Friday, July 9, 2010

When All Hope Is Lost There Is Only Death That Remains

This morning’s blog is a difficult one as it deals with a subject that most of us do not want to consider: the sin that leads to death. Most all of us want to believe there is always hope for everyone, regardless of what they have done in the past. We say that God forgives everyone of everything if they turn to Jesus but we fail to consider those that have walked away from this grace, who have denied Jesus. Let’s back track a little bit here.

Yesterday we looked at the Scripture that explains we can ask anything of the Father in our relationship with Jesus, that is according to his will, and we will receive it. Now we consider scripture that gives us an example of this in practical terms:

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death. (1 John 5:16-17)

Keep in mind here that John is writing to believers concerning believers. This entire letter is written for the purpose of encouragement and growing believers in Jesus, so it is not addressing unbelievers. Also consider for a moment what an incredible truth it is that we can cover each other when it comes to sin, that we can intercede for each other. I know we intercede when it comes to illness and other physical needs but how often do you hear believers covering each other concerning sin? That is, sin that does not lead to death. So now, let’s deal with the “elephant in the room”. What could John mean by “sin that leads to death”?

In order to understand this we need to understand the context of these closing remarks. Remembering that these are closing remarks we owe it to the author to place them in the context of the entire letter. When we do this we note that many times John speaks out against those who have left the community, preaching a different gospel, claiming to know Jesus but preaching lies for their own gain. These are those who where believers, who still claim to be believers but have turned their backs on Jesus for whatever purpose. We are not talking about those who are still searching, who have never encountered Jesus and who have not yet discovered the truth for themselves. We are talking about people of maturity, who have known Jesus but have now denied him in themselves, turned their back on him but continue the appearance for their own profit. They may start their own church or their own group of followers in the guise of the Church but in truth are preaching lies for their own gain and selfish purpose.

This group comes up quite often in other letters by other writers. The writer of Hebrews warns believers off from this as he writes:

Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:28-29)

Jesus himself spoke of the sin that could not be forgiven:

And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31)

Most people accept that Jesus is referring to refusing the Holy Spirit when it comes to the conviction of sinful condition and the offer of salvation by grace. When such grace is refused what is there left? When someone who has known this grace, has accepted it and then has rejected it, what is there left but death? If we throw away the only thing that can save us there is no prayer from anyone that can bring forgiveness because it is the one thing that cannot be forgiven. There are those in the Church who say this is impossible to do. I can understand what they mean. Who could possibly walk away from such grace once it is experienced? Yet, it is here, being dealt with John and the others. We also see a rough example in the person of Judas, who, for his own selfish motivation, denied Jesus by becoming a traitor to the mission, and then, because no hope remained, too his own life.

So today we can celebrate the fact that we can show our love to each other by covering each other concerning sin that does not lead to death and we take warning that we can never turn our backs on Jesus Christ. We need to take the warnings and the encouragements from all the writers the Spirit used to convey the truth. We need to encourage one another to press on. We need to meet together often. We need to worship with each other, share scripture, share testimonies, to lift each other up so no one will be lost to death. Pray for each other so that we will all make it to the end. But all we have left for those who have turned their back on the grace offered through Jesus is pity because once we have let go of our hope, of that grace that saves us, there is nothing left but death.

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