Category Archives: Uncategorized

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO EDEN?

Whatever Happened to Eden?

f80a48b79a33798f51223281b2f2ca00

No. Not that one!

I’m talking about the real one where Adam and Eve lived. Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang about it in their song, “Woodstock.” They said, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

(To listen to the audio version of this short lesson, please click Audio Study.)

Every human heart longs for that. When we hear of environmental extremists preventing gas pipelines from being built or legislation promising affordable healthcare to every American, we’re hearing cries for a return to the Garden. Nothing wrong with that. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire for something that this world cannot provide, then it’s safe to assume that I was made for another world.”

ConceptualSymbolofaGreenEarthGlobeGraphics5

We were, and we need to realize it. We were made for Eden! Unfortunately, if we try to find it in this life, we’re going to be miss it both here and in the world to come. Thomas Moore wrote about an island paradise called Utopia, where justice and human kindness ruled and no greed or crime could be found. But it turned out to be a satire about man’s impossible dream to live in such a paradise, for the name “utopia” actually comes from two little Greek words—ou meaning “no” and topos meaning “place” = “no place.

But the fact is there was an Edenic paradise in the beginning. The Bible even gives us its coordinates. Genesis 2:8 says it was located at the headwaters of four rivers—the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Gihon, and the Pishon. The trouble is only the Euphrates and the Tigris still exist, making those directions useless to us today. Something catastrophic must have happened. The catastrophe was when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s law and were exiled from the Garden. The Garden didn’t cease to exist at that point. Man was simply barred from its entrance. And to ensure that we weren’t able to get back in, God stationed cherubim at its gates, who acted like holy “bouncers” guarding its entrance.

mason-flaming-sword

Of course, it is doubtful that Adam and Eve ever ventured far from the Garden. After all, that was their original home and the place where God dwelt. It was Cain, not his parents, who was driven from the face of God and made to wander East of Eden. Adam and his wife likely set up camp just down the street from Eden in a world that was still glorious enough that they were able live to the ripe old age of 900!

Eden

So what happened to Eden? There are two possibilities. Read on in Genesis, and you will find that because the thoughts of men’s hearts were only evil continually (Genesis 6:5), God destroyed that world in a Great Flood of water. (By the way, worldwide judgment is coming to this planet again for similar reasons. However, this time it will not come in the form of water, but fire (See 2 Peter 3.). A second, even more likely possibility, is that God transplanted His Garden to Heaven where it has been blooming ever since. For when we read the last page of the Bible, Revelation 22 reveals a glorious garden serving as Central Park in the New Jerusalem. In it will be the Tree of Life growing along the esplanade of the River of Life, all of which will one day be transplanted back to the earth one day.

111393441

Any chance we can live there? Every chance in the world (not this one, but in the world to come). How do we get there? Jesus gave us directions: “Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God. Believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it Twere not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:1-2) That place is the Holy City, New Jerusalem, with God’s garden paradise in the center of it.

saint-thomas-jesus

Jesus then continued, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” But Thomas the Doubter worried, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” For the benefit of all of us who doubt, Jesus explained to him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” So quit worrying about how you’ll get there. If you love Jesus and believe in Him as your Lord, He will make sure you are there to join Him.

Great-Commission-3

I also advise you to stop worrying about how you’re going to take advantage of every opportunity in this world and make sure you live up to your potential. Because no one ever does. Nor does life ever turn out the way we hope. But it can turn out better than we hope if we live for the next world instead of this one—developing a Christ-like character so we fit in with the culture there and doing all that we can to attract others to that place.

look-up

One more quote from Lewis’ Mere Christianity before I stop. He said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” So think of Heaven as often as you can and look forward to returning to that Garden from which we once sprang.

(To download a Microsoft Word copy of this study, click Microsoft Word. To download a PDF copy of this lesson to share it with a friend, click PDF file.

Experts say “No” to Resurrection Claims

(To listen to the audio version of this study, click AUDIO.)

Experts say “No!” to Resurrection Claims

Expert opinions—they aren’t always so expert, are they?

Listen to a few examples: ‘I don’t like the way he stands at the plate. He bends his front knee inward and moves his foot just before he takes a swing. I don’t think this kid will ever make the big leagues!” Who said it? Bill Cunningham, Boston sportswriter, referring to Ted Williams, the last man in the Major League Baseball to hit over .400.

TW2

Or what about this opinion? “I think there’s a world market for about five computers.” Who said it? Thomas Watson, IBM chairman of the board, 1943.

1404332258_27c86ff421_z

Then there’s this example: “You ain’t going nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.” Who said it? Jim Denny, Manager of the Grand Ole Opry, 1954, explaining to Elvis Presley why he was being fired after one performance.

vegas-elvis-presley1

And what about this comment? “With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market for itself.” Business Week magazine, August 2, 1968.

top

And finally, one more opinion. This time from Matthew 27, “Order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples go and steal Him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud be worse than the first.” Who said it? The chief priests and Pharisees speaking to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, just after Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

1bab6-132

So what do you think? Were the experts right? No! They were wrong on every count. In Jesus’ case, they pointed to a blood-stained cross and a garden tomb where He was lying and said: “He’s dead! He’s gone! Story over! He’s never coming back!” So for the first 19 years of my life, that’s what I thought. I went to church every Sunday. I read the Bible. I watched all the Jesus films on television—“King of Kings,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told”—and I called myself a Christian at the time. But in my heart of hearts where no one else can see, the one thing I couldn’t bring myself to believe was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And Romans 10:9 says that in order to be saved, you have to confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. And I couldn’t do that. Why? Because the experts said: “No! It isn’t possible. It didn’t happen. People do not rise from the dead!” And so, for the first 20 years of my life, I chose to believe what the experts said rather than the Lord Himself.

What about you? Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? And when I say resurrection, I mean more than He lived on in spirit. I mean what the Bible says—that Jesus Christ of Nazareth literally and bodily arose from the dead, and that His wounded natural body has now become a glorious supernatural body that can never be wounded again. That’s the pivotal belief of Christianity and what makes the difference between eternal life and eternal death. Do you believe in a Savior who was literally raised from the dead? If you don’t, and I imagine there are several people reading this who are still wrestling with that question, I encourage you to reconsider the evidence. Or if you are a believer, but you haven’t been living it or sharing it like you could or should, I remind you: We not only have a faith that’s wonderful and worth living; we also have a faith that’s credible and worth sharing. That’s what I want to do in this study—explain how you can know for sure that Jesus is alive again and present with us today.

the-empty-tomb-testifies-to-jesus-resurrection

  1. The Historical Evidence

2 Peter 1:16 puts it like this, “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Hold onto to that phrase for a moment—“eyewitnesses of His majesty”—because that’s key!

 You see, down through the centuries, skeptics have come up with all sorts of cleverly devised tales to explain away the resurrection. The first is found in Matthew 28, where the chief priests and Pharisees bribe the soldiers to say that His disciples came and stole His body. That’s why the tomb was empty. But common sense asks: Would eleven terrified disciples hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews suddenly have enough courage to sneak past a squad of Roman soldiers to steal a body and concoct a lie? I know people who might be willing to die for the truth but how many of us are willing to die for a lie? Another argument is the wrong tomb theory—the reason the women found the tomb empty was because they got confused and went to the wrong tomb. But then wouldn’t you have to say the soldiers and Peter and John and Joseph of Arimathea the owner of the tomb, as well as the angel who sat on top of the stone that sealed it, that they went to the wrong tomb too?

Picture1

Then there’s the hallucination theory—the idea that the disciples of Jesus wanted to see Him again so badly that they simply imagined it. But then I came across 1 Corinthians 15:6 which says that on one occasion Jesus appeared to more than 500 believers at the same time, and I realize one or two of the disciples could have been seeing things, but 500 believers at the same time? Besides, do hallucinations typically include things like the consumption of bread and wine, the smell of frying fish, the touch of a loving hand, and all the other things Jesus did with His disciples?

the-incredulity-of-saint-thomas

My favorite example is Thomas who not only doubted but was determined not to believe until someone proved it to him. “Not me!” He said. “I’m not going to be taken in by a few idle tales! Unless I put my finger into the print of the nails and my hand in His side, I will never believe!” So 8 days later, Jesus appears to Him. But instead of putting His fingers into Jesus’ wounds, as He said He would, what does Thomas do? He simply falls to the ground in worship saying, “My Lord and my God!” Or as Augustine put it, “Thomas doubted that we might never doubt!” And finally, there’s the swoon theory—the claim that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross. He merely fainted and then later revived in the coolness of the tomb.

I love John Stott’s response to that. He writes: “Are we to believe that after the rigors of trial, flogging, and crucifixion, Jesus could survive 36 hours in a stone sepulcher with neither warmth nor food nor medical care? That he could rally sufficiently to perform the superhuman feat of rolling the boulder away from the door without disturbing the Roman guard? That he could then live somewhere in hiding for 40 days making surprise appearances and convincing his disciples that he’d conquered death, and finally disappear without any explanation?” He concludes: “Such gullibility is more incredible than Thomas’ unbelief!”

EYEWITNESS_NEWS2015-copy

In fact, what’s the fatal flaw in all of these alternative theories that attempt to explain away the resurrection? They set the eyewitness testimony aside for something that has no evidence at all, and doesn’t that strike you as a little bit arrogant and unfair? I mean, who in the world do we think we are, two thousand years later, to say we know better than Peter and Mary and John and all the other eyewitnesses what happened that first Easter morning? That’s why Peter is so adamant on this point. He says, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty!” We have eyewitness testimony to His miraculous birth. We have eyewitness testimony to His sinless life. We have eyewitness testimony to His death for our sins. And we have eyewitness testimony to His glorious resurrection from the dead and His ascension into Heaven where He now rules over creation and prepares to return as earth’s long-awaited, rightful King. That’s the first reason I believe what I could never believe before—because of the historical evidence. And there’s a second line of reasoning Peter offers, and that’s—

2. The Biblical Evidence

bible-light-girl

He continues in verse 19, “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” You may recall that’s the evidence Jesus Himself pointed to in talking to His two disciples on the Emmaus Road. Cleopas and the other disciple, who remains unnamed, were grieving the death of their Savior wondering what could’ve happened to His body. So what did Jesus do for them? He appeared to them in a concealed manner so they wouldn’t recognize Him at first, and then He took them to the Scriptures. Luke 24:25—“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” And my question is: Why? Why would He take them first of all to the Scriptures rather than revealing Himself to them? The answer is because even when we can’t trust our own eyes or feelings, we can trust the Word of God. Peter says it’s “something more sure to which we do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.”

You see, if I went by feelings alone, I wouldn’t know for sure that Jesus is living in my heart this morning, that I’m a new creature in Christ, and that I’m forgiven and on my way to heaven, because the moment I consult my own feelings, the devil comes along masquerading as the Holy Spirit and whispers, “Are you sure that Jesus has saved you and that you’re a new creature in Christ? After all, you’re not a very holy fellow?”

resist-the-devil

And sometimes I have to agree, “I’m not!” But then that isn’t the issue, is it? The issue isn’t what I feel about myself; it’s what God says about me! And when I read God’s Word, it says: “Whoever will may come! Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow! And the one who comes to me I will never, no never cast out!” And the same is true of the resurrection. We have reliable eyewitness testimony, but even more reliable than that is the testimony of Scripture—the promise that Jesus would come, that He would die, and that He would rise again from the dead. Speaking of Messiah to come, David wrote: “You will not abandon my soul to the grave nor will you let your holy one see decay. You will make known to me the path of life.” So we weigh the historical evidence and we search the Scriptures to learn everything we can about the Lord Jesus Christ, but the final and most important reason to believe is because of—

 

III. The Personal Evidence

Listen again to what Peter writes in verse 19. He says: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.” What do you suppose Peter means by that—“until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts”? Well, if you compare Scripture with Scripture, as we’re taught to do, you find that that phrase, “the morning star,” refers to Jesus Himself. Jesus is the bright and morning star, and one day soon the great day will dawn when we see Him in the brightness of His glory. But even now that morning star is ready to fill our hearts with His glory. “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” And ultimately, that’s the only way to know for sure He’s alive and real—by opening our hearts to His Spirit and inviting Him to fill us with His presence and power.

maxresdefault

Think about Peter! Friday night he was hopeless, terrified, and dejected having denied his Master three times swearing, “I do not know the Man!” But then, 3 days later, he was altogether different, so much so that on the Day of Pentecost he took his life in his hands standing before the same crowd that crucified his Master saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus…save yourselves from this crooked generation!” And the question is: Where did he get such courage and conviction, and why such a drastic change in his personality? The only answer that works is the power and presence of Jesus Christ. That’s the ribbon that ties the whole package together.

PeterSermon

 I still remember sitting in church on Sunday mornings as a child, reading my Bible, weighing the evidence, and wishing that somebody somewhere would tell me if any of this stuff was true. But no one ever did. Not once in my 18 years attending that church did I ever hear anybody say, “I believe that Jesus is risen from the dead!” So if I enjoy saying it today, you’ll understand why. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus is risen from the dead not only because of the historical and biblical evidence, but because the Risen, Living Jesus is now living in my heart by faith!

 Picture3

For me, it took place in my 2nd year of college. I was taking a religion course at the University of Puget Sound thinking it might help me find God. It didn’t. All it did was confuse me. But in that class I met a friend, a charismatic Catholic believer who began to tell me about Jesus. Only the things he had to say were different than everything I’d heard before. Instead of telling me about a Jesus who lived way back there in history or a God who lived way out there in outer space, he told me about a Jesus who was living in his heart and a God who wanted a personal friendship with me. And the more he talked, the more I wanted what he had until finally one day, we decided to skip class together and went out behind the president’s home in the woods where for the first time in my life, I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Savior. And guess what? Life hasn’t been the same since! I’ll never forget my first Easter as a believer. I was so excited! Three months before, I didn’t believe in the resurrection or Jesus. But now everything was different. Now I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Jesus was not only alive from the dead but I was now sensing His presence in my life every day!

 the_disciples_on_the_road_to_emmaus

And that’s what He wants to do in your life too. He wants to come into your life and fellowship with you each and every moment of the day. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and fellowship with him and he with me.” That’s what the disciples experienced on the Emmaus Road. After Jesus finished teaching them the Scriptures, they invited him to eat a meal with them and it says in the breaking of the bread, “their eyes were opened and they recognized him,” and then what did they said to each other? “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked with us along the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” That can be your experience today. We can’t see Him with our eyes—yet. But if you take Him at His Word and open your heart to His Spirit, your heart will start to burn within you, knowing that He’s alive and living in your heart by faith.

I finish with a short story I came across about a young air force lieutenant by the name of David Steeves, who came walking out of the Sierra Nevada wilderness one spring day to find himself the target of great controversy.

thSZ2GK2TP

54 days earlier, he and his air force trainer jet vanished from the sky without a trace. Steeves claimed he developed engine trouble forcing him to parachute into the snowy wilderness below where for the next 7 weeks he struggled just to stay alive. But there was no welcoming committee to greet him at his return. Nor did the authorities believe him. The air force had already declared him officially dead, and when a search of the area failed to turn up the wreckage of his plane, Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of suspicion. It wasn’t until 20 years later that his story was confirmed. A Boy Scout troop hiking through the woods came across the wreckage of his jet—more than 20 years after it crashed!

I read that, and I couldn’t help but think of Jesus, the most controversial figure in history who made claims few people were willing to believe. On one occasion they gave him up for dead saying, “He’s dead. He’s gone. He’s never coming back!” And many continue to believe that today. But every portion of his story has been proven by eyewitnesses who saw him live, who watched him die, and who three days later found him gloriously risen, showing himself alive to everyone who loved him.

 jesus-walking-out-of-tomb-1030x1030

Why is that good news? First, it means there’s someone with great power and authority to answer your prayers when you’re in need. Even more importantly, because he lives, it means you and I will also live even if we die. So if you’ve been struggling with this issue, struggle no longer! Weigh the evidence, trust the Scriptures, open your heart to His Spirit and share the good news with someone else. For we not only have a faith which is wonderful and worth living; it’s also a faith that is credible and worth sharing.

(To download a copy of the written study, so you can share it with a friend, click WORD for a Microsoft document or PDF for a PDF file of the message.)

Have You Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

(To listen to the audio version of this message, please click here – Audio.)

Have you committed the unpardonable sin? That is, could you have said something or done something at some unguarded moment that has cut you off from God’s love and made it impossible for you to go to heaven when you die?

That’s something that haunted me as a boy. I wasn’t raised in a Bible-teaching church. Nor did I become a Christian at an early age, like some of you. But I did read the Bible on my own, and because I didn’t have anyone to explain it to me, sometimes I came away from my Bible reading more confused than when I began. I worried, “Could I do something or say something, if I’m not careful, that might cut me off from God’s love and make it impossible for me to be forgiven and go to heaven when I die?”

 IMG_0052 (1)Then during my second year of college, I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus the rest of my life. But instead of making my worries go away, they got worse, because now that I’d experienced God’s love firsthand, I knew what I’d be missing if I lost it. So I worried, “Could I say or do something that would cause me to forfeit my salvation and wind up in hell?” Some of you will think, “That’s silly! A Christian shouldn’t worry that!” I agree. You’re right! But the fact is, many of us do—and not just new Christians. I’ve talked to people who’ve been Christians for years, but still in the back of their minds is this nagging worry: “Could I say or do something so awful in God’s sight that I might lose my salvation and wind up in hell as a result?”

 Hal Lindsey talks about this fear in his book, Satan Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth. He reminds us that Satan is the accuser of the brethren who does everything in his power to keep us from feeling secure about our salvation, because he knows if we aren’t sure of where we stand with our Heavenly Father, we won’t be free to concentrate on what He wants us to do—like reaching out to people in need and preaching the Gospel to every creature under heaven. Instead, we’ll be so paralyzed with fear that all we can think about is: Can I lose my salvation if I’m not careful? He writes: “The helmet of salvation is knowing that your salvation is absolutely secure and complete. However, Satan will take some obscure verse and try to undo all the clear teaching in the rest of the Bible and have you thinking that you have lost your salvation. He will take some of these verses and twist them to undo all the teaching of the entire book of Romans which clearly declares that salvation is a once-and-for-all matter through faith alone.”

IMG_0053 (1)

 In my case, the verses he used were Matthew 12:31-32, where Jesus warned about the unpardonable sin. “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come.” And so I worried, “Lord, don’t let me do this! Don’t let the devil catch me at some unguarded moment and trick me into cursing Your Spirit! I don’t want to lose my salvation and wind up in hell!” And I have to say it didn’t help much when dear Brother Mark, an elderly saint in the church I was attending, took me aside one day and warned me, “Gary, remember, the one sin the Lord can never forgive is blaspheming His Spirit. I’ve known many people who’ve committed that sin and died as a result!” And right away, I thought, “Oh, no! Am going to be next? Will I in a weak moment let down my guard and lose everything I’ve gained in Christ?”

IMG_0054

 The answer to that question and what I want to assure you in this lesson is that no one can commit the unpardonable sin today. To commit an unpardonable sin is possible, and in a moment, I’ll explain what I mean by that—but to commit the unpardonable sin, referred to by Jesus in Matthew 12:31, is impossible for anybody to commit today. And what I want to share with you in this study is why that’s so, not only for your own spiritual comfort, but so you can help others gain assurance of their salvation too. It’s embarrassing to admit, but Cheryl will tell you that I spent 3 or 4 months in terror as a new Christian thinking I’d committed this sin, and I was numb with fear because of it. But the Bible says, “All things work together for good to those who love God,” and in my case that was true! What this fear drove me to do was to study my Bible until I not only gained an understanding of this passage and the Gospel as a whole, I also gained an unshakeable assurance of my salvation and an ability to help others too. So let me do that for you today, if I can. Maybe you’ve received Christ and been baptized as a public testimony that you intend to follow Him the rest of your life. But the question is: How can you be sure He’ll help you do that and keep you safe from this or some other terrible sin? To answer that question properly, the first thing we need to understand is—

  1. The Context of This Passage

That’s the first step in understanding any Bible passage, because the Bible is more than a collection of wonderful verses strung together like beads on a wire. It’s like a beautiful Persian carpet, which is woven together from various colored yarns. In fact, the word “context” comes from two small words meaning “weave together.” Because just as it would be wrong to pull one piece of yarn from a beautiful carpet and say, “This is the rug!” So it is wrong to pluck one verse from the Bible saying, “This is what the Bible teaches on this subject!” To understand salvation or any doctrine, we have to understand each verse in the light of its context.

qum-rug

In fact, the Apostle Peter warns us that we can put our souls in danger by taking verses out of context. In 2 Peter 3:15 he says, referring to the Apostle Paul, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” That immediately brings to my mind the cults and what they do with the Bible, plucking this or that verse out of context and trying to make the Bible say things it was never intended to say. In fact, did you know you can make the Bible teach almost anything you want—reincarnation, polygamy, evolution—if you take verses out of context? But Peter says that is very dangerous.

i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think

On the lighter side, maybe you heard about the ignorant fellow who wanted to know God’s will for his life. So holding the Bible before him, he prayed, “Lord, show me what you want me to do?” He then closed his eyes and opened the Bible to Matthew 27:5 which says: “And Judas went out and hanged himself.” He didn’t like that much, so he tried again. This time he got Luke 10:37, “Go and do likewise!” That was worse, so he tried one last time. This time he got John 13:27, “What you are about to do, do quickly!”

 The point is: Not all of the Bible was written to us. All of the Bible was written for us—so we can learn God’s principles—but not all the Bible was written to us. The Bible was written by some 40 different authors over 1500 years addressing thousands of problems affecting billions of people. We must understand that—who each book was written to and what the original writer meant by what he said. Otherwise we’ll be hopelessly confused, especially when it comes to understanding something as difficult as Matthew 12:31-32.

 The fact of the matter is, Matthew 12:31-32 was not addressed to us. Nowhere in the Bible are Christians ever warned about committing the unpardonable sin. And you can bet, if this were a sin we could commit, then surely Peter or James or John or Paul would have warned us about it in one of their epistles. But they never did. The only place this sin is mentioned is in the Gospels, because this isn’t a sin we can commit today. This was a warning to the religious rulers of Israel, who had seen Jesus perform miracle after miracle in the power of the Holy Spirit. But instead of worshiping His Lordship, which was the purpose of His miracles, they rejected him as the son of Satan. So Jesus warned them, “Be careful now. You’re about to commit a sin that cannot be forgiven.”

second-coming-of-jesus-christ1For what was the unpardonable sin? Study the context of Matthew and it becomes clear. For to whom was the book of Matthew written? The Jews, to prove that Jesus is their long-awaited King. The book opens with His genealogy, proving that Jesus was born in the royal line of David. That’s followed by His royal birth in Bethlehem and wise men asking the question: “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?” Next we read of His introduction by His royal herald, John the Baptist, His royal proclamation about who can enter His kingdom, called the Sermon on the Mount, followed by miracle after miracle proving that Jesus is not only the King of Israel, but the Savior of the world! But nothing is enough for those who won’t believe. So when we come to chapter 12, which is the turning point of the book, the King is rejected by the very people who should have been His greatest supporters. For notice what happens starting in verse 22. Jesus heals a blind man who’s been possessed by a demon, but rather than rejoicing at this great miracle of God, what do the religious rulers say?

Verse 22: “Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’ (That is, could this be the Messiah?) But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.’ In other words, “The spirit in him is a demon!” And not just any demon, but Beelzebub, prince of demons. Translate this word, “Beelzebub,” into English, and what does it means? It means “Lord of the dungpile!”

This was a very specific sin. It was the willful rejection of the miracles of Jesus and the attributing of the power behind them to Satan rather than the Holy Spirit. That’s why I say the unpardonable sin cannot be committed today. When Jesus was on earth performing miracles, and when He returns in glory, you could commit this sin. That’s why Jesus said, “Whoever commits this sin will not be forgiven in this age (referring to His first appearance) or in the age to come (referring to His future reign as King of the earth). You see, the person who sees all these things and then rejects them has run out of excuses. I mean, after you’ve seen everything there is to see and you still won’t believe, what more is there to say? But today the situation is different. Jesus isn’t physically present on earth, which means the only way to learn about Him is through faulty human messengers like you and me, which makes it difficult to believe at times. That’s why God gives us so many opportunities to hear the Gospel before we believe. That, then, is the first reason this sin cannot be committed today—the context surrounding it.

11-november-17-2013-john-10142-jesus-the-true-shepherd-5-638

J. Vernon McGee, the Bible teacher, write about this in his commentary on Matthew. “Sheer logic leads us to see that if in the days of Christ’s presence on earth—to attribute His miracles to the power of Satan rather than to the power of the Holy Spirit was to commit the unpardonable sin, then conversely: His absence today makes it impossible to commit the unpardonable sin.” He adds, “Our position is entirely consistent with a ‘whosoever will Gospel.’” What does that mean? What does he mean when he says our position is entirely consistent with a “whosoever will Gospel.”

2. The Nature of the Gospel—

What is God promising when He says, “Whosoever will may come.” Probably the clearest passage is Romans chapter 10. You see, when developing a doctrine from the Bible like the doctrine of salvation, the first place to go is not to a few obscure verses like Matthew 12:31-32. You go to several clear verses like Romans 10:9-10, where Paul explains how to be saved by God. He writes: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’” What, then, is the promise of the Gospel? It’s the promise that if we believe in our hearts that Jesus died for our sins and rose again, and if we confess to others that He’s our Lord, we will be saved. For verse 13 adds: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (the King James say, “Whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord”) will be saved.”

whosoeverwill1

That’s what is meant by a “whosoever will” Gospel. It means there are no hidden conditions or unspoken exceptions to this promise. Anybody at any time and in any place who’s willing to call upon the name of Jesus for salvation will be saved. And because that’s true, the unpardonable sin cannot be committed today. Why not? Because if it could be committed, then we wouldn’t be able to say, “Whosoever will may come!” Every time we share the Gospel we’d have to add, “Whosoever will may come except those who’ve blasphemed the Spirit and committed the unpardonable sin.” But we haven’t been told to do that. We’ve been told to preach the Gospel to every creature promising them, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” End of statement. Transaction finished. No strings attached. That’s the first thing we need to understand about the Gospel—that “whosoever will may come!”

The second thing we need to understand about the Gospel is what happens when a person truly believes. You see, what is it we’re actually promising people when we tell them to believe in Christ and be saved? Eternal fire insurance and a free ticket to heaven? Is that all that’s involved in becoming a Christian? Of course not! But many people do not seem to understand that.

Some time ago, I was listening to a Bible teacher on the radio, when suddenly he said something that he gave me the distinct impression that he believed that Christians could lose their salvation. And that bothered me. But rather than stewing about it, I decided to write him a letter and politely ask him, “Do you think Christians are eternally secure?” To his credit, he wrote me back. Here is what he wrote: “Yes, I believe in eternal security, but not unconditionally.” And to this day, I still haven’t been able to figure that out—how a security that’s conditional can be considered eternally for sure.

You see, not everybody appreciates this, but becoming a Christian means more than receiving a free ticket to heaven paid for by the blood of Christ. If that’s all there were to it, what would keep us from having it torn away in a moment of temptation? Because just as none of us was strong enough to earn our salvation, none of us is strong enough to keep it either. The truth is that becoming a Christian involves not only receiving His free gift of salvation, it also involves a basic change in our nature. Peter’s epistle says that we have become “partakers of the divine nature having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” Paul adds in his epistle that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” And John goes so far in his Gospel to say that “as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.”

FVB_2Corinthians517

Becoming a Christian, then, involves a basic change in our nature—being transformed from a child of Satan into a son or daughter of the Most High King. And therefore, what would have to happen, in order for us to lose our salvation? God would have to change us back. But friends, that’s one thing our Heavenly Father promises never to do.

 Like father, like daughter, Rebecca had a tough time gaining an assurance of her salvation, when she was first saved. She asked Jesus in her heart at an early age, but the devil did everything in his power to keep her from gaining an assurance of her salvation. The high point of the drama came one night as we watched “The 10 Commandments” as a family. And what grabbed her attention was not the plagues in Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea; it was the idols in Pharaoh’s temple.

 Right away she wanted to know, “Mommy, Daddy, could I do that if I’m not careful? Could I bow down to idols like Pharoah and go to hell? That was the worst sin her 5-year old mind could think of, and she was worried that if she did it, she might lose her salvation. We prayed with her, read her Bible verses, and tried everything we could to help her. But the thought still nagged her, so much so that the next day I found her marching around the house like a soldier, body stiff as a board, and when I asked, “What’s wrong, Honey?” all she could say was: “I’m trying not to bow down to idols.”

4395_87033281673_1575631_n

 I mean, this went on for days. In fact, it got so bad that one day I found her scooting around the floor on her bottom, again stiff as a board. And when I asked her, “What are you doing, Honey?” her answer again through clenched teeth and with tears in her eyes was: “I’m trying not to bow down to idols!” So what finally made her worries go away? I started to play a game with her in which I’d hold her hand and then tell her, “Now let go.” And for everything in her, she would try, but she wouldn’t be able to do it. Why not? Because even though she’d let go, I wouldn’t. And invariably it’d turn into a wrestling match in which she’d try to see if she was strong enough to get me to let go of her hand, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t do it.

 And then I’d remind her, “The same thing is true of Jesus, Honey. When you put your life in His hands, He promises that He will never let go, no matter what you do, and He’s way stronger than me. So no matter what the devil tries to make you think, you’re safe, because now your life is right here in the palm of God’s hand.”

One verses we used to assure her was John 10:27, where Jesus promises: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all; and no one is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” Sometimes people worry, “Well, maybe no one can pluck me out of His hand, but I could fall or jump out, couldn’t I?” The answer to that is also: “No,” because according to Ephesians 1:13 and other verses, there’s something very powerful sealing us in! And what’s that? The very Holy Spirit whom we’ve been talking about all morning. Ephesians says that having believed in Christ, we “were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”

in-the-hands-of-god

My conclusion, then, is that a genuine child of God can never be eternally lost. Nor can you and I commit the unpardonable sin. The only sin you and I can commit that could be called unpardonable is rejecting Christ all of our lives and dying without accepting Him as our Savior. But every other sin or blasphemy, the Bible says, will be forgiven us, because the real issue when it comes to our security as believers is not our faithfulness. If that were the issue, none of us would be saved. The real issue is His faithfulness. Jude writes: “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” So I ask you in closing: Do you have that assurance? Have you called on Jesus for salvation? And can you say beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re a child of God and that one day you too will go to heaven?

When I was a boy, I had two recurring nightmares that terrified me. One involved a little gremlin who would sneak into the house through an upstairs bathroom window in the middle of the night and chase me down the stairs, getting closer and closer with every step I took. Of course, the harder I ran, the slower my feet would go, and always just as I was about to reach my parents’ bedroom and he was able to grab me, I would wake up.

damien_canderle_gremlins2

That was frightening, but not as frightening as the second dream I had, because in the second dream, I found myself in another world, very similar to this world, but the problem was that once I got there, I could never remember how to get back—until I’d remember, “Oh, all I have to do is wake up.” And I know psychologists would have a heyday with that, explaining that the reason I had those dreams was because I was so insecure. And they’d be right! I was insecure, because I wasn’t a child of God at that time, and I didn’t have the assurance I needed. But now I do. Now I know who I belong to, and I’m absolutely confident that nothing I do will ever separate me from His love.

 Can you say that? Do you have an unshakeable assurance of your salvation? Or are you still worrying that one day you may say something or do something that’ll cut you off from God’s love and make it impossible for you to be forgiven? Friend, I’ve been there, and I can tell you that’s the worst nightmare of all. But the good news is: it’s only a nightmare—none of it is true, not if you sincerely know and love the Lord Jesus Christ. So to answer the first question I posed: Can you commit the unpardonable sin? No. That was a sin that could be committed only by those who were eyewitnesses of Christ’s miracles, but attributed them to the power of the devil. But the answer to the second question: Can you commit an unpardonable sin? is Yes. You could harden your heart, reject Christ today, and run the risk of dying without accepting Him as your Savior. But don’t do that, friend. If you haven’t yet committed your life to Jesus Christ, do so today. Open your heart to His Spirit this very moment and be forgiven forever!

(To print a written copy of this message, click one of the links that follow – PDF File or Word document.)

Dr. Billy Graham – America’s Pastor

Yesterday one of the greatest men of our generation went home to be with the Lord. He was called “America’s Pastor” and “counselor to America’s presidents.” Because of his great impact, we dedicate this blog to the life of Billy Graham by quoting his son Franklin’s eulogy and directing you to his website where you can listen to his testimony as a young man, read his obituary, hear his life-changing sermons, find peace with God yourself, and learn of his impact on the world. Billy Graham was without question the greatest preacher in our lifetimes and led a ministry that has always been free of scandal and a model of integrity. Thank you, God, for this great man’s ministry to me and to millions around the world.

 unnamed
Dear Friend,

My father, Billy Graham, went into the presence of the Lord on February 21, 2018.

The Bible tells us in Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (NKJV). Many have said that his death ends an era, but he would be the first to say that when God’s ambassadors die in Christ, the Lord raises up others, because the preaching of the Gospel will go forward until the end of the age. God’s blessing continues as He opens doors for the Gospel around the world. BGEA remains committed to preach the Word in season and out of season across the globe.

My siblings and I would appreciate your prayers in the days ahead as we honor a man who served the Lord with his life, loved his family, and was always grateful for God’s faithful people who supported him in the work of the ministry in Jesus’ Name.

As we lay to rest this very public ambassador, please pray with us that the testimony he leaves behind will touch many lives and point them to salvation in Jesus Christ. My father’s journey of faith on earth has ended. He has been reunited with my mother and has stepped into the eternal joy of Heaven in the presence of his Savior, in whom he placed his hope.

If you would like to know more about my father’s life, share a memory, or read public visitation details, please visit BillyGraham.org. God bless you, and thank you for your prayers for our family and the staff of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Sincerely, Franklin Graham