When disasters happen, what we believe becomes even more important. In fact, when life is just moving along, without any major disruptions, our belief system really doesn’t seem to matter. You have your opinion and I have mine. But when the world, figuratively or literally, crumbling around you, how we cope and hope is determined by what we believe.
In the past several weeks, on the internet, there have been numerous discussions about salvation and hell. Questions were prompted by an upcoming book by Rob Bell that some say indicates he’s promoting a gospel with no judgment. That in the end, all will be saved. I haven’t read the book. But that does seem to be a growing trend in our post-modern world.
Why does it matter? Because it changes the way we act, especially in the face of tragedies like this week’s Japan earthquake and tsunami. What we believe shapes our priorities. It directs our resources.
The age of the gospel is now!
Matthew 28:18-20 The door of opportunity will close. In the passage of the Great Commission, where we are told to make disciples, Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The time for the great commission will come to an end at the end of the age. This commission is time-sensitive.
Personal opportunities come to an end.
Hebrews 9:27 “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” Even if we are not close to a world-wide end, each of us will face a personal end. One day we will stand before God’s judgment seat and we will either have Christ as our advocate or as our enemy.
An end without Christ is permanent.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-10 “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power…” We may debate the details and nature of hell. But two things are clear. Hell is the absence of God’s presence and it is permanent.
What we believe matters. How might we be wasting our time and efforts about things far less important? This is the time for making disciples. We must make our priority the proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. Yes, we must provide tangible help – that is part of loving our neighbor. But the church doesn’t have time to put aside our UNIQUE message of hope.
It sounds nice and loving for God to make sure that all people “make it.” He never promised that. For thousands of Japanese people the opportunity for grace ended on March 11th. The truth is one day, maybe soon, the opportunity will end for all.
Who are you praying for? How is the gospel message moving through you, while the door of God’s grace is still open?