Contrary to popular opinion, we cannot be saved anytime we choose. In John 6:15, the multitude decided to force Jesus to be their king. Jesus, however, withdrew Himself from them. The moral of this story is that you can’t force Jesus to do anything. You can no more force Him to be your Savior than the multitude could to be their king.
Many people think they have their personal salvation all planned out. They’re going to strew their life with wild oats and afterward, around age ninety-nine, right before the sheet is pulled up over their head, they’re going to whistle for Christ to come and save them. This plot will supposedly enable these sly sinners to slip off their deathbeds right into heaven, despite having lived lives of debauchery.
The fatal flaw in this presumptuous plan is the fact that Christ doesn’t come to us whenever we say, but that we can only come to Him whenever He says. We can only come to Christ by faith and be saved when we are hearing His voice. This is why the Bible repeatedly warns us not to harden our hearts on the day we hear God’s voice (Psalm 95:7-8; Hebrews 3:7-8, 15).
In warning us not to harden our hearts when the Spirit calls, both the Psalmist and the author of Hebrews refer to “the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness.” These references are to Israel’s provoking of God’s wrath in the wilderness by refusing to do what God said. The author of Hebrews appears to be particularly referring to Israel’s provoking of God at Kadesh-Barnea. It was at Kadesh-Barnea that Israel disbelieved and disobeyed the voice of God by refusing to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. As a result, that whole generation of unbelievers died wandering around aimlessly in the wilderness.
Following God’s condemnation of them for hardening their hearts, Israel had a change of mind. Against the advice of Moses, they “presumed” they could, upon their own initiative, still enter and conquer Canaan. Their ill-advised venture had disastrous consequences, they were “smitten” by the “Amalekites” and the “Canaanites” (Numbers 14:39-45). Israel learned the hard way that the voice of God can only be obeyed on the day it is heard.
Our only opportunity to be saved comes when God personally calls us to His Son (John 6:44, 65). This is why the Scripture teaches that “the day of salvation” and “the accepted time” for us to be saved is whenever we hear God’s voice (2 Corinthians 6:2). If we harden our hearts to the voice of God, we have no guarantee of ever hearing His voice again. Therefore, if we harden our hearts to God’s voice today, coming to Christ by faith may be an impossibility tomorrow.
O gracious God who calls us to salvation, I pray that you will draw to your Son, the Savior of the world, the lost for whom I am burdened. I also pray that on the day they hear your voice they will not harden their hearts, provoking you to anger, but will come to Christ by faith and be saved by your grace at the accepted time. Amen.