Monday, February 18, 2008

Home Again!

Dianna and I have returned today from a weekend stay in the Lone-Star state. We were the guests of the Northeast Baptist Church which ministers in Southlake, TX. Jerry Summy is the pastor at NEBC. He and his wife Gwenda are fabulous folks who ministered to us more than we ministered to them.

It was my privilege to preach for this church on Friday and Saturday evening and on Sunday morning as they celebrated 22 years of ministry in northeast Tarrant county. God is using NEBC to reach their community with the gospel.

Dianna and I were immediately impressed with the church's kind, generous, and sweet spirit. They are truly servants who seek to glorify God and edify the church. They have great examples in their pastor and his wife.

Thank you, Northeast Baptist Church, for allowing us to participate in the celebration of God's ministry through your church. The past 22 years have been blessed, but the best is yet to come. The best is always yet to come with Christ's servants!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Resilient Hoosiers

My beloved Hoosiers rallied around one another and played a tremendous game this evening against a tough, well-coached Michigan State squad. The Spartan spanking at Assembly Hall (80-61) in front of a national TV audience was, by far, the best collective effort this young Indiana team has produced. Kelvin Sampson is a dead-man walking, but he had the players focused for this game.

With their senior leader and emotional engine on the bench with an ice-pack around his knee for the entire second half, the team leaned on two freshmen perimeter players - Eric Gordon and Jordan Crawford. Gordon was dominant and Crawford was spectacular. DeAndre Thomas provided big play off the bench, but probably wishes he was 20-30 pounds lighter.

This was an impressive, total team effort. The Spartans were out-played and out-hustled, and that is not easily done against Tom Izzo's team. The Hoosier's offensive execution was the sharpest that I have seen all season, and this was the first time against a quality oppnent that Gordon played like a clutch, playmaking finisher.

Jordan Crawford made some highlight reel plays. I hope that IU does not lose him next year. There are moments when he makes stupid decisions with the basketball, but there are almost as many flashes of brilliance. This guy can be a big star in the Hoosier pantheon if he stays in Bloomington. I'm just hoping that this Sampson fiasco does not scare him into leaving early for the NBA or transfering to another team.

I'll blog my thoughts about Sampson (this post was a "feeling" post not "thinking" post). Right now all I can do, and all that I have been doing, is echoing the question that Dickie V asked during this evening's broadcast - Why?! Why, after the problems at OU and the second chance he was given at IU, a job far superior to the OU job, would this man commit the same mistakes and jeopardize his career? Kelvin Sampson's behavior makes absolutely no sense. Not only has it cost him is job (at least I think it has) but it may have retarded the resurgence of my beloved Hoosiers' rebirth.

Cartoons for Your Weekend






Friday, February 15, 2008

Who Am I?

Many of us echo the sentiments of retired Vice Admiral James B. Stockdale, the VP running mate for Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential election. In a debate with Dan Quayle and Al Gore, James Stockdale introduced himself by saying, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

Have you ever asked yourself those questions? Just who are you? Not everyone is who they seem to be, especially on a Sunday morning at church. Who are you? Who am I? I have asked that question of myself several times over the course of my very young life. Who am I? Why am I here? What is my identity?

Is my identity determined by my ethnicity, my marital status, my education, my vocation, or my location? Sure it is, to a certain extent; even my accent defines a part of who I am and where I’m from, but there is a whole lot more to who I am than all that stuff. So who am I? Well, you can discover a lot about me from examining my wallet. Since there is no money in my wallet you can determine that I’m married with children. You can get some basic info on me from my Driver’s license; you can tell from my Ivy Tech Community College ID that I’m a student, former student, or and employee (actually it’s all the above), and you can infer from my YMCA card that I’m moderately interested in fitness. But those ID's don’t tell the whole story either; there is more to me, and you, than what is typed onto a laminated piece of plastic.

Who are you really? Our culture muddies the water in the area of identity because, for the most part, society values style over substance and perception over reality; we live in the “image is everything" era. How you look or what you have is more important than who you are. In fact, it doesn't matter who you really are; the important thing is who or how people perceive you to be. And that type of thinking is apparent in Christianity and in our churches. How many times have you come to Church, or a Church function, with your "Christian face on", but you spent the whole car ride over arguing or yelling at your wife and/or kids? Or you spent the entire day viewing Internet porn, lying to a client at work, and so on.

Are you guilty of wearing masks; good church member mask, good husband/wife mask, good father/mother mask, good son/daughter mask? Do your coworkers have the same impression of you as your fellow church members? I think that pastors can be guilty of being the "holy man of God" at church, but a holy pain in the neck at home. I pray daily that my wife and my boys will see in me what they hear from me. They hear me preach about patience, about love, about forgiveness, about mercy, about self-control, but I want them, and you, to see patience, love, forgiveness, mercy, and self-control in my life.

While our culture may value style over substance and perception over reality, you can be sure that God Almighty does not! God is not impressed with your style and panache; He is not fooled by false perceptions. God sees through the masks; He digs beneath the surface. Are you familiar with 1 Samuel 16:6-7? Samuel, the old prophet and judge of Israel, has been instructed by God to anoint King Saul’s successor. He hasn’t been told specifically who that successor will be, he’s just knows that the next King of Israel will be one of Jesse the Bethlehemite’s sons.
And it came to pass, when they were come, that he (Samuel) looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’s anointed is before him. But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

Have you ever wondered why God didn’t just tell Samuel that David was the one to be anointed? I believe it was to teach us all a lesson, the lesson that God is not impressed with or fooled by appearances. To Samuel’s eye, Eliab had “the look” of a king; the problem was Samuel couldn’t see what God was looking at, and from God’s vantage point Eliab didn’t have “the look.” Image is not everything to God, but the condition of your heart is, and God knows your heart; He knows the hearts of all men, John 2:25 says that He "needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man."

You will never honestly be able to answer the question "Who am I?" until you do this one thing: see yourself as God sees you.

How can you see yourself as God sees you and not as man does? James 1:22-25 will help you discover how to see yourself as God sees you.
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

The Bible is a mirror that enables me to see myself as God sees me; showing me the inward man, enabling me to see things on the inside. God's mirror, the “perfect law of liberty”, can reveal who I really am, what I need to change and how to change, what my purpose for living is, and what my eternal destination will be.

That’s some mirror wouldn’t you say?!

Now, James introduces this analogy of the two mirrors by making a simple yet profound statement, "Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." Hearers and doers, which designation describes you? Let me explain each type to help you reach a conclusion.

The Hearer

The hearer is the pastor who is all preach but no practice; the church member who has heard all the sermons but has taken few to heart. The hearer listens to the Word, but doesn't live the Word. The Bible says this person has "deceived himself". The prophet Ezekiel ministered to people who were hearers only. Listen to what God said to Ezekiel in Ez. 33:30-33,
Also, thou son of man, the children of thy people still are talking against thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses, and speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the LORD. And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not. And when this cometh to pass, (lo, it will come,) then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them.

These Jewish exiles had no intention of obeying the Word of God. They liked to listen to the Word, but they weren’t going to live the Word; they appreciated the eloquence of the preacher, but not the reality of his message. And when it comes to knowing who you really are and what your purpose for living is, the important thing is not how much Bible you have studied or learned, but how much you have loved and obeyed. The bottom line of true spiritual life is not a momentary feeling or compliance or commitment but a long-term obedience to Scripture. The Lord said, “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth (God’s Word, that “perfect law of liberty”), and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

In contrast to the hearer is...

The Doer

The doer not only hears the Word but also heeds the Word; learns the Word AND lives the Word. The doer just doesn't read, respect, and revere the Bible, but obediently responds to it. The doer doesn't listen to a sermon, or read his Bible, and think, “Yeah, so and so really needs to hear this.” No, the doer keeps his heart open to the Word of God, and realizes that he is “so and so.” The doer puts the Word into practice in his life, because enjoying the Word is more than a momentary experience; it is the lifetime application of truth. The Bible says that this person “shall be blessed in his deed."

Which person do you see staring back at you, the hearer or the doer? Do understand that you are in here. Have you taken a good look at yourself the way God sees you?
You could look like:

Eve
Satan reeled her in hook, line, and sinker; she was tempted and easily succumbed to temptation. Is that you?

Adam
Here is a guy who was always placing the blame on someone else. He just would not own up to his mistakes, and he didn’t have the guts to do what was right. When God confronted Adam about his sin he turned and blamed it on Eve, and he even went so far as to blame God. “The woman whom thou gavest… me”

Noah
Noah was as obedient and faithful as they come; for nearly 100 years he was busy building the Ark and preaching repentance, but after all that obedience and faithfulness to God he got drunk and disgraced himself. Do you know anybody who has served the Lord faithfully for years, and then all of the sudden are gone? Maybe that's you, or maybe you're headed that way.

Balaam
Balaam was a false prophet who taught the people of Israel to compromise. Are you a compromiser? And I don’t mean a “peacemaker,” but someone who compromises himself sinfully.

Sarah
Faithlessness, Sarah didn’t trust God’s plan that she would bear Abraham a son. Do you trust God?

Jonah
Jonah hated the people to whom God called him, and in rebellion he ran from God’s will. Anybody here like him? Hey, don't think that your problems will be solved by running; you might just run yourself into a "great fish" like Jonah did!

Joshua
Joshua was a great leader. He was a godly man, but he stopped short and didn't complete the work that God gave him because he failed to run all the Canaanites out of the Promised Land. Do you finish what you start?

Saul
Saul was marked by impatience, jealousy, and stubbornness. Is that you? He is another one of those guys who started better than he finished.

Samson
Samson was a great man who pursued small things; squandering incredible opportunities. This man was born with tremendous potential; he had it and lost it all. Samson was a man of contradictions; he possessed awesome physical strength, but an awesome weakness for women. He was a man who possessed the Holy Spirit but was fascinated with trivial things.

David
The Bible calls David "a man after God's own heart". He had tremendous amounts of faith, humility, wisdom, courage, and he was so talented and gifted. But he was weak in the flesh and slept with a married woman, then murdered her husband. He was a great friend and king, but he was an awful husband and a poor father. However, when his sins were confronted by God’s Word he always would repent.

Jesse
David's father overlooked him and was blind to his youngest son; unable, or unwilling, to see God working in the life of his own child.

Nicodemus
Nicodemus had questions, he was searching for answers, but he also had a reputation to uphold and most of his fellow Pharisees were very critical of this Jesus fellow. So Nicodemus came at night to see Jesus. Nicodemus was also blinded by religion; Jesus said, “Ye must be born again.” He was speaking about salvation, the spiritual birth, but Nicodemus thought only of a physical birth. The situation is no different today. When you talk with people about being born again, they often begin to discuss their family’s religious heritage, their church membership, religious ceremonies, and so on. Is that you?

Samaritan Woman at the Well
This lady had a past, a messy past. She had a cynical and hard heart. Life and relationships had not been very good to her, but by the grace of Jesus Christ this woman trusted the Lord as her Savior, and her life and her town were forever changed as a result!

Agrippa
He said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian.” Probably the most pathetic and most unfortunate statement in the Acts, “almost persuaded.”

Almost just doesn't cut it.

Do you see yourself? In order to answer the question "Who am I?" and in order to understand your purpose for living, you must see yourself as God sees you. You must take a look into this perfect law of liberty, and when you honestly and humbly look into the Word of God you will see two things: your own sin and the sinless Savior. When you see and respond to Christ; when you obey His Word, when you are a doer of the Word and not a hearer only, then you will be blessed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Bank was Open Late

The first game of a critical three game homestand was played while all of the junk concerning Kelvin Sampson's rules violations and dishonesty swirled around the program. The team played a solid game, but it was not enough to earn a win and remain within a game of Big 10 leader - wait for it - Purdue.

My beloved Hoosiers were undone by a banked in three point shot from a post player as time expired. It proved to be a fitting end to a pathetically frustrating day. The game was entertaining, but that is of little consolation to me. I'll take an ugly IU win over an entertaining IU loss any day.

Even had the Hoosiers proven victorious the bad taste of the day's events would have been left inmy mouth. With the lone exception of the 2002 season this program has been a nightmare since Boston College defeated the Damon Bailey led 1994 squad.

Of course, Kelvin Sampson is denying that he intentionally deceived the NCAA, and he asserts that he never intentionally transgressed the rules. Which means he is either a bald face liar or an unintentional fool. I'm not sure which is worse.

Here are some links on the (most) recent flap at IU.

Indianapolis Star:

ESPN:

USA Today:

Couple these serious allegations with the recent retirement of the General Robert Montgomery Knight, and you just knew something like this was bound to be seen (and wished for by many in the IU community) -

Don't hold your breath. I would bet that Coach Knight is enjoying this.

Can't say the same for me.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It's Time to Throw a Chair at Sampson!




In my lifetime the Indiana University Hoosiers have been coached by three men. One was a tyrannical genius who demanded disciplined behavior off and on the court, and ensured that his players attended class and earned their degree. He never cheated nor did he tolerate cheating. He won 662 games, three National championships, and a bunch of Big 10 titles. He also threw a chair and stuff, but he never cheated.

Mike Davis was the second coach of my beloved Hoosiers, during the past 35 years was. By all accounts he was (and is) a nice man, and an honest man. He led the team to an unbelievable upset over Duke in the 2002 Sweet 16, and within a whisker of the national title that same year. But he looked confused much of the time, in my opinion, and his substitutions and offensive schemes always had me confused. His era came to a close in 2006.

That was followed by the current administration of Kelvin Sampson. He fled Oklahoma for Bloomington under the cloud of NCAA violations. IU hired him anyway. His blue collar style and recruiting coups - keeping DJ White and luring Eric Gordon away from Illinois - helped consolidate most of the IU fan base behind him; including ths blogger's support. (It also helped that he wasn't Mike Davis.)

Sadly, Coach Verizon did not learn from his mistakes, and he continued to make the same violations after coming to Indiana. Now he has jeopardized IU's most promising season in years, and perhaps retarded the program for years to come. The NCAA has revealed new allegations against Sampson and his staff, and has stated that Sampson...
failed to deport himself...with the generally recognized high standard of honesty...and...failed to promote an atmosphere for compliance within the men's basketball program
That is according to this ESPN.com article. It's always great to read the words "failed [at] honesty [and] compliance" when you're reading about your team's basketball coach. This has probably sealed Eric Gordon's departure after this season. Depending on the punishment the university and/or NCAA gives Sampson and the program we could see a mass defection of young talent, as well as recruits begging out of their oral commitments.

I almost wish someone would throw a chair at Kelvin Sampson. I'm just glad that I'm no where near him and a chair.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

That Really Hurt...and it's Still Hurting

I do not know these cute kids, but this is one of the funniest YouTube clips I have ever seen.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Christ's Kinfolk

Massive crowds of people from Galilee and every surrounding province had descended upon Capernaum. Capernaum had become a major attraction for one reason: Jesus Christ was there. This amazing man who performed miraculous deeds was sought after by all. Everyone wanted to be healed, or else they wanted to witness people being healed. This was the biggest sensation of their lives, and they were not about to miss out. The crowds were so intense that some had even tore a hole in a man’s roof to get to Jesus. The crowds were so large and so intent on being touched or touching Jesus that the Lord actually had an escape boat ready to launch out onto the Galilean Sea.

The determined horde included a broad assortment of individuals. Nearest to Jesus were His disciples, particularly the Twelve. These men were hanging on every word from Jesus’ mouth. Their enthusiastic faces were contrasted by the scornful grimaces of the religious and political elite; the scribes, Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees. These groups were also hanging on every syllable from the Savior’s lips, but only in hopes that He would utter something which they could use against Him. He was hated by these men, and they had just accused Him of being in league with Satan.

The disciples and the detractors formed opposing ends of the spectrum and the remainder of the colossal crowd fell somewhere in the middle. There were collaborationist tax collectors and nationalistic zealots; ignorant fishermen and sophisticated intelligentsia; men, women, and children; Jews and Gentiles; the truly converted and the purely curious. Anxiously standing on the outskirts of this massive collection of humanity, however, was an interesting group of people from Nazareth: Christ’s kinfolk. This group is first spotted in Mark 3:20-21 and then again in vv. 31-35:

And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

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

This is the only mention of Christ’s earthly family in the gospel of Mark. We are not told their names in this passage, but Matthew 13:53-58 lists the brothers’ names: James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, and that Jesus had sisters as well. Of course, we know that Christ’s mother’s name was Mary. Her husband was Joseph, to whom Mary was engaged when the Holy Spirit came upon her and she conceived. Contrary to the opinion of the Roman Catholic Church, Joseph and Mary’s marriage was consummated after Christ’s birth. Scripture is quite clear that Joseph and Mary’s quiver was chock-full; counting Jesus there were at least seven, and probably eight or nine children.

These were Christ’s earthly kinfolk, but according to Jesus there is a deeper kinship to be had with Him; a spiritual kinship. Upon that topic this text is concentrated.

He Needed Rescued (they thought) - vv. 20-21

At this early stage in Christ’s ministry His family (that is who “friends” refers to in v. 21) went out to seize him, “to lay hold on him”. Mark used a word (krateō) that means “to get possession of; to become master of”, or one might say “to arrest”. His family had joined the throng in Capernaum with a motive unlike any other person in that great company; they wanted to remove Him, forcibly if necessary, back to Nazareth and the safety of home. Jesus’ family thought He needed to be rescued!

There is no explicit reason given why the family sought to seize Him, but the implicit reasons are obvious. He was a beloved son and brother, and His words and actions were anything but normal. At least, they did not think it was normal behavior. Religious fervor was fine; it good to be devout, but Jesus was taking things way too far. They had heard that some nights he stayed awake all night praying. He wasn’t eating right. He was spending all of his time with other people, to the point that his family couldn’t even get close to him. On top of all that he was making enemies with the powers that be in Jewish society. His family was left with only one possible conclusion: “He is beside himself”. They literally thought that Jesus was out of his mind. In gauging what must have been the thought’s of his family Kent Hughes writes:

No sane man would give up a business which met his needs, set himself against the powers that be, and gather a motley group around him such as he had. They were afraid that his crazy life would kill him. (p. 90)

Christ’s family thought that he was out of his mind because they had not yet come to believe that he was their Messiah; at least his brothers did not believe: “For neither did his brethren believe in him” John 7:5. They were certain that He had taken leave of His senses, and they were worried for His welfare. They needn’t be, for He was the sanest person who ever lived!

Like His Lord, the apostle Paul was accused of being crazy. After hearing Paul’s testimony and presentation of the gospel Festus declared, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.” (Acts 26:24) The mistake of Jesus’ family and of Festus is not uncommon. Still today men and women who have forsaken all too completely follow Jesus are viewed as odd; many times even by their families. The one who dies daily to self, takes up his cross and follows Christ will be counter-cultural, will be different from the world. Not counter-cultural because of some silly hang-up or bizarre behavior; different because to follow Christ is to go opposite of the world.

Who really are the sane ones in the bunch? As Kent Hughes writes:

Given the truth of Christ and the truth of the gospel, such people are supremely sane! If Christ is who he says he is, then the sanest thing in the world is to follow him. If Christ calls us to total commitment, anything else is crazy. Christianity needs more of Christ’s madness! (emphasis original)

Jesus Christ was in total control of his faculties, and he was in no need of rescue. Everything He did was all according to plan, including His death on the cross. The ones who were in need of rescue were Christ’s family, and everyone else. Jesus was and is the Rescuer!

They Needed Rescued (He knew) - vv. 31-35

Jesus had come to seek and to save those who were lost; to call sinners to repentance; to rescue the perishing. His devotion to that mission was unparalleled. Everywhere He traveled he brought physical rescue to those he healed. This type of rescue was only temporary. More importantly, he brought spiritual rescue to those who repented and believed. This rescue was (and is) permanent!

A tense showdown between Christ and his enemies had just concluded. He had just been accused of being in cahoots with Satan. He warned the scribes that they were treading dangerously close to being beyond forgiveness. To deliberately and continually reject the Spirit’s plain witness of Christ’s deity and Messiahship; the refusal to believe Christ in spite of the evidence, will result in a loss of opportunity to believe. That is serious, and Christ had just finished teaching lesson.

That is when word came to him through the crowd; Matthew said a man told him: “Hey, your mom and brothers want a word with you.” That could be a little embarrassing, frankly. Here he is, a grown man who has been teaching and exercising tremendous authority against these scribes, Pharisees, and unbelievers. He has just blistered them with his typical dynamic, dramatic teaching. He has lovingly warned them of the eternal danger they faced if they continued to tread their current path. There He stood; a powerful presence. His hearers were still mulling over the implications of what he had just pronounced, when this guy comes in and says, “Your mom wants you.”

That could be a little embarrassing. “Excuse me, everyone, my mother is calling.” This wasn’t embarrassing for Jesus, because, as always, He was the master of every occasion. This was also, however, not a time for mothers and brothers to dominate His life, even though they cared for and loved Him. This was a time for preaching a message that needed to be preached, and he took advantage of the opportunity that gave him.

Like so much of his preaching, the answer that Christ provided was shocking to the crowd: “Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, {Matthew 12:49 indicates that he stretched his hand towards his disciples} and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!” This statement would have been startling and even offensive to many of His hearers, and it may well have been initially painful to his family. This is one of the hard sayings of Christ; even with the advantage of Biblical perspective (these people were hearing this for the first time) it still carries a stunning effect. Was Jesus showing a callous disregard for his family?

Not at all!

Christ was not severing family ties. He loved and cared for his family. Jesus held parenthood in the highest regard, and one of his most scathing sermons was directed towards the Pharisee’s disrespect for their parents as evidenced by their use of Corban (Mark 7:9-13). Even while he hung on the Cross, paying the penalty for mankind’s sin, He is still careful to ensure that Mary be given care and protection: “When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own [home].” (John 19:26-27) We know He loved them; although he did acknowledge that Christian commitment would sometimes bring division within the family (Luke 14:25-33).

What did Christ mean when he asked: “Who is my mother? Who are My brothers?” He meant: “Who is really related to me? Who is in my family?” His answer was to stretch out His hand toward His disciples and say, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

That means this: there is a deeper kinship than flesh and blood, a spiritual kinship which is marked by obedience to the Father. By the way, aren’t you glad that beautiful statement “For whosoever,” is there?! “Whosever” – there is no limit on that term. It is crucial to understand relationship to God is originated by grace through faith, but obedience is the sign that one has been saved by grace through faith.

“To be related to me,” Jesus says, “is not about physical family but spiritual family.” Those who are spiritually related to Christ are characterized by doing the will of the Father. What then is the will of the Father?

  • Matthew 3:17“And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” God's will is that people accept Jesus as His Son and be as pleased with Him as God is with Him.
  • Matthew 17:5 – “Behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him The Father's will is that you recognize the Son, believe in the Son, and have a faith relationship with the Son.
  • John 6:38-40 – “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The will of the Father is that you hear the Son. The will of the Father is that you believe in the Son. The will of the Father is that you be saved. It is not the will of the Father that you perish. The apostle Peter, who had a front row seat for this sermon, and who was even used as an illustration put it this way in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord…is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Paul would write in his first letter to Timothy: “For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (2:3-4)

God's will is that people be saved!

There is one other passage that needs to be discussed. Matthew 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”

There are going to be a lot of people who profess this relationship but do not possess this relationship. This passage is always sobering; no matter how many times I read it. Certainly the passage indicates that those people who never say, “Lord, Lord,” will not be saved, but there are also those who do say “Lord, Lord,” that will not enter the Kingdom. Here is why. You are not saved by saying something. No one will enter the Kingdom by saying the secret password. One does not enter the kingdom of heaven like Ali Baba entered the secret treasure cave of the 40 thieves. Neither “open sesame” nor any other incantation will gain you entrance into heaven.

How then? Christ said in Matthew: “He that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven,” and in Mark: “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” It is not what you say, it's what you do. Doing the will of the Father is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ and receiving the gift of salvation that He offers.

By nature we are sons and daughters of Adam; “children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2; cf. Romans 5). To become children of obedience a new birth must occur; not one that is physical but spiritual. John 1:11-12; 3:3

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name…Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

The principle of obedience that characterizes Christ’s spiritual kinfolk is illustrated in the conversion of Saul. Once he placed his hope for salvation on Jesus Christ, once he enthroned Jesus as Lord of his life, he said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6) Before that moment all of Paul’s religious zeal and activity was like shadow boxing. He was just beating the air. He had a clean outside, but the inside was filthy, rotten, and lost.

Please understand that when Christ claimed that only those who do the Father’s will are his family, he was not speaking about making reforms. He was speaking about a relationship. You can completely reform your life, but if there is no relationship with Christ you will be worse off after the reforms than before. That is the point of Matthew 12:43-45:

When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.

That is why you can have a Pharisee who doesn't cheat, lie, steal, or commit adultery, who gives tithes of everything he possesses, fasts twice a week, but goes to Hell, because he's swept up the place and adorned it, but it's empty.

It’s also why you can have someone who was raised in church, who walked the aisle as a child, made an early profession of faith, and was baptized, but have that same person rarely ever live for Christ on a consistent basis; rarely if ever obey the will of the Father. It’s all reforms and no relationship.

On the other hand, you can have a tax collector who was an extortionist, adulterer, a cheat, a liar, and all of that, but he goes to Heaven because he has Christ on the inside, and when Christ comes to the inside, He will clean up the life.

The good news is that Jesus is the only way of salvation. The good news is that whosoever desires to be a member of Christ’s family may be a part of Christ’s family. And we know who those folks are because they do the will of the Father. It about a relationship; not a reformed behavior.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Greg Gilbert (no relation) on Music

Greg Gilbert is a regular contributor to the 9Marks blog. He is also a former intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C. (I think), and currently an elder at the Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY (I'm positive). I have especially enjoyed his books reviews for 9Marks (particularly this one). His recent 9Marks blog-post concerning music and its place in worship is absolutely brilliant. Mr. Gilbert shares the same concerns and observations about music that I have. For instance, Mr. Gilbert writes:
I’ve been amazed since becoming an elder in a local church just how dependent many Christians are on a certain style of music. (emphasis mine)
The amazement is mutual. The post is excellent and I commend it to you.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What About Bob?

I was surprised last night to see scrolling across the bottom of my TV that the General Robert Montgomery Knight had decided to retire from coaching during the middle of the season. Coach Knight was the simultaneously the greatest coach and biggest jerk in basketball. I loved watching a Knight coached team play. The motion offense is the greatest offensive system in basketball. The man-to-man defense with zone principles (not just following your man all over the court) is the best defense to play at all times. Zones are for guys who are out of shape and lazy on defense (like me and my current state of (un)fitness). Coach Knight demanded hard-work, team-work, school-work, and excellence. I laud all of those principles.

Too bad he was an arrogant, foul-mouthed, sarcastic, out-of-control man who demanded respect but rarely gave respect. His poor sportsmanship far outweighed his community service efforts and compassionate acts (he did have them). His refusal to take responsibility for his bad behavior deserved punishment, and long before Myles Brand removed the icon from Bloomington.

I have always been an IU fan first. I am not and was not a Bob Knight clone. I do not now nor will I ever understand the many Christians who have defended his indefensible behavior.

I do not understand the timing of Knight's decision. I don't understand quitting mid-season when there are no underlying health or family issues. I also think that it is convenient he decided to walk away after winning his 900th game. His stated reason is to allow Pat Knight, his son and Texas Tech's new head coach, time to adjust from the two chair to the first chair. No one will convince me that mid-season is the right time for that adjustment. Knight was simply tired of coaching, and he wanted to quit; as with all things, he walked away on his terms.

One characteristic that I admire in people is consistentcy. I strive to be consistent in all areas of my life. I'm not perfect in this or any other area, but it is a goal of mine. Knight is consistent in one area only: he does whatever he wants to do, however he wants to do it, and whenever he wants to do it. As Pat Knight, Bob's youngest son and heir at Texas Tech said,
My dad did it for 42 years. He's 67 and now he's walking way on his terms. He did it when everyone least expected it, just like he said. (emphasis mine)
I don't doubt that Coach Knight was ready to walk away. I understand that he has a full life with many other interests. I also understand that he has nothing left to prove. But all this was true at the end of last season. To walk away from his team in the middle of a season is unprofessional. It is duplicitous to chide the Texas Tech crowd for not regularly attending home games and then walk away before all the games are played. As always, Knight apologists will line up and defend his decision no matter what. Here is one example, provided by Dick Vitale.

I'm often accused of being too hard on Coach Knight, of being "ungrateful", or of throwing him away like an old paper bag. Someone will usually say, "I just can't throw away Bobby like that!" To which my rejoinder is always "So you
cheered for Bob Knight University instead of Indiana University?!"

I will again, and for the last time now that he has resigned, assert that I am thankful for Bob Knight's coaching genius. I am thankful that he led IU to three national championships. I am thankful that the program was administered with integrity during his tenure. You never read about Coach Knight making or allowing his assistants to make illegal phone calls. Knight knew and followed the rules, and he demanded that those around him did the same. He was no cheater, and he was just as concerned with graduating players as he was with winning games.

I applaud all of that.


Still.

There is no escaping the uncontrollable outbursts of anger. The lack of respect shown to anyone whom Knight deemed "unworthy" of even common courtesy. There were people dumped in trash cans, bull whips used in press conferences, shoes and fists used on scoring tables, kicks aimed at chairs that missed at connected with his son, players being choked, students being grabbed, and chairs being hurtled across the floor during a game!

Honestly folks, all of that drowns out the applause.

Bob Knight has retired as the winningest coach in Division 1 college basketball history with 902 victories. It is very likely that Mike
Krzyzewski, his former player and assistant coach, will surpass that record. As it stands now, however, he is the king. The first 102 of those wins came in a six year span at West Point. All of the rest should have come at IU; instead, Knight earned 662 victories while at Bloomington. As coach of IU he had a winning percentage of 73%. Of his total wins, 73% were won while at IU.

I think it is a shame that Knight didn't stay with IU until his retirement. I think it sad that he didn't break Dean Smith's record and then eclipse the 900 win mark while wearing a red sweater in Bloomington. The reason it didn't happen was because the man refused to publicly, if at all, recognize his mistakes, repent of them, and then move forward. His complete lack of contrition is what led to his banishment to the back side of the college basketball universe.

It is sad that he left like he did. It is unfortunate that when one visits Assembly Hall the only vestige of Bob Knight is in the team photos of the national championship teams. It is sad, but the blame must be placed at the feet of Coach Knight. It is a shame that so many people, especially Bob Knight himself, are unable to recognize that simple fact.


Monday, February 4, 2008

How (or Why) Should a Christian Vote?

Gregg Jackson, a Boston radio talk show host, has written an article entitled "Why I'm Voting for Mike". After reading the article I, in the best of Baptist traditions, voiced a throaty "Amen!". You will find the article here.

As I read Jackson's article I found myself saying, "This is what I've been saying!" For example:
Mitt Romney is not only not a conservative on any issue, he's not even on the left-right spectrum. He has no beliefs. No principles. No backbone. No soul. He is a soulless creature who will do and say anything to get elected. I will not under any circumstances vote for Mitt Romney. Ever.
Amen!!

Oops! Is that violating the separation of church and state?

Jackson lists the reasons why he supports Huckabee, and then he supports each reason. Here are the reasons: Abortion, Marriage, Immigration, Foreign Policy/National security, 2nd Amendment, Taxes and spending, Special rights for Homosexuals. I'm sure that some of you, based on the campaign rhetoric to date, are surprisde that "taxes and spending" would be listed as a reason to vote for Huckabee. Isn't Huckabee supposed to be a social conservative and a fiscal liberal? Here is what Jackson writes:
Huckabee is, by far, the most fiscally conservative of the three. As governor he cut taxes almost 100 times and left Arkansas with an $850 million surplus. While I have some questions about his proposed" Fair Tax" which is a flat consumption based tax that would replace our federal income tax, it is by far the most aggressive fiscal proposal put forth by any candidate. While Senator McCain did oppose the Bush Tax Cuts (b/c they didn't include enough spending cuts), he now supports making them permanent. And nobody doubts his anti-pork spending bona fides. Romney, as governor, raised taxes by over $500 million dollars. (He called them fees) leaving the Commonwealth in financial turmoil. His government run socialist healthcare plan he claimed as his signature achievement has been exposed as a catastrophe in the making. And although he derides McCain for not supporting the Bush Tax Cuts, Romney himself didn't support them either. (emphasis mine)
I could quote the entire article. I'm tempted to do that, but I won't. I will, however, provide you with Jackson's comment on "special rights for homosexuals":
Huckabee has always been opposed to same-sex "marriage" and any special rights based on sexual orientation. Romney boosted funding for pro homosexuality indoctrination in schools, pushed gay adoption, falsely pretending that a law forced him to, and has been the more aggressive in catering to the homosexual militants than most liberal Democrats. He argued in 1994 that he could get more accomplished for the gay agenda than Ted Kennedy and made similar promises when running for governor in 2002. He called a 2002 Massachusetts protection of marriage amendment "too extreme" and is solely responsible for illegally instituting "same sex marriage" in the Cradle of Democracy. He also supports homosexual Boy Scout leaders and homosexuals serving openly in the military.
I do not think that Mitt Romney is cut out of the Reagan mold, which is how he is trying to sell himself.

This brings me to a touch decision. What if Mike Huckabee does not win the nomination? I could, with a clear conscience vote for McCain. What if Mitt Romney is the GOP choice? I cannot with a clear conscience vote for Mitt Romney. What then should I do? Should I abstain?

Absolutely not! In our system of government an abstention is the same as a vote. We actually have voice in our government. We select our law-makers and leaders. They are not selected for us. I believe that a Christian's responsibility is to be an exemplary citizen, and that means, in this country, to vote. This is part of rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar's.

Now back to my tough decision. Several years ago in an online government course I had a conversation with a liberal classmate who took me to task on the issue of abortion. I had declared that I could not and would not support a candidate - regardless of party affiliation - who supported abortion, and I view bring pro-choice as synonymous with supporting abortion. The liberal asked me, "What would you do if both candidates were pro-choice?"

I didn't like the question, and I didn't want to think about the answer. This year I could no longer be idle in regards to an answer. All of the DEM candidates are pro-abortion. It seems that one cannot be considered for a office as a DEM unless one panders to the abortion lobby. But this election cycle had produced at least two GOP candidates (OK only one if you believe Romney) was pro-abortion. Rudy is pro-choice and Romney is whatever he needs to be in order to get elected.

I have come to the conclusion that the sanctity of life and the purity of marriage are far more important to me than tax policy and even immigration. That does not mean that those and other issues are not important to me. It means that they are less important to me. If a candidate is right on abortion and the family but wrong, or not as conservative as I'd like, on fiscal issues or foreign policy, I'll favor the more important issues every time.

Last Thursday Dr. Albert Mohler's radio program addressed this very issue. Here is the link to his show "Bringing a Christian Worldview to the Ballot". I strongly suggest you allocate 38 minutes of your day and listen to the program. Dr. Mohler unveils the "Albert Mohler 3-Step Christian Voting Formula" (patent pending) during the show. Mohler suggests that a Christian voter apply the following criteria to any candidate under consideration:
  1. Competence - Is this person up to the job? Does he/she have the requisite experience and qualifications for the position?
  2. Character - Do you trust this person? Does he/she have the maturity and integrity to represent the United States of America?
  3. Convictions - What are the policy positions of the candidate and do they align with your convictions?

That is a solid formula, and it is even alliterated! (Another indication of Mohler's Baptist identity.)

Paul instructs us by way of 1 Corinthians 10:31 that whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do (this includes voting), do all to the glory of God. All of the Christian's choices and decisions are accountable to the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the Christian's choices and decisions are to be made for the glory of God. This does not mean that God favors one political party or candidate over the other. We live in a fallen world populated by fallen people (this blogger foremost among them).

I neither expect nor believe it possible for one particular party and/or candidate to "lead the country to righteousness". I do believe that as a Christian I must do my very best to make responsible, Biblically informed, God-honoring decisions.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Congratulations G-Men!

What a Super Bowl! Really the first three quarters were entertaining if you're a football fan, which I am, but the fourth quarter was thrilling for even non-fans, which describes my wife. (I will say this, however, since we have moved to central Indiana Dianna has become a hardcore Colts fan. She watches the games and is interested in the final result. She never cared for the Bengals like this.)

I believed the Giants would be in the game, but I did not think they would win. The Patriots had proven during the course of the season that they could take their opponent's best punch, shrug it off, and then deliver their own knock-out punch. I'll also admit that I was rooting for the Giants with all my strength! Even though I loathe New York teams, I was pulling for the G-Men because I'm tired of the Patriots, and I wanted Eli to be vindicated.

The only thing that young man is guilty of is being the son of Archie and the little brother of Peyton, yet he has endured incessant criticism from the New York media and from former teammate Tiki Barber. (Are you still happy that you retired at the end of last season, Tiki?) To see Eli calmly and confidently lead his team 83 yards with less than two and half minutes in the game, knowing that he had to have a TD...well, it was sweet.

The Patriots had one of the greatest seasons in the NFL's history, but their failure to close the deal ruins their record setting season. Patriot's CB Asante Samuel said, "We conquered the regular season. We conquered the playoffs. What does it mean if you don't win the Super Bowl? It doesn't mean anything." That's a load of buffalo chips! Based on that logic the Indianapolis Colts are the dominant team of the past six seasons. They have the best over-all record during that span. But they are not the best team of the past six seasons. The Patriots are. Why? Because of the championships.

Congratulations New York Giants. You punched the biggest bully on the block in the face, and kept hammering him until he yielded. You are the champions, and you deserve the trophy. You also have earned the critics' silence. Of course, that will only last until training camp.

Enjoy it while you can!

Is There an Unforgivable Sin?

God is not only the living God; He is the forgiving God. The Lord has pity on us. He forgives, pardons, and provides for us salvation. No matter what we have done or said, Calvary covers it all! By nature God is forgiving, and that is the greatest news that any of us could hear. Both the New and the Old Testament’s amply demonstrate that God’s forgiveness is not and cannot be checked by the degree of sin, the volume of sin, or by the kind of sin. What follows are a few Old Testament teachings on God’s forgiveness:

  • Exodus 34:6-7 – “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear [the guilty]; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth [generation].”
  • Psalm 86:5 – “For thou, Lord, [art] good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee."
  • Psalm 103:2-3a – “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities."
  • Proverbs 28:13 – “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy.”
  • Daniel 9:9 – “To the Lord our God [belong] mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him”
  • Micah 7:18-19 – “Who [is] a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth [in] mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”

There are also plenty of Old Testament examples of God’s forgiveness. When Adam and Eve sinned, God forgave them. When Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the nation of Israel sinned, God forgave them. God forgave David. God forgave the people of Nineveh. The Old Testament is full of this teaching and these examples.

Likewise, the New Testament displays God as the living God of forgiveness. The essence of the gospel is God’s divine, gracious provision for the forgiveness of man’s sin in and through Jesus Christ the Lord. No matter how severe the sin, God is able and willing to forgive.

  • Ephesians 1:7 – “We have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”
  • Colossians 1:14 – “In whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins”
  • 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.”

There is no forgiveness of even the smallest of sin unless confessed and forsaken, but there is forgiveness of even the greatest of sin if those divine conditions are satisfied. This is a beautiful truth, because all have sinned. To be sure, there are some who are better than others. Not all are as bad as some. Even so, all have fallen far short of God’s glorious, perfect, and holy standard. There are none who are righteousness, yet God will grant forgiveness to even the chief of sinners based on the righteousness of Christ and His finished work on the cross.

The glorious truth that God is the living and forgiving God makes this statement from the lips of the Lord all the more shocking: “he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” Mark 3:29. That verse comes at the tail end of this morning’s text – Mark 3:22-30 – let’s look at that passage together.

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them [unto him], and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 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.

Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

The Rejection of Christ – v. 22

The opposition to Christ’s ministry had ascended ever since the Pharisees heard Him declare to the paralytic, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” The first step was doubt. Doubt escalated to criticism. From criticism they climbed to open rejection, and now the opposition had culminated in blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
This is a heartbreaking moment. For generations the nation of Israel had lived in hope of their Messiah; their divine Deliverer. The desire of every Jewish girl was to be the Messiah’s mother. The heart-cry of every prophet and teacher was to proclaim the coming Messiah. They wanted that deliverance; that was their hope and dream. But when Deliverance came, they rejected Him, turned on Him, and wanted Him dead.

Mark retells the Pharisees’ accusation, but he doesn’t describe the activity that precipitated the accusation. Matthew does. A man who was demon-possessed, blind, and mute was brought before Jesus. The man was healed; instantaneously, totally, permanently, and publicly. Once again Christ had demonstrated His power over the spiritual and the physical. Christ’s supernatural power was beyond question, and, as Matthew records, this caused some people to begin wondering aloud “Can this be the Son of David?”

Son of David was a Messianic title. Supernatural power over the spiritual and the physical was a Messianic characteristic. This was obvious, and the light was beginning to dawn for some folks.

The Pharisees and religious elite were not of that number. They had come to hate Jesus. Sure, they knew that the miracles would be proof signs of the Messiah, but they were expected someone with a little…well…someone with a little substance, style, fanfare, pedigree, and, of course, someone who respected them and their system. Instead this was Man was gentle, compassionate, humble; followed by twelve ordinary men and a gaggle of women and hangers-on; most of whom would not be welcome in any local synagogue. Worse yet, this Man denounced them as hypocrites, and showed only disdain for their religious practice and traditions. Because of this they would not accept Jesus as their Lord and Deliverer.

They had chosen to be selective about the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah. His predicted coming in power and glory to defeat the foes of Israel and set His people free was easy for them to be excited about. His predicted coming in meekness and humility was not.

They refused to accept the fact that Jesus was God; that He worked the works of God and spoke the words of God because the implications of that reality were more than they were willing to admit.

They could not deny the power of Christ. They would not accept it as being from God. Therefore they concluded that Christ was a satanic agent.

The Rebuttal by Christ – vv. 23-29

Christ’s rebuttal of the Pharisees’ ridiculous and slanderous charge was not only Biblically and logically sound; it was presented with a right attitude; no emotional outburst; no angry, biting sarcasm or scorn. Christ calmly appealed to their common sense. They had made a serious accusation. He asked them to prove it: “How can Satan cast out Satan?” As was usual they stood dumb before Him, so He went on to demonstrate the foolishness of their accusation.

Christ’s Wisdom – vv. 24-27

The United vs. the Divided House – vv. 24-26
Kingdoms and homes that are divided cannot stand. That is an obvious and ancient truth. United we stand. Divided we fall. (Or to quote Jack Sheppard, “We live together, or we die alone.”) That applies to any nation, company, home, church, and even to the spiritual world. Satan’s minions are not divided amongst themselves. You can be certain that theirs is not a harmonious kingdom of peace and order, but the Enemy is a tyrant who will not suffer any disloyalty or disobedience. Satan is a master deceiver, liar, and murderer, but he does not fight against himself. Satan doesn’t cast out Satan.

The Strong Man’s House – v. 27
The strong man in Christ’s allegory is Satan. Satan’s “house” is the kingdom which he dominates here in this world, and his “goods” are those whom he holds in bondage by means of his malignant intelligence and his demonic servants. Mere men are powerless against him.

Not so with Jesus! Christ plundered the strong man’s house at will. Demons fled at His command, and even the Enemy himself, when he was told to “Be gone!” He got gone! As formidable as the strong man was (and is) he was no match for Christ. Jesus openly entered the strong man’s house. He bound him, and he loosed the hapless captives of the house.

Christ had demonstrated and now he declared what the hard-hearted Pharisees already knew: only God had the power to enter Satan’s house, bind him, and make off with his goods. Jesus had repeatedly displayed His power and authority over disease, death, and the demonic. Every detail of what Jesus taught and did corresponded to the Old Testament. Satan’s death blow was inflicted at the cross and will be actualized in the future, but even before that ultimate victory Christ’s unlimited unhindered power was evident for all to see and believe.

The Pharisees refused to believe the evidence. They rejected their Messiah who had come to them. Even worse, they blasphemed the very God whom they pretended to fastidiously serve.

Christ’s Warning – vv. 28-29

Now we have arrived at the chilling warning from Christ’s lips: “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”. Pastor and author John Piper recounts a visit he had one day while he was still a college professor. A student came to his office extremely distressed over this issue of the unforgivable sin. She told him how one day, as a young teenager, she got so angry at her Christian mother that she locked herself in her room and used every swear word and oath and all the foul language against God that she could think of. That day was seared into her conscience, and it regularly haunted her. Her question was: had she committed the unforgivable sin? Understand that this is not a merely academic question. What could be more terrifying than to believe you are beyond forgiveness and bound for eternal misery with no hope of escape?

To hear the living and forgiving God utter those three words “never has forgiveness” is an awful thing, and it must drive us to ask these two questions:

  1. What is this unforgivable sin?
  2. How must we live in light of it?

Let us first define what it is not. The unforgivable sin is not: cursing the Holy Spirit, taking the Lord’s name in vain, adultery, fornication, homicide, genocide, infanticide, or suicide. Yes, all of those are despicable sins, but they are all forgivable. Even blasphemy is forgivable. To blaspheme is to be defiantly irreverent; to openly denigrate and disdain God. At least two apostles were guilty of this sin. Both Paul and Peter had blasphemed. In writing to his protégé Timothy about his pre-conversion self Paul said, “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” (1 Timothy 1:13) Likewise, Peter openly displayed disdain for God when he “Began to curse and to swear, saying, ‘I know not this man of whom you speak’.” (Mark 14:71) Both these men were forgiven and restored, because they acknowledged, repented, and confessed their sin.

What, then, is this sin that is beyond forgiveness? Christ called it “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost”, but what exactly is that? It is the determined rejection of the Holy Spirit’s witness to the deity and Messiahship of Jesus Christ. It is the refusal to believe Christ in spite of the evidence.

This continual rejection of the Spirit’s witness, this refusal to believe, will result in a loss of opportunity to believe. Christ said such a one “never has forgiveness” (Mark 3:29)“will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Mathew 12:32).

This sin is unpardonable because they will not bow before Christ to seek pardon. These Pharisees and all others who blaspheme the Holy Spirit cut themselves off from God’s mercy, not because it wasn’t offered but because it was abundantly offered yet rebelliously and permanently rejected. What a terrifying thought that people can so totally turn their backs on God’s revelation that they permanently cut themselves off from salvation.

How must we then live in light of this truth? First of all we need to understand that this warning is particularly pertinent to those who have grown up in church. Christ originally issued this warning to men who were well versed in the scriptures; they were subject to the constant witness of the Spirit through the word, yet they rejected the very One to whom the scriptures pointed. Beloved, it isn’t the ignorant blasphemer on the street who is in danger of committing the unforgivable sin; it is the man and woman who sit in church knowing the scriptures, having heard the Word accurately preached, having seen something of the miraculous power of God in changed lives, and yet rejects it all. This rejection doesn’t always, probably not usually, takes the guise of rank paganism.

You should not assume that the Pharisees and their sort were the only ones guilty of this sin, or that it is impossible to be guilty of this sin today. I agree with Kent Hughes when he writes:

There have been men and women who rejected the Spirit’s testimony regarding their own condition and the person and work of Christ so consistently that their hearts became unable to believe. Such people have ranged from the gross sinner to the urbane “good” person.

The awful fact that there is an unforgivable sin, that there comes a point in a life of sin after which the Holy Spirit will no longer call a sinner to repentance, that fact should drive us from sin with fear and trembling. You know not when your toying with sin will pass over into permanent hardness of heart. Do you have a serious or sentimental view of sin? Many people have the naïve notion that God's patience has no end and that they can always return from any length and depth of sin, forgetting that there is a point of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws forever with His convicting power.

You have heard the warning. Now hear the offer of grace. All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme.” I urge you in the name of Christ, and by the grace of God; acknowledge, confess and repent of your sin today. Do it now, because tomorrow you may not be able.