Is my life directed by the promise of heaven and the threat of hell? How about yours? I spent many of my younger years in hell. Been there, done that and today I’m not afraid of hell because I know that the state of mind which I call hell can not be imposed on me by an entity which is vengeful and wrathful, a God which sits in judgement breathing fire and damnation. Only I can impose hell on me. It would have to be my choice to return to the hell I knew in addiction and, today, I won’t go there. The God of my understanding is with me and in me. We, together as one, control our destiny, so why would We impose hell on both of us? Doesn’t make sense.
Look, I am not going to engage theological arguments with those who believe a literal heaven and hell. If that trips your trigger, go for it. It tripped my trigger also for many years and I was the meanest, most miserable man on earth because I knew my eternity was going to be spent in hell. Why was that? Because I could in no way conform to the type of person who made it to the Pearly Gates to claim his room in the heavenly mansions according to the edicts of religion and preachers. I was doomed. Church could not save me, preachers could not change me, and good religious folks gave up on me.
I am the prodigal son who took his God-given inheritance, ran to the far country, drank and caroused, lied, deceived, stole, and partied himself into a moral bankruptcy that no human power could forgive or change. Finally, when totally and absolutely defeated, I looked back to the home I had left, fell to my knees and begged a new start. My Father was standing there on the return road and ran to meet me, threw arms around me, hugged and kissed, and cried, “Welcome back, my son. I have never stopped loving you.” LUKE 15:11-32
Yeah, that was 39 years ago and I remember it like yesterday. Still get weepy-eyed. No sir, there’s no way I’m going back to hell. I’m the woman at the well drawing water when Jesus stopped to ask for a cup of water. She, being a Samaritan woman, did not associate with Jews and was offended by his request. He, being a Jew, should not have defiled himself by speaking to a Samaritan. But, Jesus knew her past history of immoral behavior and offered her a drink from the living waters of eternal life which he offered to all who would believe. Just as the Samaritan woman, I accepted the offer. JOHN 4:4-21
I am Peter who swore his loyalty and love to Jesus only to betray him three times in the courtyard of the high priest because the faithful disciple was afraid for his personal safety. Loving his disciple Peter as much as ever, Jesus suffered humiliation, flogging, torture and crucifixion even though Peter betrayed and abandoned him in the greatest time of our Lord’s human need. That is who my Father is, the one who met me, a drunk who betrayed Him and all who chose to love me, on the road back to sanity and sobriety. LUKE 22:54-62
I am Thomas, the disciple who refused to believe his Master had defeated death and was still alive in Spirit. “Not until I see the nail holes in his hands and wound in His side, will I believe.” A strident atheist, a confirmed non-believer, a vocal blasphemer and doubter is who I was when I spied my Father waiting for me on the road back home. My Father wept with joy at my return with tears of compassion and forgiveness even as I had been the wayward denier assailing his person and spirit at every opportunity. JOHN 20:25
I am Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee who directed the first man to cast stones at Jesus’ follower, Stephen, outside the city’s gates. I persecuted and ridiculed those who believed in Jesus and I tried to destroy their faith in something which I had previously known but cast away in my addiction. Then, when my life detoured to my personal Damascus, the scales of darkness were removed from my eyes and, like Saul, I was unblinded to the truth of my Father as he came running to me singing “Paul, Paul, believe in me”. ACTS 9: 1-19
I am Paul, the redeemed and forgiven Saul of Tarsus, who, after the conversion on the Damascus road, dedicated his life to telling all about the Lord of his life, Jesus. This is my story, my truth. I can share it, but I can’t give it to you. You must discover your truth for yourself. Come and discover. The yoke is easy and it is light. No load is too heavy, no burden too great, no sin too unforgiveable. Give it up. Our Father will joyfully meet you on the road and carry you home.