I went through a very tough time about ten years ago. My best friend (besides my loving parents), my great-grandmother, died. I've never been closer to anyone before or since her, but I let her down on her death bed. I was bitter towards God for taking her, and upset my job was adding pressure to my life. One night at work, I blew up at God. I don't remember all I said to Him, but it was really bad, and at that time I meant it.
Some time passed and I realized I was wrong. I asked God to forgive me, but I never had the feeling that I was forgiven. One day I was in a Christian bookstore and read about the "unpardonable sin." Several articles I read afterwards seemed to say I hadn't committed this horrible sin, but the seed of doubt was there. I have asked others about this, and have usually been "convinced" that I had not or could not have committed this sin, but after some time passes, the doubts come back in and it puts me back where I started.
I have asked Jesus to take control of my life since, but I just don't feel his presence. I long to feel the presence of God in my life, but I don't know what I should do. I am not sure of my original salvation. When I ask Jesus to come in and take control of my life, nothing happens.
Can you help me with these questions? Thanks for whatever help you can give me on this.
Thank you for your e-mail and your concerns about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Let me see if I can help you.
First, what is "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit"?
Most have taken the view that Jesus' statements in Matthew 12:31,32 must be interpreted in an historical context--that is, what was actually occurring at that time and place when the Pharisees accused Him of casting out demons in the power of Satan. They blasphemed God (the Holy Spirit) by attributing God's work and power to Satan. The purpose of the Holy Spirit was to authenticate the Messianic claims of Christ by demonstrating the presence of divine power through the various miracles recorded in the Gospels (see also Mark 3:28-30).
Part of Jesus "humbling Himself" involved the voluntary giving up, or emptying Himself of, the direct use of His divine attributes as the Second Person of the Trinity (cf. Phil.3:5-8). Rather, Jesus lived by faith, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit Who came to authenticate Christ's Messianic claims to that particular generation, and specifically, the Jews. Immanuel had come: "God with us."
The Pharisees chose to reject that conclusion. They could not deny the miracles; they only questioned the source of the power. In ascribing Christ's actions as something empowered by Satan, they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit's efforts to demonstrate that God Himself was in their presence!
One can only blaspheme God when God is present (Jesus). Lewis Sperry Chafer said,
"To say that attributing works that men may be doing in the power of the Spirit to Satan is the same offense as to go utterly beyond what is written. . . It is impossible for this particular sin to be committed today."
In other words, to ascribe the healing ministry of Oral Roberts or Benny Hinn as Satan's work, for example, would not be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, as neither of these men is claiming to be God or Messiah.
Furthermore, the many places in the Gospels where Jesus says, "Whosoever will, may come," are without any other qualification. And nowhere in Scripture is the gospel preached with the one caveat that "whosoever" means everyone but those who have committed the "unpardonable sin."
In that first century context, those actual Pharisees, and other unbelievers or scoffers, stood in the presence of God, robed in human flesh, as He performed miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit. But when they came to the conclusion that all of this was being done through satanic power, they blasphemed against God Himself--an unpardonable sin!
Could any human beings in history have more light and grace from God than to actually be in the presence of the Messiah while he healed people, and come up with such an abominable explanation or conclusion?
By way of application, however, each one of us since the time Jesus walked the roads of Palestine is in danger of committing an unpardonable sin. It is the sin of rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts Who testifies of Christ's sacrificial death on our behalf and gently nudges us to respond in faith to what He has done for us.
Jesus promised over and over that He would send the Holy Spirit to authenticate His Messianic claims. And Jesus said that "When He comes, He will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father. . . and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:8-11)." Clearly, here Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to do through the centuries, all over the world, the same thing He was doing wherever Christ went during His three years of public ministry: testifying to the truth of Christ's Messianic claims and calling for true repentance and the acknowledgement that we have sinned and are in need of a Savior, that our (human) righteousness is inadequate to make us presentable before a Holy God, and that judgment is sure: There will be a "pay day" someday.
We are accountable for our actions and our choices. And it is the task of the Holy Spirit (Jesus tells us in these verses) to convict men and women of sin, (lack of) righteousness, and judgment. Every person in history who has heard the gospel message is faced with the same choice that those Pharisees had who were eye-witnesses to His miracles: we can turn in repentance and faith to Christ, or we can reject the testimony of the Holy Spirit to our hearts, and, in so doing, we HAVE committed an unpardonable sin, because we have rejected the only provision God has made for our salvation--Christ Himself (John 3:18,36; Acts 4:12).
Therefore, getting angry at God, or making a swear word out of the Holy Spirit (although it is curious, and perhaps instructive, that in all the profanities of humankind, we never hear anyone using the third Person of the Trinity as a swear word!), is not committing blasphemy in the "unpardonable" sense implied in Matthew 12.
To blaspheme God, to take His Name in vain, whether Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, is sin, but it is not an unpardonable sin. When Paul speaks of the Law (the Ten Commandments), from which we are freed of condemnation through Christ's death, he implies that Christ's blood has covered ALL of the commandments which we have broken, including taking God's name in vain.
"The doubts come back," you say. When doubts do come, particularly when they involve a questioning of the integrity of God's Word, that is, what He said, and whether He can be trusted, Christians must learn to recognize the presence of the enemy of our souls. In the Garden of Eden, Satan said, "Has God said? . . .If you eat . . .you will be like God." Or when Jesus was tempted: Satan quoted scripture three times out of context to serve his own ends--to destroy Jesus and keep Him from the Cross. We can expect our enemy will try to do the same with us. Ephesians 6 talks about taking upon us the whole armor of God so we are enabled to stand against him.
In light of your questions, most pertinent is Paul's exhortation "And above all, take up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one (6:16)." When the flaming arrows, "darts of doubt," come, we hold up the shield of faith to stop them and to protect ourselves. We believe what God has said is true, not what our feelings say are true. We choose to believe Him regardless of how we feel.
The great majority of people who fear they have committed the "unpardonable sin" really have not. If anyone has a desire to repent and turn to Christ, that of itself is an indication (proof?) that he/she has not committed it. We have Jesus' own word for it that "anyone who will come to Me I will in no way cast out or away (John 6:37)."
You mention that you doubt your original salvation. Again, it is not based on how you feel, or whether you sense His presence. It is more like marriage. If someone were to ask me if I am married, I wouldn't say, "Well, I feel kind of married today." Or "I feel my wife's presence, therefore I must be married." No. My certainty about my marriage is based on a commitment I made to her many years ago, and I am still living in the light of that commitment.
The very fact that you are concerned about your salvation and are anxious that you come to certainty about it is a sign of spiritual life! Non-believers aren't concerned about not going to heaven or having their sins forgiven. They do not reach out to Christ as you indicate you have. If I came to the door of your home and rang the doorbell, and you opened it, invited me in, sat me down in the living room and then excused yourself every few minutes, walked back to the front door and kept inviting me in, over and over again, when I was already inside and sitting on the couch, wouldn't that be rather foolish? Because I came in the first time you invited me to enter!
Perhaps this is your problem. You indicate you have reached out and accepted Christ as your Savior and you want to have Him direct your life. Perhaps you need to just stop going to the door and saying "please come in," but rather thank Him that He has come in because you asked Him and He promised! Faith is when you stop saying "please" to God and you start saying "Thank You."
You have concerns about "letting down your great-grandmother." It is obvious you loved this dear woman very much. Perhaps she was trying to share with you her love and concern for your life and desiring to help you see your need for Christ. If I am reading you correctly in what you are saying, because of your job and other things, along with the "unfairness" of God taking someone so dear to you, these event made you BITTER instead of BETTER. You railed at God. You got angry at Him. It might be encouraging for you to know that you're in good company. Moses got angry and frustrated with God. So did David. Read the Psalms. Here are real people struggling with the same kinds of questions and disappointments you have described. God is a big Boy. He laughs at the collective hatred and railing of the entire earth. (See Psalm 2: "Why do the heathen rage? He will have them in derision.")
If He can handle world-wide wrath, He can handle your episode with Him. He is a God of tender mercies. He "pitieth His children," the Bible says. Your anger made you feel guilty, and you felt that God pulled away from you. But this is not so. God remains the same. I read somewhere, "If God seems far away, guess who moved?" But you can go to Him and start anew. He holds no grudges. He readily forgives. He desires and is eager to walk more closely with you if only you would step toward Him and get better acquainted. Hebrews 4:16 says, "Let us come BOLDLY to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need."
You might begin in the Gospel of John. Just start reading it. Begin to grow in your faith and the doubts will not be as strong.
With regard to your great grandmother: From your vantage point you no doubt feel there is some unfinished business with her and you don't know what to do about it. You loved her and you disappointed her, and then she died. The Lord brings this verse to my mind: "I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in truth." (3 John 4).
I believe our departed loved ones are conscious some way of what is taking place here on earth. I believe your great-grandmother is probably aware of your steps of growth toward a solid commitment to Christ, toward a life that is not "tossed about by every wind of doctrine," (Ephesians. 4:14; James 1:6), toward a life not focused upon the past with regret and failure which is "hanging you up" and sapping your days, but rather a life focused on Christ and His goodness, and His willingness to forgive, as I am sure your loved one has also already forgiven.
Now it is time for you to forgive yourself. Accept God's forgiveness. Know that you will be bringing joy to the Lord, and to your great-grandmother as well, by settling these issues we have discussed. Do not let the enemy rob you of the sweet joy of feeling accepted and close to the Lord and to your great-grandmother as well!
I hope this helps.
Your Brother in Christ,
Jimmy Williams, Founder
About the Author
James F. Williams is the founder and past president of Probe Ministries International, and currently serves as Minister at Large. He holds degrees from Southern Methodist University (B.A.) and Dallas Theological Seminary (Th.M.). He also has pursued inter-disciplinary doctoral studies (a.b.d.) in the humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. Over a thirty-five year period, he visited, lectured, and counseled on more than 180 university campuses in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the former Soviet Union. He also served on the faculties of the American, Latin American, and European Institutes of Biblical Studies.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075