The one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:8-12

Is there a sin that can never be forgiven? In today’s verses Jesus tells us that anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. John also mentions a sin that leads to death,  “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” (1 John 5:16 ESV) However John does not give us a clue as to what this sin is. Jesus does and here it helps to compare the similar account in Matthew to give us better understanding.

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:22-32 ESV)

Matthew tends to do a more chronological account of Jesus ministry than doe Luke who tends to give the account in the order he sees as more important. Or maybe Luke wants to add additions things Jesus taught between the casting out of the demon and what Jesus said about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

What can we learn from Matthew? After Jesus cast out the demon the Pharisees claim that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of Satan, Beelzebul. Jesus uses this claim to teach about how a house divided against itself cannot stand. And it is here that I found a new interpretation of the sin that cannot be forgiven. The Pharisees were claiming that the miracles Jesus did were the work of Satan. Could the unforgivable sin be attributing God’s work to Satan? Possibly. I had always thought that the unforgivable sin was denying God. But on reflection that seems to not be the case. After all if denying God is unforgivable then how to explain how the Gentiles were saved. How do we explain how an atheist can come to know Jesus.

Fortunately for the believer, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. Jesus tells His disciples and us not to worry about how to defend ourselves against those who would persecute us. The Holy Spirit will provide us with the words we need.

If you are interested on further research I found an interesting article by Kyle Butt, M.A. posted on the Apologetics Press site called Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit—The “Unpardonable Sin”. It can be found here: http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1218

Have a blessed day,

David

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Fear him who has authority to cast into hell

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7

What are you afraid of? I have to admit I am not particularly fond of rats, especially when they jump out of boxes while I am moving them. I know from experience that hearing western diamond back rattle snake will bring one dead in their tracks. I am afraid of the unknown as it concerns my wife and kids. There is so much in this world we cannot control and that makes us afraid. People fear death because they are not sure what if anything waits on the other side. But what we should fear is God because as Jesus tells us in today’s verses we should fear the One who can send us to hell.

The good news is that Christians should not fear death. For us death is a doorway from this life filled with fear and trouble to the next life filled with love and joy. The things of this earth can kill the body but they have no control over the soul. Only God can send someone to hell but the choice is not God’s but our choice. God wants every person to spend eternity with Him but He will not force anyone to stay in His presence. God will honor our choice.

Should we fear God? In the sense that it was meant when Luke wrote his gospel yes. This fear is one of respect not the fear I have of rats or snakes. Now, if you decide to not honor God or believe He does not exist then fear as we understand it today is warranted. What lies in store for the unbeliever is worthy of fear. Hell will be a place of eternal torment. This torment is not caused by God but self-caused. You will have all eternity to contemplate that you made to wrong choice. Your refusal to honor and obey God came with consequences, eternal separation from God.

Have a blessed day,

David

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Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. Luke 12:1-3

Hypocrisy, that gets leveled at Christians all the time. Jesus leveled the same charge at the Pharisees. Basically hypocrisy is saying one thing while doing something else, usually just the opposite of what was said. One thing I know is that hypocrisy is easily detected in someone else while most of us have a blind spot when it comes to seeing it in ourselves. We all like to think we walk the talk but too often we come up short. It seems Christians are just as human as the next person.

As much as we wish otherwise we all fall short of living the Christian life at one time or another. Think about the guy who cut you off in traffic, probably not a lot of Christian love went through your mind at the time. You probably honked your horn and maybe mumbled a few words you should not have. Possible you made a rude gesture? Or you are standing in the 15 items or less line at the store and in front of you is a person with half a shopping cart full. What goes through your mind, love or irritation?

When most people think of Christians they think not of Jesus but us. It is our actions that define Christianity to the world. When we act like the world the world sees no difference between us and them. We all need to strive to live our lives as God would want us to. But when we fall short we need to admit our short comings while letting others know that we are trying our best to emulate Jesus and it is He not us that they need to look towards. We will always fall short but Jesus never does. We need to show people Jesus in our words and our actions.

Have a blessed day,

David

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They lay in wait to catch Him

As he went away from there, the scribes and the Pharisees began to press him hard and to provoke him to speak about many things, lying in wait for him, to catch him in something he might say. Luke 11:53-54

The scribes and the Pharisees were not interested in what Jesus was teaching or who Jesus was, they were interested only in trying to catch Jesus in error. I wonder what would have happened to the world if instead of trying to trip Jesus up they instead listened to His teachings and took them to heart. However, they were more interested in keeping their control over the people than finding out about God’s Messiah.

Today some are too interested in keeping power and control over the churches they lead rather than preaching and teaching God’s Word. It would be nice if we could just blame the pastors but the congregation bears responsibility also. Too often we place our pastors, ministers and priests on pedestals. We become more interested in who is speaking rather than what is or is not being taught. Those who leads congregations need to held accountable and none should be placed above God.

We can get so caught up in numbers that we forget why we go to church. A home church of ten or so that faithfully teaches God’s Word is doing more for His kingdom that a mega church that sees thousands pass through its doors that spend its time dazzling the crowd with light shows and running twelve step programs from the pulpit. God is not interested in how many proclaim Him with their mouths but reject Him with their actions. God wants us to totally commit to Him and bring others to Him. God would rather have ten committed worshipers rather than ten thousand looking for a place to hang out for an hour or so on Sunday.

Have a blessed day,

David

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You hindered those who were entering

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:45-52

In today’s verses we see that the lawyers took offense to what Jesus said about the Pharisees. Jesus did not hold back as he told them that they “you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” To really understand this, one needs to read some sections of one of the Talmuds. The lawyers and Pharisees had put so much man made rules around God’s law that what God wanted from His people was lost. Their intentions were good as they thought that is we put layers upon layers over God’s law than is someone breaks the man-made rules they still have not broken God’s law. They problem is that these man made rules became more important than God’s Law and it put extra burdens on the people.

One example I read in the Babylonian Talmud the described what a woman had to do to make sure there was no leaven, yeast, in her house in preparation for Passover went on for  10 pages, “TRACT PESACHIM (PASSOVER). CHAPTER I. REGULATIONS CONCERNING THE REMOVAL OF LEAVEN FROM THE HOUSE ON THE EVE OF PASSOVER AND THE EXACT TIME WHEN THIS MUST BE ACCOMPLISHED.” Jewish scholars argued as to what constituted clean enough and how small could one leave a spot of yeast or crumb of bread and still be sure the home was clean enough to bake the unleavened bread. What God told the Israelites was that they were to bake bread without adding leavening.

What God wanted to be done and what the man made law required to be done were totally different. Yes the laws made sure that no yeast was present but it put too many burdens on the people that God did not intend. The lawyers and Pharisees were turning God’s Law into a check off list of what to do to be in God’s good graces.

We need to ask ourselves what obstacles we are putting in front of others that burden their walk with the Lord. When we let manmade rules overshadow God and the path to salvation we are playing the role of the lawyers and Pharisees. Jesus told the disciples not the hinder the little children in coming to Him. Since we are all God’s children let’s not hinder each other.

Have a blessed day,

David

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Woe to you Pharisees

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”Luke 11:42-44

The Pharisees made great show of their tithing as well as always sitting in the best seats in the synagogues. So interested in the appearance of piety were they that they forgot God in their daily lives. If they were only misleading themselves that would have been one thing but they mislead the people buy their actions and words. They were so far from God in their actions that Jesus compared them to unmarked graves that people walk over without knowing. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that they were making the people unclean. That is unworthy to come into God’s presence.

The Jewish people were deemed ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead body or walked over a grave. We see this in Numbers 19:16 “Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.”  God also gave them instructions on what they had to do to become clean again. “For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh water shall be added in a vessel. Then a clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave. And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day. Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean. “If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. Because the water for impurity has not been thrown on him, he is unclean. And it shall be a statute forever for them. The one who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and the one who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening. And whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and anyone who touches it shall be unclean until evening.” (Numbers 19:17-22 ESV)

Look what happens when someone does not perform the ritual to become clean, “If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD.

What the Pharisees were doing was to constantly make those who followed them unclean and neither the Pharisees nor the people were doing anything to become clean again. Jesus was not angry with the people but with the Pharisees who were misleading them. Just as one who walks over an unmarked grave would have no idea they were unclean so the people who were following their leaders had no idea they were being steered wrong.

Today similar things are happening. When Christians tell other Christians that God wants them to be wealthy or that God wants them to have perfect health and if they do not have either than it is because of a lack of faith on their part. When we tell Christians that they should no longer sin or that they should have certain gifts to be truly saved we undermine their faith. When their faith is undermined they become disheartened and stop working for the Kingdom. Their salvation is not affected but their usefulness is. We need to stop acting like the Pharisees and act in the manner God wants us to act.

Have a blessed day,

David

PS: I finally have internet back and my new computer up and mostly running. Still getting used to Win 8.1. Hopefully by next week I can respond to any comments left while I was out of touch.

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Pickin’ n Grinnin’

For any fans of the Andy Griffith show, whether you watched them when they originally aired as I did or caught them on the almost daily reruns, you probably are familiar with the title of today’s essay. Or if you are a fan of bluegrass music or older country music you may also be familiar with the term. For the rest of you it refers to someone playing a stringed instrument, most likely a guitar or banjo, and smiling in the pure pleasure of making music. I have fond memories of watching Andy pick his guitar. Especially when the Darlings were in town and they would play together. So what does pickin’ n grinnin’ have to do with the usually subject of these essays, God’s Word? Some Christians are pickin’ n grinnin’ when it comes to God’s Word. What I mean by that is they pick the verses that appeal to them while ignoring ones they do not like.

I want to remind those who do this is that God’s Word is not a spiritual buffet where we pick the things we like and move on past the less palatable parts. Or we pick only verses that point in one direction and ignore the rest. One such area is free will verses divine providence or as some will be more familiar with Calvinism or Arminianism. But that is for a future post.

Another area I just found out is “do Christians still sin or not”. The reason I say I just found this out is that from my personal experience and that of Christians around me I have always believed that even though we are saved we still sin. To believe that Christians no longer sin means either I have a distorted view of what sin is, doubtful as God is very clear what sin is, or I and every Christian I know is fooling themselves and we are not saved, again doubtful as the road to salvation is also very clear. If it was just me that would be one thing, but for that many to be wrong including every pastor I have ever had and every Christian writer I have read to be wrong seems a bit farfetched.

When this happened it is usually because the person has decided to accept only one side of what God is telling us while ignoring the rest. The reason can be that it seems God is contradicting Himself so let’s pick one side and just forget about the other verses. While this may make us feel better about God and His Word it leaves us open to attack from unbelievers when they point out these so called contradictions. When confronted by a seeming contradiction I turn to sources I trust to guide me through the hard parts and in the end I always find that it is not God contradicting Himself but my lack of understanding that is the problem. That is why we need mature mentors to guide us. For as Paul writes “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV) When we finally stand before God in all His glory then we will be able to understand all that is now unclear and that which is clear will become clearer.

The comment about Christians and sin caused me to take a look at what God says about believers and sin. After all I know I am saved and I know that I still harbor sinful thought and do things that I wish I did not do so this is an important question that I need answered. Fortunately God as always supplies the answers. Below are the verses I found. Let’s take a brief look at each group.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10 ESV)

John is very clear in these verses from 1 John that we are not to claim that we do not sin. In fact making such a claim is tantamount to calling Jesus a liar.

Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:13-25 ESV)

When I have a personal question about faith I like to read what Paul says. He brings the Christian struggle alive for me. I figure if Paul struggled with something then I am in good company when I experience the same struggles. In the above verses from Paul’s letter to the Romans we see that Paul struggled with sin in his life. He fought the urges to do wrong with his desire as a follow of Christ to live a sin free life. Paul was the greatest evangelist in the history of the church. If he struggled with sin then how are we to expect anything less in our lives.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12-16 ESV)

Once again I turn to Paul and his first letter to Timothy, Paul’s disciple and someone Paul thought of as a son. Paul is telling Timothy that Jesus came into the world to save sinners of which he is the foremost. Paul uses the present tense. Paul is not telling Timothy he was a sinner but that he continues to sin. These verses coupled with the above verses from Romans tell us of the struggles Paul faced and that each Christian has and will face in their lives even though we have accepted Christ and our sins have already been paid for.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV)

In this verse from Ecclesiastes God tells us that there is not a righteous man, that is a man right with God or saved, who never sins. Now you may quibble that this is from the Old Testament and would not apply to Christian believers but that then means that none of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets were saved.  But we know from Hebrews that this is not true. Abraham was declared righteous and we know that David was a man after God’s own heart. The best way I ever heard it explained is that the people before Jesus came were saved looking forward to the Messiah and we are saved looking back to Him. Clearly this verse says that the righteous do sin. The good news is that all our sins are covered. Those in the past, those in the future and those we will commit. When we claim that Christians should never sin or no longer sin we are in essence doing Satan’s work for him as we cast doubt in the minds of others.

Each of us comes to the Lord in a different state of sin but none come in a sin free state. Once we accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation the Holy Spirit begins to work on and in us transforming us from the old self to the new self. The transformation will be a lifelong process as we are still in the old sinful body. Please do not mistake what I just wrote. We are at the time we accept Jesus transformed spiritually and we are immediately saved, a salvation that is eternal and cannot be taken away. But just as Paul wrote we still inhibit a sinful body that carries the curse of original sin. Only when we are free from that body and in our new bodies will be sin no more. One additional thought, our salvation did not take away our free will. We still can decide to sin or not sin. Unfortunately sometime we make foolish choices. What we will find is that as we overcome our sins we will come to recognize actions that one time seemed ok, now we know to be sinful and we become acutely aware of each sin.

One final warning. It is dangerous to claim special knowledge about God or special insight in the Word. God’s Word is there for all and has the same meaning for all. God and His Word are unchanging. When we claim special knowledge we commit the same heresy as did the Gnostics. God does not hide His message in secret codes or between the lines. God’s message is there for all. We always need to interpret God’s Word based on the entirety of the Word not the parts we agree with or some claim to special knowledge or inspiration. If I find myself at odds with the rest of Christianity I need to take stock and see why if I am right than everyone for almost two thousand years has been wrong. If I an honest with myself I realize that it is me that is in error rather than everyone else. Yes some things are hard to understand but that is why we call on those more mature in the faith than us and sometimes we just need to take it on faith that even though we do not fully understand now all will be made clear in the end. And of course everything we do or say needs to be in a loving manner always showing the love of Christ even when we disagree. Lastly, even though we still sin, it is not a license to sin. To willfully sin is a slap in the face of God.

Have a blessed day,

David

PS: I will take a look at the verses that seem to indicate that we no longer sin in the near future. Also, This may be my last post until next Wednesday as our internet is down and we will not get a tech out until then. Right now I am using my cell phone to get to the internet, not the most economical way.

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