Summary: If God’s kindness doesn’t lead you to repentance, perhaps God’s condemnation will.
We’re More Stubborn Than We Think
Rev. Brian Bill
This story could only come out of Michigan…perhaps you saw it in the Pantagraph. In celebration of the date 6-6-06, this past Tuesday, a town called Hell, Michigan put on a party and invited the whole country to come. Radio stations as far away as San Diego and Seattle raffled off trips to Hell in honor of 6-6-6. The opening line in the story went like this: “They’re planning a hot time in Hell today.” The mayor of the town exclaimed, “Everyone who comes will get a letter of authenticity saying you’ve celebrated June 6, 2006 in Hell.” The town’s official website (www.hell2u.com) lists their many festivities and concludes with these words: “We’re just taking advantage of an excuse to have fun! Come on out to Hell for a good time.”
Friends, as I mentioned on my blog this week (www.pontiacbible.org/brian), this is really not very funny. Those who live in Hell, Michigan may have had a good time on Tuesday, but those who are living forever in Hell are in eternal torment and unending misery. Many like to joke about the place of judgment because they can’t stand to think about the reality of it. Friends, it is not a party place. Interestingly, one study I read reports that only about a third of Scottish clergy believe in the existence of Hell. According to a recent Harris poll, 76% of Americans expect to go to Heaven while only 2% believe they will go to Hell. A Gallup poll found that 71% believe in Hell, they just don’t want to hear about it.
Even from pulpits across our country, you will seldom hear Hell preached because it is considered too negative. One article I read this week pointed out that Hell is being frozen out as clergy find themselves “increasingly hesitant to sermonize on Christianity’s outpost for lost souls.” Kenneth Kantzer, former editor of Christianity Today, once said that he had not heard a sermon on Hell in 30 years. The thinking is that people won’t come back to church if they hear a sermon about Hell. I anticipate that some of you won’t like this message today for that reason. Part of me wants to tell you that we don’t make a regular practice of preaching about Hell, which is true. On the other hand, if we’re faithful to Scripture, we need to do more of it. Please know that my motive in doing so today is love and a desire to communicate the full counsel of God. Did you know that Jesus actually spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven?
After hearing about the festivities in Hell, Michigan I went back and read what is arguably the most famous sermon ever preached called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathon Edwards in 1741. I’d like to read some excerpts from this sermon which caused people to back down in repentance and break down in tears. Edwards was not known to be flamboyant but instead was very solemn, never once looking up from his notes. What moved people were the words and the fact that Edwards wept through the whole sermon as he warned them about God’s coming wrath. I will interject other sections of his sermon into the message this morning, hoping and praying for similar results in your hearts, and in mine.
Using as his text Deuteronomy 32:35: “Their foot shall slide in due time,” Edwards uttered these words (www.ccel.org):
There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God...The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.
Pontiac Bible Church will not shrink back from the teaching of Scripture for we are convinced that we must first understand the horrible news about Hell before we will embrace the good news of the Gospel. Last week we learned from Romans 2:4 that God’s kindness should lead us to repentance. Today we’ll learn that God’s coming condemnation should motivate us to turn to Him before it’s too late. The Bible is very clear about absolutes. Jesus is the only way, the truth and the life. That means that there is no other way. You are either in the kingdom of God’s beloved Son or you are still in the kingdom of darkness. You are saved or you are lost. You are forgiven or you are still in your sins. You will go to Heaven when you die or you will go to Hell.