After accepting Christ, I continued in an addictive sinful behavior for more than thirty years. I read, learned, taught and was eager to follow where Christ led me. But I was unable to walk away from this sin. Was I truly saved?
Thank you for your question.
This brings to mind the experience of Peter. While he was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, Peter struggled with being self willed, a definite contrast to Jesus’ life of humble obedience (Philippians 2:8). Although Peter began a saving relationship with Jesus (Luke 5:8, 10), he definitely had many bumps along the way. One minute Peter was praised for his understanding of spiritual truth, the next he was rebuked as though he was Satan (Matthew 16:17, 23). He just kept giving into his old ways and making mistakes.
Peter clearly denied Christ when his faith was tested (Matthew 26:75), even though he promised he would die before doing so (Matthew 26:35). We too deny Christ when we knowingly choose to sin and crucify Christ afresh, putting Him to an open shame (Hebrews 6:6). Because of Peter’s sin, he needed an honest conversation with Jesus, just as we do. When Peter met Jesus by the sea, Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times (John 21:15-17). There is something that is often lost in this story because of the English translation of the word “love.”
When Jesus asked “do you love me?” He said, in the Greek, “do you agapao me?” This love means that one loves dearly and completely, an unselfish love. Peter answered Jesus and said “you know that I love you” but used the word “phileo.” This is a brotherly love, which is much less intimate and much less deep. It’s similar to liking or approving of someone. Jesus asked Peter again if he “agapao” loves Him and Peter responds again that he only “phileo” loves Jesus. On the third time, Jesus asks Peter if He “phileo” loves Him and Peter says sincerely that he indeed only “phileo” loved Jesus. Peter had to come to terms with the fact that while he wanted to follow Jesus all the way, he really wasn’t as mature of a Christian as he thought.
In the next verses (18-19), Jesus sees Peter’s future and knows that while Peter was self willed in the past, he would eventually be fully submissive to God’s will and become obedient even to death for his supreme love to God. Peter would indeed one day fully “agapao” love Jesus. God was patient with Peter’s battle to finally overcome sin and self. Peter still made some mistakes after this experience and needed rebuking (Galatians 2:11), but he continued to grow in grace which he admonishes us to do (2 Peter 3:18). Peter eventually overcame his sin of being self willed and submitted to the point of being crucified for Jesus, sealing his salvation.
You can be like Peter, a sincere follower of Christ who struggles with sin yet doesn’t give up until the sin is overcome (Proverbs 24:16). If you accepted Christ into your heart you have begun a saving relation with Him (Romans 10:9). God never gives up on us (Colossians 1:6), but we cannot remain in a saving relationship if we give up on Him (2 Peter 2:20). In love, God calls you to make an effort to fully surrender this sinful addiction to Him and overcome, otherwise, you can end up lost (Hebrews 10:26-27, Revelation 3:5).
We cannot overcome sin in our own strength, but as we abide in Christ through faith, He gives us His strength to remain in Him and as we remain in Him, we will be victorious (John 15:4-11).
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
In His Service,