What is the relationship between faith and works?

I know I am justified by my faith in Jesus. Should this then lead to good works that I want to do in response to what Christ has done? James says faith without works is dead. Titus 3:8 says to devote themselves to doing what is good. Is faith on equal footing with works?

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Hello @dilane85 that’s a common question. I used to worry about this too, as I’m sure all Christian’s do sometime in their faith journey

Yes I think mediating on Eph 2:8-9, and Eph 2:10 is a good place to start.

Having faith in Christ bears good fruit. Works is an automatic response to the Holy Spirit indwelling in us. Eph 4:24; 1 Pe 3:18

Yes because a faith that doesn’t produce good fruit is not a pure faith to begin with. We become alive in Christ to produce good works, but if this doesn’t happen then we’re probably not born-again and our faith is in vain.
Albert Barnes offers a good commentary on Jas 2:26:

…if good works do not follow, it is clear that there is no true and proper faith; none that justifies and saves. If faith produces no fruit of good living, that fact proves that it is dead, that it has no power, and that it is of no value.

So again, faith without the product of good works is dead: there is no Holy Spirit power and the faith is no faith at all.

Titus would have made that comment in the faith whereby he felt compelled to do the work of the Spirit which dwells in him. And he encourages other believers to use God’s free grace to the glory of Christ. Rom 3:24

I would argue that faith is superior because without faith we don’t have Jesus. However, the product of our faith is crucial too, and this is why Jesus calls us the ‘Salt of the earth’ Mat 5:13. We are to ‘season’ others with the light of Christ dwelling in us. Without believers in the world, there would undoubtedly be moral corruption everywhere. From our faith, the Holy Spirit is what brings decency to darkness.

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Here’s a link to another forum which would help answer some of your questions in more detail

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Hi @dilane85,

Thank you for your sincere question.

What I see in the Bible, especially in James, is that the reality of faith and works is like the two faces of a coin. You can not separate them. True faith comes with good works, but you are not safe by your performance. How is that? Well, Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9 we are saved by faith and not by works. He tells us that because of our assurance in our Lord’s work, who perfectly saved us. But there is a reality behind it. If our old nature has been changed by God (2Corinthians 5:17), we automatically would desire what a new nature desires: honor God.

Jesus said that in simple words:

“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”
Matthew 7:17-18

And these new desires come thanks to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:10-11). The Spirit is who helps us in the task of the fight against our flesh (Galatians 5:17) and helps us walk in the works God prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10, 1Timothy 3:16-17).

And once again, good works only are possible because the Holy Spirit dwells in someone’s heart. And that is only possible if that person has faith in Jesus as his/her savior. The Holy Spirit doesn’t wait until someone’s heart is prepared for Him, He comes to repair it! We serve God because He saved us, not because we want to please Him until He decides if saves us. We do good works because of love. We are not loved by our performance.

Here’s a small part of s preach that is great to understand salvation by faith. I love it.

So if we have such a great Lord and Savior, how can I not do good works?

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Hi @dilane85
You have got some good answers already. I will add a link to an earlier conversation that discusses the verse in James.

  • A person is saved by faith alone - not by works.
  • A person who is saved by faith expresses this faith in good works. In fact we are created to do these good works that arise out of our faith. A faith that does not express itself in good works is probably not genuine, a ‘dead’ faith - which is what James teaches us.

Here is the link, which I hope will be helpful:

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You may want to read “Root & Fruit” by Joel Beeke and Steven J. Lawson.

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Thank you @Renzo.DG @TXian @tonyabthomas @hluke for your thoughtful responses. It clarifies the issue for me but a few follow on thoughts.

If I don’t do good works, then does this mean I was never really saved?

My reason for asking is I am a leader in a youth group at my local church. Some of them believe in Jesus (or say they do) but I wonder if this really the case because of the fruit/or lack of that is manifest in their lives.

The question does arise, that, “I am saved because I believe, so why do I need to do good works?” And I say, the Holy Spirit changes your heart to want to do good works because of what Jesus has done for you.”

Yet it seems cruel to say to someone, “If you are not doing good works, then you ought to question your salvation.”

Am I making sense? What are your thoughts?

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That make sense @dilane85, and you ask some good questions.

Not exactly, but probably. After a life-changing born-again experience, we produce the fruit of the Spirit, our behaviours change automatically for the better: for God’s glory. Faith is a continual process of renewal and sanctification. The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer each day, slowly into the image of Christ, untill they are glorified (perfected) with Christ in heaven. Joh 17:19; Heb 10:14; Rom 8:30.
There are many other concepts in (salvation) soteriology such as justification, redemption, imputation, which I am yet confident to explain.

I say not exactly in a pedantic way because some believers, whom are saved, don’t have a moral compass. E.g. a sociopath.

This could just be an innocent confession, some might be legitimate depending on maturity. Just 10 years ago, I used to attend kids church. We would sing love songs to Jesus and make paintings for Jesus, but I didn’t really know what was going on. I sense that the other kids didn’t know either. I preferred to play Call of Duty and muck around with my mates.

Now, however as I am slowly maturing in Christ, I realise how true and significant the gospel is. This came after a period in my youth of disobedience.
I am confident that our Lord has a plan for those youth, as he did for me. And he obviously loves each one of them dearly!

Your answer is great!
My answer would be: “I am saved by faith in God which empowers me to do good works. And I no longer want to sin, because I feel alive in Christ” Rom 3:23; Gal 2:20

Well it may seem cruel, but that’s the gospel. Matt 10:34; Philippians 2:12; Rev 20:12-13; Joh 14:6
I think it is crucial here to note that works is not like 'I must do this, or I must do that": it is nothing legalistic. It is rather, ‘I do good works (1) because of what Christ has done/ is doing for me, (2) because the Spirit changes my life to produce good fruit.’

@Renzo.DG puts it well:

Joh 8:36 “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”
Rev 21:6 “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

I hope I helped a bit. I’m sure the more mature writers can give you more insight. I recommend you have a look at some of the forum links in this topic.

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Hi again, @dilane85!

Oh, youth groups… what amazing and challenging kind of group!

I used to be a leader of a small youth group and I know what you’re talking about. Please let me share with you some thoughts about your new questions.

First, we have to have in mind what Scripture commands us and then we have to have the wisdom to teach and apply it. What I see in 2 Corinthians 13:5, is that Paul wants us to examine our lives to know if we are in the faith. And also in 1John 5:13, John tells us he wrote that epistle to know if we have eternal life! So there we have some instruments to analyze our lives.

Then, it is difficult to navigate between legalism and antinomianism, especially when you care about the spiritual life of your people. I strongly recommend you to read this book (and maybe organize some series of teaching from it):

https://www.amazon.com/Whole-Christ-Antinomianism-Assurance-Controversy/dp/1633895955

In my local church, we read it with the young adult group and it was amazing. It is refreshing and very clear about what the Bible really teaches.

Maybe the question “Are you sure your faith is real?” sounds harsh, but it will challenge them to start a personal journey to meet personally and vividly his Lord. Something similar happened to John Wesley. He was not a young boy when someone asked him a similar question, he was a missionary! And he realized he didn’t meet the real Christ. In the next answer, I will copy a small text about his experience.

God bless you! And give you the wisdom you will need!

Sincerely,
-R

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John Wesley
His encounter with true faith

Late in 1735, and early in 1736, a second Moravian contingent was sailing to the New World hoping to preach to the Indians of Georgia. On shipboard was a young Anglican priest, John Wesley by name, whom Governor Oglethorpe of Georgia had invited to serve as a pastor in Savannah. The young man had accepted, hoping to be able to preach to the Indians, about whose virtues he had unrealistic expectations. All went well during the early days of the crossing, and young Wesley learned enough German to be able to communicate with his Moravian companions. But then the weather turned against them, and the ship was soon in dire straits. The mainmast split, and panic would have overwhelmed the crew, had it not been for the unbelievable calm of the Moravians, who sang throughout the ordeal. Meanwhile, Wesley, who was also chaplain of the vessel, came to the bitter realization that he was more concerned about himself than about his fellow travelers. After the storm, the Moravians told him that they could behave so bravely because they did not fear death; and the young man began to doubt the depth of his own faith.
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After reaching Savannah, Wesley asked the Moravian Gottlieb Spangenberg for advice regarding his work as a pastor and as a missionary to the Indians. In his diary, he left a record of that conversation:
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He said, “My brother, I must first ask you one or two questions. Have you the witness within yourself? Does the Spirit of God bear witness with your spirit, that you are a child of God?” I was surprised, and knew not what to answer. He observed it, and asked, “Do you know Jesus Christ?” I paused, and said, “I know he is the Saviour of the world.” “True,” replied he; “but do you know he has saved you?” I answered, “I hope he has died to save me.” He only added, “Do you know yourself?” I said, “I do.”
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As a postscript to that conversation, the young Anglican pastor commented: “But I fear they were vain words.”
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These experiences left him moved and confused. Wesley had always thought of himself as a good Christian. His father, Samuel Wesley, was an Anglican priest, and his mother Susanna was the daughter of another. She had been particularly careful in the religious and moral instruction of her nineteen children. When John was five, fire broke out in the parsonage. The young lad was miraculously saved, and thereafter his mother thought of him as “a brand plucked from the burning” because God had plans for him. At Oxford, he had distinguished himself both as a scholar and as a devout young man. After helping his father in the parish for some time, he had returned to Oxford, where he had joined a religious society founded by his brother Charles and a group of friends. Its members had made a covenant to lead a holy and sober life, to take communion at least once a week, to be faithful in their private devotions, to visit the prisons regularly, and to spend three hours together every afternoon, studying the Bible and books of devotion. Since he was the only ordained priest among them, and he also had exceptional gifts, John Wesley soon became the leader of that group which other students mocked as a “holy club” and—because of their methodical style of life—“methodists.”
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That was the story of that young priest who now, in distant Georgia, doubted the depth of his faith. As a pastor, he failed miserably, for he expected his parishioners to behave like the “holy club,” and his flock expected him to be content with their attendance at worship. John’s brother Charles, who was also in Georgia serving under James Oglethorpe, was disappointed with his work, and decided to return to England. But John stayed on, not because he had greater success, but because he would not give up. Then he was forced to leave under a cloud. A young woman whom he had courted had married another. Wesley, deeming the young bride frivolous, denied communion to her, and was sued for defamation. Confused and bitter, he decided to return home, which in any case seems to have been what his parishioners wanted.
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Back in England, not knowing what to do, he contacted the Moravians. One of them, Peter Boehler, became his religious advisor. Wesley came to the conclusion that he lacked saving faith, and that therefore he should cease preaching. Boehler advised him to continue preaching faith until he had it, and once he had it, to continue preaching because he had it. Finally, on May 24, 1738, Wesley had the experience that changed his life:
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“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me, that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death”.
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After that experience, Wesley no longer doubted his own salvation. (…)

González, Justo L. . The Story of Christianity: Volume 2: The Reformation to the Present Day (pp. 264-267). HarperOne. Edición de Kindle.

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@Renzo.DG. @hluke

Thank you for your excellent answers to my queries. Much appreciated and does he’ll clarify things. I really enjoyed reading that about John Wesley. I am also surprised to think how many Christians I know who are possibly hoodwinked to think they actually know they are saved.

I wonder if in the society I am in many don’t have a genuine faith but piggy back their faith from the back of their parents or friends.

On a slightly different track I wondered what your interpretation of the Acts 16:31 is. Surely it is not the case that if I am a believer and my spouse and kids are not then they will get saved too?

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@dilane85 thanks for the response! I will touch on this topic a bit more just to kind of put John Wesley’s experience in a bible context.

Yes I think there are many Christians who are self-deceived: they may not be saved even though they think they are. But that’s not for us to judge. We can only give advice and pray, for they are to work out their salvation with “fear and trembling”.

Rev 3:15-16 gives a general picture of a faith journey. And this can be explained further in the parable of the 10 virgins:

Lamp= faith
Oil= Spirit

If we are in the faith, our ‘lamps are burning’ and we have ‘enough oil’ like the five wise virgins. Matt 25:4,7.
And we see in verse 7 that they constantly examine their faith to see if they are with God, or side-tracking. See 2 Cor 13:5

These five virgins are ‘hot’ because their Spirit is in Christ (oil): they are born-again and are being sanctified by the Spirit daily, by faith (lamp). John Wesley became like the five wise virgins after he felt “his heart strangely warmed.” This is evidenced in his passionate preaching, knowledge and work for the Lord. His lamp was left running with oil until he retired from this earth.

But the foolish virgins are not so. They are deceived and think they are saved, but aren’t. The foolish virgins took their so called ‘faith’ (lamps), but they didn’t have the Holy Spirit (oil): they were not born again and thus their ‘faith’ produced no good fruit. Matt 25:3

These foolish virgins are either ‘lukewarm or cold’. Both will be ‘spat out’ away from Christ if they don’t repent and aren’t born again into a true faith in Jesus. Beforehand as astounding it may be, John Wesley was one of these: a foolish virgin, for his faith (lamp) had ‘no Holy Spirit power’ (oil) until he realised what it meant to be born-again and experience the spiritual benefits thereof. Christians who go to church every week but don’t devote their lives to Christ are perhaps like the foolish virgins: faith with no produce or they’re not really saved at all.

And the impact of this is devastating Matt 25:11-12

As for Acts 16:31, the same principle is applied. Belief in Christ assumes one is born-again and their faith is active like the wise virgins. I don’t think this a mere confession one said fifty years ago. I think this salvation doctrine is dangerous if not taught properly. And it is unfortunately a common teaching. It assumes that one can confess Christ as their saviour and continue living in sin. But a believer is one who produces the fruit of the Spirit, and that comes with conviction of sin and putting away fleshly desires. See: Matt 7:14

So its about relying on Christ’s grace for salvation. Yes we have free-will and that’s why we are given the opportunity to live for Christ (in the faith), or for the world (otherwise). Gal 2:20; Matt 22:14. That is, all people have an opportunity to come to Christ to live, but many don’t, for they prefer the things of the world.

As to your spouse Paul touches on this in 1 Cor 7:14; your kids however have a choice to make. If they are at an age of responsibility they can chose to come to Christ if they will. God loves us so much that he gives us free-will it us up to us to ‘seek and knock’, but our salvation is ultimately granted by Christ’s abundant grace!!

On a side note, John Piper said in one of his podcasts that ‘lukewarmness’ can be identified by analysing our prayer life: the time we spend with the Lord. That is a good way to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith. I believe also that it more an experience of Spiritual joy as much as it is an examination. If we feel His presence then were probably saved. This should be obvious enough to realise. See Gal 5:22

John MacArthur convicted me of salvation a few months ago in his sermon “saved or deceived.” I highly recommend you watch it and perhaps you can share it with others for edification.


His message is blunt but truthful.

Excuse me if I went a bit off the topic. But I hope this helps clear up some things, studying that parable should help one realise the grace of the Lord and the reward for true faith. Prayer and love is key!

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@hluke thank you for your additional thoughts and for unpacking those verses of scripture. I found the parable explanation very helpful.

I especially like that verse from 2 Corinthians. I have to confess though that there is sin in my life that I keep falling into. There are times I am resolute and repent immediately, yet others where I carry on for a while and then eventually repent. Yet it seems to a cycle. Over and over again. I’m worried the Devil’s foothold is getting stronger. I ask God to help me overcome but the flesh is weak. At the peak of the cycle I am less likely to turn to God because of guilt/shame.

So then I question my own faith? Is it genuine? Why can’t I shake this? Why am I so weak? At the end of my life will Jesus tell me He never knew me?

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Hi @dilane85, great thread here. To reply to your last question and also a question you raised earlier

To believe is a key word here. The belief of a person when they first confess Christ as their Lord and savior and their belief as they continue to truly get to know him is different. It is like dating, you would say I love you to your gf/bf and your wife, and that I love you at your 50th anniversary and on your death bed - each are different. The strength and depth of that I love you changes and deepens. The holy spirit and as we walk and get to know God through his sanctification, our relationship with him gets stronger that via him we will be able to endure through the temptation of the flesh. At the end of the day, we will never attain it. We are fallen. That is the point of the gospel. We need a savior. We are never good enough by ourselves. So the relationship is more important to God - your genuine effort to get to know him and genuinely wanting to get rid of the thing you dont want to do. You’ll continue to fail but you continuedly work to figure out how you can be better and change. I am in the same predicament right now. The enemy wants to put the shame and guilt in you so you can run away and never return. But time after time, you’ll learn you are nothing without him. But the closer we get to him, our only solution, the easier it gets. We also learn to fulllyyy let go and trust in him. So your father will not say I never knew you if you are genuinely seeking him. So just do that and know that you need him for everything. Just trust in him. Dwell in him. Let him abide in you as you abide in him. That’s his prayer for all of us.

God Bless. I hope this helps.

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Hello @dilane85 if your’re born again you’ve got little to worry about: you’re eternity is secure. 2 Tim 1:7; Rom 8:1-2

When Christ said on the cross “It is finished” we are assured that the debt has been paid, our sin is washed by his grace. We are forgiven.

You might find it helpful to meditate on the following passage:

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
2 Corinthians 12:7‭-‬9

Our faith is a matter of abiding in Christ. It is nothing legalistic or burdensome we are set free by grace.

I hope that passage can help you!

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@hluke @Danageze and all of you are so incredibly wise! Thank you for those verses and unpacking them for me. When I sin I feel like such an ungrateful child for taking God’s grace for granted. And I think these are the emotions which drive me away rather than toward Him, and these are a lie of the devil.

Are there any books or videos you would recommend on what we have discussed? I found the sermon by John MacArthur really helpful and served me a stark warning!

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This is a good question @dilane85. I also noticed good answers and explanations. But I feel that this is a topic I too need to take part.

Good work is evidence of faith:
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus was showing the inter-relation between faith and works. Faith is indeed the sole basis of salvation, but if by grace we are recreated by the divine Craftsman unto good works, these will provide the outward evidence of the inward transformation. The good works Jesus enumerates are not a source of merit but an evidence of faith. When Jesus came the first time he specifically stated that he came not to condemn but that the world through him might be saved. At the second coming, however, in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, it will be to sit upon the throne of his glory as King and Judge of all the earth.

In that day, Jesus will set the righteous on his right hand, the side of favor and honor. When the righteous profess themselves unable to recall any good works rendered to their King, he will remain them of feeding the hungry, giving a drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked.
Matthew 25:40 The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

On first impression it might seem that these grounds of reward sound rather like salvation by works, but, of course, there is no contradiction between the judgment scene here presented and the consistent teaching of Scripture that salvation is by faith alone.

By contrast, in phrasing his condemnation of those on his left hand Jesus will say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” Matthew 25:41.

The rejected ones protest that they have no recollection of refusing to succour him.
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" Matthew 25:44

He will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” Matthew 25:45.

In their case the absence of “good works” clearly revealed that they had experienced no transformation of life through faith and that their profession was vain.

How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny. How we treat others reveals the state of our relationship with Jesus. How we treat others reveals our heart condition. How we treat others is how we treat Jesus. Ultimately, how we treat others is the way Jesus will treat us.

Jesus said of the rejecters of his salvation, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” Matthew 25:46.

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@SelieVisa thank you for answering my question.

Do you think it can be too late? If for example someone thought they were saved by faith and didn’t do any good works, but then years down the line was convicted and wanted to do good works, would Christ still accept them? The thing is, by the cross we are justified. Then begins the sanctification process, where we are made to be more like Jesus. However the carnal self can still be ruling in these times! And this stop someone from doing good, if anything, continuing evil! Yet the Cross has covered this sin too.

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Jonah 4:2
He prayed to the Lord, “Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity."

Some of us think that Jonah had a primitive idea of who God is and therefore tried to flee. But the exact opposite is true. He knew God so well and that is why he tried to escape in the opposite direction of Nineveh. In his view the wicked people of Nineveh deserved to be punished.

2 Peter 3:9-10
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Some people were mocking the apostle because his preaching of God’s judgement and sending the ungodly men to perdition was not happening. They mocked him saying that God had forgotten to fulfill it what he said. He immediately shows the reason why deserved punishment is not inflicted on a guilty world.

God is long-suffering or patient. He is unwilling that anyone, even the ungodly should perish. In his grace, he is giving them time to come to repentance and find redemption through the blood of the Lamb.

No. It is not too late because of the love, compassion, grace, mercy and patience of God. In our growth to spiritual maturity, which is a process of transformation, we learn new things to live by. In this process we must unlearn many things which are unbiblical. We unlearn what is wrong and relearn what is right in the sight of God.

Thank you @dilane85 for the feedback. I appreciate it. God bless you.