Should I question my salvation because I can’t break a bad habit?

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I am not sure of my salvation. I tried to repent of cigarette smoking, but it won’t go away. I came as I was, asking Jesus to save me, but nothing makes any difference. Now it seems no hope is left. Will this sin keep me out of heaven?

Sin is often experienced in the Christian life and less often confessed. You have expressed yours openly, and each of your phrases of confession suggests a biblical response.

“I am not sure. . . .” Self-examination is often helpful, but an honest look at self will always bring some disappointment, even doubt. For each look at the disease, believers should take ten looks at the cure: “looking unto Jesus . . . ” (Heb. 12:2). Intimate fellowship with Christ the Savior brings assurance of salvation.

“I tried to repent. . . .” Great phrase! It suggests that repentance is not a one-time event. Repent means “turning,” and every Christian needs more turning to align with God’s perfect will. The tear of repentance is always in the eye of anyone drawing nearer to the Lord.

“. . . it won’t go away.” Cigarette smoking is more than a habit; it is an addiction. Christ can break your addiction now, or He might use others to assist you in finding freedom over time. It is not unspiritual to seek help from professional groups and approved medicines designed for those addicted to nicotine. Paul too was addicted in the pre-tobacco era: “The evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Rom. 7:19). His solution is in vv. 24, 25.

“I came as I was. . . .” It is true that we must come to Christ for forgiveness just as we are, and it is also true that He will not leave us just as we are. When we truly believe, He begins a work in us that will not be complete until it ends in the perfections of His eternal kingdom (Phil. 1:6).

“. . . asking Jesus to save me.” And He has done just what He promised to do! Jesus came to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), not those who think they are all cleaned up and going to heaven. Did you confess your sins? Read 1 John 1:9. Take the Bible at its word: Christians are not perfect — just forgiven. Jesus is your Savior too! (4:10b).

“. . . nothing makes any difference” refers, I think, to your efforts at quitting — so far. Surely your faith has made some other differences, giving you evidence that faith works. The difference of sins forgiven takes just a moment of faith and confession, so never doubt it! The difference of cleansing from daily sins, however, may take a lifetime. So never give up!

“. . . no hope is left”? God is left, and He is the God of hope. Jesus is the same today as yesterday, and He renews our hope. The Holy Spirit is left, and hope is one of the Spirit’s fruits. And you are left, so please be patient: God is not finished with you yet!

Will this sin keep you from the kingdom of heaven? Although smoking is sin (with a small s), it is not unforgivable. Only our willful disobedience and disbelief (sin with a capital S) can break the believer’s fellowship with God and raise valid questions about his salvation.

If you believe with all your heart in Jesus Christ and turn from sin toward righteousness as the Spirit gives you grace to do so, you have God’s promise that He will not abandon you — not now, not forever (Rom. 8:31-39).

— Elder Calvin Burrell

 

 

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Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.