My father used to tell the scariest “hell” stories that you could imagine. No matter who he talked to about God, if he ran into an argument or an attitude that he needed to move into a more submissive role – out came the big picture of what the end of the world would look like. Everyone ended up agreeing with my dad – “heaven” was a much better place to live. Who by the way wants to be labeled a heathen?
That was his day – all kinds of end time movies, prophecies put on film, ministers who saw what the end of the world looked like and dire warnings that if we do not straighten up we were going to roast – forever.
Today it’s different. Ministers are now siding with the theology that hell is not forever, at some point God annihilates it. The multifaith contingent believes we will all go to heaven for God is a God of love. Those prophets of yesteryear have all proven to be wrong in their timetables. Just try to find a worship song that even hints at repentance or coming clean before God.
So what does a guy in today’s world do when he confronts the word of God that describes quite visibly how the world will end and what happens to those who follow Christ and those who do not? What story do I tell?
I think I have the joy of telling both. I really push the idea that God is love and yet have the opportunity of describing tough love in the family context of raising children as the set of boundaries that all families have in place. Then there are consequences if those boundaries are crossed. No big deal – we can all make our own choices and each choice has its own reward.
So I trust in the adult inside each one of us to comprehend that and to make the choice. If I go in denial and create my own rules of how I can make it to heaven – that is my choice – and I will take the consequence for that decision. That includes making up my own entrance criteria, following religion, being as good as I can be or being so generous that I buy my way in – those are my decisions and they come with their own consequences.
I can only pray that my walk with God is something that is so real that after spending some time with those I have had the opportunity to tell the story will see the integrity of such a walk – not my integrity, but God’s. He is so faithful – He has never lied, always kept His promises, walks with me even on the days I do not want to walk with Him or think I can do it on my own. My testimony is empty, my testimony to His love is real. He makes the difference – that is the story to tell – He is the difference and sent His Son to make sure we not only heard the story, but saw it in action.
“We give thanks to thee, Lord God Almighty, who art and who wast,
that thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.
The nations raged, but thy wrath came,
and the time for the dead to be judged,
for rewarding thy servants, the prophets and saints,
and those who fear thy name, both small and great,
and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”
- What the Hell (matuszakbible12.wordpress.com)