Saturday, January 8, 2011

Touching Base! Part 110


(This article can also we found on our website
at under the tab called "Blog")

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

How many of us would agree that knowing and trusting somebody does not necessarily mean you understand them? How many spouses would say “I know my spouse, trust them, but don’t understand them all the time? This can happen in all kinds of relationships. Can you give an example of this in your own life?

What is true about our human relationships is also true regarding our relationship with God. I think we would all agree that there are a number of issues that we trust God with, but don’t have complete understanding of.

For example, take the issue of hell. C.S. Lewis notes that heaven is the abode of those that say to God, "Thy will be done," and hell is the dwelling of those to whom God will eventually turn and say, "THY will be done." In other words, hell is the rejection of relationship and meaning, the insanity of a self-imposed isolation where "man is the measure of all things." Having affirmed himself as his own god, man lives in hell with the full consequence of this faith. Some scriptures to check out are, Matthew 5:22, 29-30;10:28;18:9; 2Peter 2:4.

If you are reviewing this TB in a group, take some time and imagine the following scenario. You are in a coffee shop, talking with a friend who is not a believer. They ask you the question,” How can you, an intelligent, 21st century person believe in the teaching of hell? How can you believe that a loving God would allow people to suffer in hell for eternity? How would you respond? Would your answer reveal that you understand God completely on this issue or that you struggle with coming to terms with what Jesus said about hell?

On Sunday, we talked about how to frame some thoughts around a very difficult issue. If you were not present, it may be difficult to track with the following outline. You can hear this teaching on our website.

Starting with the nature of God
What you believe/know about the character of God will determine whether you can trust Him with something you don’t completely understand. For example if you believe God is some vindictive megalomaniac, then hell is like a hard packed snowball in the hands of a schoolyard bully. Discuss how our understanding of God deeply influences our trust of Him. How can this influence our trust in God when it comes to the issue of hell?
What do we as Christians believe about the nature of God? Scripture teaches the perfect love and perfect justice of God.

Perfect Love
The image of God as a divine lover saturates the bible. When God wanted to communicate his love to the northern tribe of Israel who had fallen deeply into idolatry he told Hosea to marry a prostitute as a demonstration of God’s love for an adulterous Israel. John 3:16 speaks of this love. At the cross Jesus allowed the very people he came to save to spit upon his flesh, to whip his flesh, to impale His flesh, and to pierce His flesh.

Perfect love grants freedom, where the recipient of love can choose to receive or reject that love. True love requires true freedom. Freedom is a necessary moral component of love.

Discuss how providing moral freedom helps us understand the reality of hell.

Even with this understanding of moral freedom what are still some of the questions your friend may have about the issue of hell? In other words, what mystery are we still left with?

Perfect Justice
Perfect justice refers to God’s nature whereby he is infinitely righteous in Himself and in all he does. A biblical worldview teaches that no stone will be left unturned, no crime scene unsolved, no injustice undealt with. Psalm 89:14 is one of many verses that talks about the righteous judgments of God.

Talk about the worlds desire to see justice. What are various scenarios that you desire to see justice? Hell addresses everyone’s longing for justice! Atheists have no hope of perfect justice being satisfied.

However, what is our desire can quickly become our dilemma. We have all misused the moral freedom God has given us. Based on His perfect justice we all stand condemned. The justice of God demands that a penalty be paid. It is as this point we appeal to the perfect love of God. The justice of God demands we pay a price for our sin. The love of God propels him to send Christ to pay that price. (Gal 3:13)

Talk about how hell addresses our desire for justice - perfect justice.

Do you find that most are willing to admit the dilemma they find themselves in based on the perfect justice of God?
Ravi Zacharias says that depravity is the most empirically provable doctrine yet most resisted by atheists.

Romans 11:22 says-"Behold then the kindness and the severity of God." What is it about our culture that does not like to talk about the severity of God?

Even with this understanding of perfect justice, what are still some of the questions your friend may have about the issue of hell?

Hell is not something to take lightly. It represents a doctrine that represents the largest “room in the house”. We can explore it from every angle but still be left having to trust God with an issue that is in part beyond our understanding. However, I do believe that as we understand the perfect love and perfect justice of God we can begin to shape some of our thoughts and express our faith more clearly to a world that is in need of the good news for this life and the next.

How does your life need to be different in light of the reality of hell?

Take some time to pray for those in need of the perfect love of God. Pray for those who need to come face to face with the perfect justice of God.


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Does not perfect justice mean that the punishment fits the crime?
Scripture teaches that there are different degrees of punishment in hell, just as there are different degrees of reward in Heaven. Check out Matthew 11:20-24, Mark 12:40, Rev 20:12,13.. These texts teach that God’s justice is proportional.

What about the person in “India” who may never hear about God’s provision in Christ?
You cannot answer this question without holding the perfect love and perfect justice of God in balance. God’s love for this world goes far beyond anything I could measure, yet his love cannot contradict or compromise his perfect justice. How God works all that out is beyond my understanding. I side with Abraham who said in Gen 18:25 “ Will not the judge of all the earth do right?” While trusting God I need to do my part in communicating the Gospel and that salvation is found in Christ.

Are the flames of hell literal?
I believe much of the language that describes hell is figurative. For example the imagery of flames is often used to describe hell. However, hell is also described as a place of utter darkness. How is that possible? Wouldn’t flames light the place up? We often will describe a literal place with figurative language. Scripture does the same. However, make no mistake that even though some of the language that describes hell may be figurative, what it is communicating is that hell is a place to be avoided.

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