God has a plan

He is risen

It’s Easter morning, 2020.  I had so many plans for Easter weekend; pastors always have ideas and plans for Easter Weekend.  I am always overwhelmed with our Good Friday Service.  Our Easter outreach is so much fun.  I love seeing our church reaching into the community and blessing her. I’ve attended 5 Easter Sunrise Services; this would have been 6.  Our Easter Worship Celebration would have been amazing.  The sanctuary would have been full, the music amazing, and even the sermon would be good that day.  But God had a different plan. Our church is gathering online for the fourth week in a row. I keep telling our people we are the scattered gathered church every Sunday at 10:30 am.  I woke up in a little bit of a funk, but I realize God’s plan is always better than my plan.  It’s still Easter, and He is still risen.  Here are some thoughts for you today.

It’s Easter, and Jesus is risen.  He is alive. 1 Peter 1:3 reminds us He is our “living hope.”  I was able to meet with my church on Facebook live this morning at 6:45 am.  I was able to share it with them for about 45 minutes. Probably too long for some, but it blessed my heart to see the people gathering with me as the church.  Most Sunrise services we are freezing and trying to figure out how to cut things short.  Today, I was able to speak and hopefully bless those who heard. God’s plan is better than mine.  Oh, did I mention, many more people will hear today’s Sunrise Service than ever before.  God’s plan is better.

At 10:30 am, our church will gather on Facebook for our Easter Service.  It’s not ideal.  In fact, I don’t like it much.  But is it the right thing to do.  We love our neighbors and people of Salina enough to stay home.  We know the church is not about where we are but who we are.  Church, I also want you to know, because of the safer-at-home order, more people will hear the good news of our Living Hope today than maybe any single day in the history of man.  Millions of people who may not have attended church today will listen to church online.  Preachers will preach a risen Lord, and they will point the lost to salvation in Jesus alone.  Let me assure you, the “Safer-at-home” order is worth it if people hear about Jesus.  Have you noticed; God’s plan is always better than our plan?

As you begin your Easter Sunday, plan on joining your church and supporting your pastor today.  He is working very hard for you, and he loves you greatly.  Today our gathering is different, but let me promise you, the enemy can not keep the church from gathering to celebrate our risen Lord.   It’s different in some ways but also the same in many other ways. Worship Jesus today and every day.

God always knows best. Trust in Him.  Join us at 10:30 am at https://www.facebook.com/fsbcsalina/.

Happy Easter! He is risen.

Lessons from Dr. Ronnie Floyd

Preaching to the camera

Pastors, we are indeed in a unique time, and we are in this together.  I saw a funny Facebook meme that said something like, “We have all become televangelists during Covid-19.”  Isn’t that an amazing and humbling thought. I’m rookie at this and learning along with you. Easter is in a few days. Most of us will be preaching to a camera in an empty room.  I know most of us are learning as we go. Our heart’s cry is to love our people, teach our people, and preach the gospel during this “Safer-at-Home” period. Through this period of learning and trial and error, I have been blessed by the fantastic staff and volunteers who have created a viable online worship experience for our church.  If we can help you in any way, please let me know. We do things simply, but through the resources and work of the team, it looks good. Please contact me if you have any questions, I’d love to link you with our Associate Pastor, Lane. He can show you what we do and help you with your online worship service. 

I listened to a short video done by Texas Baptists[1]. The conference title piqued my interest, “How to Preach to a Camera.”  Even a few months ago, who dreamed we would be preaching this way. Dr. Ronnie Floyd was the guest speaker. He outlined seven preaching points as we all preach to the camera.  One of the best reminders was to “Preach through the camera to your audience.” Preachers, I echo Dr. Floyd’s encouragement when he says, “Preachers, we can do this.” I offer his seven points with a little personal commentary to encourage and equip you in this process like it did for me

  1. Connect with the audience eye-to-eye. He encouraged us to use our eyes to catch the emotion of the audience.
  2. Communicate through your personality. This is a great reminder. He said, “You are you. You be you and don’t imitate.  God will use you.” He reminded us preaching is to “Communicate the Word of God through human personality.” 
  3. Carry out your calling to preach the Word of God. Floyd said, “Don’t be intimidated by the camera.”  It is a tool you use to preach the Word of God. He looked in the camera and said, “Listen to me, preacher, preach.”
  4. Conceptualize your audience.  By this, he meant to think and imagine your audience.  Everyone who listens to you will need encouragement. Be an encourager.  I realize our audience will be worried and scared. Therefore, let’s give them Jesus. 
  5. Create an ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit. I loved this quote, “Give the Word of God in your human personality in the power of God.”  It’s difficult to preach to an empty room. Ask and beg God to give power in your preaching.
  6. Call people into a relationship with Jesus. One of the critical lessons I took from this is to make sure you have a way to follow-up.  Send people to your website. Have tools there to follow-up with your audience.
  7. Crisis creates innovation; therefore, innovate as you go and grow. I’m asking God to grow my church and me during this time. 

Pastor, I’m praying for you.  We will preach to a crowd again.  Until then, allow God to use you in this unique season of ministry.  Minister well. Preach the gospel. God will use you. As you navigate these waters, let me leave you with two questions I continually contemplate.

  •       How does God want to use this season to make me a better preacher and pastor?
  •       What innovations are we using now that we can carry on into the future?

Finally,

  •       What is something you can do this Easter to make it one of the most evangelistic Easter services ever? 

Thank you Dr. Floyd for helping Kansas-Nebraska preachers.  It is appreciated. 

I’m praying for you, pastor.  Let me know if we can be of help to you.  Have a blessed Holy Week and a glorious Easter. 

 

[1] https://training.sbtexas.com/onlinetraining/how-to-preach-to-a-camera/1485/

 

Good Friday and the Lord’s Supper

Scattered buy United

It’s early Monday morning of Holy Week.  Even now, I’m contemplating and meditating on our Lord’s last week.  In a few minutes, I’m meeting with my nephews to offer you a devotion pertaining to our Lord’s last week.  And honestly, as I sit here, my heart is longing to corporately gather with you to worship God.  I know we will meet again, but only God knows when, and that is enough for me. I keep reminding you that we are the church scattered but united and not the church scattered and divided.  The church is not where we are but who we are. On Good Friday, Shawn and I will be recording a short Good Friday service for you. We will worship our great God and King through song, scripture, and taking the elements of the Lord’s Supper.  I have prayed over the taking of the Lord’s Supper and have concluded it is good and right for you and me to worship Jesus and remember His sacrifice in this way. I know some will disagree with my assessment. Therefore, I want to share with the church how I came to this conclusion. 

In “normal” times, I am one of those who believe the ordinances of the Church, Baptism and Lord’s Supper, should be held within the authority and community of the gathered church. However, have you noticed we are not in “normal” times?  We are in an extraordinary season of church life; it has not been church as usual for weeks. The current “normal” is a scattered but unified church. In my heart, I think there is no greater picture of our unity as a church body than taking the elements of the Lord’s Supper together though scattered.  I think this will be a very holy moment for us all.

One of the stories the Lord impressed upon my heart is David eating the consecrated bread in the Temple.  All three synoptic gospels tell this story. In Matthew 12:1-8, Jesus reflects on this narrative and describes the details.  Notice the Pharisees are stalking Jesus and hoping to trap Him and accuse Him. It is the Sabbath, and according to the Law, it was unlawful for a Jew to do any work on the Sabbath. In fact, “Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people” (Exodus 31:14). The leaders were so worried about working on the Sabbath that they created rules upon rules and missed the heart of it all. In doing so, they placed a heavy yoke upon the people.

In this story, David, not yet King David, “entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for them to do” (Matthew 12:4). It was unlawful for them to enter into the “house of God ” much less eat of the sacred bread.  But Jesus’ point was this was an uncommon and extraordinary time, and David ate and fed his men because it was right, and the Law does not trump a man’s heart. Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 and says, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Notice also, Jesus breaks the Sabbath in the next few verses by healing a man.  Religion is more about the heart and relationship than it is about Law and performance. Let’s not be so rigid in our application that we miss the heart of the Supper. These are unprecedented days, and I feel we are pleasing the Lord when we remember His body and blood as a united but scattered church.

I think this can help us in deciding if we can take the Lord’s Supper on Friday. First, I will still be serving you the elements.  Even though we are scattered, we are united under Christ. I will be serving you and walking through the elements of the Supper as if we were in the same room.  Under “normal” circumstances, we would not serve the elements of the Supper this way. But these are not ordinary days. I also hold to the Priesthood of the Believer.  In your union with Christ, you have become a priest of God. There is no longer a priestly class to mediate between you and God. Every believer has the right to read, interpret, and apply the teachings of God’s Word.  In these unparalleled days, I think the authority each believer has will allow them to serve the elements of the Supper, while still under the authority of the local church. Let me stress, if you are uncomfortable serving the elements, let me encourage you to join us in watching the Good Friday service but do not take the elements.

Let me offer a little more advice. Husbands and dads use this time to shepherd your wife and family.  God has called you to lead your family as the pastor/shepherd of your home. Treat this as a holy moment.  Lead your family well. Talk to your family about why we do this. Our Good Friday video will be uploaded at 6:00 pm on Good Friday. Teach your family, lead them in worship, and serve them in this holy time. If you are single, please allow me to be your shepherd as if we were together. I will walk you through the elements and take the Supper with me.

One of my prayers is through this Supper on Good Friday, our hearts will joyfully and faithfully join the heavenly chorus in joyful worship to God. I also pray, taking this Lord’s Supper scattered but united, will place a deep hunger in our hearts for the day we will no longer be scattered but will enjoy the Lord’s Supper together for the first time since “Safer-at-Home.”  Further, I can think of no better way to remind us that though we are scattered, we are united in the Body of Christ. 

We will use a “Fellowship Cup” that contains both the wafer and juice.  You will need to pick these up this week at the church. More details about this will follow. Join us Good Friday, April 10, at 6:00 pm.

Ready to Worship? Online?

FSBC 1 Main-Logo-Color-

This is a very strange Saturday.  I’ve already preached my Sunday sermon.  Most Saturdays my mind is consumed with thoughts of the upcoming message and how to enhance and bring it to life. However, we recorded the service on Friday and Lane has been getting it ready. Except for not making me look thinner, it looks great.

It is a very unique time in the history of our nation.  As a church, we have chosen to do what we can to help minimize the risk of the virus and practice social distancing. We have decided not to meet as a church on March 22nd and 29th.  We will reevaluate at that time.  All of this to say, you will worship as a family in your home for at least the next two weeks. What will it look like?

Allow me an opportunity to encourage you in a few things.

  1. Keep your Sunday “normal.” Make Sunday as normal as possible. Wake up at your normal time. Eat breakfast as if it were a normal Sunday. You may even want to pile into the car, drive around the block, and get into a family fight before worship. Again, keep your Sunday normal.  I know some will watch the service in the pajamas or sweats, and that’s sure ok. Others may want to dress in their Sunday best. But up to 10:30 am, create the atmosphere that you are actually attending church.
  2. Pray before the service. We will post our service at 10:30 am. Before the service, pray with your family. Expect God to speak to you.  Expect to be moved by the Holy Spirit.  You are going to church!
  3. Engage in the worship service. Our service will be streamed online. Our worship pastor, Shawn, did an amazing job leading in worship. Sing with him. Pray with him.  Treat it just like you would if you were in the room with Shawn. Parents lead the way.  Your children will follow your lead.
  4. Open the Bible. Follow along. Things are a little different this week. This is more a topical message on attributes of God. But take time to look at scripture. My next series will journey through the book of Colossians. It’s a great book. On Sunday, I’ll be looking at a passage in Isaiah 40 and 43.
  5. Give as a family. This is a great time to teach your children about the importance of giving and its worship implication. In your offering, you are worshiping God, stepping out in faith and acknowledging He is the source of all our blessings. You can give online at www.fsbcsalina.com. I’d encourage you to do this as an act of worship and as a family.
  6. Follow-up – After the service, take time to follow-up. Ask questions to your family. Dad, if you are able, ask your children if they have questions. If they don’t, ask them a question. It can be as simple as, “If God is all-powerful, what does that mean for you?”  “How does that help us right now?”  Your children need to be reassured this week.  Let them know God is in control even over the coronavirus. Remind them it’s temporary and will not last forever.
  7. Plan on eating as a family. Take time to eat lunch as a family. This would be a great place for follow-up.

Be a part of our service. Actively engage in worship. Take notes. If you have any questions, please let me know. It’s not the ideal situation for corporate worship, but you and your family will be blessed. Remember, part of our desire is to take the gospel of Christ from our corner to every corner.  This Sunday we will do just that.  I’m a little excited.  Join our church this Sunday at 10:30 am.  Find us on our public Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fsbcsalina/. It will be posted on a website later that day.  The church may be online tomorrow, but remember, the church is not where you meet but who you are. We are the body of Jesus Christ.

The Coronavirus

samoan bible verses Pretty Do not be afraid I am with you Isaiah 43 5It is an extraordinary time indeed.  As you wake up today, Thursday, March 12, 2020, you find yourself in very uncharted waters. In my fifty some odd years, I’ve never seen anything like this. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared the Coronavirus a pandemic, The National Basketball Association suspended their season, and the NCAA have decided to play games in empty stadiums.  It is a fascinating time. How should a Christian respond to events like this pandemic?

  1. Do not be afraid – God is sovereign. He knew this virus and has allowed it to hit the United States.  Scripture tells us, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, love, and of self-discipline” (2 Tim 1:7).  God has sovereignly given us an excellent outline to follow in life. Don’t be afraid, love each other, and conduct yourself with self-discipline.  That seems very wise to me. Don’t live in fear. Find practical ways to love others during this time and use measures of self-discipline. 
  2. Do not worry – Likewise, don’t let yourself jump to a conclusion of worry.  We find our contentment in Christ. Remember the Savage paraphrase I gave you on Sunday of Matthew 6:33. “Your commitment to God’s causes and His character will produce your contentment.”  Don’t live in worry. Seek first God’s Kingdom, even during a pandemic. God is! God reigns! And God is in control! Live as if you believe these truths.
  3. Be Wise – Now for the flip side.  Live wisely. If you have a suppressed or compromised immunity, be extremely careful. Do what you can to not put yourself in a position where you can contract this virus.  Keep healthy hygiene habits. Wash your hands. Do everything you can not to spread a cold or flu to others. If you have symptoms, stay home. Some of this is merely using self-discipline and keeping yourself as healthy as possible. To our “older” population in the church, be very careful.  I keep hearing you are at the most significant risk. It’s ok to stay at home. If you need anything, please let me know. Lane and I will be happy to serve you in any way possible. However, we can’t if you don’t contact us. Furthermore, if anyone has symptoms of the flu or a bad cold, please take appropriate actions.  Again I say, it’s advisable to stay home. 
  4. Be Salt and Light – Christians have an opportunity to respond with great faith in God and trust in His care.  Let people see your faith. Talk to them. God may allow you to share why you are not afraid. Many people will be afraid and will be very worried. Let your world know in whom you believe and trust. We are holy, different, and we need others to see our confidence in God.

I want you to know I am taking the Coronavirus very seriously. I realize I am not an expert, but I am in communication with our experts.  God has blessed our church with many doctors and nurses. As of today, we do not have plans to cancel our services or other events. I have opened a dialogue with our doctors and I’m taking their recommendations very seriously. They confirm we are safe to meet.  There are no known cases in Salina. This might, and probably will change. At that time, we will readdress this issue and will get the recommendations of our doctors. This is a very fluid situation. Our decision to continue to meet may change if the virus spreads.  If we must cancel services, we are set up very well. I will be able to teach and preach via our Facebook page. Our Life Group ministry will be even more critical. Please remember, you can continue to faithfully give your tithes and offerings through our online giving function on our website www.fsbcsalina.com.

Don’t be afraid and don’t worry. Be wise. Take good care of yourself and do what you can to personally limit the spread of any illness.  Our older members must be especially diligent in this matter. If you are not connected to our church by Facebook or email, please do so. You can sign-up for our emails at www.fsbcsalina.com.  We have a public and private Facebook page. Please contact me if you would like more information. 

Let me close with two tweets from James Merritt, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor.  “I pray a cure will be developed, the infected will be healed and the healthy will be protected. From a divine perspective, I pray that God would be glorified, the gospel would be magnified, and the church would be edified.”  Will you join me in this prayer? He also sent out this tweet, “The Coronavirus gives all Jesus followers a divine opportunity to display to the world how to respond rather than react. So today I choose worship over worry. I choose faith over fear. I choose peace over panic, believing in a sovereign God who gives saving grace.”  

Join me in the same choice of living for the Kingdom of God.   May God be glorified today and every day. How can God use you to advance His Kingdom during this virus for His glory and the good of others?  

 

Sovereignty & Free Will

 As we prepare our hearts for Easter, I’ve been walking through a series of sermons on the attributes of God. My greatest desire is to have our people know God better so they will love Him more.  We’ve looked at His uniqueness and His holiness. There is none like God. He is holy and set apart. This week we come to an attribute that ties all the attributes together. We are looking at the sovereignty of God. Put simply, as the word itself hints at, our God reigns (Isaiah 52:7).  God is above all, superior to all He is in control of all our God reigns. In His sovereignty, there is nothing that happens that is not allowed by or caused by God. God’s sovereignty is His absolute rule and control over all creation. When looking at the sovereignty of God, it does not take long for someone to ask, “How about man’s free will?”  In light of that question, I want to submit to you a short theological answer to the balance between the sovereignty of God and man’s free will.

Allow me a simple note.  I realize I am trying to make a very complex issue probably too simple.  I know there are many avenues to traverse when looking at the teachings of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.  I’m not directing this blog to the many incredible scholars but to the “common” person sitting in the pew of my church.  I want them to know the basics of the argument and to know this is not an either/or debate but believing a balanced view of sovereignty and free will is well within the boundary of orthodoxy.

There are basically two large schools of thought. First, there is libertarian free will.  This camp is most rooted in Arminian theology and is fleshed out in the teachings of Jacobus Arminius.  Libertarian free will states that man is free to make choices that have not been predetermined by any outside agent.  They would argue that libertarian free will is essential for moral responsibility. In this school, a person has the power to act or refrain from action at any point.

On the complete other side of the debate is a school of thought called determinism.  This school of thought is rooted in John Calvin and is best expressed in Calvinism. In determinism, all events that happen are preordained, predestined or predetermined by God.  Within this camp, there is a group that stands as “hard determinist” which completely takes away man’s freewill and places all responsibility on God.  There is also a “soft determinist” thought that allows for the sovereignty of God but also allows for the man’s free will.

Are these two schools mutually exclusive?  Are they the only option Scripture allows?  Even a cursory reading of the Bible will show both the free will of man and the sovereignty of God.  For good verses on free will see: John 5:40, John 7:17, Isaiah 55:6-7, Jeremiah 29:13, Ezekiel 18:30-32 just to name a few. Even the theological teaching of temptation obviously implies the person’s ability to choose right or wrong.  Temptation makes no sense without free will. The sovereignty of God is also an obvious teaching in Scripture. For verses on the Sovereignty of God see Psalm 115:3, 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, Job 42:2, Isaiah 46:9-10 and Psalm 103:19 to only name a few.  The basic nature of God demands sovereignty.  I think we can actually see a strong tension between free will and sovereignty in John 5 and 6. You see throughout the text that only the Father draws man and no one can come to the Father unless drawn by him (Sovereignty, election etc.).  But you do not look far in John 5 and 6 to see over and again, “anyone who believes has eternal life” (free will, man’s responsibility, etc.)

Who is correct in this debate?  The Arminian school seems to take God out of the equation while the more hyper-Calvinist seems to take the man out of the equation.  In my life, I’ve found that so often when there are two diametrically opposed views, the truth is often found somewhere between two poles. This is true in politics, theology, and life. Allow me a chance to offer you a more balanced perspective. It is what theologians call compatibilist freedom or sometimes called “soft determinism.”  I have found this to be a very good balance between the two views. This view says free will and sovereignty are compatible with each other.

Compatibilism affirms that man freely chooses what God has determined He will choose. In this view, God is sovereign and rules and reigns over all things. Man is free to choose but will not choose against his nature and desires.  Due to the effects of the fall, man’s nature is corrupted, and he is unable to choose contrary to his broken nature unless God intervenes.

Millard Erickson is helpful to us.  Here are a few quotes from his Christian Theology book[1]:

– “God, foreknowing the infinite possibilities, chooses to bring to existence the individual who will freely decide to respond to every situation as God intends.” (in notes on page 329)

– “… I may choose one action over another because it holds more appeal to me. But I may not be fully in control of the appeal each of those actions holds for me. (328)

– “I am free to choose among various options. But my choice will be influenced by who I am. Therefore, my freedom must be understood as my ability to choose among options in light of who I am. And who I am is a result of God’s decision and activity. (329).

– “Most of the time, however, the picture is more like God making his will so persuasive and attractive that persons willingly and even joyfully accept it and carry it out.  As an old song put it, ‘He didn’t compel them against their will; he just make them willing to go.’” (331).

– I have adopted the compatibilistic view, not because Scripture explicitly teaches it, but because it fits better with the teaching regarding God’s plan…” (331)

 

In other words, you are free to choose but your freedom is limited to God’s plan and purposes for you. God has given you freedom but he has limited your freedom in how He created you, where you live, and by the person you are.

I think A.W. Tozer can help explain this better. In his classic work, “The Knowledge of the Holy” he acknowledges “one of the marks of God’s image in man is his ability to exercise moral choices.”[2].  In the chapter on sovereignty, Tozer gives a very good balanced view. He writes, “Here is my view: God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice, and man from the beginning has fulfilled that decree by making his choice between good and evil. When he chooses to do evil, he does not thereby countervail the sovereign will of God but fulfills it, inasmuch as the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it… Man’s will is free because God is sovereign.” [3]

Tozer also gives us a very good illustration that seems to balance the two views very well.  “An ocean liner leaves New York bound for Liverpool.  Its destination has been determined by proper authorities.  Nothing can change it.  This is at least a faint picture of sovereignty.  On board the liner are several scores of passengers.  These are not in chains, neither are their activities determined for them by decree.  They are completely free to move about as they will. They eat, sleep, play, lounge about on the deck, read, talk, altogether as they please; but all the while the great liner is carrying them steadily onward toward a predetermined port.  Both freedom and sovereignty are present here and they do not contradict each other.”[4]

There are none who are totally free except the Triune God alone.  God has rendered certain the end, His plans will not be thwarted. Is man free? I think Erickson is very helpful here as well and sums up my thoughts and allows us to see the tension between sovereignty and free will. Erickson writes, “We conclude that if by freedom is meant a random choice, human freedom is a practical impossibility.  But if by freedom is meant the ability to choose between options, human freedom exists and is compatible with God’s having rendered our decisions and actions certain” [1](332).  God is sovereign and man is free.  You will be responsible for the choices you make in life.  Like Moses, I say to you, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:29).  It is your choice and you are responsible.  I pray God is drawing you to Himself.

In closing, let me remind you, “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but the revealed things belong to us…” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  There are truths God has not fully revealed to us.  We are also reminded we know in part (1 Corinthians 13:9) and we can affirm with Paul, “Oh the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God. How unsearchable His judgments and untraceable his ways” (Romans 11:33). Don’t be so arrogant to think you know it all or even can fully comprehend the sovereignty and free will of man.  In the tension of the two, there remains a mystery that only God comprehends. Therefore, leave the tension, accept the mystery, trust in His sovereignty and worship our great good and wise God.

 

 

 

 

[1] Erickson, Milard J., Christian Theology Third Edition, Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic, 2013

[2] Tozer, A.W., The knowledge of the Holy, New York, NY: HarperCollins, 29.

[3] Ibid., 110-11

[4] Ibid., 111

 

The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

As we prepare our hearts for Easter, people in the church are reading the Gospels.  Yesterday we read Matthew 12.  Questions about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit have come up.  Has anyone else wondered about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? In a little over 300 words, let me help you out. First, always look for context.  Note verses 18-21.  Matthew is reminding the reader that the coming Messiah would be endowed from on high with the Holy Spirit.  Next, notice too that this passage is dealing with evil and good. It is dealing with things of God and things of Satan.  He talks about a good tree and an evil tree. He talks about an evil generation and unclean and evil spirits.  This entire chapter is a picture of the work of Satan and the work of the Holy Spirit. Consider verse 24.  “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Do you notice anything there?  The Pharisees are speaking to Jesus with such contempt calling Jesus simply “this fellow” or “this man.” You can see and hear their hard hearts (See 12:34).  They had seen the work of the Holy Spirit, but instead of embracing Jesus as the proven Messiah, they credit the miracles of God to Beelzebub.  It’s not that God is unwilling to forgive, but the person is rejecting God. Therefore, anyone who has willfully and blatantly opposed the work of the Holy Spirit, and misidentifies His work as that of Satan, this person has rejected, not only the Holy Spirit, but he has rejected God’s Messiah. Jesus is the only way to heaven.  Reject Him, and only eternal condemnation remains. Henry Alfred is helpful: “It is not a particular species of sin which is here condemned but a definite act showing a state of sin, and that state a willful, determined opposition to the present power of the Holy Spirit; and this as shown by its fruit, blasphemy. The declaration, in substance, often occurs in the New Testament” (The New Testament for English Readers, from Desiring God).