Is there really such a thing as a point of no return?
In the Christian faith, God’s Word teaches us that all men are capable of being saved, no matter how many or what kinds of sins they’ve committed. God’s abundant grace and mercy are more than sufficient to release us from the chains of darkness and condemnation. It’s all because of the selfless sacrifice that Jesus Christ Himself performed on the cross over two thousand years ago, giving up His life to redeem us by atoning for the wrong things that we have done, effectively releasing us from the eternal punishment of sin. However, this free gift of eternal life, also known as salvation in Christian vocabulary, is ONLY accessible through the voluntary act of a person choosing to accept it, changing his life forever. No one can make this decision for anyone else; it HAS to be an act of their own free will. God does not force anyone to believe in Him or trust Him and His Son Jesus to receive salvation – He only wants it to be a conscious choice from the sincere desire of a person’s heart. God knows that the only way a person is guaranteed true happiness and eternal life is by choosing to serve Him, but it is not in His character to make His human creations mindless slaves to His will. He is only interested in a person’s heart that is willing to serve Him out of pure, genuine love.
So yes, it is possible for a person to be redeemed… – but only if they want to be.
The above paragraph describes people who have yet to become Christians, but what about those who claim to be saved, though their lives and actions would make you seriously doubt their spiritual identity? Yes, it is the sad truth that there are many, MANY people out there who will swear up and down that they are Christians, yet the evidence of their personal lifestyle proves that they actually live without a conscience. By this, I mean that their lack of self-control or respect for God’s requirement of holiness shows that the Holy Spirit’s presence is either nonexistent in their hearts, or pushed so far into the background that you could hardly recognize it anymore. You probably know someone like this in your own life, from either your past or your present. This person may have accepted Christ in his heart, but eventually moved so far away from God that His influence in the person’s life became imperceptible. The way this person acts is so indistinguishable from the world, that you wonder why he bothers calling himself a Christian to begin with. In his mind, being a Christian is more like being in a trendy, exclusive club, rather than the life-altering, sacrificial transformation it really is.
There’s a word in the Bible for this kind of person – a reprobate.
In further detail, a reprobate is someone who is fully aware of God’s truth in his life but chooses to ignore it anyway, despite receiving multiple warnings from other people that he is going in the wrong direction. He is incredibly stubborn and stiff-necked, refusing to heed spiritual advice when he needs it the most. When he is corrected by a pastor or other spiritual influences in his life, he reacts with anger to loving reproaches, lashing out in rage at the very wisdom that is meant to benefit him. The only thing he cares about is having his own way, acting as if he were God Himself. No matter how many times he has been warned, he refuses to listen to anyone who contradicts his ideas and desires. He has no use for the feelings of other people who know him and care about him; he doesn’t give any thought or remorse about how many others he hurts along the way. He has chosen to go so far along the path of darkness in his life, that any attempts to stop him or change his mind have proven to be utterly futile. In essence, a person like this can be described as strikingly similar to Satan’s character in John Milton’s classic epic, Paradise Lost.
In this book, the first chapter begins with the aftermath of Satan’s rebellion in Heaven, where he finds himself bound in chains to the Lake of Fire with the other fallen angels who followed his influence. Despite being completely overthrown and cast down from grace, Satan is literally Hell-bent on getting revenge on God. He is so disgustingly filled with pride that he is incapable of recognizing that the whole incident was entirely his fault. He blatantly claims that God is an unfair tyrant, while he is merely misunderstood. Not only does he hold these blasphemous beliefs, but he also fills the minds of his demonic followers with these wicked ideas. Throughout the entire book, Satan stubbornly holds onto the belief that he doesn’t need God and outright states that it’s better for him to “reign in Hell than to serve in Heaven.” He’s a rebel and a vagabond, whose only real home is in Hell after his betrayal against God; however, he refuses to accept the fate of his punishment and plots to drag down mankind with him.
How sad it is when someone who formerly served God and claimed to know Him turns against Him out of pride and selfishness!
Anyone who falls under the biblical category of a reprobate has had numerous second chances given to him, both by God and the people in his life, yet he has chosen to repeatedly spurn and squander them. The Bible says that when a person chooses this path, God decides to turn him over to a reprobate mind, giving him exactly what he thinks he wants – to be king of his own life, free to revel in his own wickedness. God says to this person: “You want Me to leave you alone? Fine. I’ll do just that. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the consequences though.” Eventually, God gets tired of fighting against a person with a strong stubborn will, and leaves him to his own devices, no matter how foolish or evil they might be. This is an extremely dangerous zone for a person to enter, because once you have effectively pushed God’s influence completely out of your life, you open the door for all kinds of Satanic influences to fill the void.
Judas Iscariot, the traitorous disciple of Jesus, is a perfect biblical example of a reprobate. He spent so much time walking with the Savior, yet he never got saved. He witnessed all of Christs’ miracles (except for His resurrection), yet he never glorified Him as the Son of God. However, to the outside observer, Judas looked just like the rest of the eleven disciples, closely following Jesus’ every move; who could suspect him of becoming filled with the Devil at the time he later betrayed Christ? The same thing is true of faux Christians – no one ever suspects their true spiritual nature, since they are experts at putting on a good show on the outside. On the inside though, they are rotten to the core. In a previous post I wrote, called “Betrayal By A Loved One,” I described how we all know at least one person in our lives whom we would describe as our personal Judas. No matter what manner of wickedness our Judas has wrought on us, we still are required to forgive him since it’s what God commands us to do.
However, it can become a dangerous trap for us if we allow ourselves to obsess over the possible redemption of this reprobate.
God wants us to forgive those who have wronged us, yes, but He does not expect us to devote every ounce of our energy towards whether or not their hearts are convicted. We are told in the Bible to pray for our enemies, but not to the point where it becomes the main focus of every waking moment in our lives. There is a very fine line between praying fervently for someone and having an unhealthy fixation on that person. Why do I say this? you may ask. Because, when you repeatedly pray for the same person, you need to assess what your intentions and expectations are for God’s answer. If you have good intentions while praying for this reprobate, you sincerely want him to turn back to God before it’s too late, and you fully trust that God is in control of the situation. However, perhaps your intentions for praying for him are a little bit self-serving – maybe the reason you want him to get right with God is somehow related to your own personal benefit, and what you see as devoted prayer is really an indirect way of trying to control the situation’s outcome. Whether we like to admit it or not, this can very well be the case.
The reprobate I’m referring to in my life is someone whom I once loved very much, with all my heart. Like Lucifer the Angel of Light, he first portrayed himself to be perfect, everything I ever wanted – but later his true nature revealed itself to be dark and rebellious, much like Satan in his demonic form. When he betrayed me, I had already fallen so deeply in love with him to the point where my affection for him was unconditional, regardless of how he treated me. So in an effort to save the only love I had ever known at that point, I prayed for him every single day for an entire year, begging God to change His heart, convict him of betraying me, and lead him to apologize to me. I would always break down crying each day as I desperately pleaded to God: “Dear Lord, please…CONVICT him. I don’t even care if you give him back to me; I just want him to be right with you. I love him unconditionally, the same exact way You do. Please protect him from the foolish choices in his heart! Please keep him safe!” Even though I still loved him deeply, I didn’t even ask for God to renew my relationship with Him; I just wanted him to get right with God so I could be reunited with him in Heaven someday, even if I never got to see him again on Earth. I later came to severely regret this, for even though I was reunited with him a year after, his apology to me was a temporary ruse designed to manipulate me and betray me all over again. Thus I was once more sucked into his cycle of emotional abuse, all because I lost myself by praying for him because of the unhealthy attachment I had from before.
Here are some verses to remind us that the fate of a reprobate is his own doing, not ours:
Proverbs 1:24-28 ~ “Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me:“
Isaiah 14:12- ~ “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to Hell, to the sides of the pit.”
Jeremiah 7:16 ~ “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee.“
Hosea 4:17 ~ “Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone.”
Romans 1:28 ~ “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient,“
Hebrews 10:26-31 ~ “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
2 Peter 2:4 ~ “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;“
So what can we do to redeem the reprobate in our lives? Nothing?
The simple answer to the above question is this – Let go and let God.
We can present the issue and our concerns about it to God, like we’re supposed to, without letting it consume our minds and hearts. We need to trust God that He knows what’s best, and that He has absolutely everything under His divine control. However, if we do allow the situation to consume us, we’ll be caught in the trap of subtle idolatry, placing our fears and desires above God’s will. When it comes to the redemption of a reprobate, it is utimately up to that person himself, since neither we nor God Himself can control the free will of someone else. It’s so easy to obsess over a situation in the name of fervent prayer, when really we’re indirectly trying to control the outcome since we don’t fully trust God. If we can learn to set the matter entirely in God’s hands and forget it, then we can know true peace that surpasses all understanding. God does not hold us accountable for the actions and choices of a wayward person in our lives, so we shouldn’t have to worry about it since it’s out of our control. Instead, we can say to God, “I know You hold this person in Your powerful hands, and I trust You to take care of this situation no matter how hopeless it may seem. God, I relinquish my desire to control the situation and circumstances regarding this person I’m concerned about. Please help me to keep my focus completely on You, so I don’t lose sight of my own purpose and identity. Amen.”
– Gloria D. Hopkins