Sunday, October 23, 2011


This is a post that has been a long time in coming. Partly because it's going to talk about some things I'm not so excited to bring up. But at the same time, God is using them to transform my heart, and yes, I am excited about that.  In case you're wondering, this is kind of a book review, but more what God has been teaching me through His Word, as well as through Francis Chan's book, "Erasing Hell".

I am so overwhelmed by who God is - so in awe, though not fully comprehending; so in love, though without His grace I could not love.  I just finished reading "Erasing Hell" by Francis Chan last week.  The last chapters broke through to me so clearly with the message that I do not worship a God who is created or confined to an image in my imagination, or even who submits to what I see as right and wrong.  Once again, the Holy Spirit is lifting me beyond my comfortable patterns of thinking about and relating to God.

Take the doctrine of Hell.  I have always believed it existed, always taken the scriptures to mean what they say... tacked it on as a part of my truth paradigm... But somehow it has always remained one of those half-dead doctrines that make up academic knowledge but isn't wrestled with enough to set ablaze the fire of awe and worship of the King.  Reading "Erasing Hell" helped me finally move beyond that as I came to the realization that hell and judgment are aspects of the real, personal God I love and adore.

If you are expecting a detailed, exhaustive look at the subject of hell, this isn't going to be that book.  If, however, you are interested in gaining a basic understanding of the biblical and contextual arguments for the main viewpoints that are floating around nowadays, this will give a brief and thoughtful overview. The first several chapters address the main approaches to judgment among Christians, comparing each view with scripture and historical Jewish context. One point I found interesting was the dispelling of the myth that "Gehenna" was the town garbage dump. The final chapters were the most impacting to me, as Francis Chan humbly confessed his own conflict in coming to grips with the theology of hell and shared again the image of the Potter and the clay. I was led to pure worship of the God I can't measure or contain.  God is God.

But you see, I don't understand. I really don't. And this highlights a huge problem in today's church - we tend to sweep what we can't understand or explain under the rug - whether it's the doctrine of the trinity, or predestination, or hell. This must not be. Personally, I know that it's when I pull out those questions and dig into what the Bible really has to say, wrestling with the things my mind rebels at and allowing myself to seek the answers to hard questions, that I truly grow deeper in my dependence upon God. While there are things I may never fully understand, I am able to accept them because of my relationship with the Creator. As Christians, our view of God is magnified when we are able to see his indescribable attributes and simply trust and worship him in the midst of our veiled humanity. I don't know what it was exactly, but somehow this recent reminder of God's greatness as displayed by His wrath and compassion enlarged my view of God in a way that touched my heart and magnified my worship, not just as something to be mentally computed and put aside.

Out of this, I've been feeling such a beautiful juxtaposition of joy and sorrow - overwhelming joy in the knowledge and worship of God, and a greater sorrow and urgency for those who run blindly into judgment.  Just as I am spurred on by a longing for heaven, I should be spurred on by this knowledge of hell.  I am so guilty of living as if I did not believe, frozen by fear. You see, I want to live firmly in reality - not what this world sees, but what He sees and who He is.

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