If someone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. -1 John 4:20
One of the greatest tragedies propagated by pop evangelicalism is the the notion that one can agree with a set of statements or perform a magical incantation (the sinner's prayer) without actually pledging allegiance to, or even worshiping the Christian God. One can regularly put themselves first, treat others harshly,and lie to get ahead entirely rejecting the life Jesus came to bring us in his death and resurrection--and yet be a Christian? Jesus gave us new priorities & a new way of seeing others and our world, but if we do not actually subscribe to them other than to say we do, in what way are we Christians?
Is a practicing atheist, Buddhist or Hindu a Christian? I think most would say they aren't since they either do not worship the same god or a god. And yet, a Christian can reject all that Christ stands for and cease worshiping him and yet still be a Christian? In the Bible your life and what you do with your body is worship.
When your behavior is challenged, what are your defenses? "What I do is between me and God!" "Don't judge!" Do you project the fault onto others? Hide?
1 John is fundamentally about who one worships. What does it mean to worship something or someone? The object of worship receives one’s love, attention and elevation. It is a life orientation that is all encompassing to the extent that it rules out other behaviors or objects of worship. One can always say, I “believe” in Jesus, said the sinners prayer and have accepted him into my heart, but the question of who one worships gets at more essential questions. Has one actively pledged their life and being to the Lord? Despite words, ultimately our heart’s desire is exposed by our object of worship. It becomes transparent before God in how we treat sisters and brothers, neighbors, enemies, the mighty and lowly, when others are watching or when no one else will know.
From reading 1 John one could deduce that hating a brother or sister exposes the reality that one loves and worships an idol, not the living God who is worshiped through love of those around us (5:21). Many of us that are not accustomed to those around us bowing before images miss that we too have to resist idolatry. 1 John tells us that if we truly love God we will follow his example. Jesus conquered the evil one by not being selfish, but committing himself to humiliation and ultimate sacrifice for his enemies. If we want life in him we must do the same. When we do the opposite, we show our love, worship and allegiance to darkness. There is no image of the Christian God for us to bow to an adore and bring gifts to. Rather, the unseen God is worshiped by loving those who are seen.
If someone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20
The sinner's prayer is meant to used as a gateway or set prayer one can say to acknowledge key realities and invite the Spirit to transform us from the inside out. Admitting we are sinners and in need of a savior and inviting God into the control center of our lives. And yet somehow, it has become reduced to a magical incantation and not a pledge of allegiance, willingness to die and rejection of Satan and all his works. It is no longer the mark or beginning of a new life orientation because the Spirit convicts and helps us in life to do right by God and those around us.
The Christian God conquered the world the way his followers do, by the power of self-sacrifice and love (1 John 2:9, 12, 29, 3:3, 8, 16, 4:11, 5:4). The one who takes up the cross forsaking all else is responding to the Spirit. Their new life in Christ will be visible. This does not mean they will never mess up, but it does mean their life orientation will be one of worship. Put another way: If one claims to have pledged their life to service in the Armed Forces of the United States and yet is sabotaging their unit, going AWOL or acting in the service of the enemy--yet wearing the uniform--are they really committed? Whose side are they really on?
Do you feel conflicted? Maybe caught between self preservation and doing what is right? Respond to the Spirit not to the self. Your choice will shed light on who you worship or where your loyalty leans.
Do you delight in or recount your sin with glee? Do you feel superior to other Christians because you are or were engaged in sexual sin, used others, or put others in their place? Well, maybe you feel more edgy or better than other believers because you are not one. Maybe you have a different object of worship.
One of the tests of a believer in 1 John is treating a brother or sister with love. If you do not treat a brother or sister in Christ as one because you hate them and are opposed to what they stand for, maybe its because they are not your brother or sister because you are not in Christ? Or just became a Christian and are still learning? If this characterizes your life regularly then according to 1 John you are a liar and blinded by the dark. You do not know the way forward because you are not in the light. Those who recognize others as their brothers or as part of a sisterhood sacrifice for one another and act as a unit. Those that don't treat them as enemies, rivals or with neutrality.
The good news is that God is one who forgives every insult and every wrong against him, hence Jesus' work on the cross covers sin and "not only ours but the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). However, interestingly there is what is considered the "unforgiveable sin." How is this possible with the God who desires all people to be saved (1 Tim 2) and has basically accomplished reconciliation for all and readily forgives all evil, even his own crucifixion? I believe the unforgivable sin is resisting the Holy Spirit.
“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28-30
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:31-32
Denying the works of the Spirit which point to the identity of Jesus (not the identity of Jesus in the moment) cut a person off from the life God offers in Christ. In these passages (around these verses) how one acts is closely connected to this. One knows if someone is responding to the work of the Spirit and worshiping the Christian God in Christ by what they do. The ultimate heresy is not so much refusing or distorting a set of propositions (though it is all related), but in rebelling against the Spirit so that one is in opposition to Jesus and all he stands for, rather than "in" him.
The connection between responding to the Spirit and being in Christ is why elsewhere in the Bible the signs of the Spirit in the life of a Christian are called "fruits." They are born out of a deep abiding love and life orientation. They are gifts and a process of transformation. In 1 Timothy 1 this love is our goal in life and if it is our goal in life our priorities will revolve around it rather than chasing social standing, elevation of self and riches (though none are bad in and of themselves unless we prioritize/worship them). In Romans 5:3-5 this love poured out in our hearts is also the evidence we have that we belong to Christ as we go through difficult times. We can measure our progress in the Lord by how we respond to evil.
So what is the unforgivable sin? In my words: It is resisting the Spirit and refusing to worship and love God. This means one ends up rejecting the fundamental identity of Jesus and refuses to love those around them the way he did.
"We are in the one who is true by being in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols!" 1 John 5:20-21