In the Church the exchange continues between the proponents of free will and of election. The former look to the responsibility of the individual to hear, believe and choose the Gospel Way, and then to guard one's position in grace with thanksgiving and holy fear. The latter acknowledge a Sovereign choice of family which is God's alone. To this end he softens and prepares a child of faith to repent and receive. He will thereafter keep and protect, and ultimately gather to Himself. God never "dis-adopts".
Obviously this is an oversimplification. But I must use this opportunity to confess a discovery which has had great impact upon me. It is drawing me back to the recognition of the role of personal responsibility and choice in the receipt and the keeping of salvation. Consider James chapter five:
19Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him;
20Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
Here is a clear indication of the possibility of rebellion and error, persisted in, causing a believer to lose his salvation. Just when that fateful line is crossed, and a Father of mercy becomes a stern judge, who can tell?
Is it not apparent in the scripture passage that James is addressing and warning "brethren" in the Church, and encouraging other members of the Body to the rescue?
On the question of backsliding, one might also take a look at Jude 1:12 and Hebrews 6:4-6 and Hebrews 10:26-31, Galatians 4:19 and 2 Peter 2:20-22. I thought that I had heard convincing positions on all of these passages to take away the sting of the backsliding concern. Indeed I have heard holiness advocates fretting all too frequently about their security and attempting to "perfect" themselves. But now comes this passage in James which I am obligated to pass on.
Consequently, what is the practical direction? Sustain a healthy exercise of the means of grace (scripture, prayer and meditation, the communion meal, giving and forgiving, worship, confession of known sin, persistent thanksgiving). Study Jesus in order to love Him more. Constantly call upon the Lord's mercy, and be sensitive to the voice of the Spirit urging service, sacrifice, correction or change. Do not be too quick to judge these suggestions as simply "fear and works".