My great-great grandfather built a house outside of Gonzales, Texas in the late 1800's that is still standing and still in my family today. It is in a very rural area of southeast Texas and is in the heart of cattle country. I love visiting this house as often as I can because it is like stepping back in time - no cell service, no modern electricity, no heating and air, and no modern plumbing. It is, for me, an incredibly refreshing place to go. My father and I were there last summer and wanted to do some hunting. "Shoot the hogs" was the word we got from people. Texas has an incredible problem with feral hogs. They destroy property, livestock, and cause millions of dollars worth of damage all over the state. As a result, it is always open season on hogs in Texas! So, before we went out hunting these hogs, we did what even the most amateur of hunters (of which I would classify myself) know to do: we made sure our rifle scopes were sighted properly.
Before you do any type of shooting, it is an absolute necessity that you ensure your rifle is zeroed in. The reason is simple: if it is not, you may be looking through your scope at your intended target and think you are hitting the mark. But, if your scope is off, then what you are intending to aim at will never be hit. In other words, if your focus is off-target, then your shot will be also.
So it is with us and Jesus Christ. We can spend so much time as Christians aiming at the wrong target if we are not focused on Christ alone. For example, in Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus mentions "the unpardonable sin". There, He says to the Pharisees who are questioning Him, "...blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven...whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or the age to come." These can be pretty frightening words, and our uncertainty at whether we have committed the unpardonable sin can genuinely concern us and cause great fear and anxiety. It is important to note the context in which Jesus gave this warning.
The Pharisees were not simply questioning God out of doubt before He issued this warning, as John the Baptist had done a chapter before, they went far beyond that. They were actually attributing His ministry of healing and restoration to being a work of Satan! They were focused so intently on the letter of the law that because Jesus was performing these acts on the Sabbath, which was for them a "no-no", they were blinding themselves to the fact that this was their Messiah. Their focus was so much on the technicalities within the law that they missed the entire purpose of the law, which was to drive people to a relationship with God.
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus used a parable of a sheep falling into a pit to illustrate His point. The Jews had a rule about that exact situation: if a sheep fell into a pit and broke its leg on the Sabbath, it was permissible to help it out. But, if it was uninjured, you had to leave it in the pit until the Sabbath had passed, because that would constitute "work". What would often happen is the shepherd would say, "Well, that sheep probably has a broken leg. I'll just go pull him up and check him out." This was the type of focus that Jesus was hinting at with these Pharisees when He issued this stern warning of the unpardonable sin. "You guys are so focused on whether or not someone is breaking the law about the Sabbath that you completely miss the hurting, the hungry, and the broken around you that the law was designed to protect and help! Your Messiah is right here and you refuse to acknowledge Him because you are so blinded by your religious system and traditions!" May we never push away the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives because of our own willful spiritual blindness.
R.C. Sproul said of the unpardonable sin, "As for those who are not sure they are saved and are worried they may have committed the unpardonable sin, I would say that worrying about it is one of the clearest evidences that they have not committed this sin, for those who commit it are so hardened in their hearts they do not care that they commit it. Thanks be to God that the sin that is unpardonable is not a sin He allows His people to commit."
The point of all this is simple: keep your focus on Jesus Christ and Him alone. The law, theology, Christian education, church - all of that is designed to point to Christ and bring people into a relationship with Him as their personal Lord and Savior. Make sure you "keep the main thing the main thing" and you will not have to worry about missing the mark. There will be no need to fret over whether or not you have committed the unpardonable sin, because those who are focused on Jesus are safe and secure in His arms. Keep adjusting your sights, and zeroing yourself in to Jesus and He will work mightily and powerfully in you and through you.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.