In moonshine country, a revenuer once asked a boy, “Son, will that path take me to your daddy’s still?” The boy answered, “Yes, but it won’t bring you back.” Life has some paths like that. They will take you to a dangerous place and they won’t bring you back.
When God rejected Cain’s bloodless sacrifice, He knew that Cain was standing at the head of such a path. That’s why He said to him, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:1-7). God was telling Cain that he was at a critical juncture. Cain’s next move would set the course for what remained of his life. Sadly, Cain chose badly and in a jealous rage killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8).
Cain then spent his remaining years as a vagabond (Genesis 4:12). Even though he was a skilled farmer, the earth stopped producing harvests for him (Genesis 4:11-12). He married, fathered a son, and built a city (Genesis 4:16-17), but through it all he never got back into relationship or fellowship with God. He had gone down a path that wouldn’t bring him back.
The people of Israel anxiously awaited the report of the twelve spies they had sent to scout Canaan. The spies came back with tales of a lavishly abundant land that “flowed with milk and honey.” For proof they displayed pomegranates, figs, and a massive cluster of grapes (Numbers 13:1-27).
The people were all ready to go and claim the land as their’s, but the enthusiasm died when the spies started talking about Canaan’s strong people, fortified cities, and race of giants (Numbers 13:28-33). At that point the people cried, “If only we had died in Egypt or the wilderness.” Even when Caleb and Joshua, two men of great faith, tried to rouse them to go claim Canaan, they set themselves to stoning the two (Numbers 14:1-10) .
But God interrupted the stoning proceedings and rendered His verdict of the situation to Moses. For the next forty years the people of Israel would wander in the wilderness. Over the course of those years every Israelite twenty years old or older would die. The only two exceptions would be Caleb and Joshua. When it was all said and done, God would give Canaan to Israel’s younger generation (Numbers 14:11-38). What happened there? Those Israelites went down a path that wouldn’t bring them back.
In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul talked about history’s first idolaters. Creation itself gave these people ample evidence that there is a God that should be worshipped (Romans 1:20). But these people took their knowledge of God and corrupted it. They changed the glory of God into inglorious idols of birds, animals, and creeping things (Romans 1:21-23).
God responded to these people by “giving them up” (turning them over) to uncleanness. He let them run wild with their lusts and sexually dishonor their bodies in ways that went against nature. This was the origin of homosexuality and lesbianism (Romans 1:24-27). He also gave them up to debased minds, minds that constantly planned and schemed to commit all kinds of ungodly deeds (Romans 1:28-32).
You see, those first idolaters didn’t realize they were starting down a path that wouldn’t lead them back. Instead of forcing them to return to their knowledge and worship of Him, God would take His hands off them and watch as they plunged deeper and deeper into the dark depths of sin. What started with a rejection of Him and an embracing of idols would conclude with things such as perverse sexuality, murder, strife, deceit, disobedience to parents, a lack of discernment, an unforgiving nature, etc.
When God gives up on you, you are in a bad way even if you don’t realize it. You might live for years, even decades, after the giving up, but you won’t ever make any changes for the better. To the contrary, your heart will grow increasingly harder toward the things of God and you will become more “hardcore” with your sins.
And let me be clear about something: Christians can also go down paths that won’t lead them back. Consider something the apostle John said: “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin in which does not lead to death, he will ask (pray), and He (God) will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death, I do not say that he should pray about that“ (1 John 5:16-17).
What is the sin that leads to death in the life of the Christian? It is the climax of a life marked by backsliding and refusing to repent. It is the crowning achievement of days, weeks, months, years, or decades of playing the rebellious child, never fully coming under the lordship of Christ, and living as you please. It is that moment when your heavenly Father looks down from heaven and says, “You are eternally My child and I love you, but you are never going to change as long as you are on the earth and I’m tired of watching you bring shame to the family name.” The sin that leads to death is the final period on the earthly life of a Christian who pushes God too far. Some of the Christians of Corinth committed it (1 Corinthians 11:17-30). Ananias and Sapphira did too (Acts 5:1-11).
I’m not writing this post to help the people who are already walking paths that won’t lead them back. Frankly, they’re passed the point where they can be helped. I’m writing this to the one who is currently standing at the entrance to such a path. You are Cain before he killed Abel. You are those Israelite adults before they tried to stone Caleb and Joshua. You are those first idolaters before they made that initial idol. If you are a Christian, you haven’t started your march toward a premature death just yet. I’m saying to you, “Don’t go down that path you are considering. Change your direction while there is still time. Submit yourself fully to the Lord while there is hope for you.”
Don’t label me as overly dramatic or prone to exaggeration when I say that this could be your last chance to shun that fatal path. Perhaps you are currently closer than you will ever be to choosing a wise course for the rest of your life. God is reaching out to you right now and saying, “Come on, you’re almost there. Just make yourself do what you know I want you to do.” The question is, Will you do it?