Tuesday, August 05, 2008

H - E - Double hockey sticks

I've been told to go there. People make jokes about it. It has been depicted many different ways in film or on TV. Some folks have chosen to just ignore it. Some would tell you that it doesn't even really exist.

What is it?


And many times we never even give it a second thought until Halloween rolls around. But even then, we make light of it.

So why do we try to make light of it or minimize it? It just might be because if we dare to acknowledge that it exists, then we have to deal with some criteria for getting in to it or staying out of it. And if we seriously consider that criteria we may find we are more “qualified” or closer to the admission criteria for hell than for heaven!

For some folks, salvation is little more than “fire insurance.” They bought it one night at a revival or at the conclusion of a scary “turn or burn” sermon. Maybe it was purchased one night at teen camp when they showed one of those scary end-times movies that they inevitably showed us.

Some folks even say that they might prefer hell over heaven because that’s where their friends will be. So let’s be clear about this. Hell is not a place for companionship. Heaven is not the Ritz Carlton and hell is just the Motel 6! Hell will be experienced in agony and alone. In fact, it is eternal separation from God and everyone else in heaven. It is eternal punishment with fire. There will be absolutely no respite from the torment.

Read Matthew 7:13-23. Entering the city through the narrow gate meant leaving all of your possessions outside. It is interesting that Jesus compared salvation in that way. Imagine walking up to the entrance: In your backpack are all of your possessions and all the good things that you have done. Maybe you have your checkbook in there and your laptop. Behind yourself you are pulling a big suitcase with all the trophies of your accomplishments. Inside are your diplomas and the souvenirs of your great worldly accomplishments. Only one problem, the gate is too narrow for both you and the baggage to pass through. You either stay outside with your “stuff” or you put them down and enter alone. The cool thing is that once you get inside, you come to realize that all the stuff that you thought was valuable is now behind you and you are left to stand in awe before God on your own. All the stuff that you accumulated and accomplished is now insignificant. And you are left with nothing but your relationship with Jesus Christ.

Heaven and hell are real. Your choices in this life have eternal implications. You can “want to go to heaven” all you want to, but if you don’t have a right relationship with God it will never happen. And a relationship with God requires some things from you relative to your sin, relative to His will and relative to our obedience to His commands. And God operates on a completely different value system than you and I do prior to becoming a Christian.

Whenever we are operating on a different value system than God, we are living in disobedience to God. In other words, we are holding on to that backpack while trying to squeeze through the narrow gate. We are like Winnie the Pooh in the popular children‘s book -- we are unable to get through the opening.

And false spirituality is no spirituality at all. Read Matthew 7:15-20. Real faith is revealed in changed lives. When we are living for God, we say Godly things and think Godly thoughts. We do the things that are important to God. Jesus warned people to steer clear of folks whose faith doesn't call for or produce a changed life.

Hell is very real. It is not just a sub-standard eternal resting place. The Bible says that it is a place of eternal agony for those who have refused God's love and His offer of forgiveness. In our focus verse for this summer, John 3:16, the idea “perish” is equated with eternal torment and punishment. Those are the two choices: eternity in heaven or eternity in hell. Either way it is eternity.

How will you face death? Will you face it with joy and anticipation? As the Apostle Paul said, “For me to die is gain . . .” Or is death something that you dread? Now I am not looking for folks to be anxious to die. God has placed us here for a time and for a reason. Esther in the Old Testament stated it best when she proclaimed that she was here “for such a time as this” as she found herself in the royal court and in a place of great influence.

For many of us, there are many years to come ahead. And God expects us to live it for Him and with great enthusiasm He expects us to do all that we can to take as many folks on to heaven with us as we can. Yet, when our life here on earth is over, we will face eternity based upon the choice that we made while we were alive. The good news is that you can have peace here and now. And you can face the future with peace and assurance that you will spend eternity at the feet of Jesus. The choice is yours and yours alone.


  1. Matters not when or how you "Purchased" your fire insurance. Only matters that your policy is up to date and with the best Company.

  2. Very clever. I will have to use that line with some of my more Calvinist leaning friends.

  3. There is another hell that we neglect in our discussions... the one in our own backyard. It takes some privilege to say that hell doesn't exist... people are living and dying in it all around us. Hell is the place where God's will is ignored and where suffering is the real king. That place, the hell we see in this world, doesn't have to exist... God wants to redeem it!

  4. Wes, good to hear from you after so long. How was your trip to Israel and how is your new youth pastor gig working out for you?

  5. I have agree to Wes. Our mission field is all around us. I don't have to the Amazon to carry the gospel. I may just need to to be aware of the Spirit of God moving at a Starbucks.

    Calvinist friends? There's your mission field.

  6. TB, Maybe I don't have any Calvinist leaning friends after all . . .