About one hundred fifty years ago, a man named Charlie Peace was arrested and convicted of murder. He was sentenced to die in Armley Jail in Leeds, England. On the morning of his scheduled execution, he slowly walked behind the prison chaplain on his way to the gallows, as the chaplain rather routinely and sleepily read some Bible verses. Charlie touched the chaplain and asked him what he was reading.
“The Consolation of Religion,” was the reply.
Charlie was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow-human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could the chaplain possibly believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase without any emotion whatsoever? Is a man human at all who believes in a literal hell, but can say without tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings?” All this was too much for Charlie to take. So, he preached to the chaplain.
“Sir,” he said, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worthwhile living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell!”
As I thought about that I asked myself, “What measures would I be willing to take to reach the lost? Would I be willing to face personal, physical pain to save one soul?” I would like to answer in the affirmative, but I find myself hesitating. Shame on me! It’s no comfort to think that I’m probably not alone.
Can you and I afford the luxury of warming a seat in a comfortable church building week after week when, on average, every minute approximately seventy real people die around the world and most of them will spend eternity in a real place called hell? Where have we gotten off track?
Questions for 21st century difference makers:
1. I had you do this earlier, but I would like to expand it a bit. Get alone in some quiet place. Take a pen, some paper and your Bible. Quiet your heart and mind. Maybe read and pray through a passage or two of scripture that reminds you of His love, grace, forgiveness and/or presence. Jot down any first impressions you may have received from the Holy Spirit as you were doing that. Then, ask the Lord to reveal any and all unrepentant sin in your life. Write it down and confess it to Him…now.
2. Ask the Lord to reveal any unfinished business you need to resolve with someone. Write it down, too, and make a plan to follow up with that person(s). Confess it and ask forgiveness…now.
3. Now, be quiet again and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you. Is there anything else He is impressing on your heart? Make a note of it. Once you have done all that, thank Him. Read some passages of praise out loud to Him. Ask Him to cleanse you and to renew your heart, mind and soul and to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Make sure you follow up with any unfinished business that you need to take care of. Share with someone else what God has done for you.