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AWAKENING the soldier


I have heard men say, “I don’t think about Hell that much, because I am not going there.” I don’t think they mean much by it. They usually say it in a trivial sort of way, with a bit of a witty tone in their voice, and then move right on. But when I hear those words, my heart sinks. I am grieved in my spirit, because we know as believers, that all words carry meaning. They flow out of the inner recesses of the heart. And those words are anything but trivial. Those words are weighty and profound. As a brother in Christ, my heart breaks for them.

The church today has been filled with believers who “Don’t think about Hell that much.” The result of this has been tragic. We now have a believer who has been robbed of joy! We have a believer who is entitled rather than grateful. We have a believer that does not weep for the lost. We have a believer that does not understand the gravity of the situation he is currently in; his entire worldview is backward. Without thinking about it, he adds line items to his “bucket list” as he says to himself, “You Only Live Once!”

Oh, how the words we speak - even to ourselves - carry meaning! The believer has ceased to contemplate Hell, and the whole Christian life has been turned on its head as a result. A.W. Tozer summed it up best when he said, “People think of the world not as a battleground, but as a playground. We are not here to fight; we are here to frolic. . . The ‘worship’ growing out of such a view itself has become a sort of sanctified nightclub without champagne.”

Let me be abundantly clear: The believer who does not ponder the reality of Hell and the infinite horrors of that place has neglected one of the greatest sources of joy, gratitude, and power at his disposal. Yes, you read those words right. I realize this may sound absurd to you, but please bear with me and let me explain.

The doctrine of Hell is the starting point of the entire Gospel message! Every man and woman have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And as a result, there is a death sentence upon them. They are simply awaiting their trial in this life. This earth is only a holding cell. They are here for a few brief moments before they will step into the courtroom and be sentenced to execution. Eternal execution. Understanding this reality is the beginning of the “good news.”

We cannot appreciate the good news without knowing the bad news first. The bad news is what makes the good news necessary. The bad news is what makes the good news good! I urge you to go one step further though: You must realize that the goodness of the good news will be in direct proportion to our understanding of the badness of the bad news! It is only to the extent that one truly realizes his own depravity, and the eternal torment that awaits him, that he will be grateful and joyous for what he has been freely given. It is only the man who understands his diagnosis who will be grateful for the medicine that has healed him. That is the Gospel Message. The diagnosis and the cure go hand-in-hand. They are intimately connected; two sides of the same coin.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, “Okay, Mike, I get it. I understand that Hell is real and that I was going there. I understand it’s part of the Gospel Message. But why do I have to continue to think about it all the time? Doesn’t that seem a bit negative? Doesn’t that seem a bit morose?”

I will let the words of the great theologian, John Piper, answer that question for you. “You never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, never, outgrow your need for the Gospel. Don’t ever think of the Gospel as that’s the way you get saved, and then you get strong by leaving it, and doing something else. No! We are strengthened by God through the Gospel every day; till the day we drop! You never outgrow your need to preach to yourself the Gospel.”

That is the Christian life! It is really very simple. The Gospel of Christ set me free many years ago. It continues to set me free every day. I preach the Gospel to myself daily! And that Gospel message starts with the sentence that was upon me. Every day I reflect on the reality of Hell. I ponder the horror that fills a soul in the first moments of entering that place when they realize the gravity of the mistake they have made. I think about the pain of the eternal flames. I think about the infinite darkness. I think about the haunting loneliness. I think about the fact that there will be no escape and that it is utterly and completely final! I think about how there will be no drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. No sleep will enable one to slip into some alternate state of consciousness. It will be the nightmare that one never awakens from. I think about my friends and loved ones who would likely go to this place if they were to tragically die today. If they really understood, they would never leave their homes. They would cower and hide in the corner of a dark closet, trembling in fear. And then I think about myself; how I almost went to this place. How at any moment, I could have died, and as that final breath would have escaped my lungs, it would have been too late. The eternal nightmare would have begun.

My friend, preach this Gospel to yourself daily. But when you do, I urge you to start by contemplating the terrifying realities of the sentence that was once upon you. Ponder the wickedness and depravity of your own heart, and that even if you don’t understand it now, you deserved to go to that place. Ask Him to open the eyes of your heart to see these things with greater clarity. He will answer that prayer. And as your mind becomes continually transformed by these spiritually sobering truths, joy and gratitude will grow even greater for what Christ has done for you. The good news will become even better! It will become sweeter and sweeter. Once you fully understand the truth of your diagnosis, you will treasure the medicine that has healed you even more.

But I must also caution you. There are some other consequences to meditating upon the reality of that terrible place. Consequences that I fear not all believers truly desire. You may begin to develop a heart that weeps for the lost. You may begin to feel that you must beg and plead with men to be reconciled to God and avoid that place. The distractions and pursuits of this life may become more and more worthless and insignificant. The gravity of this life and the eternal ramifications of it may begin to grip your soul. Life may no longer be trivial; it may become a very serious matter. Your bucket list may no longer make sense. Your friends and your family may no longer understand you. You may no longer find yourself standing in the midst of a playground. You may hear the call to battle.

Read Part 2 of this article: “HELL, FIRE AND BRIMSTONE PREACHING: How the enemy plundered the church” at

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