts. Judge what you don’t know by what you do: God’s word is true, and Jesus is his Son and our Savior. Find the help of God’s word and his Son for your doubt, your question, your problem. Ask a trusted Christian friend to study Scripture with you and pray for you. Don’t let the doubt linger and fester in your mind. Bring it into the light of God’s word, now.


My favorite prayer in the Bible is recorded in Mark 9:24. After a father pleads with Jesus to heal his demon-possessed boy, Jesus says, “Everything is possible for him who believes” (v. 23). And the father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” You can pray that prayer today, and Jesus will hear you and help you.

Go to him for the salvation he can give your soul. He will pardon your failures and sins, give you a new start and joyous life, and bring you to heaven when you die. Go to him to start your faith, and to live your faith. Name your doubt, your confusion, your question today. Give it to him. And listen for his answers. Ask him to help your unbelief, and he will.

I studied and taught philosophy of religion at Southwestern Seminary and in other schools precisely because I believe that we need to love God with our minds. We need to ask our questions with honesty, and find the help that Scripture and Christ give us.

I closed every course I taught with a prayer I invite you to share with me now:

From cowardice, which shrinks from new truth,From laziness, that is content with half truth,From arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,O God of Truth, deliver.


Did Jesus Go to Hell?

Did Jesus Go to Hell?

1 Peter 3.13-22

Dr. Jim Denison

Today’s message can be the shortest you’ve ever heard, or the longest. Here’s the short version: “Did Jesus go to hell? No.” We’re done, and we can all beat the Methodists to lunch.

If you’d like to know a little more about this incredible text, understand first that living out the truths of what you’ll hear today will require the rest of your life, making this the longest sermon you’ve ever heard. And one of the most important.

Let me explain.

Are you involved or committed?

Perhaps you heard about the Kamikaze pilot who flew 50 missions. It’s been said that he was involved, but not committed. Can this happen to Christians? To us?

The great preacher Arthur John Gossip described Christianity of 1924 this way: “We have all been inoculated with Christianity, and are never likely to take it seriously now! You put some of the virus of some dreadful illness into a man’s arm, and there is a little itchiness, some scratchiness, a slight discomfort—disagreeable, no doubt, but not the fever of the real disease, the turning and the tossing, and the ebbing strength. And we have all been inoculated with Christianity, more or less. We are on Christ’s side, and we wish him well, we hope that he will win, and we are even prepared to do something for him, provided, of course, that he is reasonable, and does not make too much of an upset among our cozy comforts and our customary ways. But there is not the passion of zeal, and the burning enthusiasm, and the eagerness of self-sacrifice, of the real faith that changes character and wins the world.”

What would Dr. Gossip say of north Dallas Christianity in 2001?

For much of my Christian life, I tried to live in two worlds. Perhaps you know what I mean. Church on Sunday, school or work on Monday. Sunday friends and Monday friends. Sunday priorities and Monday priorities. Sunday success and Monday success. Sunday spirituality and Monday secularity. Involved but not committed.

It’s a common lifestyle. Recent research indicates that self-described “born again” Christians are just as likely as non-Christians to buy a lottery ticket, to believe in horoscopes, to go to R-rated movies, or to experience a divorce. The same number of Christians as non-Christians believe that money is the main symbol of success in life, and that you can tell how successful a person is by examining what they own.

Apparently many of us know how to be involved while avoiding commitment. We know how to live in two worlds, and look like each of those worlds when we’re there.

But God wants Monday Christians. People who will live as fully for him tomorrow as we do today. God is calling for people who will make Jesus their Master, Boss, and Lord, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How do we do this? And why should we? These are the two questions our text answers for us today.

Are you standing for God? (13-17)

First let’s learn how to move from involvement to commitment, then we’ll learn why we should. Measure yourself by four questions our text asks of us today.

First, are you passionate about your faith? (v. 13). Peter speaks of being “eager to do good.” His Greek is stronger than our English: “become zealots of the good.”

Are you that passionate about your faith? When was the last time you were truly excited about prayer and Bible study? The last time you were overjoyed to worship God? When did you last sacrifice your time or money for God with emotional enthusiasm for such privilege? How passionate is your faith today?

Second, are you willing to suffer for your Lord?

Verse 14 says, “Even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.” Verse 17 adds, “It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (v. 17).

Are you willing to do this? To stand for Jesus if your commitment costs you friends, or respect, or money? To give to Jesus of your time or abilities or finances at personal cost? When did you last suffer for your Lord? Will you?

Third, can you defend your faith?

The command of v. 15 is clear: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” “Always,” all the time, on Monday as well as Sunday. “Be prepared” is a present tense imperative, a command to be obeyed now. To “everyone,” regardless of the cost. A “reason” for your faith, meaning a reasonable explanation for what you believe and why.

Can you explain your faith to someone else? Can you tell them how you became a Christian, and why? Are you telling people? Who was the last person to hear about Jesus because of you?

Fourth, does your lifestyle glorify Jesus?

Words without lifestyle hurt more than they help. So Peter hastens to add, “But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (vs. 15-16).

“Gentleness” means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit; “respect” means to be gracious to the person who questions or challenges your faith. In all things, keep a “clear conscience,” living for God in every part of your life. Character is what you are when no one is looking.

And the result is that those who gossip or slander you for your faith will be ashamed of themselves, and Jesus will be glorified. So, does your lifestyle glorify Jesus? In the words of the old question, If you were put on trial for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Will you be rewarded by God? (18-22)

Why should you be? Why not live in two worlds, getting along with your God on Sunday and your society on Monday? Why do whatever it takes to be passionate about your commitment, sacrificial for your Father, prepared to explain your faith, and godly with your life?

Peter has one simple answer: because God rewards sacrificial obedience beyond anything it can cost us. Our Father gives joy, purpose, and eternal reward the world cannot offer. Peter gives us two examples of that fact.

He cites first the example of the Lord Jesus, who was “put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit” (v. 18). As a result, he “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him” (v. 22). The Father rewarded his Son’s crucified obedience beyond all it cost him.

Now Peter cites the example of Noah. There is simply not time to discuss the five major interpretations scholars suggest for these verses, so I’ll summarize the approach many have taken since Augustine, the interpretation which seems the most biblical to me.

Jesus was raised from the dead by the Holy Spirit (v. 18; cf. Romans 8:11). By that same Spirit he preached to those “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built” (v. 20).

How? Noah was a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5) by the work of “the Spirit of Christ” (1 Peter 1:11). And so Jesus by the Spirit preached through Noah.

When? Peter’s Greek grammar is clear: he did this while Noah was building his Ark, calling the people to repentance and salvation. Those people are now, in Peter’s time, “spirits in prison,” awaiting their final judgment for their rejection of God’s grace.

Jesus didn’t go to them, or to hell, between his death and resurrection. In fact, he assured the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Here’s the point Peter is making: as God rewarded Noah’s sacrificial faithfulness, so he will reward ours. They passed through flood waters to salvation; we have passed through baptism waters, symbolizing our salvation in Christ (v. 21). He was passionate about his commitment, sacrificial for his God, prepared to explain his faith, godly with his life. He is now in his eternal, permanent reward. So can we be. The choice is ours.


Full-time Christianity is God’s basic expectation of every believer. No other religion in the world separates its faith from life as some of us do. Muslims are Muslim about their families, work, and week; so are Buddhists, and Hindus, and followers of other world religions. So were early Christians, living together, serving God together, dying for their faith together.

But along the way we split the spiritual from the secular, and Sunday from Monday. Now God wants us to put them back together. He wants Monday Christians. He’s ready to reward and bless and use Monday Christians.

Will you be a Monday Christian with your time, your money, your friendships, your ambitions? Would you ask God to show you your next step to Monday faith?

Eric Liddell was the Michael Jordan of his nation, the most famous runner and athlete in Scotland. I’ve known his story, but learned more of it this week. It seems that he shocked his countrymen on April 6, 1923 when he first made public his commitment to Jesus Christ. He shocked the world on July 6, 1924 when he lived by that commitment.

His best event was the 100 meters. But when he got to the Paris Olympics and discovered that this race would be run on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, he refused. He preached in a Paris church as his race was run. “Complete surrender” was his life’s theme. A few days later he ran the 400 meters, his worst distance. He won the gold medal and set a new world record.

Worldwide fame was his. But the next year he returned to China, where he had been born to missionary parents. There he was ordained to ministry and married. There he shared Christ in isolated communities, leaving his family behind for extended and grueling times. But “complete surrender” was his commitment.

In March of 1943 he was placed in a Japanese interment camp. He led the camp in daily Bible study until a brain tumor ended his life at age 43. His last words, spoken to a camp nurse, were, “It’s complete surrender.”

All of Scotland mourned. All of heaven rejoiced.

Eric Liddell was a Monday Christian. God needs more like him. Will you be one?

What Does God Think of the Jews?

What Does God Think of the Jews?

Romans 11.25-32 / Galatians 3.26-29

Dr. Jim Denison

A small boy was visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with in the woods. Heading back to dinner, he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Out of impulse, he shot a rock at it, hit the duck in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch that day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn’t you Johnny?” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” But Sally smiled and said, “But Johnny told me he wanted to help you.” And she whispered again, “Remember the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed.

After days of doing his and Sally’s chores, Johnny couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed her duck. She knelt down, gave him a hug, and said, “I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing. Because I love you, I forgave you. But I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

Where does guilt live in your mind or heart? What past failures sting you? What secrets from your past still shame you? Where does your past enslave you?

Are you living with failure and wondering if you’re forgiven? Are you facing tough times and wondering if you’re being punished? Does your past poison your present?

It’s been said that to live with guilt is like being stung to death by a single bee. How do we remove that stinger today?

Did God still love them?

This is precisely the question Paul answers in the Scriptures which are before us. No one ever had better reason to wonder if God loved them than the Jews.

Through Abraham, God chose the Jewish nation as his instrument for bringing the good news of his love to all of mankind (see Genesis 12:3).

But along the way, the Jewish nation had every reason to wonder if they were really his chosen people, if God truly loved them. 430 years in Egyptian slavery, 40 years of wilderness wandering, and seven years of bloodshed and suffering as they conquered their Holy Land. Then civil war which divided the nation permanently. Then Assyrian conquest which destroyed their ten northern tribes. Then Babylonian conquest which enslaved their two southern tribes. Then oppression by the Greeks and finally enslavement by the Romans.

Worst of all, God is now receiving the hated Gentiles as his people. The Christians are preaching the story of their Messiah to the Gentile world, and these cursed pagans are coming to faith in Israel’s God.

It seems that God has abandoned the Jewish people, turned from them, rejected them. The Jews have every reason to wonder if God still loves them. Maybe you feel the same way today. Hear then, this word from your Father in heaven.

Does God still love us?

Here is the central fact from our text: though the Jews have rejected the Messiah, he has not rejected them.

Paul says, “Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles come in” (v. 25b). The “hardening” here is spiritual, that hardening of the arteries of the soul which comes from refusing the gospel.

Because the Jews rejected Christ, his followers turned to the Gentiles. His church took the gospel to the Gentile world. With this result: the “full number of the Gentiles,” meaning the entire Gentile world, could “come in” to God’s kingdom.

So God used the Jewish refusal of Christ, but Christ has not refused them.

“And so all Israel will be saved,” Paul continues (v. 26a). “All Israel” here does not mean that every Jew would be saved apart from Christ. Paul spoke in Romans 9:2 of his “great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart” over the lostness of his Jewish nation.

The apostle means that the entire race of the Jews would have opportunity to come to salvation, just as the Gentiles now have that privilege.

How? Through the Gentiles, God is now offering salvation to the Jews.

Paul says it this way: “I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them” (11:13-14).

The apostle hoped that the Jews would see the Gentiles coming to salvation, become jealous, and come to Christ as a result. Then God could fulfill his covenant to “take away their sins” (v. 27).

Here’s the point: despite all they have endured, all the failures and slaveries and pain they have faced, “they are loved” (v. 28). Verse 29 promises that God’s “gifts” (the word means his “grace”) and call are “irrevocable”—he will never take them back or regret them. One day he hopes to “have mercy on them all” (v. 32).

And what God promised to the Jews, he promised to the Gentiles as well. Galatians 3 announces this incredible fact: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (vs. 28-29).

The Jewish people rejected the Messiah, but he did not reject them. Now you have failed the Father; you have sometimes refused his truth; we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory. We have rejected God’s word and will, but he has not rejected us. No matter what you’ve done or where you’ve done it, he loves you still. This is exactly what his word promises every one of us, with no exceptions, today.

And now God wants us to accept this unconditional grace and love. Let me ask you: are you trying to earn God’s mercy? Punishing yourself for your failures? Confessing the same sins to God which he has already forgiven and forgotten? Laboring in guilt you won’t release? Allowing the past to poison the present?

There are many Old Testament Christians today—people who are saved by grace but live by works, keeping the Law, making sacrifices, living in religious duty and obligation and ritual, hoping to earn what Jesus died to give. Are you among them?


In the depths of the Great Depression, an impoverished elderly woman approached the front desk of an insurance office in Minneapolis. She wanted to know if she could stop making payments on the yellowed policy clutched in her work-weathered fingers.

The clerk glanced at the document, then studied it in amazement. “This is quite valuable,” he said. “I would not advise you to stop paying the premiums now, after all these years. Have you spoken with your husband about this?” “No,” she said, “he’s been dead for three years.”

She held in her hands an insurance policy on her husband’s life worth $300,000. The company immediately paid the benefits of that policy and refunded the years of overpaid premiums. And she finally began to experience the financial security which had been hers all along.

Jesus has already died—the policy is now paid in full. He loves you completely and perfectly. He has forgiven every sin you have confessed to him in genuine repentance. To punish yourself for sins God has forgiven is to pay premiums on benefits which are already yours. He loves all the Jews, and all the Gentiles. And all of us. And each of us.

This Lord’s Supper proves that it is so. Here is tangible evidence of his suffering for our salvation, his death for our life. In a moment you will take this bread and cup from the hands of your sister or brother. Don’t see their hands. See instead nail-scarred hands. Believe in nail-scarred grace. Accept nail-scarred mercy. Welcome nail-scarred love.

As we prepare to share these elements, prepare your heart to receive them. Think of that guilt you haven’t released, that shame which still hurts, that failure whose sting still poisons. If you have not already, confess it to God. Put it in his hands. Believe that he has taken it, forgiven it, forgotten it. Leave it there. And take the bread and cup in its place, from his nail-scarred hands for your grace-healed heart.

The grace of this table is the gift of God to us. Will you open yours?