Nestled in fiery colored flames, the bold, uppercase words on the highway’s billboard, “TURN BEFORE YOU BURN,” caught my attention. I understood the intent—to provoke an intense sense of urgency to accept Christ or spend eternity in Hell.
Although the message was sincere, the approach didn’t sit well with me. Shouldn’t God’s love, not His judgment, cause sinners to repent and believe? What about grace and mercy? Hadn’t most modern evangelicals decided that the “fire and brimstone” approach was outdated and ineffective?
The truth: God is love, mercy and grace, and He is also a consuming fire whose anger burns because of sin. God hates sin. In today’s politically correct, easily offended culture, the subject of judgement and Hell is taboo, even among believers.
No, we can’t “scare people into Heaven”; only genuine repentance and belief in Jesus Christ saves one from eternal separation from God. By ignoring the reality that we are sinners who deserve God’s wrath, we cheapen the cost of God’s gift, His son, who purchased our redemption by sacrificing His spotless, sinless life so we can stand blameless before God the Father. To accept this great gift, we must see our need to be saved.
1.We Deserve God’s Punishment.
“For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24 NIV).
Upon accepting Jesus, I knew that I was a sinner in need of salvation, which is only possible through a right relationship with God through Christ. I went to God filled with remorse and regret. However, in time, I climbed my spiritual “high horse,” convincing myself that now justified, my everyday sins weren’t all “that bad,” especially when compared to others. I even believed that because I served in church, took meals to the sick and controlled my temper, I deserved more of God’s favor. Wrong. Romans 3 says that EVERY human being falls short of God’s glory, even on our “best” days. We ALL deserve God’s punishment because we sin, but the penalty for our sin was transferred from us to Christ by the atoning and finished work of His Son on the cross. Thereby, believers are spared (“saved”) from damnation, cast out for eternity, separated from God.