On Sunday morning, September 9, 1973, I asked Jesus Christ to forgive my sins and become my Savior and Lord. But when I finished praying, nothing happened. I saw no lights; I felt no weight lift from my shoulders. My first thought was, “Is that all there is to it?”
And my intellectual questions about God didn’t evaporate. I still wondered about creation and science, world religions, why God allows evil and suffering. And so I doubted for many months whether my salvation and faith were real.
Was I alone?
The renowned historian Will Durant mailed questionnaires about the meaning of life to a number of famous people. After reading their answers, he published them in a chapter he titled, “An Anthology of Doubt.” Who hasn’t written in that chapter?
Researcher George Hunter says, “The number one factor in the secular audience today is not guilt but doubt. Secular people doubt the claims of the Gospel, partly because of the plural truth claims confronting people today. They also doubt the intelligence, relevance, and credibility of the church and its advocates.”
Today’s message can be the shortest you’ve ever heard, or the longest. Here’s the short version: “Did Jesus go to hell? No.” We’re done, and we can all beat the Methodists to lunch.
If you’d like to know a little more about this incredible text, understand first that living out the truths of what you’ll hear today will require the rest of your life, making this the longest sermon you’ve ever heard. And one of the most important.
Let me explain.
Are you involved or committed?
Perhaps you heard about the Kamikaze pilot who flew 50 missions. It’s been said that he was involved, but not committed. Can this happen to Christians? To us?
The great preacher Arthur John Gossip described Christianity of 1924 this way: “We have all been inoculated with Christianity, and are never likely to take it seriously now! You put some of the virus of some dreadful illness into a man’s arm, and there is a little itchiness, some scratchiness, a slight discomfort—disagreeable, no doubt, but not the fever of the real disease, the turning and the tossing, and the ebbing strength. And we have all been inoculated with Christianity, more or less. We are on Christ’s side, and we wish him well, we hope that he will win, and we are even prepared to do something for him, provided, of course, that he is reasonable, and does not make too much of an upset among our cozy comforts and our customary ways. But there is not the passion of zeal, and the burning enthusiasm, and the eagerness of self-sacrifice, of the real faith that changes character and wins the world.”
A small boy was visiting his grandparents on their farm. He was given a slingshot to play with in the woods. Heading back to dinner, he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Out of impulse, he shot a rock at it, hit the duck in the head, and killed it. He was shocked and grieved. In panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile, only to see his sister watching. Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.
After lunch that day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen today, didn’t you Johnny?” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.
Later Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing, and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” But Sally smiled and said, “But Johnny told me he wanted to help you.” And she whispered again, “Remember the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed.