I enjoy reading and occasionally commenting on the blogs I follow. It was as I read the various accounts of a heat wave being felt in various places around the globe that I got the inspiration for this entry.
It is hot here in Central New York also! The temperature (Fahrenheit) is above 90 today and will remain so for the next 4 to 6 days, with an expected high temperature of near 100 degrees later this week. A genuine heat wave like we are experiencing is rare here. We are much more accustomed to cold and snow than we are to the heat. My little city averages about 250 inches of snow (that’s over 20 feet!) each year and the air temperature rarely gets above 30 from January through March.
Some places get a ‘dry’ heat, which in theory makes the high temperatures more tolerable. I have spent time in Denver Colorado and the desert of the southwest US; trust me, 95 degrees is hot whether it is dry or wet! Closer to home, when we get a heat wave it is always a ‘wet’ one. The dew points will be in the low to middle 70’s during this event, which will make journeying outside for even the briefest time make you feel and look like an extra in a jungle safari movie.
As you may have guessed by now, it’s not the air temperature that I really want to talk about; but as long as we are on the subject of heat, let’s talk Hell for a bit. Admittedly, I don’t know much about that place, but I can say my understanding has grown from thinking it is simply a hot, nasty place (se Dante’s Inferno). The Scriptures do plainly say that a place of eternal punishment exists, I just don’t think it’s fire, brimstone and devils wielding pitchforks.
The punishment for those there, as I understand it, will be the eternal realization that life was spent wasted by non-belief in Jesus. Regardless of the treasures and pleasures amassed, all will be found for naught when the last breath is drawn. A separation exists between the Holy God of heaven and this place of hopelessness. Jesus alludes to this unbridgeable expanse in the parable of the beggar Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31). This is horrible news for those blinded to the truth of salvation through Christ alone. Maybe fire and unquenchable thirst might be preferable, at least in so much that the physical suffering might temporarily take one’s mind off the eternal ramification of being separated from God.
However, this bad news is more than counter-balanced by what we preachers often call ‘The Good News.’ Knowing that there is a bad makes the good that much more wonderful. The Gospel (gospel=good news) proclaims that God has prepared the way for sinners like me (and everyone else) to stand guilt-free before His throne when life as we know ends.
The certainty of salvation is based on where it comes from; God Himself. Jesus Christ somehow bore the sins of the world in Him as He died on the cross. In His mercy He took my/our/all who would believe place. We cannot earn nor do we deserve what He has done; we need simply to believe it. The Apostle Paul describes how salvation works: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 NIV)
It really is that simple. The hard part is coming to grips with it. I have heard it said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be perfectly filled by Him. I love that imagery. It describes my need (if I want to be complete) as well as the complete solution. And it is all done for me! God takes the pressure off us; asking only that we submit our will to His as we accept by faith His salvation: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Let’s review: The current (outside) heat wave plus humidity is oppressive but with history on my side, it is safe to say that it will end sooner than later. The far bleaker forecast is for those who are feeling the heat (whether they admit it or not) of not choosing to have faith in Christ. Crushing loneliness and helplessness are their future, the worst possible news.
My friend, if you haven’t ever considered eternity, please do in the context I’ve tried to describe. Deciding not to decide is still a decision, and a bad one at that. Put your trust in Jesus, He is who the Scriptures claim He is. Though I cannot promise you that your life on earth will be all sunshine and roses, I stand (as you can) on the foundation of God’s saving love that continues to bring peace to those who believe.
Uncomfortable weather conditions come and go like the seasons. Only God is constant. Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. No number of fans, a/c or cool showers can give the lasting relief and comfort that the certainty of God’s love can, if only we will let Him.