(Photo: Dan Delzell)
In his book Love Wins, Rob Bell challenged the traditional biblical teaching regarding hell as simply being wrong. Rob's spiritual journey continues to evolve as he now has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. He believes the traditional biblical teaching about marriage is as wrong as hell.
So is Rob Bell correct, or is he misguided? Has his journey to hell and back produced helpful spiritual insights for others, or just doctrines which are contrary to Scripture and therefore dangerous to your soul? And why is it that one's views on heaven, hell and homosexuality tend to always line up in a consistent manner?
What I mean is this: Those in favor of same-sex marriage tend to believe that most people will go to heaven. On the other hand, those who believe Jesus is the only way to heaven tend to believe that homosexuality is just as sinful as fornication and adultery. I guess doctrines of a feather flock together, so to speak.
Jesus said many things that profoundly challenge our natural way of thinking. One of them was this: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13,14)
To be honest with you, that statement from the Lord blows my mind. It goes against what my heart wants to believe will happen at the end of time. I want to believe that most of the people in our world will go to heaven. The only thing stopping me from believing it is God's Word. If I went with my heart, I would teach that "good people" in every religion (or even without religion) will go to heaven. If I were to abandon the Bible, I could quickly find myself becoming a universalist. That is where my heart would go immediately, and I suspect yours might go there rather easily as well.
Likewise, if I were to abandon the Bible, I would probably hold a view on sexual ethics that leaves it up to the individual to determine what sexual relationship is right, and which ones are wrong. Without the Scriptures, all we have are personal opinions and personal preferences.
It is unpopular today to address these topics from the traditional perspective. Those who do are often labeled as "haters" just because they hold to the traditional biblical teachings on heaven, hell, homosexuality, and marriage between a man and a woman.
Are there some "professing Christians" who have hate in their hearts? Absolutely. This hatred proves they are only "professing Christians" and not real Christians. When they speak about these issues and other topics, it is from a heart filled with hate. Christianity and hate are not compatible. "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar." (1 John 4:20) Christianity and judging others are not compatible. "Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful." (James 2:13) To judge someone is to look down on him and think you are superior as a person.
Those who only "profess" Christ actually need to know Christ. He can replace their hatred with His love. Jesus perfectly lived the truth and He perfectly taught the truth regarding love, forgiveness, heaven, hell, and sexuality. Everything about Jesus is compatible with Christianity. He is love, plain and simple, whether He is forgiving sins or calling people to turn away from their sin.
God's Word states, "Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body." (1 Cor. 6:18) Therefore, it is imperative that we get sexual ethics right. If we don't, we inadvertently end up leading people down the path to destruction. And let's face it. For every one person who struggles with homosexual tendencies and temptation, there are probably at least 20 heterosexuals who are struggling with tendencies and temptation to commit fornication or adultery.
God's forgiveness is available to all. God's Word commands all people everywhere to repent of sin, (see Acts 17:30) and the Gospel message invites all repentant sinners to trust in Christ alone for salvation. (see Luke 24:47; John 3:16; Eph. 2:8,9) The first sermon Jesus ever preached was simply, "Repent and believe the good news." (Mark 1:15)
So is the road to heaven narrow, or wide? Was Jesus telling the truth, or is Rob Bell smarter than Jesus? And did Rob Bell ascend up to heaven and bring back these popular teachings about heaven, hell, and homosexuality, or did he in essence accidentally descend into hell and acquire these messages there?
Perhaps Rob felt driven to embark on his spiritual journey early in life due to some hateful attitudes of "professing Christians." While Rob's heart represents the heart of natural man, the hate of "professing Christians" does not represent the heart of Jesus or the hearts of true believers. When confronted with hate from religious people, it is always best to look directly at Jesus and rely upon His words, His forgiveness, and His love. That is the only way to guard our heart from being led astray in a reactionary manner after encountering hate from those who claim to know God.
Rob Bell's teaching about heaven and homosexuality flows from his heart, but does that guarantee he has it right? I mean, can we truly trust our hearts the same way we can trust God's Word? Our hearts are fallible and prone to go in various directions based on emotions, reactions, preferences and circumstances.
How can I place full confidence in my heart, or in anyone's feelings, when the Scriptures declare that "the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Why would I be quick to accept every "prophet's" interpretation on heaven or sexuality, when the Bible tells us that "doctrines of demons" actually exist. That is, doctrines taught by men which have their origin in the demonic realm rather than in the kingdom of God. "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." (1 Timothy 4:1)
So did Rob's doctrines, as popular as they are in our culture today, come from God, or from the demonic realm? Did they come from the Holy Spirit, or from man's sinful heart? And does the consistency between Rob's doctrines on hell and homosexuality tell you anything about the source of his information? Your answer to that question will reveal whether or not you believe he is a true prophet, or a false prophet.
I have no doubt that Rob Bell feels compassion in his heart for most people. In fact, he probably feels it stronger than many. But at the end of the day, I can either place total confidence in my feelings, which are unreliable, or I can firmly believe what God's reliable Word tells us. Sometimes those two line up, and sometimes they don't. I wish it wasn't that way. I really do. Life would be so much easier if our feelings were always in perfect alignment with God's inerrant Word.
What makes Rob's teaching on heaven, hell, and sexuality so popular is that his views represent the natural flow of man's heart. There is no divine revelation in it, but just feelings and wishful thinking. It's warm. It's fuzzy. And it's popular.
If you want to know what someone is thinking, just listen to him speak. Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) Oftentimes the overflow is nothing more than man's opinions. Other times, at least for believers, the overflow is the wellspring of God's living water flowing out of you as you share His love and His truth with others. The one type of flow will make you popular in the world. The other type of flow garners the applause of heaven.
OK. So maybe you won't be voted the most popular person if you stick with traditional biblical doctrine. But as long as you do so with a heart full of love for God and for others, you will have Jesus backing you all the way. He wasn't always the most popular guy either when He walked on this earth. And it was Jesus who said, "The student is not above the teacher." (Matthew 10:24)
So do you want to be His disciple, or not? It's your call. It's your life. And it's His love which will compel you to keep going even in the midst of unpopularity. He is not calling you to be popular. He is calling you to be faithful. He is not calling you to satisfy every desire of your heart and flesh. He is calling you to deny yourself, (see Luke 9:23) which includes resisting certain desires of your heart because they will lead you away from His will for your life. "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart." (Hebrews 3:15) That's the best advice for the heart you or I could ever receive.
The only way we can trust what is in our heart is when our heart has been filled with the power of God's love and the truth of God's Word. Apart from the Scriptures, how could anyone ever truly know what is right and what is wrong in any area of life? Man's opinions are a dime a dozen. God's eternal decrees are the everlasting truth.
Eternity and sexuality are both critical topics to be sure. Rob Bell has chosen to wade into both areas as a religious teacher. Either his personal opinions are true, or the traditional biblical teachings about heaven, hell and sexuality are true. One approach is right, and the other is wrong. One flows from the throne of heaven. The other flows from the unreliable heart of man.
Which path are you on today? The popular wide road, or the unpopular narrow road? Jesus invites you to join Him on the narrow road to paradise. (see Mark 1:17 and John 11:25,26) No one who has followed Jesus has ever lived to regret it. The same cannot be said for those who place the feelings of their heart and the preferences of their flesh above the Word of God.
God loves you for who you are. If you will turn to Him in repentance and believe Christ died for your sins, He will strengthen you everyday as you seek to commit your body and soul to Him. And one day, He will bring you to a place where you don't have to resist any desires of your heart because all of them will be in perfect alignment with His will. Now that will be paradise! That is where love wins forever. And that is where you can spend eternity because of what Jesus did for you on the cross.
Don't give up on God, even if you have had a bad experience with "professing Christians" or "professing prophets." Jesus is the real deal, and He wants to fill your heart with good things. "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) That verse doesn't mean that God will give us all of our earthly desires. It means our desires begin to improve when we delight ourselves in God rather than in what we assume we are entitled to pursue.
The difference between those two things is the difference between night and day. It's the difference between heaven and hell. It's the difference between a true prophet and a false prophet. There is a saying, "Don't believe everything you think." I would add, "Don't believe everything you feel." Your heart is not as reliable as God's Word, and neither is mine. The sooner we come to grips with that fact, the sooner we will start building our life upon a solid foundation rather than sinking sand.