Driving on the interstate can get a little tedious without much scenery that differentiates one area from another. About the only things to see are the road signs. I think it was in Georgia that my attention was captured by a unique sign. The sign was paid for by a Christian group in order to get people thinking. The sign read: “Hell…I forgot about that…” In our current culture the subject of eternal punishment is not something we choose to remember. Even among Christian culture this subject has become the forgotten doctrine. Some leaders have even come out publically denying the reality of hell, others in the church have simply airbrushed it from their sermons and their discourse. But no matter how boldly we may deny it, and no matter how sincerely we wish it were not true; the doctrine of hell and eternal punishment will not go away.
Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about heaven. He told us in Matthew 18:9: “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you, It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire”. Jesus told the story of a rich man who went to hell and described him being tormented by the flame (Luke 16:19-31). Probably the saddest verse in the Bible is Revelation 20:15. It says: “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire”. If you believe the Bible you must believe in eternal punishment because it is so clearly and repeatedly taught.
No matter how horrible the torments of hell are, no one has to go there. God made it for the devil and his angels. Man chooses to make hell his destination when he rejects the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. John 3:18 tells us: He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”. Death is coming, eternity is waiting, and hell is real. Choose Jesus Christ and you will enjoy eternal life instead of enduring eternal punishment.
The phone finally rang and the baseball player who was doing well finally got the call he was waiting for. He had proved himself in the minor leagues and now he had been called up by the big leagues. It is the dream of every minor league baseball player to someday get that upward call.
The Apostle Paul described his desire to live the Christian life and compared it to an athlete. He tells us in Phil. 3:12-14: “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. Paul played the game of the Christian life with intensity and that “press on” spirit. He challenges all Christ-followers to look for that day when we shall win the race and receive the prize. He tells about the wonderful experience of receiving the upward call of God. I believe this refers to the end of our Christian race when we will stand before our Lord complete and perfected in holiness. I wonder how well we are doing in the minor leagues of our service down here. Are we pressing on, are we reaching forward, are we serving our Lord faithfully? Do we press on to be Christlike in all of our words and actions? Do we strive to be obedient to His Word, faithful in our walk and bold in our witness?
Paul finally received his upward call and is now enjoying the prize for the rest of eternity. However, you and I are still playing in the minor leagues. We need to play with intensity and press on with fervency because one day we will be “called up” to the big league.
I remember well the words of my high school track coach. He told us that when you are running a race and you are about to cross the finish line do not look back. He explained that if you turn around for that look it will hinder your stride and slow you down. That look back may cost you the race.
I am reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul who describes the Christian life like a race. He tells us in Phil. 3:13,14: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”. Paul was so focused on reaching the prize that he did not look back. When he instructed us to “forget those things which are behind” what do you suppose he meant? We need to not look back at our past sins. When we have asked the Lord to forgive us, He has buried our sins in the deepest sea and removed them as far as the East is from the West. A morbid reflection on what we used to be can keep us from being what God wants us to be. We should not look back at our past pain. If you have been on the Christian road very long you will have experienced some hurts along the way. Maybe a spiritual leader failed you, perhaps a close friend forsook you, or even a church disappointed you in some way. The enemy of our souls wants us to turn around and rehearse that pain so that we lose our focus on Jesus. I am thinking that we should not even look back on our past spiritual accomplishments. I have met many of God’s children who are living in the days of old when they used to be active, when the church was full, when they had a strong walk. Looking back too long even on our victories can keep us from the prize before us.
We have so much to look forward to. One day we will receive that upward call. Until then let us press on and not look back.
I wondered why the rainwater was running over the top of my gutters but I didn’t do anything about it for a long time. Finally I had to climb on the roof for a different reason and thought I would take a look at the gutters. I sprayed a hose over the gutters and discovered that the downspout had filled up completely with debris and did not allow the water to flow through the gutter properly. I had to take the downspout and connecting parts down. I used a steel pipe and a garden hose to begin the difficult process of cleaning the downspout. The process was not easy as the debris clung stubbornly to the inside of the tube. Finally after hard work and persistence the gutter system was cleaned and put back into service. Now the rain flows unhindered off the roof and down the gutters.
God’s children often find their lives clogged with sin. We go long periods of time without doing anything about the problem and wonder why the flow of God’s blessing in our lives seems backed up. Sometimes we try spraying a quick prayer over the clog and think that everything will be fine. However sin that goes unconfessed and unforsaken has a way of remaining and hindering our walk with Jesus. We need to take the time to examine our heart and do a thorough job of confessing. We need to ask the Lord to scrape out the filthy sins of the flesh, and remove the nasty gunk that has settled in our spirits. Psalm 139: 23,24 challenges us: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting”.
Has the flow of joy and peace stopped in your life? Has the rain of God’s blessing seemed to have clogged up in your soul? Don’t you think it is time to examine your heart and discover the problem? Take some time to go up on the roof and clean out the gutters of your heart so that the showers of blessing can flow again.
I finally got around to washing my car the other day. I tried to do a thorough job with cleaning the inside and outside of my vehicle. Just when I was putting away everything, I noticed that I missed a spot. And then as I attended to the missed spot I noticed something else was not as clean as it could have been. After several attempts at having a perfectly clean car I finally said those magical words: “good enough”. I am not a perfectionist and I am glad I don’t have OCD. It would be a never ending cycle of frustration.
God has called us to live lives that are honoring to Him. We are to do our best to please Him in our daily walk and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. But I am so thankful that our wonderful Lord does not give us the white glove treatment. He tells us in Psalm 103:10-14: “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust”. We are perfectly righteous in our position in Christ. Our sins have been forgiven and our guilt is gone. Yet we are all keenly aware that we are still dust. God is not standing over us constantly demanding that we always get it right and telling us that we missed a spot. We are His children, He deals with us in grace and when He looks at our lives He sees that we have been washed clean by the blood of His Son.
One day when we stand before Him in eternity we will be completely holy, however, until then the sanctifying process is not yet complete. We need to pursue holiness and always seek to have a clean life before our Lord. But no matter how hard we try, we will always be missing a spot.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation