Recently I had to get a new cell phone after my old one had begun showing signs of its advanced age – occasionally acting crazy, shutting down, and not wanting to power up again. Hmmm … it reminds me of some of us as we get older. I spent some time over a couple of days setting up the options on my new phone and exploring its features. During that process I somehow got into a program from which I couldn’t escape. I tried to press the buttons at the bottom of my phone that normally allow me to get out of such predicaments. However, they had faded and were obviously disabled to some extent. I tried and tried to no avail. Those buttons had rescued me before, but for some reason they weren’t working this time. I’m glad to report that the problem was finally resolved, but not without a great degree of frustration.
When we face spiritual issues, many of us know which buttons to push. We’ve had to use them many more times than we like to admit. God has promised, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). We not only push that button when we first come to receive Christ as our Savior, but we still need it as believers when we falter along the way. However, we know it involves more than just an admission that we’ve done wrong or fallen short. It’s more than just being sorry that we got caught. It must include an attitude of repentance – such a sorrow over our sin that we’re willing to forsake it and to submit to God’s way instead.
However, the Bible indicates that coming to that place of repentance isn’t always as easy as pushing a button. It’s not something we’re guaranteed of being able to turn on any time we want it or need it. If we’re not careful, it can fade and even become permanently disabled. In one place the book of Hebrews describes those who had so fallen away spiritually that it was impossible “to renew them again to repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6). And as you read the description of those people, it’s referring to individuals who had once been “enlightened”, had “become partakers of the Holy Spirit”, and had “tasted the good word of God”. These seem to be people who had previously repented and believed, but who had sunk to a place where their hearts and minds could no longer reach the point of repentance. Later in the same book, Esau is tragically described as someone who “found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears” (Hebrews 12:17). How awful to recognize our wrongdoing, but our hearts having become so hardened that we can’t bring ourselves to turn around.
How do we get to such a state as that? What can we do to guard against it? I believe part of the problem arises from our taking sin too lightly and taking God’s grace too much for granted. We need to be careful if we begin to lose sight of the seriousness of sin in our lives. Yes, we will falter at times, but it isn’t an inconsequential occurrence. God takes it seriously. That sin cost the life of God’s Son. So we need to take it seriously, too. And yes, God’s forgiveness is available to us. However, let’s not presume upon God’s grace and mercy to the point that we fail to resist temptation or to seek to avoid sin.
Don’t take that button of repentance for granted. If you do, one day when you need it you might find it doesn’t work anymore.