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PRAY FOR OPEN DOORS
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word… — Colossians 4:2–3a (ESV)
Open doors can’t be taken for granted. Many missionaries work in countries that are difficult to access or in areas that are resistant to the gospel. But open doors include more than just access to nations and people groups. Individuals’ hearts also need to be open and receptive to God’s truth.
- That God will open doors of ministry, blessing partnerships and friendships.
- That those who serve will be led by the Holy Spirit and recognize open-door opportunities.
- That God will lead his people past barriers to hearts ready to receive his Word.
PRAY FOR BOLDNESS
[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel… — Ephesians 6:19 (ESV)
Missionaries are regular people who fear pain and rejection as much as anyone else. When faced with opposition, they need God’s strength to help them stand firm.
- That the Holy Spirit will provide missionaries with words that communicate effectively in other cultures and languages.
- That they will have boldness to overcome the fear of embarrassment or failure.
- Against evil forces that would seek to hinder the spread of the gospel.
PRAY THAT GOD’S WORD WILL SPREAD
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you… — 2 Thessalonians 3:1 (ESV)
Obstacles must be removed to allow God’s Word to spread rapidly and freely, and missionaries need the strength to continue on in the face of opposition or difficulties. Just as Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ arms in the battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17:12), you can strengthen the arms of missionaries by supporting them through your prayers.
- For strength and stamina as missionaries encounter antagonistic spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10–18).
- That people will resist Satan’s plans to obstruct the spread of the gospel (James 4:7).
- That God’s Word will indeed spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes.
PRAY FOR PROTECTION
[Pray] that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. — 2 Thessalonians 3:2 (ESV)
In some countries, missionaries may be exposed to the possibility of danger and personal harm. Opposition to the gospel may include hatred and violence.
- That God will keep missionaries safe.
- That God will change the hearts of those who are resistant to his Word.
*This excerpt from https://www.wycliffe.org/prayer/how-to-pray-for-missionaries
Are there things we can do that God can’t forgive? Is there an “unforgivable” sin? What does it mean to blaspheme the Spirit?
These questions usually arise after reading Matthew 12:22-32,
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to [Jesus], and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 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.”
The narrative here is pretty straight forward. Jesus healed a demonically-oppressed man and the religious leaders accused Christ of accomplishing the feat by the power of Satan (referred to here as Beelzebul). Jesus highlighted the ridiculousness of their accusation by asking why the Satan would want to thwart his own agenda. The reality was, in expelling the forces of darkness, Jesus demonstrated that he was establishing the kingdom of God. In short, Jesus was clearly the Messiah sent from God the Father. Christ’s entire earthly ministry up to that point – work the religious leaders witnessed with their own eyes – undoubtedly pointed to that truth.
So, it was in that context, in the middle of those undeniable demonstrations, when 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).
It appears Jesus was saying that the Pharisees were blaspheming the Holy Spirit by rejecting the Spirit’s testifying work about who Christ is.Even worse, not only did these religious leaders reject the Spirit’s work, but attributed it to Satan himself. It was this specific blasphemy from which Jesus said there is no return.
This should make some sense if you consider the greater context of the passage. When the Pharisees said Jesus was from Satan, they were rejecting the only path God offers humanity for forgiveness. Therefore, denying what is really the work of the Spirit in Jesus and attributing that power, instead, to Satan, is ultimately a product of unbelief. Simply put, the Pharisees’ stubborn rejection of Jesus and the Spirit’s testimony of him was a stubborn rejection of the gospel. This is what is meant by the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. As biblical scholar Graham Cole notes, “The blasphemy against the Spirit is that self-righteous persistent refusal to embrace the offer of salvation in Christ.”
This is invaluable for believers to understand. Unfortunately, we hear Christians (and sometimes Christian leaders) warn the church about the “unforgiveable sin” as if there was something we could do as believers that would remove us from the family of God. Consequently, some get nervous wondering what sins might expel them from the kingdom. However, this is where we should remind ourselves of the context of this passage. Theologian and scholar R.T. France said,
It is [the Pharisees’] diabolical opposition to the good purpose of God which is ultimately unforgiveable. The point needs to be emphasized, since the language of this saying has been incautiously applied to real or supposed offenses ‘against the Holy Spirit’ which have nothing to do with the blasphemy of these Pharisees, and serious pastoral damage has been caused. This saying is a wake-up call to the arrogant, not a bogey to frighten those of tender conscience.
Frankly, some scholars wonder if this text can be applied today at all, thinking it unique to the Pharisees, if not limited to the earthly ministry of Jesus.Others believe the specific blasphemy of the Spirit isn’t so much a doubting of the truth about Jesus, but a rejection of the Spirit’s clear and direct testimony the individual knows as true in head and heart but rejects it still.Thus, while there may be differences in the particulars concerning blaspheming the Spirit, the general idea is that this sin is the unbelief and rejection of who Jesus truly is and what he does.
Therefore, when others ask, “Can a Christian commit the unpardonable sin?” the clearest answer is “no,” because to be a follower of Jesus is to believe and accept the testimony of the Spirit – that Christ is Lord – which is the exact opposite of the Pharisees’ response. Thus, the sin of blaspheming the Spirit is one which a believer cannot commit.
It is true that Christians should live lives that seek to flee from sin, yet when we do disobey, we ought not to be so distraught as to think we’ve committed an unforgiveable sin. The gospel reminds us that Christ’s cross has taken the penalty of all our sins. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 should encourage us at this point:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Christ is our righteousness. His redeeming work at the cross has forgiven us all our sins, where our trespasses aren’t counted against us anymore. For those who believe, there is no sin we can commit that is unpardonable. The gospel is bigger than the failure of all our sins. This is where our confidence should lie; not in us, but in Christ for us!
Theologian Louis Berkhof offers a pastoral thought for Christians who fear if they have committed the sin of blaspheming the Spirit, writing, “In view of the fact that this sin is not followed by repentance, we may be reasonably sure that they who fear that they have committed it and worry about this, and who desire prayers of others for them, have not committed it.”Cole offers counsel as well, saying, “Any Christian disturbed as to whether they have committed this sin needs to be encouraged to think that they have not. Rather, such warnings, I suggest, are used by the Spirit to recover the drifting Christian and to encourage perseverance in the faith. The tender Christian conscience is a sign of hope, not evidence for despair.”
Follower of Jesus, rest well in Christ. He has obeyed for you. You are clothed in his righteousness. Your sins are forgiven. This is the good news of the gospel! Know that you can never blaspheme the Spirit and commit the unforgiveable sin. On the contrary, you live by the Spirit, are gifted by the Spirit, sealed by the Spirit, and may you be continuously filled with the Spirit.
See also Mark 3:29-30; cf. Luke 12:10
It could be possible that Jesus, seeing the trajectory the Pharisees are taking with him, is warning them not to commit this blasphemy.
Cole, Engaging with the Holy Spirit, Crossway, 2007, 29.
France, The Gospel of Matthew, NICNT, Eerdmans, 2007, 482-483.
e.g., Chrysotom and Jerome.
cf., Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, Baker, 2006, 156. See Louis Berkhof with almost exact statement in his Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1938, 253.
Yancey ArringtonTeaching Pastor
Yancey is the Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church. He holds a BA in Religion from Baylor University, Masters of Divinity with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Seminary, and Doctor of Ministry from Covenant Seminary. He and his wife, Jennefer, have three sons. He is the author of Preaching that Moves People and Tap: Defeating the Sins that Defeat You.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)
God loves us unconditionally. He gave his son to pay the price for our sin – a price that you and I could not, and cannot ever, pay. God gave us this gift so that we would have an opportunity to give him our heart. Though he has equipped us each with our own unique set of abilities, personality, and passions, God is primarily concerned with our hearts. So, when Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,”he was emphasizing the importance of our heart’s allegiance.
Jesus goes on to say, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). He warns us that we must be careful not to put our trust in money. We are inclined to tie up our hope, identity, and security in money since it can give us a sense of personal control. God does care about our finances, but more, he cares about our heart. He cares about the motives behind the way we use our resources. Therefore, there are some fundamental elements he lays out that show us how to handle our money or finances in a godly way.
First of all, we must acknowledge that God is the owner and provider of all things. King David says it this way in 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”
So, what does the owner or provider of all things tell us to do with the money he has entrusted to us? He says:
- GIVE. God doesn’t want the leftovers, he wants the first and best. God wants to be a priority in our lives, and because our hearts are where our treasure is, there is a pretty simple way for him to see if he has your heart. God demands to be first. Make giving the first priority in your budget. (See: Proverbs 3:9-10, Exodus 20:2-3, Matthew 6:24)
- SAVE. God wants us to save for the future. He makes it clear that saving money is a wise decision. And he wants us to think strategically about every area of our life, in order to glorify him with everything we have. Make saving the second priority in your budget. (See: Proverbs 21:20, Proverbs 21:5, Luke 14:28)
- LIVE ON THE REST. After we have given back to God a portion of the money he has provided for us and saved some of that money for the future, we should live on the remainder. That means we need to manage our spending, our commitments, our desires in a way that we can pay for them with the money we have left each month.
But, be warned, when we don’t live on the rest, we go into debt. Remember, God wants our hearts. He tells us that we cannot serve God and money. Regarding debt specifically, God says that being in debt is like being a slave (Proverbs 22:7). Avoid debt at all costs. If you find yourself in debt, develop a plan to get out of debt as soon as you can.
When we choose to honor God with our money, we become willing partners with him, storing up eternal treasure, and entrusting him with our lives, our futures, and our hearts.
Commit to develop a budget that allows you give, save, and live on the rest. Ask someone to hold you accountable to living on that budget and thank God every day for providing what you need.
Mark CardenExecutive Pastor
Mark has served as the Executive Pastor of Clear Creek Community Church since 1996. Formerly a CPA and Audit Partner with Coopers & Lybrand L.L.P., Mark holds a BBA in Accounting from Texas A&M University. He’s married to Lisa, and has three children and six grandchildren.