Hell and Jesus

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Someone asked me once, “Did Jesus ever look at a non-believer and say, pal, you are mistaken and you are going to hell?” That is a good question for these reasons:

1. If Jesus didn’t say non-believers are going to Hell, why should we believe the apostles or other early church leaders?

2. If Jesus DID say non-believers are going to Hell, then Jesus followers are doing a disservice to their fellow man if they do not warn them.

The answer to the question is YES. Jesus did warn non-believers that they would be damned to Hell.

We are going to look at the 8th chapter of the gospel of John to explain my answer in a moment. But, before we do, let’s appreciate just how famous that chapter is in the first place! John 8:1-59 is famous for some very important and popular verses:

“The one without sin among you should be the first to throw a stone at her” – verse 7. “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” – verse 11. “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life” – verse 12. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” – verse 32. “Who among you can convict Me of sin?” – verse 46. “I assure you: Before Abraham was, I AM” – verse 58.

However, a certain “not so popular” passage occurs in that chapter as well. When the non-believing scribes and Pharisees confront Jesus, He prophesies about His death, resurrection, their inability to find His body in the tomb, and His ascension into Heaven – a place they will not be able to go because of their unbelief. Jesus says in John 8:21: “I’m going away; you will look for Me, and you will die in your sin. Where I’m going, you cannot come.” When they ask Him to further explain, He clearly says: “… if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

So, what does it mean if you die in your sins? These men surely considered themselves “righteous” before God. So Jesus quotes a passage from Ezekiel 3:20 about people turning away from righteousness and toward sin, “Again, when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I place an obstacle before him, he will die; … he shall die in his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; …”

Wow! Not only are his sins not forgiven, all of the good things they did will not even be remembered. No wonder Jesus said that He was going to a place where they could not come.

Well, what does that mean for me? Should I just feel sorry for non-believers and let that be the sum total of my response? Ezekiel 3:18 says, ‭“When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.”

That’s a warning we all need to be aware of – failure to warn sinners about their situation before God will result in dire consequences for me as well! This verse comes to mind: James 4:17, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” I know I need to do better. What about you?

Context

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Just something I’ve been thinking about lately — most of the New Testament is simply letters written to people who are already followers of Jesus. Some contain words of encouragement, others are words of warning, a few contain admonitions of correction, and still others have messages of advice.

So, I’m thinking –  most of the New Testament was written to people who have previously committed their lives to Jesus! If that’s the case, then the writers are not instructing people what to do in order to obtain salvation — because they are writing to people who are already saved. That takes a little bit of time to wrap your head around. Some of the most familiar verses used to teach people the plan of salvation are not directed to people who are being taught the gospel.  Does that sound like it could be a context issue?

It would be like me trying to show someone the steps to get a Bachelors Degree by quoting from a speech at a ten year college reunion when someone is reminding people how important it was that their elementary teacher taught them how to read. Can you see the folly in that? “Well Tim, in order to get that degree, all you need to do is sit down with a book and sound out every word.”

First, that was not the intent of the original message. Second, we frequently recall the first step of a journey and give it the same significance as the entire prize. Could these sentences be taken out of context? “Eating healthy is what made me a pro baseball player.” Or, “I have a great marriage, so glad we exchanged phone numbers.”

So, when talking to people who don’t see Jesus as their king, is it logical to focus on sharing parts of the Bible with them that were not really written with them in mind? I think not. I think it makes more sense to share Jesus with them and His teachings — that will either move them or not.

Ultimately, I’m concerned that there may be a lot of people out there who follow a religion, or belong to church, or live in a system called Christianity — who actually don’t follow, belong to, or live in Jesus.

Love Your Enemies

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Have you read the words in Luke 6:27-36 lately? They are, I believe, some of the most difficult words Jesus says. I have a tough time putting these into action in my life. I need to do better. No excuses. No exceptions. What about you?

I would like to challenge you – my friends. Think of your enemy. Really. Identify your enemy. Name him or her or them. If you say you don’t have one you are being dishonest with yourself. Is it your neighbor? Your ex? Someone you work with? A person who bullied you? Someone who stole from you? Somebody who assaulted you or someone you love? A political party leader? A terrorist? A religion? Identify your enemy by name — and then read these words spoken by Jesus.

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.” Luke 6:27-29

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35-36

Have you given your enemy any gifts or money lately? Have you blessed them by doing something for them or helping them in some way? Have you truly prayed for their well-being or health or happiness recently?

I’ll say it again. These are some of the most difficult words from Jesus you will find. Lord, please help us to be more like You!

Let Us Pray

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Matthew 6:9-13

Blessed Father on Heaven’s throne
With holy name to you we groan

Kingdom ruled by your righteous Son
In Heav’n and earth your will be done

At your mercy through life we tread
Give us today our daily bread

Our debt to you please now forgive
As we do likewise let us live

From temptations lead as we run
Protect us from the evil one

Your glory never shall be changed
These things we ask in Jesus’ name

Amen

– by Bob Baulch

Treasures of this World

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Do you have nice things? I do. My wife generously gave me the guitar of my dreams a few months ago – so now I can’t blame my substandard playing abilities on the instrument anymore. But, that’s not the focus of this post.

I have a nice home, car, and furniture. Do you? Do you treasure your stuff? It’s hard not to – especially when it’s new, cool, or sentimental. But Jesus warns us – things of this world are temporary. They get outdated, stained, dented and stolen. Treasures on Earth will not last forever – but Heaven does. Spiritual treasures are eternal.

Am I willing to give it all away if that is what’s preventing me from giving my life to Jesus? Matthew 6:19-21 is a hard teaching – one of the most difficult – especially in America. But Jesus said I need to follow Him instead of getting more of the worthless “treasures” this world offers.

Jesus demands my focus and devotion instead of wasting my time with things that will do me no good once I die. I pray that I can do it. I know it is going to be tough – especially when your wife buys you a fantastic guitar.

Jesus and Christianity 

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I have some tough news to share. Jesus doesn’t want you to be a part of Christianity. He wasn’t a part of Christianity Himself. More important is the fact that Jesus did not even establish Christianity! You might be a little upset right now. I understand.

Jesus was quite critical of two groups of people during His ministry: the religious and the rich. In fact, the more religious and the more rich you were — the more Jesus would target you.

Obviously, the wealthy were rebuked because they trusted in and loved their belongings more than they trusted and loved God. But, the religious leaders and elite were also chastised because they trusted and loved the structure of their religion and their righteousness more than they trusted and loved God.

My friends, Jesus didn’t call the righteous — Jesus called sinners. He didn’t call people to be religious — He called people to follow Him. The reward was not a promise of material blessings — it was a promise of being persecuted and ostracized. Jesus did not create a list of rules and regulations as a standard — He lived a flawless life of love, humility, giving and sacrifice that we are to imitate.

Christianity is a religion. Coming to this realization may change your life. It might even make you start questioning how and why you do things. My prayer is that it will make you pursue Jesus instead of pursuing a set of religious beliefs.

I still struggle in this area. It is so easy to replace a trust in Jesus with a trust in Christianity. I invite you — I implore you — follow Jesus — not a religion.

Treasure in the Field

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I love the parable Jesus told that compares the kingdom of Heaven to a man who discovered a hidden treasure in a field and then, in his joy, sells everything he has to buy the field (Matthew 13:44). It is one verse long and is packed with application in our lives. I know this bores many of my friends, but I’m going to share just five of my thoughts — and ask you to comment if you’d like to add anything.

1. God’s kingdom is worth more than everything I own.

2. Am I willing to sell it all to get the kingdom? (I struggle with this one a lot)

3. The field is always for sale – and the price is always the same.

4. Just because someone gets an identical field — it doesn’t mean they have the treasure. Here is the implication of that point: if we equate the field to how we live, and then compare our lives to the lives of genuine followers of Jesus, just because we look like we follow Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean that we are.

5. If the treasure were moved, the field would lose its value — so we need to focus on the treasure and not the field. Here is the implication of that point: if we equate “religion” or “Christianity” with the field, we need to be constantly aware that neither has eternal value in and of themselves.