Summary: This sermon challenges people to examine their motivations for being Christian. Is it just to avoid hell? Or is it a natural response to the Love of God?
I want to talk with you today about a man named Moses. I don’t know, but you may have heard of him before, I’m not sure. Moses is a man who follows the Lord. Moses is a man who works hard, and who tries to help others follow God. I had the chance to met Moses about a year and a half ago. I don’t mean the Moses from the bible; this is Moses from Ubid cleaning company, the company that cleans our church building. Moses is our sales rep and he stops by the church every month or two to talk and make sure that we are happy with the service we are receiving. We normally do a walk through of the building and discuss any issues that exist, which normally takes about 15 minutes, and then we end up chatting about anything and everything else. Through these conversations I have gotten to know Moses. I know that Moses loves the Lord and follows Him closely. I know that Moses is very proud of his kids and the love they are showing for the Lord at a very young age. In fact, he was telling me about a conversation he had with his son, who is only 5 years old. I tried this week as I wrote the sermon to remember exactly what his son had said, but I couldn’t remember the exact quote. But as Moses told me the story, it made me think of a question which I will share with you later this morning.
Now don’t forget about Moses, but I’m going to change directions. When I was 14 years old I began to really follow the Lord. I had accepted Jesus as my savior as a child, but I didn’t understand what it meant to follow Christ with my life, so I hadn’t. As a freshman in high school the youth group went to something called Hell-Stop. I think it was early October, the time when all the haunted houses and haunted forests open. And Hell-Stop was a haunted forest alternative that was organized by a church. So the youth group went as our Thursday night activity. We got there and waited in line. Then they divided us into smaller groups. Each group had a guide, a person in all black with their face painted like a skeleton.
The church that ran the place was trying their best to give people a glimpse of what Hell might be like. This was combined with an effort from the police to combat the syndrome all young people have, the “it will never happen to me” syndrome. So the police brought cars that had been involved in fatal accidents with posters recounting the stories of those who died, either from their own mistakes or the mistakes of another. Reflecting back on the experience, I wish I had a videotape of my facial expression because I would like to see exactly when during the night my attitude changed. I went into the evening being a typical 14 year old, goofing around, acting like an idiot. But by the time we came to the end, I was taking things pretty seriously.
As was the case for everyone who went through, our last stop was a white tent, nothing scary, just a guy from the church who talked to the group for a couple minutes about the experience and about Christ. Then one at a time, each student passed through a curtain to choose from three possible exits. The door to the left had the word Hell painted on it. It was the door for those who realized they were not right with God and had no interest in changing the path of their life. The door to the right said Heaven, and was for those who knew they were following the Lord and would be in heaven if they were to die. And the door straight ahead had a question mark on it. This was the door for those who were unsure of what would happen if they died, or were sure they would go to hell and wanted to change the course of their life so that they would go to heaven.
As I stepped through the curtain I found myself alone with God and I knew it was time to be honest. Honestly I was scared by everything I had just seen. But I knew I wasn’t living a life that would land me in heaven, and I wanted to change that. So I passed through the center door with the question mark and prayed with someone in a tent on the other side to rededicate my life to Christ.
I don’t doubt that some of you here this morning have had negative experiences with such tactics. By tactics I mean the use of hell as a way to scare someone into accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior. Regardless of our opinions on the appropriateness of such methods, I can tell you it got me started on the right path. And at the very least that night, young people were reminded that death doesn’t care what age you are. But I think it is fair to say that my belief in Christ at age 14 was motivated by a fear of going to hell.