I remember the time, way back in 1975, that my soul cried out to God. A God I didn’t know, wasn’t sure if I wanted to know Him, and didn’t pay much attention to what people were telling me about Him. You know, all the “God loves you” jargon.
No, I didn’t cry out to God because I loved Him or because I heard He loved me.
I cried out to God because I was scared. Just plain scared.
I had a revelation, realization, or whatever you’d like to call it; I knew if I died before I got things straight with God I was going to hell.
That scared me. Scared me enough to take the necessary action.
Some people thought, and maybe still think, I was stupid. They’re convinced hell isn’t a real place, that hell is what we make of this life. Same with heaven.
“It’s all in how you look at it”, the wise ones say. “Treat people the way you want to be treated, and Heaven becomes a day to day reality. Treat people like crap, and you’ve made your own hell.”
However, there was this man who said a few things about hell. He talked about hell, and heaven, like you and I talk about Chicago or Detroit. Real places.
I’ve been to Chicago so I know it is real. I’ve never been to Detroit, so I’m not so sure about that. And to hear some folks talk about it, maybe I don’t want to go there. If it’s even real.
No, this man who referred to heaven and hell a number of times, also said some other things; things people like to quote.
Things like: judge not, it’s more blessed to give than receive, don’t call anyone a fool, blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Great sayings, by a great man. But can He be trusted? Can you trust Him? After all, if He’s lying about heaven and hell, what makes you think He’s telling the truth the rest of the time?
Jesus is not a liar. He spoke of hell, and heaven, because He knew they existed. Though you and I can’t see them (yet), there’s coming a day when we will.
One or the other.
That’s why I was scared. I had heard in order to go to heaven (and thus miss hell, the place of the damned), I had to be as perfect, as sinless, as God. At that time, I wasn’t sure just how righteous God was, but I knew He had me beat.
I didn’t know if He’d done anything wrong, but I knew I had.
That reminds me: why do people say, “why you’d sure as hell better believe thus and so” when they don’t believe in hell in the first place?
Anyway, like I said, I KNEW I had done plenty of things wrong, so if hell was a real place, I was in a heap of trouble.
Fire, sulfur, brimstone, total darkness, wailing and gnashing of teeth. My friends told me they planned on going to hell so they could party. But those words didn’t describe any party I’d want to attend.
Especially one lasting forever and ever…
Have you ever heard a person wail and gnash their teeth? I have. When I was 15 I spent 30 days in the psychiatric ward of the county hospital. While there I was entertained (?) one night by a middle aged woman crying, at the top of her lungs, in an ear piercing, hair raising scream, “My straitjacket’s too tight! My straitjacket’s too tight!”
No, when I heard that Jesus described hell as having people like had I met in the hospital, crying day and night, forever…
I got scared. So I called on the name of the Lord. “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’”. (Romans 10:11-13 ESV)
Call me stupid for being so fearful if you’d like. I don’t care. You see, since that time, you know, back in 1975, I’ve learned a whole lot more about the God I cried out to.
I learned He really does love me, and proved it by sending His only Son, Jesus, to take my place on the cross, and made my payment to hell. He who was sinless died for the creep I was, and all others like me.
And God pronounced all debts paid when He raised Him from the dead that first resurrection morning.
I’ve discovered He is merciful and kind, and is trying to let everyone know hell is not the place He WANTS to send them; He only HAS to send them when they reject His offer of eternal life.
I’ve learned a lot about God, but even better is I’ve come to know Him personally. He leads me and guides me, providing for all my needs.
Because of His love.
Yes, I can love Him now because He first loved me.
And you know what? His perfect love has driven the fear of hell completely out of me.
I once was scared, but now I’m not, for I’ve had the hell scared out of me.
And loved out of me.