Experts tell us the lowest part of the ocean is 36,000 feet below sea level. I once made it down to 100 feet and thought that was something. But imagine a depth of 36,000 feet. The prophet Micah, reflecting on the forgiveness of God, said, “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19 NIV).
If ever we were to reach the literal bottom of the ocean, I don’t think we would find all of our sins there. It was a metaphor Micah used to essentially say that God will put our sins far away from us if we will turn from them and ask his forgiveness. It means that we don’t have to keep dredging up our past sins. We should not choose to remember what God has chosen to forget. Corrie ten Boom put it well when she said, “God has taken our sin. He has thrown it into the sea of forgetfulness, and he has posted a sign that says, ‘No fishing allowed.’”
The only sin God will not forgive is the sin we will not confess. But we also should be aware that Jesus did warn of an unforgivable sin. He said, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31).
Jesus was addressing the Pharisees, the religious leaders at the time. They were royally ticked off at Jesus because he was bad for business. They were insanely envious and jealous of his growing popularity. In fact, it was this very envy and jealousy that ultimately drove them to have him crucified. The common people loved Jesus. He was understandable. He was approachable. He was compassionate. Jesus was everything the religious elite were not. Jesus never spoke over anyone’s head. Jesus was understood by children, but the greatest intellects of the time were challenged by his words. He broke things down so most people could understand what he was saying. And that is what a good communicator should do.
But that is what the religious leaders did not do. Instead of bringing people close to God, in many ways, they kept people from God. They wanted to stop Jesus, and they actually were attributing the work of God to the work of Satan. This indicated their hearts were getting hard, and they were actually getting closer to committing the unforgivable sin.
Ironically, Pharisees dedicated their lives to the study of Scripture. They took a solemn vow before three witnesses to spend every moment of their lives obeying the Ten Commandments. That is not to say Pharisees succeeded at this, because clearly they did not. But it is at least what they tried to do. There were some good Pharisees, like Nicodemus, who became a believer. But by and large, these Pharisees – these religious experts – had hard hearts. These men who were immersed in such spiritual endeavors had hearts that were so hard, they attributed to the devil that which was being done by God.
This reminds us of one thing: The church can be a dangerous place. It is a place where we honor God and where the Word of God goes out, but we have a choice as to how we will react to that. If we are there out of mere obligation, thinking that we can sin a little more because we have done our duty, then we had better watch out, because the same sun that softens the wax hardens the clay.
Sometimes the most hardened people can be inside the church, not outside it. The problem is they are getting a hard heart because they are arrogant. And they are actually resistant to the work the Holy Spirit wants to do in their lives. It is easier to get a hard heart inside the church than outside it. So the church can be a dangerous place for those without the right motive.
The Pharisees did not doubt Jesus because they merely disagreed with him; they were hardened against him. Even Christians have moments of doubt. We don’t always understand what God is doing or why he is doing it. In contrast, unbelief is a matter of the will; it is a choice we make. These Pharisees were full of unbelief. They did not reject Jesus for lack of evidence or because he was inconsistent. Jesus was the perfect example. Even Pontius Pilate said that he found no fault in Jesus. And Judas Iscariot, who spent three concentrated years with Jesus, said after he had betrayed him, “I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). So Jesus clearly was a model of everything that he said. The Pharisees rejected Jesus because his teachings interfered with the way they wanted to live. The Pharisees had intentionally hardened their hearts against God.
And that is why people reject him today. They don’t reject Jesus because they have carefully examined the evidence and have determined that it is not convincing enough. They don’t reject him because they have read through the Scriptures and have found an apparent contradiction. They don’t reject him because of the so-called hypocrisy of some in the church. They reject him because he interferes with their lifestyle.
That brings us to the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to insult and reject his very work. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit has come to convince us of our sin. Blasphemy represents the conscious denouncing and rejection of God. It is a defiant irreverence, the sin of intentionally and openly speaking evil against God. It is to say no to the Holy Spirit and to reject his mission.
The Bible tells us that one of the signs of the last days is that people will go out of their way to blaspheme God. So to commit this sin does not merely represent unbelief, but determined unbelief.
C. S. Lewis was once an atheist. But he came to faith in Jesus and became one of the leading apologists of Christianity. Lee Strobel was an atheist, and through his careful research into the claims and promises of Jesus, he became a believer and is now a Christian apologist as well. Many people who have said there was no God have come to know God. So there is always hope for those who seem hardened against God. At the same time, I am concerned for those who would go beyond the point of no return. Don’t let that happen to you.