Monday, July 29, 2013

Baptism and the "H" word

Yesterday was a good day, a very good day. A person close to us was baptized at our church and it was amazing to see the results of God working in someone's life. To sit back and watch the changes and to see it come to this point. We are very proud of David in his decision to accept Jesus and to be baptized.

How amazing is our Lord? Here is a person who while believing in God, not having that true belief in him. God works in his life and there is a change that you can physically see. This man comes from a family who practice many different religions and he chooses Jesus. To stand there, watch him be baptized and to see the glow and joy on his family's face was amazing to see.

Before the baptism, the physical results of the message, there was the message, the sermon itself. It started off with a "Some of you are going to be offended." See, the thing I love about my church is the fact that they are not trying to just fill seats. They are after the people themselves. They are after the heart of the people, just like Jesus wants. (My memory is not such that I can relate to you all the things spoken, so here are my thoughts, my words.)

Today, in so many churches - great churches even - people expect to leave with those warm, fuzzy feelings. Somehow the church has been transformed from a place of bringing people to Christ, into a place of bringing people in to fill seats. So many, many places are afraid of offending someone that they disregard the messages that we are to have a healthy fear of Hell. Oh.... there, I said it. *Gasp* It's the "H" word.

There are times when the church will offend someone. Get over it. It is supposed to grab you, the messages that is. Those messages should reach deep into you, grab your attention and make you really think. Why be a good Christian and truly live the way Jesus wants us to, when we have no true fear of Hell. Sure, we know it exists. We know it's a "bad" place. That is where it gets left off at.

Most churches will not go deeper for fear of people leaving those pews, those seats and walking out. What if someone gets offended? They may leave, but it still will grab their attention. On some level it makes them think. Good or bad, it makes them think. Good or bad, thinking if not necessarily a bad thing. Who says that days down the road, that person that may have been offended, will not one day come back to that church.

They may enter that church, sit down and listen to the message again. Thinking leads to more thinking, which in some cases, can lead that same person back to that same church. They may return with thoughts of possibly being mistaken, or wondering if the church has "changed". They may return to try to justify their offense, try to make the church feel "in the wrong".

My church will at times offend someone. They are not afraid to give the hard messages, those messages that will offend, those messages that need saying. Jesus was not afraid of offending people. He said what needed saying. Jesus did not give the Sermon on the Mount in a way that left everyone with those happy, warm, "huggy" feelings in fear of making someone feel upset or offended. No, Jesus preached the messages. All of them. The good, the bad and the downright offensive messages to people who needed to hear them, but may not be accepting of it. Jesus didn't shy away from certain topics.

Okay, picture this. You are going to hear this man, this Jesus person speak. You want to find out what he has to say. You've heard so much good and bad about this person and want to hear it for yourself. You have a seat and hear his strong voice. There is a hush over the crowd as he continues to speak. A powerful message that you know is important because you can feel it. Wait! What's that, he's saying now? Uh uh, that can't be right? Did Jesus just say that_______________?! How dare he? You rise up, offended and leave. As you leave you think about what was said again, and again, and again. Oh, the audacity of the man! How could he that you __________?

*Sound of record scratching* Wait a minute. Hold up. Somewhere in the back of your mind a nagging little thought pops up. I do tend to, I suppose, sin on occasion. So what? Everyone does. These little thoughts lead to more thinking.

Now, picture this. Same situation with sitting there to listen to Jesus. You've heard of the powerful messages that he speaks. You've heard all the stories about him. Suddenly a hush comes over the crowd as Jesus holds a hand up. The people listen expectantly. Yes! The powerful messages that you've heard so much about is about to start. Jesus stands up and begins to speak. The powerful message that  you are expecting is nothing but a touching, moving yet weak message. You get the feeling that he is holding back but you leave feeling good. You leave with the thought that you live a good Christian life, even showing people how a "real" Christian lives. You have no fear whatsoever of that "other" place because you haven't been taught to fear it. Sure, you've read some part of your Bible. Of course, whenever you would come to those places in the Bible where it starts to make you feel... less good about yourself, you turn to another page or close the book entirely.

Those parts you didn't read because they made you feel bad, or made you second guess your life, those are the parts you should have been reading.

Pastor Eric preached about the basics again this week. He was not afraid to share those tough messages that so many others would fear. It was a message that grabbed your attention. It made you think. It may not have left everyone with those warm feelings but it left people thinking. It was a hard message. Hard thinking should be done by people. Hard messages should be heard. He explained that Hell is not a place where it will be just hot. He told us that Hell is a place that you can't imagine the bad that fills it. There are no words for it. It is far, far away from anything comfortable, tolerable even. It is even farther away from Heaven and anything that is remotely good. Hell has NO good inside it. There is nothing good about Hell. There should be no message that leaves you with even a niggling feeling of Hell being any less than it is. There is nothing good about it. Hell is as far from anything good as you can get.

Hell is forever suffering. There is no coming back from it. There is no chance of repentance once you are there. There are no words to explain how bad Hell is. None whatsoever. Without a fear of Hell, you cannot live the way you should as a true Christian. What's the point otherwise? If you have no fear of ending up there, why should you feel the need to change the way you live, the way you act, even the way you speak? There are no repercussions to fear because the end result isn't "that bad".

I shiver just writing that last sentence. The end result on that way of thinking, that life, is bad. It's very, very bad. You cannot even imagine how bad. Having a healthy fear is not a bad thing; it will not make you weak. In fact, it makes you stronger.

I like the hard messages. Of course, I like the warm, fuzzy feelings that some messages leave with me, but I honestly like the hard messages. They are important and necessary.

God's blessings,