Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Reflection #162 Hell

Smoky Mountain Reflections #162
Hell is a bad place, and we would not want even our worst enemies to spend eternity in a state of eternal torment. There is no mistake that it is a real place; God’s word is clear. There are twenty words in Hebrew that directly or indirectly mention the place of eternal torment, and there are forty Greek words that do the same. In most reliable English translations, the word hell appears 50 times. If you count the other words brought forward into English that mean “hell” or “a hell”; places like: Sheol, Hades, Hinom, and Gehenna, there are over 100 other occurrences. Suffice it to say that hell is real, it is where all sinners deserve to go, and we are all sinners. “What a bleak reflection for this month pastor, why so much talk of hell?”

We find ourselves in a society in which the bulk of the population seems to be on a fast track to hell.  This is very sad news that should motivate us to get out of our comfort zone and share what Christ did to free all mankind from being destined for hell. Most people who reject Christ fit in two main groups; those who reject Christ because they do not believe that he exists, and those who reject Christ because they because what they know of Him is incorrect. You cannot argue anyone into the faith, however, you can speak the truth in love so that the Holy Spirit can gather and enlighten those who live in darkness. I would like to offer two friendly conversation starters to present the Gospel to these two groups of unbelievers.

            First if you do not believe that Christ exists, what do you with all the evidence and witness to the fact that he does? By all historical standards the man named Jesus that is described in the Gospel accounts did exist. We have thousands of copies of manuscripts, some only decades away from the events themselves. By all ancient textual standards it is agreed that the Gospels are reliable witnesses to the events of His life. So the question really is, if you do not believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be….what do you do with the empty tomb? This should start an interesting conversation allowing you to share the Gospel, and answer or offer to get answers to any questions of faith they might have.    

The second group often rejects Christ because of those who claim to be Christians but represent Him poorly. Now at some level, we are all guilty of this. We have all said or done things that have reflected poorly on our savior. The first and best thing to do here is to admit to our misinformed neighbor that no matter how hard we try, we are sinners; all Christians are sinners who misrepresent their savior. Then we can ask them not to blame Christ for the weakness of His followers. Yes, Christianity has a long history of misrepresenting Jesus. The Crusades and the Inquisition are classic examples; even though the Crusaders and Inquisitors invoked Christ’s name in their actions that does not mean that they were following His will and guidance or His clear word. So if you want to know who Christ is and what He came to do, read His word; start with the Gospel of John, then go to a good biblical church; one that follows biblical principles no matter how unpopular they may be. Go there so God can feed your faith in word and sacrament.

            So to wrap this up I give you a simple analogy; I hold in each of my hands a tablet; one is an aspirin and the other is cyanide. While both are tablets, one will alleviate aches and pains, and the other will kill you. It is a good idea for us to tell people about the benefits of a medication like aspirin. In the same way, it is not just a good idea, but we are called as Christians to tell our neighbor about the benefits of the Gospel. It is an equally good idea to warn people about the dangers of cyanide. It does not matter if people do not like hearing about how bad cyanide is, it is the loving thing to do to warn them against its deleterious effects. In the same way, just because people do not like hearing about hell and our sin which gets us there, the loving thing to do is to tell our neighbor that sin is a real thing, defined for us in scripture, making us all worthy only of an eternity in hell. Because we do not want anyone to go there, we explain how our sinful nature condemns us and Christ paid the price for our sins because he wants all people to spend eternity in a much better place; the new heavens and new earth. We know this because He tells us so, and a word count on heaven shows he liked talking about heaven more than hell. The word “heaven” appears in scripture over 650 times! So as we speak the truth in love, we should not shy away from the truth about where we deserve to spend eternity, but we should spend more time telling people where God wants us to spend eternity, and how Christ death and resurrection makes that possible!

Praying that you have a heavenly month,
In Christ,

Pastor Portier