Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27
So my son Nick and I started watching one of my childhood TV shows Little House on the Prairie. Michael Landon's character of Pa was such a great Dad in the show that it had me curious about his life. I wanted to know if he was saved. I was heartbroken to find this quote from him shortly before he died from cancer.
"All along, & especially recently, my beliefs have deeply disturbed some of my children, who have been terribly afraid that I will not have a place in God's house because I do not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. ... I have my own way. *
This answered my question definitively. Despite all his "good" works or inspirational characters or shows, (ironically including a show called Highway to Heaven), in the end he rejected Jesus Christ and at this very moment is in hell suffering anguish and torment. My imagination runs away from me as I think of that moment that he entered hell and the shock and disillusionment of what he thought he would experience based on his beliefs and the reality of hell that set in. To see him crying out with anguish wishing he could tell his kids how wrong he was, so that they wouldn’t follow in his footsteps and not being allowed to, just like the parable of the rich man begging Father Abraham to tell his brothers. He's been dead for 25 years now and all that time been in torment and will be for all of eternity. It's very hard for my mind to truly grasp the enormity of the reality of hell.
I know hell is real, Gods word says it over and over, with Jesus Himself speaking of it. "And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matt 25:46
I myself even came to salvation because I was afraid to be cast into hell and suffer forever because of my sins. Hell is a painful subject and I think we avoid pondering it because it does hurt and break our hearts. Because we can each picture individual faces of people we know that we have lost that are there right now suffering. Sometimes the pain of helplessness and sorrow can become too much to bear, so as a form of protection for our hearts, we downplay or push back the reality of hell to the background. The enemy also is instrumental in hiding the reality of hell so that our witness for Jesus Christ is stunted and ineffective.
But we cannot truly be a witness with passion if we don't believe to the very fiber of our being that the people we speak with every day are in desperate need of a Savior from an eternity of torment. There is no good news of a Savior, without the terrifying news of impending judgment and punishment. Those are heavy words to share with someone and fear can definitely hinder our courage.
So how can we possibly overcome this crushing burden of the reality of hell knowing there are people there? It was in my reading of Acts what Paul said near the end of his life, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27
Innocent of the blood of all men? Yes, in Ezekiel, God says.
“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. Ezekiel 33:7-9
Another time, Paul was rejected by the Jews after trying to reach them with the gospel, “But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, “Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Acts 18:6
We cannot, nor are we responsible to save others, but God has given us the power and the command to share the truth and the gospel. This is the way God allows us to see Him save souls – to warn people and give them truth, just like in the book of Ezekiel. We get the opportunity to passionately cover them in prayer and speak truth for as long as they will receive it. And when we do encounter those who still choose to reject Christ and enter hell, God releases us from this overwhelming burden by saying we shall be innocent of their blood.
It’s a dire warning and an extreme encouragement at the same time. We must each ask if I am currently innocent of another's blood? Can I say the same as Paul in this moment that I have not failed to speak? That can be a painful question, because people’s faces may come into our mind at that moment, some come into my mind. And instead of pushing those thoughts out of my mind, what if instead, I allow the Lord to break me with the sorrow, so that He can produce prayers and boldness like never before?
Satan only wants to cripple me with regrets, so he hides the reality of hell until someone eventually dies and then will try to bring crushing guilt upon us to keep us silent. But the blood of Christ can cleanse us from all unrighteousness, so that we are empowered and impassioned to speak of the reality of hell and the blessing of our Savior. Though this is a dire warning, it's an encouragement especially if you struggle like me with not seeing people get saved when you share your faith. I'm free of the burden of getting results! I simply need to preach to those God tells me to speak. I pray that the people the Lord has brought to your mind today, will be the catalyst for a bold action of obedience to share truth of God’s word with someone, whether it’s a phone call, a letter, or a meeting and to keep it in the forefront when new people are brought in your path. And to remember not to use our words but His as He commands, “therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.” There is peace to our souls and at times God will give us the blessing of seeing those who do turn in salvation to the Lord by our obedience to speak.
* Reference - http://media.xfamily.org/docs/fam/udb/ml-en/pub.ml.2701.html