I am seeking reassurance that I have not committed the unpardonable sin. I don't think I really believe that I've committed it, but I want to make sure, and at the very least, gain some insight on this topic. (Note: You should know that I have pretty bad OCD in a way that causes me to worry about things constantly, usually things that would be the worst case scenario. I'm hoping that writing to you will help me clear my head and make me feel a bit better.)
My concern came to me last night after a long conversation with someone who at one point in his life claimed to be a Christian, but now claims not to be by choice. He knows that I am a Christian, and throughout the conversation I was telling him what I believed and why, as well as trying to help him sort through his doubts.
At one point, he said that the feeling he felt when he was in church worshipping God as a Christian, and that convinced him that his faith was so real, was the same feeling he felt when he was convinced that he should move away from Christianity. He believes that when he was a Christian, that "feeling" he felt was the Holy Spirit, and therefore since he felt that same "feeling" luring him away from Christianity, he also attributed that to the Holy Spirit. He seemed convinced that these "feelings" were of the same origin. I told him that it would be against the character of the Holy Spirit to guide him away from Christianity, and therefore impossible, concluding that both of those "feelings" could not have been the Holy Spirit. I then laid out several possibilities:
1. He was never truly a Christian to begin with. Those "feelings" were of the same source, but neither of them was the Holy Spirit.
I said to him:
"If you weren't actually a Christian at that time, then that wasn't the Holy Spirit guiding you. As real as it felt, if you weren't a Christian that "feeling" would've had to have come by some other means, psychological or otherwise. So in that case, the two "feelings" could've been the same, since neither was the Holy Spirit."
2. He was actually a Christian at that time, and that "feeling" he felt then actually was the Holy Spirit, but the "feeling" that guided him away from Christianity was not the Holy Spirit, and he has mislabeled them as the same. The two "feelings" were not of the same source.
3. He was actually a Christian at that time, and the Holy Spirit was present in him, but the "feeling" had to have been a human feeling and not from the Holy Spirit if it truly was the same as the "feeling" that led him away from Christianity.
My understanding of the unpardonable sin is that it was committed by the Pharisees when they attributed Jesus' miracles to the devil, therefore blaspheming the Holy Spirit. My worry is that I may have inadvertently done this when I told my friend that the feeling he felt guiding him as a Christian may not have been the Holy Spirit. Of course, as you've read, I mentioned this as one of several possibilities, with the ultimate goal of defending the Holy Spirit's character against his claims that It could have led him away from Jesus, but I still said it. What if that "feeling" he felt when he was a Christian was the Holy Spirit at work and I've attributed it to something else?
Am I guilty of the unpardonable sin?
I really hope to hear from you soon
First, I am sorry for your OCD. I also struggle with it. It is no fun. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can be debilitating. Fortunately, I have only a touch of it; however, I can get focused on the most insignificant things. I can stand for twenty minutes deciding which toothbrush to buy. If there were only model I could be paying the cashier and out of the store in a minute. But, I can’t. I know you understand. On the other hand, I have discovered many good things about OCD. For example, it takes me several days of packing to prepare for an out-of-town trip. Julie can get packed in less than an hour. I never forget anything. Julie forgets any number of things!
Now, let me say that I agree totally with your reasoning about your friend and whether or not his “feeling” was from God in each of the cases you postulated. The Holy Spirit would never do the things your friend wants to attribute to Him.
I recognize that your fear of having committed the unpardonable sin is a frightening you and you are over-obsessing about having committed it. So, let me set your mind immediately at ease. You have not committed the unpardonable sin. By definition, a Christian cannot ever commit the unpardonable sin.
The unpardonable sin occurs when the Holy Spirit tells someone that they need Jesus as their Savior—and instead of receiving Christ (John 1:12), they reject Him and His message. In essence, they are calling the Holy Spirit a liar: “You are wrong. I don’t need to trust Jesus as my Savior.” This is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit! By the way, the unpardonable sin can only be finally committed at the moment of death. While still alive, everyone has an opportunity to come to Christ and find pardon. Once we die without Christ we are no longer pardonable. Simply stated, the unpardonable sin is dying without a Savior.
In John 16:8-11 Jesus taught the Disciples that the Holy Spirit has three-main jobs related to leading people to a saving experience with Christ: “When he [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.”
Rejecting Jesus after experiencing the convicting testimony of the Holy Spirit is the only sin God can never forgive. All other sins can be forgiven; but, not this one (unpardonable), because God has provided no other way of salvation except by receiving Christ (John 16:16-18).
Now, let’s talk about faith and feelings. Arguing whether or not your friend’s feelings are right or wrong is easily settled.
The fact is that being a Christian is never based on feelings. Sometimes, we might “feel” like we are Christians, and sometimes we may not—especially when we feel guilty for some sin we’ve recently committed)! Faith in Christ is a “cold-blooded” decision of the will to believe in the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and in His bodily resurrection. Faith is never based on Feelings. Faith is based on the Facts of the Word of God. The proper order is Faith based on the Word of God will result in the proper Feelings. If your friend is not committed to receiving the gift of forgiveness of sins and following Christ at any price, then, he is not a Christian—no matter how he feels.
Jesus taught us that the test of real Christianity is not how we start, but how we finish (Matthew 13:3-9 and 13:18-23). True Christians never turn their backs on Christ. The one exception is what Jeremiah described as “backsliding.” This term describes a Christian who slides away in sin but soon repents and returns to fellowship with Christ. The fact that your friend turned away and no longer follows Christ says to me that there is a very good chance that he was never a Christian in the first place.
Well, Anonymous. I hope my words are both reassuring and helpful to you as you enjoy your security in Christ—and as you may or may not interact with your friend in the future.
Now that we have settled your concerns, let’s both go wash our hands—just kidding!
Seriously, I suggest that you refuse to OCD your concerns about committing the unpardonable sin. You have more important things to focus on than that!
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