Graced to Death
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened . . . and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. Hebrews 6:4-6
We all like a comeback story and we all like second chances. The Bible teaches that God is in the business of second chances. Through Christ, we may find absolution and restoration to God, no matter what we’ve done. That is the blessed message of the gospel.
Grace does present one problem though. It’s not a problem with grace itself, but rather with our twisted view of it. If we know that we can do whatever we want today and then ask forgiveness tomorrow, then we may abuse God’s grace. If we know we can run from God whenever we want and return to him whenever we feel like it, we cheapen grace. We love second chances, but what if we eventually run out of second chances?
Today’s passage is a tough one. In it, the author of Hebrews said that there are some who will know God but then walk away from him. Once they turn from God, abandoning his mercy and grace, they’re done. They can’t come back. It’s a sobering passage because it suggests that there is a boundary to God’s grace. The passage has certainly been a source of controversy. We prefer to believe that once you’re a Christian, you’re always a Christian. I don’t pretend to understand all the mysteries of salvation or of this passage, but one thing seems clear. There is a limit to second chances.
Have you ever started a new diet and done well . . . until you cheated? Once you cheated, it was hard to get back. Maybe you tried to reset, but then it was easier to cheat again. Maybe you never got back to that initial commitment. In my recovery, I know I could relapse, but if I did, it would be terribly difficult to get back to where I am now. If I relapsed, overdosed, and died, then it would all be over. There is a limit to second chances.
We celebrate grace, and we should. It’s a wonderful blessing from God. In celebrating grace though, we sometimes take too light a view of failure. It doesn’t matter if I fall. Everything will be fine. Accepting failure as normal though, means we’ll become comfortable in our failure. There’s always forgiveness in Christ – if we return to him. When we take too lightly the significance of our sin though, we risk being consumed by it, being unable to return to Christ. There is a limit to second chances.