How far can I go .... before I've gone too far?
If you're a Christian, or even if you're someone who believes in God, but has never actually known Him, this question can haunt you. When you think about your spiritual standing, and especially your eternal destiny, a lot of questions come to mind: either because you know yourself so well, or because the Enemy of your soul, Satan, is suggesting them to you. Maybe both. Questions of doubt, questions of uncertainty, questions of paralyzing fear.
Because anyone who has enough common sense to draw a breath of air is aware that he or she is a sinner. Maybe you don't use that word, but instead think of your "mistakes" and "shortcomings:" but few of us think we're perfect. (If you don't know how God sees you, I suggest you look up and read the tab marked Hey, dummy! It gives the Biblical view of human nature in no uncertain terms.) Many people delude themselves into thinking that they're "good enough" to get into Heaven, which is an absurd conceit; but at certain times, even they have questions.
For a non-Christian, who has never received Jesus Christ by an act of the will, according to John 1:12, and been born again, according to Jesus' words in John 3:3-7, the question is often: "How far can I go, with actions and thoughts that I know to be wrong, before I'm hopelessly damned? How far can I go before God cuts me off completely?"
(The Biblical answer, of course, is that if you haven't received Christ, you're damned already, regardless of how far you go, or don't go. Most people are familiar with John 3:16, but as He continued to refer to Himself, Jesus said: He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil [John 3:18-19]. If you haven't received Christ, it's not a question of "going too far;" in fact, you haven't gone far enough, and received Him as your Saviour.)
There are all kinds of worries. "I've been unfaithful to her so many times, and hurt my family so badly ... if I do it again, will I be beyond redemption?" "I've done so many terrible things, and never gotten caught ... but God saw. Am I lost forever?" "If I commit suicide, will I end up in Hell?" Where's the cut-off point? To put it very crudely, but very honestly, the question boils down to: "How much sin and wrongdoing can I get away with?"
Christians ask themselves the same questions, albeit in a different form. When a woman or man receives Christ, he or she is saved; they've obtained eternal salvation, a place in Heaven with their Creator, by the sheer grace of God. But far too many Christians misunderstand the Bible, and think that they can, through some terrible sin, lose that salvation, and be damned after all. (It doesn't help that this totally unscriptural notion is taught by the largest "Christian" organization on earth, based in Rome, or that too many Protestants preach it.) For such people, whether they're teenagers "making out" at a party, or crooked businessmen, or "church women" gossiping and ruining the reputation of others, the question is, "How far can I go without losing my salvation?" Again, the matter is really, "How much sin can I get away with?"
But these questions aren't always asked out of a selfish desire to go on drinking or lying or stealing, or whatever one's "pet sin" might be. Very often, the question is asked in fear and trembling. Because, as noted earlier, we have an innate sense that we don't deserve Heaven, and we know that the logical and just result of our sins (Christian or non-Christian) would be Hell. God is righteous and holy, and will not allow sin into His Heaven.
So, we look at the people in scripture. The Bible is unique, among all the "holy books" of this world, in presenting its characters honestly - - - even the heroes and heroines. And we see something interesting in the Bible's pages. Can an adulterer go to Heaven? (David did.) Can a whore go to Heaven? (Rahab did, as well as several others in the Bible.) Can a cold-blooded, premeditated murderer go to Heaven? (Moses did, Exodus 2:11, 12.) Can a man who has spent his time persecuting and killing Christians go to Heaven? (The Apostle Paul did.) This is not to say that their actions were right, of course; but it demonstrates that, as an old preacher said, "There's hope for the vilest." That includes you; that includes me.
But what about Christians? Can the genuine followers of Christ betray their Saviour, and still be saved? (Peter was: He walked with Jesus for three years, and then denied Him.) Can a Christian flatly disobey God, and still be saved? (Again, Paul did: he refused to obey God's instructions to go in a certain direction, and although he lost his freedom and was executed, he went to Heaven.) The examples are found throughout the New Testament.
Because, if you're a Christian, your salvation is not yours: it's God's, and He's in control of it. (After committing adultery and murder, David prayed, Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, Psalm 51:12. Not "my salvation;" "thy salvation.") And how were we saved in the first place? For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) If our "good works" can't save us, how could our sins cause us to lose our salvation?
They can't: not if we've truly received Christ, and been born again. Make no mistake, however: the sins of a Christian or a non-Christian will not go without consequences. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7). A Christian who sins can lose his family, or his health, or even his freedom, in prison; he or she may even lose their earthly life. But they can't lose their salvation ... because salvation is of grace, and grace alone: God's unmerited favor, given to all those who receive His Son.
If you're not a Christian, you can receive Christ today, simply by confessing your sins and asking Him to save you for Jesus' sake. (I said it was simple; I didn't say it was easy. It won't solve all your problems; in fact, you'll have new ones! But your eternal destiny won't be one of them.) If you are a Christian, but wonder if you've gone too far, or lost your salvation, you need to be reminded: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35-39).
"How far can I go before I lose a chance of being saved?"
"How far can I go before I lose my salvation?"
One step farther than the grace of God!