Hell and Active Imaginations

People have often tried to tell us what Hell is like. We know it’s not a good place, but what exactly is it?

The Bible uses terms like “lake of fire” to describe Hell. Jesus describes Hell as a place of darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Revelation says there will be people “tormented with fire and brimstone” with “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.”

So, undoubtedly, the way most people read their Bibles, Hell is not torment in fire that lasts forever.

These are pretty much the details the Bible gives about Hell. This leaves a lot to the imagination. Our imaginations get more use than our intellects in such circumstances.

I just finished reading Dante’s Inferno. In all honesty, I didn’t follow it very well. I picked up some things, most of which was pretty gross involving names of people I don’t know. Apparently, if I had followed what Dante was saying, the Inferno is broken down like this:

Dante’s Inferno has nine layers of Hell. The first layer is Limbo reserved for the unbaptized and virtuous pagans (such as Homer, Ovid, and Socrates). The second circle is for the Lustful, the third circle is for the Gluttonous, the fourth for Avarice, the fifth for Wrath and Sloth, the sixth for Heresy. The seventh circle is for violence and has three layers: 1. violence against people and property 2. Suicide 3. Violence against God. The eighth circle is for fraud and is broken up into 10 bolgie (ditches). The ninth and worse layer is for treason and has 4 zones: Caina, Antenora, Ptolomaea, and Judecca.

Most of his punishments were quite unique and fantastic. You can tell Dante’s moral code quite well from reading this.

People have been getting visions of hell for many years, most of which are quite silly. The classic red devil with horns on his head, a pointy tail and a pitchfork laughing away over his minions in hell comes to mind.

What we can clearly gather from Scripture is that Hell is a nasty place you don’t want to be in. Trying to give more details about what has not been revealed will only make you look ridiculous. It is best not to tread in waters God has not opened for swimming.

Take Jesus’ word for it:

“fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Sin, Hell and the Love of God

Hell is a place of eternal torment. This used to be fairly standard Christian teaching.

Lately, however, the Christian doctrine of hell has become a “temporary place of mild discomfort.”

In our ever-increasing normality of sin, we can’t imagine God being upset about it.Sin rarely bothers us, why should it bother God and all His lovey-dovey talk?

Sin is supposed to be rare, it was not intended at Creation. Sin is the creation of creation, it’s our one contribution to God’s masterwork. Sin ruins, kills and destroys.

I made a B-52 bomber model when I was a boy. I took it somewhere to show a friend. I put it in the back seat of the care afterwards so I wouldn’t forget to take it home. When we got in the car it was dark and my sister sat on it and broke the wing.

She probably doesn’t even remember this. I was devastated. This was the absolute coolest creation I had ever made in my life. Based on my latest foray into replacing our kitchen faucet, it might still be my greatest mechanical achievement.

It was ruined and I was mad. Creator get mad when someone destroys what they created. The greater the thing made, the greater the anger at its destruction. Try messing with a momma bear’s cubs some time.

Humanity is made in God’s image. Our anger at someone destroying what we made is from God. He does not like sin and sin ruins what He made. Hell is the ultimate punishment for rejecting God.

Hell isn’t just the punishment for doing sin. Sinners populate heaven through God’s forgiveness. Hell is for rejecting the grace and love of God on display in the Gospel. Trampling under foot the son of God will get you hell.

We enjoy talking about God’s love. His love is indeed a great thing. It is mightier than  all other loves combined. To reject that love, to trample it under foot, makes God angry.

Hell can be avoided through God’s Love. If you do not see the tragedy and punishment of rejecting the Gospel, you will never see the true power of His love.

Missing the Point of Sin

Sin is viewed morally.

We think sin is bad stuff we do. We measure how much sin is in our life or in other’s lives by what they do. They get drunk. They swear. They look at porn. Etc.

We then look at ourselves and somehow manage to miss most of our sin but yeah, we’ll throw in a “I gossip sometimes” or “yeah, I do covet new stuff.” Since gossip and coveting are minor in comparison to murder and homosexuality, we chalk ourselves up as being “pretty good.”

When we think of conversion we think about drunkards giving up drinking, smokers not smoking, thieves not stealing, homosexuals not homosexualitizing.

We imagine that the Gospel is all about people coming to not sin.

Now, I think getting over sin is a huge result of the Gospel, one probably not talked about enough in the modern “do whatever you want, it’s all grace, baby” American church. The Gospel does indeed give us power over sin, not just forgiveness of past sin.

But our fixation on the physical, moral proofs of sin dooms us.

The real point of the Gospel is to transform the heart. Sin isn’t just stuff you do–sin is a state of being. Sin is not loving the Lord your God with all your, heart, soul, mind and body.

To those who think they are in perfect sinlessness, do you really claim to be loving the Lord with ALL your mind, soul and body? Really?

“All” is a huge word.

“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” The Gospel transforms us, not by working on the exterior, by taking away an urge to puff a few Marlboro’s. No, the Gospel has bigger work to do–it wants your heart.

When the heart is changed, when you begin to see the Love of God through Jesus Christ and the beauties of the Gospel, the heart changes and loving the Lord your God becomes a big issue.

As this big issue develops, sin will fade away. We too quickly emphasize physical proofs, distracting from the main point. It’s the heart. That’s what it’s about. What is on the inside is demonstrated by what is going on with the outside.

But you start on the inside. Love the Lord your God.

When Giving Glory to God Goes Wrong

About an hour ago I had two of the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever had in my life. For context–I have eaten chocolate chip cookies 75% of the days in my life. I know a good chocolate chip cookie.

My wife is quite skilled with cranking out the chocolate chip cookies, but this batch, boy howdy I tell ya what, she nailed it!

No, you cannot have any.

Now, I know that I am to give God glory and thanks for my cookies, which I did. But I also went out of my way to say to my wife, “Wow, wife, those two chocolate chip cookies were the best cookies I have ever had in my life.”

By doing so, I gave thanks to my wife and also glorified her and her cookie abilities. Both God and my wife were glorified, for by my wife’s cookie-making works, I glorified my Father in heaven.

It seems to me that many, in a perfectly fine desire to thank God and give Him glory, often skip another step–thanking people. Here’s an example:

Many times I have heard “Christians” tell others “God is so good to me” because of some thing they determined is a blessing. “I sold my house! Praise God!” is one I’ve heard many times.

Now, here’s the thing, and hear me carefully, you should thank God for all things (if your house doesn’t sell you should still thank God, why? I do not know, but I know you should.).

You should also take the time to thank those who made your blessing happen!

Giving glory to God does not mean you forsake giving thanks and glory to people.

Here’s an observation: it seems as if in the last 30 years, more has been made out of giving glory to God. Certainly John Piper has capitalized on this trend. I’m all for it, but have also seen the other side that comes across as very rude.

If God truly sold your house you wouldn’t have needed a realtor, advertising, lawyers, or most other things that selling houses entails. If God truly worked a miracle it would actually look like a miracle.

Perhaps the reason your house sold is because your realtor knows what she’s doing.

Many blessings that people give glory to God for come out of the expense and hard work of other people. As we fixate on me and my glorying of God, we often shortchange the sacrifices made for us by others.

As the church has gotten carried away in “giving glory to God” we have also seen the demise of church. The trend to go without church entirely has grown. We are so consumed with my blessings, my glorying in God and my personal relationship, we’ve all but chucked the New Testament ideal of the Body of Christ.

God works through other people, too. Yes, you should thank God and  give Him glory, but you should thank and give glory to those who made the thing happen to.

You and God are not on an island together. The Body of Christ has many members. Perhaps some time you should look around and see how many people it takes to keep you happy. Tell them “thank you” some time.


Official Disclaimer:

(Yes, the glory of God is a huge issue. I know I did not cover that one point you wanted me to cover. Yes, I know I did not phrase everything the way you would have, nor did I emphasize the one thing the way you would have. This is not a personal affront to you. I am addressing a particular point in the subject, not the whole subject. If this blog irritates you then quit reading it. If you can say it better, wordpress.com offers free blog platforms for you to start your own blog and say what you want.)

6 Questions About Doing All For the Glory of God

Earlier this month I achieved a life goal. It was something I wrote down about 11 years ago in a list of things to do rather than waste time on television or internet, to pursue some actual activity! Bizarre concept, I know.

One of the things I listed was “Lead singing on guitar.”

In order to do so, I had to learn to play the guitar, but mostly I had to learn to get the guts to play it in public. Then I had to get the guts to play guitar and sing, at the same time, in public!

I knew last spring I was close to being able to do it, but my fear kept me down. But this month I did it at our Wednesday night church group. I will sum it up by saying, “I survived.”

Now that I have done this, I want to get better. I want my voice to be stronger and my guitar playing to be better.

As I reflect on this, it lets me know I am a vain person! I was scared to do this the first time for fear of embarrassing myself and I want to get better so I can be more impressive. I mean, why lie about it? That’s the truth.

It is weird how going public with some talent makes you want to get better. It’s the same thing when I know there is a 5k or some race coming up, I will focus more on running and really give it my all. Not out of humility and love, oh no! Out of a desire to dominate and destroy!

Paul says we should do everything for the glory of God and that we shouldn’t do things as eye-servers or man-pleasers, but for the Lord.

How do I run a 5k for the glory of God? How do I play guitar for the glory of God? I know there are pat answers, I’ve heard them, and they all fall flat. I’m wondering if it’s even possible.

Some respond to compliments by saying, “Oh, it’s for Him” and point to heaven. I have never heard anyone say this after someone told them they messed up. Saying, “oh, it’s for Him” actually makes you look more pretentious.

I think we should just be honest and say we are entirely consumed with ourselves and want to be impressive for the sake of being impressive. When I was single, this was OK, because it was my pluming my feathers to attract a mate.

I got one. She’s not impressed anymore.

Now I just do impressive things to be impressive, for my own ego.

Is our desire to improve because–people are paying attention–avoidable?
Is our embarrassment proof that we are still too concerned with ourselves?
Why are people who lack all embarrassment and self-consciousness complete morons?
Don’t embarrassment and praise give us feedback to correct ourselves?
Is doing something for the glory of God mutually exclusive from doing something for a little glory for yourself?
How can awesome people not get glory from people?

I don’t know! Just some thoughts on a subject I am thinking about.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,
do all to the glory of God.”


Official Disclaimer:

(Yes, the glory of God is a huge issue. I know I did not cover that one point you wanted me to cover. Yes, I know I did not phrase everything the way you would have, nor did I emphasize the one thing the way you would have. This is not a personal affront to you. I am addressing a particular point in the subject, not the whole subject. If this blog irritates you then quit reading it. If you can say it better, wordpress.com offers free blog platforms for you to start your own blog and say what you want.)