Friday, January 18, 2013

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and Heaven vs. The World and Hell

I wanted to take some time to explain the difference between these two concepts from a Christian perspective because it seems that there is much misunderstanding, fear, and controversy around these two issues.  I will start with the bad news and then I will give you the Gospel, which literally means “good news.”  Let’s see if I can keep this short and simple for the sake of readability.

The World and Hell

I once saw a YouTube video by Paul Washer and he stated that the most terrifying truth about God is that He is GOOD.  Like you might be right now, I was quite taken by this at first.  I didn’t understand but that’s exactly what kept me wanting to listen.  As Paul continued, he explained that God is incapable of accepting anyone who is not “good” into his presence.  So that leaves us with another question.  How do we become “good”?  Let’s imagine for a moment, a piece of wood about 1” thick, 12” wide, and 12” high.  The piece of wood is freshly cut, has no imperfections, and it perfectly square at all edges.  It’s overall integrity is 100% perfect.  Now, imagine taking a hammer and a nail and pounding that nail straight into the center of that piece of wood.  Perhaps I even take a few more nails and do it again.  After a while, I realize that what was once a perfect piece of wood is not full of nails so I decide that I want to fix the problem.  I remove all of the nails and now I see that there are a bunch of holes in the wood.  I quickly begin to patch those holes but it’s not long before I realize that I can still see the blemishes in the wood.  My point here is that once I put that first nail into the wood, it’s overall integrity went from 100% perfect to less than that and no matter what I do, I can never fully restore that piece of wood back to the way it was originally.  This is how God sees us.  When we sin, which means to “miss the mark,” we have added another hole to ourselves.  Since it is an acceptable statement to say that no one is perfect and this is biblically sound as well, we can all agree that we have a few holes.  Per the analogy I have used here, there is no way we can bring ourselves back to 100% perfection.  For us to be truly “good” to God, we must be 100% perfect.  Gosh, that is a problem isn’t it?  We messed up, we can’t make it right no matter how much effort we exert, and we have become unacceptable to God in that process.  So people try to make the right decisions.  They try to “live right.”  They try to “be a good person.”  We follow the supposed good people in the world.  This is all in hope that we will be acceptable to other people, much less God.  But again, we cannot fix it.  If we die trying to fix it, this is where hell comes into play.

The world we live in defines hell and eternal misery, which is true, but it’s actually a little more than that.  It is a place where we are completely separated from God.  When you wake up in the morning and sip that fresh coffee or you get into those comfortable PJs at night, you fail to realize that this is God’s grace.  The kiss from your spouse, the warm hug form a friend, the fact that pain is never truly constant from second to second, and the fact that there is still always beauty to be found around us is God’s grace.  When we remove God completely, none of that will exist.  So now for the important question…is hell a place where God tortures sinners or is hell a place where God does not exist?  I’ve heard others ask time and time again how a loving God could put us through eternal suffering.  The simple answer is, He doesn’t.  We choose to reject Him and therefore, He gives us our wish.  He lets us go to place where He does not exist and the result is the complete absence of grace.  Without grace, pain is always constant.  We suffer not at the hands of God, but at the hands of all who rejected God’s grace.  IT is important to understand that absolutely EVERYTHING that is truly good, comes from God.  There can be no bad thing that comes from God.  This includes good feelings, positive experiences, beauty, and relief as well.  Without those things, we have nothing left but BAD suffering.  As originally stated, God cannot accept anything but “GOOD” into His presence.  Therefore, no, hell is not God in ugly retaliation.  Hell is simply a place where God is not.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and Heaven

I saved the best part for last – the “good news.”  Since we cannot fix our problem and make ourselves good again, God took it upon Himself to give us a solution to the problem, to make the “wood” 100% perfect again by removing the holes as if they were never there.  He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus is 100% perfect and the only One that ever walked the earth Who is.  Men killed Him.  The interesting part is that Jesus wasn’t just a man.  He was God Himself in the flesh.  How many of you would give your life for someone you love?  I bet many hands are raised right now, but let me ask another question.  How many of you give your life for an enemy, someone who hurt you and continues to hurt you?  The truth is one sin is enough to remove our “good” status, which makes us an enemy.  Sin simply means that we failed to obey our heavenly Father.  He could have just done away with us, but instead, He chose to die for us.  When He died that day, over 2000 years ago, He did two very important things.  First, He took the pain for every sin for all mankind for all time.  Because He was perfect and acceptable as “good,” this sacrifice was enough to satisfy the penalty for all sins.  Therefore, all sins for all people, past, present, and future were remembered no more.  Secondly, He promised us LIFE by way of the Holy Spirit.  I don’t just mean life in heaven.  I mean life here on earth AND in heaven.  The life that He promised means all our needs (actual needs, not “wants”) will always be met, that we will do great things for the Creator Himself and others, and that we will find great joy, peace, and endless grace in the process.  When we do finally arrive home in heaven, He promises to remove all forms of pain, suffering, tears, and fatigue.  We can move mountains all by way of faith in what we cannot see.  We will finally be seen as “good” again because the blood of Jesus from His death washes away our sinful filth and God sees us as if He were looking at Jesus Himself.  We literally become sons and daughters of the One True God.  We become ambassadors, representatives, friends, family to and for the Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Powerful, All-Seeing, All-Present God.  Seriously, how can we turn that down?

There is only one way we can lose out on this absolutely free offer.  We can choose not to believe it.  That is the ONLY unforgivable sin, to reject Jesus, what He did, and what He promised.  It seems so simple doesn’t it?  Yet still, so many would rather trust in their own intellect to make the best of this temporary life.  I ask that you choose otherwise.  I ask that you choose to believe.  You might wonder how you will know if your belief and your faith in Jesus is real.  The answer is simple. Your life WILL change and transform.  If it does not, you do not believe and you do not understand.  It is literally impossible for your life not to change if your faith truly exists in Jesus Christ.  Once you believe, you will receive the Holy Spirit, Who will cause you to walk in God’s ways.  You will want to do it.  You will fail daily, I promise.  But you will desire to walk with God.  You will desire to listen to Him.  As a result, your life will take a different direction.  You will receive new gifts and talents that you never had.  You will learn about traits you had that you never knew were there in the first place.  You will begin to see where God has led you to this moment throughout your life so far.  You will start to see God move in your life in ways that you never noticed before.  This is what being a Christian is all about.  Did you think it was about fixing yourself?  Did you think it was about reading your Bible more often?  Did you think it was about anything you could do?  Do you really think it is I, the author of this article, who moves myself to write this?  No my friends.  It is the Holy Spirit in me that gives me the desire to want to type it because I love you and God loves you.  This effort was not to earn points with God.  It was to show you how much God loves you and to encourage you to begin to put your faith and trust in Him today.

Receiving the Gift

How do I receive this free gift of salvation?  Pray this prayer right now.  You can do it alone or with someone.  It doesn’t matter as long as you mean it from the depths of your soul:
“Jesus, I confess that I have sinned against you. I want to be made new again.  I am asking you to please come into my heart and forgive my sins.  Today, I am putting my trust and faith in what you did on the cross for me over 2000 years ago.  I believe that You are the Son of God and I believe in Your promises.  Help me to follow you.  I give myself to you and ask that You lead me all the days of my life.  Thank You for dying for me.  I accept You and what You’ve done for me.  Amen.”
If you’ve just prayed that prayer, welcome to God’s family my friend.  Your life will NEVER be the same again!  As the years go by, remember this day so you can see how the journey has changed you.  May God be with you always!