by Tony Miano
We celebrated Mahria’s birthday last weekend by spending the day at Disneyland. The park was packed with tens of thousands of people from all over the world. To commemorate the special day, I gave away millions of dollars to park patrons. Don’t worry. I didn’t embezzle ministry funds. I gave away million dollar bill gospel tracts.
Toward the end of a long but enjoyable day, we found ourselves in the Fantasyland area of the theme park. And I have a confession to make. I have lived in Southern California since my family moved to the area in 1974. Since that time, I have never lived more than an hour from Disneyland. I have visited the theme park many times over the years. However, prior to this last weekend, I had never ridden “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”
Having started my day early by preaching at a men’s breakfast, by the time we reached Fantasyland I was pretty tired and a bit punchy. Being a family of five, I found myself the odd man (and the only man) out when we took out seats on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.” Each car is designed for only two passengers. As the ride started, it took a few seconds before I realized that the steering wheel in my car was only a prop and not functional. I quickly looked around to make sure that no one saw me trying to steer the car. Did I mention that I was punchy?
Understanding that the ride was designed for children (and not for a 42-year-old evangelist street cop), I sat in the car, eyes fixed forward, wondering if I would have time for a quick nap. As my eyes began to glaze over, my car zipped by a whistle blowing British Bobbie whose hand was extended as if he were ordering me to stop. “Great.” I thought. “Not only am I on a kiddy ride, but the ride simulates breaking the law.” But as my car continued to twist and turn through the streets of London, wreaking havoc along the way, my mind shifted from being a disinterested participant to asking myself if there might be a biblical parallel in this silly old ride.
Before long, I found myself standing before a judge who pronounced me guilty of breaking the law. As I tried to escape the courtroom, I ended up on a railroad track with the roar of a train and a very bright light heading directly toward me. After the crash, I was transported to hell—complete with demonic looking rats, a Satan figure, and a significant increase in room temperature. It took me by surprise. I was at Disneyland—a park and a company (The Disney Corp.) known for emphasizing (or at least glamorizing) humanism, mysticism, and the occult in its films and projects. I wasn’t expecting to be exposed to the biblical imagery of hell on a ride, at the “happiest place on earth.”
Just as quickly as I entered hell, I found myself at the end of the ride and walking out into the cool night air. Mahria asked me what I thought of the ride. Before she finished asking the question I was excitedly sharing with her the parallels between the ride and God’s Law and judgment. She smiled with one of her that’s my husband smiles.
Every living person is a lawbreaker. Every person has sinned and has fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Like my out-of-control car on “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit no one can stop sinning. Every person has been born with a sin nature and, by nature, chooses to sin against God.
Every lawbreaker will one-day find himself or herself standing before the righteous and holy Judge—the one, true God. The Judge will render His verdict quickly. The verdict will be “guilty.” And the sentence will be “death”—eternity in the torment of hell.
Some people think they can escape the righteous judgment of God, much like the scene in “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” in which the rider flees the courtroom. But there will be no escape from the wrath of God. The convicted sinner will not able to escape, just as the rider cannot escape the oncoming train.
Once God’s judgment is made, the verdict is rendered, and the sentence is imposed, the convicted sinner will find himself or herself in hell, for all eternity. Unlike the person who climbs out of the car at the end of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” there will be no relief from the flames, the pain, the torment, and the misery ascribed to hell’s prisoners.
A sinner’s only hope of escape is to repent (forsake, turn away from sin) and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. Jesus, God in the flesh, paid the full penalty for the sins of those who, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He died a horrific death on the cross, shedding His own blood, and suffered the death sentence that every human being deserves. We broke God’s Law and Jesus Christ took our death sentence upon Himself.
And Jesus is alive today, seated at the right hand of God the Father. He rose from the dead three days after His murder. He defeated death and He is the only way to eternal life. If you are reading this and you know Him as Lord and Savior, with whom will you share the Law and the gospel today? If you are reading this and you do not know Christ, you must be born again (John 3:3). Please repent of your sin and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, while you still have time.