THE FIRE AND BRIMSTONE PREACHER WHO SUCCEEDED!
Ezekiel 33:11 (KJV), “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die,…?”
There is a story of a very conservative church up in Idaho who was part of a denomination that was turning liberal, and despite the trend the denomination was taking they stood strong in their own convictions.
Soon after their pastor of many years died they ot a group together to decide what kind of pastor they wanted next. They all agreed, they wanted a fire and brimstone preacher. Excited, they called one of the leaders of their denomination who was in the know of young pastors fresh out of seminary and asked him to send over one who was known for being that kind of preacher. The man shocked at such a request, since there weren’t too many left in this denomination searched far and wide for such a man, and finding him sent him over to the church to become their pastor. He lasted two weeks.
The church called the man again and said that they needed a new pastor as the last one wasn’t going to work. They asked again for a fire and brimstone preacher. The man searched again and upon finding a young man, sent him over to the church. He lasted three weeks.
The church, not losing hope, called the man a third time and asked again for another fire and brimstone preacher. The frustrated man began looking once again and sent another preacher to this congregation. He lasted thirty years.
Years later, the man from the denomination headquarters met one of the long-time members of the congregation. Curious as to why the third preacher worked out and the first two did not, not being able to distinguish between the three, he asked what the difference was.
Without skipping a beat the church member said, “You are right in saying that all three were fire and brimstone preachers, but the third was the only one who actually sounded like he didn’t want us to go there.”
Hell is one of the hardest truths to not only believe in the first place, but to communicate to others around us. The difference between the three pastors, was not in content of the message, but rather it was entirely in the way that they communicated the truth.
Of course, true Christians believe in hell, or at least say they do. Sadly you can be a Christian not believe in hell, but you cannot believe in Heaven and not believe in hell! For those who truly believe in hell, this belief not only shapes our understanding of how bad our sin is, but should really motivates us to evangelize everyone around us.
It shapes our understanding of how bad our sin is because it teaches us that our sin, not only keeps us from entering Heaven on our own, but really pushes us toward eternal punishment. James 2:10 (KJV), reminds us that, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Even if we could be sinless our entire life and we committed just one sin, God in his justice would have to send us to hell for eternity as punishment for that sin.
Of course, we all have sinned far more than one time and with George Whitfield we can say, “If one evil thought, if one evil word, if one evil action, deserves eternal damnation, how many hells, do everyone of us deserve, whose whole lives have been one continued rebellion against God?”
And so, fueled from an understanding that we deserve an eternity in hell, we recognize the reality that our unsaved friends and family find themselves in. They are on the verge of falling in it at any second. Jonathan Edwards said, “Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering.”
We simply cannot shy away from warning people from dying unforgiven and going there, and we cannot warn them with an arrogant and angry heart. Far too many preachers, preach like Jonah, out of duty, and without any love and concern for the lost.
We can’t write on hell without being reminded of Paul’s heart for his people the Jews. In Romans 9:2-3 (KJV) he says, “That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:”
Notice the words great heaviness and continual sorrow. It was difficult for Paul to enjoy life, while knowing that so many of his people were separated from Christ and heading to hell. It kept him up at night, it brought him to tears, and it made him desperate enough to say that he would gladly go to hell himself in exchange for their salvation. There is a sense in which our hearts should be nit to Paul’s and we should have anguish and sorrow over all the dying souls around us. This is God’s heart as well. God says in Ezekiel 33:11 (KJV), “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?”
Do you think about hell? Do you warn people about it? When you do, can they tell you don’t want them to go there. Of course the tone in our voice won’t make someone more likely to become a Christian, but it will make them more likely to listen to us, and it will please the Lord that we are striving to be like Him. “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.” Charles Hadden Spurgeon
“Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.” -- C.T. Studd