When I was a kid, fire-and-brimstone preaching was common. Supposedly, the great motivation for wanting to go to Heaven should be to avoid Hell.
All that was bad could be found in Hell, where the devil and his demons lived. For some reason, none of the heaters could be turned off. Flames rose from between the rocks, making the air stifling hot. Everywhere, people cried out in pain. Obviously, I didn’t want to go there.
The preacher said if I didn’t repent of my sins, I was going straight to Hell, non-stop. If I wanted to go to Heaven, then I needed to “give my heart to the Lord,” whatever that meant.
I knew all about confessions, about saying I was sorry. I’d done that several times, when I cried just before Daddy was about to blister my bottom. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I won’t do it again. I promise.” I meant every word, because I didn’t want to feel the heat. But somehow Daddy knew my heart hadn’t changed. He didn’t accept my confession.
Since God knows my heart, I can’t escape through anything other than a true confession of my weaknesses, and then I can rely on his strength and experience a change of heart.
And that’s why I will never again hit my sister. I promise.
If we confess our wrongdoing, he is sure to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:9

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