Three Big Things I Believe... and One Greater
- Friday, May 15, 2009
The man was about to meet God and he goes out of this world murdering people right and left.
There has to be a hell, otherwise Hitler got off scot-free. We could add a lengthy list of despots who, if this life is all there is, beat the system by paying for millions of deaths with their one life: Stalin, Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, the list goes on and on.
The 73rd Psalm speaks of the fear of exactly this, of wicked people beating the system, of their ignoring God and living their own way and dying in a peaceful sleep at an advanced age. Just when the psalmist was about to give up, he went down to the House of God to worship and suddenly saw something that had eluded him. "Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end." (73:17)
The Lord, he continues, sets "them in slippery places. You cast them down to destruction...They are utterly consumed with terrors." (73:18-19)
There has to be a hell, otherwise there is no justice.
In her book, "Help My Unbelief," Fleming Rutledge tells of a professor who had a major impact in her life. J. Christian Beker was a premier theologian of his day, his book "Paul the Apostle" a classic for decades to come. Beker was a teenager in Holland when the Nazis arrived in 1940. He was sent to a work camp near Berlin where he contracted typhus. In 1945, during the Allied bombardment of Berlin, while lying on his sickbed, Beker felt he was experiencing the apocalypse and committed his life to God. Rutledge notes, "Thus was born a theologican in the midst of evil and death."
However, the news about Beker was not consistently good. "Never were weeds and wheat more entangled in one human life." While, on the one hand Rutledge calls him "one of the most gifted and inspiring Biblical interpreters I have ever known," on the other hand, he was manic-depressive, given to wildly impulsive behavior, and uncontrolled urges. "He cut himself off from most people near the end, and the circumstances leading to his illness and death suggested failure."
I relate that story to make two points: A) judgement is necessary if the universe is to have order and justice , but B) only God can judge. The issues of life are too complex, our vision too limited, the strands of good and evil too intertwined for myopic humans to unravel them and sort out matters.
I believe in judgement that results in Heaven for some -- I wish it were for all -- and hell for others. Heaven, I'm happy to say, "was prepared for (the righteous) from the foundation of the world," while hell "was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25).
3. WITHOUT THE CROSS, THERE IS NO SALVATION.
The cross of Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the universe, the focal point of creation. It points skyward to Heaven, extends earthward and downward into man's depths, and reaches outward to all people and all of creation.
The salvation provided in the death of Jesus on the cross is unlike anything offered by any other religious or philosophical system known. While no one doubts occasional teachings of Jesus are paralleled by insights from other religions, no doctrine found anywhere compares to the message of salvation through grace provided by the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins.
This is about the ultimate everything. The love that spans the universe and conquers all, the vision that sees all people of every age and atones for the rebellions and failures of every last one, the hope of eternal life.
This supersedes all other religious offerings. To my knowledge, the competition speaks of earning, growing, learning, achieving oneness with God through human effort. The cross speaks of receiving what God has given and Christ has provided.
All others speak of works, this speaks of grace.
All others offer conditional acceptance and partial improvement; the cross assures us "by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14).
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