Friday, June 24, 2005

Hell and the Kingdom of God

Yesterday with people in an addiction recovery program I facilitated a discussion on the subject of spiritual motivation. We talked about what serves to motivate us. People mentioned what I would consider positive motivations, and the destructive ones like fear (abject terror - not biblical awe), shame, and guilt. Those are negative as long term motivations because they tear down. Being afraid, shamed, and feeling guilty, have a place but cannot be the foundation for spiritual growth - at least in my opinion.

Threatening people with Hell as never led them to be Christ-like. Did the Son live in holiness out of love for the Father or fear of punishment? Was shame, guilt, and fear the driving forces in his life? Did he obey that he might not burn?

We cannot form people into the image of Christ through terrorizing them spiritually. We may indeed foster some compliance, but they will hardly resemble Jesus when we are done. We cannot stoke fear, shame, and guilt believing those to be fires that will refine in people lives of righteousness, holiness, love, joy, peace, and such.

The reason punishment is not driven out of our vocabulary through perfect love may be that often the agenda is to convert people rather than form them into the image of Christ. When we convert them in ways that create an inner motivation that is foreign to the spiritual maturity of Christ, attempts to form these same people to grow up into Christ has become doubly hard.

The Spirit will convict, and the Spirit will comfort. To those in the grace of God in Christ there is no longer any condemnation, and perfect love has dissolved the fear of punishment. The kindess of God has led them to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and the Spirit brings fruit from that good soil of every godly attribute.

1 comment:

A said...

You have SO hit the nail on the head with this one. Point for ppoint this post is right on the money. As I wrote in a post of mine a few weeks ago, I've discovered this "Jesus follwing stuff" is so much more about a life to be lived (discipleship, apprenticeship, being formed in the image of Christ) than about a hell to be escaped. For too long it has been about the latter and not the former. By the grace of God and the ever present help of the Holy Spirit, the rest of my days will be about the former and not the latter.

I have really been connecting with your thoughts and writings bro. Thanks for being here and sharing them. You are an encouragement.