Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor of Renovation Church.
I’m excited to be back from an amazing 8 days in Haiti!
Where God was able to use your generous giving to accomplish all we set out to do and more!
We were even able to use some of the remaining funds to keep open a Christian Deaf school we worked with this week.
To make a long story short…we were really impressed when we met them, but found out that they were going to be kicked out of their building in just 4 days because they didn’t have enough for rent.
But we were able to pay the bill for them and keep them open.
There’s a lot more to the story, but it was indeed an incredible week.
You’ll hear a lot more about it…along with some testimonies and pictures during announcements.
This morning we are continuing our “Reason to Believe” series
Which is a 5-week series where we are examining if it’s actually reasonable to believe in God or not.
And we’re looking at some of the toughest objections to Christianity.
The places where skeptics say, “Look at ‘this!’ There’s no way it’s reasonable to believe in Christianity.
And this morning will be no different.
This is another incredibly difficult topic, but we’re going to cover it because it’s a topic that keeps a lot of people from believing in God.
And the topic is this: “How could a loving God possibly send anyone to hell?!?”
How is that even reasonable?!
Well, let’s first look at what the Bible says about it:
We’re not going to do a “Biblical study on hell” per se today…as our goal is to see if hell is even reasonable…but we must at least start at the claims of the Bible.
The Bible talks about hell a lot.
Even Jesus, who many people think just played with puppies and wrote hippy songs…talked about hell all the time.
In fact, almost half of his parables mention HELL of all things.
Here are some passages from the Bible.
(2 Thessalonians 1:9) – NIV
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
So the Bible says it’s a place of punishment…and that it lasts forever
(Matthew 25:41) – NIV
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
It’s a place of fire (at minimum, symbolic fire), and the Bible says the devil and his fallen angels will be there.
Although not in charge, but as a place of banishment too
But how could people actually believe in this stuff?
How is that reasonable? A place of fire and punishment? Really?!?
Or here’s an even harder question: How could a God who sends people to a place like this even be a God worthy of worship?How is that loving?
I think that’s what trips a lot of people up.
THE GOD OF “JUST LOVE” IS NOT MUCH OF A GOD
But let’s back up from that for a moment.
Because what we’re looking at here are really two competing stories.
It’s not just, “I couldn’t believe in God if hell truly exists,” so…”I don’t believe that.”
It’s, “Therefore, I believe the other view.”
That’s what we’ve been hitting on all series.
You can’t just deconstruct one view and pretend like it’s the only view.
We have to look at both if we’re going to make a reasonable conclusion.
I believe one of the best ways you can talk with people who are putting up objections to faith in Jesus or the Bible is to simply ask them what they believe.
Most people have no idea what they believe.
They simply just know what they DON’T BELIEVE
“Yet, I think if most people analyzed the foundations of the things they believe in when they DON’T believe in Christianity…they’d probably re-believe in Christianity if they looked at it.
Like…you can say…I can’t believe in a God who allows suffering…but then you have to BELIEVE that your relative’s death was meaningless and had NO purpose….if there is NO God.
You can say…that you don’t believe Jesus resurrected from the dead…but then you have to BELIEVE that his disciples made it up and then died for it…and while writing “fiction” apparently invented the greatest moral teaching of all time.
And notice that in each case you have to BELIEVE something.
IT’s faith vs. faith.
And I want you to see from the outset that today’s case is no different.
It’s faith that there is indeed a Heaven AND Hell….OR….faith that there isn’t.
It’s not simply…I don’t believe in Hell.
You’d have to say….I don’t believe in Hell because I believe in ________ instead.
Okay, then, so if people do actually take it that far…what do they say??
They usually say, “I don’t believe in Hell because God is just love. And a God of love and hell can not coexist.”
So, if we’re going to examine the alternative view…here’s the question we have to ask: IF there a God out there that is “just love” and there is “no hell,” then…WHO IS THIS GOD?? And WHAT IS HE LIKE?
Well, let’s break this down.
If God is just love and everyone goes to heaven…then this is a God who doesn’t really care about evil and doesn’t get angry.
Because he’s “JUST love.”
Many people are hoping that God is something that they wouldn’t even want in their earthly fathers.
If God is “just love,” he would be like a father who would say to his son who’s addicted to drugs, “It’s okay…no big deal. No punishment from me, son. I just love you.”
Or like a father who would watch his own teenage daughter get physically abused by her boyfriend, and then say, “I JUST LOVE her boyfriend. I just love Him. No reaction from me.”
If God is JUST love…and ONLY love…then he doesn’t care about sin.
That’s different than saying He can forgive sin.
If He’s just love…then there’s no judgment on sin…no judgment on anything!
And therefore, nothing for God to be angry about.
God would have to look at all the acts of child abusers, murderers, and rapists and say, “No big deal to me. I’m just love.”
And eventually you can see that THAT is NOT a God worthy of worship!
That’s a wimpy God. That’s a paralyzed God. That’s a confused God.
I’m not saying God can’t forgive even the most vile of sins. The Bible says He can!
But the God of “just love” doesn’t even believe in sin.
But if you believe that He’s “just love” and there is no hell…than you have to (to be logically consistent) believe in a God who says to BOTH Mother Theresa and Hitler “A job well done! Enter into my kingdom of heaven! I JUST love you!”
And to me, that’s not a God worthy of worship.
I believe the Bible paints a MUCH more reasonable picture of love and forgiveness than that.
Which we will get to later
Here’s another question that not enough Americans are asking: “What made us think ‘God is just love’ anyway?
Where did we come up with the idea that God must be love?
Where did we get that from?
From creation? We just looked at the mountains and said, “God is love.”
I doubt it. And even if we did…it’s quite a leap.
From history? We looked through all the wars and famine and said, “God is love.” ??
Is it from Islam? A religion that would say that Allah is merciful, but to say he LOVES us like a marriage relationship would be borderline blasphemous…
Nope. Not from there.
From Buddhism? Nope…Buddhists don’t even believe in a personal God who loves.
The idea of God being this loving person who loves his people like his child…or like his spouse…comes…from THE BIBLE!
That’s where we get the idea from!
So track with my reasoning here.
If we’re SO SURE that God must be love (yet the only place we got that idea from was the Bible)….what then gives us the right to trust the Bible when it speaks of love…but then not when it speaks of justice and hell?
“Timothy Keller, in his phenomenal book, “Reason for God,” explains how…often this is just a result of cultural bias…not of good thinking.
For instance, people in the Western world like us tend to really dislike the Biblical doctrine of Hell, but we LOVE Jesus’ stuff about turning the other cheek and forgiving those who hurt you…not judging one another, etc.
HOWEVER, consider traditional societies of the past…or even many of the cultures of Africa and the East today.
For them, the teachings about turning the other cheek make NO sense.
And more than that, it’s offensive to them.
For them, the belief that “God is a God of judgment,” is no problem at all.
It just seems “right” to them.
It’s the exact opposite of what our culture believes.
And you’ve got to ask yourself, as a good-thinking person, “Why does the Western culture get to be the final court that judges which aspects of Christianity are true or not?”
We don’t think our culture is superior to others do we??
Ahh…now we just backed ourselves into a corner.
See, we can’t dismiss a part of the Bible merely on the grounds that it doesn’t make sense with OUR culture.
Christianity…if it is the truth of God…SHOULD challenge your cultural thinking at some place!
And for Westerners…and for Americans…this is it.
But let’s not be so naïve to think that everyone thinks like us.
This message is NOT even remotely challenging to some other cultures in the world. At all.
It’s precisely because of these cultural limitations that the Bible uses illustrations like this:
(Romans 9:20-21) – NIV
20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?
At some point, we need to start trusting God at his word.
After all, we are just clay.
I think the reason that this idea of hell causes us such distress in our hearts is that God has put a love for people in our hearts.
However, our response should be NOT to change the doctrine, so we can all feel better about it…but to tell people the truth.
That judgment is real, but Jesus came to rescue them.
WHAT IF JUST MURDERERS GO TO HELL THEN?
So, what if you, as a thinker, then say, “Okay, maybe it’s not as appealing as I thought to say, ‘God is just love.’”
What if I take the next step down?
What if I say, “God is still really loving, but he does send a select few to hell.”
This is what a number of people in the video said…
“You know…Hitler…Stalin….Osama Bin Laden…child abusers…rapists…murders…etc.” THEY go to hell!
Again, this is a really popular view in our culture.
Because if this is your view…you don’t sound completely illogical.
At least God DOES get angry then when his children are raped and murdered.
So you could say, “See, murderers go to hell. That’s why there is hell.”
But what is that??
That’s just an arbitrary line that people make up.
And if there’s an arbitrary line that people can cross to go to hell, they would then have to be above that line to go to heaven.
But the Bible says the complete opposite of that.
(Ephesians 2:8-9) – NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
If God judges people by how good they are, then people like me are in trouble.
I’m not sure I can pay back what I’ve done.
But the Christian doctrine of love and hell is actually even more loving than this common idea of you “just have to be good enough”
More on that later.
Okay, maybe it makes sense that a God of “just love “is no God at all…
And maybe it makes sense that if we have to earn our own way…than that’s not very loving either.
But why do we have to be at risk of hell at all?
Isn’t there a third view? Can’t God be really angry at sin (not just that careless hippy God)?
Can’t he be really angry and believe that sin is wrong, but then at the end of time or the end of our lives say, “It’s okay, you’re all forgiven and going to heaven with me!”
I was mad at you, but I’ve forgiven you!
Can’t he do that? Why would we need hell?
E.L. Mascall once said:
“Hell is not compatible with God’s love; it is a direct consequence of it” – E.L. Mascall
In other words, if you’re going to truly love someone…you have to give them a choice.
You can not force them to love you. That is assault. Not love.
And thus, God will not FORCE anyone to go to heaven.
And that’s why He doesn’t just say at the end, “Hey, I was really mad about that life you lived, but SURPRISE…even though you wanted nothing to do with me, let’s spend eternity together!!”
The question in today’s title, “How Could God Send Anyone to Hell?”…is really under a false premise.
In truth, God doesn’t alone send people to hell…people send themselves.
Think of it this way:
Imagine you’re lost at sea. You’ve been lost for days. Without food, without help, without hope.
And THEN…Someone comes to rescue you!
But you refuse it! You say, “I can figure this out on my own!!!”
That’s really a picture of what many humans do with God
C.S. Lewis once said, “Sin… is the human being saying to God throughout life, “Leave me alone.” Hell is God saying, “You may have your wish”
People who don’t want God to control their life here on earth, don’t want him to later either.
And God is not going to force people to go to heaven.
But people often object, “Yes, but if they could see God for who He really is, THEN they would change their minds and want to go to heaven!”
To which the following illustration is often given: Have you ever been around someone who was unbelievably good looking, extremely attractive, and a lot smarter than you, and sadly, even a better person than you?
And when you’re in social situations…all people want to do is talk and listen to that person and not you.
Now imagine you don’t even like this person (which is sadly often the case), but imagine you were forced to be with that person 24 hours a day for a whole year. Yikes!
Now multiply that times a million. That’s what God is like. Super smart. Very attractive. A lot more morally pure. And practically everyone wants to be around Him.
And if you forced people…who didn’t like Him…to be around him for eternity…a) Again, you’d be forcing them, b) they wouldn’t like it.
But we say, “No, but once they got to know Him, they’d like Him!”
That’s not necessarily true. And that’s what earth is for. God reveals himself over and over as King, and yet people say, “No thanks. I’ll be in charge”
But then we say, “Well, God could make them like Him!”
But then…they don’t have a free choice over their free will or decisions…
And at that point, they’d just be robots.
If God is going to design a world in which love exists, there must be free choice.
And God will give you what you want. That’s what true love is.
C.S. Lewis, who wrote extensively on this subject says:
“Either people will say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ Or God will say to them, ‘Thy will be done.’” - C.S. Lewis
If there is love…there must be free will…and if there is free will…hell must exist.
But couldn’t God just put them some place nicer? Wouldn’t that be more loving?
Like all of God’s followers go to heaven…and everyone else spends eternity in North Dakota or something?
Like not nice…but not terrible?
I think we come up with things like this when we don’t see the story from God’s perspective.
We think: Is it even a big deal? So what, people didn’t believe things just right. Big deal.
But at the core, unbelief (when the facts are present and available) is the greatest rejection. And the greatest sin.
The worst thing you can do in this life is NOT to hurt another creature, but rather completely ignore the God who made you a creature in the first place.
And what would it feel like for God? Ever think of that?
The rejection is overwhelming.
This God who knew you before you were born. Who, knit you in your mother’s womb the Bible says.
This God who watched you learn to crawl, take your first steps…
Who never left your side.
Who thought of you every moment.
Encouraged you in some of your darkest moments by sending you people to talk.
Saved you from oncoming accidents by diverting cars you never even saw
This God who loved you so much that He sent HIS OWN son to die on the cross to take your place. To take your punishment.
He exchanged his own son for you. For you!
Taking on the entire sin of the world…on His son.
And yet, so many….after all that…say, “Nah, no thanks. Not interested. I don’t believe it”
It is the greatest rejection.
And hell is the logical result of that rejection.
But that still doesn’t mean that God takes pleasure in it.
(Ezekiel 33:11) – NIV
Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’
What I want to show you this morning is the fact that hell exists…actually only magnifies the love of God.
And that that’s actually the most reasonable of all positions.
So who is this God? Who is the real God? Who is the God of the Bible?
We know He isn’t “just love.”
If He was, He’d only be careless and indifferent.
We know He doesn’t just force people to heaven.
Because then we wouldn’t have a choice. And then people would be there against their will.
And we know that it’s not as simple as just saying, “Hell is for murderers and serious sinners” because then God is incapable of forgiving some people.
Here’s why the Biblical view of God and hell is actually more reasonable, and I dare say, even more appealing than those other views.
The Bible tells the story this way…
Every single one of us fall short of God’s standards
(Romans 3:23) – NIV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
None of us can earn our way to God. None is good enough. None is holy enough. There’s no amount of good deeds you can do.
And what we deserve for our misdeeds…our almost complete rejection and ignoring of the creator who gave us breath, continues to give us breath, and is with us in every moment…what we deserve is punishment for every one of those misdeeds.
BUT…God…in his love…wishes that NONE should perish the Bible says.
So God sent his very own Son. Can you imagine that?
His own son…to die on the cross…to take our place.
And Jesus died…bearing all of your sin…he died because the weight of our sin killed him.
He took what we deserved.
And the Bible says if we would believe in Him…that he died for us…we could be saved…completely forgiven.
(John 5:24) – NIV
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
And see, this is why this is the true great picture of love…
It’s not a God that is ambivalent and doesn’t care…and it’s not a God that just wants to pour down wrath on his people.
This is the TRUE picture of God.
A God who takes sin incredibly seriously.
So seriously that he knows it can ruin his people.
So seriously that he knows that all evil must be punished.
But so loving that he couldn’t bear to take it out on you.
This is the TRUE God.
Don’t fall for any cheap imitations on either side.
But know that you have a choice.
You have a choice.
And here is the choice.:
You can continue living as if life is somehow really about this short life. As if life is actually about getting a degree, getting a nice house, having perfect kids who play soccer and do ballet, and then retiring down south.
OR…you can live as if the Bible is true.
That this life…is just a BLIP…then it’s over.
And getting all of those things the world tells you to do…are only important if God tells you to do it.
And what’s really important is this: Do you know His Son Jesus?
Do you believe His Son Jesus died for you? In your place?
Are you following Jesus?
Because otherwise, you can be the richest, most powerful person on earth…but Jesus says,
(Mark 8:36) – NIV
What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
You might be able to accomplish just about anything in this world, but one thing you can NOT do…is you can not escape death.
You will die.
Maybe at 90…maybe today…but you will die.
And at your death, you will ultimately be judged by one thing: What you did with Jesus’ rescue.
When you were lost at sea, and he came, did you say, “I will follow you.” Or did you say, “No thanks.”
And know that if we say “no thanks,” then we will stand condemned. Because we can not do it on our own.
(John 3:18) – NIV
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
So, let me be clear with you unlike the rest of the world rarely is.
There is no such thing as a God who just loves and sends everyone to heaven…that’s not even a God worth worshipping.
There is no such thing as a God who just lets everyone to heaven…that is a God who doesn’t’ believe in free choice.
But there is such a thing as a God who loves you so much that He sent His son for you.
That’s the God of the Bible.
And therefore, there is such a place as hell for those who choose not to accept God’s rescue and His love.
You must know that. THAT is reality!
I would be committing one of the gravest sins of deception by covering that up.
But you also must know…that there is NOTHING like following God.
I made a decision to believe this and follow God when I was 18 and it radically changed my life for the better.
It’s crazy what God can do.
And know that…if this is real…that you shouldn’t just believe to be forgiven…to avoid hell.
Know that you’re only rational decision is to turn your entire life over to this God who saved you.
And I believe for many of you…today is that time.
Why put it off any longer?
You do not know the number of your days.
Why continue in your own ways when you can come to know this God who loves you so much?
Surrender your life to Jesus today.
Be forgiven. He can and HE WILL forgive everything you’ve ever done when you commit to following Him. To believe that He died for you.
And follow Him. Make Him your leader.
Honestly, it’s just time.
Maybe you even heard me talk about this a lot.
And give this invitation before.
But it’s just time.
This is life.
So, let’s do this. Let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to start this incredible relationship with Jesus…. ….and believe in what He did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver) to be completely forgiven…spend eternity in heaven w/ Him and NOT in Hell.
If that’s you…and you’ve never done this before…in just a few moments, I’m actually going to ask you to quietly stand up. As a symbol…to say…this is what I’m living for now.
Everyone is going to have their eyes closed (no one’s looking), so this is just between you & God
This is a way for you to say, “I believe that THIS is what life is about. From this moment onward, I will be a follower of JESUS.”
So wherever you are, all across this room right now. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to just, real quietly, stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…again, the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life. Amen
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do 2 things for me
Right after the service today, I want you to go to the back of the room …for just a moment.
In the back there is a sign that says “FOLLOW-UP”
There will be some incredibly nice people there (they have lanyards on) who want to give you some extremely helpful tools to help you get started in your faith
Won’t take you very long. But absolutely go back there.
Also, if you stood up today, we wrote you a letter. It’s under your chair, and we’d love for you to read it before the service is over.
Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.