I have been a Christian my entire life but grew up "quasi-Catholic" as a child. I always enjoyed going to church and felt like I knew Jesus but I was radically saved as an adult at a small non-denominational church in Phoenix. I was literally knocked to the ground as I got baptized by the Holy Spirit in 2013.
The short answer is no, I have never received formal theology training. However, I have spent the past 7 years reading the Bible twice a day and meditating on it daily. I am a firm believer that the Word of God is Jesus in print version. If you don't study it how can you expect to learn fully about God's character? And if you don't know God's character how can you identify what's from Him and what isn't? I don't believe you need formal education or training to develop a relationship with Him.
If you ever want to stir up a Christian debate? Start here! Obviously, there are a variety of answers, but for this discussion I'm sticking to the two main opposing viewpoints.
1.Once you are saved you can never lose your salvation. "And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any [man] pluck them out of my hand." John 10:28, NIV. The problem here is that, as Christians we may lean toward ambivalence and choose sin because we know the Lord's love is unconditional once we accept Him in to our hearts.
2. It is possible to lose our salvation if we live a life of what I call active sin (see next question) for more details. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Matthew 7:21, NIV. The problem here is that Christians may live in constant fear that they won't measure. Well, guess what? You won't measure up so stop trying! "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23, NIV.
I've heard convincing arguments on both sides that could sway even the most trained scholars. I personally believe you cannot lose your salvation once you become saved, but that you can lose your God appointed destiny and gifts if you stray from His truth. "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 NIV I always encourage my fans to ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment so they can decide for themselves.
The short answer is ABSOLUTELY! Not only that but..."People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.' Proverbs 28:13, NIV. Wait, what? Now when I mess up I have to publicly admit my mistakes? I know that's not what you were hoping to hear, but it's true. Thinking about confessing our most personal wrongs can leave us feeling vulnerable, exposed and judged. I recommend you find a few close friends and fellow believers who can pray and support you on your faith journey. Remember no one is perfect and you don't need to be either.
Now before we get too deep in to this let me first explain the difference between what I like to call active sin and accidental sin. Sin is sin, right? Well, yes, but not so fast. There's a fundamental difference I feel useful when considering this concept. Active sin is when you recognize something is the wrong choice but still follow through despite the ability to choose what's right. Here it's often premeditated and planned. For example, you choose to put yourself in an environment where it's likely you'll make the wrong choice, the one opposite of where God is leading you. Accidental sin which could also be considered "subconscious" sin means you made a choice but it didn't resonate until after you made it. It sneaks up on you and before you know it, it's over and done with but your heart instantly recognizes it's wrong. Both are still sin, right? Absolutely.
The main difference is just whether you choose to put God's desires before the sin or not. Either way, I do believe He will forgive you, but when I struggle repeatedly in my life He always grows distant. I do not believe there are different levels of sin and have found nothing in the Bible to suggest this, but again, I'm not a trained theologian.
So, what exactly does God consider sin? There are several Bible verses that clearly state sin guidelines. "When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Galations 5:19-21, NIV.
Does that mean every sin is listed here? No, but the basic categories can help you along your walk.
I get this question almost every day and it's by far my favorite!
I've been a Christian my entire life but have only really gotten to know the Holy Spirit in the last year or two. Let me back up for a minute here. I believe, based on the Bible, that when Jesus died on the cross He ascended to Heaven to be with the Father. Jesus clearly tells us in the Bible that after He was to leave us, His Father would send us an Advocate who would guide us. "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26 NIV. The word advocate also means comforter. This is my favorite definition of the Holy Spirit. Don't we all need a little comfort in this world?
And when he reappeared to the apostles after the resurrection He instructed them to stay in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-31 and Acts 1:4, 5, 8). This advocate is the Holy Spirit. You see, Jesus was limited here on Earth as a man because He could only be in one place at one time. The Holy Spirit on the other hand can be everywhere at all times.
I have also come to learn the Holy Spirit is an actual person as part of the Holy Trinity who wants to know us intimately. I believe we need to constantly seek His guidance and strive to learn His likes and dislikes [See what does the Bible say about sin? Listed below]. He's an absolute gentleman and won't go anywhere He is not welcomed. He has become my best friend in recent years and it's truly shaped my encounters with the Lord.
Yes, you do. This is when you get your frustrated face on. Go ahead, I can take it. "But Jill! You DON'T know what they did! If you did, you wouldn't say that!" Well, you're absolutely right. I don't know how badly they hurt you and I'm so sorry for your pain. I am however confident that it's entirely within your control to change your situation moving forward. And you can start right now, this very moment.
Don't you want God to forgive everything bad you've ever done? "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." Matthew 6:14-15, NIV. Then you have your answer. Still need more? "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32, NIV.
Hey, I never said it was easy, I just said it was simple! Now you ask- "But, what if they keep hurting me over and over again?" Then this verse is for you. "So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Luke 17, 3-4, NIV.
Unforgiveness will harden your heart, derail your spiritual growth and keep you from getting closer to the Lord. Many Christians, including myself, believe if you don't forgive others it will others that it will be counted against you on the Day of Judgement.