Two Roads Leading to Hell

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

 

 

 

Unity at All Cost?

As churches stray from the biblical teachings, they will generally become more man centered and less God centered.  The purity of the church needs to also be examined next to the unity of the church.  Unity is God’s will for the church and this is a large way the gospel is displayed to the community.  God calls us to seek for unity in both the visible and invisible church.  We can do this through being gracious to those in our church in understanding differences, as well as cooperating with likeminded churches to spread the gospel and serve the community.

An important aspect of these two things though is how they relate to one another.  Both purity and unity in the church are important, but there are clear situations where the need for purity must be place below a desire for unity (See 1 Cor. 5 and 2 John).  There does come a time where doctrinal differences, matters of conscience, and simple practical issues require people to split off from a church or some churches to stop working with other churches.  Though Christians should seek to bring change within the church in biblical ways, leaving the church is sometimes the best option.  There are many examples of this in Church history.  For the first part of the early church, there was unity despite some need for the removal of false teaching.  But, the protestant reformation was sparked when Luther raised issues with the Catholic doctrine of his day (as they we taking money from people in exchange for claimed forgiveness from God) and was excommunicated in 1521.  Unity apart from the gospel is meaningless.  If we set aside the truths of God’s word yet we hold onto unity, this unity will not bring about God’s good will of reaching the nations.  Our Goal must be first to proclaim the gospel.  When unity and cooperation with other gospel church is possible it should be perused.  When unity and cooperation with churches that reject the gospel will hinder that work, unity must be place aside for the salvation of the lost.

How Will Emporium be Fixed?

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.

What is the Content of Faithful Proclamation?

As we think about preaching and evangelism, we want to have a biblical perspective of the content of the proclamation.  Whether you are a Mega-Church Pastor preaching to 3,000 people or a mother telling your neighbors about Jesus at a playground, you need to know what the content of your “proclamation” must be so that the words you speak can be more fruitful for God’s kingdom.

When we survey what the bible says about proclamation, one particular thing sticks out more than anything else.  That is the word euangelizō which means to proclaim the gospel.  It’s like a special word created to describe a certain type of proclamation.   A proclamation who’s content is the good news of Jesus.  This word is used 54 times in the New Testament!  So when we talk about the content of preaching we need to remember that the heart of the New Testament authors was to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Whether it was the apostles preaching in the temple and from house to house in Acts 5:42 or Paul desiring to preach to the Roman Believers in Romans 1:15, the heart of the content was the good news of Jesus.  The Gospel is the content of proclamation in evangelistic encounters and the content of faithful preaching in the local church.  A pastor is not being faithful to his task if he teaches about how to make life easier or how to reduce conflict without relating it directly to what Jesus did on the cross.  A well meaning christian is not being faithful in his task if he is telling people to go to church or to trust that God is real, if he does not clearly explain that there is forgiveness of sins found in Jesus Christ when the lost turn from their sins and trust in Jesus.   The gospel is the primary content of faithful proclamation.

Now that we have it established that the primary content of biblical proclamation, We need to consider how the authors of scripture give us more detail. The content of preaching is identified as the gospel of the grace of God, the kingdom, he whole counsel of God (Acts 20:24-27), Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1–5), the word (2 Timothy 4:2), repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3), repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:47), the Christ is Jesus (Acts 5:42), good news of peace through Jesus Christ (Acts 10:36), not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake (2 Corinthians 4:5), not man’s gospel (Galatians 1:11), the unsearchable riches of Christ (Ephesians 3:8), the word of God (Colossians 1:25), Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David (2 Timothy 2:8).  Their are many other passages that speak about the content of preaching but I think this list is a good starting point.  What sticks out to you here?  What sticks out to me is the riches of the gospel of Jesus!  What an amazing task that we have been given by God!  May we be faithful in the content of our proclamation!

Let us go out and Proclaim the Gospel!  To our neighbors, our friends, our grocery store clerk, our coworkers, our spouse, our kids, and everyone else we come in contact with. Read these two passages to yourself out loud and may God help you see the mission that he has called you to do.

1 Corinthians 9:16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Romans 10:13–15 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

This is blog two is a series on Biblical Proclamation.  Check part one: The All Day Sermon About the Law: The Example of Ezra for Preaching 

How Should we React to God’s Choosing of us?

John 6:44 says “No one can come to me (Jesus) unless the Father who sent me draws him.” In other words, apart from God drawing us, we would reject Jesus eternally and would be without hope. What effect should this reality of God’s adoption and election have on us?

  1. It should humble us. Titus 3:5 says “he saved us not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit”. You did nothing to earn a right standing with God. You can do nothing. This reality aught to lead us to the throne of God in humility.
  2. It should cause Thankfulness. When you realize that you did not save yourself, that God did all the work, you will be thankful. I think of Ephesians 1:4-5, “God chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will to the praise of his glorious grace.”
  3. It should bring Hope. Because of that fact that salvation does not depend on man’s ability, because of that fact that it is God who is in charge of salvation, you can have hope for those who are lost. No matter how dead in sin they are, no matter how resistant they are to the gospel, all it takes for them to come to Jesus is God drawing them to himself by opening their eyes to the beauty of the gospel. Salvation is rooted in God’s mercy and God’s power, not man’s ability.
  4. It should lead to Prayer. If no one can come to Jesus apart from the father drawing them, then praying is the most powerful tool in evangelism. You can prepare all you want. You can have all the right bible passages memorized. You have all of the most “effective” evangelism techniques. But if you are not falling on your face before God asking him to open the eyes of your lost neighbor, asking him to change the heart of you family member or coworker, you will be working with your own ability, witch is useless without the power of God.
  5. All glory goes to God. Biblical texts that deal with God’s choosing, election, and predestination say that it is all for the sake of God’s praise and Glory: “ChosePredestined…to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6), “Predestined…to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:12), “God’s purpose of election…to show my (God’s) power… and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Rom. 9:17 & Ex. 9:6) “to make known the riches of his glory…which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called” (Rom. 9:23)