Julie Loving, age fifty-one, is the mother of two and has run nineteen marathons and multiple triathlons. Earlier this month, she added another credential, one very few can claim: she gave birth to her granddaughter.
Julie’s daughter suffered several miscarriages and attempted multiple rounds of in vitro fertilization and surgeries before her doctor concluded that her uterus was unable to withstand a pregnancy. He suggested that she consider gestational surrogacy—she and her husband would produce an embryo that would be carried to term by another woman. Her mother volunteered.
On November 2, Julie delivered a baby girl who will never need to wonder if she was wanted in this world.
When Rabbi Sacks tweeted me
Giving life is a wonderful privilege. Janet and I are thankful every day that the Lord gave us the privilege of bringing two sons into the world. Now we rejoice that they have given us four grandchildren, each of whom is brilliant and perfect (of course).
There are other ways to advance life, as the eighteen million military veterans we honor today demonstrate. Those who were willing to die that we might live deserve our highest gratitude this day and every day.
Scientists developing coronavirus vaccines and antibody treatments are also working to protect lives. But medicine can only do so much, as evidenced by television weatherman Al Roker’s announcement that he has prostate cancer and the news that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks died from cancer last Saturday.
The former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom “taught Judaism to the world,” as one commentator noted. I recently said of his new book on morality, “I’m halfway through it and already consider it the most important book I have read this year.” Rabbi Sacks then tweeted me, “Thank you! I hope you enjoy the second half as much as the first!”
The future is promised to no one, as shown by the tragic death of a Fort Worth, Texas, seminary instructor and his wife when their vehicle was hit by a car that was street racing. The couple was returning home from a date; they left four children.
Jesus and Jackson Pollock
Not everyone can give life to a child, serve in our military, or develop life-saving vaccines and therapies. But every Christian can offer every person we know the gift of eternal life.
Here’s the problem: unlike treatments for COVID-19 and cancer, many in our culture do not believe they need what the gospel offers.
According to LifeWay Research, only 54 percent of Americans believe hell is a real place where certain people will be punished forever. This despite the fact that hell is mentioned twenty-three times in the New Testament, fifteen of these times by Jesus. The Bible describes it as the “punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7), “outer darkness” (Matthew 22:13), and permanent separation from God (Luke 16:26) as the “second death” (Revelation 20:14).
Why, then, are so many Americans convinced that hell is not real? Because our culture believes the lie that biblical facts are a matter of personal opinion.
As biblical scholar Jonathan Pennington notes in Jesus the Great Philosopher: Rediscovering the Wisdom Needed for the Good Life, we have built our lives as a “chest of drawers” with distinct compartments for health, relationships, money, education, leisure, and religion. We have decided that the contents of the religion “drawer” are subjective, much like our opinions about music and art. Just as no one is “right” or “wrong” about a Jackson Pollock painting or Mozart concerto, no one is “right” or “wrong” about God, heaven, and hell. We are each entitled to our opinion, or so we’re told. (For more, see my new video, “What does the Bible say about truth?“)
"I don't believe in Nazi Germany"
This thinking is an example of a “category mistake” such as claiming that “the number two is blue” or “green ideas sleep furiously.” The existence of a place is not subject to subjective opinion. Brazil either exists or it does not.
For me to say “I don’t believe in hell” and then ignore the threat of eternal separation from God would be like a European in 1939 saying “I don’t believe in Nazi Germany” and therefore ignoring the threat of Hitler.
It is not surprising that lost people think this way, since “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). But it is deeply tragic when Christians agree.
I’m confident that you would say you believe in the existence of hell. But let me ask you: Do you truly believe that the non-Christians you know will spend eternity there? Are you convinced that your neighbors who seem to be living moral lives but do not follow Jesus are in peril of eternal separation from God?
If you do, what are you doing to help them choose salvation in Christ?
The urgent question of the moment
There are many reasons for the decline in evangelism in our day. Some have delegated this biblical responsibility (Acts 1:8) to the “clergy.” Others hope that “seeker sensitive” worship services will bring the lost to the church so we don’t have to go to them. In a culture that prizes tolerance and punishes intolerance, many are afraid of offending others.
I agree that the clergy should share their faith and hope that engaging and relevant services will attract people to Jesus. I don’t want to offend people any more than you do.
But I also know that every lost person I know needs to know Jesus. I need to pray for them by name, build relationships as a bridge to the gospel, and share my faith with compassion and passion. So do you.
After lamenting the decline in evangelism in our day, Gerald Harris quoted the great preacher, Junior Hill: “Jesus declared to his disciples, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And I would say to you, ‘If you are not fishing, you are not following.'”
Will you follow Jesus today?
Publication date: November 11, 2020
Photo courtesy: ©Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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