In a special message on Sunday, a former mob boss-turned-Christian speaker and author encouraged members at Pastor Greg Laurie's California-based church, Harvest Christian Fellowship, to develop "a healthy fear of Hell."
"When I was in prison, I spent 29 months and seven days in solitary confinement [in a] six-by-eight cell, 24/7. Me and God. … That's not easy. We weren't meant to be solo creatures. We were meant to be social. [When] those lights [went] out at night, a lot of guys did not do well; a lot of moaning and groaning," Michael Franzese, a former second-generation member of the Colombo Italian-American Mafia crime family in New York, said in a message titled "How To Be A Man's Man in 2022."
"I dove into my Bible. I prayed every day. It was my closest time with the Lord because I had no choice. That was it. … And thank God, I turned to Him and nowhere else. … But you know what happened in that hole? I developed a healthy fear of Hell," he noted.
As reported by The Christian Post, Franzese is the son of former mob underboss Sonny Franzese and once received the rank of caporegime, allowing him to oversee a "crew of soldiers" during his time in the mafia.
Franzese, who was arrested 18 times for various criminal activities, spent eight years in prison before being released in 1994. While he was in prison, however, a guard gave him a Bible, introducing him to the Gospel.
During his message on Sunday, Franzese encouraged the congregation to imagine what Hell is like.
"I want you to stop for a minute and think of the worst thing that you've ever encountered in your life and realize that that worst thing will never go away. … This is your constant thorn in your side forever. And now put yourself in Hell, which is a million times worse and will never end. That's Hell," he contended.
"[The] Bible is very descriptive. I'm not bringing you bad news. I'm just telling you the truth. The good news is we don't have to go there," he continued. "There is a Heaven, and there is a Hell."
Franzese went on to explain that it is good to have a healthy fear of anything as it will prevent people from doing harmful things. Citing examples from his personal life, Franzese shared how his brother struggled with drug addiction for 25 years, and his sister died from a drug overdose at 27.
After seeing what his siblings went through, Franzese developed a "healthy fear of drugs."
"My father drummed into my head from the time I was a kid that drugs were bad," he shared.
"I've seen so many people die because of drugs. I'm afraid of drugs. I don't mind saying it. I never even smoked a joint because I'm afraid I'll like it. I don't want to be addicted, so I stay away from it. It's good to have a healthy fear of things that are no good for you," he continued. "That's manly. That's a man's man that can resist that kind of stuff."
Toward the end of his message, the former mob boss encouraged those in attendance to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ before it's too late.
"We are living in crazy times. We don't know from one minute to the next what's going to happen in this life. We really don't. And I'm telling you, I've seen people that I love with me one day, gone the next. Shocking. We don't know. We're not guaranteed anything. And what are you waiting for? Why would you want to test it?" Franzese asked.
"Why would you even want to think that maybe I'm not ready to go to Heaven? … Why? I told you what the benefit is of emulating Jesus Christ. It's a win-win situation. … You can't lose. …
The only way you lose is if you don't confess your sins and accept Jesus as your Savior. But in every other way, you win," he asserted.
Photo courtesy: ©Unsplash/benwhitephotography
Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer. He is also the co-hosts of the For Your Soul podcast, which seeks to equip the church with biblical truth and sound doctrine. Visit his blog Blessed Are The Forgiven.