Back in the early days of my life there were still a few of the what were called “hell-fire and brimstone preachers” left. They really liked to scare the you-know-what out of people, literally. Those preachers focused as much on the eternal damnation of the lost as they did on the joy of going to heaven, and for a good reason. We might not like to hear and think about it but there is a place called ‘hell’, and a lot of people are going to spend eternity there. I certainly do not want to go there, and I don’t want friends or family, nor the stranger on the corner to go there either.
All things considered the very nature of hell should motivate us to both walk the straight-and-narrow and to share the good news with others, keeping in mind what awaits those who do not turn to Christ. As Jesus said to those cities who rejected His word, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24).
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Those ‘hell-fire’ preachers have all but vanished now. Maybe they did focus too much on the negative, however, it may be said that many current preachers go out of their way to avoid the negative, preferring to deliver ‘feel-good’ messages rather than powerful words of wisdom. If it has been awhile take another look at Simon Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). He delivered the good news to his fellow Jews, but he didn’t pull any punches doing it. Not every sermon has to accuse the listener of his errors, but it should either convict him, enlighten him, or embolden him with the word of God; what else is a sermon good for?
The cost of unbelief is eternal damnation and separation from God, but faith leads to eternal life (that is, the fullness of life in God’s presence for eternity). Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Solomon spoke of the man who pursues evil (Proverbs 11:19), Paul wrote of the sin nature that we all must battle against if we want to share in the promises of God (Romans 8:13; Galatians 6:8).
For those who seek the truth it can be found in the word of God, and its gospel of salvation. If there is one verse that could be said to summarize that message it is “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). There is a message of fire and brimstone contained within the Bible, but it is overwhelmed by the certain promises God has made to those who will believe and turn to Christ. Jesus said the kingdom of God is at hand for those who believe and repent (Mark1:15).
Ultimately there are two paths we can go by: one is the way of faith and obedience, the other is the path of unbelief or disobedience (Matthew 7:13-14; see also John 15:10). It is not enough that we know that God exists, we must trust His word and obey His commands (John 14:15, 21-24; 15:12-14). The Christian never forgets the two natures warring within himself and is vigilant in his efforts to stay on the right path (Luke 21:34-36). Moreover, every servant of God understands the necessity of becoming productive members of the body (Luke 13:6-9; John 15:1-8). As such we also understand that our way of ‘doing business’ is uniquely different from the world’s (Luke 6:27-35).
Where the world seeks gain for gains sake, the believer knows that the more of ourselves that we give to God and others, and the more of the world we give up the more we gain spiritually (Philippians 3:8; 1:21; I Timothy 6:6; Matthew 10:34-39). As we grow in that knowledge the more content we become in life and the more we trust in God and His promises (Matthew 6:25-34; John 16:33). It is also then that we become most productive in the service of God because we can see clearly to reprioritize our lives in obedience to God’s will as opposed to our own. Or, better yet when our will is no longer opposed to God’s but is in true subjection to it (Matthew 24:45-51).
The mature Christian, in full faith, turns the cares of the world over to God (Matthew 11:28-30), turning his attention to what he can do for God, his brothers and sisters in Christ, and the lost of the world, willing to give whatever it takes to bring others to the narrow gate with him (Matthew 7:13-14; John 15:13-16). He does this for the joy of serving God, and because he understands that the cost of unbelief is a lost soul condemned to hell. Jesus once asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). What would you give for your soul? And, what will you give to help another find redemption in Christ?
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.