Posts Tagged ‘Eternal Life’

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Reconciling A Loving God With The Reality Of Hell- (Part 2)

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

In my previous post, I was dealing with a question that is often directed at Christians, “How could a loving God allow anyone to go to hell?”  In the process of thinking through that question, we discovered that even though the question, at a glance, seems to involve a contradiction, there is no contradiction in it at all.  Having established that, I want to look further into this question to examine some of the emotional reasons people often give for objecting to the idea of hell.  There is no doubt that the idea of a literal hell is so emotionally charged that just the mention of it is enough to create controversy.  Of those who object to it, their reasons generally fall into one of two categories.  Either: (a) They personally find the very notion of hell to be extremely offensive, or (b) They believe that it’s nothing more than a “scare tactic”. 

            Regarding the first objection, I certainly understand why many people find the idea of hell offensive.  But, as with anything else in life, it’s not a question of whether we’re offended by it- that is irrelevant.  The question that we must deal with is whether or not it’s really true!   That being said, I think that there are good reasons why we should believe that it’s true.  For one thing, there is no question that Jesus clearly affirmed the reality of hell.  Given Jesus’ credentials (i.e., his miraculous birth, life, death, resurrection, and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy), if there is anyone who would be in a unique position to know the truth about God, heaven, hell, etc., then Jesus is the most qualified person to speak with authority on those topics.  Therefore, we have good, sound reasons to trust what Jesus said about hell and to heed his warnings about it.

            What about the objection which insists that the idea of hell is nothing more than an invention of man-  a mere “scare tactic”?  Common sense demands that there are some things in life that we should be afraid of.  There is a reason why we use “scare tactics” to warn children about strangers and to warn young people about the dangers of driving while under the influence or while texting.  A doctor who holds back from giving you bad news in order to avoid “scaring” you is not a good doctor.  “Scare tactics” are a legitimate means of warning someone as long as the threat to that person is real.  As I said, there are some things in life that we should fear.  Going to hell is not only one of them, Jesus said that it’s the one thing we should fear the most!  “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28)

            So, is there a way to reconcile the reality of hell with God’s love?  The answer is yes.  Even though God’s holiness demands justice for our innumerable crimes against him, it was God’s intense love for us that sent his Son into this world.  “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.“  (Romans 5:8)  Jesus willingly went to the Cross in order to take our punishment upon himself and to provide the only means by which we can be acquitted.  God has done everything necessary so that we can be pardoned of our offenses against him.  What we, as individuals, choose to do with his generous offer is another matter. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”  (John 3:36)

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Christianity 101

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to a classroom full of bright, young students at one of the local community colleges.  The invitation had come from a good friend of mine who teaches a class on Philosophy and World Religions.  As he covered various world religions, he would invite speakers representing those religions to come and field questions regarding their particular belief system.  On the day that his class was covering Christianity, he had asked me and one of the pastors from my church to come participate in the Q&A sessions.

In-between sessions, he said something to me that was very troubling.  He said that he had asked some of the Christian students in his class if they knew what the Gospel was, and if they could explain it, but no one responded.  I would certainly hope that the students who remained silent were just reluctant to do so because they were uncomfortable speaking up in front of the class.  I would hate to think that they really did not know nor understand the Gospel, although I wouldn’t be too surprised by that.  Sadly, it’s getting much harder these days to find a church that is in the habit of regularly presenting the Gospel.  In fact, my friend had further commented to me that many of those same Christian students had remarked that in their church they had never heard their pastor explain the Gospel.  If that’s true, it is worse than tragic, it’s shameful!  To further complicate things, when well-meaning people do attempt to present the Gospel, they often make the mistake of presenting it as if it was merely some means by which we can “become a better person.”  But, as Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has pointed out, “Jesus did not come to make bad people good, but dead people alive.”  Furthermore,  when the Gospel is presented, it is often couched in terminology that most people cannot understand or cannot relate to in today’s world.  With this in mind, the following is the manner in which I explained the Gospel to his class that day.

It all begins with God.  This God really does exist.  I’m not simply saying that I have a “personal belief” in God or that I have a “personal faith” in God.  I’m saying much more than that. The latest discoveries in science affirm the fact that this God really does exist, whether people choose to believe it or not.  Secondly, this God is absolutely holy and just. This is crucial to understand especially in today’s world where people have tried to invent a “god” of their own liking by reducing Him to an image that they, personally, find much more convenient and much more comfortable.  They’ve imagined a god who is all-loving, who never judges anyone.  But a god who is so “loving” that he never judges evil is not a  just judge.  To say that God is holy is to say that there is absolutely no trace of evil or imperfection anywhere in His character.  He is the embodiment of absolute justice.

The bad news is that you and I have rebelled against God by knowingly, willingly, daily, repeatedly violating His Laws.  Therefore, all of us are lawbreakers- we are all guilty and we know it.  The other bad news is that each one of us has an expiration date stamped on us.  The time will come when you and I must die- but it doesn’t end there.  You and I will survive the grave to someday appear before God, the One Who is the final Judge over all that He has created.  As our case is brought before Him, every thought, word,  and action that we’ve lived out will testify against us.  As we stand before Him, there will be no doubt in our minds that we deserve His justice.  We stand there as condemned criminals- He knows it and we know it.  That’s the bad news.

The good news (“Gospel”) in all of this is that out of His unimaginable love, as a supreme act of grace on His part, God, from the beginning of time, set forth a plan whereby we could be pardoned. When God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to die on the cross, something of enormous consequences was taking place, such that my mind cannot fully grasp it.  When Jesus died on the cross, it’s as if God had reached out and dipped His pen in the blood of His Son and wrote out a contract with the human race.  As with any contract, there are terms of agreement and they are as follows:  Anyone who is willing to turn away from their rebellious behavior and acknowledge God’s authority  by surrendering their life to His Son will be found “not guilty” when they are brought before God.  This offer will not be made to anyone after they die.  Only those who were willing to enter into this contract with Him on His terms will be pardoned of their crimes against Him.  Their case will be dismissed, all charges will be dropped, and they will be acquitted of every offense they’ve committed against Him.  But there’s more.  Not only will they be pardoned, but God has made the magnanimous offer of granting them eternal life and they will be given the incredible privilege of spending eternity with Him in His kingdom.

That, my friends, is the Gospel.  And now you know why the Gospel is not just “good news”, it is the greatest news that has ever fallen on human ears.

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Posted in Theology | 11 Comments »

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  • In today's world, there is a great deal of confusion when it comes to matters of truth, meaning, morality, our origin, and our destiny. The purpose of Renewed Thoughts is to bring clarity to such issues by examining them in light of a Biblical worldview, using the tools of science, philosophy, and critical thinking.