Amazing Grace: Can the Reader be Restored?

grace2.jpgI get emails —

Jay,

I’ve been reading The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace online, and based on what the bible says and your interpretation of what the Hebrews passages say about a christian losing their salvation, I am pretty sure I fit into that category. I was raised in the church of Christ, baptized at eleven years of age (I am 53 now) but never grew or matured as a Christian. I have tried a few times but always end up giving in to temptation. In all these years I’ve committed many sins. I guess this would constitute rebelling against God.

I never stopped believing in God. At times I would feel extremely guilty, then other times I wouldn’t feel guilty. I’ve had a lot of depression over the guilt and longed to be able to be forgiven but deep inside I knew I couldn’t be forgiven because I sinned willingly and I knew the truth.

Now that I’ve read the book, I’m even more convinced that I cannot regain my salvation. Should I just assume I’m lost since a Christian who has lost their salvation cannot regain it?

A reader in Nashville.

No. No! And I’m very sorry that you’ve gotten that impression from my book.

Let me explain. You are surely thinking of my explanation of this passage —

(Heb 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, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Now, my interpretation is pretty radical, because I think it means exactly what it says (which is how I get labeled at a “liberal” 😉 ). Therefore, if you fall away, it is indeed impossible to be brought back to repentance. That’s what it says, so it must be true.

But there’s an important conclusion we need to draw: if you repent, it wasn’t impossible to repent. As I wrote,

After all, if the Christian ultimately does repent, it must not have been impossible to repent. And if it was not impossible for the Christian to repent, he could not have fallen away.

(p. 72). In other words, the point is that grace is far, far broader that we are often willing to accept. Remember the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Father was extremely patient with the younger son, and even though the younger son was quite the sinner, he did repent and he was forgiven.

Therefore, the question for you is not whether you can be saved, but whether you will repent. If you repent, God will be there for you. Don’t give up on God. He hasn’t given up on you.

Now, there’s another critically important lesson here. You see, the reason that some get so far from God that they can’t repent is not that God won’t take them back. He’ll always take us back. The problem is that the further we get from God, the harder it is for us to turn back. Our hearts grow hard. Our conscience becomes seared. God’s Spirit wrestles and strives with us, but he’ll eventually be quenched, never to return.

Therefore, it’s urgent that we repent quickly. Relying on God’s grace to continue in sin is far more dangerous than we often imagine, because coming back is much harder than we often imagine.

Dear sister, do not for a moment think that God won’t take you back. He’s standing on the road waiting. Go back home to God.

In practical terms, you need to find a good church home that will encourage and support you as you struggle against temptation. And you need to find an accountability group of 2 or 3 other women you can meet with at least weekly, so they can hold you to account and support you as God works in you to turn your life around.

I’m sure the readers can suggest several congregations in Nashville that would love to help you and that could help you find the support you need to resist temptation and grow in Jesus.

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5 Responses

  1. Gentle reader, your letter touches my heart. Please pay close attention to Jay’s encouraging words. And read the HS&RG book again, and maybe even again ~ until his simple explanation takes root in your mind and heart. You obviously want to be close to Him, and He loves that desire in you. Pray that He will open the eyes of your heart to see the scope of His grace. I have seen the concepts on which Jay expounds illustrated so beautifully in the lives of many, and especially in my own. Never give up hope. As Jay said, the Father is waiting, and He will provide whatever you need to find your way home. Expect and allow Him to work in your life. I will pray for you.

  2. God is in the business of redeeming and restoring. That’s what He does, and He is *very* good at it. And He passionately wants to do it for you — so passionately that he let his Son die for you, to make it possible. If you want to come back, He is ready, willing, and very able to take you back and to make you into something very special.

  3. My heart just goes out to this reader. I know many people who feel that they have lost their salvation because of sin. There are thousands of sincere people who are sitting at home right now feeling this way. I have some in my family and once felt that way myself. It may have never been stated verbatim from a pulpit but the idea that if you commit a certain “bad” sin or have a chronic sin that you can’t seem to overcome that your salvation is lost. I remember a sign in our old cofC that had a picture of a man crying and it said “being sorry for sin without doing better is worthless”. All the bible requires is that we struggle against our sinful nature. Everyone has a sin in their life that they will struggle with until the day we die. If we can’t accept this reality then we don’t understand how God has made us and that is a sinful nature within us. Most of us don’t want to accept the reality that there is this sinful nature or natural sin within us as Paul describes. It is a scary thought. We would rather delude ourselves into thinking that we are naturally good in nature only being tempted by Satan, but that is not what the Bible says. Paul says that by “nature we are objects of wrath”. Paul said the good he wanted to do he did not and the bad he did not want to do he did. All of us have sinned willingly! How many times have you heard a seasoned Christian confess a sin and say but I didn’t know it was a sin? Most us Christians know that we are sinning but because of physical/emotional pain, physical exhaustion, arrogance, and anger we consciously or sub- consciously decide to do it anyway. I would suggest that any seasoned Christian who says that they don’t willfully sin is deluding themselves. This brings out the sinful nature that Paul talks about so much. The reader also brings out how sincere Christians can be baptized at young adolescence and be 53 years old in the church but having never been transformed. This is quite common even in my old six generation church of Christ family. I believe it is failure of our theology. We instructed people to stop sinning by shear will power or their own power. Also most of our time was spent arguing and establishing the “Work Worship and Organization” of the church not overcoming sin. The nature of God the nature of man and things like that were rarely addressed well from the pulpit. I remember when I was younger we were traveling and at a church in Searcy AR visiting my Aunt and Uncle. I had to go the adult class because we got there late. They were studying Acts (big surprise there) anyway towards the end of Class a man spoke up and said that he struggled with alcoholism and that he tried to stop but could not and then asked what he should do? The teacher said well you are just going to have to try harder. I believe this is worse than a bad answer. God is the higher power as Paul states. I believe that some churches of Christ have just started to understand recovery and overcoming in the past few years some are still clueless. “Falling away” as Paul speaks of in Hebrews is not a struggle with sin it is a complete unbelief in God. Paul makes it clear that complete unbelief in God after knowing him is not covered by grace, but even if there is a small remnant of faith God is faithful. I believe the reader has more than a remnant of faith regardless of their struggle with sin. The other misinterpretation is that repentance means we will just stop all sinning immediately after we dry off from the baptistery. Repentance means to turn away from not to stop all sinning immediately. Turing away from something and to something else is a choice. To the contrary repentance means that in our hearts we turn away from our sinful nature and “choose” the “Spirit Filled” nature. That is right it is a choice! As Paul says; choose to live the Spirit filled nature. Repentance while is sometimes immediate it is more commonly a process that examines our sinful nature in the light of God’s Spirit filled nature, then calls on God “the higher power” to help us overcome. The word overcome or overcoming is used throughout the NT. Yet it is the probably the most misunderstood concept. Sorry for the long post. To the reader that questions their salvation I would say that God has plans for you plans for a future not to harm but to prosper you. Hold on to the faith you have. Continue to study yourself out of bad theology, even if that means changing churches. God loves you, and your struggle with sin, as long as it is a “struggle” and not unbelief in God or Jesus will never exceed God grace.

  4. I want to thank those of you who replied to my email
    to Jay. You have no idea how happy I am that you
    think I can be forgiven. I was just certain that I had
    “fallen away.” I have wanted to be close to the Lord for
    so long. I’ve always known he was the answer to everything. I just thought I was too far gone. I’ve been
    studying and studying and reading everything I can find, but those passages in Hebrews made me think there was no hope. I am so glad I emailed Jay and
    asked him about them. And then, when I read the replies from others, I couldn’t believe it. My prayers have been answered. I am going to try so hard to develop a close relationship with the Lord. Thank you.

  5. Thank You Lord for the encouragement of others…. it does help so much when they relay the message of love!!!!

    Dear reader in Nash.
    Since other have done such a good job in encouraging you with truth of God’s love and willingness– i’ll just add a few scriptures to remember.

    Dt. 7:9 “Know thta the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep him commandments……

    1 Cor. 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, …….that you may be able to endure it.”

    Ps. 86 (A supplication to the Compassionate God)
    “Incline your ear O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. ……..save your servant who trusts in you- you are my GOD………for You O LORD are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. ….. listen to my plea for grace……….You O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness….. turn to me and be gracious to me: give your strength to your servant…………

    (And we know HE WILL!!) amen–

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