Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wishing Meets Reality

I had a comment I chose not to publish on my blog last week, even though frankly I can’t afford to get very choosy since I have less than a dozen comments a year. (That’s what I’m talkin’ about!) The reason I chose not to publish the comment was that it was so far erroneous as far as doctrine went that I feared it might encourage that rare reader who comes to my blog unbidden.

The reader who commented evidently thought Scripture to be something which needed to be corrected; the wise person could “reset” the button on what God really meant. Thus, in the final analysis, God becomes defined by man. In this comment, the writer’s central thesis is that there is no hell, there is no judgment, and the times that Jesus did mention hell are because the “copies” of original manuscripts are errant. The comment was so full of errors that answering them one by one would probably take several responses. The author’s ulterior motive becomes more clear when I found his listed web site with a book on the topic of no hell. I thoughtfully and prayerfully did not include his website here.

But the question I wish to examine today is whether there is really a hell awaiting nonrepentant men. There is, of course, nothing more sure in this lifetime. “God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:17) At the outset of this discussion we need to establish that God has long established the means for everyone to be saved. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It cannot be said that God is not inclusive as he does make the gift of salvation available to all.

But what happens to the one who does not believe? “He that believeth not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God.” (John 3:18) God asks only one thing of us—that we believe him. Nothing more, but also nothing less. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned unto him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3) The scripture is quite plain on this point, and Jesus does spend a lot of time warning the religious leaders of his time about impending doom if they chose not to repent.

A final word on the reality of God. God is who he is. We do not have a “wish God”. Our God is absolute and real. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change to fit our preferences. We may decide that He should do this, or He should do that, but it is not us who are in control. It is our very responsible duty to figure out from his word who he is and what he wants from us. If we decide we can make God whatever we want him to be we begin the process of reinventing God. The scripture is clear on this point in many places. God is sovereign. We may want to have a God who wags his parental finger at our nonbelief when we die, and says to us, “That’s okay, but don’t do it next time.” But it is no matter what we wish—we have a God who warns us most severely that we are “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” It remains a fact that Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only way to eternal life No one comes to the Father except through Him. Hard facts? It is who God tells us he is.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Thoughts about our world, reprinted from 2005

By Patrick Davis 2005

When I first became a Christian, others sometimes ridiculed my decision saying I was using religion as a crutch. I would rejoin that that was totally an incorrect analogy; Christianity is not a crutch. Rather it is the whole hospital, and not just a hospital, but the emergency wing of the hospital, and not just the emergency wing of the hospital, but the heart-attack room, with the patient’s heart having just quit, and the whole hospital staff working to revive even the faintest of heart beats. I am on that table now, receiving “urgent medical care” for my soul, and apart of the care of God in Christ, I shall surely come to complete and utter ruin. I could wish for the crutch analogy to be true, but it is about the biggest understandment of the need for grace that I know. I am a total wretch, a lost street urchin, a homeless soul bereft of food or clothing. There is no hope for me, until I met Christ.

And so, it is in that spirit that I wish to make the following statement. Jesus spent more of his time warning about hell and judgment than he did telling about the promises of heaven. In our day of “niceness” where no one is ever told anything distasteful, this statement must jar the ears like fingernails across the blackboard. Last month I concluded a class discussion in which someone in the class made the statement that she did not believe in a God who would judge someone evil; rather she believed in a God who saw good in people no matter who they were. The class was not religious and since I did not want to offend her, I suggested that she line up the words of Jesus. What do they actually say? I suggested that she might be surprised. Jesus spent many words warning of condemnation and coming judgment.

C.S. Lewis aptly points out that this choice is not one logically left open to us; in spite of that there are many people today who platonically state that Jesus was a good man. To say he is a good man ignores the content of his message which simply put was he that has seen me has seen the Father. Obviously we only have two choices left to us in the face of such a claim. One is that he was a delusional nut who, in evangelizing the world, committed the greatest crime against mankind ever conceived. He got the world to believe in a savior who wasn’t. The second choice is that he was who he claimed to be. The Son of God come to rescue a needy planet. He absolutely could not be the third choice, a good man.

So the record of what he said is vital to us. Was it a nice message? I submit that it mostly was a message warning of mortal judgment coming upon man except for those who heard his message and received his freely offered grace. What is the mortal judgment of which he warns?
First he tells us that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He tells us that if we act unjustly towards others we will be handed over to the jailers to be tortured. He tells us in many parables that if we do not measure up to the standards of heaven, we will be cast out into the outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. He says that those who do not measure up will go away to eternal punishment. Not trivial punishment, not temporary punishment, but eternal punishment, where as he says, the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. Whoever does not believe, he declares will be condemned. And how condemned? He that believes not is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only son of God. Whoever rejects the son will not see life.

And it is on this basis that I would offer that it is necessary for Christians to warn of the coming storm. Not only is the gospel defined aptly as one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread; it is sometimes the needed thing for the beggar to tell where not to get bread.
Whatever else we may know about Christianity, we are certain of this. Christ himself claimed to have exclusive truth and to be the only way to God. No one is allowed to come to God except through him. Again, I refer you back to the logic. Either Jesus was a demented and crazed man, or he was who he said he was. There is no third option.

So what can be said for those who reject this grace of God? Their judgment includes the eternal decision of God. And where are they put? They are put into the hell which causes eternal torment evidenced by weeping and gnashing of teeth. Are there special judgments for those who are specially wicked? Revelation 21:8 seems to indicate so for it spells out the sexually immoral, the vile and the murderers.

So what shall we say about those who terrorize our society today? Who believe that their bombs will explode them to instant heaven? If we are to believe the words of Jesus, their bombs will explode them into eternal judgment where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
What an awful waste of life! And what sort of judgment will fall on those men who teach these young men to blow themselves into Hell? I shudder at the coming judgment. Jonathan Edwards had it right: Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.