BIBLE READING: Mark 3:20-35
TEXT: Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:28-29).
This is a really tough and scary question. I know how you feel. Many years ago I was hitchhiking through Europe as a sixteen-year-old, with one of my friends. We managed to survive and get back to London, where a friend invited us to a church meeting in a YMCA. At first it seemed fine – if a bit lively! But then it got really weird. People all around seemed to be babbling (I understood later that it was called ‘speaking in tongues’). I was a bit freaked out about it – and I was especially concerned for my friend, who was not a Christian. I was worried that he would think we were all mad! So, because it was an open meeting where anyone could speak, I stood up and read from my Bible.
‘When you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words’ (Matthew 6:7).
There was a stunned silence and then it got even weirder. People gathered round me, ‘laid hands’ on me, someone ‘prophesied’ and thanked God that ‘this thorn was being turned into a rose’! We got out of there as quickly as possible! I didn’t feel very rosy!
The next day the leader of the group asked to see me. He then told me one of the cruellest things you could ever say to a young Christian – ‘You have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit.’ For two years I was really concerned that I had committed the unforgivable sin – until a wise, older Christian met with me, and told me that if I had committed the unforgivable sin, I wouldn’t be bothered about it, because my heart would be so hard.
I don’t know what sin it is you think you have committed when you are concerned about having ‘blasphemed against the Holy Spirit’. But let me assure you that every sin is forgivable – even the most horrendous ones.
‘If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness’
(1 John 1: 8-9).
So what is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
It is the deliberate shutting of our hearts and minds to the witness of the Spirit about Jesus. That is what the Pharisees were doing. It is when we know that the gospel is true, when we experience its power and yet still refuse to come to Christ – and so remain as a non-Christian for the rest of our days.
Before I became a Christian I was conscious of God working in my life and speaking through his Word to me. But I didn’t want to become a Christian. I thought it would be too hard – or that I could do it later. But there came a time when I knew both that it was true and that this time could be the last time. I knew that God had said, ‘my Spirit will not always strive with man’ and I knew that it would be wrong of me to turn away from Jesus. I guess if I had continued to do that throughout my life, I would have committed the one unforgivable sin – the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Maybe you are bothered and worried that that is what you have done. But the reason you can be certain you haven’t, is the very fact that you are bothered. If you were hardened against God, you couldn’t care less. But you do care.
Whatever it is that is bothering you, whatever it is that you feel God cannot forgive you for, don’t hold back. Take it to him. Just look back at what we read from John and believe God’s Word – not your own fears. He is faithful and just and will forgive us for ALL unrighteousness. What a wonderful and marvellous freedom that is!
CONSIDER: It is good to confess our sins, specifically as well as generally. If you are worried about this particular sin, ask God to show you his mercy. Think about what other sins you might want to confess. Pray that God would show you your sin, and lead you in the way everlasting.
Psalms – The Prayer Book of the Bible – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
PRAYER: Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).