October 3, 2010

To Live is Christ — knowing forgiveness is greater than sin

When I pull a Bible verse out of its context and interpret it only by what it says by itself, the results could be mere imagination and speculation, not the Spirit of God speaking to my heart.

The verses I’m reading that warn about being divided have a context. Jesus was not talking about infighting in homes, families or churches, even though that is ruinous behavior. Rather, He was speaking to a crowd that thought He was crazy and accused Him of using satanic powers.

Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”— because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:20–30)
Jesus was ministering to hundreds of people. They kept Him and His disciples so busy that they didn’t have time to eat. His “own people” means “kinsmen” which referred to His half brothers, children of Mary and Joseph. They grew up with Jesus and knew that He was not an ordinary person. They said He was out of His mind, and this was not the only time they expressed this judgment.

The scribes went a step farther and said that Jesus was doing what He did by the power of Satan. At this, Jesus threw them some logic. It makes no sense that the ruler of demons would cast out demons. Everyone knows that would spell certain defeat, and the devil is not that stupid.

But the most important part of this passage, at least to me, is what Jesus says next. He talks about the dreaded unforgivable sin.

I’ve heard countless people fret about this, worried that they have committed it, afraid that they are doomed because they cannot be forgiven. All these people, and those who try to minister to them, need to carefully read this passage. These people said that the power by which Jesus lived was of the devil. Jesus said that idea was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — because they were attributing what the Spirit did to the wrong person. That is, they said that the deeds, power, motivations and ministry of the Holy Spirit were actually the deeds, power, motivation and ministry of an “unclean spirit” — Satan. This accusation is unforgivable.

However, there is more to this. Two of Jesus’ half brothers, namely Jude and James, became Christians and wrote books in the New Testament. If they took part in these accusations against Jesus, and those ideas were unforgivable, they could never be saved. Could it be that such a sin is unforgivable only as long as it is being committed? What if His brothers, or even these scribes, changed their minds and realized their error?

It seems to me that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is sufficient to cover all sin. The only reason this sin, or any other sin, is unforgivable is that the person committing it will not let go of it. But if they see it as sin, confess to God their guilt, and ask Him to forgive them, forgiveness is theirs. 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
Jesus could have said unbelief is unforgivable, because as long as unbelief is a person’s frame of mind, they do not qualify for forgiveness. So is hardness of heart, or stubbornness to go my own way, or anything else contrary to the will of God. Forgiveness is for those who repent. Some sins might be more difficult to turn from, but whenever anyone makes that turn, God is right there to meet them — with forgiveness.

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