Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun agoodwork in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:
Before I begin here, let me explain to you that I haven't changed my position. I still believe that God gave us a free will and he wants us to choose to love him and follow him. I still believe that we can willfully walk away from our salvation- after we are born again- and be eternally lost.
However, I think that sometimes we Apostolics can become so focused on trying to get others (and ourselves) motivated to hold on no matter what, to willfully choose to walk in the ways of the Lord, to follow "the rules", that we can make it seem that it is our own works that saves us. We seem to overemphasize "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" and downplay that "in (our) flesh is NO GOOD THING" and "(our) righteousness is as FILTHY RAGS."
Why do we do this? I think, in the end, it's about pride. We forget where the Lord brought us from, look at our rule following, and think, "I'M a good example of a good Christian." After a while, we begin to look down on others because they don't follow ALL of our rules like we do.
The end result is that we find ourselves praying like the man in Luke 18:9-14, "Lord, I thank thee that I am not like other men..." Why? Because we have become a Pharisee, too.
For all of our Bible Study, going to church, and learning the ropes, we have replaced Jesus with idols. Idols of religion. Idols of rules. Even the Bible itself, if read without the spirit of God, can become an idol. Even though Acts 2:38 IS the Biblical plan of salvation, if we focus on the verse, rather than on the giver of the verse, then it has become an idol.
Because the truth is that we all fail. We all have fallen short of the glory of God. We forget that Paul, arguably the greatest Christian to ever live, said of himself that (he) "die(s) daily" (1 Cor. 15:31) and "I keep under my body, and bring it under subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
Why did he say this? Because he knew that he could not live a true Christian life in the power of his sinful flesh. We may be born again, but we still must completely rely on God for our salvation.
He is the potter and we are the clay. He is the builder and we are the building. If the work of God (salvation) is going to be finished in our lives, it is going to be finished BY JESUS, the master builder and not by our religious rules.
Our part of the deal requires us to submit to God's workmanship. The key to it is in the submission to the spirit of God, not in following the rules. When we find ourselves about to give in to temptation, we need to follow Psalms 94:18 and say, "Lord, I'm about to fall here." When we do, in his mercy, he will reach down and help us NOT to fall." Put another way,
1 Corinthians 10:13King James Version (KJV)
"13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."
We are to submit to God and resist the devil and then he will flee (James 4:7), but when we fail to submit to God and try to fight the devil with our religion, rather than in the power of God, we will fall. When this begins to happen, we need to cry out to him to help us in our unbelief. He will reach down and provide a way out and the strength to follow the path he provides.
So, if you find yourself on a slippery path (and we all do at times), then reach out and grab ahold of the safety line. God will provide it- if we ask.