In January of 1991, I filled up my 1984 Chevy Celebrity with all my worldly goods and headed east to help start a church with my friend John Cox. John was a fairly recent Fuller seminary grad, and I was out of college working at Enterprise Rent-A-Car. We had met at Willow Creek in Chicago where he was an intern, and he told me of his desire to start a church either in the Washington D.C. area, or L.A. When he decided on Washington D.C., I was delighted, long having been a political junkie; I determined to come along.
These were exciting days – ah, for the adventure of youth! We wanted to reach lost people, and figured there would be plenty of those out in the land of politics and passion. It was just the two of us, plus a young gal named Mindy Ebert who would be our children’s ministry director. John moved out a few months before me and secured lodgings with a guy who owned a townhouse in Centerville, VA. When I arrived, I moved in with the two of them.
Just about every day, before I headed off to Enterprise and he headed off to do whatever church planters do, the two of us would pray together, asking God to begin the work which would eventually be called Cedar Run Community Church.
And then, when our landlord/roommate set a wedding date, we took the hint and set about to find a new place. Happily, John had a contact named Brian who had a couple of spare rooms in his house, and one evening, we went out to eat with Brian and his other roommates, I suppose to make sure there would be the all-important roommate chemistry.
We were all believers, and had a great time of fellowship. Except. At one point in the evening, Brian, a charismatic Christian, played a cassette tape of a worship service he had been a part of, as I remember, to get our opinion. And it was a cacophony of sounds, probably screaming, chairs turning over, that sort of thing. And after listening to it, I made an off-hand comment: “It sounded demonic.”
Probably not a wise comment, but it was what I was thinking, and Brian seemed to be looking for our opinion.
Now, it didn’t occur to me right away, and nobody else said anything, but perhaps a few minutes later, I realized that the people associated with this worship service characterized this particular moment of the service as “the Holy Spirit coming by.”
And in a flash of emotional pain, I thought, “Uh-oh…what if I was wrong?” If so, I had just called the Holy Spirit a demon. And I knew my Bible well enough to know that if I had just called the Holy Spirit a demon, I had also just committed the unpardonable sin.
Or had I?
It is a passage of Scripture that has caused great trouble to surely thousands and probably millions of Christians through the centuries: Jesus said…
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
Matthew 12:31-32 (ESV)
Would you believe me if I told you that off and on for years, I would wrestle with whether or not I had committed the unpardonable sin that Jesus speaks of here? The reasons for my long struggle included a misunderstanding of Scripture resulting from a too-light hold on the gospel, and a powerful enemy who wished for me to live as a discouraged Christian. As Martyn Lloyd Jones said, “…Satan who, though he cannot rob us of our salvation, can definitely rob us of our joy.”
Now there have been books written on this subject, but let me enumerate just a few reasons that a person who worries about having committed the unpardonable sin…shouldn’t…
Continued tomorrow, Saturday, January 17…
(In the meantime, consider reading this most wonderful article by the great hero of the faith, mentioned above, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones.)
Coming on Monday, January 19: Matthew 13