I really hate this. Hate is not too strong a word.
I want people to love Jesus, to appreciate His great sacrifice on our behalf, to know His peace, to look forward to eternity in a perfect, redeemed creation, reunited with God and all His goodness. I want us all to be together, living in fellowship, community and love under the care of God Himself.
Scripture has some scary things to say about believers who fall away. I don't like that, either. Quite literally, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I don't know what these things mean, Mark 3:29 and Hebrews 6:4-6 and 1 John 5:16. These are terrifying passages. I suppose everyone must have a part of the Bible that makes him recoil, that he hopes does not mean what it appears on the surface to mean.
I've been taught that we can interpret the difficult passages in the Bible through the lens provided by the passages that are easy to understand. When we do this, we must be careful not to confuse "difficult to understand" with "difficult to accept." This requires greater intellectual honesty than most of us can regularly muster.
At the end of the day, all we can do is trust God to do what is right, because of His character which He has revealed to us through His word. I go back to His attributes. He is able, almighty, beautiful, bountiful, caring, compassionate, our Deliverer and our Delight. He is eternal, faithful, forgiving, gracious, gentle, good, holy, our Helper and our Healer. He is invisible, immortal, joyous and just, kind, our King, and full of love. He is mighty and majestic, and near to all who call on Him. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, powerful, perfect, yet quiet when He approaches us. He is our Redeemer, righteous, sovereign, triumphant, true and unfathomable. He is victorious. He is wise and wonderful.
God is xerophilous--He makes life flourish in barren places. He yearns for His children, and He is zealous for their salvation.
These are only some of God's characteristics, His attributes. He has revealed these things to us throughout His word. He redeems. He forgives. He heals. He restores. He makes new.
I think the one sin you cannot be forgiven for is the sin of rejecting Jesus, and I hope that this sin is not final and unforgivable until the end of a person's life or the end of our present creation. Otherwise, why would we be given the parable of the Prodigal Son? He rebelled. He fell away. He left his place in his father's home. But he came back, and he was received with joy.
God's word teaches hope, redemption. God's word teaches us to forgive over and over again, because God Himself forgives over and over again. Forgiveness is His pattern, the focal point of all that God accomplished in Christ. I cannot believe that coupled next to His great forgiveness would be the message: if you ever fall into a wicked and blasphemous attitude toward your Savior, you can never return. What about Psalm 25:7? ("Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to Your love remember me, for You are good, O Lord.")
I've been told that in loving and interceding for a rebel who is not availing himself of God's merciful forgiveness, one often learns a great deal about one's own heart before God. "You learn a lot more than they do," I've been told. My initial reaction was, "But I don't need to learn as much as they do!"
Which, of course, is the putrid unveiling of pride. The pride in me is so gross. Sometimes I weep before the Lord, in despair and fear, wondering what He will have to do to me, how far He will have to crush me, in order to purify the pride out of me. I don't want my pride, but it's so insidious, such a sneaky, quiet part of who I am, that I rarely see it until after it has me by the neck in an embarrassing situation. Oh, dear Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.
I'm digressing. My soul is in turmoil, and this isn't what I meant to write about.
I meant to write about what keeps people who think they are seeking the Lord from finding Him.
A number of people who have fallen away have expressed that they spent quite a lot of time in anguish, begging Jesus to show Himself to them, or to speak to them, but He would not. So they determined that He was not there. This testimony did not match my experience, or the Biblical promises. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart," (Jeremiah 29:13).
After pondering, I decided that the hitch must be in the part that says "When you seek me with all your heart." You have to let go of yourself when you are seeking God. You must surrender to Him. You can't hang on to your own terms and conditions. You can't demand that God be good according to your definition of goodness. You can't say, "I'll believe You when You show Yourself to me, and You have to accept gay people in their homosexuality as You created them and let them fulfill their homosexual inclinations, because I know that they are nice people." You can't say, "I'll believe You when You take away this problem that plagues me so I have an easy life and don't have to struggle and depend on You every day." You can't say, "I'll believe You when You instantly change my desires so I never have to grapple with my sin nature again."
You can't tell God, "I'll believe You when You act in accordance with what I have determined is good and fair." You simply can't. It doesn't work that way, for He is God. And you are not.
God, in His perfect, immutable nature is the very essence of goodness. We, as mortal, stained-with-sin humans cannot change that. Nor should we. But my point is that we absolutely can't, regardless of any other factor. Just as surely as I couldn't go out into my driveway and jump to the surface of the moon--actually, more surely than that--we cannot change the perfect goodness of God, whether we like it or not. Basically (and this may not sound very nice, but it is the truth), if your idea of what is good differs from God's idea of what is good, then you are wrong, and if you refuse to be corrected, you will go to hell. So that, I suppose, is the unpardonable sin. Ouch.
People who fall away from the Lord have somehow forgotten who He is. A root of pride has grown up in their spirits, choking out their ability to surrender to the wisdom and counsel of the Almighty Creator of the Universe. Imagine a willful two-year-old in a state-of-the-art research laboratory, scribbling on lab notebooks, pushing buttons on equipment, spilling solutions and breaking beakers. "No!" he screams, "I'm going to do it by myself!" This illustrates only a fraction of our folly before God when we refuse Him. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are His ways our ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than our ways. This is not a cop out, a cliche or a silly platitude. This is the literal truth.
The thing is, God loves us. We needed Him, but we didn't know that He was what we needed, didn't even know to ask. Yet, in His great love, He has been working since the dawn of history to reveal Himself to us. We couldn't reach out to Him, but He reached out to us, providing His word, full of truth and promises and hope. Ultimately, He reached out to us through Christ, the Yes to all His promises, His own divine essence humbled into human flesh, emptied of glory but full of perfection so He could die, the only perfect sacrifice that could ever pay our sin debt. He did this for us because He is good. He wants to save us from sin and death and damnation, to deliver us with glorious celebration into the Kingdom of the Son He loves. Yet, we somehow think we have some human right to go back and quibble with Him over what is a sin and what is not, and what kind of comforts and indulgences He owes us before we get to heaven. Hello?
Pride is such a stinker, such a wicked, nasty, creeping deceiver. In every person, pride is there, striving to blind us so we cannot see God, cannot apprehend truth, cannot accept reason, cannot recognize who we ourselves are before God, cannot say we are sorry for what we have done wrong.
Oh God, send Your Holy Spirit to illuminate, to give understanding, to reveal truth so we can repent of our sins--especially our pride--and avail ourselves of Your great gift of salvation through Christ. Help us, for we cannot help ourselves. Deliver us, heal us, cleanse us, restore us. Dear Lord Jesus, enable us to receive Your peace and Your joy.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.
And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.