This past Saturday saw me sitting in church listening to a number of stirring speeches on evangelism and reaching the lost for Christ. It had been a while since I’d gone to an event of this type. As God would have it, I was listening to a riveting radio program during my drive to meet a friend/my navigator for our trip. The radio program perfectly set the stage for what was to come.
During the time I was driving and listening, a philosophical question was posed by the moderator: If some people don’t believe that our world is real, that death is permanent and pain is excruciating, then why don’t they sit on the railroad tracks somewhere and wait for the train to pass over them? The Answer: Because deep down inside, while they might say there is no God, no eternity, no heaven and no hell; no pain, no permanence, no reason to worry about the future, in fact, no anything, they don’t act that way.
I said it was interesting.
Fast forward to our evangelism forum. A pastor/speaker poses this observation about the church: We don’t speak about hell any more. Don’t teach about it. Shy away from preaching about it, to the extent that one wonders, “Do we, the Church, believe in hell anymore?”
Do we really, sincerely, actually believe in a physical place of isolation away from God, where active punishment for those sins committed in the body and never resolved or covered over by Christ’s blood, will cause humanity to suffer forever?
Yeah, it caught me up short too!
I had to ask myself, do I believe in the hell of the Bible? Do I really, truly believe that those who leave this earth having turned salvation away, or worse yet, having had no chance to respond to Jesus’ offer for forgiveness (because I never mustered the courage to pointedly ask them if they had considered such things), going to have no way to escape the pain that awaits them? Do I believe this is what waits for all those who die without Christ? Do I? Really? And if I do, and still do nothing to speak to them directly about forgiveness, what does that make me?
Monster? Loser? The one who buried his talent in the mud?
I can’t say I never knew telling others about Jesus was my responsibility. I can’t feign a lack of knowledge concerning salvation. I can’t say I was too busy to make sure they knew. There are no excuses–not if I really, honestly, and with my whole heart believe an actual hell exists.
I’ve just begun reading a book on the Holy Spirit. What power…what Presence…what glory He brings to the life of every believer. All the power, all the Presence, all the glory and holiness and wisdom necessary to get myself saved…but not enough to warn others? Is that it? Is it God’s fault that I don’t open my mouth, or does the blame rest with me?
It might not seem so, but this weekend’s evangelism focus was actually an encouragement to me. You see, more than anything, I believe knowing Jesus makes all kinds of things possible for me. Trusting in Him and making a committment to reach out as doors open, I know I can turn this thing around. I can truly, thoroughly believe in the reality of an actual hell, as the Bible describes it. I can let that belief prompt me to pray. I can ask God to open doors, open minds, and open my mouth.
Pray for me as I get on my knees and ask God, “What’s next?” It’s a question full of life-saving potential. A question God wants us all to ask ourselves. A question I can’t avoid any more.
What do you do on a regular basis to live out God’s commission to go and preach the gospel to all nations? What fears must you face before you can confidently say, “Here am I, send me?” Do you believe in the ability to begin again any time?