Summary: What it takes to avoid hell.
INTRO.- This is not a popular subject. Never has been. Never will be. But it is necessary.
ILL.- On an American troopship, the soldiers crowded around their chaplain asking, “Do you believe in hell?” He said, “I do not.” “Well, then, will you please resign, for if there is no hell, we do not need you, and if there is a hell, we do not wish to be led astray.”
People need to know the truth about eternity, heaven and hell. And if we believe scripture, how can we not believe in a place called hell? We may not like the thought of it, but we must admit it’s a real place, just as heaven is a real place.
ILL.- Ted Turner, founder of Turner Broadcasting blasted the Christian faith at a speech to the National Press Club. He said, "Remember, heaven is going to be perfect. And I don’t really want to be there. Those of us that go to hell, which will be most of us in this room, most journalists are certainly going there. But when we get there we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess. And heaven is perfect. Who wants to go to a place that is perfect? Boring, boring."
Also in late 1989, Turner told Dallas Morning News that "Christianity is a religion for losers." Christ died on the cross, but Turner said He shouldn’t have bothered. "I don’t want anybody dying for me. I’ve had a few drinks and a few girlfriends and if that’s gonna put me in hell, then so be it."
Ted Turner, you may be smart when it comes to the world and making money, but you are not a smart man when it comes to the reality of eternity.
ILL.- On July 16, 1741, Jonathan Edwards stood before his congregation and preached a message titled, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. People began to shake under the conviction of their sins. Some fell to the floor, crying out for mercy. That morning, his church encountered God and the Great Awakening began to sweep across New England.
It’s quite different in most pulpits today. In one article for Newsweek Kenneth Woodward wrote, "Churchgoers take comfort: hell has all but disappeared from modern Christian theology. But this comes at a price."
ILL.- Another preacher wrote, “Hell, it would seem, has fallen on rather lean times. It used to be that the vast majority of Christians, regardless of denominational affiliation, believed that Hell was a real place where the wicked and the impenitent go when they died. The very thought of the pains and torments of Hell was enough to scare sinners straight. It used to be that ministers of the Gospel would preach on the horrors of Hell to persuade reprobates to repentance. But not anymore. Most American mainline and so-called Evangelical churches stopped preaching about Hell years ago. Most mainline ministers stopped believing in Hell years before that. Hell made people uncomfortable. Hell was too ‘old-fashioned.’ The topic of Hell was bad for the bottom line—attendance and income….”
PROP.- Let’s consider from the life of Christ what it takes for a person to avoid hell.
1- Understanding God’s will
2- Believing God’s person
I. UNDERSTANDING GOD’S WILL
Matt. 13:47-51 "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. "Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked.”
“Can you hear me now?” So the Verizon wireless commercial goes. Jesus said, “Can you hear me now? Are you listening? Do you truly understand what I am saying?”
Prior to these words Jesus told the parable about what is called the “dragnet.” A fishing net is let down and all kinds of fish are caught in it. Some of the fish were bad and some were good, but the bad were culled and thrown away.
ILL.- I remember fishing one time with our Jerry Rhodes on the St. Francis River. Jerry introduced me to that river, which he had fished all his life and even as a kid. One day while we were fishing for bass I hooked something that nearly jerked the rod out of my hand. When I finally got the fish in the boat it thrashed all over the place, flopping around, etc. Jerry warned me NOT to put my thumb in its mouth as I always did with a bass.