And man, does the confusion about it show in students!
We've lost our sense of the absolute goodness of God, of his absolute sovereignty and of the absolute justness of his nature. There is a rebellion in this age that is perhaps unique in the history of America. Where past generations have denied the existance of God, this generation denies the legitimate superiority of God over His creation. We deny that God has the moral high ground to judge us. The funny thing is, I think that mindset started when we started teaching that Jesus taught not to judge. I don't read him as saying that anywhere. I do read him telling us to be ready to take what we dish out, to be situation appropriate, and to be tender, loving, and merciful when we point out sin.
Our treatment of God reminds me a lot of the castle scenes from Super Mario 3. In this game, a magical princess gives Mario a gem that causes ghosts to freeze when Mario faces them. The comparison sees us as the Ghosts, the devil as Mario, and bad exegesis of the Words of Jesus as the gem.
Let me tell you, we have to get out of this old 8 bit spiritual world (to take another gaming analogy) from the 80's and get into the true spiritual world. We don't have to freeze when we're confronted with sin, we don't have to freeze when the truth pops up and it won't be pleasant to share it with somone. What we have to do is help show our congregations how to be situation sensitive. There is no video game in the world that will allow the same type of attack to work against different characters. Every attack has to be customized. The same thing is true in so many situations - target packages in a military environment require a unique flight plan or unique munitions delivery system, hunters will use different methods for different kinds of prey, salesmen use different techniques for folks with different purchasing triggers.
So as I've been listening to Dean teach on Heaven and Hell this afternoon, I'm struck by how foolish we've been just to teach the Love side of God and drop the brimstone side of God. We've become the antithesis of our parents', grandparents', and greatgrandparents' generation. To a lot of them who sat under bad teaching, God was wrath. To our Generation, God is mush. Not love, mush. Mushy, misunderstood, feel good no consequence tickle me elmo mush. We've got to do a better job communicating his essence.
Some areas we need to improve on are:
- The nature of God's love. This involves the passion of his love, the purpose of his love, the objects of his love, the endurance of his love, and the blocking of his love.
- The nature of God's wrath.and what other concepts equate with it - justice, vengeance, righteousness, holiness, sanctification.
- God's redemptive plan. Man, we are flaky. God is not a magician. I've seen enough of a lack of regeneration in the church today to figure out that "hocus pocus" sinners prayers are about as legitimate as a paypal account that has lost its connection to its owners bank account.
So, as I sit at this fire pit party tonight, I'm gonna have some fun with my students. And I'm gonna try to figure out what in the world to tell them about Hell. And how to do it.
A little help, Lord?