Gospel. Culture. Technology. Music.

Month: February 2007 Page 1 of 3

A Scandalous Attack on the Cross

http://www.banneroftruth.org/pages/arti … il.php?654

Although this teaching can sound correct in appealing to the character of God as being so full of love that the Father couldn’t, and in fact did not, pour out His wrath on Jesus at the cross, it absolutely guts the heart of the Gospel, substitutionary atonement, and ultimately strips Christianity of all its unique meaning. Every heresy that has emerged in the history of the church is full of just enough truth to make it look palatable (this is the craftiness of the work of Satan), and yet it is the few drops of poison that are administered that make it spiritually deadly (in the eternal sense). Substitutionary atonement: that is on the cross, Jesus bore the guilt and blame (the wrath of God) for the sins of anyone who would believe in Him and are given the very righteousness Christ earned for them in His life and death, sealed with power in His historical resurrection.

Steve Chalke would have us believe the work of the cross was merely an expression of how far God was willing to go for us; now, it is that, and yet infinitely so much more! Of course it is that, but when the work of the cross is explained as we see it in Scripture, we see that it is redundant to even say that. This guy, Steve Chalke, is attacking the heart of the very divine act that has brought us peace with God, Christ actually and effectually bearing our eternal guilt, in our place, and giving us His perfect record so that we may stand before God and love Him for eternity. And this heresy is spreading like a wildfire among many who call themselves evangelicals even. He is quoted as saying in this article, how have we “‘come to believe that at the cross this God of love suddenly decides to vent his anger and wrath on his own Son?'” This is a blatant attack on the very Gospel itself. If Christ did not bear the wrath of God in our place (might I add, willingly), we would still be under eternal condemnation. This picture of God that emerges from theology like this is a picture simply of a God of love and not a God of justice. In addition, the picture of God he is painting is of a God who simply sweeps our sins under the rug and doesn’t deal with them. He is both fully a loving God and a just God, with all of His attributes reconciled in the work of the cross. O The Wonderful Cross!

This error has crept up once again as it has in the history of the church, just in our postmodern cultural context. We would all do well to pay very close attention to what we have seen and heard in the Scriptures, testified to us by the Holy Spirit.

I’ve found the coffin of Jesus, says film director

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/arti … article.do

This guy is claiming he has proved with DNA and excavation evidence, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, had a son, and that they were all buried next to each other, thus allegedly proving Jesus never rose from the dead, in hopes that he can turn Christianity on its head. And as much as we as believers want to say, “What an idiot, how could he,” we must remember first that we are no better and the only reason we differ from this guy is the grace of Christ. In fact, the Scriptures have something to say concerning all of us. Psalm 14:1-3 says:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

We are all in the same state apart from the inward work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit to turn our hearts from rebellion to seeing Christ as beautiful and embracing Him. Had God left us to our natural desires, we would run head first straight into hell. As the Scripture says, God looks down upon all of us, and from His perspective (the only one that counts), no one seeks after Him. Sure, they may seek after a god of their choosing, made in their likeness, thought up in their own minds, but in no way do they seek after Him, the true King of the universe. How offensive must that be? And this is all of us. Apart from the work of Christ to transform our dead hearts bent on destruction, we would be doing the exact same thing, rejecting God, bent on eternal destruction. By nature our hearts and our will are in bondage to sin and are predisposed to using all of our energy to reject Him. And so before any of us start getting so upset about how absurd this is, just remember that should be you had God not intervened in your will and cut you to the heart by revealing His glory as seen in Christ. Otherwise, you would have despised Christ just like everyone else. I absolutely think this is absurd, but not surprising. Man naturally hates and despises Christ and wants to reject and suppress the truth as much as they can. During this whole thing, remember this thought from Scripture:

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
1 Corinthians 15:16-17

There is no hope apart from the life, death, resurrection, ascension, work, and return of Christ to raise us from the dead, giving us life in Himself.

New Monergism.com is Here!

The Cambridge Declaration: Why is it Important?

http://www.alliancenet.org/partner/Arti … 64,00.html

In the modern church in the West, there has been a large shift away from believing core, essential, orthodox truths and a turn to adopt the methods of the culture to try and reach the culture for Christ. In the process, Scripture and its divine authority gets put on the shelf, collecting dust. While this may seem wise on the face to try to reach the culture with modern cultural ideologies and techniques, what ends up happening is that the church becomes so indistinguishable from the world that it no longer possesses the doctrinal distinctiveness it needs to spread the Gospel with clarity that people may be saved. This is very dangerous, 1) because you begin coddling people into the church that may never be converted (because of the indistinguishable, worldly message being preached), all the while assuming they are converted because they take the name “Christian,” and 2) the light of the Gospel gets snuffed out because of worldly doctrine being taught, and 3) ultimately God’s glory is suppressed as a result (Romans 1:18-19).

The Cambridge Declaration is simply a modern reassertion of core, essential doctrines that must be affirmed by every believer. In fact, they are really not speaking of anything new, but reasserting the very doctrines the Reformers themselves recovered from the dead Roman Catholic church. This statement basically goes through the Five Solas of the Reformation, explains them, and then applies them to the modern crisis the evangelical church in the West is facing. And the crisis is that we are on the verge of becoming totally irrelevant to our culture (just as it has already happened in Europe to a great degree, what is it now, 2% confessing Christianity?)

Interesting to See How This Turns Out


Iran Failed to Meet the Deadline … Now What?


Oh wait, I know … let’s make another UN Security Council resolution and set another deadline :] seems to be working so effectively as it is.

NetworkActiv 2.2

There is a new version of NetworkActiv’s PIAFCTM out, version 2.2, (FREE network monitoring software) that allows you to view the data within raw network packets. It also lets you re-assimilate html pages that are transferred over a network interface (can be handy for people desiring to extract data out of html/javascript code that may not otherwise be viewable in the browser by viewing the source within the page). The awesome thing about this new version is the ability to do network connection performance monitoring, something that wasn’t available in the last version I had (which was 1.5). So check it out …


College Tests the Authenticity of Your Faith

I want to make clear that I’m not primarily talking about partying when I speak about how college tests the faith of graduated high schoolers. That is one way in which your faith can be tested, but really, I would say that is the lesser concern on my mind. My concerns are the doctrines and wayward teaching of the world that are spoken in college by other students and mainly professors.

When a child grows up in a Christian home environment with two parents who truly believe in Christ and the parents share the Gospel with their child, what would please mom and dad more for the child to say “yes” to a relationship with Jesus? And the child realizes that the very reason the parents are asking that question is to get a positive response. I mean are they going to say “no,” as if they fully comprehend the depth of what is at stake in saying yes or no? Now before I continue, I want to make perfectly clear that I’m not attempting to negate all the believers who legitimately believed from a young age and continued in their faith until now, but I am saying that children are programmed by God to please their parents so that their parents find them acceptable (ever thought about why a child cries when they fall, even it is clear they weren’t hurt? Attention-getting is a form of obtaining acceptance from the people that matter most to them, their parents). Telling your young children the Gospel and expecting a “yes” out of them should not lead you to automatically believe they are saved. We are saved not by uttering a prayer, but by faith alone, by believing from the heart of our hearts that Jesus Christ is Lord, that He died and rose from the grave for sinners. But that’s another topic for another day.

So let’s say this child grows up in the church, goes through elementary school still affirming all the things spoken by their believing teachers in the church. They get to middle school, and there are some pressures that begin the stranglehold the Satan desires. At this point, as in my case, rebellion can begin to occur from family turmoil, peer pressures, and the student attempts to find their identity in anything else other than God, because if God cared for them, “Why is God making my life so hard?” they ask. However, in a lot of cases where kids grow up in the church, simply from my observance in student ministries for a number of years, they don’t go wayward at this point. There are some that do, but many don’t. Then high school comes, the student obtains more freedom with a car, staying out later, more independence, etc. The pressures step up as well because of the freedom, mainly because they have access to venues that weren’t available before (drinking party’s, drug parties, rave’s, empty houses where parents who are present don’t care what occurs, empty houses where boyfriends and girlfriends have the chance to do things they inevitably regret). Students in general, not all, can stay out later and hang out with friends their parents may not even know about. So some kids start to rebel against God, against their parents, against authority of any kind and get into a lot of trouble. Their true colors as a totally depraved sinner begin to show in actions. But even then, many students in high school still have parents watching over them and telling them what to do and what not to do. Essentially, their hearts are restrained from doing the wicked things they desire to do most. Is that not why we have laws?

However, at this point, there are still many many kids who affirm all the things they have been taught from the beginning. And so they continue on affirming these things throughout their high school career (particularly the Gospel, hear me there, they affirm the Gospel with their words). And then college comes. They leave home and have freedom they have never experienced before. The ability to come and go when they want. The ability to do things that no one else will know about, temptations many are not even remotely ready for. They go through a year of college at, let’s say, theologically liberal TCU (not the same as politically liberal I might add), and hear tons of evidence against Christianity concerning miracles, divine atonement and propitiation through the cross, the resurrection, as well as all the things that make Christianity unique; but instead they hear all of these arguments in favor of science, evolution, reason, and most of all, how all truth (especially moral truth) is relative (the predominant worldly doctrine of our age in the West). They begin taking in a strong, potent dose of secularism. The student who may have affirmed the Gospel with words growing up begins to question their faith as having no basis upon which to stand. In addition, there are pressures around them in the culture calling out to reject their faith. So basically there are two fronts attacking the confessed Christian; 1) a doctrinal front (from the professors who attack Christianity through “reason,” science, and facts) and 2) social teaching (the peers who buy into all of it and call out for other peers to do the same, while rejecting those who take a stand on absolute truth, particularly Christians).

And unfortunately, as I have seen happen, the student who once affirmed the Gospel with their mouths, succumbing to the pressures of the world and the doctrines of the Devil, begins to reject Christianity and the essential message of Christianity, the Gospel. It saddens my heart to speak of this, because I know people personally who have walked away from Christ in this manner, who as Paul said, “are enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18-19) The deceptiveness of the devil and the works of men who want others to reject Christianity begin to affect the professed believers’ conviction. And finally, after having been coerced through gobs of secularist indoctrination, the professed believer rejects the Gospel as nonsense and accepts the worlds’ message of false humility and religious tolerance (that is, all religions basically say the same thing and are true for each individual confessing them, but should not be imposed on others). They reject the message of the Gospel as utter foolishness! “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) What are we to make of this? That is, what are we to make of a person who professed faith in Christ but rejects it later on? Scripture is clear as to what has occurred. Jesus Himself is clear. And we must pay careful attention to what is said.

Now, I want to make clear that in no way am I saying that a true believer can lose their salvation. That is heresy and to speak of such a doctrine would mean that not all has been accomplished in our salvation, but we must “keep it up” through our own moral working and toiling (which is legalism). Romans 8 makes it clear that the promises of God stand. “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) There is no moving on God’s part concerning these things. In addition, the scriptures say, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) So a true believer CANNOT lose their salvation. It’s really even an oxymoron to say that. What kind of salvation is a salvation that can be lost after having had it? Those who Christ has chosen to save, are saved, absolutely. The Shepherd does not lose His sheep whom He has purposed in eternity to save. I believe that with all my heart and it is preciously to me as a promise from God.

But if a person who professed Christ rejects Him as the only one who makes them right before God through His death and resurrection, what are we to say? Again, we must consult Scripture. And the book of Hebrews is chock full of warnings concerning falling away from the grace of God in Christ.

Let’s start with this passage in Luke with the Parable of the Sower and then get to the Hebrews passages:

“And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him [Jesus], he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’ As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'” – Luke 8:4-8

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” – Hebrews 2:1

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, “They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.” As I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”‘” – Hebrews 3:7-11

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.” – Hebrews 3:12

“So we see that they [Israel] were unable to enter because of unbelief.” – Hebrews 3:19

“Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” – Hebrews 4:1-2

“For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” – Hebrews 6:4-8

Man. Those make me tremble in fear before God! Those are hard verses! But they are God’s Word and we must submit to them, despite their hardness. But what are they saying? I had a hard time with this in high school as to what it was saying because I knew Christ had ransomed me and would not let me go. But these passages are really hard. Most people at this point, simply want to write off what is said because it is just too hard to work through and easier to skate around the implications and turn to comforting doctrines alone. But as Tim Keller said, “If we play down harsh doctrines, we will gut our pleasant and comfortable beliefs too.” In other words, as you look at these hard truths, keep looking to Christ and His work as the source of salvation.

Many interpret these to either say 1) that a true believer can lose their salvation (which is easily countered with other Scriptures), or 2) that it isn’t speaking about salvation to begin with (which in the context doesn’t make any sense at all). But many don’t consider 3) that it is saying there are people who profess with their mouths to be saved (whether it is to please their parents, their peers, their youth leaders, etc), but after trials and temptations of the world come in (as fire comes in and burns away impurities from precious metals), their faith is exposed to be false (i.e. not true, God-wrought faith), and their entire foundation is shown to be built on sand and they fall away from Christ in unrepentant unbelief, willfully rejecting Him. I believe with all my heart the author of Hebrews is speaking of the third interpretation. The larger context of the greatness and sufficiency of Christ within the passage calls for this conclusion. If it is not talking about salvation in this passage, then why does the writer say, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3)

This student who grew up in the church, who confessed Christ as their Savior walks away from Christ, and very very sadly (man how it makes me weep for the lost), they may (I emphasize the word “may”) never have a chance to turn to Christ again because of the hardening of their hearts in unbelief. (Hebrews 6:4-8)

What are some applications of these scriptural warnings against falling away into apostasy? And how can we keep this from happening to the people we shepherd?

1) We must not assume everyone is saved just because they take the name “Christian,” (just as the writer of Hebrews thought it was very likely that some of the people he was writing to may not have been saved) but always preach the Gospel truths in all of their completeness, assuming people don’t get it (wrath, holiness, justice, fierce anger of God against us because of our sin and rebellion; compassion, love, mercy, and redemption from our plight by grace through faith in the work of Christ on the cross). The larger church in America has rejected doctrine because they say it is useless and their argument is that people just need Jesus. Well, who is Jesus, what did he say, what was his purpose in being here? As soon as you answer these things, you are uttering doctrine. It is unavoidable. The Arians said the same thing in the early history of the church about doctrine, that it wasn’t profitable to speak of. Their doctrine was heresy and they led many astray from the Gospel. I’m telling you that the world is armed and ready with doctrine (false truths) that Satan is using even right now, to take people to hell with him and turn them away from the light of the truth of the Gospel. We must counter this with doctrine from the scriptures. This is why theology is so vitally important. We must preach correct, biblical truths or else leave people with little or no understanding of the truths of Scripture, subjecting them to being ravaged by doctrines of devils, people who may have no clear apprehension of the Gospel to begin with.

2) We must reject legalism in our speech and actions because it is opposed to the message of the Gospel, all the while holding up the Gospel as the essential message for all heart-change. We witness with both our words and our actions, and both need to be free from legalistic tendencies (Romans 2, Romans 14). Mark Driscoll, pastor @ Mars Hill Church Seattle said in an interview for the recent Desiring God conference, that he asked a pastor, “Do you know any strippers?” The pastor replied, “No, that’s disgusting!” Driscoll’s response? “Exactly, they need Jesus.” Right on. We are to be in the world not of the world, and that means being involved in unbelievers lives where they are while not partaking of their indulgences. To separate ourselves from the world altogether is not our calling, but we are to be salt and light in a dark world that needs to hear of eternal hope through the message of the Gospel. To simply tell people they need to do this or that doesn’t fix the messed-up-ness within people’s hearts. Law restrains the heart, it doesn’t supernaturally change the heart like Christ and His work (Keller). In fact that is exactly what the Pharisee’s did, told Jesus to do this and that, imposing a bunch of man-made rules and regulations on Him, and correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t those the people Jesus, the Son of God, preached against the most, the religious leaders, because they were leading people to hell? The law can’t go where the Holy Spirit alone can (Keller). People need the grace of God, the Gospel truths to set them free, applied by the work of the Holy Spirit Alone through the preaching of His Word. They do not need people like us (who think we are better than everyone else because we are saved) telling them what they can and cannot do. The world is sick of that message and rejects Christians primarily because they think we’re all a bunch of bigots. We are missionaries in America. We are to lovingly persuade people through the Scriptures and through proper apologetic defense that Jesus Christ is supreme above all and that He is worth following. Is it not the Holy Spirit who changes hearts anyway? We preach and He acts according to His will. Who are we to stand over unbelievers and call them sinners? We’re sinners too! We do the same things (i.e. breaking the law of God) everyday, just in different ways. If we saw the depth of our sinning against God, our mouths would stay shut toward those we despise because they indulge the flesh outwardly. You and I are no better. I am the worst sinner I know. We are sinners all. But by God’s grace, He has given us Christ who redeems us from this body of death. That is our message to a lost and dying world. (If you can’t tell, legalism gets me fired up ;] )

3) ” … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13) Realize that it is Christ alone, through His sustaining work on the cross, who keeps you from falling away. (1 Peter 1:5) Know that you have nothing of worth to offer God, but all you can plead is Christ and His work for you, not your own. You have nothing to offer God of worth. Your best works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6) Why did you believe while someone else who heard the same message rejected it? Were you better than them, more spiritual, smarter, lucky? I think not. It would be pride to say that and taking credit for an aspect of your salvation. It is the grace of God ALONE that makes the believer to differ from the unbeliever. These truths are humbling and push us exactly to the place all of us need to be, at the foot of the cross, weeping for our sins, while at the same time weeping with joy at the mercy we have found in Christ. Where else can we go? There is no other name by which we are saved. (Acts 4:12)

4) If any of you fear you may not have truly believed in Christ, seek assurance only through the person and work of Jesus Christ, the risen King, realizing that through His atoning sacrifice that paid the debt against sinners on the cross in the shedding of His blood, you can have perfect acceptance in God’s presence and you can have Jesus’ perfect record before the Father counted your own, because of His work on behalf of us sinners. Run to Christ for assurance, flee to Him and run fast from the sin that so easily entangles you. You will find assurance no where else.

Other Resources Pertaining to this:

Perseverance Section on Monergism.com
The Danger of Dull Hearing – Piper
The Elect are Kept by the Power of God – Piper
The Parable of the Sower – C.H. Spurgeon
Growing Up Christian – MonergismBooks.com

David Phillips – One Year Since His Death

Well, I cannot believe it has already been a year since Dave died. It seems like forever ago and at the same time it seems like yesterday. I can remember exactly how I felt as well as the circumstances in which I found out. Courtney and I had decided to stay home because of the ice, and then got a call from someone we didn’t expect to hear from saying, “Tell me this isn’t true!” We had no idea what they were talking about, but then it was confirmed. Dave had died. Man how sad that day was. But my fellowship with Christ was so sweet during those sad days. “He must increase but I must decrease.” And trials make that reality so true. So many things have already changed; Dave’s immediate influence and input on matters pertaining to the ministry have ceased, but the doctrines he so fervently taught have remained because these doctrines are scriptural (salvation and justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, spiritual growth through the preaching of the Gospel to our dead hearts, the sovereignty of God in all things amongst many others). Despite the changes that have occurred within the student ministries over the past year and the adjustments that have been made, Christ has stayed the same and caused His church to persevere through sustaining our faith by the Holy Spirit after his passing. I have listed a few of Dave’s sermons here that I have on my site in remembrance of him. Praise God for the years the Lord gave us with Dave. Man how the Lord used him as an instrument to change my life by showing me the value, worth, sufficiency, and glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for our sins. O how we miss you Dave! It saddens my heart greatly that you are no longer with us … but praise God that you are now with the treasure of all who call upon Him, Jesus Christ.

Introduction to Romans (MP3)
Knowing God (MP3)
Romans 4 (MP3)
The Perpetual Gift (MP3)

How To Preach Hell to Postmoderns – Tim Keller

Excerpted from Preaching Hell in a Tolerant Age by Tim Keller

In contrast to the traditionalist, the postmodern person is hostile to the very idea of hell. People with more secular and postmodern mindsets tend to have (a) only a vague belief in the divine, if at all, and (b) little sense of moral absolutes, but rather a sense they need to be true to their dreams. They tend to be younger, from nominal Catholic or non-religious Jewish backgrounds, from liberal mainline Protestant backgrounds, from the western and northeastern U. S., and Europeans.

When preaching hell to people of this mindset, I’ve found I must make four arguments.

1. Sin is slavery. I do not define sin as just breaking the rules, but also as “making something besides God our ultimate value and worth.” These good things, which become gods, will drive us relentlessly, enslaving us mentally and spiritually, even to hell forever if we let them.

I say, “You are actually being religious, though you don’t know it—you are trying to find salvation through worshiping things that end up controlling you in a destructive way.” Slavery is the choice-worshiper’s horror.

C. S. Lewis’s depictions of hell are important for postmodern people. In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes a bus-load of people from hell who come to the outskirts of heaven. There they are urged to leave behind the sins that have trapped them in hell. The descriptions Lewis makes of people in hell are so striking because we recognize the denial and self-delusion of substance addictions. When addicted to alcohol, we are miserable, but we blame others and pity ourselves; we do not take responsibility for our behavior nor see the roots of our problem.

Lewis writes, “Hell … begins with a grumbling mood, and yourself still distinct from it: perhaps even criticizing it…. You can repent and come out of it again. But there may come a day when you can do that no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even enjoy it, but just the grumble itself going on forever like a machine.”

Modern people struggle with the idea of God thinking up punishments to inflict on disobedient people. When sin is seen as slavery, and hell as the freely chosen, eternal skid row of the universe, hell becomes much more comprehensible.

Here is an example from a recent sermon of how I try to explain this:

“First, sin separates us from the presence of God (Isa. 59:2), which is the source of all joy (Ps. 16:11), love, wisdom, or good thing of any sort (James 1:17)….

“Second, to understand hell we must understand sin as slavery. Romans 1:21-25 tells us that we were built to live for God supremely, but instead we live for love, work, achievement, or morality to give us meaning and worth. Thus every person, religious or not, is worshiping something—idols, pseudo-saviors—to get their worth. But these things enslave us with guilt (if we fail to attain them) or anger (if someone blocks them from us) or fear (if they are threatened) or drivenness (since we must have them). Guilt, anger, and fear are like fire that destroys us. Sin is worshiping anything but Jesus—and the wages of sin is slavery.”

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that the people on Lewis’s bus from hell are enslaved because they freely choose to be. They would rather have their freedom (as they define it) than salvation. Their relentless delusion is that if they glorified God, they would lose their human greatness (Gen. 3:4-5), but their choice has really ruined their human greatness. Hell is, as Lewis says, “the greatest monument to human freedom.”

2. Hell is less exclusive than so-called tolerance. Nothing is more characteristic of the modern mindset than the statement: “I think Christ is fine, but I believe a devout Muslim or Buddhist or even a good atheist will certainly find God.” A slightly different version is: “I don’t think God would send a person who lives a good life to hell just for holding the wrong belief.” This approach is seen as more inclusive.

In preaching about hell, then, I need to counter this argument:

“The universal religion of humankind is: We develop a good record and give it to God, and then he owes us. The gospel is: God develops a good record and gives it to us, then we owe him (Rom. 1:17). In short, to say a good person, not just Christians, can find God is to say good works are enough to find God.

“You can believe that faith in Christ is not necessary or you can believe that we are saved by grace, but you cannot believe in both at once.

“So the apparently inclusive approach is really quite exclusive. It says, ‘The good people can find God, and the bad people do not.’

“But what about us moral failures? We are excluded.

“The gospel says, ‘The people who know they aren’t good can find God, and the people who think they are good do not.’

“Then what about non-Christians, all of whom must, by definition, believe their moral efforts help them reach God? They are excluded.

“So both approaches are exclusive, but the gospel’s is the more inclusive exclusivity. It says joyfully, ‘It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been at the gates of hell. You can be welcomed and embraced fully and instantly through Christ.’ ”

3. Christianity’s view of hell is more personal than the alternative view. Fairly often, I meet people who say, “I have a personal relationship with a loving God, and yet I don’t believe in Jesus Christ at all.”

“Why?” I ask.

They reply, “My God is too loving to pour out infinite suffering on anyone for sin.”

But then a question remains: “What did it cost this kind of God to love us and embrace us? What did he endure in order to receive us? Where did this God agonize, cry out? Where were his nails and thorns?”

The only answer is: “I don’t think that was necessary.”

How ironic. In our effort to make God more loving, we have made God less loving. His love, in the end, needed to take no action. It was sentimentality, not love at all. The worship of a God like this will be impersonal, cognitive, ethical. There will be no joyful self-abandonment, no humble boldness, no constant sense of wonder. We would not sing to such a being, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

The postmodern “sensitive” approach to the subject of hell is actually quite impersonal. It says, “It doesn’t matter if you believe in the person of Christ, as long as you follow his example.”

But to say that is to say the essence of religion is intellectual and ethical, not personal. If any good person can find God, then the essential core of religion is understanding and following the rules.

When preaching about hell, I try to show how impersonal this view is:

“To say that any good person can find God is to create a religion without tears, without experience, without contact.

“The gospel certainly is not less than the understanding of truths and principles, but it is infinitely more. The essence of salvation is knowing a Person (John 17:3). As with knowing any person, there is repenting and weeping and rejoicing and encountering. The gospel calls us to a wildly passionate, intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ, and calls that ‘the core of true salvation.’ ”

4. There is no love without wrath. What rankles people is the idea of judgment and the wrath of God: “I can’t believe in a God who sends people to suffer eternally. What kind of loving God is filled with wrath?”

So in preaching about hell, we must explain that a wrathless God cannot be a loving God. Here’s how I tried to do that in one sermon:

“People ask, ‘What kind of loving God is filled with wrath?’ But any loving person is often filled with wrath. In Hope Has Its Reasons, Becky Pippert writes, ‘Think how we feel when we see someone we love ravaged by unwise actions or relationships. Do we respond with benign tolerance as we might toward strangers? Far from it…. Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference.’

“Pippert then quotes E. H. Gifford, ‘Human love here offers a true analogy: the more a father loves his son, the more he hates in him the drunkard, the liar, the traitor.’

“She concludes: ‘If I, a flawed narcissistic sinful woman, can feel this much pain and anger over someone’s condition, how much more a morally perfect God who made them? God’s wrath is not a cranky explosion, but his settled opposition to the cancer of sin which is eating out the insides of the human race he loves with his whole being.’ ”

Following a recent sermon on the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, the post-service question-and-answer session was packed with more than the usual number of attenders. The questions and comments focused on the subject of eternal judgment.

My heart sank when a young college student said, “I’ve gone to church all my life, but I don’t think I can believe in a God like this.” Her tone was more sad than defiant, but her willingness to stay and talk showed that her mind was open.

Usually all the questions are pitched to me, and I respond as best I can. But on this occasion people began answering one another.

An older businesswoman said, “Well, I’m not much of a churchgoer, and I’m in some shock now. I always disliked the very idea of hell, but I never thought about it as a measure of what God was willing to endure in order to love me.”

Then a mature Christian made a connection with a sermon a month ago on Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11. “The text tells us that Jesus wept,” he said, “yet he was also extremely angry at evil. That’s helped me. He is not just an angry God or a weeping, loving God—he’s both. He doesn’t only judge evil, but he also takes the hell and judgment himself for us on the cross.”

The second woman nodded, “Yes. I always thought hell told me about how angry God was with us, but I didn’t know it also told me about how much he was willing to suffer and weep for us. I never knew how much hell told me about Jesus’ love. It’s very moving.”

It is only because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamation of grace and love are so brilliant and astounding.

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