Sermon on the unforgivable sin


This sermon was delivered on 4/09/16 by Chris Duke at Essendon Presbyterian Church. The article is from notes I took while listening so is not word for word, though I have tried to be accurate. I have also used an article called “Immanuel: the gospel according to Isaiah” from Creation Magazine (Creation 38(4) 2016).

Today’s message is centred around Mark 3:22-35:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23 And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. 28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

31 There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. 33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

A critical section of the Lord’s prayer is a request to Father God to forgive us of our sins. Sin is an offence to God. As God forgives us, we ask that we have the same gracious attitude to forgive others. Often, however, we resist forgiving, due mainly to pride. We tend to excuse our own behaviour though when we lack forgiveness whilst not excusing it in others.

Isn’t the gospel about God’s offer of forgiveness to sinners? God will forgive all our trespasses, so when we read in today’s passage that Jesus said one sin is unforgivable, isn’t this a contradiction? No. This passage ought to frighten the comfortable and comfort the frightened. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all proclaim that Jesus is God – 100% man and 100% very God, God in human flesh. Believing this and committing your life to Christ is the only way to escape hell and enter heaven. The evidence is very powerful and is laid down by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and even the Old Testament.

For example, Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesied that Immanuel would be born in the house of David. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), He would be the servant of Yahweh from His earliest existence (Isaiah 49:1, 5). He would be holy and set apart for service to Yahweh, who would put His words in Immanuel’s mouth (Isaiah 49:2). He would be extraordinarily wise, and would be filled with God’s Spirit (Isaiah 11:1). Immanuel would “refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15), which no mere person does consistently. This is an indication that Immanuel would not be a mere man; even the extraordinarily righteous men in the Bible were still sinners. Immanuel’s birth makes it clear that He would not be an ordinary person, and His name means “God with us”, meaning that His birth would signify God’s presence with His people in a special way. He is called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Someone with these titles could be no less than God Himself.

Though there would be signs to point to the truth of Immanuel’s identity, He would seem to be a normal person; He would not be obviously divine (Isaiah 53:2). And Israel would ultimately reject Him, as Israel had rejected Yahweh for idols in Isaiah’s day, subjecting Him to humiliation and ultimately death. He would be beaten so badly that He would be disfigured (Isaiah 52:14).

Yet all this would be in line with the will of Yahweh (Isaiah 53:10); and it’s because it is the will of Yahweh that Immanuel would not resist (Isaiah 50:6; 53:7). Immanuel would be shamed temporarily, but Yahweh Himself would vindicate Immanuel, and He would be honoured eternally (Isaiah 50:7-9, 53:12).

The purpose of the shaming and death of Immanuel would be to pay for the sins of Yahweh’s people, both among the Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 53). Immanuel would never sin, so His death could count for the payment of the sins of many others. This sacrifice would bring in a new covenant, in which Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yahweh and His Son share equally in eternal life (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7).

One of the most well-known events recorded is Isaiah’s vision of Yahweh’s glory (in Isaiah 6:1-4):

6 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3 And one cried unto another, and said,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

John says that this was actually a vision of the pre-incarnate Son (John 12:37-41). While Immanuel would not manifest His true glory, He nevertheless possesses it (and the Transfiguration was one instance where Jesus’ true glory shone through).

Because Immanuel paid the price for His people’s sins, He is able to usher in a restoration of the entire earth. Reigning on David’s throne, He judges all nations. The earth itself is restored to an Edenic state where there is no more carnivory or predation, and snakes will not pose a threat to even the smallest children (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25). In that time, all false Gods will be humiliated and all idols will be destroyed never to be worshipped again.

When we properly understand how Christ is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, we can see that the Gospel is not new, or an idea foreign to the Old Testament. It is possible to preach the gospel from Isaiah or from other books of the Old Testament – as did Christ Himself (Luke 24:13-35), Philip (Acts 8:26-39) and especially Paul (eg. Acts 17:2-3) – if we see how they point to Jesus.

The evidence is powerful as well when demonstrated and lived out in Jesus’ three-year life and ministry. There were healings, deliverances from demons, raising of the dead, all pointing to the fact that Jesus is God. Yet the human heart and human mind is often blinded and dead to the truth. Some people made the right response but most didn’t. People today just want to ignore the historical Jesus, stating that He was merely a good man. But He was more than this, He said He was God. And by saying this He eliminated Himself from the category of the good and the reasonable. And if we eliminate this we are left with Him being either a lunatic or a liar. Yet isn’t it interesting that 2,000 years after He walked the earth, Christianity is still flourishing in the West?

Verse 33 of today’s passage reads:

And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

Jesus is here saying that the only relationship that matters to me is a spiritual relationship. A blood relationship alone to me won’t get you into the Kingdom. Whoever does God’s will is related to me.

If your conclusion about Jesus is that He is a lunatic, you don’t have a relationship with Him. Many who reached this conclusion later repented (after His resurrection, when all the data was in).

What if you conclude that He was a liar? Verse 22 of today’s passage reads:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

So the religious leaders of Israel said this. The brains trust of Judaism went after Jesus. They didn’t like His message or what He was doing. They conspired to kill Him as He went about healing on the Sabbath. He was doing miracles, teaching the good news of the Kingdom, spreading the good news of salvation: and the religious elites hated Him for it. So they sent out a delegate who concluded that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub. They didn’t conclude that He was insane, interestingly enough, as this wouldn’t explain the supernatural. His power over demons and disease had to be accounted for: it was either due to God or Satan. Sadly, these leaders were unwilling to say Jesus’ power was due to God. Instead they called him a name for Satan, Beelzebub. This name came from the word Baal, meaning “Lord.” This was the god of the Ekronites, the Philistines worshiped him. A more proper rendering of the name might be Baalsebub or “Lord of the High Place.” Effectively what these leaders were calling Jesus was Lord of the dung, Lord of the flies, all terms for Satan.

Jesus’ response to this is given in verse 23. He says effectively, how can Satan drive out Satan? This is a logical impossibility. Good teachers such as the Lord ask questions that make students think, that put them on the horns of a dilemma. Jesus does this here. He in effect says, “Satan wouldn’t expose people with demons and cast them out. This would destroy both himself and his enterprise.”

Verse 27 brings a positive message from Jesus: you have to be stronger than Satan to get his power:

27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

There is only one who is stronger than Satan and that’s God. In effect then, Jesus was saying, I am God. So no Jesus isn’t a lunatic or a deceptive liar who represents hell. The only other option is that He is God, He is Lord.

Verse 29 reads:

29 but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

The unforgivable sin then is that Jesus is demonic. Those who believed this went to hell for that. If that’s your final conclusion after the full revelation of scripture and the gospel have been given to you, then you can never be forgiven. This was a very unusual circumstance in that the religious leaders were blaspheming the Holy Spirit directly by saying Jesus was demonic.

Yet we know with Jesus that whatever He did was the Father’s will and was done via the Holy Spirit:

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
(John 5:30)

What about today? Could someone today commit the unforgivable sin? Yes of course they could. We’ve all been forgiven for rejecting Christ at some stage in our lives, before we were born again. The comforting truth is that if you’re frightened that you’ve committed this sin then you most certainly have not. If you’re comfortable and not spiritually convicted, however, you need to receive Christ today:

http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0001/0001_01.asp

May the Lord Jesus bless you always.

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A hunger for Him… — vwoods1212

God: can be quite intriguing…. Psalm 42:1-2 (KJV) “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” As sinners in a sinful world, we get drawn by God to enter relationship with […]

via A hunger for Him… — vwoods1212

Only One Life, Twill Soon Be Past – Poem by C.T Studd

Beautiful ephemeral flower

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

— extra stanza —
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd

A Good Quality of Life

Unshakable Hope

I’ve been thinking a lot about quality of life issues lately. More specifically, I’ve been trying to figure out why some people that (in the natural) possess virtually everything we think would make for a good quality of life, yet they’re miserable. Conversely, many others have almost none of the ingredients that we think must be in the mix for a good quality of life, but they seem perfectly content.

I think about this issue more and more as life with ALS becomes an even greater challenge. If ALS takes its natural course, the victim will die of respiratory failure. The muscles needed to breathe become weaker and weaker to the point where you just can’t breathe anymore. Oftentimes the flu or pneumonia are just too much for those with advanced ALS and can speed up this respiratory failure.

I had a severe case of the flu in February, and…

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Child-like Faith

This post reminds me that many of God’s most faithful followers praised Him while IN the fiery furnace, not when they were safely delivered from it. The following scripture comes to mind: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

Unshakable Hope

As I’ve said in other posts, I do not believe that God causes trials. But He clearly does allow difficult times to come upon even those that are closest to Christ. (If you don’t believe this, please study the life of the Apostle Paul).

When you read the Old Testament, especially the book of Job, you’ll find that people of those times believed trials and tribulations only came upon the ungodly. Most of the book of Job is his so-called “friends” trying to figure out what Job did or didn’t do to deserve these horrible trials. Poor Job sits at their feet scraping his boils trying to defend himself against their baseless accusations.

Trials humble us and expose self-righteousness in others and in ourselves.

I’m thankful that I don’t have friends like Job. Today, when looking upon those going through difficult trials, the humbled believer will likely think,

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Peter Kassig, beheaded by ISIS, pursued call to help others: Leonard Pitts

I came across a beautifully written article today about Peter Kassig, an American aid worker who was recently executed by ISIS. Reproduced it here, with full accreditation. May it be a blessing to you.

By Leonard Pitts Jr.

What, in the name of God?

It is a question that demands asking, that haunts this most recent atrocity.

Ordinarily, it is only rhetorical, something you might say if you came home to find police cars parked in front of your house. But it takes on a painful literalness following the latest video from the Islamic State, or ISIS, the barbarian army of extremists that has swept through Syria and Iraq.

What, in the name of God?

The answer is bitterly simple. They killed Peter Kassig, that’s what. They lopped off his head and displayed the results on a new video. This, supposedly, on God’s behalf.

No, neither the decapitation nor the video is a first. We still grieve Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter beheaded in Pakistan 12 years ago. More recently, ISIS has made this sort of murder porn ubiquitous.

Other known victims include James Foley and Steven Sotloff, both American journalists, David Haines and Alan Henning, both British aid workers, Herve Gourdel, a French hiker, and many others, including soldiers from Syria and Lebanon. Each was someone’s child and each, presumably, left a hole in someone’s life.

But the story of Peter Kassig, the sad courage with which his parents spoke to the world this week upon the death of their only child, suggests something that seems to need saying in the face of all this grisly cruelty, something about the things we do in God’s name.

Kassig, who was 26, first went to the Middle East as an Army Ranger. He returned as a volunteer after his discharge to use his skills as a medical technician to treat victims of Syria’s civil war. Why would he do this? Because he felt a call. Because it needed doing.

As he told CNN in 2012, “We each get one life, and that’s it. You get one shot at this. You don’t get any do-overs. For me, it was time to put up or shut up. The way I saw it, I didn’t have a choice. This is what I was put here to do. I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic and I’m an idealist, and I believe in hopeless causes.” Or, just a man who believed in something larger than his own life.

Monday, in the wake of his death, his parents, Paula and Ed, met the media at their longtime church in Indianapolis and you could see where he got it from.

They called him Abdul-Rahman, the name he took upon his conversion to Islam. His father quoted Jesus’ admonition from the book of John: “Greater love hath no man than this: to lay down his life for another.” His mother said with an assurance that lifted you as tides lift boats, “Our hearts are battered, but they will mend. The world is broken, but it will be healed in the end and good will prevail as the one God of many names will prevail.” His father asked for prayer. He said the family would “mourn, cry, and yes, forgive.”

“Forgive,” he said. It is arguably the most difficult dictate of faith. No one would blame them if they didn’t even try. But they say they will.

What, in the name of God?

In 1862, mired in America’s most ruinous war, Abraham Lincoln mused on God’s role in the tragedy. “In great contests,” he wrote, “each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be and one must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”

The observation feels freshly relevant as you juxtapose the bloody charnel house of the Middle East with the quiet faith of one family from the Upper Midwest.

What in the name of God?

Well, ISIS commits murder.

But the Kassig family is driven to serve strangers halfway around the world, to whisper hope in the midst of nightmare, forgiveness in the unendurable moment. And to seek prayer.

“Both may be and one must be wrong,” said Lincoln. He was right. And one is.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 3511 N.W. 91 Avenue, Doral, Fla. 33172. Readers may write to him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Please help me pray for Peter Kassig

Peter Kassig is currently being held as a hostage by ISIS (Islamic state).

He converted to Islam during his imprisonment yet he was recently shown in the execution video of aid worker Alan Henning. From all reports ISIS are planning to murder Peter some time in the near future.

Peter is a gentle soul, a self described “hopeless romantic and idealist” who desperately needs to find Jesus before his life is taken. Peter has found comfort in Islam, so he is a man of faith, but he has faith in the wrong God. Please help me pray for him to be shown God’s true character, love and mercy in the person of Jesus Christ.

In 2012 Peter founded a humanitarian aid group called SERA (Special Emergency Response and Assistance), so he is also a person with a strong social conscience. The non-governmental organisation, based in Gaziantep, Turkey, but not currently functional, provided food and medical supplies for refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

Please help me pray for Peter’s life to be spared and for his salvation. His soul is hanging in the balance.

Please also help me pray for Peter’s captors, that they would receive repentance unto life as well and be saved.

Thank you for listening and helping with this need.

Together we can petition the Lord for mercy for all concerned.

Update from 06/10/2014:
I was heartened to see several prayer sites for Peter and other ISIS captives have sprung up on Facebook. Many caring Christians are praying for his salvation and release, along with that of other captives.

Peter’s parents have released a letter he has written in captivity. In the letter, Peter wrote: “I am obviously pretty scared to die but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all….I am very sad that all this has happened and for what all of you back home are going through…If I do die, I figure that at least you and I can seek refuge and comfort in knowing that I went out as a result of trying to alleviate suffering and helping those in need…In terms of my faith, I pray every day and I am not angry about my situation in that sense.” The letter – which the parents received on 2 June – ends with the words: “I love you.”

Please keep Peter in prayer, that he would be given the gospel message by caring believers and that he would believe in Christ due to God’s grace. God can work miracles and hears our prayers, He is good and merciful and desires that all men should be saved. Please also keep Peter’s captors in prayer, the members of ISIS. They are desperately lost and in need of salvation too. They are our enemies now for the sake of the gospel and humanity but Christ instructed us to pray for our enemies, to bless them, and to do the very best we can for them for their highest good (which is spiritual). Matthew 5:43-48 says it all.

I have received much support and encouragement from fellow disciples of Christ at National Prayer Bank and the Acts 12 Movement blog, and I would like to thank them now for their faith and compassion. Here are their sites:
http://nationalprayerbank.com/
http://acts12movement.com/2014/10/05/new-prayer-request-5/

I pray that soon we will have good news concerning Peter (or Abdul-Rahman, as he prefers to be known as since his conversion to Islam) and his captors.

Update from 10/10/2014:
I’ve recently been reading an inspiring book on the work Christ is doing in the Middle East currently, to draw people to faith in Him. It’s called “Breakthrough” by Tom Doyle. In the book, Tom mentions that church congregations in the Middle East are particularly strong now because they are experiencing intense persecution. Acts of God and miracles are witnessed frequently by believers in response to prayer in the Middle East. So tonight the Lord moved me to contact several Messianic Jewish congregations (Hasdey Yeshua, Tents of Mercy, Harvest of Asher, Beit Hayeshua and Rachel Netanel) to enlist their compassion and spiritual strength in petitioning the Lord for mercy for Abdul-Rahman, other captives, and the members of ISIS.

I tried also to contact Palestinian believers but could not find any listed online (though I know they exist and are just as fervent in their faith and prayer as Messianic congregations). Perhaps I don’t know the key words to search for. If anyone can enlighten me here please feel free to comment below.

Please keep Abdul-Rahman (Peter Kassig), the other captives, and their captors in your thoughts and prayers. It saddened me recently to see that the most fervent prayer response for them seems to be from the Muslim community who, although well-intentioned, worship a God who is false and cannot save souls.

Update from 29/10/2014:
It has been 26 days since Alan Henning’s execution video became public, and Abdul-Rahman was threatened to be the next victim. However, new videos put out by ISIS (see http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/isis-shifts-their-social-media-patterns/381988/) give no information on his status. The other beheading videos were all released about two weeks apart. A number of calls have been made to spare Abdul’s life — he is an aid worker and devout Muslim. Even Abu Omar Aqidi, a high ranking official in the al-Qaeda sect Jabhat al-Nusra, has called for his release. ISIS is known for its well-organized social media activity, yet it seems to be slowly changing patterns, which to the eyes of faith is evidence of God’s great mercy.

Please continue for the Lord Jesus’ spirit to continue working in the hearts and minds of ISIS, their captives and the people ISIS are warring against, so that as many people as possible come to Christ and are saved.

Update from 17/11/2014:
Last night I checked my phone and saw updates from a Facebook prayer site for Peter Kassig. They stated some very sad news, he has apparently been executed by ISIS. A friend said the lack of a propaganda statement in Peter’s death video suggested he had defied his captors. Michael Downey, a close friend from Beirut said: “I think he refused. He was a man of principle and wouldn’t give into intimidation from thugs. He never took the easy route.”

Kindly keep Peter Kassig’s family in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you to everyone who prayed for this request.