Greg Laurie — The Unforgivable Sin
The title of my message today is the unforgivable sin. This is part of our series that we are calling God came near. I heard the story about a pastor who had been talking to his congregation about sin and repentance and forgiveness and had gone into great detail about how to admit your sin, how to turn from your sin, and so forth. Wanting to make sure they were getting what he was saying, he asked them a question. He said, "What do you need to do before you can receive forgiveness from God"? There was a moment of silence and a small boy in the back of the church yelled out, "You have to sin first".
Yeah. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to sin? Have you ever noticed how it comes naturally to all of us? I have two sons that we raised my wife and I and now five grandchildren. We never have had to teach any of them how to sin. There is something about a little child maybe two years old when they do something naughty and selfish you have to admit it is kind of cute. But it is not so cute when they get older and they continue on in that pattern of sin.
Here is the good news. Despite what sin we may have committed, we serve a God who forgives sin. Our God has a big eraser. He loves to use it in our lives. Sometimes people will say, "I believe in the God of the New Testament. Not the God of the Old Testament because the God of the Old Testament is angry and wrathful and judging. The God of the New Testament is merciful and kind and forgiving". My response is clearly you have never read the Bible. If you had read the Bible cover to cover you would know there is no difference between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The old covenant and the new covenant. We find a consistency there in both testaments about God's willingness to forgive.
The Old Testament just overflows with teaching about the forgiveness of God. David declared in Psalm 86:5, "O Lord you are so good, you are so ready to forgive. You are full of unfailing love for all who ask your aid". God describing himself as he passed in front of Moses said in Exodus 34, "I am the Lord. The merciful and gracious God. I am slow to anger and rich in unfailing love and faithfulness. I show this unfailing love to many thousands by forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion".
Micah reflecting on this great truth says in Micah 7, "Where is there another God like you who pardons sin. You cannot stay angry with your people forever. You delight in showing mercy. You have compassion on us. You trample our sins underfoot and throw them into the depths of the ocean". I love that picture. Don't you? God takes our sin and throws them into the depths of the ocean. As Corrie ten boom used to say, "God takes our sin. He throws them into the sea of forgetfulness" and posts a sign that says, "No fishing allowed". That is true. Has he done that for you? Do you need his forgiveness?
The Old Testament gives us many accounts of God forgiving his people. When Adam and eve committed sin, God forgave them. When Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sinned, the Lord forgave them. When Moses sinned, God forgave him. When the wicked, depraved city of Nineveh admitted their sin, God even forgave them. When Israel under the judges and under the prophets and the kings repeatedly sinned, God forgave her over and over again. In fact, you might even say the entire history of Israel is effectively the story of God's forgiveness. Then as we shift gears to the New Testament we see that forgiveness continuing on.
There is a man who is disabled and is lowered through an opening in the roof of a little house where Jesus was speaking. Jesus sees this man and says, "Your sins are forgiven you". Then he gave the man the ability to walk again. There was that woman caught in the very act of adultery thrown at the feet of our Lord. First he sends away her accusers. Then he says, "I forgive you of your sin. Now go and sin no more". That is the essence of the Gospel. God assures us in 1 John 1:9, "If we will confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness". No matter how severe the sin, God can forgive it. Consider this. The worst conceivable sin ever was to kill God's only Son. Yet the first words of Christ on the cross were, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do".
I don't care what you have done. God can and will forgive it. All sin is forgivable. Lying, cheating, stealing, drunkenness, immorality. It doesn't matter. The only sin God will not forgive is the sin we will not confess. However, there is one exception. There is one sin that God will not forgive. It is called the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Over the years I have probably been asked this question as much as any other. Perhaps even more. What is the unforgivable sin? What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? The reason we ask this is because before we were Christians we did a lot of bad things. Can we all agree in saying before we knew the Lord we were really stupid? Right. You are going back and thinking, wait a second. I may have cursed the Holy Spirit somewhere along the line. Did I commit the unforgivable sin? What does it even mean? Let's read the words of Jesus now and try to find an answer.
Matthew 12 starting in verse 22. "Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn't speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see. The crowd was amazed and asked, 'could it be that Jesus is the son of David, the Messiah?' but when the pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, 'no wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from satan, the prince of demons.' Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, 'any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart. And if satan is casting out satan, he is fighting against himself. His own kingdom will not survive. And if I am empowered by satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you you have said but if I am casting out demons by the spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has arrived among you. For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like satan and plunder his goods? Only someone stronger could do that. Someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house. Anyone who isn't with me opposes me, and anyone who isn't working with me is actually working against me. So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven-except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or the world to come.'"
Heavy duty words. Never be forgiven. Either in this world or the world to come. According to scripture there is a point of no return. For those of you that have disregarded God and his word and think you can go on doing that I want you to listen up very carefully because your life may depend on this. First let's understand the context of what was happening. Something dramatic has taken place that prompted Jesus to utter such sobering words. That something was done by the ones who should have known better. The pharisees. These religious leaders were really ticked off at Christ. Why? Because, quite bluntly, Jesus was bad for business. He was bad for the religious business. They were envious of Jesus and jealous of his growing popularity. In fact, they ultimately crucified him because of this jealousy.
The reason that they were so angry with the Lord was the people loved him. Jesus was understandable. Jesus was approachable. Jesus was loving. Why even children would crawl up into his lap to hear his words. In fact, we read in Mark 12:37, "The common people heard him gladly". That bothered the religious leaders. Jesus never spoke over anyone's head. He broke it down in a way they could get. The point is people understood Jesus. They were drawn to what he was saying. You would think they would be excited that a miracle had just been performed. It had been 400 years since Israel had seen a miracle prior to the arrival of Jesus. Four hundred years since a prophet had appeared on the scene. Four hundred years since an angelic appearance and seemingly out of nowhere but right on God's schedule comes John the baptist introducing Jesus as Messiah and miracle after miracle happens.
Instead of rejoicing they are angry. Talk about missing the point. It if wasn't bad enough to miss the point, they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to satan himself. They had the audacity to say this was done by the devil. We have to be very careful now. Even Christians. Because sometimes we will be very critical of something we know very little about. I hear a lot of things about a lot of people. People tell me all the time. You know what? I am very slow to arrive at a judgment until I know the facts. I have found things really change a lot when you talk to people instead of about people. The reason I have this sensitivity is I have had things said about me that were not true. Someone took the time to come to me and get the truth from the horse's mouth so to speak. We can very quick.
As J. Vernon McGee said, "The only exercise some Christians get is jumping to conclusions and running down others". Some people seem to like to do this for sport. I have seen it in our crusades. We have our critics. Now I understand why a nonbeliever doesn't like what we do. We are calling people out of darkness to light. From hell to heaven but some of my critics are Christians or claim to be Christians. They will say things like those people aren't really getting saved because Greg doesn't really preach the Gospel. He never talks about hell. He never talks about judgment. He never tells people to repent. It is easy believism. That is very convenient to say that.
But I hate to break this to you. It is not true. If you have ever been to one of our crusades, you know I talk about judgment. You know I tell people to repent. You know I preach the cross of Jesus Christ. I am very intentional about that. People who are hyper reformed believe that God predestines where everyone will end up in eternity. That just amazes me. Here is a loving father in heaven saying heaven. Hell. Heaven. Hell. You have nothing to do with it. I am just choosing to send you to hell. I don't believe that. I believe that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
"A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you". A fascinating statement. Verse 34. Whatever is in your heart determines what you will say.
It is by our conversation in our unguarded moments we show our true character. It has been estimated that from the first good morning to the last good night the average person engages in enough conversations to fill a book of 50 to 60 pages. We have a little book cart to illustrate. Here comes pastor Paul Eaton with a book cart. Let's welcome Paul. Thank you Paul. Here is what I am saying. The average person in their conversations and what they say, write, post, and text you say about this much right here, that would be the average man. This may not look that big to you but every word you will be held accountable for. Everything. The average woman. Oh did you think I meant this represented the woman? I am just checking the phone book.
I don't think the average woman speaks this many words in a day, but let's just say she probably uses a few more than a man. In a given year these books represent how many words you use. All of these books here. You could just take any book and recognize you are going to be held accountable for the words that you have given and stated. Out of the abundance of a heart a man will speak. That is what Jesus says in verse 36. "For every idle word a man may speak, you will give an account of on the day of judgment". A person who has ill will will always express it in words. Have you ever noticed that bitter people can't keep their bitterness to themselves? They love to spread it around. They are the kind of person that comes up and says, "What do you think about this because I don't really like this at all. What do you think"? They sort of spend their time in stirring things up.
What are the takeaway truths for us as we bring this message to an end? 1. We must come to church to worship God and learn spiritually. Otherwise that which should soften our hearts hearts to hear him can harden them to not hear him. I should come here with a desire to grow. First of all bring your Bible to church. Show up on time. Don't come late. Don't leave early. If there is an emergency and you have to go, I have to understand. But let's leave early don't leave early. Participate. When a message is being given, listen. Pay attention. Bring a notebook. Write things down. I know a lot of you have your Bible on your phone or on a tablet device. That is fine. Write notes down. You are not remembering as much as you think you are remembering. It is attention with intention. That will cause your heart to be receptive. Come with a sense of expectancy. I want to hear from God today. I want to worship God today. I want to grow spiritually today. It will change your church experience.
2. Never take for granted the blessing of what God has done for you. Never take your salvation for granted. Never take our church for granted. Never take the word of God for granted. Never take the freedom we enjoy in the United States of America for granted. You are privileged to live in this country despite its flaws.
After a service recently I met a pastor from the Ukraine who had been imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. He wanted me to sign one of my books. I said, "Sir, I am happy to sign this book but in my eyes you to me are a hero". He says, "No I am not". "You are sir". What he has done. There are churches today where if you go and worship openly you can be arrested. You can even face death in some countries. Here we are enjoying this freedom and we are complaining. I think the air conditioning is on too long. The music was a little too loud today. Or, the music wasn't loud enough. Really? Don't take these things for granted.
3. Instead of resisting the Holy Spirit, I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Have a tender conscience. When I go astray, pray that my heart is so open to God I will sense his conviction and get right in line. It is a good thing when your conscience is working. It is a bad thing when it isn't. Take these things to heart. Listen to this. God's Holy Spirit is drawing you. There is someone hearing this message right now that is on the verge of going too far. They may be here in this room where I am speaking. They may be watching this on a screen. They may hear this two years later on our radio show. Or they may see it in some other place. But my point is simply this. I have seen over the years that these messages they go on and on in other places and impact lives in real time.
Someone is hearing me right now that is on the verge of going too far. There comes a time. We know not when. A place we know not where when a man's fate is sealed. A woman's fate is sealed. What if that place were right here right now for you? What if this were your last moment before one of two things happen? A. You die. You never heard another sermon. You never had another opportunity to come to Christ. Your life ended. You weren't expecting it but it happened. Now you enter into eternity. It is appointed unto a man once to die and then comes the judgment. Or what if this were the last time you would hear a message where there was some sense of need in your life where you would respond before you cross that line like Esau did and went to the point of no return. Yes there is that point. There is that person who has literally blasphemed the Holy Spirit and gone too far.
Here is what I am saying. You that have played around with this and you have maybe even been raised in the church and you think you know it all and there is sort of a smugness. You think you can go out and live this other life and come and play your little religious games. There is a warning from God for you today. You better stop it. Don't insult the spirit. Don't enrage the spirit. Don't resist the spirit. Never blaspheme the spirit and reject Christ. This may be your last opportunity.