He Loves Me!
This devotional is a series of excerpts from Wayne Jacobsen's life changing book, He Loves Me! Download a PDF of this book by clicking the link below.
Day 6: Threatened with Hell
The question is compelling. "Do you know where you would end up if you died in a car accident tonight?"
The evangelist has already painted the pictures. You could find yourself in an eternal garden of exquisite beauty laced together with winding paths of gold; or, writhing in agony amidst the leaping sulfuric flames of hell. If there was ever a choice that defined "no-brainer," this is it. Once you convince someone that hell and heaven exist winning a convert is easy. After all, praying for forgiveness and "accepting Jesus" seem like a small price to pay for a "Get-Out-of-Hell-Free Card!"
So effective is this appeal to people's worst fears and insecurities that hell has become the most popular invitation into God's kingdom. What we have not so critically examined is whether or not threatening people with hell engages them in the relationship God has always wanted with them.
For we live in a day when millions of people have made a commitment to Christ and yet so few lives are really transformed by his power. It has been said of this generation that our Christianity is a mile wide but only an inch deep. We see effects of it everywhere. People claim to know God, but show no evidence of transformation in their daily lives. We challenge them as hypocrites and attempt to badger them into more righteous lifestyles, but in the end most believers end up as much a part of the world's ways as their non-believing neighbors.
While the threat of hell can stir instant commitments, it is not breeding long-term disciples. If you are only in this kingdom because you fear the alternative, you've missed the greatest part of what it means to know God.
No one ever threatened me to do something that was wonderful to do. My parents didn't threaten me with punishment to get me to go to Disneyland. But to make me go to the dentist or work on the vineyard, that was another matter. So if I am told that I must love God or he will throw me into hell, I might well consider loving him-or at least pretend I do. But if the only reason I'm even responding to him is to serve my own self-interest and escape a fiery eternity in hell, am I really loving him or myself?
Can a true friendship blossom under so grave a threat? Let's say I approach a recent acquaintance of mine, hoping to deepen our friendship. I say to him, "I have really appreciated the time we've been able to spend together. In fact, I'd like to see our relationship deepen and maybe even become best friends. How would you like to spend some time together over the next few months and see if that kind of friendship develops?"
So far, so good! But what if I added one more sentence? "I hope you do, because if you don't, I'm going to hunt you down and torture you for the rest of your life." Hasn't the invitation just taken an ominous turn? Even if he wanted to explore the potential of a friendship with me, it has now been twisted by my threat. What does it say about me, and how will he ever feel safe in a friendship cultivated on fear?
Whether you are conscious of it or not, the threat of hell can create an inner dissonance in our perception of the God who seeks our love. How can we feel safe with a God who is seemingly anxious to dangle us over the flames of hell? If he can find nothing else to call us to come to him, then what kind of God must he be? And if we can find no better reason to love him, how shallow must our faith be?