We’ve all heard those old jokes that begin “I have some good news for you and some bad news, which do you want to hear first?” So I have a question for you:
Which should come first: good news or bad news? Let’s see if we can figure that out.
So what is the bad news? The Bible tells us we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).
The only reason the Gospel is GOOD NEWS is because there is first BAD NEWS. That’s the basis of every 12 step program: first you have to admit you have a problem.
A person has to understand the bad news before the good news has much meaning for him. We are all sinners, and fall short of the glory of God, and we deserve death for our sins.
The bad news has two parts. First, without Jesus, we are condemned to eternal separation from God, our Creator. We all love to quote John 3:16; it is the
most widely memorized verse in Scripture. But we easily overlook the bad news just 2 verses later:
“He that believeth on him is not condemned:
but he that believeth not is condemned already,
because he hath not believed in the name of
the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18)
The bad news is, without Christ we are all under God’s condemnation for our sin. But wait, there’s still more bad news. There is no way we can ever be “good enough” to get into heaven. There is absolutely no way we could ever be good enough
to earn God’s grace and eternal life with Him. We cannot work our way into heaven, no matter how hard we try or how many good works we do. (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:5) That’s the rest of the bad news.
Most people tend to think they are pretty good people, not really big sinners, or that their good works outweigh the bad and will allow them into heaven. If you ask people:
“What would you answer if God asked you “Why should I let you into heaven?”, most people invariably reply pretty much the same thing: “Well, I’m a pretty good person.
I try to help people and not hurt them; I haven’t committed any major crimes or done anything REALLY bad”. The fact is, most of us tend to think fairly well of ourselves most of the time.
Why is that – why do we tend to think so highly of ourselves? Because we tend to compare ourselves to others, instead of to the perfection of Jesus Christ. Measuring our level
of sinfulness against another sinner does not help us see our own sin clearly, as God sees it. And who picks the others by which we measure ourselves? Why, we do, of course!
Measuring ourselves by another person is almost invariably an act of pride. Jesus has to be the only yardstick by which we measure ourselves, in order for us to see our own sin and our desperate need for a Savior.
So what is the good news? The good news comes in two parts also. The first is that God loves us and is not willing for any to perish. (see 2 Peter 3:9) God WANTS us
restored to a relationship with Him. That’s the first part of the good news. The second part is that our loving God knew there was no way we could ever pay for our own sins,
so He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sin. His substitutionary death on the cross satisfied God’s wrath against sin, and made a way for us to be
made righteous and be reconciled to God.
The apostle Paul knew these truths, and preached a simple gospel message of only three parts.
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you,
which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved,
if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died
for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose
again the third day according to the scriptures.” (I Corinthians 15:1-4)
The good news consists of three very simple facts. 1) Christ died for our sins; 2) He was buried; and 3) He rose again on the third day. The world has come up with a lot of
foolish arguments again this very simple gospel: That Jesus wasn’t really dead, for instance, maybe He just fainted. This is a silly argument, however: The Roman soldiers
were usually cruel, barbaric men, they knew death when they saw it. Someone merely passing out or fainting would not have fooled them.
But His death by itself is meaningless, without His resurrection. Paul went on to write, in verse 19:
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
But now is Christ risen from the dead,
and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
What good would it do for God to forgive our sins and save us, if death was the end, and there was nothing else? But death is NOT the end: Christ was the first
to rise to life everlasting in heaven with God the Father, and through faith in Him, we know we shall rise to life everlasting as well. We know we have escaped death and hell, and can look forward to heaven.
That Jesus rose again was verified by several hundred people, by the way. He was seen by them at various times and in various places. His disciples knew Him well,
they had walked with Him, eaten with Him, lived with Him for three years; they knew it was their beloved Teacher, not some imposter.
So now we know both the bad news and the good news. Since God sent His son to pay for our sin, and Jesus bore our sin on the cross, how are we supposed to respond, in order to be
saved? Repentance for our sin and putting our faith and trust in Jesus is all God requires of us. Repentance is not merely being sorry that we sinned, but is turning away from sin to follow
Christ. Faith is believing that Christ’s death paid for our sin completely, and made us righteous in God’s eyes. Trust is believing that we will receive all the promises of God’s word .
Acts 4:12 tells us:
Regardless of what Oprah and others would have us believe, there is one way, and only one way to get to God.
Oprah has said that having only one way to God and heaven is exclusive and elitist, and leaves too may people out. The gospel is NOT exclusive, however: it is for ALL people.
When the Savior was born, the angel made that quite clear when he said,
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other
name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
The Bible also tells us in II Peter 3:9 that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance and be saved. Not merely one race or one nation,
but ALL, so it is in no way exclusive. That is just another silly argument.
Why is Jesus alone the only way to get to God, and to get to heaven? The Bible gives us at least seven reasons:
- Only Jesus alone conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35)
- Only Christ is God in the flesh. (Matt. 1:23; John 14:9)
- Only Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life on this earth. (II Cor. 5:21; Heb.4:15)
- Only Jesus died to pay for mankind’s sin. (Heb. 9:28; John 1:29)
- Only Jesus was resurrected, triumphant over sin and death. (Matt. 28:6; I Peter 3:22)
- Only Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, (Heb. 10:12; 12:2)
- Only Jesus will one day return to gather His followers to Him, to dwell with Him forever in glory. (I Thes. 4:16-17; John 14:2-3)
Many people say “Well, we all worship the same God”. That simply is not true. The Lord Jehovah is the only God who actively seeks a personal relationship
with His children; the only one who made a way for us to be right with Him, through His Son Jesus. He is the only one who promises eternal life if we believe. He is the one and only God.
Others say something like, “Oh, I’m not really very religious, but I’m a very spiritual person” What that usually means is that they want to do things their way rather than
God’s way- they want a feel good experience, not anything that convicts them of their sinfulness. People just don't want to hear about sin, especially their own sin!
Or maybe they say they DO believe - but merely believing in God, or believing Jesus existed, is not enough, without accepting His atoning death for one’s own sin.
The Bible teaches us that even demons, Satan’s own minions, believe, and tremble with that knowledge. Any religion,
church, or spiritual teaching that denies that Jesus is the ONLY way is teaching a false doctrine.
The battle cry of the Reformation movement was “Sola Fida”, or “Faith Alone”. The message of the gospel is clear; it is revealed from the beginning of the Bible to the
very end; we are saved by faith alone, only through Jesus Christ. Without Him, we are already condemned to eternal damnation and suffering.
Some religions have added so many man- made rules, making salvation by works, rather than by grace. Others have completely left out the bad news: the wretchedness of man’s
sin and the truth of hell and eternal separation from God. Some preach a “health & prosperity gospel”, claiming God wants us all to have material riches here on earth, as well as spiritual riches. If
we read very much Scripture at all we know that isn’t true: If God wanted His children to have material riches, wouldn’t His Son have been wealthy? Wouldn’t the apostles
have been rich, instead of being common laborers? Those “name it & claim it” preachers only pick certain verses, or even portions of those verses, without taking them in
context. Anyone can take a single verse and use it to make their point, but we must always take Scripture in context, to do anything else twists the meaning, and results in false doctrine.
Still others - perhaps the most prevalent and the most dangerous – have twisted the gospel into an all-inclusive, feel good message, saying basically
“I’m OK, you’re OK, and we’re all going to heaven no matter what because God loves us and would never send us to hell”. This is idolatry; they have created in
their minds a false God, one that they can be comfortable with, who requires nothing of them, yet rewards them anyway.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their
own lusts shall they draw to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they
shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto myths.
(II Tim. 4:3-4)
Do not let yourself be deceived by these false teachings! They are nothing more than myths, not sound doctrine! The Bible warns us repeatedly not be be deceived.
Those who follow false doctrines will one day realize their error, to the detriment of their eternal souls. Jesus said:
Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;
but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that
day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast
out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess
unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity. (Matt. 7: 21-23)
The bad news is, we are all sinners, and are all condemned without Jesus Christ. The good news is, He's patiently waiting for us to turn to Him, to receive the
free gift of eternal life He offers. If you've never done so before, won't you please accept Him now as your Savior, and the Lord of your life? It isn't difficult: just sincerely pray, repenting of your sins and asking Him to
forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Accept His sacrificial death as atonement for your sins. Then believe the good news: that He paid for all your sins, and gave you the gift of eternal life!
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth
is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)