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Come Hell or High Water (Part 1)

Luke 16:19-31

Hell. Is it really a real place? Is it really as bad as Christians make it seem? Should Hell be a part of how we evangelize? Now, I know many of you probably think or have thought about bible-thumping, loud-mouthed, brimstone style pastors when you hear the word Hell. However, Hell is a very literal place and its reality has been lost on many people in our churches today. The top 20 songs being sung by churches all over the nation have no mention of “Hell” nor contain themes about the consequence of unbelief and sin.

            That is not to say that every song that we sing on a Sunday morning must contain the word “hell” or talk about eternal punishment apart from Christ. However, these trends exist and matter. Sadly, as a whole, the American Church has lost its urgency towards evangelism- in part because we have stopped talking about hell. I want to mention this now- I am not an expert on Hell nor do I claim to be one. In fact, I have leaned heavily into Francis Chan and his wonderful book on Hell titled “Erasing Hell.” It’s a fantastic read and is incredibly helpful for unpacking such a difficult topic. With that being said, let us look at scripture together.

            Luke 16:19-31 depicts the story of Lazarus and the rich man and within this story, we catch an interesting glimpse into Hell. Verse 23 starts “And being in torment in Hades, he (the rich man) looked up and saw Abraham a long way off, with Lazarus at his side. 24 ‘Father Abraham!’ he called out, ‘Have mercy on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this flame!’….(Abraham replies) a great chasm has been fixed between us  and you, so that those who want to pass over from here to you cannot; neither can those from there cross over to us.’” (emphasis added).

            In reference to Revelation 20, and put in tandem with this passage in Luke, Chan’s comment that spiritual death/Hades/Hell is for “those who will be separated from God forever in an ongoing state of punishment.” Whew. Every lost person that you know, even the kindest old lady that has always been so sweet to you, is going to face this reality. Ongoing punishment, agony, and unquenchable flames; this is the reality for all those who are not saved. My hope is that your initial reaction isn’t that of feeling that God is not fair. No, the hope is that you feel a sense of urgency towards evangelizing the lost people in your life. A Christian who does not evangelize is like a doctor who does not warn a patient of their heart disease or a meteorologist who doesn’t warn of a hurricane.

            As a Christian, you have all the news to offer. You have the Good News of the Gospel, the John 3:16 and the whole book of Romans! You also have the bad news, the penalty of sin and future for all unbelievers. Yet, so many of us are more concerned with the house we are buying, the children we are raising, the job that we hate. My hope, for myself and all of you, would be that we would hate to see our friends in Hell more than our favorite sports team lose. That we would hate to know that our family member is going to spend eternity in unquenchable flames, desperate for but a drop of water on their tongue, more than we want that kitchen renovation. Hell is a real place and come Hell or high water, people in our lives are going there, what are you going to do about it?

Posted by Joel Arcieri with

Since God is Sovereign- Why Evangelize?

            Get ready. In the next 800 words, I’m going to definitively answer one of the most profound mysteries in all of theology. Okay, maybe not. But I’m going to give it my best shot.

SinceGod is sovereign, why evangelism? Notice that I didn’t say, “if God is sovereign. . .” There’s a reason for that. If you’re a Christian, you already believe that God is sovereign. This is apparent because, if you’re a Christian, I assume that you pray. And you are acknowledging the sovereignty of God by the act of prayer. Think about it. If God isn’t sovereign, why pray? What would you be asking Him to do? If God couldn’t sovereignly save your lost family member, why pray for them to come to know Christ? What would you be asking Him to do?[i]

The Bible clearly teaches that God is sovereign over salvation from beginning to end, from eternity past to eternity future (Romans 8:29-30). However, this brings us to this troubling question- What is the point of us bringing the gospel to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20) if God is sovereign over salvation and has already chosen who will be saved? In this post, I want to give you three reasons why we must engage in evangelism even though God is totally sovereign, and close with a word about why this should be encouraging to you.

 

  1. God commanded it.

You might think I’m just being snarky here, but I’m serious. God Almighty commanded that we share the gospel (Romans 10:14-17). Isn’t that a good enough reason in itself? The truth that God is sovereign over salvation in no way negates His command for us to go and share the gospel. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29). We don’t get to disobey God’s revealed will on the basis of our guesses about His secret will.

 

  1. God ordained the means and the ends.

The same God that ordained the end (the salvation of His elect) is the same God that ordained the means to that end. The means aren’t irrelevant, but we ignore this concept a lot in this conversation. We don’t do this in other areas, but we ignore the concept of means and ends in this area. Consider this metaphor. Does God know the day that you will die? Of course, God knows everything. Okay. Then why did you eat today? Since God knows the day that you will die, you will certainly live that long. So what’s the point in eating? We would say that’s ridiculous. God can know the day that I’m going to die, but he knows that I’m going to continue to live through the means of eating. It’s the same way with evangelism and God’s sovereignty. God knows who will be saved, but He will save them through the instrumentality of His people sharing the gospel.

 

  1. God loves us.

God wants you to engage in evangelism because He loves you. Have you ever considered that maybe evangelism is good for us? Maybe seeing people come to know Jesus could be the greatest joy in your life? If that’s the case, then the fact that God includes us in evangelism is evidence of His love for us. God will save His people, but He uses people like us to do it. We serve a God that takes His kids to work. God doesn’t need our help, but He loves us enough to include us in His work of restoring His broken creation. What an amazing truth that is. In our missions, we get to join God on the Mission that He’s been on since Genesis 3:15.

 

Here’s why the sovereignty of God in salvation is an encouragement to my evangelism-If God wasn’t sovereign over salvation, that would mean that the salvation of my neighbor is up to me. And I can’t handle that kind of pressure. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that people will die and go to hell if my gospel presentation isn’t clever enough. However, I will sleep well tonight, knowing that my friends and loved ones are in the hands of a sovereign and good God. That’s doesn’t mean I get to ignore them, however. It’s my responsibility to share Christ with them and plead with them to come to know them. However, the results are up to God. So church, I would encourage you to share Christ with the all of your heart, while resting in the truth that the results are in the hands of God.

 

 

[i]For this point, I am indebted to J.I. Packer’s observation in his classic book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. I cannot recommend this fabulous book highly enough.

Posted by Nate Weis with

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