[Repentance] is impossible for those who have once been enlightened. (Heb. 6:4)

JASON GREW UP in church. He knew the prayers and hymns. He learned that Christ died for His sins and decided to be baptized. He also tried to be the best-behaved child ever so his parents and heavenly Father would be proud of him.

Then Jason became an adult and moved away. He made some poor choices and eventually ended up in jail. A prison chaplain asked him if he knew Christ. Jason replied, “I did once, but I don’t think He wants to know me now.”

The chaplain aptly responded, “Oh, He knows you. And He’ll always forgive you, no matter the sin. But will you actually receive what He offers?”

Many are similarly ashamed of their behavior and fear they have gone too far from God to be forgiven. But this could never be due to the hardness of a sin—only the hardness of the sinner. The one thing that could deny God’s forgiveness is one’s not accepting it; that is, lacking repentance. As the author of Hebrews affirms, it is impossible for a once-enlightened person to receive forgiveness for the very reason that person refuses and denies forgiveness. Authentic repentance is the only way we can accept what Christ did on the cross and be in right relationship with Him.

God’s forgiveness comes in relationship to Him, so it is two-way. If forgiveness is not sincerely received by one, it can only be lost on one.

Pray for anyone you know who refuses God’s forgiveness; ask God to move the person’s heart to repentance.

Julie B. Cosgrove is a widowed Christian author and speaker living in Fort Worth, Texas. She has one son and two cats, and is involved with women’s and outreach ministries.