Hell Pt 3 - "The Use of Hell": Matthew 18.1-9

{Here is the Audio File: Below is the manuscript. Mike}
The Use of Hell: Matthew 18:1-9
Lord Jesus Christ, at your death you descended into the hellish wrath of the Father for our transgressions, and you were raised from the dead on the 3rd day for our justification: Show us clearly why this subject of hell, which you revealed in detail profits us; so that we may gain deep, unending advantage. Amen.

The truth about Hell, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures – and most often from the lips of Jesus – is intended to be enduringly advantageous for Christians and to advance our growth. Now you might be asking “Mike, how can that be? It’s such a frightening subject. How can it be for my maturation?” Good question and one that we should ask about most everything Scripture teaches. The answer to that question will be obvious with some topics, and not so obvious with others. This topic may be one where it’s not so clear. That’s the reason for this particular sermon. The truth about Hell, for the believer, should be extraordinarily helpful by inspiring at least three things:

1. Greater Godliness. In this passage we have just read, who was Christ talking to? Our Lord was talking to his followers. And why did he mention Hell to them? He mentioned it in relation to motivating them to seriously deal with sin. As Jesus says elsewhere, it’s by our fruits that we’re known. The one who has been freely saved and joyfully rescued from Hell by the costly love of God, is the person who seeks to avoid everything that will defile and deface that unending love of God (v. 8-9). Truly, God’s people persevere by the eternal decree and election of God, but we persevere in grace-fueled repentance and we persist and push-forward in faith-filled obedience. Westminster Shorter Catechism 89: “How is the word made effectual to salvation? The Spirit of God maketh the reading, but especially the preaching of the word, an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort, through faith, unto salvation.” And our third membership vow we have all made to God: “Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?” John Owen put it this way once: “Make killing sin your daily work; be always at it while you live; do not cease one day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.Killing sin is the birthmark of your royal re-birth. No matter how long you or I may have been professing Christians, the evidence (not our confidence, but the evidence) that you have been rescued freely from hell is in the way you deal with personal sin. To aggressively deal with sin shows that, by God’s empowering, loving, liberating help, you have escaped hell and damnation, and have already begun to be filled with Heaven! To put it another way, you don’t try to tackle your sin to get God to rescue you from hell; but because God has already freely saved you from hell, you want to live your new destiny: you want to live heaven!

2. Greater Love for Christ. The fact of hell exposes the everlasting, never-ending destiny of a person who is condemned as guilty in his rebellious sin. But then, you think on what God has generously done for you in His Son Jesus Christ, and you say: “Ah and this Jesus came to rescue me – ME! Of all people! – from such a ghastly demise that I justly and fairly deserved! Oh, what a great salvation; O what an extensive deliverance, O what a heroic rescue this Jesus has done! And what did I do? I was running from Him, I was avoiding Him and yet He pursued me and kept me from plunging headlong into this damnable destiny!!!!” And the result? Greater Love for Christ: Luke 7:43-50 – he who has been forgiven much loves much. Therefore, the truth about hell will bring a true child of God to her knees, moving her to wonder and gratitude. Deliverance from hell arouses a new and refreshing adoration for him who loved you and gave himself for you. Every time we say this in the Apostles’ Creed, “he descended into hell” realize we are saying, he has descended into the hell of God’s damnation that we deserved! But not only do you see what he has saved you from, you begin to grasp what he has saved you for – to draw you into the ultimate, imperishable, unending fellowship of the living, personal community of the Trinity – which is opened up to us by Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore, it spawns an increasing desire for Christ’s Church, for the Word, Sacraments, Prayer, fellowship with the body of Christ, so that you can commune and fellowship with Christ.

3. Greater Desire to spread this rescue around, to draw people out of their doom and into this life! What more can I say here? That is the point of Psalm 117 which called us into worship this evening. The goal of Psalm 67 we responsively prayed a few minutes ago! This is the Christ-inspired desire behind Paul’s reason for preaching the Gospel: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. ( . . . ) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5.10-11a, 20). Therefore, the reality of hell and God’s delivering his people thru Jesus from hell should move us to reach out in multiple ways: (1) Be enthusiastically supporting our missionaries with prayer and finances, short-term mission trips, missionary care-packages, etc. (2) Be earnestly sustaining the work of this congregation; (a) with daily prayers…; (b) by bringing unbelieving friends and family here, jumping in to our VBS this summer, etc. As our HPC Vision statement says: ‘That God will use the people of Heritage Presbyterian Church actively to reach out to unbelievers with the gospel; doing so as he transforms us all into the image of Christ. That our people will be warm, caring, and welcoming to all”; (c) to committed tithing so John and I can give our time to this cause – and by the way, thank you for your substantial care for us, and the recent increase; so that we can continue to buy good Sunday School material, obtain good books and booklets to give out, etc. (3) By being here every Sunday you possibly can (a) as a testimony to the world and your neighbors that this Christ-committed-ness, this Church-thing is of number-one priority; (b) to pour out our hearts as priests in concert – for the salvation of the world, for the salvation of our friends and for the salvation of our families; (c) to lift up your hands and hearts and voices in resounding, joyful thanksgiving for “the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free! Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above
” (Trinity Hymn 535)!

Therefore, rejoice and give thanks for what you have been saved from, celebrate the goodness of God because of what you have been saved for, and go forth gossiping and gabbing the Gospel!


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