I Will Lift My Eyes

By Bob Pittenger

What a beautiful song by Bebo Norman!

I absolutely love the lyrics in the chorus,  “I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can’t climb. I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild. I will lift my eyes to the Healer of the hurt I hold inside. I will lift my eyes, lift my eyes to You.

I hope this uplifting song leads you in worshipping our God, Savior, and Lord!

 

 

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.

Desperate for the Holy Spirit

So, now you’re a Christian, and you figure the next thing you need to do is get a Bible and start reading. The more you read the more you see changes that need to happen in your life. In fact, it may take the rest of your life to get all these rules, commandments, and instructions down to an art. Nevertheless, it is like mom always said, “You can do anything if you just put your mind to it.” So, that is exactly what you do. You roll up your sleeves and get busy conforming your life to look like the Word of God. Sooner or later you find yourself discouraged at your own failure and inconsistency with living out this new-found faith. You know that as a Christian the Holy Spirit of God is living within to equip you for every good work, and yet, failure seems to be the only thing you can do correctly!

Does any of this sound familiar? I know after thirty-eight years of being a Christian, I have had more than my fair share of days not living up to Christ’s standard. Maybe the problem is this–we too often look at the Bible as a “How to for Christian Dummies.” We think that if we work hard, are determined to change, only think positive good thoughts, help others, and give of our time that surely we will begin to look like Jesus. Yet, regardless of our efforts, failure still rules the day. Why? Now, that is an easy question to answer. The Bible clearly teaches that we could never be good enough to earn our salvation, yet after becoming a Christian, we seem to think that we can read the Bible and then conform ourselves into the image of Christ. The truth is, only the Holy Spirit can bring about true spiritual transformation into our lives.

We will never be transformed into the image of Christ until we learn how to live in light of the Holy Spirit working within our heart—allowing Him to work through us for God’s glory. When we begin to be filled with and walk in the Spirit, we will see a growing maturity in our daily life.

If you struggle with living out the Christian life on a daily basis, I would encourage you to listen to this message from last Sunday, November 4: Desperate for the Holy Spirit. We talked about a few of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in us to change us, and that unless we allow Him to do His work, we will never be transformed into the image of Christ. You can download or listen to the message by following this link: Desperate for the Holy Spirit.

I pray that God will use this message to help you “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which
belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4.13 NASB).

The Needle Was this Big!

As a boy growing up I remember having to go to the health department to get my shots in order to start school. I do not have any idea what they were for, but I most definitely remember the atmosphere.

You would sign in and then sit in a waiting area for your name to be called. In the waiting area there were a lot of kids doing one of two things—begging mom in tears, “Don’t make me get a shot. I’ll be good. Don’t let them stick me mommy!” or they were, what I like to call, scream-crying. I would explain the last one to you, but I am certain just thinking about a child scream-crying will cause you to take two aspirin.

Here I am, a little kid and all, watching other kids being tortured with the thought of getting a shot or in hysterics from being viciously attacked with a giant needle. My anxiety level was rapidly climbing the charts, mostly because I was imagining a shot about the size of the Seattle Space Needle. As the minutes ticked away I began to fantasize of what was about to happen. I could imagine several nurses holding me down while the doctor put the ever-growing needle into my arm. The longer I had to wait with the many other kids crying hysterically only heightened my sense of dread.

Realizing there was no way I could go through with this, I began to plan out my speech to my mother. I had made a list of all the chores I could do if only we would leave right now. But before I could get the words out it happened—“Bobby Pittenger, could you please come back to see the doctor?”

What happened next was like a blur. There was only one doctor and his nurse with me. No one was there to help hold me down. The initial stick of the needle hurt a little, but within seconds the pain and the bleeding stopped. It seemed as if it had only taken five minutes, but that could not possibly be true, could it? I remember thinking, “Is that it?” All the anxiety, crying, screaming, begging, and pleading for a little stick in the arm? Clearly the anxiety of wondering what was going to happen was far greater than the actual event. And if the truth were told, the torture I expected to endure was all in my head. I guess an anxious heart can be very, very deceptive.

How often does an anxious heart deceive us in regard to life’s difficulties? Philippians 4.6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Be anxious for nothing. Don’t let bills, health, work, money, or anything else cause anxiety in your life. God doesn’t give us a loop-hole for a little bit of anxiety? Nope, He says, “Don’t be anxious.”

Fortunately, God doesn’t leave us hanging with just a “Thou Shalt Not Command.” Notice His plan to avoid anxiety:

  1. Prayer—spend time talking with God each day.
  2. Supplication—seek Him, share your concerns.
  3. With thanksgiving—tell Him how thankful you are for His presence, provision, protection, and promises during you difficulties.
  4. Share your requests—be honest about your needs, wants, and wishes.

Obeying God’s plan for defeating anxiety guarantees “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Questions for Group Discussion

I. Paul promised the peace of God would guard our hearts and minds when we cast our cares upon Him.  There are times when we move our focus from God toward the problem. You may not be immediately overcome by anxiety, however, like quicksand, the more you struggle the faster you sink. With that in mind:

  1. What is something that has caused great anxiety in your life?
  2. Where did the anxiety take you (fear, worry, fretting, anger, blaming, doubt)?
  3. How would things have been different if you had kept your focus on God and allowed Him to guard your heart and mind?

II. God has said that all of creation is good (see Genesis 1-2). We know that He created these things for our enjoyment, which brings Him glory. So…

  1. What are some of the ways you find comfort during stressful or difficult times? (e.g. family time, food, company, TV, shopping, etc.)
  2. How do these point you toward God?
  3. How do you ensure that these things are from God and not just your efforts to mask the fear and anxiety?

III. After being unjustly beaten, Paul and Silas were able to demonstrate the peace that surpasses all understanding while imprisoned in Philippi. Jesus lived out this peace throughout His journey to the cross. So…

  1. How did He remain in peace even when the wrath of God was about to be poured out upon Him?
  2. Remembering that Jesus is a human just like you, how can you have peace even when the world seems to be crumbling down around you?

Pentecost: Catch the Fire

Hope to see you at Living Oaks Baptist Church this Sunday as we continue our study through the book of Acts.  This week we will examine Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2.14-36).  It is going to be a wonderful day of worship through song and the study of God’s Word.  I hope to see you Sunday at 10:45 a.m.

Catch the Wind

When you go sailing the last thing you want to do is just drift on the water.  The whole idea of “sailing” is to use the wind’s power to move you toward your desired destination.  In order to catch the wind you have to raise the sails.  With the sails raised you are ready to use the wind to set off on a wonderful adventure.

As Christian if we want to set out on the ocean of life in the direction that best glorifies God then we must learn to raise our sails and catch the wind of the Holy Spirit.  It is when the power of the Holy Spirit is caught within our spiritual sails that we are able to set out on a journey far greater than we could have ever imagined.

This Sunday we will be looking at a few of the ways the first believers raised their sails in order to catch the wind of the Holy Spirit.  I would love for you to join us at 10:45 a.m. this Sunday, October 9th at Living Oaks Baptist Church as we continue our study through the New Testament book of Acts.

You’re Invited to Church

Tomorrow morning we will be continuing our study through the book of Acts. In the first eleven verses Luke tells us of Jesus teaching the disciples during the forty days between His resurrection and ascension to heaven.  So far we looked at the infallible proofs of His resurrection as well as His clarification on the Kingdom of God.

In the morning we will examine a few truths about the Indwelling Spirit and Jesus’ return.  I hope you will join us at Living Oaks Baptist Church at 9:30 a.m. for Bible study and 10:45 a.m. for worship. 

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the LORD.” (Ps. 122.1)