Friday, November 29, 2013

A loving God and Hell

How can a just, loving, and fair God send people to Hell?

It's a question (and ultimately an important one) that gets thrown at us Christians often. And it's one I was discussing with a friend recently, with the following reasoning being where we landed:

In this life, we are given a choice between 2 options:
1) accept, rejoice in, and be all-consumed by the glorious love and grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ... surrender to His Lordship and allow yourself to accept that He is God, not you. 

2) reject Him. Choose to live apart from His extraordinary grace and love. Choose to worship the created things rather than their Creator.

It  is the alignment if your soul with these two options that determines your eternal destination. God, being loving, just, and fair, allows you to choose. If you choose to live under His authority and in His love, He welcomes you into the full revelation of Himself for all eternity in the glory of Heaven through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ as the atoning sacrifice on our behalf. Scripture says that in this way, God is righteous to forgive our sins. Choose God in this life, have God for all eternity.

Aligning yourself with the second option, rejecting God, choosing to live outside His love and grace, and in His love, justice, and fairness He will not force any of us to align ourselves with these things. So, as an ultimate example of this, if we choose, in this life, to reject God, He will not force us to be in His presence for all eternity but instead He will grant you an eternity spent fully removed from His grace and love. This is the reality of Hell, an existence fully devoid of the presence of God.

As bad as our world currently is, every person under the sun is living under the presence of the ordinary means of grace of God's love. It's something that He bestows on us all as a glimpse into His sovereign beauty. This leads to the reality that the choice to live a lifestyle outside of the bounds of God's will is a choice to make this world, and this life, be as close to God's glory as you will ever encounter. If you choose a life lived under the will of God, you are as far from God, in this life and world, as you will ever be.
If you are fed up and believing that there is no God because of the current state if this world, know that the only way that it gets better is to seek God, draw close to Him and discover the eternity of His glory that He has for you... it's that simple... 

People are not in Hell because God is unfair, unloving, or unjust... God is simply unwilling to force someone to spend eternity with Him after they spent their whole life indicating that they don't want to live in His presence. The choice is each of ours... the decision to follow God is up to each of us to make for ourselves. The means by which we are able to do so are up to God. The how is lined out in the Bible, and God, being God, gets the right to decide the terms of our agreement to follow.

To echo Francis Chan... I wish I could tell you that we could all choose to live however we wanted, with no regard to eternity, and no worries about the ramifications of our actions and still, at the end of the day, we all go to heaven... I wish that we're true, it would be easier, but it's just not Biblically true.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

unto Caesar

In a conversation with a friend and mentor recently, we got onto the topic of stewardship and Godly giving. He related to me a portion of a sermon he had recently heard from Ravi Zacharias; in this message, Ravi was speaking about the time in Jesus' ministry when Christ was confronted with the question of (essentially) if a follower of Christ should pay taxes. Jesus of course replies by asking whose face appears on the money... the answer was, Caesar. Jesus then commanded to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to give unto God what is God's. Ravi then made the statement that he wishes that the questions would have continued, and the man would have posed to Jesus, "Then what is of God's that we should give unto Him?"

I have been thinking over the response to this question, as Ravi posed it, for a good while now, and the implications of it are quite large... its just this simple: we are able to clearly identify that which is Caesar's based on the imprint of Caesars's likeness on the coin... likewise, we can discern what is God's by identifying what in Creation has been imprinted with the likeness of God.

In Genesis, at the creation of man, God speaks, saying, "Let us create man in our own image." The same word here for image could be translated as "likeness". It is among the most important demarcations setting humanity apart from the rest of creation, we bear the likeness or the image of our Creator. So the extrapolation of Jesus' instruction that we are to give unto Caesar that which bears the image of Caesar would be the implication that we are to give unto God that which bears the image of God... ourselves!

We find over and over again through the New Testament commands given to give ourselves to the things of God, to devote ourselves to the will of God, and here we find an implied command to give to God what is God's. But what does that look like? Giving to Caesar was easy... or at least clearly defined... you gave whatever Caesar commanded of you (plus whatever the collector could weasel out of you to line his own pockets). Is it the same with God? Does God command us to give Him whatever He feels is right and fair? Do His "collectors" then try to twist you for a little extra for their own? I would argue that many in our culture believe that that is exactly how it works.

Whereas it may be predominant belief of the culture, we know that God does not work in that way. Under the new covenant of Christ's blood, there is no commandment or set standard of acceptable giving. There is a command to give generously, regularly, sacrificially, graciously... we are commanded to seek the proper giving in our lives. The implications of these commands go way beyond the giving of money, after all, the money does not bear the image of God. Are we to give of our monetary blessings? Yes! Its all gifted to us from God in the first place, we are merely worshiping with thankful giving back that which we were graciously gifted in the first place. But, more importantly, we are to be giving with that grateful heart, that which bears the image of God. Our time, our devotion, our love, our life... all of who we are is to be given to God.