On Sunday mornings this summer, Heritage is exploring different myths commonly believed within Christianity during a “Mythbusters” teaching series. The week after each topic is taught from a biblical perspective, this blog will further dive into the issue at hand. We pray that this teaching series and the blog article that accompanies it will serve to be a resource as you reach your world for Christ.
By: Brent Cisson
Photo: Heather Michele Photo
“No! I don’t want to go to Hell!” The words still bring fear to my soul. Just moments before, I had stepped into a rural church in Georgia as a young teenager. I was attending an event called “Judgment House” (which still exist in parts of the South—I grew up in Georgia). As we walked into the church, rooms were set up that displayed different stages of the final moments of the lives of two friends who would both die in a staged car wreck. Immediately after dying, the judgment before God of both friends would occur (as Hebrews 9:27 alludes to). One person would be sent to Hell by God (thus, the statement beginning this blog) and one person would spend eternity in Heaven. Then, the very next stage would be a scene of eternal torment of the individual sent to Hell (with the thermostat and loud demonic music cranked up). It was terrifying! The final scene would be the other character in Heaven worshipping Jesus and being reunited with family members. It would end with a call to follow Jesus.
Similar to the extremes of this hair-raising experience, my faith journey has been one of extremes internally. As a child, I remember attending church and hearing elements of the gospel. I remember hearing that Hell was a scary, never-ending place of torment and that bad people go there (sadly, that was my main take away from Judgment Houses—I don’t want to go to Hell). Though I would not have considered myself to be “bad,” I sure was not without sin. I would tell a lie to get out of doing something, I was mean to my younger brother on occasion, and I even remember cursing at my mother circa fourth grade (with subsequent and appropriate discipline—soap does not taste very good!). In the moment of sinning, I was scared that the sin I had just committed moments earlier would immediately send me to Hell should I die without asking God for forgiveness. I would sin, be fearful that I would go to Hell, plead for forgiveness, and then sin minutes or hours later and repeat. I was scared of Hell and my heart was not surrendered to Jesus. (Please don’t check out here—that description is not biblical faith.)
Fast forward to my teenage years: I attended a weekend retreat through the church my family was attending at the time. The message of the weekend was that God loves you, in spite of the sin in your life. That message was overwhelming hope to my fearful soul. I remember giving my life to follow that Jesus who loved me regardless of my sin.
Changed life, right? Eh . . . not really!
Instead of pursuing Christ with all my being, I began to willfully and constantly sin because Jesus loves me anyway, right? (Yes, He would love me anyway.) He would forgive no matter the sin and no matter the bent of a rebellious heart, right? (Great question! Romans 6 deals with that, as does this well-written article: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/are-we-to-continue-in-sin-that-grace-might-increase).
Once I reached college, I had two mentors who began teaching me how to study the Bible. I began to be confronted by the fact that my sin is grievous and condemns me to what should be an eternal destiny apart from God.
BUT, GOD . . .
The beauty of the gospel is two-fold (as quoted by Amazing Grace author, John Newton): “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior!”
Paul says it this way in Ephesians 2: 1-10:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sinsin which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ButGod, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
My sin, and your sin, is great and our sin demands payment—death (Rom. 6:23)! Doesn’t sound very loving does it?
But, God . . . because of His great love for us (John 3:16), sent His perfect Son, Jesus, to be the perfect expression of love and justice and to die a death we deserved to die!
Now, as we believe He did what He said He did (Rom. 10:9) and surrender our lives to Jesus (Matt. 16:24-25), we are saved from the spiritual death because Jesus paid it for us.
Not only that, but God puts Himself, the Holy Spirit, in us (1 Cor. 3:16) to live the life of an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20), the One we were once enemies against.
That is the gospel, the good news—where judgment and love exist in complete union in the Triune God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit).
Can I be completely honest with you? I still sin. I am filled with pride, I get bitter, I lust, I judge those outside the church (a topic coming in a couple of weeks in church), I am a glutton from time to time, and on and on. My sin is still grievous and demands death! Yet, praise be to God that the death payment has been satisfied because of Jesus!
The sin I commit is now confessed to Jesus not out of fear of Hell, but out of the reality that I have sinned against my Father in Heaven. Justice and judgment have been poured out on that sin but also deep love from God.
Amen and amen!