A colleague at work once taught me a lesson that I will never forget. She was a regular attending church member in a local church, and we occasionally discussed our views of the Bible. On this day, we were discussing the destruction of the lost. She believed in an eternally burning hellfire, a doctrine that has done much harm to the kingdom of God. Many atheists attribute their acceptance of evolution and rejection of creation to this very doctrine.
I had been looking for an opportunity to share the truth on this subject. I wanted her to know that God is not a sadistic tyrant who punishes His children for thousands of years. Rather, He is a God of love, and proved His love by dying on the cross to save us!
Well, the day had come, and with excitement I cheerily explained to her the events surrounding the destruction of the wicked. I shared that, although the doctrine of an eternally burning hell was popular, it wasn't in the Bible. I shared that the destruction of the wicked is an event that takes place at the end of the world. I shared that this event was a strange act to God and would break His heart. I shared that the wicked would not burn forever. (Here is a link to the study).
After the study, she looked at me and said, "If this is true, how are you going to get people to go to church?" The shocked look on my face prompted her to continue her thought. "If the wicked don't burn in hell forever, then what is their motivation to go to church?" In that one moment, I discovered the real reason why she, and millions of Christians, attend church. Her worship of God was motivated by the fear of destruction rather than love for God.
Sadly, many Christians today can identify with this woman. They don't long for heaven. They simply want to avoid hell. They don't enjoy Bible study. They don't really enjoy prayer. They simply go through the motions of being a "Christian" to check a box. Thankfully, the plan of salvation can correct this.
By looking continually to Christ, His goodness, His patience, His mercy, His compassion, His self-sacrificing love, the sinner is drawn to Him, for "it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance" (Romans 2:4). Spending time with Jesus will allow Him to recreate the soul in His own image. "A new heart also will I give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you" (Ezekiel 36:26). This new hearts comes with new thoughts, new feelings, and most importantly, a new and acceptable motivation for wanting Heaven.
I remember hearing the story of a slave who was being sold on an auction block. He was young, and his physique made it obvious that he was quite strong. The bidders were waging their bids. Higher and higher went the price. The slave was yelling vehemently that they were wasting their money. "I am not going to work for any man," he shouted. But the bidding continued until finally, the mallet struck, "Sold to the highest bidder!"
Angrily the slave kept cursing and raving. "You wasted your money, mister. I am working for no man." The owner did not seem to pay attention to his threats. For miles as the cart carried the slave, his defiant threats continued. When the cart reached the owner’s property, he went over to the slave, took the key to the chain, unlocked the lock, and removed the shackles. "Mister, didn't you hear me. I am not going to be your slave. I am not working. I told you, you wasted your money," yelled the slave. The owner simply said, "I bought you to set you free. You are free to go."
Taken aback by his purchaser's words, the slave said, "What?!" Again the owner said, "I bought you to set you free." The owner then turned to walk away. "Wait a minute. You are telling me I am free?", enquired the slave. "Yes!", responded the owner. Being gripped with appreciation and gratitude, the slave then said, "Mister, I'll serve you forever."
When we look to Jesus, we will find a Friend who purchased us to set us free from sin. He wants to free us from the shackles of shame, fear, guilt, and selfishness. He wants to free us from our selfish desires for Heaven and impart us with unselfish love for God and for others.
Jesus paid the maximum price to redeem you from the slavery of sin. We, too, have been bought with a price. Your freedom was purchased at a great sacrifice. And like this slave whose motivation for service changed upon realizing what his master had done for him, we should worship God, not from a heart of fear, but from a heart of great appreciation and gratitude for what He has done.
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, ...But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” 1 Peter 1:18, 19