Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No Power of Hell

I had a conversation with a fellow rebelutionary the other day in the comments of a previous post about Hell, and its significance in evangelization. Her comment was,

"I think we also ought to be careful when talking about Satan and Hell.
We don't want people coming to Christ just because they don't want to go to hell. That isn't true conversion...that's an excape route."

That's a very good point, and she is absolutely right: we don't want people coming to Christ just because they don't want to go to Hell.

On the other hand, I've had a while to think about it and I came upon this striking thought- as we go further and further back in time and explore Christian thoughts on Hell, there's an interesting trend. The farther back you go, Christians have a healthier and healthier respect for (fear of?) Hell.

That's not to say that they were saved by their fear of Hell, they just knew that it was very real and that knowledge influenced their daily lives. Today, there is a blatant apathy or warm colloquial attitude about Hell. Phrases such as "Go to Hell," "Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company" (Twain), and "What the Hell?" describe a generation that has absolutely no grasp on the true nature of Hell.

Satan isn't Big Daddy down under

Many people have the notion that Satan rules Hell or that he inflicts torment upon those who go there. But this is a dangerous concept, because it is wrong. Consider: Satan committed an evil act and was cast out of heaven. If we sin, we go to Hell. Does not both receive the same treatment for sin against God? Satan will be tormented as much as every other sinner who ends there.

Hell isn't a Block Party

Those who think they will have company in Hell are in a dangerous position. Yes, there is the devastating truth that many will be there. But that doesn't mean that they will all be able to hold hands and suffer together. The suffering there will be unimaginable, and incomparable to anything on this earth.

There will be no body to suffer in, the suffering will happen directly to the soul. Those who reject the "Grace of God... [that] has Appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11) will not just unfortunately get to spend the weekend away from God; they will forever suffer in agony for ETERNITY. There will be no solace or comfort from others who suffer with them.

Hell IS...

Hell is real. Hell is worse than any human tongue can begin to describe. Hell is not just a four letter word, it is serious business. We should use it with gravity even when we are using its correct meaning.

Where does Hell belong in evangelization? Fear of Hell doesn't save, but it does get a human thinking about subjects that are very serious. Life is short, and in this snippet of time we decide to join God in his predestined will for us or we decide to forever depart from it.

So my rebelutionary friend is absolutely right. We do not want people coming to Christ because of their fear of Hell. But I think it is imperative that we have as firm a connection with the truth of eternal damnation as the apostles did. We should live with that truth on our minds, as it will give true purpose to our words and intensity to our evangelization.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light my strength my song
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled when strivings cease!
My Comforter my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone! - who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This Gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid:
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine -
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till he returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand!
Read More:
Romans 6:23 | Matthew 8:12 | Matthew 25:41 | Luke 16:23-24 | Justice, Forgiveness, and Transformation (The Berean Call) | I Hate Christ (A Puritan's Mind)

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Jesus Reloaded

When I was in New York City last weekend, One of my roommates at the hotel received a tiny little tract from someone on the street that had a big smiley face and the words, "Smile, Jesus loves you" on the front.

God gave me the opportunity to talk to my roommates about it, but I let fear have too much of a foothold and the discussion never went past what they thought of the tract itself. One of the things they said, though, has remained with me: "...I dunno. I've definitely heard better arguments for [Christianity] before." That brings up to issues: one, that the choice for Christ over the world and other religions is comparative to picking the right flavor of chips for youth in this day and age. Two, that we as evangelicals have lost perspective of what we're dealing with: the Good News of the cross and the gravity of souls plunging into Hell forever.

For my friends, religion is something as if from a video game: something you pick out from a list to give you benefits such as control of the undead and self-healing auras. The Devil is indeed crafty, and has been quite successful in hiding the enormous importance and value of the human soul. This is not a game; we are given a tiny little life in history, and then we die and enter into eternal suffering or praise of God. We don't get three lives or checkpoints we can go back to after we get Game Over.

Jesus isn't a religion. You don't get a +3 armor aura when you ask Him into your life. Instead, you come to Him weak, destitute, destroyed by sin, and aware of your own nothingness. He gave His life for us on the cross; we give our lives up to Him. He doesn't make your life make your life easier, but instead by following Him you are agreeing to take up a cross and carry it for the rest of your life. Before the Devil just whispered reassuring lies into your ear, but now that you follow Jesus he throws his army of darkness at you. Jesus is commitment, Jesus is a relationship with God; Jesus takes work. But Jesus is not just another brand of religious chips.

Sour Cream and Jesus! Cheesy Jeesies! Theo Jalapeno!

The second issue is actually the same one in different clothes. Satan has hidden the enormity of what we do, and instead it just becomes another ministry. Making disciples of the nations is not just "another ministry," it's the GREAT COMMISSION. This is the thing that was of such utmost importance that it was the last thing Jesus told us while on earth. This is the command of Jesus, who holds the fabric of the universe together. This is no trifling matter.

So getting back to the tract, I must say "Sure. Jesus makes me smile." He should make you smile too. Because of His grace I will not be burning in utter torment for hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions and... forever. But come on; let's get real. You're not handing this tract to a four year old child, you're handing it to an adult. Let us not be afraid of the truth or presenting in its full splendor unadulterated by our own additions and modifications. Let's not dumb down the gospel to corny and cliche sayings with cute illustrations. "God will not be mocked" (Galatians 6:7).

This is God we're dealing with. Your creator and sustainer, Lord and Savior. Savior from what? From the everlasting pain of Hell. Those are unsaved souls who will be tormented forever that we're dealing with. Let's get serious about what we do and see a massive revival for the Kingdom of God.

Read More:
Galatians 6:7 | Matthew 28:18-20 |

Book Review - DO HARD THINGS (Alex and Brett Harris)

I received my copy of DO HARD THINGS about two weeks ago and was able to finish it earlier this week. It reads quickly and is engaging and interesting. More important than anything, though, is the content. It's a message that many teenagers (and even adults) need to hear. For anyone not familiar with the Rebelution or Do Hard Things, the goal of the movement is a rebellion against low expectations. I'll try to explain that a little more in a second.

The book is divided up into three sections with approximately four chapters each. The first section introduces the movement, its purpose, and its historical context. Personally, that was my favorite part because it showed that the age of adolescence and young adulthood (along with its expectations of rebellion and relative mediocrity) is really quite new, and therefore most likely not God's plan for His children.

In this first section, Alex and Brett tell stories of the early lives of George Washington, Clara Barton, and David Farragut which seem superhuman by today's standards. They discuss the history of the teenager, the origins of the word (and the period of life) and the consequences of the teen age.

With this background, they expound on the significance of the Rebelution (A "Revolutionary Rebellion" against low expectations- a "Rebelution") and how people strive for the standards and challenges they are given. When those standards are high, people strive to do well and work hard. In today's culture, standards are low, which is why most adults don't expect much from teenagers. They set mediocre challenges and get mediocrity as a result.

The Rebelutionary solution is to strive for the greatest challenge we can attain- living a godly life that speaks of His wonderful grace and power in our lives. The second section of the book describes the so-called "five types of hard things," or different areas in our lives that are challenging and take hard work. Those are: "things that take you outside your comfort zone, things that go beyond what's expected or required, things that are too big for you to do alone, things that don't pay off immediately," and "things that go against the crowd."

This section is definitely not as good as the first, but it's nevertheless good information. I didn't like the approach- "how to do Hard Things..." simply because it came across strongly as a how-to book rather than a generation-changing calling. This is the hard part of the review for me to write, because while I disagree with the method, the how questions still need to be addressed. Keep in mind that this is their first book, so as first-time authors they deserve a little slack.

I didn't really enjoy the third section either, which just seemed like a bunch of 'relevant examples' of other teenagers just like you who followed five steps and now are experiencing health, wealth, and prosperity. I know that's obviously not the intention of the authors, but I suppose I just got a little tired of the thousands of examples strewn throughout the book.

The one other thing that I didn't really like was how easy it was to read and comprehend. To an extent that's good- but it's not exactly demonstrating their message to seek challenges and strive to do hard things. In my opinion there could have been many more Scriptural references and less examples, but the trade-off is going to bring in less non-Rebelutionaries and therefore not be as effective in spreading the message.

Despite my nit picking, it's still a great book with a great message. You can tell that their hearts are set on God and are seeking to help other teenagers follow His plan for them. If you haven't read it yet, I definitely encourage you to. If you haven't discovered the Rebelution, I humbly suggest that it could be one of the best things you could do today.

Read More:
The Rebelution | 1 Timothy 4:12 | DO HARD THINGS on Amazon ($11.89 new, $9.58 used) | Tim Challies' Review