“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men” (Matthew 12:31, NKJV).
“No one need look upon the sin against the Holy Ghost as something mysterious and indefinable. The sin against the Holy Ghost is the sin of persistent refusal to respond to the invitation to repent” (Ellen White, SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1093).
Even Spirit-filled people sometimes make mistakes. Abraham, Moses, David, and Peter all had defects of character and momentary failures in the hour of temptation. Even Jesus was tempted (Matthew 4), though He never yielded. So just because we are walking in the Spirit at this moment does not mean we are beyond the possibility of making mistakes, and a mistake is not the same as hardening our hearts in sin.
A woman in her later years had become calloused, discouraged, and angry. She had little tolerance for others except for her closest friends from years gone by. When visitors came to church she often made offensive comments regarding their children, their attire, or something else. Newly baptized members and others were offended by her rude criticisms. Some became so discouraged that they would not come back to church. I was in the dark about all of this until one elders’ meeting. I asked the elders if they knew why people were not returning to church. Several hung their heads in silence. Finally one elder spoke up: “Pastor, we have a lady in our congregation who cannot control her tongue. She gossips and criticizes nearly everyone. This is why people will not return to our church.” “How long has this been going on?” I asked. “For many years,” was the response. “Why hasn’t anyone done something about this?” I continued. “A couple of pastors have tried, but there is never any change.” “This simply cannot continue,” I said, “so here is what I am proposing. I will go visit this lady and require her to change her behavior within two weeks. If she is unwilling to change, then her name will be brought up to the next board meeting for discipline. Will you elders back me up on this?” The elders unanimously backed the plan.
I made arrangements to visit the lady in question. “I know why you are here,” she said when I sat down in her living room. “You do?” I replied. “Yes,” she continued, “you have come here to talk about the way I talk to people.” “That is exactly right,” I said, “but how did you know that?” “Because two other pastors have come to my home to talk about the same thing.” “Did it do any good?” I questioned. “No, it did not.” “Why?” I asked. “Because I have the right to say what I think best, and people are way too sensitive. They wear their feelings on their shirtsleeves.”
I discussed Christian behavior using verses like Ephesians 4:29-31, but the woman was still unwilling to change. With a prayer on my heart, I said, “You have two weeks to change your behavior, or I will be forced to take your name to the church board for discipline, and I have the support of all the elders on this.” “You wouldn’t do that!” she exclaimed. “Oh, yes, I will unless you decide to change the way you talk to people.” “I don’t believe the elders will back you on this,” she said. “They already have, and you can check with them if you want to, but that is the way it is,” I asserted. This revelation caused the woman to sit back and solemnly reflect in silence. I gently said, “We all love you and want you to be part of our congregation, but this behavior has to change.”
The following Sabbath she did not come to church. Her friends avoided me. I knew they were all struggling with the situation. The next Sabbath, just before her two weeks were up, she came to church. I walked up to greet her. Her face was sober, but she took my hand and held it firmly. “Pastor,” she said, “I thought over everything you said. I want you to know I now see clearly that I have been in the wrong all these years. I hope you will forgive me, and I intend to ask the forgiveness of the elders and the rest of the church. With the help of God, I will be a different woman.” Her eyes glistened with tears at this admission, and I am happy to say she was faithful to her promise. People began to come back to church, and the congregation grew rapidly.
Bible Texts to Pray About
Thank You, Lord; Come Thou Fount (Hymn #334); Have Thine Own Way, Lord (Hymn #567); I Surrender All (Hymn #309); I’d Rather Have Jesus (Hymn #327); Give Me Jesus (Hymn #305); I Will Bow to You; Lord, I Need You.