Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Unforgivable Sin

Since I was little I can remember hearing something about an unforgivable sin. I also remember being really confused. What was it? No one really made that clear. I think I asked maybe a couple people back then and obviously didn't get a satisfactory answer because I remained confused.

I even remember at some point watching movies thinking that maybe they understood what it was. Not that I was actively looking for the explanation in movies, but they did regularly portray the catholic church and I somehow thought I'd learn something about it. I even got the sense that movies began to center their plot along these lines. Especially horror movies. They mentioned many times about the seven deadly sins.

Now I see that not only was this naive, but dangerous. Dangerous because I was looking to hollywood for spiritual direction. Wow. I can't imagine why I would have done that except that I was lost.

Over time, even before I was saved through Jesus Christ, I think I began to see how ridiculous that notion was. But the question was still out there. What was this sin that was so bad that even God wouldn't forgive it?

As a teenager I began going to a nondenominational church with my mom. We had attended a Lutheran church prior to that but it became clear after my mom was saved that we needed to go to church elsewhere. Ironically, this church was where I stood up and raised my hand, made a statement of faith, and prayed the sinner's prayer. I considered myself "saved" by Christ at that time. But I was only giving lip service to God. I really didn't want Him to be the Lord of my life.

I say this only to make a point, not to discredit the church. Even if the church had been right on in their teaching of Scripture, I wouldn't have known it. I was still lost. So I never learned anything and was still confused...about salvation obviously, and about this particular sin.

Further, it wasn't until years later after many mistakes and many heartbreaks did I come to realize how wrong I was about my so-called salvation. I was so sure that I was a believer saved by the grace of God. But now that I look back, there was no evidence of God's changing power in my life. There was NO fruit, as the Bible puts it. I clearly was a sinner doing things my way and totally making a mess of it.

So there I am. Lost and even more confused than ever. Then the miracle happened. God got my attention. And this time I listened. It wasn't immediately clear what had happened to me, but I knew something was going on. My interests changed, albeit slowly, and I was being convicted of sin on a regular basis. There was a certainty this time that I knew I wanted Jesus as my own personal Lord and Savior. I wanted Him to be in control of my life. I wanted Him to change me and make me more like Him.

And Scripture began opening up to me. Things that made no sense to me before began to make sense to me this time. God was revealing Himself and it was exciting!

But again, I was still somewhat confused about this unforgivable sin. Reading Hebrews in the Bible put a scare in me. Hebrews Chapter 6 to be exact. I read this and thought it was describing me. I was one who heard the gospel and fell away. The author was saying that it was impossible for this person to be brought back to repentance. I began to think that I committed the unforgivable sin and I wasn't saved after all.

I even started asking other believers and they weren't even sure what that sin was. They didn't even know how to explain Hebrews to me. But to be fair to them, Hebrews is a weighty book. It's a little difficult to digest much like Revelations and Daniel. They assured me, at least as much as they were able, that I was indeed saved and that they could tell God was working in my life. So I didn't dwell on it and moved on.

It wasn't until a few years later that I heard a pastor teach on Hebrews. I thought he explained it pretty well. He admitted that there were varying opinions, but I believed his understanding of the text. The sermon was awhile ago and I'm not sure I can remember it very well. So, I looked for an explanation online that jogged my memory. Although there may be some differences as to the sermon and this commentary, I believe that they're pretty much in agreement.

So, in my mind, what I understand anyway, is that the one sin God will not forgive is really the one sin that an unbeliever chooses for himself. And that is to reject God's gift of salvation. This is an apostate that has completely rejected Christ.

Now does that mean that when we're mad at God and we say things or think things that we shouldn't that we're committing this sin? That's not how I understand it, no. And it's not even a mere refusal to believe the gospel message the first, second, or hundredth time you've heard it.

What I understand it to mean is that this person would blatantly reject God even after knowing and hearing and understanding the gift that God is offering him. This person would deny the witness of the Holy Spirit, the witness that testifies to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The witness that testifies that Jesus is the living Son of God to whom the world is reconciled to God. This person would deliberately reject and refuse Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Savior. And they would also deliberately and consciously reject repentance and forgiveness. They would be like the sow that returned to its mud hole or a dog that eats its own vomit.

So is every unbeliever like that? No. Some are ignorant of the truth. Some don't know that they're living a lie and really haven't made Jesus the Lord of their life. There's certainly other situations and circumstances, but it doesn't mean they've committed the unforgivable sin.

Unfortunately, many will go through life and never truly understand. They're given chance after second chance after second chance. We don't know when God's patience will run out, but the Bible does tell us there is an end. For those who have the opportunity to embrace Christ and they know it, today would be the day to do something about it...because we're not guaranteed a tomorrow or even an unlimited number of second chances. It's a risk one should not be willing to take.

There is no excuse. Even if you've never heard the gospel explained to you to your satisfaction, you really don't have any excuses. The Bible tells us that all of creation testifies to His glory and that even our consciences bear witness to His existence. If you don't pray at least that He would reveal Himself to you, you really have no leg to stand on.

 So if today you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Pray to God, receive Him into your life, and hold firm to your faith to the end.