Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Theme: Unforgivable Sin

Volume 4 No. 229 July 25, 2014

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Church of Nativity, Bethlehem
Church of Nativity, Bethlehem
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 27)

Bible Readings For The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_7th_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (July 27)

Sermons For The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_7th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

3. Featured: The Unforgivable Sin

The unforgivable sin is a scary thing. It is so scary that in the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas devoted a special question with four articles to this form of blasphemy alone. Today virtually every Christian counseling manual contains a chapter on the sin to help counselors deal with patients who are terrified that they have already or might sometime commit this sin. ...

4. What is the 'Unforgivable Sin'?

Jesus gave the solemn warning in these verses to people whose hard-heartedness placed them on the brink of disaster. Blasphemy against the Spirit evidently is not just a one-time offense; rather, it is an ongoing attitude of rebellion - a stubborn way of life that continually resists, rejects and insults the Holy Spirit. This is what makes it, in effect, an eternal sin (Mark 3:29). Blasphemy against the Spirit is not unforgivable because of something done unintentionally in the past, but because of something being done deliberately and unrelentingly in the present. ...

5. The Unpardonable Sin

The path to salvation is basically summed up in two steps, first you must realize that you are lost and need Jesus (which you cannot do unless God allows you to - John 6:44), and then you must believe upon Jesus as your Lord and savior (anybody who can believe, can be saved - John 6:37). If a person refuses to believe in Jesus and cannot see any reason to obtain salvation, then what hope is left? ...

6. What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?

To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. According to Black's Law Dictionary, blasphemy is "the written or oral reproach of God, His name, attributes, or religion." This is similar to slander, which is "malicious oral lies that harm a reputation," and libel, which is "slander through writing or another type of recording or transmission." Blasphemy is slander and libel directed at God. Blasphemy was a serious crime in the law God gave to Moses. ....

7. How Much Sin Will God Forgive?

Through his tears and in deep guilt, reproaching himself for his sinful folly, realizing at last how wrong he had been, King David sat down and wrote the poem we call Psalm 51. Three thousand years later we come back to it again and again because it tells us what it means to come back to God when we have sinned.

It has been the lifeline back to God for generations of believers, first among the Jews who learned it and recited it and sang it, then among Christians who adopted it as their own. The words are so universal that they belong to anyone whose heart is broken because of sin. If you have blown it, here is a word from God for you. If you look at the wreckage of your own life, knowing full well that you are guilty of many foolish choices, if you despair of ever finding forgiveness, let us journey together through Psalm 51 and see what it says to us today. ...

8. Humor: A House Divided

A disagreement in church. ...

9. Recipe: Baked Portobello Mushrooms

This is a great recipe that can be adapted to our Indian cooking using our herbs and chillies. I have even made it with chicken stuffing. Tastes great! Enjoy. ...

10. Family Special: Is the Honeymoon Over?

What is the first love that Jesus was speaking of in Revelation 2? It's similar to the kind of love that two newlyweds experience. This is mentioned in Jeremiah 2, where God says, "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown" (verse 2). God was saying to Israel, "I remember when we had that honeymoon type of relationship." It was a close, intimate love. ...

11. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 27)
Sermons for This Sunday (July 27)
This Week's Features

Featured: The Unforgivable Sin

by James Akin

"[A] blind and dumb demoniac was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the dumb 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 shall 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 one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.

"'He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says 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).

The unforgivable sin is a scary thing. It is so scary that in the Summa Theologiae, Aquinas devoted a special question with four articles to this form of blasphemy alone. Today virtually every Christian counseling manual contains a chapter on the sin to help counselors deal with patients who are terrified that they have already or might sometime commit this sin.

Unfortunately, much of the things one reads in Protestant literature on this subject is way off base. My favorite idiotic reading of Jesus' discussion of the unforgivable sin is one which says that no one today can commit the unforgivable sin because this sin was to attribute the work of Jesus to demons and no Christian can do this since Jesus is no longer on earth. Aside from the fact that Jesus explicitly says in the very same verse that every blasphemy against him will be forgiven (Matt. 12:32a). However, it is more obviously false because Jesus does not have to be on earth to attribute his work to demons.

While most interpretations of the passage do not go to the extreme of saying that nobody today can commit the sin, many American Protestant readings (at least those written by Calvinists and Baptists) make the mistake of assuming that no Christian can commit the sin. This is because the authors of these interpretations are theologically boxed in to saying that no true Christian can lose his salvation. This is, of course, a grotesquely unbiblical view. However, this need not detain us because even though they have mistakenly assumed no Christian can commit the unforgivable sin, they have correctly identified its nature - final impenitence.

The identification of the unforgivable sin as final impenitence - dying in a state of unrepentance - can be shown to go back at least to the time of Augustine. In fact, in the Summa Aquinas gives a nice little catalogue of Augustine's passages dealing with the subject:

"Augustine says . . . (Enchiridion lxxxiii) that 'he who dies in a state of obstinacy is guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost,' and (De Verb. Dom., Serm. lxxi) that 'impenitence is a sin against the Holy Ghost,' and (De Serm. Dom. in Monte xxii), that 'to resist fraternal goodness with the brands of envy is to sin against the Holy Ghost,' and in his book De unico Baptismo (De Bap. contra Donat. vi, 35) he says that 'a man who spurns the truth, is either envious of his brethren to whom the truth is revealed, or ungrateful to God, by Whose inspiration the Church is taught,' and therefore, seemingly, sins against the Holy Ghost" (ST 2b:14:2, Sed Contra).

This interpretation of the text is shown by an exegesis of the text in question. Matthew's account of the saying is the longest and most detailed and, consequently, the one which elaborates this scary doctrine the most and the one which should be used as the basis for interpretation.

In Matthew 12, Jesus' opponents among the Pharisees try to refute the people's speculation that Jesus might be the Messiah (v 23) by suggesting he is casting out demons with Satan's permission - that he is doing pretend exorcisms in order to play a demonic hoax on the people and lead them to falsely believe he is the Messiah. Jesus refutes this charge in vv 25-29.

Beelzebul is another form of the name Baal-Zebul ("Prince Baal"), one of the names of the ancient pagan god Baal. Earlier, Jews had mocked Baal-Zebul by referring to him as Baal-Zebub ("Baal Fly" or, less literally, "Lord of the flies"). He is referred to in the Old Testament as the God of the city of Ekron (2Ki 1:6, 16). Here he is presented as the prince of demons. It was a common belief among Jews and Christians that pagan gods were actually demons masquerading as divinities.

In response, Jesus makes a series of statements, of which only one deals with the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. First he says:

"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?" (Matthew 12:25-26).

Jesus' first argument for why he is not casting out demons by Satan is that it would pit Satan's own forces against himself and tear apart his kingdom of darkness. Satan and his demons are psychologically incapable of voluntarily letting go a person they have possessed. Only God's grace will deliver such a person. If Satan were to order a demon to strategically remove from a person, his kingdom would be torn apart by civil war. Jesus' critics are therefore ignorant of the psychology of demons.

For his second statement, Jesus says:

"And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall 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" (Matthew 12:27-28).

Here Jesus acknowledges that some Jews in his day had the power to exorcise demons, however Jesus' own exorcisms were greater since he was able to cast out spirits of dumbness, which Jews were not able to do (Matthew 9:32-33) since part of the Jewish exorcism involved getting the demon's name and using it to drive him out, and of course a spirit of dumbness would not/could not give its name. Jesus, however, could do this surprising feat, as this passage indicates (Matthew 12:22). Thus if Jesus' miracles are greater than those of the Jews and his opponents reject the greater miracles, they will have to reject the lesser ones also (a fortiori). Jesus' opponents are thus in the dilemma of either having to deny the validity of their sons' exorcisms or acknowledging that in Jesus and his exorcisms the kingdom of God has arrived. Thus the members of their own group will condemn them on judgment day for not recognizing the godly exorcisms performed in their midst.

For Jesus' third argument, Jesus states:

"Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house" (Matthew 12:29)

Jesus presents himself as plundering the house of "the strong man" (Satan) be delivering those who are in the power of the devil. But in order to plunder Satan's house, it is first necessary to bind Satan in such a way that he cannot stop people from being delivered from his clutches. Thus, while Satan may still be active in some ways, he is bound in such a way that he cannot stop Jesus' ministry of exorcism.

Jesus thus shows he cannot be driving out demons by Satan's permission, because Satan would never permit his captives to be stolen from him if he were able to stop it. He regards them as his property and would use force to keep them from being taken from him, just as any homeowner would protect his belongings, but Jesus is too strong for him and is able to powerfully deliver them from satanic oppression.

The parable of the strong man is also applicable to evangelism, and this is the theme brought out by Jesus' next statement:

"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says 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 12:30-32)

Much of the confusion over the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is caused by the fact that people do not recognize that this statement is only one in a series that Jesus makes and because they do not recognize that it begins with the word "therefore," which connects it to the preceding statement. In fact, the connective force between Matthew 12:30 and Matthew 12:31 is stronger than "therefore." In Greek, Jesus says, dia touto or "through this." This is even more forceful in relating v. 30 to v. 31. He gives the general statement about the necessity to ally oneself with him or else be decisively separated from him and then says, "through this I tell you that you won't be forgiven . . . "

In the preceding verse, Jesus asserts (v 30) that one must ally with him or be opposed to him and "through this" he tells us (v 31) that the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Blaspheming the Spirit is thus a failure to repent and ally oneself with Jesus. Since this can always be done during one's life (cf. Matthew 20:1-15), blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must be a final refusal to repent, or final impenitence.

Thus the official stand of the Catholic Church's, following Augustine and a whole host of subsequent moral theologians, is that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is final impenitence. Pope John Paul II writes:

"Against the background of what has been said so far, certain other words of Jesus, shocking and disturbing ones, become easier to understand. . . . They are reported for us by the Synoptics in connection with a particular sin which is called 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.' . . . Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable? How should this blasphemy be understood? Saint Thomas Aquinas replies that it is a question of a sin that is 'unforgivable by its very nature, insofar as it excludes the elements through which the forgiveness of sin takes place' (ST 2b:14:3). According to such an exegesis, 'blasphemy' does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the Cross. If man rejects the 'convincing concerning sin' which comes from the Holy Spirit and which has the power to save, he also rejects the 'coming' of the Counsellor . . . If Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven either in this life or in the next, it is because this 'non-forgiveness' is linked, as to its cause, to 'non-repentance', in other words to the radical refusal to be converted. . . . Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is the sin committed by the person who claims to have a 'right' to persist in evil - in any sin at all . . . [T]he Church constantly implores with the greatest fervor that there will be no increase in the world of the sin that the Gospel calls 'blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.' Rather, she prays that it will decrease in human souls" (Encyclical Letter Dominum et Vivificantem ["The Lord and Giver of Life"] 46-47).

With this in mind, let us look at a couple of verses in Hebrews that are often thought (wrongly) to pertain to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit - Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:26-29.

Hebrews 10:26-27 is often translated like this: "For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there remains no sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries."

As is often pointed out, the sin being spoken of in this context is apostasy back to Judaism, and so long as one continues to sin by remaining in Judaism after having once accepted the Messiah, there is no sacrifice for one's sins besides the one Messiah offered. (Though there is also a more general truth here about apostasy from Christianity in general, such as going back to secularism, Buddhism, etc., as well as a more general truth about a continuous failure to repent, a continuous practice of mortal sin.)

However, if this is all the work done with the verse, it leaves the impression that those who go back to Judaism (or whatever) cannot be saved. This is of course false.

The verb "sin" in this verse is present tense (as are the verbs "remains" and "will consume"). Since present tense in Greek typically indicates an ongoing, continuous action, the passage can better be translated as: "For if we continuously sin deliberately, after having once received the knowledge of the truth, there continuously remains no further sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will continuously consume the adversaries."

So if one ceases to continuously sin by remaining apart from the Messiah, then Messiah's sacrifice for one's sins becomes operative again. It is now available for one since one has stopped the continuous sin of apostasy and can now be united with Christ. (Note the parallelism of the continuous sinning with the continuous remaining of no further sacrifice; when the former vanishes, the latter does as well - and the same is true of a person who continuously fails to repent of sin in general.) Thus if an apostate (to Judaism or whatever else) ceases to be an apostate, he can be saved. There is no unforgivable sin taught in this text.

Hebrews 6:1-6 reads like this:

"1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

"4 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6 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."

The first two verses tell us about "the elementary teachings of Christ" - that is, the basic truths of the Christian faith. This is important because it will set us up for the discussion of apostasy.

Note that they walk us through an ordo salutis - the stages of the Christian life: repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands (i.e., confirmation), resurrection, and judgment. Two truths preceding Christian initiation (repentance and faith), two truths at initiation (baptism and confirmation), and two truths at the end of the Christian life (resurrection and judgment).

The author says he won't go over the basic teachings of Christ again because it is impossible to renew to repentance those who have fallen away. This is often a very problematic verse (especially for those who believe it is impossible to lose one's salvation), and is often thought to pertain to the unforgivable sin. However, this is not the case.

To see why, we must first eliminate a dodge that is often used to render this verse a counterfactual hypothetical. As it appears in many English translations, v. 6 is often opened with the clause "if they fall away." However, this is not an accurate rendering of the Greek text, as even eternal securitists (such as Kendall) will admit. The Greek is simply kai parapesontas, which of course means "and (kai) have fallen away (parapesontas)" - parapesontas being an aorist - just like in the other four clauses in the preceding two verses, of which this clause is the final link in the chain of parallel aorist clauses identifying the apostates. The passage, correctly translated, thus reads:

"It is impossible for those who (a) have once been enlightened, (b) have tasted the heavenly gift, (c) and have been made partakers in the Holy Spirit, (d) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, (e) and have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are re-crucifying the Son of God and subjecting him to public disgrace."

Or more shortly:

"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened . . . and have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are re-crucifying the Son of God and subjecting him to public disgrace."

The Greek of the passage presents the falling away as an accomplished fact, not a hypothetical possibility. (Thus an eternal securitist would have to say that they were never inwardly a Christian to begin with, only outwardly.)

Nevertheless, the passage does not pertain to the unforgivable sin. Many have misread the passage, being misled by the hypothetical ("if . . .") translation of v 6, and have argued: "If a person did fall away then they could not come back because they would have to re-crucify Christ, and that is impossible since he died only once!"

But this is simply not what the passage says. It does not say that if one tried to come back one would have to re-crucify Christ. It does not present the re-crucifixion as something that would need to happen if someone came back. It presents the re-crucifixion as a present reality. Just read the text: "because to their loss they are re-crucifying [present tense, active voice in both Greek and English] the Son of God and subjecting him to public disgrace." The text says that the apostates are re-crucifying Christ now, not that they would need to if they came back.

This is where understanding the Jewish context (and content) of the letter is so important. By returning to Judaism, the apostates are declaring that Jesus was a false Messiah (else they would not leave faith in him as the true Messiah). But by declaring Jesus to be a false Messiah, they are declaring that he deserved what he got when he was crucified - because it is axiomatic that every false Messiah deserves death and public humiliation. They, like the fox in Aesop's fable "The fox and the grapes," are having an attack of sour grapes and were running around saying: "Well, he wasn't the real Messiah. He deserved what he got. He deserved to be crucified and put to public humiliation. As it says in the Torah, 'Cursed is every man who is hung upon a tree!'"

Thus the re-crucifixion and humiliation of Christ was something the apostates were doing while they were maintaining their rebellion against the Messiah they had once accepted. This indicates an enormous hardness of heart, which is why the author tells us, "It is impossible for those . . . to be brought back to repentance." The hardness of their hearts prevents it.

This is, of course, a practical rule rather than a dogmatic (absolute) rule. Because of the hardness of heart the Jewish apostates are displaying by publicly denouncing Jesus, declaring that he deserved crucifixion and humiliation, it is as a practical matter impossible to renew them to repentance and faith in Christ. This does not in any way mean it is an absolute impossibility to renew them to repentance, for "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God" (Mark. 10:27).

One must be aware in Scripture of the difference between practical and dogmatic statements. Failure to recognize this is often what generates cults. A cult will pick a statement and absolutize it, when in reality it may only be expressing a practical truth. For example, some absolutize Jesus' statements in Matthew 6 about not doing one's righteous acts in front of men, and ignore his statements in Matthew 5 about the need to let our light shine before men so they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven. The fact is that neither the Matthew 5 or the Matthew 6 statements are absolute rules, but practical rules to be observed on different occasions (i.e., bearing in mind whether doing a good deed publicly would lead people to glorify or curse God or whether I would be doing it just to gain praise for myself).

In the same way, the statement "It is impossible for those . . . to be renewed to repentance" is simply a practical rule. It is only because of their hardness of their hearts that it is a waste of time to argue with them. It is more prudent, as a matter of evangelism, to talk to people who aren't that hostile toward Christ and who are more likely to give you a hearing.

This special animus against the person of Christ would not be present in those who were not Jews and who thus would not resent him as much as a false Messiah upon returning to their former religions. Thus a person today who went back to secularism, for example, would not hate Jesus as a Messianic pretender and would not say, "He deserved what he got!" the way a first century Jew would. In fact, an apostate to secularism might still even admire Jesus in a kind of nebulous way as a good and wise teacher.

Thus modern apostates are much easier to reclaim from there repudiation of the faith than first century Jewish apostates were. In fact, this has been the case throughout history. For example, those who had denied the faith during the persecutions of the early centuries often came back to the Church and were received back into membership (after a period of penance) once the persecution stopped. The practical rule that it is impossible to renew an apostate to repentance is thus a general rule only for the early Jewish apostates the book of Hebrews was discussing, not later ones (though of course an individual later apostate may be so hard of heart he will never come back, but this does not apply to later apostates as a group).

Apostasy, contrary to some interpretations, is not the unforgivable sin. Like the parallel sins against faith - infidelity, schism, and heresy - it only becomes an unforgivable sin if one dies in it. Until death it is always possible, God willing, for an infidel to convert, for a schismatic to return from his schism, for a heretic to renounce his heresy, and for an apostate to re-embrace the faith of Christ.

Copyright (c) 1996 by James Akin. All Rights Reserved.
Source: Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)

What is the "Unforgivable Sin"?
Mark Chapter 3 highlighted Jesus' response to accusations that he was in league with the devil himself. In answering his critics, Jesus refers to something that has troubled Christians ever since: the so-called "unforgivable sin." Here are Jesus' words:

"I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. But if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever." - Mark 3:28-29 (CEV)

Different Bible translations word this differently; some use the phrase "eternal sin" or "unforgivable sin." In some, the sin is to "blaspheme against" or "curse the Holy Spirit." Whatever the wording, what troubles many readers is the suggestion that there is a type of sin that God will not forgive. Doesn't this contradict verses like 1 John 1:9, which state that God will forgive all of our wrongdoing? What exactly is the sin that can't be forgiven - and is it possible that you've committed it, even unintentionally?

These are serious questions. For an answer, I turned to author and apologist Lee Strobel's Investigating Faith newsletter, where earlier this year he published a thoughtful reflection on a difficult Bible passage. Here's Lee's response to the question, "What is the unforgivable sin, and how do I know I haven't committed it?"

"If you're worried that you may be guilty of the unforgivable sin, you almost certainly are not," Rick Cornish aptly points out in his book Five Minute Theologian. "Concern about committing it reveals the opposite attitude of what the sin is. Those who might be guilty wouldn't care because they have no distress or remorse over the possibility."

Jesus talked about the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12:31-32: "And I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."

Let's face it - that's a very sobering teaching! But let's put it into context. Note that Jesus didn't address his comments to his disciples or a mere crowd. He was talking specifically to Pharisees who had personally witnessed his miracle of completely and instantly healing a blind and mute demon-possessed man (Matthew 12:22). Rather than acknowledging the obvious fact that Jesus was exercising divine powers, the Pharisees were so spiritually depraved that they attributed his power to Satan (v. 24).

"Their problem was not blind ignorance, but willful rejection," pointed out Cornish. "That deliberate refusal to believe, even though knowing the truth, seems to be what Jesus called the unforgivable sin."

As the Quest Study Bible puts it, "Jesus gave the solemn warning in these verses to people whose hard-heartedness placed them on the brink of disaster. Blasphemy against the Spirit evidently is not just a one-time offense; rather, it is an ongoing attitude of rebellion - a stubborn way of life that continually resists, rejects and insults the Holy Spirit. This is what makes it, in effect, an eternal sin (Mark 3:29). Blasphemy against the Spirit is not unforgivable because of something done unintentionally in the past, but because of something being done deliberately and unrelentingly in the present."

So if you're an authentic Christian, don't spend time fretting over whether you have accidentally committed this unforgivable offense. "There is no biblical evidence that a genuine Christian can commit this (unforgivable) sin," says the Apologetics Study Bible. "Fear that one has done so is probably a good sign that one hasn't, for full-fledged apostasy is a defiant rejection of everything Christian and lacks the tender conscience that would be worried about such an action."

Source: Investigating Faith newsletter, Lee Strobel, Bible Gateway Blog

The Unpardonable Sin
The unpardonable sin in simple English
(The unpardonable sin in a nutshell)

The unpardonable sin is a sin that is deep rooted in the heart. Jesus said that blasphemy comes from within a man's heart (Mark 7:21-23). Blasphemy is rooted in hatred, and therefore in order to have blasphemy in your heart against somebody, you must first hate them. So in order to have the ability to commit the unpardonable sin, you must first have a hard heart which hates the Holy Spirit. Once somebody commits this sin, that person cuts them self off from the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 63:10), which is the person who leads them back to repentance (the ability to repent is something given to us by God - 2 Timothy 2:25, "...if perhaps God may grant them repentance..." NASB - there are many other verses to prove this as well, including John 6:44, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him..." along side John 6:37, "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."). Therefore, the person who commits such a sin, would have no way of turning back; he would remain in his hardened heart, and would not have any remorse for what he has done. Therefore, being concerned about such a sin, is valid proof that one has not committed it!

That's the unpardonable sin in a nutshell. The rest of this study simply digs deeper into this topic.

What the unpardonable sin is

The unpardonable sin is a sin that must be progressed into; it is not a sin that can be committed by just anybody at the snap of his or her finger. It starts with resisting the Holy Spirit, and turns into a rejection against Him; the result is a final rejection of the Holy Spirit in that person's life, resulting in blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Blasphemy is a sin which is a sin that meant from the heart (Mark 7:21-23), and is committed when a person(s) speaks evil against somebody, before other people; therefore it is dangerous (not necessarily unpardonable, but dangerous) to speak out to prevent the work of the Lord from being done, such as trying to shut down a ministry which God is moving in, convince people to walk away from Jesus, or prevent them from coming to Jesus.

It is a sin that is committed naturally, flows out freely, and comes from deep within the heart (1 Samuel 16:7, Mark 7:21-23, Luke 6:45); it is not simply some mistaken words spoken, but it is a sin that comes from a heart that is deeply rooted with evil and rejection against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:34, Mark 7:21-23, Luke 6:45).

The unpardonable sin is like a final rejection of the Holy Spirit, which results in blasphemy against Him, and it cuts the cord forever from being drawn to Jesus. When a person is in this kind of a mindset, they aren't concerned one bit about what they are doing and have a deep root of evil in their heart (Matthew 12:34). Once a person commits the unpardonable sin, it is impossible for them to change.

The reason you can cut off Jesus, and still change, is because the Holy Spirit can lead you back. It is the Holy Spirit who brings a person to Jesus; therefore, when you flat out reject the Holy Spirit, who is left to bring you back, and give you a heart of repentance and concern? If a person cannot realize that they need Jesus, they are hopeless.

How we can be sure we aren't guilty

What is spiritual blindness? Spiritual blindness is when a person cannot see spiritually; they cannot realize that they are lost and need Jesus. It is when they cannot recognize the truth. It is when they cannot see a reason to come to Jesus for their salvation. Having concern for your salvation, and believing that Jesus is Lord, is proof that you aren't spiritually blind; if you were hopeless, there would be no possible way for you to believe upon Jesus, or understand His Word (John 8:43-47).

The unpardonable sin would prevent you from being concerned about your salvation; you wouldn't see any reason to have Jesus in your life.

In other words, when the unpardonable sin is committed, it completely cuts that person off from the Holy Spirit; therefore it's not so much that the sin will not be forgiven, but that the sin cannot be forgiven; because without the Holy Spirit, a person cannot have a heart of repentance, and without a heart of repentance, it is impossible to be forgiven!

The Holy Spirit is the one that leads people to Jesus, and it is impossible for man to come to Jesus on his own (John 6:44). When the Father leads a person to Jesus, it is done by removing spiritual blinders from the eyes of that person; therefore giving them the ability to see the need for Jesus and realize that they need salvation (John 5:24). If God didn't see hope in you, you wouldn't be able to hear or understand His Word (John 8:47, Isaiah 6:10, Daniel 12:10), therefore you wouldn't recognize that you need salvation (Matthew 13:15). The only way you can be concerned about your salvation, and realize that Jesus is the way, is if God the Father gives you that understanding; you cannot obtain that realization on your own.

The only way you couldn't come to Jesus, is if you couldn't recognize that you needed Him (Matthew 13:15). God is the one who allows man to realize that he needs salvation; man cannot obtain this understanding on his own (John 6:44, John 8:43-47). ALL who understand that they need Jesus to obtain salvation can obtain salvation, because all who believe WILL be saved (John 3:16). There are two types of people, those who believe in Jesus and those who don't; those who believe in Jesus have eternal spiritual life, and those who don't are hopeless unless they change and believe (John 3:18).

If God doesn't want a person to come to Jesus, He won't allow them to realize that they need Him and therefore believe upon Him (Luke 8:12, John 6:64-65, John 12:40, Romans 9:18, Romans 11:8, Daniel 12:10). All who can recognize that they need Jesus, and will believe upon Him, will be saved (John 6:40, Revelation 3:20). If a person can realize that they need Jesus and will believe upon Him, there are NO sins that they cannot be forgiven of (Acts 13:39).

Simply resisting the Holy Spirit causes Him to draw back from a person, and flat out blasphemy from the heart would cause Him to completely leave that person alone. It is a very advanced state of spiritual rejection to the point to where you cannot come back to Jesus for repentance; it is the point of no return. There would be no conviction of sin after a person has done the unpardonable, because it is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin (John 16:8).

Therefore, worry or concern about your salvation is proof that you haven't done it, and the understanding that you need Jesus is proof that you are able to see spiritually. Are you deeply worried that you may have committed the unpardonable sin? Stop worrying! The very fact that you are concerned about your salvation is proof that you haven't done the unpardonable sin! If you aren't spiritually blind, you definitely have hope, now all you need to do is believe in Jesus (John 6:40, John 6:47). If you believe upon Jesus, then there is NO condemnation awaiting you (Romans 8:1, John 3:18). Salvation is available to ALL who can believe (Romans 1:16). Jesus promised not to cast out anybody who comes to Him (John 6:37), therefore if you come to Him, He will NOT cast you out!

You cannot commit the unpardonable sin, then turn around and come to Jesus; it is IMPOSSIBLE (John 6:37, 44).

The path to salvation is basically summed up in two steps, first you must realize that you are lost and need Jesus (which you cannot do unless God allows you to - John 6:44), and then you must believe upon Jesus as your Lord and savior (anybody who can believe, can be saved - John 6:37). If a person refuses to believe in Jesus and cannot see any reason to obtain salvation, then what hope is left?

A few things that prove a person has hope:

They can understand that they need Jesus.
(Luke 10:21-22, John 6:40, John 6:44, John 8:43-47)

They are able to hear God's Word.
(John 5:24, John 8:43-47, Psalms 10:17, Revelation 3:20)

They desire Jesus in their life.
(Matthew 5:6, John 7:37, Psalms 10:4, Matthew 7:7)

They are willing to call on the name of the Lord.
(Romans 10:13)

They are able to admit they are wrong.
(John 3:20-21, 1 John 1:9)

They are able to see and believe in Jesus.
(John 3:18, John 6:37, John 6:65, Luke 8:12, John 12:39-40)

They love God and the brethren.
(1 Corinthians 8:3, 1 John 3:14)

They can confess Jesus before others.
(Matthew 10:32, 1 Corinthians 12:3, 1 John 4:15)

They are able to receive Jesus.
(John 1:12, Luke 7:23)

The bottom line is, the unpardonable sin is like a final rejection of the Holy Spirit, which results in blasphemy against Him, and it cuts the cord forever from being drawn to Jesus. Therefore if you are concerned about your salvation and desire Jesus in your life, then you have not committed it.

To put it into a nutshell

(a) Blasphemy comes from within a man. Blasphemy is rooted in hatred, therefore somebody who has blasphemy in their heart, is very hateful against that person (in this case, the Holy Spirit) to whom they are on the edge of blaspheming.

(b) The person who is in a position to do the unpardonable sin is very hard hearted against the Holy Spirit. In order to be brought to repentance, that person must be drastically turned around and brought back to repentance.

(c) Repentance is a gift. It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to repentance. The unpardonable sin would cut a person off from the Holy Spirit. Once a person has cut them self off from the Holy Spirit, there is nobody left to bring them back to repentance.

(d) Therefore, the person who has committed such a sin would remain in their hardened state of heart, and have no remorse or desire to repent of such a sin.

Can a person turn to Jesus and be rejected? No! John 6:37, "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."

Can a person repent of this sin? No! If we confess our sins, God will forgive us of ALL unrighteousness! 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

If you still can't seem to break free

Then it's most likely a spiritual bondage you are under and will require deliverance to be set free. I have more information on the basic steps to deliverance in my sermon Deliverance in a Nutshell.

Source: www.GreatBibleStudy.com

Copyrighted 2003-2008 Robert L. and its licensors; All Rights Reserved

What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?
Question: "What is blasphemy? What does it mean to blaspheme?"

Answer: To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. According to Black's Law Dictionary, blasphemy is "the written or oral reproach of God, His name, attributes, or religion." This is similar to slander, which is "malicious oral lies that harm a reputation," and libel, which is "slander through writing or another type of recording or transmission." Blasphemy is slander and libel directed at God.

Blasphemy was a serious crime in the law God gave to Moses. The Israelites were to worship and obey God. In Leviticus 24:10-16, a man blasphemed the name of God. To the Hebrews, a name wasn't just a convenient label. It was a symbolic representation of a person's character. Israelites revered the name of God so highly that they refused to pronounce it and removed some of the letters when they wrote it, leaving only the unpronounceable YHWH. The man in Leviticus who blasphemed God's name was stoned to death.

Isaiah 36 tells the story of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, and his attempt to demoralize Jerusalem before he attacked. After pointing out Assyria's many victories, he says, "Who of all the gods of these countries have been able to save their lands from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" (verse 20). Sennacherib committed blasphemy by assuming Israel's God was on a par with the false gods of the surrounding nations. The king of Judah, Hezekiah, points out this blasphemy in his prayer to God, in which he asks that God deliver them for the purpose of defending His own honor (37:4, 17). And that's exactly what God did. Verses 36-37 explain, "Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning - there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there." Later, Sennacherib was murdered in the temple of his god Nisroch (verse 38).

Followers of God are also responsible to make sure their behavior doesn't incite others to blaspheme God. In 2 Samuel 12:14, the prophet Nathan explained that David's adultery with Bathsheba and consequent murder of Uriah gave God's enemies reason to doubt God's holiness. David's sin led others to blaspheme. As a result, God took away the good that came of the sin - a baby boy. The holiness of God was vindicated, and the blasphemy was silenced.

In Romans 2:17-24, Paul scolds those who claim to be saved through the law and yet still sin. Using Nathan's words to David, Paul tells them "the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (verse 24). In 1 Timothy 1:20 Paul explains that he had abandoned two Greeks to Satan so they would "be taught not to blaspheme."

Jesus spoke of a special type of blasphemy - blasphemy against the Holy Spirit - committed by the religious leaders of His day. The situation was that the Pharisees were eyewitnesses to Jesus' miracles, but they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to the presence of a demon (Mark 3:22-30). Their portrayal of the holy as demonic was a deliberate, contumelious rejection of God and was unforgiveable.

The most significant accusation of blasphemy was one that happened to be completely false. It was for the crime of blasphemy that the priests and Pharisees condemned Jesus (Matthew 26:65). They understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. That would, indeed, be a reproach on God's character - if it wasn't true. If Jesus were just a man claiming to be God, He would have been a blasphemer. However, as the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus could truthfully claim deity (Philippians 2:6).

The fact is, every time we do or say something that gives others a false representation of the glory, holiness, authority, and character of God, we commit blasphemy. Every time we misrepresent our position as children of God, we are damaging His reputation. Fortunately, Jesus forgives even the sin of blasphemy. Peter attacked Jesus' purpose (Matthew 16:22), Paul tried to make others blaspheme (Acts 26:9-18), and Jesus' own brothers thought He was insane (Mark 3:21). All repented, and all were forgiven.

Source: gotquestions.org

How Much Sin Will God Forgive?

by Dr. Ray Pritchard, Keep Believing Ministries

Scripture: Psalm 51

It had been a messy affair, literally.

But now, at last, things seemed to be going well. After all, who could fault a king for indulging his fantasies? That's what kings do. One night you go out for a stroll, you see a beautiful woman, you want her, you send for her, she comes to you. It's as simple as that. Kings have been doing that sort of thing since the beginning of time.

Whatever the king wants, the king gets.
Whatever the king wants, the king gets.

That's why they call him the king. And in that day, in that time, it shouldn't have seemed like a big deal. It still happens today. Who among us is ever really surprised to find out that a president or a prime minister has a girlfriend on the side? It doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen, and people hear about it and shrug their shoulders or they snicker a bit and make jokes or they don't like it but they keep it to themselves. Not to justify things, you see, just to observe that this is the way things are.

The king felt like things had finally settled down. There was that problem with the woman's husband. Not an easy thing to get rid of him. He was the loyal soldier type that wouldn't easily be tricked. So the king had him killed in battle. Complicated in a way, but the man ended up looking like a hero in his death. Then the king felt free to take the woman as his wife. So he did.

Then came the happy news that the woman was pregnant. All was right with the world.

But there were other precincts to be heard from. "The thing David had done displeased the LORD" (2 Samuel 11:29). The king was about to learn the hard way that God is not mocked and "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23).

Enter Nathan, the man of God.

"You are the man!"

He told the king a little story about a rich man with many sheep who stole from a poor man the one ewe sheep his family owned. What shall be done to the rich man who acted so ruthlessly? "He should be put to death," the king exclaimed in his anger. Then the man of God delivered his message.

"You are the man!"

In a moment, in one heart-stopping instant, the king knew the truth, knew what Nathan was saying, knew that he was the rich man who had cheated the poor man. The king knew! Very quickly comes the Word of the Lord:

"I gave you everything you had."
"I made you king."
"If this was not enough, I would have given you more."
"Why did you despise my word?"
"You took this man's wife."
"You had him murdered."
"There will be nothing but trouble for you from this day forward."
"Your family will suffer because of your sin."

Then came the worst news.
"Your son will die."
The king wept and prayed and fasted, but the child died.

Then came the time for the king to do the hardest thing anyone can ever do, to look in the mirror and say, "I have sinned." Those may be the three hardest words in the English language. No one wants to say, "I have sinned." We would rather do anything than say that. But there is no getting right until we admit how badly we have done wrong.

The words are so universal that they belong to anyone whose heart is broken because of sin.

Through his tears and in deep guilt, reproaching himself for his sinful folly, realizing at last how wrong he had been, King David sat down and wrote the poem we call Psalm 51. Three thousand years later we come back to it again and again because it tells us what it means to come back to God when we have sinned.

It has been the lifeline back to God for generations of believers, first among the Jews who learned it and recited it and sang it, then among Christians who adopted it as their own. The words are so universal that they belong to anyone whose heart is broken because of sin. If you have blown it, here is a word from God for you. If you look at the wreckage of your own life, knowing full well that you are guilty of many foolish choices, if you despair of ever finding forgiveness, let us journey together through Psalm 51 and see what it says to us today.

There are three parts to this great prayer.

First, David confesses his sin (vv 1-6).

Then he prays for cleansing (vv. 7-12).

Then he offers a prayer of consecration (vv. 13-19).

Confession.
Cleansing.
Consecration.

God doesn't forgive weakness; he only forgives sin.

Warren Wiersbe says David prays three things in Psalm 51:

"Forgive me."
"Cleanse me."
"Use me."

If your sin feels like a weight upon your shoulders, this psalm is for you.

Confession

David begins with God (vv. 1-2). He cries out for God's mercy, love, and compassion to blot out his transgressions and wash away his iniquity. The time for excuses is over. There can be no rationalization for adultery and murder, no more of saying, "Kings do it all the time" or "I fell in a moment of weakness." As long as a man makes excuses, he cannot be forgiven because he will not come clean about his sin. If you feel like you need to justify your sin, you are not ready to be forgiven.

God doesn't make deals.

If sin is to be forgiven, it must be confessed for what it is.

He doesn't say, "Boys will be boys" or "I understand how weak you are so I'll let it go this time." If sin is to be forgiven, it must be confessed for what it is. You can't call sin "weakness" and expect to be forgiven by God. God doesn't forgive weakness; he only forgives sin. That's why the king piles up different words to express the depth of his sin: transgression, iniquity, sin, and finally, "evil" (v. 4). Looking into the cesspool of his own heart, he sees nothing good, nothing to mitigate his enormous crimes.

In verse 4 David says an extraordinary thing:

Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight.

Had he not sinned against Uriah, not once but twice? Yes.
Had he not sinned against Bathsheba by stealing her from her husband? Yes.
Had he not sinned against the people of Israel? Yes.

But finally he had to deal with God! All sin is treason against the Almighty. Until we grasp that, until we see it and feel it, until we confess it, we cannot be forgiven.

So David says, "You were right to judge me. I do not question your ways" (v. 4b). Then he says, "I've been a sinner all my life" (v. 6) and "I know you desire truth from the inside out." It reminds me of the famous Jack Nicholson scene in the movie 'A Few Good Men' where he says to Tom Cruise, "You want the truth?" When Cruise says, "Yes, I do," Nicholson shouts in a rage, "You can't handle the truth."

The truth can be hard to handle, especially the truth about ourselves.

THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE . . . BUT IT WILL HURT YOU FIRST.

Some years ago I visited a gifted counselor who gave me a personality inventory and later mailed me the results. Enclosed with the test results were some sheets of paper the counselor had written. On one page the counselor had done a takeoff on the famous words of Jesus, "You will know the truth and the truth will make you free" (John 8:32). He had taken the last phrase and printed it like this: THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE . . . BUT IT WILL HURT YOU FIRST.

It startled me, and then it was as if someone had turned on a light above my head. Yes, of course, it makes perfect sense. In a flash I realized why most people have trouble growing spiritually. It's not because we don't know the truth. We've got so much truth it's running out our eyeballs. We hear the truth at church, on the radio, from our friends, from books and CDs and seminars and concerts. And we get it straight from the Bible. That's not our problem. If just knowing the truth were all we needed, we'd all be candidates for permanent sainthood.

We put up a shield so we can deflect the incoming bullets of truth.

No, the problem runs deeper than that. We know the truth but we don't want to let it hurt us so we deflect it, ignore it, deny it, attack it, argue with it and in general avoid it in any way we can. We put up a shield so we can deflect the incoming bullets of truth. After a while we get so good at deflection that the truth never gets through to us at all.

We hear the truth . . . we know the truth . . . but we deflect the truth so it never gets close enough to hurt us. Therefore, we are not set free. We're still angry . . . stubborn . . . bitter . . . greedy . . . arrogant . . . filled with lust . . . self-willed . . . critical . . . and unkind.

The truth never really changes us because we won't let it get close enough to hurt us. Honesty is the first step to admitting your true condition.

When David cried out for God's mercy, he acknowledged the true source of the problem and where the healing must begin. Until there is "truth" (the word means something like "reality" as opposed to making excuses, covering up, and pretending everything is okay) in the inner recesses of the soul, as long as we lie to ourselves, we can never get better, and God cannot teach us wisdom. Would you like to be set free? It can happen but you'll have to let the truth hurt you first.

How we respond when we have sinned reveals a great deal about the reality or unreality of our profession of faith.

David is saying, "I know what you want, Lord. You want me to stop playing games and stop making excuses. I'm ready to do that. No more excuses, no more games. I'm guilty in your eyes and I admit it."

Cleansing

Not long ago a friend asked how we could know if someone is a true Christian. That's always a difficult question because people and circumstances differ so greatly, and sometimes people look different from a distance than they do up close. Psalm 51 suggests a principle that seems universally true, even if it is not always easily seen by others. How we respond when we have sinned reveals a great deal about the reality or unreality of our profession of faith. When a great and grievous sin has been committed, the question always arises, How do we know if the repentance is genuine? I believe it was Spurgeon who remarked that we may have confidence in this matter when the repentance is as notorious as the sin itself.

Not only does David not hide his sin, and not only does he not minimize his sin, he begs God for a deep work of grace to cleanse him from the stain of sin. He wants God to wash him from the inside out. Because he wrote this psalm himself, he clearly does not care who knows what he has done and how desperately he seeks the grace of God.

True confession is a humbling experience.

True confession is a humbling experience. I recall a moment when a sinning saint made a confession to a group of very close friends. I was there to watch the event unfold. The person stood before the assembly and laid it all out, with many tears and with enough specific detail to bring the matter to light and yet leaving out anything that would unduly harm others. How sad, how solemn, and yet how freeing it was. When the confession was done, someone began spontaneously to sing "The Lord's Prayer," joined immediately by the voices of all present. Surging around the penitent saint, they welcomed that person back to the fold.

When the thing that matters is getting free from the burden of sin,
When we no longer sugarcoat our sin,
When we desperately seek restored fellowship with God and with his people,
When we no longer worry about our reputation,
When what God thinks matters more than what others think,

Then we will find the forgiveness we seek because our repentance has led us back to the Lord.

If you look at the requests David makes in verses 7-12, you can see clearly a seven-fold path of restoration.

It's not enough to be forgiven. We need to know that God has put our sins far away from us.

1. We need to be cleansed by the blood. "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow" (v. 7). Hyssop was a plant used in the first Passover in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). The Jews dipped the hyssop in the blood of the lamb and then smeared the blood on the doorpost. When the angel of death saw the blood, he "passed over" that house and no one died that night. Jesus Christ is our Passover lamb whose blood now washes away our sin (1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 John 1:7). Writing about this, Ray Stedman notes that many people wonder why Jesus had to die for us. The cross of Jesus offends the sensibilities of many people who prefer a "bloodless" religion. Here is Stedman's answer:


Why did (Jesus) have to die to forgive our sins? The only answer is: Sin is so deeply imbedded in us that it cannot be cured by anything but death. The old life has to die. God cannot improve it. Even God cannot make it better, he cannot cleanse it or wash it; he can only put it to death. David understands that now. He says to God, "If you are going to deal with this terrible fountain of evil in me, I can see that it must be put to death. It must be purged with hyssop, then I will be clean."

2. We need new hope. "Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice" (v. 8). "Lord, I've been down so long, I see nothing but darkness. Shine your light in my heart so that I can sing with joy once more."

3. We need to know our sins are forgiven. "Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity" (v. 9). It's not enough to be forgiven. We need to know that God has put our sins far away from us. Otherwise our sins will rise to accuse us and a guilty conscience will keep us awake at night.

4. We need a clean heart. "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (v. 10). The word "create" means that David knows he can't change himself. Here is the end of all self-reformation. The king knows that unless God makes him pure, he will never get there on his own. Not only that but he prays for a "steadfast" spirit that will enable him to stand strong against temptation in the future.

It is perfectly possible to be saved and miserable because we do not deal rightly with our sin.

5. We need the restoration of the Holy Spirit's power. "Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me" (v. 11). Spurgeon says only a true Christian could pray like this. An unbeliever won't care about being cast away from God's presence because he was never close to God in the first place. An unsaved person won't care about losing the Holy Spirit that he never had anyway. The ungodly flee from God's presence and hide from the Holy Spirit. Only the child of God feels the pain of the Lord's discipline. Those who have dwelt in the sunlight of his love shiver in the cold darkness of his displeasure.

6. We need to regain the joy of God's salvation. "Restore to me the joy of your salvation" (v. 12a). Every sin, whether big or small, separates us from happy fellowship with God. It is perfectly possible to be saved and miserable because we do not deal rightly with our sin. David says, "Lord, I'm tired of being miserable about my miserable life. Open the fountain of joy in my heart once again."

7. We need a new desire within. "And grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me" (v. 12b). David means, "Make me glad to obey you in the future." He begs God to do some "divine heart surgery" so he will never stray from the right path again.

Until we have personally experienced God's pardoning grace, the gospel is to us only a theoretical message.

This seven-fold path is the right road for every sinner who wants to find peace with God. Start with the blood of Jesus and you will end with new hope, new joy, and a new desire to serve the Lord.

Consecration

A New Service

"Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you" (v. 13).

Converted sinners make the best preachers because they know the truth of what they are saying.

As David considered the lessons he had learned following his tragic affair with Bathsheba, he vowed to God that he would use his experience to cause sinners to return to the Lord. Until we have personally experienced God's pardoning grace, the gospel is to us only a theoretical message. But let a person declare how God rescued him in his moment of helpless desperation, let him speak openly of how he despaired of ever finding peace with God, let him tell how Jesus found him, lifted him up, forgave his sins, gave him a new life, and set his feet in a new direction. Let him share that from his heart and people will listen because there is no testimony like the simple truth of a changed life. Converted sinners make the best preachers because they know the truth of what they are saying.

A New Worship

"O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise" (v. 15).

David never forgot his sin or the grace that found him in the midst of his despair. His lips were shut until grace like a river came pouring down from heaven. Then he would not be silent. Truly forgiven people love to tell others what God has done for them.

A New Understanding

"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise" (vv. 16-17).

You could go to church for a thousand Sundays in a row and it would not remove the stain of even one sin.

These verses banish forever the false notion that God wants more religion. In the old days it was the blood of bulls and goats. In modern times it is church attendance and money in the offering plate. You could go to church for a thousand Sundays in a row and it would not remove the stain of even one sin. David knew that no bull offered on the altar could ever atone for the sins of murder and adultery. What God wants is a broken and contrite heart. That he will not turn away.

The title of my sermon asks a question that I now am prepared to answer. How much sin will God forgive? Or to say it another way, How far can we go in sin before God will not forgive us? The answer is, no one knows because no one has ever gone that far. No one who reads these words need ever despair. No matter how wicked you have been in the past, if you turn to the Lord, he will abundantly pardon you.

If God forgave David, he will certainly forgive you.

If God forgave David, he will certainly forgive you.
If a murdering adulterer could find grace, there is hope for you and me.

How much sin will God forgive? All of it! No sin is beyond God's grace if we turn to him with a broken and contrite heart. Forgiveness is always possible but only for those who deal deeply and honestly with their own sin.

I suppose the question comes down to this. Do you even want to be forgiven? I say "even" because you can harden your heart to the point that you no longer care if you are forgiven. For such people, there is nothing left but the fearful judgment of God. But if you have the slightest desire to be forgiven, if in your heart you want a new beginning, your sins can be forgiven.

It's not about you. It's not about your sins.
It's all about God. It's all about grace.

In verse 7 David prayed, "Wash me and I will be whiter than snow." Would you like that? Would you like the stain of repeated sin to be removed from your life? Would you like to be washed "whiter than snow"? It can happen if you come to the Lord with the same attitude David had in Psalm 51. In the early 1870s a man named James Nicholson worked as a clerk in the Philadelphia post office. He was also active in the Wharton Street Methodist Episcopal Church. He wrote a gospel song based on Psalm 51:7 called Whiter Than Snow that became very popular during the campaigns of D. L. Moody. Here are the first, third, and last verses of Mr. Nicholson's song:

Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
Break down every idol, cast out every foe
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lord Jesus, for this I most humbly entreat;
I wait, blessed Lord, at Thy crucified feet.
By faith, for my cleansing I see Your blood flow
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

Lord Jesus, before You I patiently wait;
Come now and within me a new heart create.
To those who have sought You, You never said "No"
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.


Chorus:
Whiter than snow, yes, whiter than snow
Now wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.

One particular line strikes me with great power: "To those who have sought You, You never said, 'No.'" I am sure King David would say a hearty Amen. God never turns an honest seeker away. No matter what you've done, or where you've been, or how ugly your sin may be, if you will come to Jesus, he will never say No.

Perhaps the application is as simple as this. Take the words of this gospel song, based as they are on this ancient psalm, and make them your own. Say them, sing them, pray them to the Lord. Those who come to him with a broken heart will be washed whiter than snow. May that be your experience today.

Keep Believing Ministries

Humor: A House Divided
Dr. Eugene Brice tells a delightful, but disturbing, story about a minister who returned to visit a church he had once served. He ran into Bill, who had been an elder and leader in the church, but who wasn't around anymore. The pastor asked, "Bill, what happened? You used to be there every time the doors opened."

"Well, Pastor," said Bill, "a difference of opinion arose in the church. Some of us couldn't accept the final decision and we established a church of our own."

"Is that where you worship now?" asked the pastor.

"No," answered Bill, "we found that there, too, the people were not faithful and a small group of us began meeting in a rented hall at night."

"Has that proven satisfactory?" asked the minister.

"No, I can't say that it has," Bill responded. "Satan was active even in that fellowship, so my wife and I withdrew and began to worship on Sunday at home by ourselves."

"Then at last you have found inner peace?" asked the pastor.

"No, I'm afraid we haven't," said Bill. "Even my wife began to develop ideas I was not comfortable with, so now she worships in the northeast corner of the living room, and I am in the southwest."

Source: King Duncan, quoting Eugene Brice, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

Recipe: Baked Portobello Mushrooms

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

This is a great recipe that can be adapted to our Indian cooking using our herbs and chillies. I have even made it with chicken stuffing. Enjoy.

Baked Portobello Mushrooms

by La Cocinera Con Prisa

Ingredients

6 portabella mushrooms (large, or 8 large ones)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsps balsamic vinegar (plus 1)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1 cup manchego cheese (shredded, may substitute other soft cheese such as a mild cheddar or colby)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp oregano
1/2 cup scallions (minced)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp beef bouillon (optional)
1/2 stick butter 

Directions:

1. Mix the olive oil, 3 tbsps. of balsamic vinegar and 1 clove minced garlic in a bowl.

2. Rinse the mushrooms and pour the olive oil mixture over them. Set aside for 15 minutes in the bowl.

3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 deg F (200 deg C) and mix the rest of the ingredients together in a separate bowl to make the filling.
Spoon the filling into the mushrooms.

4. Place the mushrooms into a baking dish (with the filling facing up) and bake for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese melts and the edges brown.

Source: yummly.com

Family Special: Is the Honeymoon Over?

by Greg Laurie

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.
- Revelation 2:4

What is the first love that Jesus was speaking of in Revelation 2? It's similar to the kind of love that two newlyweds experience. This is mentioned in Jeremiah 2, where God says, "I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown" (verse 2). God was saying to Israel, "I remember when we had that honeymoon type of relationship." It was a close, intimate love.

This isn't to say that two married people can and should have that feeling of butterflies in their stomachs forever. I remember that when I first met my wife, Cathe, I would experience a loss of appetite and would get sort of jittery around her. Today, I am more in love with Cathe than I have ever been, but I am not necessarily feeling those emotions that I felt when we first met.

In the same way, God isn't saying that He expects us to walk around with a constant emotional buzz in our lives as a result of being His followers. But He is speaking of a love that doesn't lose sight of the very things that brought it into being. When a husband and wife begin to take each other for granted, when their life begins to become a mere routine and the romance is dying, then you can know that marriage is in danger.

This can happen to us as believers. We can start taking God for granted. We can start taking church and our faith for granted. Sure, we're still going through the motions, but have we left our first love?

Copyright 2014 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.
Today's devotional is an excerpt from Every Day with Jesus by Greg Laurie, 2013

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