Malcolm Muggeridge was an English journalist who converted to Christianity in his later years. He helped bring the life and service of Mother Teresa to popular attention throughout the world through his writings. He was attracted to communism in the 1930s and served as a soldier and spy in World War II. Later in life he was critical of the sexual revolution and of drug use, practices he participated in during his younger days. What changed his life? He was converted and became a follower of Jesus Christ. He details his attitude changes in the publishing of his diaries, entitled, Chronicles of Wasted Time:
“When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now futile and absurd. In retrospect, all these exercises in self-gratification (success by various measures, acquiring money and seducing women, traveling and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer) seems like pure fantasy, what Pascal called licking the earth.”
For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Muggeridge speaks at the end of his life with a kind of perspective that can only be described as illumination. People do not come to this kind of clear thinking on their own. This is what the Bible calls conversion or being born again. (John 3:3-16) The Apostle Paul says “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in that the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4: 3-4)
Individuals who continue in darkness in their rebellion against God will, at death, enter eternal darkness in hell. If you have been converted, you will not be facing hell at your judgment because your savior, Jesus Christ, has faced hell for you and offers you heaven. Jesus takes our record and pays the penalty of our disobedience and offers us his record of forgiveness and eternal life with God as a gracious extension of his love. While a believer in Christ will avoid hell, this does not mean that it is not deserved. All believers deserve hell just as all unbelievers deserve hell because we all have rejected God’s love and rebelled against him through active rebellion and passive indifference.
Many Americans, especially religious Americans, shun the idea of hell. This is thought to be an enlightened position to take. Often people say, “I cannot believe in a God who would punish people for eternity in hell.” Is it dark and archaic and backwards to believe in a literal hell? Surveys tell us that approximately 75 percent of the American population believe in heaven and hell. According to AARP magazine, the statistics jump to nearly 80 percent among folks over 50.
The Bible teaches from start to finish that God watches over those who love him, but all the wicked he will destroy.” (Psalm 145: 17-20) The Gospels, the Epistles, and the Book of Revelation all talk about eternal judgment. Jesus talked about hell more than any other person in the Bible. We cannot abandon hell because it makes us uncomfortable or we do not believe it is an attractive doctrine.
In Matthew 25:31–46, Jesus describes the final judgment and says the unrighteous “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Every person will be held accountable for our earthly lives and will spend eternity with God in heaven or alone in hell. This is the enlightened perspective Jesus offers, as this warning is a light that points to the eternal light of salvation—his work done for us because of our rebellion.
Here are several reminders to keep in front of you as you wrestle through embracing this doctrine:
- God’s justice and God’s love are not in competition but are actually two expressions of the same gracious heart. God’s justice hates sin and evil and has promised to punish evil. If God’s justice loved and embraced evil there would be no forgiveness, no healing and no restoration for any relationship, including our relationship with him. God’s justice is loving justice and his love is just love.
- We cannot know the depth of God’s love without knowing that his love is undeserved and is offered to us freely as a gift. We must not think of those who reject God’s love as deserving his condemnation and that we somehow were smart enough or sincere enough or strong enough to embrace God’s love. We experience his love strictly as undeserving sinners who can merit none of his mercy. When we understand that we do not deserve God’s love, it fills our hearts with compassion and concern for others who are sinners living apart from God’s care.
- We are called to love God’s justice and not to apologize or hide the beauty of his character. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast of his might. Let not the rich man boast of his riches but let him who boasts boast of this: that he knows and understands me. For I am the Lord that exercises justice, lovingkindness, and righteousness on the earth and I delight in these things says the Lord.” We are called to delight in God, the one who extends his love, justice, and righteousness over all the earth.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
The salvation Jesus has bought with his sacrificial love will heal the world of all evil and God will heal us. It is like a burning light that shines in our hearts and shows us the way to heaven. C.S. Lewis, speaking of his conversion said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
Tim Keller’s paper on “Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs” offers a rational approach to answering skeptics about Christianity and addresses the common beliefs that are seen as defeaters to the Christian message. Keller’s helpful insights will help equip you to be better prepared in evangelism conversations.