Overwhelmed with You!

Almighty God, You are my life, my hope, my treasure, my salvation, my security, my peace, my joy, my love, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Lord, and my God!

I have no words to express the depth of my gratitude. All I can do is worship You!

I am OVERWHELMED!

Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin?

In April 2010, my younger brother committed suicide. It is always difficult to lose a loved one; however, when they die at their own hand it just leaves you feeling guilty. You wonder why you didn’t recognize the signs, why didn’t they call to talk, where is the note telling how much they care. No matter who you talk to there is a sense that you should have done more, that you should have known, that it is somehow your fault.

Over the years, I have noticed that one of the first questions people ask is about the eternal home of those who commit suicide. As if the guilt of not being there to help them wasn’t enough, now the fear of wondering if their trying to escape what seemed like an impossible situation could have led them to an eternally worse torment. You see, there are those who believe that suicide is an unforgivable sin. There is no way you can take your life and repent afterward; therefore, the soul is lost for all eternity, forever separated from God. Clearly this is a question that needs to be addressed, and there is no better place to look than the Bible.

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches that the only unforgivable sin is “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3.22-30). Mark says the scribes were accusing Jesus of healing people by the power of Beelzebub—the prince of demons. The scribes believed Satan and his demons were behind Jesus’ power instead of the Holy Spirit. Jesus quickly warns that to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness and carries a punishment of eternal condemnation. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, one refuses to acknowledge God’s completed work through Jesus Christ His Son.

This idea is clarified in 1 John 5.10, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” Here we are told the person who does not believe the Holy Spirit’s convicting witness about Jesus as God’s Son and our propitiation has made God a liar. Clearly those who do not believe in Jesus are declaring that the message from the Holy Spirit is a lie. The Bible teaches that God cannot lie and that Satan is the father of lies (Titus 1.1-2; John 8.44). Therefore, those who do not believe are calling the Holy Spirit a liar; which is another name for Satan.

There is no forgiveness for those who reject Jesus as the only way to heaven. Since suicide is clearly not ascribing the works of the Holy Spirit to Satan then it cannot be the unforgivable sin.

The Bible also helps us find hope in Christ’s finished work. There are several passages which show that at salvation we are forgiven of all sin—past, present, and future.

  • “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ”         (Romans 8.1)
  • “For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor 5.21)
  • Jesus, “who does not need daily…to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7.27)
  • Christ “with His  own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9.12b)
  • “…once at the end of the ages, [Jesus] has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9.26b)
  • “…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10.10)
  • “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Pt 3.18)

These verses make it clear Jesus’ substitutionary atonement was once for all time. Those who believe in Him are justified before God. There cannot be any condemning accusation brought against them as Jesus has already taken their punishment. God has taken their sin and cast it as far as the East is from the West (Psalms 103.12). Since this is true, then the sin of suicide is among the many sins Christ has forgiven.

It has been four years since my brother’s death. Prior to his suicide I knew what I believed about forgiveness and suicide; however, in light of his death I was forced to put my faith to work in the promises of God. I spent hours studying God’s Word and praying for clarity and wisdom. In the end I simply had to trust God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and the promises of His Word to keep those secure who have trusted in Him. I know the life my brother lived and the faith he had in Christ, so today I am sure that he is with Jesus in heaven.

In closing let me say this, in writing an article of this nature there is a fear that there may be those who say, “Hey I can take my life and still get to heaven.” Please, please don’t take all this as a reason to escape the troubles of this life. I have not written this to make it easier for you to take your life, but for those who live every day with pain because of a loved one who took their own life. The pain, loss, guilt, and fear we live with every day can only be softened by the hope that is found in Jesus. If your life seems hopeless and the only reasonable solution in your mind is suicide, please do me a favor and call someone. Go to a hospital, a pastor, a family member, a co-worker, or even a good friend. Just find someone and tell them you need help. There is hope for a better life. It might take time to overcome whatever is causing you such great pain, but I promise, if you will trust Jesus, He will lead you to an abundant life here and now. Please believe me, Jesus is your hope!

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (for the hearing impaired TTY 1-800-799-4889) or visit the website.

A Beautiful Aroma of Praise

Graceway MediaIn Luke 7.36-50 we read the story of a Pharisee opening his home to entertain Jesus for dinner. When a certain sinful woman in the town learns that Jesus is in the house, she approaches Him with an alabaster box. She opens the box and anoints Jesus’ feet with the costly perfume. You can easily imagine the aroma of her worship filling the entire home. She was  forgiven by Jesus and wanted to express her undying love and gratitude for the grace He had shown her.

Tomorrow as we gather together in churches all around the globe, I pray the beautiful aroma of worship which rises from our hearts will fill all of Heaven. I pray our ascending love and gratitude for His grace and forgiveness is well pleasing to God—”the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God…” and that to Him “…be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1.17).

“Alabaster Box” by Cece Winans has been one of my favorite worship songs for many years. I hope it adds to your Lord’s Day of Worship.

“A Fresh Vision for America” by Billy Graham

From the Desk of Billy Graham:

All of us care a great deal about our country. The intensity of opinions and feelings during the long political campaign showed the depth of that concern.

Now with the votes counted, it is important to remember that whether we are personally pleased with the outcome or not, God wants us to pray for those chosen to be our leaders—at the national, state, and local levels. The Bible urges us to do so with both respect and thanksgiving (see 1 Peter 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:1–3).

We must also remember that no election will ever solve America’s most basic problems. That is because the trouble, at its root, is in the human heart, and the only path to true restoration—for a person or for a nation—is through repentance. The Bible says, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19–20, ESV).

Only the Gospel, God’s Good News, has the power to change lives, heal hearts, and restore a nation.

I want that to happen in America, and I know you want that as well. I turned 94 on the day after the election. Although my age and health have limited me physically in recent years, I plan to spend the next 12 months, if God permits, doing all that I am able to do in helping to carry out a fresh vision God has given us—a vision to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every possible place in America by the time of my 95th birthday. It’s called My Hope, and I pray that you will partner with us.

In the days of the Prophet Jeremiah, God commanded His people to “seek the peace and prosperity” of the land where He had placed them and to “pray to the Lord for it” (Jeremiah 29:7, NIV). I ask you to join me in committing the next 52 weeks to faithful, even fervent, prayer for this land in which we live. You can start by making a list of people you know personally who need Jesus Christ and then begin praying regularly for them, individually by name.

Pray also for your neighborhood and your city, asking God to bring men, women, teens, and children—people from your own community—to Himself during the next 12 months. And pray along with me for the nation, asking God for mercy on America and for a great spiritual awakening.

My son Franklin is spearheading this vision and outreach, working in partnership with thousands of churches across every state in the country (ask your pastor if your church plans to take part). Franklin will be sending you more details on how this will work through the coming months and how you can participate.

At the climax of My Hope one year from now, if God enables me, I want to call the entire nation to repentance and lasting hope in Jesus Christ. The message I give will be presented in a fresh format, different from preaching at a Crusade, but the same Gospel. I believe we will see God work in a mighty way.

It is my passionate, heartfelt desire to see God change hearts and lives in every community in America, and I pray He will stir the same desire in you.

Will you join Franklin and me in this bold venture?

May God bless you,

Billy Graham              

 Source: Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Losing My Religion

As I go about my day, I often ask people what they believe it takes for someone to get to heaven. Over the years I have received a multiplicity of answers—be a good person, help the poor, don’t break God’s rules, or just go to church. All these answers rely on human works to obtain right standing before God. The truth is none of these will ever move us one inch closer to heaven.

Sometimes human works and the gospel look an awful lot alike; however, the difference between the two are worlds apart. In a recent post J.D. Greear clearly explains what the gospel can do that human works (religion) cannot.

Greear writes:

Chapter 9 of Hebrews is all about dealing with guilt. The author explains that the entire Old Testament system was set up to deal with guilt, though it was powerless to do the only thing we needed it to do: purify our consciences. Religious rituals only cover sin, they cannot change the heart. Christ, to whom all the Old Testament points, is able to transform us in 3 ways that the old Temple, and, in fact, no religion, can:

1. From guilt to purity.

Hebrews 9:14 says that the blood of Christ “purifies our conscience.” The tabernacle sacrifices only ever served to cover guilt, but they could never remove it. The blood of Christ takes the penalty of guilt away forever, because through his death Jesus absorbed the penalty of sin—death—into himself. As Charles Spurgeon has said, God would be unjust to punish us for our sins, because then He would be requiring two payments for the same sin.

The forgiveness now available to us because of Christ’s death is more than a mere waiving of penalty, however. Our guilt has not only been removed, but has been replaced with purity, with love, with acceptance from the very God of the universe. In response to our sin, forgiveness says, “You may go.” The gospel tells us, “You are cherished; you may come.”

2. From dead works to loving service.

Again, in Hebrews 9:14, the author tells us that the blood of Christ purifies us “from dead works to serve the living God.” Religion is filled with all kinds of works, various attempts to get God to approve of us. These works are dead, because they are not love for God, but love for self. We perform for God not because we love Him but because we want something from him. If I were to take my friend out to dinner because I know he has a beach house, it’s not done out of love. I am making an investment: sixty bucks for a nice meal and I can score a week at the Outer Banks!

When you strive to do good works to gain acceptance, your works are dead. This is the difference between religion and the gospel. In religion you do good works to be accepted by God; in the gospel you do good works because you are accepted by God.

As John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, wrote in another of his hymns:

Our pleasure and our duty, though opposite before, Since we have seen His beauty, are joined apart no more. To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, to hear His pardoning voice, Transforms a Slave into a Child, and Duty into Choice.

Religious ritual cannot take away sin. The Jewish people made a tragic mistake. They took the symbols of sacrifice and started to treat them like they were the real thing, like adherence to religious ritual could actually take away sin. People do that today when they think that certain religious rituals (like taking communion, regular church attendance, tithing, or saying a ‘Hail Mary’) can take away their sin. At their very best they can merely covering sin, like spraying yourself with perfume instead of taking a bath. That may work a few times, but soon enough the stench permeates the perfume. The blood of Jesus does not cover our sin with some kind of religious cologne, it removes our sin and transforms our hearts. Apart from faith in Christ, religious rituals are dead works. Alive with faith, religious activity becomes loving service.

3. From dread of God to longing for Him.

As we see in Hebrews 9:28, the gospel replaces the sense of dread we used to have before God with a deep sense of longing. When we fear judgment, the thought of being in God’s presence is dreadful. The sacrifice of Jesus, however, assures us that judgment is gone, and in its place are God’s love and acceptance. When we realize this, God’s presence becomes something we desperately crave.

I see this with my kids. When I come home from a trip, my four children will rush out to meet me at my car. My four-year-old daughter will immediately start to give me the details of everything that happened while I was away. It doesn’t make much sense, since she’s four, but she knows I’ll listen eagerly. They know that I long to be near them, so they long to be near me. When they think I am angry, however, or in a bad mood, they stay away. Many people are like that with God. They dread being around Him because they fear displeasure or judgment.

The gospel gives us the confidence of a beloved child before God. Rather than fearing His judgment, we sense only approval and tenderness. We cry “Abba, Father,” and we begin to long for Him.