Finishing well matters. As a Southern Baptist I often hear the phrase "once saved always saved" thrown around sort of causally in various circles. While I whole heartedly do affirm that all those genuinely converted will go to heaven, I have an issue with that phrase.
It's not that the phrase in and of itself is all that bad, but it's what it has come to mean. Now days it means "anyone who at any point in his or her life has made any sort of profession of faith, will go to heaven." If you don't believe that's the case, you must not have attended many funerals in the Bible Belt.
So, then, what happens if I don't persevere to the end? To answer that, let's read from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon entitled Enduring to the End:
Only he who continueth till he reaches the goal may be accounted a Christian at all...Those who merely begin, and do not hold out, will not be saved. Why! If every man would be saved who began to follow Christ, who would be damned? In a country as this, the most of men have at least one religious spasm in their lives (emphasis mine). I suppose that there is not a person before me who at some time or other did not determine to be a pilgrim (Christian).
You, Mr. Pliable, were induced by a Christian friend, who had some influence with you, to go with him some short way, till you came to the Slough of Despond (a Pilgrim's Progress reference); and you thought yourself very wise when you scrambled out on that side which was nearest to your own home. And even you, Mr. Obstinate, are not always dogged; you have fits of thoughtfulness and intervals of tenderness. My hearer, how impressed you were at the prayer meeting! How excited you were at that revival service! When you heard a zealous brother preach at the theater, what an impression was produced! Ah, yes! The shop was shut up for a Sunday or two; you did not swear or get drunk for nearly a month; but you could not hold on any longer.
Now, if those who were to begin were saved, you would be secure, though you are at the present time as far from anything like religion as the darkness at midnight is from the blazing light of midday. Besides, common sense shows us, I say, that a man must hold on, or else he cannot be saved; because the very worst of men are those who begin and then give up...There are none so bad as those who once seemed to be good.After a lengthy illustration on a young man who walked away from the church, Spurgeon goes on to say:
Do not think it is the young alone however. It is a very lamentable fact that there are, in proportion, more backslidings among the old than the young; and if you want to find a great sinner in that respect, you will find him, surely, nine times out of ten with gray hairs on his head. Have I not frequently mentioned that you do not find in Scripture many cases of young people going astray..."Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall."
No true child of God perishes - hold that fast; but this is the badge of a true child of God, - that a man endures to the end, and if a man does not hold on, but slinks back to his old master, and once again fits on the old collar, and wears again the Satanic yoke, there is sure proof that he has never come out of the spiritual Egypt through Jesus Christ, his leader, and hath never obtained that eternal life which cannot die, because it is born of God. The true badge of the Christian is perseverance, and without it no man has proved himself to be a child of God.There it is. While it is true that all Christians are preserved by God and never lost, it is equally true that they all persevere to the end. We cannot tell a person is saved simply by what they say about their conversion. The most dramatic and emotional of conversion experiences may prove false if one does not persevere to the end. "Although works do not justify a man before God, they do justify a man's profession before his fellows" (CHS).
Let us recover right teaching on this grand doctrine of Believers persevering to the end! Let me encourage you Believer to continue the fight! Continue to run the race set before you. Continue on this narrow way. Continue! For he who endures to the end, shall be saved.
But ye cannot persevere except by much watchfulness in the closet, much carefulness over every action, much dependence upon the strong hand of the Holy Spirit, who alone can make you stand. Walk and live as in the sight of God, knowing where your great strength lieth; and depend upon it, you shall yet sing that sweet doxology in Jude, "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." A simple faith brings the soul to Christ. Christ keep the faith alive. That faith enables the believer to persevere, and so he enters heaven. May that be your lot and mine, for Christ's sake. Amen.