It's that time of year again, and I feel compelled this year to address a serious problem with Halloween - the church. I know, most folks would clamour to condemn the pagan ritualistic celebration of All Hallows Eve - the witches, vampires, werewolves, zombies and any other assortment of 'monsters'. While the cultural obsession with such things is disturbing, yet more disturbing is the traditional church's contribution to the un-holy day - the Hell House. Running a group of teenagers through a morbid scene of the untimely death of a peer and their impending sentencing to hell because of their failure to 'give their heart to Jesus'. Faced with the choices of going to hell or getting their life in order, many impressionable teen choose the latter - I mean, who wants to go to hell? So, what is the problem with this? However well intentioned, the church is guilty of giving our young people a false sense of salvation. Playing on the emotional instability of many young people, we send a false message that simply not wanting to go to hell will get you into heaven. All too often (not always, but more often than not) we fail to mention confession, repentance and the Lordship of Christ. It's just "believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to pay the price for your sin and that He was raised on the third day and BOOM! - you are saved". They repeat a prayer to this effect when really what they are thinking after going through this bloody drama is, "God, I don't want to die and go to hell. Please save me from hell!". Effectively, the church is trying to 'scare the hell' out of them instead of sharing the truth with them - as Jesus said, "Unless a man is born again, he cannot enter the kingdome of God". To be born again, we must first die to self - selfish desires, ambitions and motivations. In order to do this we have to agree with God that these things are sin and turn from them - or die to them. We then must respond to Jesus, acknowledging the love He showed when He paid the price for our sin and run to embrace Him, receiving all that He has for us - choosing at that moment to live for Him - letting Him live through us. Like John said, "He who has the Son has life - he who does not have the Son, does not have life". If all these kids are getting out of Hell House is that they don't want to go to hell, then they didn't get the Son. If they didn't get the Son, then they have not been born again. If they have not been born again, then they cannot enter the kingdom of God. And all this because we lied to them and told them if they prayed this prayer, they would not go to hell.
Sadly, the same thing happens in the pulpits of America every Sunday morning. It is just done without the bloody, mangled car and vivid imagery of a fiery hell. We have watered down the gospel, lowering the bar, so to speak, to make it easier for people to 'get into heaven' to make the membership roll numbers look better. Friends, the bar has been set at Calvary and cannot be lowered. If they are running away from hell and not running to Jesus, then we have miscommunicated the gospel.
All that said, yes, I realize there are some true salvation experiences that come from these Hell Houses. But how many countless more young people are leaving these places thinking they have eternal security jsut because they ahve done nothing more than what Satan, himself does? Satan believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross to pay the price for your sin and that He was raised on the third day - he was there when all this happened. He believes all the facts, but he does not have the Son - he has rejected the Son to live out the remainder of his existance in rebellion to the authority of Christ. See the difference? Churches today are filled with the past generations of those who made a decision to not go to hell, but never made a decision to live for Jesus. So, we have large groups of people calling themselves the body of Christ who are in fact still living for themselves with no concern for the lost condition of others because they are still in a lost condition themselves. They may be good at telling you how to become a member of a church organization, but they cannot introduce you to Jesus because they have never met Him themselves.
It is that time of year again, and I feel compelled to implore you, first of all to examine yourselves - "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize for yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless you fail the test." (2 Corintians 13:5) Look back to your 'salvation experience' and ask yourself, "was I running from hell or running to Jesus?" Weigh heavy the words I have written here for they are the litmus test of salvation. If you were not running to Jesus then I have good news - you can make that right today. Secondly, we have to stop trying to scare the hell out of the lost and start loving Jesus into them. Give them the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth - so help us God! When we share the love of Christ, we glorify God. After all, isn't that what the church is all about? Come on, let's run to Jesus!