Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Unforgivable

I've been thinking a lot about regeneration lately, as I'm sure you've noticed in the themes of my last several posts. We've talked about faith being one fruit of regeneration, we discussed how saying the sinner's prayer is not evidence of regeneration, and we've considered that the church's mission is to steadfastly preach the Gospel (Mt 28.29).

Christianity isn't about making bad people good; it's about making dead people alive.

The term "Regeneration" refers to this process. Regeneration begins at the moment a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16.31), and continues until we stand before the Father's throne complete in glory (Ro 8.30). Through regeneration, we simultaneously increase in our hatred for sin and our love for righteousness. It's not our doing (Eph 2.8), but the work of the Holy Spirit alive in us. And He who started the work is faithful to complete it (Php 1.6).

The Reformers called this life-long transformation "Perseverance of the Saints," and believed it to be the inevitable fruit of salvation (Mt 12.33). This is why Paul exhorts us to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13.5) to know whether we are truly children of God. Hebrews warns us that there is a holiness without which no one will see God (Heb 12.14). And Jesus makes it clear that those who continue in sin have no place in the Kingdom (Mt 7.21).

The Torah calls unrepentant sin "High-handed sin" (Num 15.30). To sin with a high hand was to choose to keep your sin rather than accept forgiveness. Yahweh had set up an intricate demonstration of His mercy coupled with justice. He had provided a way for them to spill the blood of a lamb instead of their own blood as payment for their sins. By resting their hand on the head of the lamb, they would symbolically transfer their sin onto the animal, and then the lamb would be killed in their place. But God foresaw that some people--even some who are part of Israel--would refuse to repent. They loved their sin too much. Why would they want to part with it? So with their hand in the air (as far from the lamb's head as they could get it) they went right on sinning. To those people, the harsh words are written: "Let them be cut off..." There is no forgiveness without repentance.

Jesus discusses this same concept in Matthew 12.31 when He identifies the "Unforgivable sin." Now, we know that the Holy Spirit is responsible for convicting the world of sin (Jn 16.8), so what does it mean to blaspheme against Him? It is to refuse to concede to His stirring; to call Him a liar; to make little of His authority in your life (Heb 10.26). Again, there is no forgiveness without repentance.

But those who are saved do repent.

For this reason, I have said and will continue to say that there is no such thing as carnal, or "back-slidden" Christians. Everyone He calls He also justifies and glorifies. He is a good Father; He doesn't let His children continue wallowing in the muck He rescued them from (Ps 40.2)! He is a good Shepherd; He doesn't lose His sheep (Lk 15.4). Once He has saved you, He will keep you (Jn 18.9).


Be encouraged as you see the transformation He is working in your life. And when you see unregenerate men lost in their sin of unbelief, pray that the Holy Spirit would overpower their rebellion with His love (2 Chron 20.6).

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