Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at roger@preachitteachit.org.

Dear Roger,

My bro-in-law… recently posted this query to me via e-mail: Question from reading John 12:39-41 – my commentary says, “people in Jesus' time would not believe despite the evidence. As a result, God HARDENED their hearts. He simply confirmed their own choices. After a lifetime of resisting God, they were so set in their ways, they wouldn’t even TRY to understand Jesus’ message.”

So I was wondering why God hardened their hearts, if their hearts were already hardened? I was just puzzled … do we “give up” on hard hearts while continuing to pray for them? What did I miss?

Thank you so much for your time!

Bob

Dear Bob,

A seventy-seven-year-old father, husband and grandfather was dying. Years and years of family prayers for him to come to Jesus fell upon deaf ears.

I get the call. Family asks, "Will you please go and visit him. We've prayed for many years for him to follow Christ and be saved. We are out of chances. He will not leave the hospital alive. We are asking you to give it a try. You are our final hope. Will you please go?"

An hour or so later as I entered his room, he said, "I know who you are. You're the pastor of that church that my children attend. I know why you're here. You're here to talk me into becoming a Christian. My kids sent you for one last try, didn't they?"

"You know them well, don't you?"

"Well," he said, "Go ahead; I've heard it all before; one more time can't hurt."

So, with that open door, I began: "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life," I shared the gospel from start to finish. I finished with an invitation from John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." The gospel can't be any clearer than that.

“Would you like to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"

With chilling finality he responded: "I've said ‘no’ to Jesus for so many years that I don't think that I could become a Christian even if I wanted to."

Now, is it possible to say "No" to the gospel of Christ so many times that God finally says, "OK, if that is the way you want it, I'll harden your heart and I'll never ask you again."

Could the Father ever give up on someone who has rejected Him too many times? That is one way to look at Hebrews 6:4-6:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Some would explain this passage as a fourth-class-conditional sentence from a Greek perspective (I’ll explain more about that in a minute). Others point to the six things "tasted" as proof that this is a person who has never actually experienced (eaten) the saving grace of Christ. Others say that this is a Christian who has committed apostasy and thus fallen from grace and lost his salvation.