The phrase “good news/bad news” is familiar to all of us. Often the phrase precedes a joke. For example: A Church leader comes to see the Pastor in the hospital and says, “I’ve got good news and bad news. The church board voted for the Pastor to recover from his illness. The Bad News: the vote was 5-4.”
Sometimes we use the phrase “good news and bad news” to bring perspective to a serious or difficult situation. For example, the Doctor tells you that he has good news and bad news about your cancer. The bad news is that the cancer is not gone. The good news is the treatments appear to be working. When we see the good news and the bad news we can then see things in their proper perspective.
This is what I want to do with you this morning. I want to show you the good news and the bad news about Easter. What I want to contrast is the Bad News of Good Friday with the Good News of Easter Sunday. My hope is that these often proclaimed truths will be seen in a fresh light . . . a light that will bring life to your soul and hope to your heart.
THE GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT TRIALS IN LIFE
The Bad News is: things often happen that we don’t expect. On Friday the world of the disciples came crashing to the ground. They had looked for a conquering Messiah. They had deeply invested three years of their life and all of their emotions in this Jesus who healed the sick, raised the dead, and was able to transform the lives of those around Him. They saw in Christ one who reflected a closeness with God that they never dreamt was possible. Now he was dead.
It would have been better if he had been assassinated. Then He would have been seen as a martyr. There would have been some honor in that. But Jesus was killed as a criminal. He was beaten, ridiculed and treated as refuse. There was no honor in being his follower. Only embarrassment. No, things do not always go as planned.
But Easter proclaimed the good news: Things are not always what they seem. What seemed to be tragedy turned out to be blessing. What seemed the greatest triumph of evil was really the defeat of evil. What seemed like the very moment that destroyed their lives, was the very moment that made the transformation of their lives possible. Easter shows us that good comes from bad. It shows us that when God seems most silent He is often doing the greatest work.
I wish it was always easy to see what God was doing. I wish we could understand why some people die when, and the way they do. I wish we could see what God was doing in the turmoil that sometimes comes into our lives. But we don’t always see . . . . at least not yet.
- we wonder how God could be working in the death of a child, but we can’t see how that pain of grief is going to deepen us . . . and we certainly don’t see the child’s perspective on being granted Heaven.
- we wonder how God could be working in our illness. But we often don’t see how He is stripping away our false Gods and giving us a new passion for the things that really matter in life.
- we wonder how the financial pressures in life can be anything but painful. But we don’t see how God is teaching us about contentment, true treasure, and dependence on Him and not on what we have.
- we wonder why everything we touch seems to fall apart but we don’t see God patiently using our trials to try to turn us toward Him.
Easter reminds us that life does not always go the way we expect it to. But it also reminds us that things are not always what they seem to be.
THE GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT SIN
Good Friday show us the Bad News: Sin is More Costly Than We Think. If Jesus died for our sin, then God must take it more seriously than we often do. We are really good at shrugging off the wrong we do. We say things like,
- no one is perfect
- compared to what so-and-so did . . .
- it could be worse
But these statements show that we don’t understand how seriously God takes sin. There has been a great deal in the news about the upcoming execution of Timothy McVeigh, the mass murderer who bombed the office building in Oklahoma City. In all the reports about his upcoming execution there doesn’t seem to be that sense of outrage that often exists with a death penalty. This man is unrepentant. He doesn’t care if he dies and feels that he has acted honorably in his murderous acts. Even staunch opponents of the death penalty secretly seem to concede that this execution is just.
What we don’t seem to understand is that God sees our sin in the same way that we view of the acts of Timothy McVeigh. God sees our acts as wanton disregard for Him and the lives of those around us. God sees sin as an act of rebellion and treason. Our inability to grasp this only shows how hardened we really are. Think about it,
- we often speak His name without any measure of respect. We use it to pepper our conversation. We wouldn’t like it if someone used our name in this way . . . but we don’t seem to notice when God’s name is used this way.
- we treat His standards of holiness as arbitrary. We recklessly disregard His directions and in so doing imply that our wisdom is better than His. In essence we take Him from the throne and seek to place ourselves there.
- we give lip service to Him but show in our living that we think of Him as being like the monarchs of England. They look nice, and you really should have one, but they have no power.
The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) God takes sin seriously. We are in much deeper trouble than we realize.
But Easter shows us the good news. God’s grace is greater than our sin. The resurrection helps us understand the cross. Romans 4:25 says “He was delivered to death for our sins and raised to life for our justification.” The resurrection is God’s declaration that He has made Christ the penalty-bearer for our sin.
What does this actually mean? It means that Jesus took the sentence for our sin. It means that you and I have the opportunity to be forgiven. Imagine that you had a devastating form of cancer. Then imagine that it was possible to escape the consequences of the cancer by passing it on to someone else. Now imagine the unimaginable. Imagine someone stepping forth and willingly taking your disease and the sentence of death that comes with it. This is remotely like what Christ has done for you and me. He took the disease and the consequences of the disease. We are given new life.
We are oblivious to some of our sin, but very much aware of others. We all have things in our life we hope others never find out about. We all have experiences and decisions we wish we could take back. The are like a cancer than plagues our lives.
Perhaps you stole something, or violated the trust of your spouse. Maybe you tossed aside God’s standard of purity before you were married or deliberately cut someone to pieces with your words. Maybe you were abusive in a relationship or used someone in a shameful way. Maybe you manipulated a situation to get your way or told bold lies and distorted what really happened. I bet there are several things that eat away at you like cancer.
Easter proclaims that forgiveness is possible No matter what you have done, God is willing to forgive you and give you a fresh start. There will still be things we need to make right with others. There will still be earthly consequences from our actions. But the eternal record will be cleared. Our slate will be clean before the Almighty. This is incredibly good news.
Do you understand how freeing this is? Let me ask you something. What would your life be like if you dared to believe that God had really forgiven you?
- no looking over your shoulder
- no more being afraid anytime someone starts talking about the past
- no more concern that any bad thing that comes into life is God’s way of finally getting you for the past
- no more need to be timid in your relationship with God
- no more need to fear where you will spend eternity
This church is filled with people with scarred pasts. We are all sinners. We aren’t here promoting our goodness but His! We aren’t here because we think we are better than other people. We are here because we know we aren’t any better than those around us. If you knew the history of the person sitting next to you, you probably wouldn’t want to have anything to do with them! But if that person knew your history the same would be true. We are sinners who have been set free from our past by the grace of God that came through Christ’s death on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the grave.
THE GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT DEATH
Good Friday makes us face the fact we desperately want to avoid. Death will intrude on all our lives. There is no escaping it. You can exercise, you can eat right, you can have various surgeries, you can take bottles of vitamins and practice as much homeopathic medicine as you want, but you are still going to die.
But not only will you die. Others that you love will die. Death intrudes on our living and weighs us down. There is an emptiness that comes from standing at a gravesite that makes us shudder. It’s as if color has been taken from our life. Everything becomes bland because it all seems so futile.
The resurrection of Jesus boldly declares the good news that death is not the end of the story! It is not all vanity! It is not all for nothing! There is life beyond the grave!
The Bible has declared eternal life throughout the Bible. In Psalm 23 we read about “dwelling in the house of the Lord forever”. But with the resurrection of Jesus declares eternal life with a declaration point!
The resurrection of Christ is one of the best attested events in history. The evidence is bountiful. There are the facts of His death: the blood loss, the shock, the beating, the spear through his heart. There are the facts of the resurrection: the guards on duty, the empty tomb, the appearances to eyewitnesses. There is the remarkable transformation of the disciples. There is so much compelling evidence that you have to be obstinately determined not to believe in order to reject the historical nature of His resurrection. Jesus came back from the grave and speaks with unique authority about life after death.
Paul tells us in the familiar account in 1 Corinthians 15 that because of the resurrection death has lost it’s sting. The grave has lost it’s sense of victory. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! The pain of loss remains at a gravesite but the hopelessness now gives way to anticipation. Our focus moves to a future resurrection and reunion when we shall meet again. And our own death becomes no longer a time of despair and defeat but more a time of anticipation as the long journey of life finally reaches it’s final destination.
Can you remember some family vacation? You spent months planning. There there was the long drive. At times the journey was a burden. But when you arrived at your destination joy filled your heart. The kids who complained in the car now stand wide-eyed with a big smile at the gates of Disneyland. The family who grumbled during the hours of travel have their breath taken away by the beauty of Hawaii, or the mountains, or some other wonder. That’s what death is like for the believer. It is not end . . . it is just the end of the journey. The enjoyment is just beginning.
THE GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS ABOUT SALVATION
The Good News of Easter is that the door to eternal life has been kicked open. All who enter that door will live forever in Heaven. Jesus was quite clear, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me.” (Jn. 14:6). Paul was equally as clear when he wrote to Timothy saying, “For there is on God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave His life a ransom for all.”
No matter where you have been. No matter what you have done, His sacrifice can erase your sin. I know you don’t deserve it. Neither do I. Paul tells us if we will “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, we will be saved.”
But that brings us to the Bad News that Not Everyone Will Go to Heaven. On Good Friday Jesus was surrounded by two thieves. One reached out to Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when you come to your Kingdom”. Jesus looked at Him and said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” When that man died he was embraced by the arms of Jesus.
But the other thief only scoffed and taunted the Savior. His heart was hard and resistant. He was stubborn, independent, and would never admit His own need for help. He was mad at the world and the Creator of the world. He would not believe. He refused to trust. When he died he was not greeted by the arms of Jesus but by the chains of Hell.
Not everyone will go to Heaven. Too often we speak as if we think only the most heinous will go to Hell. Someone dies and we immediately declare they are in Heaven . . . even though we have no idea where their faith was placed. This is to misunderstand what God has offered. The Bible is clear that those who put their confidence in Jesus will find that He is able to save them. Those who place their confidence in another will discover that the other cannot save them. What kinds of things do people put their confidence in?
- in their own goodness, or comparative goodness. The majority of people are confident that they have been good enough to “earn” Heaven. The Bible speaks clearly again, “all have fallen short of the glory of God.”
- Some place their confidence in the idea of reincarnation. If they don’t do it right in this life they will just come around again until they get it right.
- Some trust their feelings. They meditate, they chant, they seek out “spirit guides”, and now they feel at “one” with the world. They have psych themselves up with wishful thinking. They trust their efforts and their feelings.
- Some trust their belief that there is nothing after we die. They are counting on the fact that there are no eternal consequences to the way we live here on earth.
Easter presents us with a decision. We can receive the gift of salvation that God offers, or we can ignore it and pursue our own devices. The choice is ours. But we must understand that the consequences of our choice is ours as well. No one will be able to stand at the day of judgment and say that God has been unfair. He will give us each what we choose.
The best news of all is this: there is still time. You may have resisted Christ all your life. Perhaps you have pretended for all these years but have never really let go and trusted Him. Maybe you think it is too late. It’s not. Not yet. Today. At this moment you can find the forgiveness and life you have been looking for. Let me give you some simple steps.
- Admit that you have a problem. Be honest about your sin. Stop covering up the weaknesses and face them squarely.
- Believe that Christ died for you. Take God at His word. Believe the evidence of History. Believe that Jesus was God become man, that He died in your place, and that He actually rose from the dead.
- Confess Christ as Savior and Lord. In other words, ask God for the forgiveness that comes through Christ. It is not enough to believe that the facts are true. You must be willing to rest your hope on these facts.
- Devote yourself to Him. Having faith in Christ is not like a drive through at a fast food restaurant. You don’t just stop at the window, make your profession and then drive off. The relationship God seeks is not superficial but everlasting. Making the decision to trust Christ is not a momentary decision but a lifetime commitment.
- Enjoy Him. Live the rest of your life exploring the greatness of God. Spend the rest of your life discovering what life was meant to be. Let Him transform you. Let Him help you discover the richness in the people around you . Let Him use you to do things you never thought you could do. Salvation is not just about eternity. It is about now. It’s about life today.
May I ask you a direct question? Where is your heart in relation to Christ? Are you still running? Are you still making excuses? Are you still trying to avoid the issue? Are you still trying to convince yourself that you can make yourself “good enough”? Or are you ready to believe? If so, why not do that right now. In the quiet of this place and in the depth of your own heart, say “yes” to Jesus.
Father, help those who have not made that decision to see the truth. Help them to see the bad news clearly and then to wrap themselves in the good news of the gospel. Help them to admit, believe, confess, devote and enjoy. And then Father, help them to know in the depth of their heart that it is real, it is true, it is the best news of all.
And for the rest of us. Lord, help us to remember where we’ve come from so that we might always live with gratitude. And help us to remember who we follow that we might live faithfully. And help us to remember where we are headed that we might live every day with hope and with joy. Amen.