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Saturday, November 5, 2011

What Would God Do?

It is a common exercise for preachers and teachers and writers to comment on "what God would do."  The favorite one I encounter has to do with Hell.  I hear and read that a good and loving God would not send anyone to Hell.  Some people like to conclude that there is no Hell.  Others relagate Hell to Satan and his fallen angels.  If we are to believe the Bible, we must deal with the facts and information about Hell contained in it before we dismiss them because we don't like the implications.

Jesus is quoted in Matthew, Mark, and Luke discussing Hell and it's inhabitants.  The authorities who questions whether God would send anyone to Hell read these passages as an allegory or illustration.  Many passages in Revelations discuss the activities of demons and the risk of being abandoned to them. 

I guess I am more interested in discussing the person of God than in proving the reality of Hell.  The Bible is our only reference for the character and personality of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  The character of God is often read as changing from harsh and judgmental in the Old Testament to loving and merciful in the New Testament.  Hebrews 13:8 states that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Jesus was the incarnated revelation of God and he is no different from God the Father and the Holy Spirit.  The Trinity is always and continually in communion and agreement.  God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-- has not changed.

God was always ready to welcome the Children of Israel when they asked for his mercy.  He was not particularily pleased when they sought him for their own material gain or when they planned evil.  He criticized them and allowed punishment to fall on them when they sought after other gods.  Their other gods did not do much to help them.  God was always there to restore, uplift, and strengthen.  When they corrupted the scriptures and denied aid to poor, God allowed their course to be determined by their behavior.

I keep coming back to the view of God that says he will send sinners to horrible, unyielding torment in eternal Hell.  That's not the way I read it.  I have a choice--accept Jesus or refuse his offer.  If I accept Jesus, I follow his lead; I become like him; I learn his righteousness, and I draw on his grace.  It is not an easy path.  If I refuse his offer of salvation, I am free to seek my own path.  I can do anything and live anyway I like.  It doesn't mean I am a bad person.  I just do it my way. 

Revelations describes the Book of Life which has recorded in it the names of those who accepted Jesus' gracious offer of redemption and salvation.  For those who wanted to belong to Jesus, the path may have been difficult, but they saw an outcome that was blessed.  Those who refused his salvation also made a choice.  It was a personal choice.  God did not make it for them.  God does not send anyone to Hell, but if you don't want what Jesus has to offer Hell is the result. 

Accepting Jesus as your Lord, Savior, and Redeemer leads to a disciplined life of obedience, holiness, and sacrifice.  Refusing his offer is a personal choice.  You may find power and wealth or emptiness and loss, but it was your choice.  Joy in eternity rests in Jesus.  He calls you to come to him and enter a new life, but it is your choice.  Hell is available too.