Can one who chooses to live in sin be restored to the Lord?

Question:

Hebrews 6:4-6 says:

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 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.

In light of this passage of Scripture, can one who willingly chooses a lifestyle in opposition to God be restored?  Does this apply to a Believer who falls into sin, even for an extended period of time?  

Answer:

The author of Hebrews is giving an admonition to the readers that we need to grow into spiritual maturity, not remain as dull hearers only (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).  It is in the midst of this admonition that we have the warning against apostasy.  Apostasy is the complete turning away from the faith.  Choosing to reject God is the only unforgivable sin.

For those who have believed and fallen, but not completely cursed the Lord, there is still hope.  It is important that we not stop reading at verse 6.  Verses 7-8 say:

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.

My grandfather was a wheat farmer.  I remember as a child that he would burn the ditches to clear out the weeds and brush.  He also would burn the thorns and thistles that would grow and try to take over a field.  If he allowed the weeds to grow, they would choke out the wheat and ruin the crop.  The process of burning the field would bring a purification so that good seed could be planted and an abundant crop would grow healthily.

Similarly, in our life, the Lord will purify us of the thorns and thistles that the enemy has planted to choke out the healthy fruit.  When we allow ourselves to be overcome with the weeds of sin, the burning will be widespread instead of just in small areas.  We will have to go through a time of purging and barrenness.  These are hard seasons.  We may feel like God has abandoned us or doesn’t care anymore.  The blessing is missing because we have not produced a good crop.  

This does not mean that we will forever be unusable and cast away.  The phrase “near to being cursed” would indicate that it is not yet cursed but is near.  Our field may need to be burned, but the Lord will not curse those whom He loves.

Look at the hope presented in verses 9-12.

Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things – things that belong to salvation.  For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

First, note the term used of the hearers: “beloved”.  Contrary to our limited understanding, God loves us even in our sin.  “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  We often think that we have to earn God’s love, but there is no way we could ever do enough to really earn it.  Salvation is a free gift that we get to choose to receive.  God’s love for us is unconditional, regardless of our choice to receive it or not.

Once we have come to the place of salvation, we are instructed to do good works (James 2:14-17).  Sometimes, we fall away from the Lord’s ways.  He will still remember the works of the past, for He is not unjust.  But the things that belong to salvation are for eternity, not the temporary of this life.  His desire is that we will come back into relationship with Him and walk in hope, inheriting the promises.

In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), we see the Father’s heart for His children.  The son left home and lived a sordid life, squandering his father’s wealth.  Much like a modern day Christian who falls into a lifestyle in opposition to Scriptural teachings.  

There came a time when the son realized that his new life was not enjoyable or fulfilling.  In human logic, he reasoned that if he could only be a servant in his father’s house, he would be better off.  We will often reason that we have to pay penance and earn our place back into God’s household, even if only as a mere servant.  We desire to come back but don’t believe that we deserve to be let back into the house with the Father.  

And yet, the Father did not receive him back as a servant but as a beloved son.  In fact, the Father threw a big party and everyone in the household (except the brother) celebrated the son’s return.  I think that this parable is a picture of how God sees us when we fall away and come back.  He desires for us to be fully restored as a beloved son or daughter.  We don’t earn the right to be allowed into the house, it is a free gift of the Lord.

It is important that we choose to return to the Father.  We must repent (confess the sin and turn away from it).  There is not an option to stay in the sin and return to the Father’s house.  For to live in continual sin while claiming grace is to crucify Christ once again.

Repentance involves coming to our senses and changing our thought patterns as well as our behaviors.  While in sin, we tend to justify our actions, or at least minimize the seriousness of them.  The feeling of remorse is important, but we must change our way of thinking about the sin.  To turn from, renounce, and completely abandon the sinful behaviour is a requirement to be able to go back to the Father’s house.  The prodigal son did not stay in the pig sty.  He came to his senses and changed his thought patterns (Luke 15:17).  Then he got up and headed to the father (Luke 15:20) who received him with open arms and celebration.

A Believer who falls into sin, or chooses to live a lifestyle of sin, even for an extended period of time, can be restored.  It requires repentance and returning to the Father.  Those who are apostate and have turned completely from faith are subject to eternal separation from the Lord as stated in Hebrews 6:4-6.  Not because the Father chose to refuse them, but because they rejected the Father and gift of relationship through salvation and the covering of Christ.

Finding Forgiveness Chapter Cover

Finding Forgiveness

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