Thursday, 3 March 2011

'Are you serious about hell...?!' Some considerations

Last Sunday I had a look at the (un)popular(?!) subject of hell. The most unpopular and yet frequently asked about subject. I spent some time looking at Luke 16v19-31. I found it an emotional and difficult subject to speak on such a text. At one point during the morning sermon I paused while I wept. Part of me felt vulnerable and uneasy but I do feel that it is an appropriate and 'real' response when handling a topic like this.

This topic is part of the central message of Christianity and has been a view held by biblical Churches throughout Church history. I also added 5 considerations which I think we need to have an awareness of as we think through this difficult subject.

1) This is Jesus talking.

To reject something which Jesus talks about on moral grounds is making quite a claim about our own wisdom and moral judgement.

Tim Keller writes: “We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, "I am less barbaric than you, Jesus--I am more compassionate and wiser than you." Surely that should give us pause!”

2) Jesus cares deeply.

Some people find the idea of Jesus/God being angry almost impossible reconcile with the idea that God is loving. However, in scripture, it is because he is loving that he is angry! An unloving response to all the abuse, injustice, crime, selfishness and general mess in the world would be indifference.

Jesus cares passionately about how you treat me and about how I treat you. When people are mistreated - he gets angry. This is because he is good.

3)  This is very personal.

If I was in your house eating your food, enjoying your furniture, music, etc and treated your house as I pleased, without speaking to you or honouring you as my host I guess you would be offended.

We live in God's world. He made it. We didn't. We'll all die and the world will keep on spinning. We are not in control of and we did not design creation. The best we do is study and work with that which is already there. The whole of creation belongs to God.

When we reject God and abuse His creation we are personally offensive to God in his world.

4) God is that valuable.

When I was living in my old flat, my car was parked on the street and someone threw a brick through the back windscreen. I found this offensive. However the offence was less that it would have been if someone had thrown a brick at my wife! Why is that? Same action?

As the value of the object increases, the offence increases. Chloe is more valuable than my car so I the action is more serious and more offensive.

Is eternal punishment an overreaction?

Well I think we have to ask the following questions:

How valuable is God?
Therefore how serious are our crimes?

Scripture speaks of an everlasting God who is of infinite value. To offend and reject something of such value is a very scary reality.

5) The offer of God

God has offered to pay our price himself. Jesus offers himself to be our 'wrath absorber' or 'wrath diverter'. He offers to be our great substitute so that we can know God and walk with Him rather than being against Him. His offer is open today.

The only way people can get to a place  of punishment is to trample over and reject the cross of Christ.

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