Friday, September 8, 2017

September 9, 2017

A couple from northern Minnesota decided to go to Florida for a long weekend to thaw out during one particularly icy winter. Because they both had jobs, they had difficulty coordinating their travel schedules. It was decided that the husband would fly to Florida on Thursday, and his wife would follow the next day. Upon arriving as planned, the husband checked into the motel. He decided to open his laptop and send his wife an e-mail back home. However, he accidentally left off one letter in her address, and sent the e-mail without realizing the error. In Houston, a widow just returning from her husband’s funeral. He had been a pastor for many years who had been called home to glory. The widow checked her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends. Upon reading the first message, she fainted and fell to the floor. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read: TO: My loving wife FROM: Your departed husband SUBJECT: I’ve arrived! MESSAGE: I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was. P.S. Sure is hot down here.

Hell is a subject that offends some people and makes others uncomfortable. What do we tend to do when we are uncomfortable with something? We laugh at it, right?

If someone challenges you with “A Loving God Wouldn’t Send People to Hell”, take heart! It indicates that they have embraced two crucial truths: they believe God is loving and they believe in hell!

A poll done by The Minneapolis Star Tribune a few years ago found that 65% of the people in Minnesota believed in hell. That is a pretty high number. Only 15%, however, said they knew someone who would be a sure bet to go there, and only 3% felt that they themselves deserved to end up in hell. In other words, most folks accept hell as a reality, they just don’t see it as a danger.

So, should we see Hell as a danger? Would a loving God really send people to hell?”

To answer this question you need to understand God’s love and you need to understand hell. Let me see if I can help.


"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:1-9

Two Sides of God’s Love: MERCY and JUSTICE

Our text today tells us that God’s love is real because He chose to extend mercy to us when we deserved justice. His choice to extend mercy made it possible for each of us to choose mercy and avoid the justice that would send us to HELL.

Because God is holy He demands justice for sin. But because He is a loving Father, He desires to show mercy toward those who sin. How can a holy God have a relationship with a fallen person? He can’t compromise His holiness but love needs an object so it can be expressed. What is the answer? Jesus was the answer! He was God in the flesh of a man. Born of a virgin so He could be sinless and living in the Spirit so He could remain sinless. That allowed Him to take on the sins of the world and provide us a way to deal with our sin and have access to the Father.

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. "But I don’t ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy." "But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied. "Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." "Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman’s son.

God’s love is real. He desires to be merciful but will execute justice when His holiness demands it. God would have been overjoyed if Hell had ended up vacant.


Peter Marshall, the great 20th Century preacher once said, “Proof that hell is real is that Jesus came to earth to save us from it.”

Bill Hybels described what Hell might feel like: “The bottomless pit…conjures up dreamlike feelings of falling away -- falling, falling, falling. You’ve all had dreams like that; where when you woke your heart was beating because you were falling. Picture in your mind hanging over a precipice --- and God is hanging onto you --- and you’re hanging onto him. “And you decide you don’t need him anymore. So you let go. But the moment you let go you know you made a mistake. You’re falling, and every moment you fall further and further away from the only source of help and truth and love --- and you realize you made a mistake and you can’t get back up --- and you fall further and faster and further and faster into spiritual oblivion --- and you know you’re going the wrong direction --- and you’d give anything to go back, but you can’t. And you fall, and you fall, and you fall, and you fall … “How long? Forever. And all the while you’re falling you’re saying, ‘I’m further now; I’m further. I’m further from the only source of hope, truth, and love.’ “In hell there is never the bliss of annihilation. You’d give anything for annihilation, but it’s unavailable --- only the conscious continuation of emotional anguish, physical anguish, relational anguish, and spiritual anguish … forever.”

"Cardiologist Dr. Rawlings, a devout atheist, "considered all religion ’hocus-pocus’ and death nothing more than a painless extinction." But something happened in 1977 that brought a dramatic change in the life of Dr. Rawlings! He was resuscitating a man, terrified and screaming. "Each time he regained heartbeat and respiration, the patient screamed, ’I am in hell!’ He was terrified and pleaded with me to help him. I was scared to death...Then I noticed a genuinely alarmed look on his face. He had a terrified look, worse than the expression seen in death! This patient had a grotesque grimace expressing sheer horror! His pupils were dilated, and he was perspiring and trembling--he looked as if his hair was ’on end.’ Then still another strange thing happened. He said, ’Don’t you understand? I am in hell...Don’t let me go back to hell!’...the man was serious, and it finally occurred to me that he was indeed in trouble. He was in a panic like I had never seen before." Dr. Rawlings said no one who could have heard his screams and saw the look of terror on his face could doubt for a single minute that he was actually in a place called hell! Dr. Rawlings concludes, "Just listening to these patients has changed my life. There is a life after death, and if I don’t know where I’m going, it is not safe to die."
God knows that Hell is real and He has done everything that He can do to keep people from going there.

Jesus knows Hell is real because the Bible indicates that He went there after He died for the sins of the world.

It may or may not surprise you to know that the person in the bible who spoke the most often (and in the most graphic terms) about hell, was not one of the fiery Old-Testament prophets, or John the author of Revelation, but Jesus himself. 12 times in the gospels Jesus talks in explicit terms about hell. (More than any other single Bible person).

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46

I have shared several rather convincing pieces of evidence to show the terrible reality of Hell. You don’t want to go there! You shouldn’t want anyone to go there! You must do everything in your power to make sure you don’t go there or anyone that you care about.


Ted Turner, founder of Turner Broadcasting (TBS,TNT,CNN) blasted the Christian faith at a speech to the National Press Club. "Remember, heaven is going to be perfect. And I don’t really want to be there... Those of us that go to hell, which will be most of us in this room, most journalists are certainly going there... (Laughter). but, when we get there we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess. And heaven is perfect. Who want to go to a place that is perfect? Boring, boring." (Laughter). Also in late 1989, Turner told Dallas Morning News "Christianity is a religion for losers." Christ died on the cross, but Mr. Turner said He shouldn’t have bothered. "I don’t want anybody dying for me. I’ve had a few drinks and a few girlfriends and if that’s gonna put me in hell, then so be it."

I guess he prefers justice over mercy.

I have been with Christians when they died and I once stood by the bed-side of a man who knew he was dying and refused mercy. Trust me, there is a world of difference!

I want you to imagine that you have a friend who is standing on the edge of what looks like a swimming pool on a blistering hot August day. You happen along on the way to your swimming pool and see your friend getting ready to dive into that pool. You know that the pool he is about to dive into is filled with sulfuric acid. He is crouched and ready to lunge. He is mere seconds away from a horrible death.
What would you do?

You could say, “Wait! I’ll join you!”

You could say, that’s not my problem!

You could say, what a stupid thing to do! If he jumps in there he deserves it!

You could say, I sure am glad I have a safe pool to swim in!

You should say – NO! STOP!

I’m sure that is what you would do!

So why are you not pointing people who you know are standing on the road to Hell away from the justice of God and toward His mercy?

Would A Loving God Send People To Hell?

No – HE SAID, “STOP! TAKE MY MERCY!”The Bigger Question This Morning Is – Will You Let People You Love Go To Hell?

Celebration, Plenty and Lavish Love

"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!" Luke 15:17

Parables are very effective in giving the big picture concepts but can break down a bit in the details. These three stories do a great job of illustrating God's heart for lost people, but one important truth that is lost in the details is this - we don't GET lost, we are BORN lost. By lost, I mean we are sinful, separated from God, morally bankrupt, corrupt in our thinking and deceived in out mind.

That self-righteousness that caused the religious leaders to be lost in their faith? That is a manifestation of their spiritual lostness. It didn't get them lost but it caused them to remain in their lostness and prevented them from reaching other lost people.

The self-indulgence that led the sheep away from the flock and away from the shepherd. That was the evidence of his selfish nature, his sinful heart that motivated him to be more interested in his appetite than his safety. It cut him off from fellowship and put him at serious risk.

Her loss of focus due to self-satisfaction, that is what caused the carelessness that led to a lost coin. Again, that is a result of a fatal self-absorption that IS our sin nature. The lost coin happened because she was lost! She lost her focus on the coin because she was so focused on her own comfort and well being. It is how sin is oriented.

And the self-interest that prompted the son to dishonor his father, shame his family and put Himself into bondage. That is because of the sin nature he was born with - we are born with. He got lost because he was lost.

So, the big truth in these three rivoting stories is that we get more lost because we are lost. We remain lost until we are found. BUT - JESUS CAME TO "SEEK and SAVE THAT WHICH IS LOST".

The only thing that prevents us from being found is understanding and admitting that we are lost. Only as we get honest about our lostness can we develop a desire to be found. That is what happened to the lost son! That was his turning point. "He came to his senses". There always comes a point where your sin does you in. Ultimately pain pushes the change button in your mind. Every sinful play day brings a painful payday. The price of your sin will always exceed the pleasure. That is where this son was. He was confronted with the ugly truth about who he was and what he had done. He had dishonored his father. He had shamed his family and wasted their wealth. He had sold himself into bondage.

Thankfully, because God wants us to be found, He wired us with a conscience - a spiritual GPS to direct us back to Him. It is always operational. When programmed by the Spirit of God, it keeps us locked into to path of holiness pursuing God. But when it is ignored or programmed by the sinful nature, it leads to the path of destruction.

Jesus points to that crucial moment that everyone of needs to have in order to get from "lostness" to "foundness". We must "come to our senses" and listen to the voice of truth. We must honestly admit we are lost and confess a desire to be found. That was the turning point for the lost son. It was for me and it will be for you.

By this one act of humbly acknowledging the truth and heading home to the father, was the beginning of an amazing transformation. He went from starvation to celebration! He went from the pigpen to the palace! He went from loneliness and lostness to lavish love!

The bottom line - sin is senseless! Come to your senses and live in celebration, plenty, and lavish love!