On the 10 year anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks this past weekend, Michelle and I couldn't help but watch all the news stories and documentaries on TV. We've been infatuated by everything 9-11 since it happened - reading books, watching news footage and really, anything else we could get our hands on.
One of the stories we watched last weekend, was a powerful documentary about the firefighters. The firefighters are some of the great heroes of 9-11. They ran in while everyone else was running out. There's no telling how many lives they saved.
Many Christian leaders through the centuries have compared evangelism to saving people from burning in a fire or drowning in a river. For instance, here is an audio clip (one of the only known recordings) of the late great evangelist and founder of The Salvation Army, William Booth, as he compared evangelism to saving someone from drowing. The only difference is that Christians are saving people from more than fire, rather an eternal fire - something indescribably worse! Jesus preached more on hell than anyone, because the reality of eternity was more real to Him than anyone. Why would He ever preach of it? Only because He wanted to save people from it! "The Lord ... not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9).
I must make that point that while many Christian leaders have SPOKEN of the comparison of evangelism to fire-fighting, many more have LIVED as if this was just the case. The early followers of Jesus, along with His followers through all generations have literally been murdered for spreading these truths so courageously.
In the words of Billy Graham, "suppose I discovered a chemical that, when taken, would make you radiant and happy, give meaning to your life, and assure you of immortal life thereafter. Then suppose I should decide to keep that secret to myself. What would you say about me? Wouldn't you say, 'Billy, you're a criminal'? Well, I have discovered a secret and I'm happy to share it with you ...resolve right now to allow God to wipe your slate clean, by confessing your sins and asking Christ to give you a brand-new start!"
Billy Graham also said, "We in the church have failed to remind this generation that while God is love, He also has the capacity to hate. He hates sin, and He will judge it with the fierceness of His wrath. This generation is schooled in the teaching about an indulgent, soft-hearted God whose judgments are uncertain and who coddles those who break His commandments. This generation finds it difficult to believe that God hates sin.
I tell you that God hates sin just as a father hates a rattlesnake that threatens the safety and life of his child. God loathes evil and diabolic forces that would pull people down to a godless eternity just as a mother hates a venomous spider that is found playing on the soft, warm flesh of her little baby.
It is His love for man, His compassion for the human race, that prompts God to hate sin with such a vengeance. He gave Heaven's finest that we might have the best; and He loathes with a holy abhorrence anything that would hinder our being reconciled to Him. (Read the full article by Billy Graham on Decision Magazine here)
Still not see it? When you encounter the love and forgiveness of God, it's not difficult to believe. The Bible becomes more than just a book. It moves your heart every time you read it. The experience of having the weight of sin and shame lifted from your life is indescribable. It's something that cannot be fully explained, only experienced and enjoyed. It's something that cannot be contrived by human emotionalism, only recieved from God with joy.
Bravo to those firefighters of 9-11 as well as firefighters everywhere. And ... bravo as well to those who share the message of Christ with gentleness and respect and courage for they also are true "fire-fighters."