“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
I’m not sure who said it originally, but most people have heard that admonition to take action on things we have only planned to do, to get ready for the final home we hope to have in Heaven. It is indeed a worthy thought because only actions will pull us from a world of sin and ready us for everlasting life where no sin can enter.
In the last 24 hours I’ve had an experience I would like to share, as it contrasts with the picture of how the road to hell is paved. After all, there is another road…
A friend asked me last night about a church in another city where she recently moved. A minister who once preached across the country as an evangelist, and whose preaching I greatly enjoyed, now pastors in that area. In answer to the request of my friend, I looked up the church’s website shared the link. The site had an option for listening to sermons, and after sending the link I clicked that to explore for myself. Listening required an app that I didn’t yet have, so I started the download process after settling into bed, and soon fell asleep.
As I tend to do, I woke up very early this morning and was lying in bed, thinking and praying, when I remembered the website and sermon. Clicking on it, I began to listen and enjoy. As it was not yet daylight, and I was lying cozily in a warm bed, I soon dozed back off with the sermon playing in my ear. At some point I began to dream.
I pictured, in the first scene, a room full of people in chairs, who seemed to be new converts to the Gospel, being instructed by their pastor in how to use the Word of God, through reading it for themselves and hearing it preached (the message was on the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…,” from Ephesians 6:17). I won’t share all the aspects of what I pictured, and I remind you that I am simply relating an experience and how it affected me.
The scene transitioned after a bit, and I was seeing a line of some sort stretched up through the sky toward Heaven. Its path wasn’t totally straight but had some highs and lows in it. Suspended beneath the line were what I would describe as individual cells or frames, one after another, side by side, up the course of the line. Inside each of the frames was a man, dressed in a way that most would associate with attending church.
I saw the same man, moving as it were from frame to frame. As I looked closer, I noticed each of the frames had words stamped on them, and as I focused more, I realized the words were titles. I became aware that the titles were titles of messages — sermons — that were being preached to the man, moving him along the line (road) toward Heaven.
In one of the frames, I saw the man picked up and shaken violently, as though by some circumstance he had encountered. After a moment he dropped back into his place, standing inside the frame. Hearing the message preached, he settled down again and recovered his composure.
The scene changed again, so that after having observed this occurrence from the side view, I found myself inside it. I remember crying out to God, “I want to make it to Heaven! Help me to make it all the way in!” I continued to move from frame to frame, and from message to message, along with the others.
Soon we saw a man falling from above (remember, we were suspended in the air), going down past us. We reached out to grab him and pull him in, for we knew somehow that he was falling toward hell. Though we tried repeatedly to grasp his hand, we were unable to hold him, for he did not grasp back as we reached. Sadly we had to watch him continue to fall.
I share this only because it so vividly depicts the fact that when God filled me with the Holy Ghost (in obedience to Acts 2:38) He placed me within a plan that will get me to Heaven if I continue in it. That plan is that God in His wisdom has provided the preached Word of God from the ministry — primarily my own pastor — to direct and sustain me all the way to the gates of Heaven, the place He has gone to prepare for those who love and obey Him. It is my choice whether or not to continue to avail myself of that plan.
October is Pastor Appreciation Month, and I must say, I am thankful for the gift of the ministry, in particular my own pastor, Pastor John Bowen, Jr. God has used this gift to help me avoid pitfalls, go through trials, and recover from losses, and I know this is the most precious thing God could have done for me. I can read God’s Word, and I can hear God impress things on my heart in prayer, but I will never be honest enough within myself to hear everything I need to hear to keep my feet from wandering out of the path of righteousness that leads to salvation. God set up His Kingdom to be maintained by a watchman on the wall (Ezekiel 3:17), who will hear from God and warn His people.
It is my desire to hear Jesus say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant…,” (Matthew 25:21). I must be honest with myself and know that if I have not been faithful, I will only hear, “Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity…,” (Luke 13:27). There is a literal Heaven, but there is also a literal hell, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” (Mark 9:44). My actions, both in becoming part of the church and in staying faithful to it, will determine my destination.
“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established,” (Proverbs 4:26).
Some reading this will be reminded to keep on the path they already have chosen, in obedience to the Gospel. Others may relate more to the man who was falling, and have to choose whether or not to grasp a hand that is extended to them.
I hope we all respond favorably, because the road to Heaven is paved with messages preached by those who have obeyed, and are anointed by God to preach, the original Apostles’ doctrine:
“37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. 40 And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” (Acts 2:37-40).