Q: What about David, called “the man after God’s own heart”? Despite his grievous sin, he did not lose his salvation.
A: David’s case is an interesting one. Not only did he commit adultery and murder, but he apparently did not repent until just after the baby was born (see 2 Sam. 11:27). Yet when he confessed his sin to Nathan with the words, “I have sinned against the LORD,” the prophet replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin.” Psalm 51 shows that David’s penitence and confession of sin was heart-felt, and he sensed that he was in danger of losing his relationship with the LORD, as expressed in v. 11, “Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” David, himself, at least believed that this was a distinct possibility.
Such examples from the Old Covenant serve as warnings for us, as Paul says, “…to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did” (1 Cor. 10:6). Despite all of the advantages the Israelites had, despite their “baptism” and their spiritual food and drink, “God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered over the desert” (vv. 1-5). Paul cautions, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (v. 12). He goes on to reassure us that temptation cannot overwhelm us, for God limits its power and always provides a way of escape (v. 13). Nevertheless, we certainly can choose to sin and ignore the escape route.
James 1:14-16 says each person who sins is dragged away by his or her own evil desire and enticed. James then speaks of a process of gestation and growth that takes place (unless we by God’s power kill the sin growing in our hearts). Lust conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown gives birth to death. That’s death, not just punishment, and I believe James is referring to spiritual death, not just physical mortality. In the very next verse, he says, “Don’t be deceived, my dear children.” The deception is that we tell ourselves we can sin and get away with it. The Bible warns on nearly every page that we cannot.