Several years ago, I was given a white cassette tape by my pastor Greg Makcen. It was called "Hell's Best Kept Secret" by a guy named Ray Comfort. I remember sitting with him in his little grey van and listening to it for the first time. I have since then listened to it at least a dozen more times.
Some of you may know the name Ray Comfort. He is currently in ministry with Kirk Cameron. Their ministry is called The Way of the Master, and you can see their program on TBN, and locate the website at www.wayofthemaster.com
Through this tape, we are questioned as to the Importance of Hell in each of our lives. To be more specific: Is there a place in our belief system that places any importance on Hell whatsoever? Do we even think about Hell? Do we think about our Enemy? Do we think about Heaven vs. Hell? Do we think about the possibility of going to either place, and what it would be like? Do we believe there is a Hell? or Heaven?
In his message, Ray Comfort asks the question, "Why do we become born-again?" What is the motivation behind our choice to accept the Gift of Salvation? Years later, with his video cameras rolling, I have heard Ray ask this question to people on the street (this is a huge part of his ministry). He asks this question to both believers and non-believers. I was surprised at some of the answers. Several of the Christians gave this answer, in one form or another: "God will make your life so much better, and totally free you from the pain of sin. Life is awesome when you choose Jesus!"
Wow. Let's examine the essence of this answer:
1. "God will make your life so much better" This is NOT true. No, God is not mean or spitefully looking to make your life worse when you become a believer. It's just that logically this couldn't be true at all. When you make the choice to follow Christ, you are enlisting in the greatest war of all wars - The war for our souls. God's priority is not this life, but His Kingdom to come. Therefore, He wisely makes no promise to make your life better, but instead promises pain, heartache, persecution, battles, and strife. Just like a good General tells his troops before shipping out to war, "Men, I promise you nothing but blood, sweat, and the likelihood of death. We have an Enemy. Let's give 'em Hell!" There's no promise of anything but pain. If good happens, thank God for His providence, then dig another foxhole.
2." . . . and totally free you from the pain of sin" Hogwash. I am still suffering from past sins. Sin makes you pay, and pay, and pay. The chinks in my "armor" are caused by my past sins. What salvation does is free you from the power of sin! No longer do we have that diseased, Satan-created part of us that is enslaved to sins call. Our hearts are healed and we can stand, as warriors, and say "NO" to temptation and tear down those strongholds with God's help.
3. "Life is awesome when you choose Jesus!" The only thing "awesome" is the Hope we have as followers of Christ. Our eyes have been opened to the Kingdom to come. Paul calls it "that blessed Hope". Hope is what makes war possible. No one goes to war hoping to lose. We fight to win. Every ounce of strength and integrity is given to this battle. We must WIN. We must stay faithful! A soldier has hope above all else. The power of Hope. That is what is awesome.
So, getting back to Ray's question. What is the motivation behind a choice to follow Christ? We have already determined that it surely isn't to make our life better! Actually, the answer lies at the end of a process.
1. We must see ourselves for what we are. We are sinners. The way to find that out is to look at the Law of God. The Ten Commandments are a good measurement. Have we sinned against God when we review these? You bet. Paul says the law is a mirror to show us our place in God's eyes. We are guilty of treason.
2. We must know that there is a Heaven and a Hell. Heaven is what God has created for those who trust and obey Him, fighting the war to win, for the cause of Hope. Hell is created for those who reject God's authority, believing there are other ways to obtain salvation or prominence. We must realize that by our sin, we deserve death and Hell.
3. We must believe that God loves us so much, He sent His son Jesus to die for us. This is the ultimate, one-time-only sacrifice necessary to free us from sins power. All we have to do is believe and follow Him.
Through this process, we start to understand that the answer, our foundational motivation for following Christ, is that we understand the Importance of Hell. Our hope is based on the fact that our salvation from Hell is Christ and His sacrifice.
No, we do not become believers so that our lives here will be better. Instead, picture yourself as a drowning man. You are all too familiar with what drowning entails. You feel the pain. You are dying. You can't breathe. Then you see a hand . . . reaching for you. With a sudden realization, you know that this hand is your only hope. You cling to it, ignoring the waves, the sounds, even your pain. You cling to your only Hope. This is what Salvation is. Your only Hope.
Ray Comfort gives a now famous illustration:
Two men are on an airplane. They both order coffee and are about to settle down when a stewardess comes to the first man and asks him to put on a parachute. She tells him that this parachute will make his flight a much more pleasurable experience, and give him freedom to enjoy himself to the fullest. He gladly puts it on, based on her promising words, and settles back to take in this new sensation.
The stewardess then goes down the aisle to the second man and hands him his parachute telling him to put it on quickly, that at any moment the plane could go down, and this parachute will save his life. He thankfully puts the parachute on and settles down to await his moment of escape.
The first man starts to feel rather uncomfortable. He can't sit back fully because the parachute is on his back, making him awkwardly hunched over for the trip. Soon he begins to notice other passengers pointing at him and laughing at his situation. Finally, after what seems like forever, he painfully stands up and throws his parachute off, cursing himself for believing the stewardess in the first place. He emphatically states that he will never again put on a parachute. It is all a hoax, he believes.
The second man feels uncomfortable, but doesn't mind. He isn't even bothered by the jeers and laughter of the other passengers. In fact, he tries to get the stewardess' attention so he can get parachutes for them also. He is focused on the danger and the possibility of tragedy. He turns to tell the others what could happen. He painfully stands up to show them how to put the parachute on properly, explaining what could happen at any moment. He believes that parachutes will save them all from death.
This is Salvation. A reaction to the threat. This is The Importance of Hell to a Christian. We see the danger. We see Hell for what it is. Death. Eternal Death. Salvation is offered (our parachute). We must tell others.
Unfortunately, those who answered with the "awesome" Jesus experience are partakers of a Prosperity Gospel that is sweeping our nation. Pastors across our country are touting God-given principles of living as their message of Salvation. Do this and you will be favored by God. Live this way and you will have a "windfall" of grace. God given principles work in the natural order of things whether we are saved or unsaved. If we manage our money wisely, we will prosper. If we make wise decisions, we will have optimum results. These are natural, God-given principles given to mankind to live by. These are not the make-up of true repentance and Salvation!
We have gotten away from The Importance of Hell. This must be our motivation for the parachute we put on. Unless we realize our sin, and its hellish consequence, we cannot properly know the true reason for our salvation. That is why these "prosperity" converts throw God off when hard times come. They say that they will never take Him back. They curse those pastors for convincing them that life would be better. They become disillusioned and Hopeless. They have not seen The Importance of Hell. Therefore, they never truly see the Hope of Salvation.
© Copyright Derek Hickman 2007