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James Merritt - Don't Go There

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    James Merritt - Don't Go There
TOPICS: From Here To Eternity

How many of you are married or you're dating someone and sometimes you have conflict? Just curious. Okay. You know, some people think that I sleep in three-piece pajamas and have a hotline to God and all that. I'm just like you, I shop at Walmart and I go to Kroger and, you know, and I've been married 47 years and we have had our share of conflict. And one of the things we've learned to do, that's really helped us to have a great marriage, is communication. And there's something that happens in my marriage every now and then, and it's the clearest communication that takes place in my marriage, and it has saved me a lot of heartache. It's when we get into this kind of a conflict and I start to say something and Theresa knows me, and she gets a stern look on her face, and she says three words. "Don't go there".

You know what I do when she says that? I don't go there. Now, you probably have heard people say that to you before, and there's something about that little three-word phrase that has the power to stop a conversation dead in its tracks. Now, I say that for this reason. I know that there'll be a number of people today that when you hear what we're gonna talk about, you'd probably look at me and say, "Don't go there". And the problem is, if you're a pastor, you don't have a choice, if you're called to preach and you're called to be faithful to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God, and yet, I have to be very honest, I asked the Lord last night and asked the Lord this morning, "Can I get out of this"?

No, I'm being serious. I don't want to preach today. It's not because I don't feel good, I feel great. It's not because I don't have word for the Lord, I do. It's not because I don't believe what I'm about to say. Absolutely true. But there are some subjects you would rather avoid. A matter of fact, what I'm gonna talk about today, there are more than a few pastors out there that say, "We don't talk about that". "I will never deal with that". "That word will never be heard in our church". And there's some topics we'd rather leave in the closet. And I'll be honest with you, of all the things I'll read in the Bible, if I could skip this one subject and never preach on it, I would. And in one word, it's a word many of you maybe have not heard for 10, 20, 30 years. And it is the word hell.

Now, I know some of you're saying right now, "Why did I pick this Sunday to come to church"? Because I agree with my, one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis who said this. He said, "There is no doctrine which I would more willingly remove from Christianity than hell if it lay in my power. I would pay any price to say truthfully, 'All will be saved.'" And what a great message that would be for me to preach. Wouldn't that be awesome? I mean, nobody would get mad at me if I said, "Hey, everybody's gonna be saved. Don't worry about how you live. Don't worry about what religion you practice. Don't worry about what God you worship. Or if you worship, no God, everything's gonna work out in the end. It's all gonna be okay".

And then on the other hand, I think, well, maybe I shouldn't be so hesitant because even today, in 2023, 62% of Americans believe in hell. It shocks me. By the way, 54% believe that they are going to heaven. You know how many people believe they're going to hell in America? 2%. So 98% say, "Well, I think I'm good to go". And then just go out on the street, and when you listen to the conversations taking place, another reason why I think, well, maybe it's not too bad to talk about hell, is because everybody else seems to be talking about it. You say, well, what do you mean? Have you ever thought about how many times that word is used every day just in everyday language? I mean, for example, think about how many times this word's used. We'll describe an irresponsible driver as a bat out of hell, or hell on wheels, right? When chaos ensues, we say, "Man, all hell broke loose".

A bad spouse may be referred to as hell to live with. If you're really thrilled about something, you'll say, "Man, I'm as excited as hell". I heard a golfer say that yesterday. What are the odds of winning the lottery? A snowball's chance in hell. What does a troublemaker do? Raises hell. Before you think about doing a bad thing, somebody will say, "You'll have hell to pay". And we all know before Republicans and Democrats will ever agree on anything, hell will freeze over. So we all talk, yeah, you give the Lord hell on that one. Look, we all talk about hell, but yet, when it comes to preaching, people wanna say, well, we don't wanna talk about that.

Well, we're in a series we're calling "From Here to Eternity". We've been going through what the Word of God says about when we die, where we will be after we die, and what happens at the end of time when all the dying has been done. And even though we know the Bible teaches one thing that everybody dies, it also teaches something else. Not everybody that dies goes to the same place. Not everybody that dies will spend eternity together. And while you might not like talking about hell, frankly, there are many good reasons to believe in it, and there's some good reasons to talk about it.

Matter of fact, I read something the other day. I thought, that is so good. There were some sailors on a ship and they heard that the government had just appointed a new chaplain to come on board the ship. So they decided to get together, and they went down to meet the new chaplain. And they said, "Reverend, we've got a question for you". He said, "Sure, what is it"? They said, "Do you believe in hell"? And the chaplain said, "Well, I certainly do. Why do you ask"? They gave a brilliant answer. They said, "Well, if there is a hell, and you don't believe in it, we don't want you for a chaplain. And if there is no hell, we don't need a chaplain". That's good logic.

Can I be honest? If there is a hell and I don't preach about it, you need a new preacher. But if there is no hell, you don't need a preacher. So one way or the other it's really a good thing that we do talk about it. Now, let me make something very, very plain. And this is where a lot of people misunderstand preachers like me. They say, "Oh, so today you're gonna be a hellfire and brimstone preacher"? Well, I'm just gonna preach like Jesus. Let's get that out of the way. But I am not trying, as matter of fact, this will shock you. The message today is not for unbelievers. If you don't believe in God, if you're an atheist, you don't have anything to do with Jesus, you don't care about religion, you hate the church, I am not talking to you, I'm really not. I'm talking to believers.

You say, "Wait a minute. Why would you preach about hell to people who believe"? Well, let me tell you why. Number one, I'm not talking to unbelievers because I'm not trying to scare anybody into hell, because in all my ministry, I've never seen anybody give their heart to Jesus because they were afraid of going to hell. Number two, that's not a good reason to do it anyway. You ought to give your heart to Jesus because you love Jesus, you wanna follow Jesus. You're grateful for what Christ has done in your life. Not going to hell is just a side benefit.

So I'm not gonna try, I'm not trying to scare anybody into hell, and I'm not, I don't think you can. No, it really is for believers. You say, well, wait a minute. Why is a sermon on hell for believers if believers are not going to hell? Here's why. Because if you really are a believer, you ought to be concerned for people who are going there. I knew I wouldn't get an amen to that, but it's true. If you really believe in hell, you really believe in hell, you ought to be concerned for your neighbor, your doctor, your teacher, your principal, your teammate, your in-laws. You ought to be concerned about people who are going there.

Now, we've got good news for this world, you ready? Here's my message in a sentence. The Lord who tells us there is a hell died so we don't have to go there. The Lord who tells us there is a hell died so we don't have to go there. Now, when you talk about hell, I found people have basically three big questions. Question number one, is there really a place called hell? They wanna know that. But here's the big question. How could a loving God send anyone to hell? And then the third question is, well, if hell exists, how can we avoid going there? So we're gonna answer those three questions this morning. First of all, the Word of God confirms the reality of hell. Just write that down. The Word of God confirms the reality of hell.

Now, I want you to take God's Word, now, I want you to turn to the Gospel of Matthew, four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I want you to turn to Matthew 5. In this chapter, we encounter the very first person in the New Testament that ever talked about hell. As a matter of fact, this may shock you, this person not only talked about hell more than he talked about heaven, he talked about hell more than any other subject except about money. As a matter of fact, he taught more about hell than any other person in the Bible. Anybody care to guess who that guy was? Jesus. Now, for every 100 words that Jesus spoke, you ready for this, 13 of them dealt with the subject of hell and judgment. Jesus loved to tell parables. Of the 40 parables that Jesus told, more than half of them deal with the concept of hell and the judgment of God.

The greatest sermon ever preached in the history of this planet, nobody will ever come close to it, is what we call the Sermon on the Mount. It really has some of the greatest teachings of Jesus you'll ever read. Well, you don't get too far into that sermon, you read statements like this. Matthew 5:22. "But I tell you that anyone who's angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca' is answerable to the court. And anyone who, who says, 'You fool' will be in danger of the fire of hell". Skip down six verses. "I tell you, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out, throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell".

And boy, that shocks so many people. You mean gentle Jesus, meek and mild. Sweet little Jesus, baby boy in the manger. You mean that wonderful Jesus that healed people and fed people, gave people water to drink, committed all these miracles. You mean he's the guy that talks about this? And frankly, this Jesus does sound a little too fire and brimstone for a lot of people. The famous atheist, Bertrand Russell, gave this as his one single reason why he said, "I will never follow Jesus". Here's what he said. "There's one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is he believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment".

Bertrand Russell said, "I don't care what kinda life Jesus lived. I don't care what kind of death Jesus died. I don't care if he was born of a virgin. I don't care if he died on the cross. I don't care if he was raised from the dead. I will never follow anybody who would dare to say that we're in danger of eternal punishment". And by the way, it's not just Jesus's hell that bothers men like Mr. Russell. It's how horrible Jesus's hell is. Because in other passages in Matthew, Jesus goes on to say this, Matthew, 8:12. "But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth". Then in Matthew 13:41 he says this. "The Son of Man will send out his angels. They will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth".

Whatever you just wanna say about hell, Jesus didn't mince any words. You don't want to go there. It is a place of unbelievable pain. It is a place of unending agony. It is a place of unparalleled suffering. Let me just stop right here, by the way, I'm gonna answer a question. I'm gonna go out on a limb. So before I do this now, don't send me any emails. Don't write me any letters. Just let me get finished before you, you know, say I've gone off the rails. Because there are people who always ask this question. They're fascinated with this question. So is the fire literal fire? Is the darkness literal darkness? I mean, are people really gonna be, you know, being grilled on a big green egg all of eternity and not be able to see anything? And I'm not making light of that, okay? But I wanna say two things about that.

Number one. I have no issue if the fire is literal and I have no issue if the darkness is literal. I have no issue with that at all. But there are some wonderful biblical scholars who think that Jesus was speaking metaphorically, is speaking symbolically. They're on both sides. Here's the truth you need to understand. You say, "I believe the fire's literal, Pastor, and I believe the darkness is real". No problem. You say, "Well, I don't believe the fire's literal. I don't believe the darkness is real. I believe it is a metaphor, I believe it is a symbol". No problem. Whether you take it literally or whether you take it symbolically, you better take it seriously. There is a place called hell where real people suffer real pain.

But let me say this. Let me tell you what I think makes hell, hell. It's not the fire that makes hell, hell. It's not the darkness that makes hell, hell. You know what makes hell, hell? Hell is the only place in the universe where God is completely absent. See, we don't understand that. Everybody in this world, they don't get it. Everybody in this world right now, we enjoy the presence of God. Everybody does. Whether you love God or not, believe in God or not, we all enjoy the presence of God. You say, "How do you know that"? Because if God took his presence away, we would all disintegrate. The only thing that keeps the thing going is the presence of God. You do understand that? He's the glue that holds it all together.

So we already enjoy, whether we realize or not, we already enjoy the presence of God. What makes hell so terrible is the complete absence of God. God is not there. You won't, you won't experience the love of God, the presence of God, the peace of God. It's where you die. You know, when you die the first death, your soul is separated from the body. But the Bible says there's a second death. If you don't know Jesus, you're gonna die twice. You're gonna die physically, you're gonna die spiritually. By the way, if you're saved, you gotta be born twice. Gotta be born physically, gotta be born spiritually. But if you're born physically, but not born against spiritually, you're gonna die twice. You're gonna die the first death, the physical death, the soul leaves the body. But then you're gonna die the second death, that's the spiritual death, where the soul is separated from God. That's what makes hell, hell.

Let me give you another example. The Bible talks about pearly gates and golden streets. So you say, "Well, do you believe in the real pearly gates and golden streets"? I do. I got no problem with that. I got no problem with pearly gates and golden streets. Absolutely no problem at all. But hear me clearly. It is not pearly gates that makes heaven, heaven. It's not golden streets that makes heaven, heaven. It is Jesus that makes heaven, heaven. Take Jesus out of heaven, you can keep the gates and the streets, you don't have heaven. Somebody says, well, now wait a minute. Heaven is where, Jesus is where heaven is. No, heaven is where Jesus is. Wherever Jesus is, that's heaven. What makes heaven, heaven is the presence of God. Hell is where Jesus is not, heaven is where Jesus is.

Now, if you think I'm kind of fudging on this, listen to what the Apostle Paul said. In 2 Thessalonians he said, "He will punish those who do not know God, who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction". Now, watch this, what does that mean? "They will be shut out from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might". Hell is a place of divine absence. This is not in my message, but it just came to me, I got 20 minutes and you're not getting out of here till I'm done, so I'm gonna preach it. 'Cause I may never get to tell this story.

I had a guy call me, I was pastor in my very first church. His name was Raleigh Matthews, Raleigh was, Raleigh grew up in the church, a little country church, right about 50. Our first church, we lived in a double wide trailer right across the street from the church. Raleigh lived down the road and every Saturday afternoon we'd go out and visit, knock on doors. And actually, you know, it was mainly farmland, but we'd go knock on doors. So out of the blue, one day, Raleigh calls me about nine o'clock in the morning, brother Raleigh, and he said, "Hey preacher". He said, "Can I come up and see you"? And I said, "Sure". He drove up there and he walked into my, in the trailer, and he said, "Hey". He said, "Do you believe in the unpardonable sin"?

I said, "Well, yeah, I do". He said, "Have you ever met anybody you believe committed an unpardonable sin"? I said, "No sir, I haven't". He said, "Would you go with me this afternoon? I want you to go visit a man with me". I said, "Okay, who is he"? He said, "well, I'll tell you the story on the way". So he picked me up a little after noon. We're driving out to this man's farmhouse. He said, "Pastor". He said, "I've been visiting this man for 40 years. Every pastor we've had, I go visit this man". And he said, "That's all I'm gonna tell you. I'm not gonna tell you anything else. You go visit this man and then you tell me what you think". I said, "Okay". This was in the middle of July, it was blazing hot. We pull up to this guy's house. He lives in a wooden house with a tin roof, no air conditioning. I'm thinking, "Man, this is gonna be really bad".

So we go walk it in, we knock on the door, the guy comes to the door, he looks at Raleigh, he says, "Hey, is this your boy"? He says, "Well, yep". He says, "Pastor," he says, "Okay boy, come on in". So I walked in. Not making this up. I thought, man, I'm going to be sweating bullets. And I stepped across, I'm not making any of this up. I stepped across the threshold. I start looking around for the air conditioner. It was ice cold in that place. I mean, it was ice cold in there. And I'm looking around, there's no window units. And I sat down and we talked for a minute and he says, "Okay, boy, give me your spiel". So I shared the gospel with him beginning to end. Jesus loves you, died for you, was raised from the dead, wants to come into your heart. And I said, "Sir, do you understand everything I've said"? "Yep, sure do". "Would you like to be saved"? He said, "Nope, I'm going to hell, thank you".

Got up, walked to the door and let me out the door. I walked out the door and I sat there, we sat down, and I cranked the car up and I just sat there, and I said, "I've never experienced anything like that". He said, "I told you". I said, "I got a question for you. Where's the air conditioning in that house"? Oh, he said, "There's no air conditioning. He's been that way for 40 years". He said, "You go in that house". He said, "You ever get hot, just go in that house". I said, "Why do you think it's so cold"? And I believe what he said. He said, "I'll tell you why". He said, "Because the Holy Spirit stops at the door". He doesn't go in there. 'Cause that man's committed the unpardonable sin. He has said a final no to God, and God said a final no to him.

Let me tell you something. Years later, I'd been called to another church. I got a phone call from the son of this, of Raleigh Matthew, Raleigh's son was a deacon in the next church I got called to. He called me, his name was Ed, he said, "Pastor, I want you to know, Brother Raleigh called me. He said that man passed away last night". I said, he did? He said, yeah. He said, "Brother Raleigh heard he was sick". He said as he drove out there he said he had the windows down, he said he could hear that man screaming a half a mile away. "It's hot! God help me! I'm going to hell". Hell is a place of divine absence. But it's also a place of absolute permanence. 'Cause it's the only place in the universe where there's no hope. You know, see, we live in a world today, you can always say, "Well, we'll get you next time". Or, "There's always tomorrow". Or you know, Richard, Florida Gators, "Wait till next year".

You know, they're always saying that, wait till, you know. There's always hope. Let me tell you something, in hell, there's no next time. In hell there's no tomorrow. In hell there's no next year. Hell is eternal. Now, let me stop right there. Pastor, wait a minute, I got a problem. Isn't it unjust for God to punish someone infinitely for a finite sin they committed for a finite period of time on Earth? I don't think that's right. Why would you punish someone forever for a sin that they do in a place where it's just temporary? Well, the question actually has two problems. First of all, the proper punishment for a crime may never be proportionate to the amount of time it takes to commit the crime. You listen. You can rob a bank in 15 minutes, but if you rob a bank, you're not just gonna get 15 minutes in jail. You can kill a man in a second, but you're not gonna get in jail just for a split second.

So you cannot ever measure the amount of time or punishment to how time it takes to commit the crime. But there's another problem. The problem is not just how severe you do something that's bad, that's not what makes it bad. What makes it bad is, who do you do it against? Because what we don't understand is when you commit a crime, you break a human law. But when you commit a sin, you break God's law. You've rebelled against the God of the universe. I don't mean to be crude, but every sin is a finger in the face of the sin, of the God, of the universe. And the ultimate sin, according to the Bible, is when you basically look at what God has done for you in Jesus Christ and said, "No thanks, not interested". Not going there, not buying what you're selling, you can't even give it to, by the way.

That question is really in itself the problem because the focus should not be on any one individual or any number of sinful things that are done. Here's the problem. The problem with people in hell is this. The problem is people who have a mindset totally against God. What else are you gonna do with somebody who says all of their life, "I've got no heart for God. I've got no desire for God. I've got no love for God. I've got, I don't want anything to do with God whatsoever. I wanna live my life without God". Listen. If they don't want God in this life, why would they want God in that one? If they don't even live 40, 50, or 60 years for the glory of God, why would they wanna spend eternity living for the glory of God? Someone put it this way. "The punishment fits the crime because the punishment is the crime. Saying no to God means no God".

Now we can debate all day long, here's all I want you to understand. Whatever you wanna say about Jesus is real simple. Jesus believed in the reality of hell, and I believe Jesus. I believe what he said about everything else. Well, I believe what Jesus said about heaven. I believe what Jesus said about salvation. I believe what Jesus said about love. Well, you don't get a free pass on hell. You either believe what the man said or you didn't. I believe in hell because Jesus believed in hell. He said it, he preached it. We preach it, we say it. And by the way, if you need a little more convincing. Every other writer of every other book in the New Testament, Paul, John, Jude, Peter James, every one of them, guess what they said. "There's a hell". It is a real place.

So the Word of God from start to finish confirms the reality of hell. That's point one. Point two. The will of God calls for the necessity of hell. The Word of God affirms the reality of it. But the will of God calls for the necessity of it. We answered the first question. Is there a place called hell? Well, Jesus said there was. The Word of God says there is. Now let's go to the second question. This is the one people wanna know. Now wait a minute. God is love, right? He is. God loves us, yes he does. Well then how could a loving God send people to hell? I've talked to so many people and they think that's their trump card. They think that's their get out of jail free card, because after all, God is a loving God.

All right, here's what really shocks people. I love it when people say that to me. I love it when people ask me that question. "Well, how can a loving God send people to hell"? They think they got me. I love it. So invite your friends, tell them to call me and ask me that question. Because my answer shocks them. Here's my answer. "A loving God never sends people to hell". Oh, you heard that right. A loving God never sends people to hell. And I believe that statement is absolutely true because I wanna show you three words in the statement that make it true. Let's take the first word, loving. A loving God. True or false, God is a loving God. Is that true or false? That's true. He's a loving God. Wait a minute though, what kind of love does he have? His love's not some fuzzy feeling that's tolerant of everything and everybody.

His love is not a que sera sera love. You just go do what you wanna do and it's all gonna be okay. No, no, no. His love is a holy love. It is a righteous love. It is a just love. As a matter of fact, let me make something clear to you. Yes, God is so loving and God is so compassionate, and God is so caring, he does not want anybody to spend eternity in hell. He said this in Ezekiel 33. "Say to them". This is God talking to Ezekiel. "You tell them, 'As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.'" God doesn't want people to follow a path that leads away from him. God wants people to follow the path that leads to him.

So the Apostle Peter wrote these words. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you not wanting anybody to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". I don't care how bad a person is, I don't care what they have done. God says, "I take no pleasure in your death. I want you to come to me in repentance". God hates hell and God hates the fact that people will go there. However, God is so loving, and God is so good, and God is so kind, and God is so gracious that he allows people to choose hell if that's what they want. And this is really crucial for you to understand. You see, one of the great things I love about the will of God is it's the will of God that we have free will. We have the ability to choose.

So I want you to, if you don't hear anything else I say in this message, I want you to hear this next statement. Hell is not going to be full of people that God rejected. Hell is gonna be full of people that rejected God. Now if you heard that, say amen. Hell is not gonna be full of people that God rejected. If God wanted to reject us, all he had to do was tell Jesus, "Stay here". Why do you think he sent Jesus? Because he's not rejecting us, he wants us. So who are in, who are the people in hell? People God rejected? No, they have rejected God. See in the end, hell is simply the place where God gives people what they wanted in this life to begin with. I think C.S. Lewis was right when he said this. "No one ever goes to hell undeservingly and no one ever goes to hell unwillingly".

So let's take the second word in that question. All right, he's a loving God. Well, a loving God would never send anyone to hell. He doesn't. God doesn't send anyone to hell. As a matter of fact, he just gives people what they choose. Because he so values our dignity, he so values our right to choose what we want to do, he will not force us to choose him even if that means we choose hell instead. In fact, once again, Lewis said it this way, and this is brilliant. "There are only two kinds of people in the end. Those who say to God, 'Thy will be done.' And those whom God says in the end, 'My will be done.' All that are in hell choose it".

Now let me tell you why this has to be true. Let's suppose there is no hell. There's only heaven. So there's no hell. There's only heaven. You know what that means, right? If there's no hell and only heaven, then there's no choice. You don't get a choice. I don't get a choice. Nobody gets a choice. And here's the problem. Without choice, heaven would not be heaven. And heaven in reality would be hell for people who don't wanna go there. Because if your only choice is limited to loving God, whether you want to or not, and going to heaven whether you want to or not, then there really is no choice at all. So the reason why there's a hell to begin with is 'cause God says, you know what, I'm gonna give you free will. I'm gonna send my son to die for you. He's gonna be murdered, he's gonna be brutalized for you. He's gonna come back from the dead. You're gonna hear the gospel preached. You're gonna have every chance to choose me. I will not shove it down your throat.

So let me just turn it around. I don't think that's the right question. I think instead of asking this question, "How could a loving God send people to hell"? Why don't we ask this question? "How can a Holy God send people to heaven"? Now if you don't understand that, you don't realize how sinful you are. The miracle of all miracles. By the way, if you've been born again and you've been saved, you have to believe in a miracle because you are one and I am one. How in the world, you don't know me like I know me. You don't know the skeletons in my closet. You don't know the thoughts that have gone through my head. You don't know. I told somebody the other day, I've never out, I've never outwardly verbally said a curse word in my life, but I have thought a few. So how can a loving God, how can a holy God send somebody like me to heaven? I'll tell you how. Jesus. Jesus. That's the question we ought to be asking.

Here is the truth. A loving God does not send people to hell. A loving God does not force sinners to go to heaven. But now let's take that third word 'cause it sounds so innocent. How can a loving God send people to hell? And that, you know, that does sound unfair, right? That sounds so unjust. But you have to qualify what the word people means there. What you're really saying is, how could a loving God send people who refuse to realize they're sinners, who refuse to repent of their sin, who refuse to receive the forgiveness of God, who refuse to acknowledge the lordship of Jesus Christ? How in the world could God do that?

So get something straight. Only one sin sends a sinner to hell. Only one. It's the sin of unbelief, that's the only sin. People are not in hell because they murdered. People are not in hell because they raped. People are not in hell because they stole. People are not in hell because they lied. People are in hell for one reason. They said no to Jesus Christ. Period. That was their choice. That was their call. That's what they wanted. And sadly, here's the problem. We just don't take the sin of unbelief very seriously. But let me tell you how a verse in the Book of Hebrews describes it. Listen to this. "How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished, who has trampled the son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the spirit of grace"?

Here's a person. Here's a person who, for whatever the reason, whatever the logic, whatever the thinking said, "God, you wasted your time. Jesus, you wasted your life. Holy Spirit, you have wasted your conviction. I'm not interested. I don't care how much you love me. I don't care what you did for me. I don't care how, what depth you went to, what length you went to, I'm not coming to you. I'm gonna live my life the way I wanna live it. You're not gonna be my God, I'm gonna be my God. Money's gonna be my God. Popularity's gonna be my God. My family's gonna be my God. My job's gonna be my God. You are not it".

That's the people that we're talking about. You've got to, here's what 12:3 Hebrews says. You know what you gotta do to go to hell? You've gotta literally stamp under your feet the blood of Jesus to go to hell. You've gotta knock down the cross of Jesus to go to hell. You've gotta literally tell God get lost, before you are eternally lost. It's the attitude of a Ted Turner who once said this. "I don't want anybody to die for me. I've had a few drinks and a few girlfriends and if that's going to put me in hell, so, well so be it". That's not what's gonna send Mr. Turner to hell, but I'll tell you what God does say to the Turners of this world. If hell is what you want, hell is what you get. If hell is what you want, hell is what you get. Because let me tell you one other thing about hell you need to remember. If I were to say to you, "Do you believe that Jesus died on a cross"?

You say, yes. "Do you believe Jesus shed his blood for our sins"? You'd say, yes. "Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead"? You say, yes. "Do you understand that the cross of Jesus and the blood of Jesus and the life of Jesus is absolutely not only meaningless but unnecessary, if there is no hell"? Tell me why Jesus died, if there is no hell. Tell me why Jesus came, if there is no hell. Tell me why we ought to be concerned about people if there is no hell. What is the point of God sending Jesus to die if sin does not pose an eternal problem?

So let me just be honest. Justice demands eternal rejection for those who reject Jesus. As a matter of fact, let me tell you one reason why I, I'm not, listen, gonna talk about this in a second. I don't want anybody to go to hell. Our church don't want anybody to go to hell. I'm gonna talk about that in a minute, but let's just be honest about it. Hell guarantees one thing. Let me tell you what hell does guarantee. Justice is going to be done. Nobody's going to get away with anything. There are people who have committed some of the most horrific acts you can imagine. They went to their graves, they were never punished for their deeds. You know who I'm talking about. The Hitlers, the Stalins, the suicide bombers, untold numbers of unknown murderers, rapists, child abusers. They went to sleep at night with a smile on their face thinking, "Hey, I got away with it".

No they didn't, no they don't, and nobody does. Because God is the God of justice. And the will of God calls for the necessity of hell. Now here's one last thing, so we gotta be quick. Third thing. The work of God, this is my favorite part, the work of God cancels the penalty for hell. The work of God cancels the penalty of hell. This is where I get happy. This is why I got a smile. 'Cause this is what, this is the part of the message I wanna preach, because listen. The primary message the Bible gives about hell is not negative, it's positive. So what do you mean? Well, do you understand that God didn't even prepare hell for the human race. It was never God's desire for anybody to go to hell. Jesus said this, Matthew 25. "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'"

God didn't design hell for us. He designed hell for the devil and demons. That's why God sent Jesus to die on the cross so we wouldn't have to go to hell. God sent Jesus so, to take care of our sin problem, to give us reason to believe, to give us a desire to be with God forever. No, God doesn't send people to hell. He sent Jesus so we would not have to go there. I love the story of two men that were sitting in a restaurant. They got in this big argument and it got so heated. One man just got so angry at the other man, he just couldn't help himself. He said, "Go to hell"! Well, there was a believer reading his Bible and he was sitting at a table next to them and he just couldn't help himself. And he turned around and he tapped that man on the shoulder. He said, "Sir, I don't know you and I don't mean to interrupt, but I've been reading the directions and you don't have to go there if you don't want to". But while we're here on Earth, we're in between heaven and hell, and whatever direction you take in this life, where you direct it at one place or the other.

So one of my favorite authors, Randy Alcorn, said it best. He said, "The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of heaven. The worst of life on Earth is a glimpse of hell". Listen to this. "For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to heaven". "Pastor, am I going to heaven or hell"? I can tell you exactly where you're going. It's where you choose to go. You want to go to heaven, you can go to heaven. You want to go to hell, you can go to hell. Oh, nobody wants to go to hell! Oh yes they do. Because if you don't want Jesus, you do want hell. So story, headlines, "Chicago Sun Times". Unbelievable story. Here's the headline. "Driver Blindly Follows GPS Off Bridge, Kills Wife".

Now listen to what happened. What the article was about was you can't always rely, and by the way, this is true. You can't always rely on your GPS when you're driving. Sometimes you just need to rely on common sense. This is what happened. There was a man in Chicago that drove off a ramp to a bridge that no longer existed, injured himself and killed his wife. What happened? He was so focused on the GPS, he drove around numerous barricades. He drove through warnings the bridge was out. And he drove his car off a 38 foot cliff and killed his wife. Now here's what the newspaper reported. "The Cline Avenue Bridge is marked with numerous barricades, including orange barrels and cones, large wood signs stating road closed with orange stripe markings, even concrete barricades across the road to indicate the bridge was gone. But the man ignored all those obstacles and drove right off the cliff".

Warning after warning. Barricade after barricade. Sign after sign. Ignored them all. So I want you to hear me clearly and we're finished. I don't want anybody to go to hell. God doesn't want anybody to go to hell. Our church doesn't want anybody to go to hell. And God has placed everything from a cross, to this book, to a preacher like me, to the life of his own son, God has placed everything in front of you and you've got to go through every single one of those to get there. But I stand before you today with the thrill of being able to tell anybody and everybody this. I don't care what you've done. I don't care how many skeletons are in your closet. I don't even care what you're in the middle of right now. It doesn't matter to me. It doesn't matter to God. What I can tell you is this. Because of the grace of God, I can say to you with 100% confidence, when it comes to hell, don't go there. Because of Jesus, you don't have to.

Would you pray with me? Let me tell you my burden right now. Let me tell you my burden right now. My burden is that, and I told the staff this this morning, there are people in this room right now, there are people watching me right now. You're not going to heaven. Some of you would say, "I know I'm not going to heaven". I can get to you. Here's the people I'm worried about. It's the people who think they're going, but they're not. You've never truly been saved. You've never really been born again. You've been baptized maybe, joined a church. Maybe you don't drink or do drugs. Maybe you dot the I's and cross the T's, but you've never been born again. You've never truly been saved.

So I'm talking to two groups of people. Those of you who'd say, actually three. "I know if I died today, I'm not ready to meet God. I know it". And then there's that group that says, "I don't know whether I am or not, but I need to make sure". And then there's that group that would finally say, "You know what, I need to get this right". So if you would say today, not out of a fear of hell, no, but out of a love and gratitude for what Jesus has done for you. If you would like to give your life to Christ today, you would like to be saved today, you'd like to reserve your place in heaven today, you'd like to begin living for God today, would you just in your heart say something like this?

Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner and I need you. I realize now that the only thing keeping me out of heaven is my unbelief. It's not my sin, you died for my sin. So I'm telling you today, Lord Jesus, I want you to come into my heart. I want you to save me. I want you to forgive me. I'm surrendering my life to you as my Lord. I am trusting you as my savior. In this place at this moment, I give all that I am to all that you are. Thank you for hearing my prayer. Thank you for saving me today.

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