GOD’S LOVE AND HELL

A book by a well known evangelical casts doubt on some things Jesus said about hell and judgment. The basic question is: If God is love, why does he send people to hell?

But there is a twofold problem with the question. It assumes that we understand human nature and God’s love as they are presented in the Bible.

We do not.

We have childish, unbiblical notions of human nature. We believe that we are better than we are–that sin somehow does not corrupt us. We also have confused ideas about responsibility. We tend to blame God for our choices. We misunderstand his nature, imagining his love as grandfatherly sentiment, his holiness irrelevant, and therefore, his wrath is considered impossible.

When we do think of God’s wrath, we equate it with human rage. But Tim Keller has a good definition of God’s wrath: “It is not an out-of-control temper. Wrath is the settled opposition and hatred of that which is destroying what we love.” Imagine your reaction to cancer in a dear friend. That’s wrath. God hates the things that destroy us, including the things that come from inside us.

We are capable of much evil, much selfishness, much that is perverse and opposed to that which God holds dear. We destroy the bodies he gave us with toxins, neglect, and inadequate care. We destroy the souls he gave us with greed, gossip, lying, self-righteousness, self-pity, and lust. And we destroy others with cutting words, economic oppression, relentless criticism, and betrayal.

We also assume that Jesus was too kind to mention hell. But he said more about hell than anyone else in the New Testament. He warned us, “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 NIV).

He also taught that hell is self-chosen saying, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18-19 NIV).

C. S. Lewis said it like this: Unless someone wants God and God alone he would be utterly miserable in heaven. It would be a crime to send him there for heaven is all about God.

Finally, the good news that Jesus came to proclaim is that God wishes to save us from hell. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). That’s God’s love at work, absorbing the wrath that we deserve, and making it possible for us to know him now and join him in eternity.

How do we do that? By receiving him into our lives as Lord, as Jesus also explained, “He who receives me receives the one who sent me.” (John 13:20 ESV). And, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matthew 13:25 NIV).

So the question is not, “Why does God send people to hell?” But rather, “What do I really want? Do I want Jesus Christ and God the Father who sent him? Or do I want my own life, my own way?”

Either way, the choice is ours.

Rx for Anxiety

ANXIETY, I am not immune to it. I doubt you are either. Yet something Jesus said just before his crucifixion reminds me that we have a choice about our anxieties.

The Apostle John describes the scene for us in chapters thirteen and fourteen of his gospel. Jesus, already in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, is in the upper room with his closest followers, his twelve, hand-picked men. There is a price on his head. He washes their feet, shares the bread and the cup, and most notably, predicts his betrayal. All are aghast. All are frightened. They are well aware of the threat they are under, the risks they are running by being in Jerusalem. It is a time of great anxiety.

Into this fractious moment Jesus speaks some his most familiar words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1). I’ve read those words hundreds of times, often at funerals. But this week the first three words stood out from the rest in a way they haven’t before because I realized Jesus repeated them near the end of his talk, just before they left the upper room, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

The first three words of each line tell us something about ourselves that can be hard to believe: We have a choice about our anxieties. Jesus’ two “Do not let(s)…” make an emphatic statement about our ability to select worry and its gut-wrenching results, or trust and the peace that accompanies it.

The fact, the physiological fact, is that we can worry ourselves sick. Psychiatrists have reliable evidence that the more we worry, the more we fixate on some fearful thing over which we have no control, the more likely we are to push our brain chemistry out of balance. Once the neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and others get off-kilter it can be very difficult to return them to an even keel. In some cases medications are necessary to help restore the balance. But for most of us medication is a temporary fix. If we don’t address the underlying habit of fear in the first place the imbalance is likely to reoccur.

Jesus has a prescription for preventing such brain disorders in the first place. “Do not let” it happen. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust God (instead). Trust me (instead).” Do not choose worry and it cannot enslave your mind. Choose to trust God and he will set it free.

Easier said than done? Yes, certainly. But it can be done. Let me offer a couple of practical steps to help. Call it Rx for Anxiety.
First, it may be necessary to confess that we’ve allowed the source of our worry, in our minds at least, to become more powerful than God, more important to our wellbeing than Christ. That’s actually idolatry and it requires confession and repentance. “Father, thing A or thing B is occupying front and center in my life. That’s your place. I now repent of that and confess that you are God and nothing else. I confess that I am not in control.”

Second, remembering that physical expressions of worship often help us deal with difficult emotions, take a step of faith. Take that thing over which you have no control (which includes most of life, does it not?), write it down on a piece of paper, and in an act of worship offer it up to God. Then set it on fire.

Some things are more difficult to offer up like this than others. Some may require a daily offering for a while. But make it a habit with all of your worries and peace will become your companion.

We have a choice about our anxieties. As you think about all that Christ accomplished for us during his Passion this week, choose trust.

THE MOLECH / PLANNED PARENTHOOD PARADIGM

Everything had to be carefully prepared. The attendants laid fuel for the fire in the rearward facing hearth of the hollow, life-sized bronze figure.  The musicians began softly, building intensity and volume as the fire grew hotter and the statue began to glow. The worshippers, having already made lesser offerings in the first six chapels, entered the seventh chamber to the mind-numbing thunder of pounding drums and clashing cymbals and a now red-hot bronze of a man with the head of a bull, seated on a throne with blazing arms outstretched to receive their infant sacrifice. Welcome to the 15th century B.C. worship of Molech, where the cries of the victims were swallowed up by the cacophony of the celebration.

I paint that ancient picture to remind you that no one should be surprised by what we are seeing in the video expose´ of Planned Parenthood’s baby-parts-for-dollars enterprise. In the first place, syndicated columnist Mona Charen reported on this practice as far back as 1999.  But more importantly, human nature has not changed.

Molech, mentioned in Leviticus 18:20, was one of the gods of the people who occupied the land before Israel came in. From an ancient, near eastern perspective the local deities “held the franchise” on prosperity. If you lived in Egypt you needed to know the Egyptian gods. Ditto in Babylon. But in Canaan you needed to know the Canaanite gods. They held the keys – if you were inclined to forget the real God – to your prosperity, your physical health and wellbeing. When you come right down to it, idolatry was economically driven.

Now, put yourself in the 21st century shoes of a young, unmarried woman. She lives in a culture that prides itself on sexual freedom and expression. Her culture also increasingly frowns on traditional families and motherhood and urges women to find fulfillment in a professional career, in having money, and things, and freedom. Then she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. She learns that the father of the child isn’t interested in being a father. She will bear the parenting burden alone. Perhaps her parents won’t help. She will bear the financial burden alone. She can afford to go to college or raise a child, but not both, her economic chances are being constrained. Or perhaps she is already in a professional career, one that will not make room for a child. What are her options?

Meanwhile the High Priestesses of Choice chant, “It’s about your freedom! Your body! Your rights!” And the drums of fear thunder louder in her ears, and the “clinicians” cymbals clash ‘it’s only tissue’, ‘a simple procedure’, ‘over in a moment’, adding to her confusion, drowning out the silent screams of the baby in her womb.

The arms of Molech wait in Planned Parenthood clinics all over America. The only difference is that they’ve figured out it’s more financially advantageous not to incinerate “the product,” but to sell it.

The question for us is: Can this situation change? Pro-life leaders in Congress are proposing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, and I hope they succeed. Only when hearts change, however, will we stop the abortion holocaust. We must work upstream of politics with the message of hope in Jesus Christ. He alone can open the eyes and secure the hearts of women in fear. He alone can free us from the greed that drives the abortion industry.

If you are a woman who has undergone an abortion and you feel the brokenness and the guilt of it, there is hope. If you are a person who has worked in the industry and now regret it, there is hope. The guilt you feel has been born by another. The defilement you feel as a human being can be washed away. Jesus Christ, born of a woman, born under the law, was sacrificed as our penalty for sin and was raised so that we could be free. He has poured out his Spirit on us so that we can be cleansed. I urge you to invite him in to your life, to be your Lord and savior today.