A Chance Against Hell?
Recently, I read a book by serial church planter Peyton Jones. Towards the end of the book, he takes aim at church leaders, church members, and those who have been part of “the machine” for years. He writes, “There are millions going to hell, and statistical evidence points to the numbers increasing with every passing year. I pray you’d be angry enough to do something about it.” He then charges us with the following question, “Do we love everybody enough to make up our mind, wake up and fight?” I’m going to address these three charges.
Do we love everybody?
This should be simple, shouldn’t it? Ask yourself this question, “Do I love those who are very different than I am?” If I’m honest, I’ve struggled with this for a long time. When I was new in the faith, I thought it was just as important to ostracize people as it was to attend Sunday services. By ostracize, I mean that I was to avoid associating with gay people, addicts, and democrats (this is a joke, as I’m not a democrat or republican). I could witness to them, but I dare not invite them over my house for dinner or call them a friend.
As I’ve grown in the faith, I’ve learned that it is my responsibility to befriend those who I disagree with, care for them, and minister to their needs. This is my responsibility, not because I’m a Pastor, but because I’m a Christ-follower. I need to love those who have hurt me just as Jesus loved those who crucified Him. I need to love the dregs of society just as Jesus loved the prostitutes and lepers. I need to love those with whom I disagree with politically just as Jesus loved Matthew the Tax Collector.
We can love people that are unlike us by becoming friends with them, despite our disagreements. We can love them by recognizing that we were once in the same condition, lost and without hope. We can look past their outward sin and see their hearts as God sees them. Does this mean that we don’t share the Gospel with them? Absolutely not! We must be sharing the Gospel with ourselves and those around us constantly. However, it does mean that the first night I invite a gay couple over for dinner that I don’t say, “You’re going to hell”. I won’t look at them as a project but as people who need Christ just as I do.
Have we made up our mind?
Does it bother you that people all around you are destined for eternal destruction? List everyone you came into contact with today… everyone, the guy who bagged your groceries, the teller at the bank, your coworker who took the last donut, your parent, your spouse, your child… everyone! Did your interactions with them bring them closer to Christ or push them further away?
I’m convinced that we won’t see a revival in America until the Church becomes discontent and angry that those around them are going to perish. There is revival in Asia, Africa, and South America, but not Europe and North America. Why is that? I think it’s because we’ve become too fat and happy with the state of things in our churches. We don’t really want new people unless they want to worship the same way that we do. We don’t want someone to come to Christ who is in a homosexual relationship and has a child. Why? That’s way too messy! How in the world would we navigate such a situation?
We need to make up our mind if the world is worth saving. Jesus seemed to think it is…We need to decide whether it bothers us that the world is perishing. Every great movement of the Gospel began with a holy discontentment among Christ Followers, leading them to believe that the world was worth saving. New England is the birthplace of the first two great awakenings. Why not a third? This will not happen apart from the Spirit; I pray that He wrecks our hearts so that we will no longer be happy with the status quo.
Will we wake up and fight?
I’ve recently finished some significant reading in both Jonathan Edwards and Martin Luther. These were both men who fought tooth and nail to reform the church and cause Christ-followers to wake up and smell the need for the lost to hear the Gospel. Luther pushed back against indulgences as well as the financial and spiritual abuses of the Church towards people. Edwards risked the life of his family to reach Native Americans in Stockbridge, MA by wrestling control of the local school from the local elites who weren’t truly caring for the children.
If you are convinced that you must love everybody and have made up your mind to do something, then it’s time to wake up and fight. It took the bombing of Pearl Harbor to get the United States into World War II. I’m praying that the sharp decline of Christianity in our country will wake us up so that we will join God on mission. In Matthew 16, Jesus says of the Church, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. We are on the winning team! The Gospel has the power over hell and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Just as America was a sleeping giant awakened by a shock to the nation, the church has lay dormant, though it has the greatest weapon on earth.
When Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure, He said, “I will ask the Father , and he will give you another Helper”. We are indwelt with the Spirit, it is better to be indwelled by the Spirit than to walk physically with Jesus. You and I are armed with the Spirit, it is time for us to go into battle.
One of my favorite shows of all time is the mini-series Band of Brothers. This ten-episode series follows the true story of a paratrooper unit in World War II. It had an immeasurable impact on my life as it convinced me to become a paratrooper. I’ve long wondered what made this particular Army unit so special and when I became a paratrooper I found out. They didn’t have the best equipment, their supply lines were always disrupted, they never had what they needed, and they faced the most difficult missions of the War. What made the paratroopers so effective was their resilience and will to fight despite the circumstances.
We are like Easy Company of Band of Brothers. We have limited resources but have an intangible source of resiliency. We have a weapon that will prevail against the gates of hell, the Holy Spirit. I pray that the Spirit awakens in us a spirit to fight, so that we will overtake the gates of Hell and bring glory to God.
Peyton Jones, Church Zero: Raising 1stCentury Churches out of the Ashes of the 21stCentury Church(Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2013) 173.
Owen Strachen, The Essential Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to the Life and Teaching of America’s Greatest Theologian(Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2018) 95.