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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hell: A vaild motivation for evangelism? - Pt. II

So, the subject of hell and witnessing came up in Sunday school this morning and I immediately remembered that I never finished this post! So here is Part II.

3. If we talk about Hell without Heaven; or if we talk about both without mentioning what Jesus means to us today, we are giving an incomplete Gospel.

The Gospel concerns the kingdom of God and the good news that it is in our midst and we have been liberated to live in its reality, now, through the blood atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think that it is vital that we not forget to talk about what the Gospel means to our temporal lives. We must not forget that a good part of the world is philosophically dogmatized against the idea of an afterlife, much less a judgment. That is why the demonstration and discussion of our faith in Christ and how he is working in us now is essential. When we begin to demonstrate, in real life, the validity of the claims of the Gospel, then we are able to discuss the other truths that are associated with it (afterlife, judgment, eschatology, doctrine, etc).  The Gospel is primarily good news that a lot of times we rob of its power because we believe that if we scare people enough or if we spiritually “bribe” them, then we are assuring their eternal salvation in a ritual rather than in becoming more like Christ. Is it wrong to get people to pray and receive Christ? No, but if that is all we do, we don’t give them the tools and attention they need to be able to discern whether their conversion is genuine.

4. You do have to talk about Hell.

I am not embarrassed about the existence of hell; I am not going around knocking on doors but I have had conversations both internet and otherwise that point people to Christ.  We cannot avoid hell, no matter how uncomfortable the subject makes us. The Scriptures speak of an awful, wretched judgment for those who will not accept and trust in the grace of God through work of Jesus Christ. Hell is eternal separation from God; no fiery inferno can begin to imagine or capture what that means. People who live without Christ are already living in the reality of hell…they just don’t realize it. God’s grace touches the righteous and unrighteous; his compassion is extended to both. So, the goodness that the unrepentant person sees in this life is all that they have. Knowing this, we must speak the truth in love or we reveal that we really don’t believe in hell ourselves.

5. Hell is morally justifiable.

One of the biggest objections to hell is that, “a loving God would not punish someone so cruelly and without some sort of cessation.” Well, to this I reply that if God did not love His children, then he would never send anyone to hell.  God is both love and holiness; the Scriptures are full of this balancing wisdom that characterizes God’s interaction with His people. Since God is a God of holiness, then he must be a God of justice. God has promised justice for the oppressed who call out to him; he has promised to avenge the enemies of His children. Therefore, if God indeed loves those who call upon him, he must provide justice. Look at the scene in Revelation Ch. 6: When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" (v. 9-10 ESV) It is clear that there must be a price paid for God to uphold justice: Judgment or  an acceptable substitute. God has given men a choice: either take upon yourself the blood of Christ or be held accountable for your sin debt. Either way, a God who loves his people will seek to right their wrongs; he will do so either by his own sacrifice or by eternal judgment.

Is hell a valid motivation for evangelism? Sure it is. However, I have seen zeal for someone’s eternal destination overcome the patience needed for God to use them to be an agent of transformation in a person’s soul. Part of being eternally with God, is for God to bring healing and restoration now. We must never forget that we are called to deliver people out of the darkness of ignorance with the light of the Gospel, which is the good news concerning our Lord Jesus Christ; our message should overwhelmingly be a message of hope and liberation rather than one of doom and condemnation.

Grace and Peace



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