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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Salvation 101 - Part VII - Unpardonable or Not?

 30"This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you're not on my side, you're the enemy; if you're not helping, you're making things worse.  31-32"There's nothing done or said that can't be forgiven. But if you deliberately persist in your slanders against God's Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives. If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can forgive you, but when you reject the Holy Spirit, you're sawing off the branch on which you're sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.
(Matthew 12:30-32)

I remember long debates after class while I was in Bible College.  One of the most stimulating was always on the question what exactly was the "unpardonable sin".  If you have not already heard me say this, every passage of scripture has to be taken in context if it is to be true to its meaning.  Holding out one passage and not considering who the words were addressing, what was happening when the words were spoken/penned, etc., gives us a really skewed interpretation of the intended meaning of those words!

Jesus was speaking to the group of gathered Pharisees (the religious leaders) about their accusations against him.  That defines the audience for us.  They had accused him of not being of the lineage of David.  That was important, because the Messiah was prophesied to come from that line.  So, they were calling into account his "questionable heritage" - that gives us the context of what is being addressed.  If that was not enough, they actually accused him of being in cahoots with Satan himself!  Now, we have a backdrop against which we may consider his answer to them.

Depending on your translation of the Bible you are reading, this passage might refer to the "blasphemy against the Spirit of God", "slander against God's Spirit", or even "speaking  word against the Spirit of God".  Here's the crux of it:  Blasphemy is really any form of defiant irreverence against God!  This could be cursing God because we don't like something he did/did not do.  We could be putting down the holiness of God by engaging in all kinds of evil in the name of Jesus (like when someone blows up an abortion clinic in the name of Christianity).  The fact is that Jesus was answering the Pharisee's accusation that he was doing the healing of the sick, releasing of people from demonic activity in their lives, etc., by the power of Satan!  Jesus says, "Not so!  And to say that I am doing it by Satan's power is to attribute what I am doing under the power of the Holy Spirit of God to the unholy spirit of Satan!"

Okay, so what is the "unpardonable sin"?  Whenever scripture refers to unpardonable, it is referring to the condition of heart that dies in unbelief - they are NOT saved.  When sin has become the pattern that one follows time and time again, ignoring the convicting power of the Holy Spirit until that conviction no longer pierces their hearts, they are in a place of danger!  This individual really has no desire for God, or the things of God.  That makes is very plain to me that if you are asking yourself today if you might have committed the unpardonable sin, then you are in a good place!  You would not be asking yourself that if you had!!!!

The one who has committed the unpardonable sin has absolutely NO desire for the things of God!  Plain and simple!  There is no conviction of spirit or conscience that causes them to examine their behavior in light of falling short of the holiness of God.  Guess what?  This type of individual engages in sin so long, so frequently, that they are seared in their conscience!  This is not a one time occurrence - like when we get really bad news, cry out to God in our anger and question his goodness toward us, then mope in our anger toward God for a while!  Eventually, we are convicted for our anger.  If we respond to that conviction, we move into his grace and are restored.  The one who commits the unpardonable sin commits willful, active defiant actions repeatedly.  There is a continual rejection of the grace of God, his truth, and restorative power.

What I am referring to here is the state of being an unbeliever.  Jesus said that nothing done is beyond forgiveness.  That should give us hope!  We may sin (sometimes many times more than we'd like to admit!), but as long as we are not willfully defiant when grace is offered, we are restored.  We ARE accountable for how we spend our time, our talents, and our resources - that is why we have been given so many warnings in scripture to be aware of these things.  

Our "works" are really our "actions".  They speak the loudest and will be rewarded when they reviewed at the Great White Throne Judgment.  The goal is that we don't drift into religious pursuit instead of relationship.  The protection that provides keeps us from staying in a place of "sinful action" permanently.  Eventually, the repeated conviction we receive for engaging in what we know to be wrong will cause us to reach out for the grace we need to overcome the "desire" to commit that sin in the first place!  No one who has committed the unpardonable sin cares about overcoming the desire to willfully sin in the first place!

What is of importance here is that we allow the Holy Spirit to mature us!  As we allow growth to occur, we are brought closer and closer to the heart of God.  As that process occurs, we are drawn farther and farther away from the sin that entices us so easily today.  Here's one thing I have learned in my walk:  Guilt about sin acts as a two-edged sword.  On one side, it drives me to God, cutting quickly to the exact response God wants - repentance.  On the other side, it robs me of my assurance that God loves me, wants me close to him, and is willing to forgive me.  This is the "blunt" side of the sword!  Anytime doubt is produced, there will be fear that our security in Christ is "altered".  The thing that keeps us moving forward with God is to have our "altered" security made secure again at the "altar" of his grace!

We have to choose what we will believe - whenever we reach out to Christ in faith, he welcomes us.  When we respond to his Spirit, we are brought into seasons of growth.  When we drift away from that position, we grow stale - growth stops (we are dormant).  The best place to keep ourselves is in God's "hot-house"!  There we will be assured of growth and protection.  When we brave it on our own, we usually fail.  The joy we can embrace is that even in our failure, God is a merciful God!  Respond quickly to his conviction and be restored!  As long as you are hearing the voice of God in the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the nudges of your conscience, you are NOT in an unpardonable state!