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Christology

Today’s Bible reading includes a passage that many people have heard about. It strikes fear in the hearts of many. And yet, there’s no need for anxiety over the issues of “The Unpardonable Sin“.

Let’s look at what Jesus actually says about it.

Therefore, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the one to come. Matthew 12:31–32 (CSB)

defining sin

So, Jesus says that speaking against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven. Let’s look at the context of these two verses.

Leading up to this point in the chapter, Jesus has just dealt with the Pharisees on the issue of healing on the Sabbath. He points out that there is more going on than just having a special day and that He is the Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus frequently points out that the Pharisees miss the forest for the trees. They emphasize the Law, and yet miss the reason God gave that part of the Law in the first place. In the case of the Sabbath, God gave the Sabbath to recognize that we are created in God’s image. God rested after creating the universe in six days — not because He was tired, but as an example — so we should also rest from our work and regularly take some time to pause to remember God’s presence and work in our lives.

When Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath, simply by telling the man to stretch out his hand, the religious leaders claim that Jesus is doing His miracles by the power of satan himself. Jesus points out that satan could not drive out himself. (Matthew 12:26) However, the fact that Jesus is exorcizing demons by the Spirit of God demonstrates that He has initiated the Kingdom of God. (Matthew 12:28)

After talking about the unforgivable sin, Jesus says that trees are known by their fruit. Matthew 12:34 records Jesus’ next words which are the key to understanding the question at hand.

Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Matthew 12:34 (CSB)

Application

The Pharisees are watching Jesus perform miracles right before their eyes. They say that He’s doing it by the power of satan. He says that speaking against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable and He concludes by saying that your heart will be revealed by what you say.

In other words, this unforgivable sin, this “blasphemy of the Spirit” is watching God’s miracles happen right before your eyes and yet insist it’s the work of the devil. The person who would make such a blasphemous claim is speaking from a depraved heart.

On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter announced that the people were watching Joel 2 being fulfilled right before their eyes. Part of the initiation of the New Covenant was that God’s Spirit would be poured out on ordinary people, not just ordained people. (Joel 2:28–29) And the Holy Spirit would live in God’s people, not just on God’s people.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances. Ezekiel 36:26–27 (CSB)

The new, soft heart is able to see the works of God for what they are. And with a new, soft heart comes the ability — and the desire — to attribute the works of God to God, not satan.

Lost people with lost hearts behave like lost people. Speaking against the Holy Spirit is the fruit of a lost heart, a heart that does not recognize God or His works. If you are a believer, you haven’t done anything that you can’t be forgiven of. In fact, your sin has already been forgiven.

That’s good news!
That’s the Gospel!

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In today’s Bible reading from Matthew 11, we read that John the baptizer is in jail. Like Jesus’ disciples, John has become a little disillusioned. He sends word to his cousin asking if He is the one they have waited for to bring the Kingdom of God. Or should they look for someone else? (Matthew 11:3)

As He often does, Jesus answered with Scripture rather than answering directly. He quotes Isaiah 35:5 and 61:1.

Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Isaiah 35:5 (CSB)

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1 (CSB)

Isaiah 61:1 is the passage Jesus read when the synagogue scroll was handed to Him in Luke 4. He says that He is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy.

Jesus is exactly Who Isaiah prophesied would come. But Jesus wasn’t exactly who everyone was expecting. They expected a victorious King who would ride in on a white horse, overthrow the Roman government and set free the nation of Israel.

But it wasn’t quite working out that way, was it?

So where did John and Jesus’ disciples go wrong? Wasn’t the Messiah going to do those things? Isn’t that what their Bible told them? Yes, their Bible said that the Messiah would be the Victorious King, but it also said he would be a suffering servant. (Isaiah 53) In order for both of these to be true (remember, the Bible never contradicts itself), the Messiah had come as the suffering servant before coming back as the Victorious King.

Application

We have more in common with the disciples and John than we think. We look back at them and scratch out heads thinking, “Why didn’t they get it?” Instead, perhaps we should ask, “What am I not getting?”

Too often we turn to our Bible and read it the way we want to. We read it the way we have heard Bible teachers and preachers have presented it to us. And too often, we don’t go back and read it for ourselves. We simply take the Bible at their word.

Whenever you see things not working out the way you think the Bible has said, don’t go back to what you have heard or read from a Bible teacher or preacher. Go back to the Source. Ask yourself if you heard it correctly. Maybe what you’re expecting isn’t what the Bible actually says. Or maybe there’s more to the story.

Bible teachers and preachers will be held accountable for what they teach. They will be rewarded for being faithful to what God has revealed. But they will also be rebuked for leading people astray.

But hearers are also accountable. We must be discerning who and what we read. We have to be careful who we listen to. Some will give you solid meat. Others will peddle cotton candy.

A few years ago, God challenged me to spend the next thirty days reading only the Bible. I was to not read any commentaries. No “Christian Living” books. I wasn’t to read from my favorite godly, solid bible-teaching authors. Nothing but the Bible. It was more difficult than I would like to admit.

Why? Because in my Bible teaching, I had been merely regurgitating what others had already chewed up for me without gaining any nourishment for myself. At the end of thirty days, I came away feeling refreshed. I came away hearing God’s voice more clearly again.

God wants you to read the Bible for yourself. You need to read and study the Bible for your own nourishment. Yes, God gives us godly teachers — which we desperately need!

But sometimes our Bible teachers get it wrong so we need to dig in and mine the treasures from God’s Word for ourselves.

Try it. You’ll find it very rewarding!

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In today’s Bible reading, Jesus tells us that following Him isn’t easy. A religious leader – a scribe – came to Jesus, saying he would follow Him wherever He went. Jesus simply responded that He didn’t have a place to call home. (Matthew 8:1-20) We don’t hear anything else about this Scribe. It would be fair to speculate that he chose to not follow Jesus. Luke’s version of this story (Luke 9:57–62) is almost identical; he doesn’t say anything further about this scribe.

Who were the scribes? “By the time of the New Testament, scribes wielded significant power throughout Israel and were routinely found among the ranks of the Sanhedrin. They served as the copyists of the law—a duty which also involved interpreting it. For this reason, some translations refer to them as teachers of the law. When the law did not speak to a specific case, the scribes created precedent.”[1]

We don’t know if this particular scribe was trying to entrap Jesus. Perhaps he wanted to spy on Jesus and His disciples. We don’t know, but that’s plausible; it wouldn’t be the first – or last – time one of the religious leaders tried it. Or perhaps he thought he was being sincere.

Next, someone told Jesus he wanted to follow Him, but needed to go bury his father. Jesus responded, “Let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:22-23)

In both cases, Jesus denied the person requesting a special place as one of his Disciples. “But that doesn’t sound very much like Jesus,” you might say. “Jesus didn’t refuse anyone who wanted to follow Him.” No, that’s not what the Bible tells us. In fact, Luke records Jesus saying, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 (CSB) And remember my last devotional, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 (CSB)

No, not everyone who comes to Jesus gets to follow Him to heaven.

Application

I assume that you want to follow Jesus. You want to be like Him. But not everyone who wants to follow Jesus can or does. Look back my previous devotional post. Have you counted the cost?

In the immediate context of these verses, Jesus says that if you want to follow Him, you may not find a place to rest; it may cost you many luxuries in life. And it may even cost you relationships with family members and friends. In fact, it may even cost your life.

Oh, but it’s worth it. Jesus is worth it all!

Addition 4/17/19

A friend added this image to his blog. The quote is from Hudson Taylor and very appropriate to this devotional.

[1] Loken, Israel P. “Scribes.” Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016. Print.

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We begin to read through Matthew’s Gospel in today’s Bible reading.

I like how Matthew begins his gospel grounding Jesus in his lineage. Jesus doesn’t just drop out of the sky. He doesn’t just appear on the scene. He was born just like every other human being has been born.

Matthew doesn’t gloss over some of the notable people, including some morally-compromised people, including King David, an adulterer, and a murderer. Matthew, like other Gospel writers showed that Jesus was born in a line of real people who lived in a real time in history. And Jesus is thoroughly grounded in Old Testament history.

But Matthew is very quick to point out that Jesus was born of a virgin. Very clearly he says that Joseph married Mary, but he kept her pure until Jesus was born. This was indeed a miraculous conception. Never before and never since has anyone been born without a biological father. But to throw out the virgin birth of Jesus is to discount a major part of His history. And yet, so many people do simply because it seems too spectacular to be true. And if it is true, then Jesus is special. He is divine. He is to be obeyed. And people don’t like to be told what to do.

Application

What about you? Do you believe that Jesus was born of a woman who had never “known” a man? If not, why not?

If Jesus was born of a virgin (not just a “young woman” kind of virgin, but a “virgin” kind of virgin), then He is who the Bible writers claimed He is, and who He said He is: God, made flesh. And if He is God, made flesh (or God in a “dirt suit” as a friend of mine has said), then He isn’t just some guy who was born in a legend in someone’s mind. He is a special human being, as much a human being as you are. The differences are that He never sinned and He is also as much God as God the Father is.

It also means that His sacrificial death makes it possible for you to have a relationship with a wholly, Holy, and righteous God. If you have trusted His payment for your sin, you are justified — you have a right standing — before this righteous judge.

So what difference does that make in your life?

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Today’s Bible reading is Galatians 3. In it, Paul asks, who bewitched you into believing this horrible lie? (Galatians 3:1)

Covenant Promise, signed in Jesus' blood

He looks back to Abraham, the father of the Jewish Nation who was justified by his faith, not by obedience to the Law (the Law wasn’t even given for 430 years after Abraham). God promised Abraham that the Holy Spirit would be given through Abraham’s seed. (Galatians 3:16) Seed is singular because it refers to Jesus rather than the people of the Jewish Nation. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. And those who have faith are the true children of Abraham — not those who obey the Law. (Galatians 3:9)

Application

Do you believe? Do you trust in Jesus’ payment for the penalty of your sin? If so, you are a true child of Abraham and an heir of the promise!

God’s promise to Abraham — and his heirs — was signed in the blood of Jesus.
That’s good news! That’s the gospel!

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