Sunday, January 29, 2017

How to Reach the Lost - Tell Them about Hell!

Feelings, God’s Love, and Hell Fire and Brimstone
Barbara Henderson

It is true that the United States and the entire world is divided almost straight down the middle regarding people’s opinion on almost any subject.  The division could be measured in many different ways, but it still comes out as divided almost equally.  The division that I am considering today is emotionalism versus rational thinking, and how that division effects Christian efforts to point people to Jesus Christ.

Personally, I am a very emotional person. I can tell you that uncontrolled emotions will drive you flat out crazy unless you come up with a way to control surface emotions. Thankfully I was brought up in a solid conservative Christian family.  There were rules we had to live by no matter how we felt about it.  So, I knew in advance what I was probably going to do in a situation, but my emotions still drove me crazy.  This is what I figured out.

There are two kinds of emotions.  The first one is surface emotions.  That is the emotion that will get you into trouble when you see a puppy or kitten.  They are cute and helpless.  That is a very dangerous combination!  When you see or experience injustice the emotion that jumps through your body and out your mouth is anger.  If either of these emotions causes you to act before you have time to think about the situation rationally you will find yourself in a very bad situation.  The problem the world is facing today is that approximately half the population lives by surface emotions.  They never get beyond reacting to something before they take time to think about it.  In fact, they are addicted to surface emotions.  They love the high they get from surface emotions.  They love the high they get when they ‘do something’ like contribute to a ‘save the dog’ fund.  I am in favor of saving all animals from inhumane treatment.  I am also in favor of feeding hungry children, sending aid to disaster victims, and any other place of sadness and want that human interaction can help.  But, I don’t contribute to television and online requests for help.  They are just appealing to surface emotions, and they usually spend their funds on paying themselves for making more ads to get more money.  PETA is of course the prime example.  Their idea of ethical treatment for animals to is to kill them.  Less than 10% of animals surrendered to PETA are placed in a home.

After surface emotions there are emotions that are brought about by rational thinking.  These are the emotions that get things done.  Honestly, rational thinking allows someone to come up with a reasonable answer or solution to something that is happening or going on.  This may lead to emotional feelings, and it may not.  For instance, if you make a decision to give a certain amount of money to your church’s missionary support, you give the money faithfully whether you get an emotional high out of giving or not.  You just do it.  Or, if you have made a decision to ‘give to fill a need’ when something real comes up, then you will automatically give the most you can when, for example, one of your church’s missionary families has an unexpected need.  You already know the money is going where it is supposed to go and will be spent however it is designated to be spent.  So, it is still rational giving, and you don’t have to spend time figuring out what to do.  You just have to figure out the amount.

Being addicted to surface emotion is like any other addiction.  The addict always needs more.  That is why you see things like the recent women’s march in Washington DC.  Women were carrying signs with nothing but gutter language as their message.  Seriously, there were signs that didn’t have anything except foul language to the highest magnitude as their statement.  It made no sense at all except that the person carrying the sign wanted the high they get from shocking people.  Women were dressed up in hideous costumes.  Once again, they were trying for an emotional high, and it is getting harder and harder to get.  Look at that pitiful aging woman who calls herself Madona.  She is running out of things to do to attract attention, but she is still trying.  She has a crowd of followers facing the same dark future that she is facing.  They have gone as far as possible to get that emotional high on feel good emotions.  Unfortunately, they have found a new way to get to high, and that is anger.  They are just plain mad.  They claim to be angry for a particular cause, but they are just angry.  Anything they do that will give them that high is ok, and they don’t care how stupid it makes them look.  If you tell them they look stupid that is another reason to be angry.  They really don’t care.

How are Christians supposed to approach emotion addicts?  The standard approach is, ‘Jesus loves you.  Come to Jesus.  He will make your life better now, and you get to go to heaven when you die.’ 

Unfortunately, that approach is not working.  That is the feel good approach, and these emotion addicts are beyond feel good emotions.  They need something more!  They are also beyond anger.  Honestly, the next step on the ladder for emotional addicts is violence. That is true.  The steps in emotional addiction is first:
Feel good emotions.  When that reaches its limits the next step is:
Anger.  Then when anger no longer gives that emotional high the next step is:

Violence is already being used by emotional addicts in many instances.  There may be legitimate circumstances for anger, and on occasion violence, but that isn’t usually the case.  Most things can be settled without violence.

The next question is what comes after violence for emotional addicts, and how do we deal with anger addicts before they turn to violence?

It looks like the only thing left is fear!  Fear is a very powerful emotion.  It can be effectively used.  For instance, over 200 people were arrested at the women’s march in Washington DC right after the inauguration.  These people are facing real jail time.  Their violent and destructive actions are having consequences.  Fear of consequences is a good way to get the attention of emotional addicts.

Christians have something to say that warrants fear in the heart of all lost people.  That is fear of hell.  This is a very legitimate and honest approach to evangelism.  When I was a small child fear of hell really got my attention.  I had no problem admitting I was a little sinner.  I honestly knew that I had not committed any really bad sins or sins that would get me jail time.  The problem for me was that my sins were committed after I knew very well they were sins.  I knew it was wrong and I chose to do it anyway.  Keep in mind that I was saved and baptized at nine years old, so you can figure out about what I was doing that was sinful at that time.  With a very obnoxious big brother I don’t know if I would have ever come to repentance if it weren’t for my fear of hell.

And, yes!  At that time in church history, preachers commonly preached on the reality of hell, the eternal destination of hell, the separation from everything and everyone good, and how it really was forever!  We also heard constantly that there was only one way into heaven and that was through Jesus Christ.  THAT is what is missing in today’s world.  The lost people of the world have run through the common emotions, and nothing has reached their lost souls.  Fear is the emotion that is left, and fear is also the emotion that may be the very best.  Let’s take a look at a verse from the most wonderful ballad of all times,
     ‘Amazing Grace’.  The second verse says,
     twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved’.

To preach the reality of hell does use fear to reach people, but it doesn’t leave them in fear.  As soon as a person understands the reality of hell in a future without Jesus Christ, they are ready to hear about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. 

To try to reach people through feel good emotions doesn’t really work.  Any emotion can be copied by Satan and his angels.  The fear of hell is beyond surface emotions.  It stays with a person until they come to a decision to either accept the escape offered through Jesus Christ, or to ignore the reality of hell and live in the emotional addict world. 

Exactly how to approach giving someone a healthy fear of hell will vary.  I don’t think approaching someone with, ‘Did you know you either have to believe in Jesus or go to hell?’ is the best way to approach it.  Sadly, even with all the television and radio preachers there is still a global lack of understanding that hell is a real place filled with real people who have no way of escape. 

I would like people to know that the reason for telling them about Jesus is that I don’t want them to miss heaven, and that to miss heaven means they actually do go to hell.

What people need to know is that the heaven of the Bible, the place where the followers of Jesus Christ are going, is a very real and specific place.  It isn’t some generic place named ‘heaven’.  Any ‘heaven’ that you get into without Jesus Christ is the place the Bible calls hell.  It is a place of misery where there is no love, joy, friendship, love, peace, or any good thing.  People jokingly say, ‘I want to go to hell because all my friends will be there.’  Your earthly friends may be there, but the blessing of friendship will not be there.  You won’t have any friends in hell – not one single friend for eternity.  All the blessings of God will not be in hell.  From a romantic viewpoint, there won’t be a ‘soul-mate’ in hell because there is no love of any sort in hell.  There is no peace in hell because peace is a gift from God.  To imagine hell, just imagine the things you love one at a time, and then imagine a place without them.  That is as close as we can come to imagining the horror off hell.

The real goal is that even the thought of hell will cause a fear that will not allow the non-believer any peace until they make peace with God Almighty.  Then and only then can a person know the true peace and joy available in Jesus Christ.

Fear of hell is very often what it takes to get a person’s attention concerning their eternal destination.  Don’t be afraid to use it because it isn’t the popular approach to evangelism.
Here is a link to some traditional Christian hymns on youtube.  You cannot do better than listening to these hymns to help you feel better and motivate you to do what you need to be doing.

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Barbara Henderson