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Monday, January 13, 2014

Hell Pt. 1: Matthew 5.27-30

{I'm taking a risk and posting this series on my blog as I preach them. I hope that it will be received properly. Here is the audio file. It would be best to listen to the sermon as you walk through the manuscript. May God bless your hearing and reading of this sermon. Mike}
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Hell Pt 1: Matthew 5:27-30
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal; we look to you to help us through this evening series we are beginning, and especially as we scrutinize what your Scriptures teach about the terrifying subject of hell. Have mercy on us, Lord; help us; and change in us what needs to be changed for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.


What in the world would possess me to do such an insane thing as to dive into this subject about hell publicly? Recently one of the teachers at my sons’ school asked me to talk about Jonathan Edwards’ sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” As she explaining what she generally wanted me to cover, she made a personal observation. She has been going to her congregation for about 10 years, and thinking about Edwards’ sermon made her reflect on what she has, and has not, heard at her church. She said to me, “You know, I can’t remember a sermon on hell ever being preached at my church.” She went on to ask me why preachers no longer mention hell. All of this got me to thinking about the importance of tackling this subject…That’s why this series.

We must think about this terrifying topic for three reasons:

It is of Great (and if the Bible is true, Greatest) Importance:
a. 75,000,000 folks die every year (taken from the CDC and National Vital Statistics Report). Do the math, that’s 6,250,000 per month, slightly over 1,442,000 persons per week, a little over 8,500 individuals per hour, about 143 people each minute, and around 2 mothers or fathers or sons or daughters per second. Hordes of people are dropping every day, and the likelihood is that this year it will be at least one or more of those whom you know/love/related to.

b. None of us will be “armchair warriors” when it comes to death. We won’t be able to watch it happen on reality TV, off at a safe distance, untouched – all of us will enter our eternal destinies – some sooner, some later. To put it quite bluntly, at the end of the day, all Doctors’ remedies are only temporary. They will all finally fail.

c. Finally, Scripture gives enormous weight to this subject! The Scripture clearly defines our afterlife as being either one of indestructible glory, joy, delight, relief and satisfaction; or one of never ceasing agony, torment, weeping, wailing and gnashing of the teeth! The Bible repeatedly bids us to recognize that there are only two destinies – that there is no middle ground or halfway house or cosmic recycling bin.

It is Disbelieved (and sometimes laughed at and scorned):
a. Receives popular ridicule - Gary Larsen’s Far Side, to 1980’s rocker, Pat Binittar’s “Hell, Hell is for children!” T.V. Shows, admired comedians, at costume parties, etc.

b. By serious thinkers, like Bertrand Russell, the Catholic Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, or Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Willamette University (Salem OR), Thomas Talbott.

c. By our own culture: Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has rightly pointed out, “The biblical vision of God has been rejected by the culture as too restrictive of human freedom and offensive to human sensibilities. God’s love has been redefined so that it is no longer holy.  God’s sovereignty has been reconceived so that human autonomy is undisturbed.”

d. By many who are within the boundaries of Christianity. Whether by (a) an outright denial that there is a hell, or by (b) positing that hell is momentary and all those in hell will cease to exist (annihilationism – or conditional mortality), or by (c) advancing the idea that hell is remedial and all those in hell will eventually be purged of sin and saved (Universalism). Gregory of Nyssa; George MacDonald (C.S. Lewis’s mentor), William Barclay, John Stott; Philip E. Hughes; Clark Pinnock; John Wenham; Rob Bell, etc. These folks go against the Scripture’s witness and the testimony of 2,000 years of Christian history. In the words of D.A. Carson, “The Gagging of God,” “It is getting harder and harder to be faithful to the “hard” lines of Scripture. And in this way, evangelicalism itself may contribute to the gagging of God by silencing the severity of his warnings and by minimizing the awfulness of the punishment that justly awaits those untouched by his redeeming grace” (536). Even the likes of Lesslie Newbigin have observed, “It is one of the weaknesses of a great deal of contemporary Christianity that we do not speak of the last judgement and of the possibility of being finally lost.” Personal Testimony…(As Tim Challies put it: “I hate hell. I hate that it exists and hate that it needs to exist.” What I want and wished were true, must be ruled, and sometimes overruled, by God’s on Word).

Its Truth Shatters our Comfortable Illusions.
a. Of the PollyAnna syndrome – The reigning notion in all of our American heads is: Human Well-Being (the backbone holding up the entitlement mindset). This reigning notion says that the purpose for everything we do, our reasons for living, and even god itself – is my personal happiness, my personal wellness, my personal well-off-ness! “People must be happy, don’t you know!” This reigning notion, flowing in our drinking water and floating in the O2 we breath, inverts the Shorter Catechism’s 1st answer on its head and declares God’s chief end is to glorify me, and enjoy me forever. Yet the Truth about Hell pulls every one of us up short, reminding us that that “reigning notion” is not God’s notion! Hell, like the sharp jagged edge of broken glass, slices through the flimsy, fanciful fabric of our duplicitous age, and says, “People are not at the center of God’s order, God’s will and God’s mind - God Himself is; what he defines as good and wholesome is; where he says true happiness can be found.” {"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." Isaiah 30.18}

b. Of the Flim-Flam Pansy concept of sin – Our modern idea of “sin” is dumbed down to simply mean “that behavior we’re to avoid.” And what’s the main – nearly unforgiveable sin – the “wrong” that our age tells us we’re to avoid at all costs? Harming others – whether emotional harm or physical (this is the point behind “tolerance” and much of the anti-bullying campaigns). But the True Truth about Hell smashes thru this flimsy facade, insubstantial smokescreen and says: “Wake up, people! There is One God, He is pure, holy, fiery, just - and you and I are dreadfully guilty of offending Him!” Hell reminds us that God is serious about being God, and sin is our seriously revolting against God being God! 1 John 3:4!!! Ps. 51:4!!! Hell penetrates our thick-heads with the Truth: God is not to be toyed with.

Here then is an acid test for your hearts – to expose whether you are you truly God-centered or not. The Truth about Hell will test you!

Hell is ultimately not about us, it is ultimately not about torture, agony, vindictive malice, etc. Hell is about the True and Only God in all His fiery holiness, majesty, power, beauty, splendor, purity, and jealous love! Scoff if you will, but when He comes and reveals who He is, we will all fall down, we will all melt-down before Him (think of every time in the Bible when someone is confronted with God personally – Israel at Mt. Sinai, Isaiah 6, John in the Revelation) and wish we could eat all of our scoffing! On that day, that terrifying day, no one will be laughing, nor questioning the morality of “How could a God of Love send folks to Hell?” You and I will tremble. Some will tremble for the richest of joy... Some will tremble with the deepest of dread... Remember, God has given you a way of escape: "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:35-36).

Why should we think about Hell, for a little while, at least? Because it reminds us of our own littleness, which is an extremely healthy thing to remember! It also reminds us, rather graphically, of the vileness, awfulness, and terribleness of our sin. It shows us what we have been saved from and what Jesus bore for our sakes. And finally, this subject brings every man, woman, boy and girl face-to-face with the overwhelming holy presence of God and our need for the salvation of God.

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