I have a buddy who’s a pagan – no really, a real, live pagan! I was thinking about him today and something he once posted on his Facebook. It went something like this, “I could never have a god who tells me to love him or else he’s sending me to hell.” It’s a standard line I also hear from atheists, agnostics and even Christians (why would a loving God send people to hell?).
The line really kind of ticks me off. It’s so ignorant of who God is and what Christianity is all about. But I’ve probably made the mistake in the past by not actually addressing the issue with him because part of me says it would be a waste of time and another part of me just doesn’t want to get into it with him. But that’s pretty unloving of me, isn’t it? What I should do is help him better understand why his statement is not only wrong, but arrogant in a way that would even embarrass him if he realized it.
So, I’m going to take a few moments today and explain why that statement is so twisted, which also means that it is from Satan who is trying to blind people to who God really is.
First things first – God doesn’t send people to hell – PERIOD.
You may not like this, but you actually choose hell. Let me explain how this happens.
Christian friends: Finish this statement for me: Jesus died for the sins of the (blank).
- A) Christians
- B) Righteous
- C) Americans
- D) Elect (if you’re a Calvinist)
- E) World
1 John 2:2 – And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (KJV)
The answer is E – the sins of the WORLD!
When Jesus died on that cross, He reconciled all creation with God including man!
If you’re not in the faith, this is where you ask the $64,000 question: Why did man need to be reconciled with God? What’s that all about?
I’m glad you asked!
When God created man, man was pretty much in perfect relationship with God. I heard one preacher put it this way: The Garden of Eden is not a place, it’s a state of perfect relationship with God. I like that. But Adam was told not to eat of one certain tree; he could have EVERYTHING else in creation, but not that.
Now here is the most important part of this discussion: Love demands a free will choice. You cannot force someone to love you, they must choose to. God did not force His creation to love Him, He gave Adam free will because the relationship demanded it! Unfortunately, Adam wrecked it for all of us when he chose to disobey God, thus plunging all of humanity into a broken relationship with God where we also disobey Him! That’s why Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden – it was no longer a perfect relationship, but a broken one – one that would need reconciling!
Here’s the part my non-believing friends don’t like.
Because of this disobedience to God and our rebellion, we all are sinful. We all fall short of the glory of God. Not one of us is righteous in our own being. And – here’s the kicker – we all deserve death for how we’ve rebelled against God.
I don’t care how good of a person you think you are – you’re not a good person. You are not perfect; you transgress against your neighbors and if you are honest with yourself, you know you’ve lied, stolen, cheated and worse in your life. If life were truly “fair,” you would get what you deserve for all the crap you’ve pulled. Most people I know, actually don’t “reap what they’ve sown” because life is not really fair and we’re dang lucky it’s not!
That said, God is not fair either. He’s just and that’s different. Because of Adam – his rebellion and ours – God demands that there be an equitable punishment for the transgressions. But who could actually pay the price for all of humanities’ sins – who could take on their shoulders the punishment for every bad thing man has done (war, murder, rape, pedophilia, torture, abuse – child and adult, lying, stealing, cheating, debauchery, and everything else in the entire history of man)? Certainly not you and certainly not me!
And this gets us to the reconciliation thing! Jesus was perfect in every way – tempted like us but never sinned. He was tortured, nailed to a cross, and died. During his “passion” He took upon Himself the sins of the world and paid the price for all of us, which then reconciled us to God because the punishment was taken for all the wrong man had done, is doing, and will do! It’s incredible when you think of it! Jesus voluntarily suffered in our place (propitiation) so that we could be reconciled to God! Amazing.
This is why God doesn’t send anyone to hell! You have been reconciled to God – everyone has been reconciled to God!
But there is one catch – you have to accept the free gift of grace God offers. You must accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior because He is the one who paid the price for your reconciliation to the Father.
Pretty easy deal, except apparently, it’s not. Satan has blinded most, like my pagan friend, making them believe that God really doesn’t love them and is forcing them into a relationship on threat of exile and eternal torture.
Nice try, Satan, but not today!
Here’s what’s really happening: God is offering everyone an eternity of relationship with Him and the only cost is accepting what Jesus did for you – that’s it!
But, you have free will. You can reject that gift if you choose. God isn’t forcing you into anything. He’s simply offering to love you in an incredible relationship through Jesus. Take it or leave it.
If you turn down that gift, however, you put God in a bind.
You see, He won’t force you into a relationship. And if you say you don’t want a relationship with Him, what’s He supposed to do? Time and time again in scripture we see people reject Jesus. He didn’t run after them; He didn’t keep trying to convince them to follow. He simply let them walk away – it’s their choice.
The Bible tells us that God wants all of us to be reconciled to Him. If that were not so, Jesus would not have died for the sins of the world. He would have just died for a select few. So, how has God reached out to us to get us to see that His way is best? He’s been completely honest!
He’s told us that there are really only two choices in life – choose Jesus or reject Him. That’s it. And again, it’s our choice – He’s not forcing anything.
So where does hell come in? Well, if you reject God’s offer to be in relationship with Him through Jesus, and God can’t then force you into that relationship, then what happens is you get what you’ve chosen – Hell, a place without God and (importantly) a place where your transgressions of this world are no longer paid for by Jesus because you said you didn’t want that.
In other words, you end up in a place devoid of God, which is what you wanted; a place where your sins are not forgiven, because you rejected Jesus’ gift; and a place where you will reap what you’ve sown for eternity, which Satan has convinced you that you can actually manage in your own power.
None of that is what God wants. Not only does He says that over and over again in scripture, but He sent His only son to die for you so you wouldn’t have to choose hell if you’d just open your eyes!
A lot of people like to put God in a box – mostly the Love Box. God is Love so He can only do loving things as we define love. But God is so much more than Love. He is Love. He is Holy. He is Just. He is Righteous. He is Good. He is Merciful. He is Full of Grace. He is Perfect. And He is all these things at once, meaning that while He loves perfectly, He also is fully just. While He is completely merciful, He is also completely Holy and demands holiness from us!
How in the world can that work, right? Simple: God sees those who have accepted the gift of propitiation from Jesus as being holy and righteous. We are completely perfect in God’s sight not in our own power, but by the power of Jesus and the work He did on the cross!
Yeah, I know, it’s hard to grasp that God would see me – sinner – as holy and righteous because Jesus paid the price of my sin. But that’s how it works, which is why it’s such a disaster when someone I know is blinded by Satan and makes idiot comments about God sending them to hell. God gave His only son for you! And in your blindness and arrogance you reject God’s love, instead choosing your own path without God. Well, my friends, that path leads to destruction.
Sorry, I’m starting to get worked up!
There’s a book out there I’ve mentioned before called 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese. After reading this man’s experience in hell, I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go there – I actually literally mean that! I wouldn’t want that for anyone! It’s just brutal! And God doesn’t want that either, but if you choose to reject Christ’s gift of covering your sins for you and instead want to stand on your own and suffer the consequences of your actions, God’s not going to stop you even though He’s given you every piece of information you need to know to choose differently.
No, God will not force you to love Him, but don’t even for one minute think He’s sending you to hell. You are choosing that yourself. And if you do, not only do I pity you, but I weep for you because you know not what you do!