Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He tasted death for every person. Whoever will may come and take of the water of life freely. All of those great texts are true. So, is it ever possible for one to go so far into sin that there is no place for redemption in their life? Let’s think about some other texts and see if they help us come to a good answer. Isaiah 55:6-7 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” Since the challenge is to seek the Lord while he may be found, it sure seems that there might come a time when he can’t be found doesn’t it?
In Matthew 13:14-15 Jesus was explaining to the disciples why he spoke to the people in parables when he said, “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Then what about Hebrews 6:4-6 “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
Truthfully, I could continue to multiply the different Scripture that speak along this line. Jesus commanded the disciples about the Pharisees, and other religious leaders to “leave them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind and if the blind lead the blind then both shall fall into the ditch.” Here is what stands out to me in all the verses that discuss one being able to go so far that they can’t get back. One thing that is true in all such text is that the problem wasn’t with God being willing to forgive and give them a new start. The problem was and is that one can go so far into sin and rejection of God’s will that they can never be brought to repentance.
Think of the numerous people in the Bible or even in people you have known who had lived horrible, godless lives and then turned their lives around to dedicate themselves to God and his will and everything changed for them. They went from guilt, misery and being under Satan’s control to being godly, joyful and guided by the Holy Spirit. David committed adultery, the murder, yet God forgave him fully and treated him as if he hadn’t sinned before. Think of how far down the city of Nineveh had gone when God sent Jonah to tell them that he was going to destroy them in forty days. God didn’t even have Jonah mention the possibility of repentance or forgiveness. Yet they repented and God relented from the plan to destroy them and he gave them new life in him. Saul of Tarsus was a religious bigot, a terrorist who was terrorizing the disciples of Jesus in the new church he had established. Yet God called him out on the road to Damascus and turned him into the great apostle Paul to go and preach to the Gentiles whom he had despised up until this time. It is hard to think of anyone so deep in sin that they are beyond being reached with the gospel and becoming valuable members of Jesus’ body.
But we can become calloused in our sin. We can reject the very knowledge of the Lord that would lead us to salvation in him. We can turn from the truth and believe the lie so that we may all be condemned who do not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness (2 Thessalonians 2:1-11). One of the most graphic descriptions of this turn from God is found in 2 Peter 2:20-22 “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” These were great followers of Jesus. They had escaped the old world of sin and rebellion to become disciples of Jesus. But then went back to the old way and became so far from God that they were actually worse off than if they had never heard of God and Christ to begin with.
Think more of the situation described in Hebrews 6. This is the section where the writer had challenged them to grow up spiritually. They needed to stop re-laying the foundations of their faith and start building on that foundation. Look closely at how he described their former way of life for the Lord. They had been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come. Someone may asked, “Leon do you think they had really been saved or were these folks who just thought they had been saved?” If they weren’t actually saved, they hadn’t just fooled themselves. They had fooled God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ. No, these are Christians who had been devoted to Jesus. Well, if that is the case, doesn’t that mean that if one falls there is no way for them to return to God after falling? No, it doesn’t mean that because it contradicts what God promised in too many other places. James in the final two verses of his book said, “Brothers and sisters if any of you stray from the truth and one turns them around, they have saved a soul from death and hidden a multitude of sins.” Why would Paul challenge the spiritual to restore those who have been “Overtaken in some fault in their lives” in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourselves so that you too won’t be tempted (Galatians 6:1-2)?
If a saved person can fall and can come back after doing so, then how do you explain these text that say one can go so far that they can’t be renewed to repentance or they have crucified Christ all over again? Think of this simple illustration for a moment. Suppose you were on a cruise ship and standing near the rail looking out on the ocean waves, when suddenly you heard someone scream and looked just in time to see a man falling overboard. If you or others who heard and saw the man falling quickly rush to throw out a lifeline the man who fell can be pulled back into the ship and other than having a huge scare can be as good as new. But suppose the same thing happened, except this time you nor anyone else was standing on the deck, looking off into the ocean. This time it is the middle of the night and the weather is rough and a man is swept overboard, but in the storm, the thunder and rain, no one heard a scream and no one saw the man going over. It wasn’t until the next morning that anyone realized there was someone missing and now you begin the search first of the ship and then of the waters around the ship. This time the person hasn’t just fallen overboard, they have FALLEN AWAY. They have fallen and gone so far in the water, the storm and the waves that there is no way to find them or to pull them back into safety.
Our hearts can become hardened in sin so that the gospel of Jesus doesn’t penetrate the heart. It is like that hard soil in the story of the seeds and soils. Thank God, there aren’t a lot of people that have reached such a stage in their life and the truth is there is no reason for anyone to go that far. The only way we get that far away is by continually rejecting God and his will for our lives. Many years ago I got to know a man whose wife and son were dedicated servants of the Lord. They wanted me to visit with him because his doctor had told him that he didn’t have long to live and needed to get things in order. I went to his home early one morning and began the conversation. “Do you realize you don’t have much longer to live in this world?” He answered, “Yes, I understand that.” I asked, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God who came into this world as a man and died on the cross for you so you can be forgiven of your sins?” He said, “Oh yes, I believe all of that and have most of my life.” I went on then to say, “Are your ready to make that commitment of your life to God, turning from your old life to start anew with him and be baptized into Christ?” He said, “NO!” I was confused. How can you know you are dying and believe in Jesus and not want to follow him to be saved.
I asked if he realized he was lost as he was right now. He said, “Oh yes, I know that when I die I am going straight to hell.” I guess he saw the confusion in my eyes so he went on to explain. “For many years I went to church with my wife and son every time the doors opened. I’ve heard a thousand sermons I’m sure. For years every time they sang an invitation song, my heart would break and I would cling to the pew in front of me to keep from going down that aisle to obey God and be saved. But I never did anything about it. As time went by it bothered me less and less, until the time came when it didn’t bother me at all. I know it seems crazy to you for anyone to say this, but I guess I’ve just become so hardened that the thought of dying and going to hell just doesn’t bother me anymore.” After several more attempts to change his mind, I left that day, distressed and confused. Less than a week later I received the call from his son saying his dad had died and asking if I would hold his funeral which I did. What a sad funeral!
Here is what I’ve seen now lots of times. As people learn God’s will for their life and push it back again and again, it is so easy to become hardened in sin so that even God, even the good news of Jesus or the thought of being lost and missing heaven just doesn’t touch them any more. You truly can go so far down the wrong road until there is no way back to the road to redemption. It doesn’t have to be that way for anyone. But understand you become a little more hardened in sin each time you reject the message of the Lord. Don’t make it a habit!