Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The lies we believe about Hell

Have you ever noticed that hell is a touchy subject to talk about?  What is it about hell that makes it so difficult?

I think often the issue has to do with what we believe about ourselves, and what we believe about God, but not necessarily about the place of hell itself (though, there are many who don't believe in an eternal hell).

Do you believe you're good enough to avoid hell?  I deceive myself with this lie all the time, that I actually think I can avoid hell all together if I'm strong enough.  What we don't realize is that hell is first and foremost the absence of God and His love, mercy, and justice.  That in itself is eternal torture.  But we don't actually believe it, we believe hell is for bad people and that they will burn for eternity, and it's clear who's going there and who's going to heaven.

But what if it wasn't so cut and dry?  (Disclaimer: Jesus is the only way to avoid hell and enter heaven) What if I told you that while God is just and judges you at the end of your life, you and I are actually hard-wired to run headlong for hell?  Check out Romans 1:18-24

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things."  

This passage depicts the deep-rooted rebellion that resides in our hearts against God.  Do you see it?  The author argues that God has shown His eternal power and divine power since the beginning of Creation through creation, and that while we have recognized that there is a God that is accessible, we chose to make our own gods instead, gods that serve us.  They are gods that actually make us our own gods.  

Here is Paul's take on God's wrath:

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!  Amen."  (Romans 1:25-27)

In other words, we openly rebel against God, and He lets us.  People often ask, "Why would a loving God send people to hell?"  This passage answers with this:  "Because they don't want to go heaven, because that's where God is and will always be.  To be content with heaven, you have to realize that God is God, you are not, and greatest joy is found when He is master of all."

This flies in the face of what we typically believe about hell.  We often believe that hell is for the baddest of bad (which is true), the justice we want to administer will finally be given (partially true), and that we can do enough good to outweigh the bad (not true).  Or, if you realize you're a hellion, you think of hell as one giant reunion with your friends where the beer (or stiffer drink of choice) will keep flowing and other pleasures will greet you eternally.  

Here's the truth about hell:  We're all the baddest of the bad, because we've rebelled against God (Romans 3:23).  We all desire to run hell-bound races as we tie our hopes in anything other than God.  It's not going to be fun, in fact it's going to be eternal torture.  Want proof?  If you root for any sports team, and your hope is tied to their success, your life becomes a living hell.  I love my Ohio State Buckeyes, but I realized that if they are my god, my life becomes anxiety ridden to the point that even if they win the championship this year, I'll immediately be anxious to see if they can continue winning.  What are the objects you put on the throne?  Ask yourself, "what do I need to happen for me to stay happy?"  Chances are your answer is actually what puts you in hell on earth, and it will only get worse.

The greatest taste of heaven you could ever have is here, because God is still active and present in this life.  But if you're still present, you can still change course, because God so loved the World that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)  

So if you want to escape hell, where nothing satisfies, ask Jesus to rescue you.  Ask Him to change your heart.  Ask Him to help you see God not only as your God, but as your treasure.  He's the only one that can give you joy and satisfaction for eternity.