Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
(New American Standard Version, 1995)
I remember my first experience with the old movie, “Gone with the Wind” – Have you watched that old movie? Some of you are smiling to yourselves! Long before I watched the movie myself, I remember my grandmother – we called her Nana – told me about it and how she went through a whole box of Kleenex tissues as she watched the movie. It was rather sad, in many respects. The saddest aspect being how that men seem virtually incapable of settling important matters in a civil manner; but rather, they often feel like they must rush to civil war – resulting in so much pain, anguish, heartache, and loss!
But do you remember the last line in the movie – (I think it is the last line) – where Ms. Scarlett Ohara (played by Vivian Leigh) is pleading with the character, Rhett Butler, (played by Clark Gable) begging for him to stay and help her rebuild her life. She was very manipulative, that one! Anyway, as Scarlett realizes how her world had crumbled all around her, she cries out to Rhett, “Where shall I go,” to which he responds, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” sending a shock wave through 1940’s American culture. Scandalous it was – profanity on the big screen?!? A four-letter word? The “D” word? Wow! My grandmother was pretty much completely unnerved by the whole scene… “What has become of the world? What has become of the world?”
Today, all these years later, many of us find it refreshing if we can watch a movie that only contains a single use of the “D” word. Today, it’s the “F” bomb – not only liberally scattered throughout the entertainment industry, but saturating social media, and common place in people’s everyday language. And, today, I feel much the way my grandmother felt, wondering, “ummm, yeah, what HAS become of the world?” I think, for American culture, in general, it’s all been pretty much downhill since the days of “Gone With the Wind.’ And, I’m not waiting on the world to get better because, well, according the Bible, it won’t. If you are waiting, hoping, praying for a “better world,” then you need a serious dose of Biblical reality. Because the Bible says: “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. or men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power…” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Hummmm… well, what difference does a word make, anyway? I mean, they are only words, aren’t they. It’s just a word, just a story, just a song, just a movie… just – our everyday life! I remember Jesus saying, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:34-37).
Okayyyy, then… so, not “just” words, after all—not according to Jesus, anyway. Words, and how we use them, Jesus says, reveal the content of our hearts. If I were to say to you – and, believe me, I never would, not to you , not to anybody – but “if” I were to say to you: IDGAF about you! How would that make you feel? Hurt? Angry? Would you, pretty much, not want anything more to do with me ever again? And yet, these are the kinds of things people in our society are continually saying to one another these days: WTF, STFU, IDGAF (the meaning of these acronyms can be found online, but I don’t recommend wasting any time searching). Personally, I see it not only as an indicator of the deep vulgarity that now characterizes popular western culture, but of the incredibly insensitive and violently self-absorbed attitude of people toward one another in general. It’s like that prophecy of the end times that we just read in the book of 2 Timothy being fulfilled, already: “lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God!” I feel like our western culture is spiraling downward, we’re without God and out of control, and the pit is ever widening below us! How long before we’re swallowed up by the darkness?
So, where do we, as Christians, the children of God, find ourselves in all of this mess? The world all around us, and society in general is becoming increasingly saturated in evil. Darkness invades our homes and our lives via popular culture, social media, even personal relationships. And, from the book of Hebrews, Chapter 6, comes this warning: “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame” (verses 4-6).
Child of God, be careful! If you think that you are impervious to this world and its evil influences, think again! This chapter reminds me, yet again, that we all have a choice to make – every day of our lives we make this choice! You see, because we never surrender our free moral agency it is possible to “have tasted the heavenly gift and the good word of God,” and to have experienced the power of God in our lives, yet “fall away,” as the Bible states it.
Now, keeping this passage of scripture in the historical context in which it was originally written, it is important to note that the Hebrew writer is not simply talking about our sin and weakness, or our stumbling and falling along the way; but rather, the author has in view people who have, at one time in their lives named the name of Christ and have become Christians, but have now rejected God’s precious gift of salvation given to us through the sacrifice of His son, Christ Jesus our Lord.
We can see from this Biblical text, and others, that it is both scripturally and historically possible to stand face to face with Jesus, with His sacrifice, with the cross and all that happened there, and reject it. But it is also even possible, regardless of popular, modern-day Calvinist teaching on the matter, to initially go ahead and accept His gift and then later decide to reject it.
You see, repentance, like believing, like confessing Christ as Lord, like offering our body as a holy and living sacrifice to God, is a continual way of life. When a person sins in moments of selfishness and weakness, when we get a little rebellious and want to do things our own way and indulge our fleshly desires, but then in recognition of our sin and rebellion we repent and call out to God – we remain cleansed by the blood of Christ and clothed in His righteousness. However, when we let our adversary, the evil one, wear us down to the point where we get tired of repenting, we just don’t wanna do it anymore, the world and its ways start looking pretty good to us, and we determine that we no longer want or need God’s precious gift of salvation, we can choose to repudiate it. If we decide in our hearts, “yeaaahhhh, I’m not so sure I believe all this Jesus is God stuff anymore,” and we determine that we don’t really buy into that whole “cross scene” anymore; and we no longer need His sacrifice to “save” us anymore, and we become somewhat embarrassed to acknowledge Him as our Lord and Savior, then, you know what, we have “fallen away,”—again, to use the expression found in the Biblical texts.
And, according to the Hebrew writer, some of those who have fallen away will become so infatuated with this world and hardened against Christ, that it is “impossible to renew them again to repentance” (verse 6). In some ways, it seems almost unbelievable to me that people would make such a decision; but it happens! Like repentance in reverse, they choose to throw it all away having become so hardened in their hearts that they refuse ever to repent and return to the Lord—their faith is simply gone with the wind.
Lord God, my Creator, the Giver and Sustainer of my life, I thank You and praise You for Your love. I know that every breath I take and every beat of my heart I owe to You and to Your love for me. And far beyond just loving me in this world, You have made a way for me to be with You forever in that new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. Oh, my Lord, I am so looking forward to being with You in that place and living with You eternally. And there is nothing, Nothing, NOTHING in this world that would be worth it to me to give up that hope and turn away from Your marvelous love and grace. Lord, I know that I am a sinner and that I continually fall short of Your glory. I know that I can never claim to be without sin. I can never claim to no longer be in need of Your grace, the blood of Christ to cleanse me, and the righteousness of Christ to clothe me. I also know from Your holy word that my salvation depends on these two things, Your divine grace and my feeble faith. So, Lord, I pray that You will keep my faith ever living and active, that You will keep me walking humbly with You, and that You will never, ever let me outlive my love for You!
David O. Selznick (Producer), George Cukor, Victor Fleming, Sam Wood (Directors). (1939). Gone With the Wind [Motion Picture]. With: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, TM & © Warner Bros.
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