The other night I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was on a road very familiar to me but long buried in memory. As I approached the turn that led to a bridge, in the pitch blackness I went off the road and over the side. I knew in a few seconds I would be beneath the dark, swirling waters below. During that crystallized moment in time, the most agonizing, paralyzing, purest terror flooded over me. It was so real and palpitating that I can feel it still. I awoke trembling and with cold sweat pouring out. I couldn't get the feeling out of my mind for days--and it was only a dream.
It set me to thinking of the nature of terror and the reality of it--fear raised to its highest power. It called to mind Paul's statement in 2 Cor. 5:11a, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." It occurred to me that if the terror of being in danger of losing our physical lives is so gripping, how much greater ought the terror of the Lord be, in which we stand to lose our immortal souls!
But there doesn't seem to be a lot of that kind of terror around these days. We have grown complacent with the way our world is, and the line between good and evil is blurred even for those who profess to follow Christ. We do not seem to be afraid with any trembling degree of terror that men will lose their souls. In fact, we seem to have forgotten that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad." As we bask in the wonderful, magnanimous, forgiving love of God, we easily forget that He is also a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29) And He will judge the world in righteousness one day. But the world is not listening to His call. We, His people, are not catching their attention. Ought we not to experience enough terror for the souls around us (and our own) to spur us to try harder to share and live the sweet message?
Scripture is not silent on the dark side of the picture. Hebrews 10:30 says, "For we know Him that has said, Vengeance belongs to me. I will recompense and again the Lord shall jusdge his people. (31) It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," if you are rebel to His will. God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but someday He is going to haul us and our world up short. The terror of that moment along with the love of Christ ought to constrain us to deeper commitment to His cause. We need to take our Christianity seriously--it is not a thing to be taken lightly, not even for a moment. It needs to work from the inside out and be at the root of our very being. The eternal destiny of the souls of people is all that really counts in this world. How scary to think that days are passing, people are living and dying without Christ and without hope in this world or the next. How can we rest? What can we do? Do we believe that people who die without Christ are lost? Can we feel for a moment the terror of a soul lost screaming in hell? Or has our world lulled us to sleep? Do we, like those of old say, "Where is the promist of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as from the beginning of creation?" 2 Peter 3:4ff warns us of the consequences of this line of thinking.
Our world is guilty of calling evil good and good evil, of exalting wicked men, and of blinking at sin in high places. Christians must not join the willfully blind. We have to be able to discern between good and evil or we lose our ability to sway people for Christ. The world has to be able to see a difference in our lives as well as hear a difference in our words. They have little confidence in following people who sometimes seem as lost as they are. Christianity is not a game, or if it is, it's hard ball--and there's no turning back or half-hearted playing. It is time and high time that we wake out of sleep. Christ has something to do with every part of our lives or He wants no part of them.
Will the terror of lost souls in hell give us the courage to stand up and be counted for Christ at whatever cost? Or are we too sound asleep and content in our world? Remember, hell is as real as heaven--the same God guarantees them both. Heaven is a loving promise from a gracious Father to His obedient children; hell is sure punishment from a righteous Judge to rebellious and impenitent subjects. We can't acknowled one without acknowledging the other. If we really believe that, let's put our lives on the line for Christ and all the world to see. The only danger that the dark side poses for Christians is if, or when, they should ever forget it's there in all of its terrible reality.
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Another excellent article on a subject woefully neglected in the pulpits of our tepid churches. Since most pastors are afraid of offending the parishoners for fear the contributions won't continue, they preach a very watered down version of the Bible. The primary sermon today is, "God loves you." A true statement which, if repeated to the exclusion of the terrible consequenses of life without the Lord, is certain to imbue the congregation with an overpowering malaise. As I once said in one piece, "The devil will drive you to that church on Sunday in his own car." Unfortunately, he has a lot of churches to car pool these days, in fact, a vast majority of them.
Those who relegate the idea of hell to some distant place in the back of their minds, or discount its reality altogether, miss a very salient point. When Jesus walked among us, he referred to heaven only once and then in an oblique manner in John 14. He graphically and very pointedly preached on the subject of hell at least 11 times. He was obsessed with it. That's because he was very aware of its awful reality. In fact, that is why he came down and joined us in the first place.
A quote of which I am fond:
"Speak the truth in a million voices. it is silence that kills."
- Catherine of Siena, 1347 – 1380
Keep it up!