A rerun of a previous post which seems timely at the moment.
I have seen some discussion lately concerning one particular topic and my mind seems to be bubbling over with some thoughts about it, so I am going to do as any serious blogger does:
Have thought will post.
The gist of the thought, most often presented by non believers, goes something like this:
You only believe because you are scared of going to Hell!
God says love Him or die, what kind of loving God would do that?
Threatening children with eternal punishment in Hell is just WRONG!
Okay, before I begin, allow me to be very clear in my position on this subject. This is not going to be a Bible lesson today, just my thoughts which I believe to be clearly taught in God’s Word.
To recap: I believe the God created us perfect in the Garden of Eden. Due to our willful rebellion and disobedience there, sin entered the world. I also believe that, due to that, we are all born with a sin nature, and that “all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.” I also believe there is a penalty for sin, because “the wages of sin is death.” In other words, I believe absolutely in eternal separation from God in a place called Hell due to our sins against His perfection and holiness. Shoot me..it’s what I believe is clearly taught in the Bible.
I also believe that, due to His great love for us, God provided an escape for us from this destiny. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Okay, so enough theology and on to the thoughts rambling through my head.
First the kids. Ok church, if you are out there screaming and hollering about burning in Hell to 5 year olds, I have just one thing to say to you…..STOP IT! That is wrong, cruel, and in the end not really productive. Any child who makes a profession of faith based on being constantly hammered with “TURN OR BURN!” probably has not made a true profession of faith. While it is not the sole cause of those who abandon a faith that may not have been real in the first place, it is certainly a legitimate concern raised by non believers. Yep, I said that.
Having said that, let me also say that, as people progress in age, understanding and ability to discern, that I think some fear is quite reasonable. We ought to be concerned about the fact that our sin has separated us from God and what the penalty for it is. Perhaps this is somewhat out of context, but, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Part of coming to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus is repentance toward God; part of repentance is understanding what we have done, that it was wrong, and what we deserve for it.
But, the question remains: Do we only come to faith out of fear of Hell? Short answer; NO. First any profession built on no more than a fear of Hell coupled with a desire to get our “Get out of Hell free” ticket punched may or may not be real. After all, “Even the devils believe, and tremble.” Fear is simply not enough. I can only speak for my own personal experience, but I suspect it is a common one. Even when I came to understand the basic concept of eternal punishment, I still simply didn’t care! I was perfectly willing to continue to thumb my nose in God’s face and dare Him to send me packing off to Hell. I loved my sins more than I feared the punishment.
What then, causes us to make a decision concerning coming to a real, saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
That’s right, love.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
We love him, because he first loved us.
Again, I am only speaking from my own experience, but again I suspect it is common. It was not the fear of Hell which caused me to believe. It was only the later understanding that God loved me enough to actually provide a way to escape that which I feared that caused me to accept His offer of grace and forgiveness.
Repentance toward God. Yes we need to understand the wrongness of our sin and the consequences of it. Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the love which really brings us to salvation, not the fear. We have faith because God loved us “while we were yet sinners.” We have faith only because God put in in us to have the ability to choose Him. It is the love, and the faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ which produces a changed heart, and a changed person.