Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Unforgiveable Sin

A common debate among Christians is what the unforgivable sin is. Sometimes it a serious discussion; we really want to know what it is so we can avoid it. Sometimes it’s more of an intellectual exercise; debating for the sake of debate. But, at least among the Christians I know, there’s never any doubt that there is an unforgiveable sin. Jesus said anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Mark 3:29).

There’s probably a deep theological explanation of what He meant and I won’t ever understand it. But here’s the story of a sin that God refused to forgive. 

Eli’s sons defiled the temple sacrifices. God gave the Israelites a lot of detailed instructions about the sacrifices. There were different kinds – sin offerings, guilt offerings, thanksgiving offerings . . . and they all had specific instructions. But one thing is clear. They were all intended for His worship. The sacrifices belonged to God.

So Eli’s sons took something that belonged to God and defiled it. One of the instructions in Leviticus is that the priest who offers the sin sacrifice should eat the meat in a sacred place. But Eli’s sons sent a tough guy to take the meat from whoever was making the sacrifice and bring it to them to enjoy in what was presumably not a sacred place. They interrupted the ritual to make sure they got what they wanted.

Back in the days of Israel, the nations all around them were also making sacrifices to their gods. They had worship rituals that made sense to them, but they were idolatrous. God’s purpose in the rules about sacrifices was to keep His people’s worship pure. He wanted them to worship Him alone. So the sacrifices had to be made in the temple, not in the fields, to ensure that a priest who had been purified brought the people’s worship before God, not idols.

Worship belongs to God alone.

It matters so much to Him that He made a bunch of rules to protect it.
It matters so much to Him that He won’t forgive men who defile it. 
It matters so much to Him that He will destroy entire generations of families who take what is His.

Because Eli’s sons sinned against God there was no one to mediate for them. God told Eli, “I will honor those who honor me, and I will despise those who think lightly of me.” His sons blasphemed God by defiling the sacrifices, so their sins couldn’t be forgiven by sacrifices and offerings. Their sin was unforgiveable.

God is holy and He requires pure worship. But God is also merciful. And by His mercy and grace, I do have someone to mediate for me. I have dishonored God; I have thought lightly of Him. But my mediator, Jesus, became the sacrifice for my sins. I have been forgiven. 

I never want to commit the sin that can’t be forgiven. But when I understand why it can’t be forgiven, I realize there’s something more important than the state of my soul. I don’t want to blaspheme the holy God who saved me. I pray that He will keep me from dishonoring His sacrifice and the worship that belongs to Him alone.

Monday, November 26, 2012


In Guatemala City, rich people live behind high walls. You can’t see their gardens or their houses from the street. If you’re a curious little kid, you can peek through wrought iron gates but you won’t see much. With just a glimpse of stone houses and colorful gardens, I used to imagine fairy tale style lives happening behind those walls.

But gates aren’t for looking through. They are a way for the residents and their guests to go into their home. They are also a reminder that what is on the other side is forbidden to those who don’t belong.

In the Bible there are numerous mentions of the King riding through the gates. He gets to go in because the gates open into His home. What’s exciting about this passage is that the King has invited me through the gates. I don’t have to stand out in the street and peek through the bars, hoping to catch a glimpse of Him and imagining what it’s like inside.

The gates are standing open for me. When I go through them I go right into His presence. I’m one of the guests who’s welcome in the house.

This passage also tells us that the cornerstone is the stone that was once rejected. I’m not going to analyze the metaphors here, but I will point out that Acts 4:11 says that Jesus is that rejected cornerstone. The Psalm is about Jesus. He’s the King that welcomes me; He’s the King that the gates lead to. 

But not everyone is welcome through the gates. They’re opened for the righteous to pass through. And here’s the really amazing part. King Jesus came out through the gates to find me, even though I wasn’t righteous. Then He made me godly and invited me in. I’m a welcome guest because the King made me into the kind of person who can be in His presence. 

So when I go through the gates that lead me into the presence of the Lord, I will thank Him. 

And on the day I go through the gates that lead me into the presence of the Lord, I rejoice. In fact, any day I spend in His presence is fully joyful (Psalm 16:11). 

I get to do that every day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Don't Do These Things

Yesterday I went to church like I do every Sunday. It was a wonderful service, with good worship and a challenging message. I’m one of those people who grew up in church and it’s always been an important part of my life. I love all the different parts of the service. Although there are some styles of worship that I don’t connect with, I usually try to remember that I’m in the presence of the Holy God, no matter what kind of church I’m in.

But I have to confess that I haven’t always done that (even recently, to my shame). I’m not alone. These verses are about people who didn’t honor the Sabbath and I’ve been challenged not to do what they did.

Things people do on the Sabbath that don’t honor it:

Fall asleep during long sermons.
Impatiently wait for it to be over so can go back to making money by cheating others.
Pretend to be sincere in church but really have no intention of obeying God’s commands.
Think about money and material comforts.
Go to church to be entertained.
Give God damaged and stolen offerings.
Defile the temple by not treating it as God’s dwelling place.

How I’ve learned to honor the Sabbath:

Don’t go to church to be entertained.
Don’t watch the clock.
Expect to get instructions for living.
Give God the best as an offering.
It’s more important than work, material goods or comforts. 

When I honor God by keeping His Sabbath rest, my attitudes are corrected, my mind and heart are enlightened and God is honored by my offerings.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Stand in the Gap

One of my favorite children’s books is Hans Brinker, or the Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge. I learned a lot about Holland from that book, including the amazing way the Dutch reclaimed land from the sea by building dikes. In the book, Dodge retells a well known story about the little boy who saw a hole in the dike and stuck his finger in it to keep the sea from leaking through and flooding the land. He plugged the hole all night, until adults found him and repaired the dike.

This verse reminded me of that story, except there was no little boy, or little girl or man or woman, to stand in the gap in the wall. Like Holland’s dikes, the wall of righteousness protects the land and the people who live in it. It protects God’s people from evil but it’s broken down because we live in a fallen world. Since it has been breached, evil pours in through the gap and the land will be destroyed. God’s looking for someone to stand in the gap and fight the evil. 

Someone's not doing her job. I can look around for the people who should be doing it. I can look for the preachers and youth leaders and Bible study teachers and evangelists and Christian politicians and Christian businessmen. They need to be doing more, doing it better. But in this moment God’s not looking at them.

He’s looking at me. He wants me to stand in the gap.

How can I stop evil from pouring into the land? I'm not great spiritual warrior with powerful weapons to fight evil. I don’t have any influence. I don’t have great wisdom or knowledge. But all God is asking is for me to stand in the gap. I can be like the little boy who used what he had until more skilled people arrived to take over. The little boy’s finger became part of the dike when he used it to close the hole. In the same way, I can become part of the wall. I can do that by doing right, by obeying His commands and walking in His ways. I can do it by being kind and loving. I can do it by living a righteous life. 

Yeah, I can do that. I mean, it’s what I try to do every day. It’s what I ask the Holy Spirit to do in me daily. If living my life to please God is what it takes to stand in the gap, I’ll do it.

More than that, I need to do it. In the days of Ezekiel, God looked for someone to stand in the gap and didn’t find anyone. So He had to destroy the land.


Please let Him find me doing my job. Let me be there standing in the gap when He looks for someone. Let me add my insignificant life to the wall of righteousness until more capable servants can get here to repair the wall. Don't let the land be destroyed because I wasn't willing.