- Away from God we have no direction/revelation
- Away from God we have no moral compass
- Away from God we have no salvation
- We are debtors to God
- We are not debtors to our flesh
- If sin controls us, we die in Hell
- If by the spirit we slay sin, we live forever
- If we are sons of God we will slay sin by the spirit.
- In our weakness we step out in faith (c. 31-33)
- In our weakness we point to the Lord’s power to deliver (v. 34-37)
- In our weakness we rely on the Lord’s power to deliver (v. 37-40)
- In our weakness Jesus is the greater David.
You may be reading this article because the title caught your eyes. To Roads Leading to Hell… that seems a bit serious. I want to reassure you; it is that serious. To begin, we see in the Bible that there are two options to chose from when it comes to Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:13). Those who reject God in Christ are sentenced to eternal death for their sin, but those who repent of their sins and turn to Jesus in faith receive eternal life (Read John 12:44-50). I want to argue that in the Bible we look closely at this road to destruction and see that there are two ways we can reject God in Christ and therefore two “lanes” or “roads” leading to hell.
Road One: Irreligion/Paganism
This road is quite obvious and is what we generally think of when it comes to rejecting God. What probably comes to most of our minds is God’s indictment on those who reject God in Romans 1. This is the one who “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images” (v. 23). Those who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator” (v. 25). On this road to hell are those who reject God by being “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (v. 29-31). For those who reject God and live in sin openly, it is obvious they are on a road to destruction. It does not take much to see that they are full of sin and in need of a Savior. This is not a good place to be, but in reality, it is not as terrifying as those who are taking the second road leading to hell.
Road Two: Religious Moralism/Works Righteousness
Here is the simple reason why road two, moralism, is even more dangerous than road one, paganism. The first road of paganism is marked by signs warning them they are heading for hell unless they turn to Jesus. Not so with the religious moralist. This person (maybe it’s you) is on a road with the wrong markings. Though they are headed straight for eternal suffering, all signs say that they are heading for paradise. People tell them “keep it up” and “I am so proud of you that you have turned your life around.” Those on this road are present in churches, and placed next to true believers, they look exactly the same.
Have you ever entered a highway on the wrong ramp? You intended to go east instead of west but you take the wrong entrance. You get on the highway thinking you are going EAST but most likely, eventually, your eyes catch a sign that says WEST. Then you know, “I am going the wrong way, I better turn around.” Well, with the religious road of works righteousness, the signs have been changed. The wicked enemy of God, Satan himself has switched the signs and instead of them saying “wrong way” or “road to destruction” they say “keep going, paradise 20 miles, no U-turns.”
This person is addressed in Romans 2. In Romans 1 as we saw, Paul addressed the Pagan who is on the first road headed to hell. In Romans 2, Paul begins addressing the “religious person” pointing out that they are on the same boat, or better yet, are on a similar road to destruction. He points out that no matter how moral you try to be, you will always fall short. You will be caught judging other people while you are practicing the same thing, just more discreetly (Romans 2:3-5). Paul then concludes chapter 1 (the judgment of God on the Pagan) and chapter 2 (the judgment of God on the religious) in this way:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20 (ESV)
Both of these roads lead to hell.
Alternative: The Gospel of Grace
This has been a depressing blog post so far, and I pray you are now hungry for the Gospel of Grace- the only road to eternal life. Paul has clearly established that we have no hope in ourselves. If we give up on obeying God’s rules and run to paganism, we are headed for hell. If on our own we seek to live a moral life, we are also headed for hell. But Paul gives us a third option, a third road in Romans 3:21–27; the free gift of righteousness through faith.
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
This is our only hope in life and in death, to cling to the cross of Christ, to run after our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ. Our own righteousness is filthy before God, but the righteousness of Jesus is able to cleanse us, make us whole, and gives us new life, namely eternal life. This eliminates boasting and all glory goes to God.
If you find yourself on the wrong road, headed the wrong way, listen to Peter: “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out” -Acts 3:19
It is said that a flippant young man once remarked to a preacher in mocking fashion, “You say that unsaved people carry a great weight of sin. Frankly, I feel nothing. How heavy is sin? Ten pounds? Fifty pounds? Eighty pounds? A hundred pounds?” The preacher thought for a moment, then replied, “If you laid a four-hundred-pound weight on a corpse, would it feel the load?” The young man was quick to say, “Of course not; it’s dead” Driving home his point, the preacher said, “The person who doesn’t know Christ is equally dead. And though the load is great, he feels none of it” This is the sad reality of what we see in John 8:31-38 as well as all around us. The slavery to sin that all of us are under until we turn to Jesus is so powerful that we don’t even notice the shekels around our ankles and hands. Before we are born again, we feel free yet we know something is missing. We are pursuing happiness but we are confused why we can never attain it. But that is where the beautiful words of Jesus come in, “if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed”. Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil and break the seemingly indestructible shekels of sin that kept us blind and dead. We may now rejoice in the truth of Romans 6:22-23, “Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Now dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in your freedom! And while you are rejoicing in your freedom from sin, help others remove their chains by pointing them to what Jesus did on the cross, that way we may have more people to rejoice with.
There is one message that is going to bring real change to our broken community and this message has to start with you. The message is the Gospel. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that Jesus became flesh, fulfilled the law, died on the cross for us, and was raised to assure us that those who repent and believe in him have freedom from sin and eternal life. Do you believe this message? Have you experienced this message? When I say “experienced”, I don’t mean have you said some prayer and asked Jesus for forgiveness. What I mean is have you recognized you utter sinfulness to the point where you realize the only place you can go is to Jesus and when you get to him, you lay your entire life down before his feet and cry out “it is all yours Jesus!” This is what I mean by have you experienced the gospel. If you have not experienced it, then you don’t understand it and you need to run you God’s word and cry out to him that he would open your eyes and help you see his beauty and your need for him (Start with Romans 3:21-31).
The gospel is the power of God that will change our community and it has to start with you. You may be thinking, “why does this guy have so much confidence in this story about a man who lived over 2,000 years ago?” My answer to you: It’s what the bible says, Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Paul here says that this gospel, this good news, leads to salvation and is the power of God. We can’t save people, we don’t have the power to. We can only present the gospel to those in bondage to sin around us and pray that they believe, because if they do, they will be free from sin.
As you go about your day, think about the people in need in our community. Think about those who are entrapped in sin blind to the reality of eternity (It may be you). Think about those who are trusting in their good works to save them yet inevitably, have no freedom from sin because they have not turned to Jesus (it may be you). You have the answer that they need. The gospel that you have is the only hope they or you have of a better day and an eternity with Jesus. Freedom from sin in our community is not going to come merely through hard work and determination. It is only going to come when the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes our focus, our song, and our message.
When we study Ecclesiastes 7:15-29 we find ourselves living in an upside down, paradoxical world—a world where good is punished and evil celebrated. And there is the temptation for us as Christians to succumb to that, rather than to live counter-culturally and counter-intuitively. We mirror culture when we bow to our old natural sin nature. The following are potential evidences that you may be living like the world.
(1) You may be living like the world if you turn to friends, family, money, or the world when you’re in trouble, instead of seeking the Lord’s help, forgetting that He is in control.
(2) You may be living like the world if you turn to friends, family, money, or the world when you need advice, rather than to God’s Word or God’s people. There is a lack of discipleship in the American church. In every place I’ve lived, I’ve looked for 3 kinds of relationships: a Paul (a mentor or someone who disciples me), a Barnabas (a friend and accountability partner), and a Timothy (someone I disciple). Is that your practice, or do you do what you’ve always done, either doing what your parents did (if they did a decent job) or doing the opposite of what they did (if they did not do a decent job)? We are called to make disciples and to be disciples, not pew-warmers.
(3) You may be living like the world if your first instinct is to weasel or work your way out of a situation rather than to pray your way through a situation.
(4) You may be living like the world if your Bible is a decorative, Sunday accessory, rather than a well-worn, well-used manual for life.
(5) You may be living like the world if you do not take any and every opportunity to grow spiritually, whether it’s to be here when the church has something for you, or to invest yourself into building relationships with others in the body of Christ.