Editor's Note: This is the transcription of my recorded Bible study at Truthtellers.org.
Jesus held up the belief of a little child coming to Him as the height of sincerity. Why? Young children in their simplicity take reality for what it is. They do not manipulate or evade it. They are dependent on adults and the truths adults tell them. They are guileless. The unfeigned sincerity and simplicity of a young child is a quality we need as adults in our relationship to God. This sincerity makes it possible for us to move forward directly to God and His salvation in response to the Holy Spirit. Sincerity is our most precious gift, to be nurtured, treasured, and protected. It makes possible honest communication with God.
Most people lose their childlike sincerity when they realize that truth and reality restrict their pleasures. Rather than loving truth, they prefer rationalizations and evasions to excuse sin. This breaks off fellowship with God. We must cry to God in desperation that He will forgive our sins and all the insincere mind games that justified them. Otherwise, we will languish in insincerity, trapped in the labyrinth of our own self-delusion. Childlike sincerity can only be restored when our will and His grace work together.
When a person has grown up in an insincere worldly environment and knows little else, he has hope of finding sincerity. He has largely sinned in ignorance. It is far more dangerous to have known the whole truth and consciously chosen to deny it and rationalize sin. This is an incredible insult to Christ. God may reject such an apostate permanently, leaving that person in the state of insincerity he chose over truth and fellowship with his Creator. He literally cannot sincerely repent or cry out to God because the Holy Spirit will not draw him to redemption. He may have committed the unpardonable sin mentioned by the apostle John. (I John 5:16) God has, however, shown grace to many who have backslidden and given them the ability to cry for mercy.
When has a person sinned the unpardonable sin? The traditional theological criterion is that if this question worries you, then you probably haven’t committed it. The unpardonably sinning could not care less because the Holy Spirit is not gifting them with concern for their souls. The unpardonable sin is described in Scripture as committed by persons so loathed by God that He cut them off, unable to find sincerity for true repentance.
I believe the unpardonable sin is more common today than most realize. Let's turn to Numbers 15:27-36:
27 ‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”
32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day [rebelling against the known will and law of God]. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34 and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.
Now Korah…[and other leaders of Israel] took action, 2 and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation chosen in the assembly, men of renown. 3 They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”4 When Moses heard this, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself.
13 Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us?
14 Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”
15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.”
31 As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!” 35 Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.
But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the Lord’s people.”
Contrary to many people's image of the Old Testament, it very frequently reveals Jehovah not as a God of wrath but of incredible willingness to forgive those who have most grievously sinned against Him. David is one of the greatest figures in Scripture, a man after God's own heart. He killed the Philistine giant and remained faithful to God through great tribulations in the wilderness, fleeing Saul. But when he came to power, he seems to have been carried away with a tremendous rush of monarchial power and instant gratification of pleasure. Despite everything he knew, he lusted after a married woman, Bathsheba. This impaired his spiritual judgment to such a degree that he actually committed adultery with her, perhaps more than once. Finally, when it was found that she was pregnant, he gave orders that her husband, righteous Uriah the Hittite, be virtually executed by putting him in the very front ranks of battle. But when David was approached by the prophet Nathan and it was pointed out to him that he was the unrighteous man who had killed the beloved lamb of the poor man, instantly the sword of that reproof pierced David's heart. He realized how grievously he had sinned and repented with total sincerity.
Why did God show David mercy? Although both Korah and David received great light from God, David had a soft heart that could be entreated. He repented immediately and without excusing himself. So he found a place of grace, a stay of execution from the damnation that would have occurred otherwise. On the other hand, the curse was laid on David that for the rest of his life he would have trouble. Bloodshed would not depart from his house. This was a heavy sentence, and he did not escape the consequences of his sin.
Another king who found grace after great sin is described in I Kings 16:29:
Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.31 It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. 32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made the [l]Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. 23 Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ 24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat.” 25 Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. 26 He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel.
27 It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”
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