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Hell's Best Kept Secret

by Julius Hovan

(Transcribed from Words of Life Radio Program)


We welcome you to this broadcast of Words of Life and we are so delighted that you have tuned in.  Please stay tuned in order that we might share with you great news from the Word of God and maybe be a blessing in your life and give you some direction and help and encouragement. That is our purpose and goal. It is called Words of Life and we believe that God has offered us this eternal life through the Lord Jesus.

I read this statement the other day. It said, “Hell’s best kept secret.”  And I wondered what this person could mean by that and I read a little bit of what they said and came to agreement with what they said and I share it with you today.

It seems to me that the Church, as we think of it, and the preaching today of those in the pulpits of our churches, have eliminated God’s law. It is that law that produces the realization of sin and directs us to God for forgiveness. The law shows us that this is the great need of our lives. We have sinned. We will answer to a holy God one day. What are we going to do about that?  And this spokesperson said this is hell’s best kept secret: not telling others the law of God and the demands of God.

Of course, there is a great battle going on here in America about the laws of God, the 10 Commandments that we are no longer allowed to post in schools.  We are not allowed to have them posted in various court houses and so forth. And yet they are a vital part of the making of our great nation as well as other nations of the world.

I am afraid what has happened is that in our effort to make Jesus Christ more appealing and more palatable to our American culture and maybe to you, wherever you live in our great nation, that we have robbed the gospel of its power to save.  And you would say, “Well, how have we done that?”  When we eliminate the function of the law that brings the lost to repentance, leading to the salvation that is in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have eliminated the necessity of believing very much at all. There is no need for repentance any longer or confession or baptism. Just believe. Easy believe-ism, someone called it or cheap grace.

My friends, I suggest to you if the Word of God is correct—and I believe it is—eliminating those things will never produce born again people of God.  Believe what? Just anything, even something that is not true or maybe is a half truth?  There is a great struggle going on in churches and society regarding what truth is anymore. We must have the standard of the Word of God to determine that we see the need to come with our sins to the Lord Jesus and the emphasis is in the New Testament. There is the past call that God has given to us for our need to come to him.  The message of John the baptizer was repentance and to practice a baptism of repentance.  And he was very specific in telling those people: you are to turn from your sinful ways.  How did they know their ways were sinful?  Because they were ways that were not in keeping with the law of God. Jesus himself says in Mark one and verse 15, “Repent ye and believe the gospel, the good news.”

Well, if there is good news, what is the bad news? The bad news is: I have broken God’s law and I realize and recognize that and, thus, I come in repentance to accept the Lord.  Jesus went so far as to say, “Except you repent, you shall perish.” What a sad statement that is, indeed.  The apostle Peter, in the very first gospel sermon in the second chapter of the book of Acts on the day of Pentecost said, “Repent ye,” when they wanted to know what must we do to be saved? What can we do because we have broken the law of God? The first matter before them was repentance and they recognized that and 3000 souls responded because they saw first that they had broken the law of God and then they saw that God would receive them and forgive them.

The writer of most of the New Testament, the apostle Paul, says in Acts chapter 26 and verse 20 that you should repent and turn to God and do works worthy of repentance.  We repent from something and turn toward something. Repentance simply means a turning to God and agreeing with God that I have broken his law and I need to come to him.  The Hebrew writer listed the very foundation of the Christian faith, a foundation of repentance from dead works, he calls it, and faith toward God.

Do you hear the call of God from all of these including Jesus himself and from the sacred writings of Scripture, the need for repenting, for recognizing our position of law breakers and sinners? And if all of these demands are there then we must surely understand them to a degree and follow them. We have no authority to offer a different way to God than through his marvelous grace that leads us to repentance.

Many in the church live no differently than they did before they were brought to Christ and baptized. I am ok.  You are ok.  Just live the way you want. But here is the past call. Repent ye, turn, you have broken the law of God and you need his grace, his mercy and his love.  That brings us to what we might refer to as our present condition. As we have stated, there can be no saving faith without genuine repentance. Repentance demands an agent, a law of God that produces conviction.  Galatians 3:24 makes that very clear when Paul says, “The law is our school master to bring us to Christ.”  Now what was happening in the church at Galatia is that they were leaving the grace of God and turning back to law keeping as a means of salvation.

Let’s make it very clear at this point that we are not saved by the law, by law keeping. That is an impossibility.  It is the law that teaches us our need and brings us to the place where that need can be met. In this passage in Galatians and throughout the epistle, he offers salvation to people who have repented, not to those that did not repent, not to those who didn’t see their need, not to those that were producing bad fruit, counterfeit Christians, deluded Church members. There were some of them there. A faulty gospel always produces false conversions. If we do not consider ourselves having been law breakers and sinners, we have no need of a Savior.   The book of I John deals with this and reveals clearly that problem.

The Puritans, as we call them, in the 16th century wanted to correct the problem by returning to the law and incorporating the law. There are now some religions that try to do that as well.    Charles Finney was a 19th century evangelist who said this. “Failure to use the law is almost certain to result in false hope. That is, people thinking they are saved when they are not. Failure to use the law introduces a false standard of Christian experience and will fill the church with false converts. Time will reveal this,” end quote.  My friends, I believe he is right.  Surely time has revealed that in the churches of America and possibly around the world, there are these who are not truly born again and converted to the Lord Jesus Christ because they have never had a true conviction of being a law breaker and a sinner.

We can listen to some of the radio and TV spokespersons. All too many pulpits of our nation, where once the Bible was strongly taught and believed, are now falling into this error of hell’s best kept secret.  Are those who respond to such a message really born again?  Do they not realize that they have been far away from God and had no hope and the only means of salvation is not through keeping the law, or just simply being pretty good folks, but realizing their need of the mercy and grace and blood of Jesus?  There are many who claim to be Christians yet we see the problems that abound in our society of broken homes, of racial prejudice, of mounting problems with our teenagers, of suicide and all the things that go along with that.

Too many claim to be Christians when they have never really been born again, never have realized that they have come out of sin and yet are still in sin. What a sad story it is.  It is theologically impossible to offer in Christ that faith, and to have the faith, without the necessity of repentance and knowing that we have broken God’s law.  Before they can reap the benefit of the good news they must be aware of the bad news. We have broken a perfect, holy law and we are under the judgment of death and condemnation.

One of the major TV evangelists in America says this.  “I don't think anything that has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity has proven more destructive to human personality and, hence, counter productive to evangelistic enterprise than the often crude, uncouth and unchanging strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition,” end of quote.  Did you hear what he said? He believes that to make people aware of the fact that they are lost, that they are sinners, has proven to be harmful. Maybe to our human personality, but it surely will not produce those who were brought to true conviction and conversion.

This is user friendly gospel preaching. It is the method of too many who are preaching about sin and eliminating sin and judgment and certainly repentance. If there is no sin, no judgment to face, then repentance is not even needed. Never will they confront one who is living in sin, not realizing that they are enemies of God and destined for an eternity apart from him.  The new age idea and movement sweeping our nation and even the world says there is no sin.  But such does not agree with the apostle Peter or Paul or Jesus or John the baptizer.  The past call of these is to repentance because we are sinners and the present condition tells us that we are in need of teaching that again.


As we begin to bring this lesson to its conclusion today, let’s turn to the idea of the power that is needed to convict a person and to convert them to Jesus Christ.  Power is needed because we do not have within ourselves the will nor the power to do what is needed.  The psalmist says it this way in Psalm 19 and verse seven.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”   The devil has tricked too many to ignore this saving truth: the law of the Lord. It is that law that shows me what a terrible condition I am in, that I am, indeed, facing a devil’s hell and eternity apart from all that is good and right and beautiful, apart from God, and we must face the truth of the law of God that we have broken.

Can you recall personally ever being truly convicted of sin and the time came that you made a definite turning away from that sin to serve the living and true God?  Do you remember such a time as that?  In the book of I Thessalonians the Christians are told this: “Our gospel came unto you not in just word only, but in power and in the Holy Spirit and much assurance as you know what manner of men we showed ourselves towards you for your sake.”  They preached the gospel. And listen to verse nine and look at what happened.  “For they themselves wrote concerning us what manner of entering in we had, how you turned...” And there is our word for repentance:  “You turned to God from idols.” The worship of idols was the breaking of the law of God. They realized that and they turned from that to God and began to serve the living and true God.

We are admonished in the book of 2 Corinthians to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, the faith that produces this salvation. The fear that comes when we mention the law is a fear of Legalism, rules, regulations that destroy the gospel of grace.. But no, it is by grace, it is through faith and it comes through the obedience that we have in realizing that we have broken the law of God and we must turn from that to God.  We know the law cannot save or keep us saved, but we know it brings us to Christ and teaches us about our great need.

Paul, writing to the young man Timothy in I Timothy one, verses 9, 10 and 11 says,  “Knowing this, the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and the unruly and the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane and murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, fornicators, abusers of themselves with men, men stealers, liars, false swearers. And if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine...”
Paul says the law is given to these who are law breakers in order that they will know they have broken the law of God.

Sandwiched in between the law and the gospel is sin. Standing between being lost and being saved is sin and we have to call it what it is. It is not a psychological abnormality.  It is sin.  And at the center of sin is the letter I.    I am at the center of sin in my own life.  It is the law which has revealed the sin, indentified it, and it is then the gospel which tells us how to deal with it and be delivered from the condemnation of sin and the law.

Paul’s gospel included the law of God that convicts the unrighteous, prepares the soil of the heart for the glorious grace of God. It is as we see the blackness and awfulness of our sin that we turn to the light and joy and hope of the gospel of grace that sets us free from sin and death. A false gospel is being preached in too many places, one that says we can believe in Jesus and live like we always have and still consider ourselves saved. How sad.

The New Testament writers, even Jesus, refute this at every turn as they call for repentance, turning to God from sin and having godly sorrow. The present condition that exists often times in churches and among Christians is weak and ineffective because of such teaching. God’s law reveals our true condition and our eternal destiny. It causes us to look for help. We become eye seekers and we find in Jesus Christ, and the good news of the gospel, what he did for us at Calvary.

As we close today, do you need to heed the call as did Paul when he was struck down on the road to Damascus? God got instructions to him, arise and be baptized and wash away your sins.  My friends, the blood of Jesus awaits your response to receive this cleansing in your life of sin and all that is evil.

Do you believe a false gospel? Do you believe you can ignore God’s commands and God’s law and still claim to have the hope of everlasting life? We trust that that is not the case with you.

May God bless you as you hear this broadcast this morning, and may it draw you to the marvelous love and grace of God, is our prayer.

Julius Hovan lives in Harrodsburg, KY and preaches for the Bohon Church of Christ

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I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

John 16:33