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What is True Salvation? I don't feel saved because of my struggle with sin

The Question:

My question has to deal with what true salvation is. I have been a "Christian" for 4 1/2 years. I am very concerned with one particular sin I haven't been able to break free from. I have tried to forsake it, but I just keep yielding. I often wonder if I am truly saved. My question is, since I believe I am "practicing unrighteousness" in this area, does that mean I'm not saved? And if I am not saved, has Jesus not answered my prayer to be saved? I have asked him into my heart again and again and again, but I still doubt. Is the problem then unbelief? I know that all of us struggle in our areas of weakness, but I am tired of feeling like I'm trying to walk in my own strength. And if I am obedient, does that mean I'm nothing more than a Pharisee who is righteous on the outside, but filled with lusts on the inside? Is a person like that saved? Or is it just that I've allowed sin to reign in my members, and haven't given the Holy Spirit a chance to have lordship over this area of my life. Your help in these questions would be appreciated as well as your prayers. Please give scripture to back up what you say if you can.

The Answer:

First of all, you are not saved by works, but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice. Luke 7:50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

You are GOD's workmanship - which means He IS working in you, and He will continue to work in your life as long as you have faith in Him.

Titus 3:4-8 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 13:20-21 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Your concern over this area you are having trouble with shows that the Holy Spirit is convicting you of this sin and helping you overcome it. Which I think you recognize when you said "Or is it just that I've allowed sin to reign in my members, and haven't given the Holy Spirit a chance to have lordship over this area of my life."

We are told to lay aside entangling sins: Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The key here is fixing your eyes on Jesus and not your problem. A good way to fix your eyes on Jesus is to read 1 John over and over, like 50 times in a row, until God's marvelous love sinks deep into your spirit.

In dealing with lust, the mind is the battleground and you need to be careful what you allow to occupy your thoughts. If you spend time talking about it, watching it on movies and TV, listening to music that exalts it, or engaging in the use of pornography, your struggle will be much harder.

Romans 8:5 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 

Philippians 4:8 "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

The key here is to concentrate on worthy things, not stress about NOT thinking lustful thoughts, which just magnifies the negative things.

You also need to take every thought into Christ's captivity - cast down the vain things that are occupying your attention.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Check your attitude about women. The world treats them as sex objects, but we are commanded to see them as mothers and sisters:

I Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.

Where do these thoughts come from in the first place? In Ezekiel 38:10 it says: `This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On that day thoughts will come into your mind and you will devise an evil scheme." Notice it says, "thoughts will COME INTO YOUR MIND". From where? The devil. He "beams" thoughts into your mind, and because he uses "I" statements ("I want to eat a gallon of chocolate ice cream") you think the thoughts are YOURS. But they aren't, so refuse them in Jesus' Name!

This struggle you are going through is normal.  Paul himself admits to a real battle with the flesh: Romans 7:18-8:2 I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.

Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

"This body of death" is a reference to a gruesome way of executing criminals by placing a corpse on their back until they died from the corruption. No wonder Paul said he was wretched. BUT Jesus set Paul free and He can and will set you free too!

And victory will come as you seek to put off the old sinful self and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness: Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Romans 12:1-2 talks about renewing the mind also: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

How do you renew your mind? As stated before by casting down the vain thoughts already there, bringing them in to Christ's captivity, by refusing to fill your mind with trash anymore, and by refusing the "I" thoughts that satan tries to beam into your head. This is the negative aspect - part of putting off the old self.

The positive side is to deliberately think about good things, to fill your mind and heart with God's Word, to memorize scripture, and to spend time thinking about how to apply it to your life.

This may be an area that you need to pray for deliverance from: 2 Timothy 4:18 And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. 

It might be helpful if you have a male pastor or mature Christian help you in praying about this struggle.

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