Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 20, 2014.
Today, we are celebrating the most important event in history, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that compares to the depth in our heart and the reach in the world of the eternal impact of this historical fact. Jesus' death and resurrection is the pinnacle of the display of God's glory, and perfectly and completely addresses our greatest need in this life. With that said, some of your hearts are hard to this reality. You are numb to God and you are numb to His Son.
Some of you who sit here today, could care less about what happened to a 33 year old teacher 2000 years ago on a small little hill outside of an old town dusty town 6000 miles away away from Cascade. Perhaps the only reason you are here today is because we have a breakfast, or perhaps Easter is your one and only time that you make an appearance in a Church, or perhaps you family drug you here. And to be honest, I don't care why you came, but I do care that you are here, in this moment, to hear the Gospel.
If what I just said describes you, then know this, I wrote this sermon for you. You are the one that was in my mind when I searched for just the right passage to preach from this Sunday. You are the one that I was praying for without knowing your name. You are the one that played the devil's advocate in my mind as I considered each word. It was you. I have been longing for this moment to preach to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and my purpose is to proclaim the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit and break your hard heart and cause you to see the beauty of the gift that is Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection!
So with that said, let us read our passage for today, pray that God would move powerfully in this moment and then let the power of the Gospel echo off these walls.
Today I am going to answer, God willing, two questions. First, what is the Gospel and second, why is it the most important thing.
First, lets start with the word “gospel.” The word gospel has taken on a lot of different meanings over the years: Gospel books, Gospel music, the gospel truth. What are we saying when we use this word? The word Gospel in the original Greek is euangelion. The word euangelion is best translated to good news.
What is important to remember is that the word euangelion was not first used in the context of the Bible. It was a word used in conversations by regular people prior to its use in the Bible. It was a word used in society that was adopted by Jesus, then the disciples and apostles, and then the Church and it is of course all over scripture. So this begs the question how was this word Gospel used in conversations prior to its adoption.
Euangelion was a familiar word in that day in age. It was a word that was commonly used in the context of war. It was used to announce a victory, or to announce the ushering in of a time of peace and security. For example, picture a war that has waged on for years and years. Every family, community, and person has been affected by brokenness, casualties, and death. This war is like a weight that presses down on you day after day. Now picture one morning you are awakened by the cry of a messenger running through the town and at the top of his lungs yelling “Euangelion! Euangelion! The war is over!” In that moment those sweet words would wash over you like a spring rain. Giving you hope, giving you new life, giving you joy. This is the the thrust of the word euangelion, and this was the word chosen by God to announce the coming of His Son. With that said, what is so good about the good news? To answer this question, we need to first understand the bad news, and to do that we must start at the beginning.
“In the beginning God created.” These are the first words written in the Bible. This statement tells us that God is the Creator of all things, but it doesn't tell us why. Why did God create the heavens, and the earth, and humanity. What was in the mind of God prior to him Speaking creation into existence?
If you have read the Bible from cover to cover, the answer is overwhelmingly clear. There is one theme that runs through every verse, chapter, and book of the Bible is that everything exists to glorify God. Everything. This is God’s purpose in creating, to display His glory.
So God makes everything for His Glory, for his name, for his honor, but here is the problem. We don’t do it. We don’t give him glory, we don’t honor him, we don’t appreciate him, we don’t thank Him, we don’t love Him. Instead, we reject Him. We ignore him. We manipulate him. We even use his name and his son’s name as a cuss word. Listen to Romans 1:19-23.
I am always surprised when people, especially parents, don’t personally feel the problem of ungratefulness towards God. This is one reason I think God designed families. Families, I believe, are a type, or a shadow, or a pointer to a greater reality. How many moms have spent hours in the kitchen cooking, just to have her children rush to the table and gobble down everything and run off to get back to their games without once saying “thank you.”
This is exactly what we do when we breath, eat, move, hear, see, speak without ever thanking God. There is not a thing on this planet that he is not ultimately responsible for. However, we all take it for granted. In our hearts, God might as well be dead to us. Another word for this rebellion is Sin.
Often we think of sin as a specific act. Such as telling a lie, or cheating on our spouse. But sin is really more than the act. It is a state of being. It is a condition. We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Do you see the difference? Think of a tree. It is not an apple tree because it grows apples. Instead, it grows apple because it an apple tree. Likewise, a thorn tree is not a thorn tree because it has thorns. It has thorns because it is a thorn tree. Do you get it?
This is humanities situation, this is the state of the world, its condition, its sickness. Everyone has been infected with the disease of sin. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There is that word glory again. Every person has inherited it, and the source goes all the way back to the first people ever to live, Adam and Eve. Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, and everything changed. From that point every single person that has ever existed on this planet is born with the spiritual DNA of sin. We are natural born sinners.
I see this in my job all the time as a prosecutor. When people are sinned against, they want their pound of flesh. When someone is found not guilty, and everyone knows they got away with it, something in our heart cries “No!”. Where does this universal desire for justice come from? It comes from God. We are created in his image. As his image bearers we have similar attributes. The existence of justice, morality, can only be attributed to a sovereign designer who has planted it in our hearts. This does not come from chaos. It is not something that evolves.
The scary part is that the punishment for our rebellion against God must match the crime. When we sin against an infinitely holy, sovereign, and gracious God, our punishment must also be infinitely harsh. This is justice 101. This is eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth stuff. This is what we demand in the public square. Think of it this way, if you spit in your bosses face, you will get fired. If you spit in a police officer’s face, you will get arrested. If you spit in a judges face, you will spend a month or more in jail. Now think about spitting into the face of the infinite God of the Universe. Should not the punishment match? Well, it does. This is what we call Hell. Hell is the name of the place that God carries out his eternal and just punishment for sinners. Jesus speaks of it more than anyone, and it is a shame that Hell is not spoken of more often, especially at Easter, for it is everyone’s guaranteed destiny, apart from the sovereign grace of God. Which brings us back to our text for today.
The reason that Jesus came to earth was to die on the cross. This was the entire point of the Son of God, taking on flesh. He came to die, and not to just die, but to die for sin, and not just to die for sin, but to die for your sin. You! Every single person in this room, Jesus died for you. He died for your rebellion, your rejection, your lying, your lusting, your gluttony, your slothfulness, your pride, and your hunger for money and power. His death had a purpose, a beautiful and wonderful purpose. Not only did his death have a purpose, but it was according to God’s plan. We are told that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. What does that mean? Turn with me to Isaiah 53. This passage in Isaiah was written 700 years before Jesus was born. Listen for Jesus in this text.
I am sorry, but it is hard for me to fathom that there are people who don’t believe in Jesus after seeing a text written 700 years before the death of Christ so on point with the historical reality of Jesus life and death. No one in academia legitimately debates that Jesus died on the cross. The question is never whether he died onteh cross, the question has always been “Why should we care?” Isaiah 53 is why. Listen to the connections:
Not only are we told that Jesus will come and die, but we are told why in Isaiah 53. To bear our griefs, our sorrows, our sins, to pay for our transgressions, to be crushed for our iniquities, he was chastised for our peace. The death of God in the person of Jesus Christ has brought us peace. Do you see it? Peace! Victory! Euangelion! Good news!
Humanity has waged war against God, and the only thing that makes sense is Hell. It is where every single one of us deserve to spend eternity. But thanks be to God that he is not only just, but he is also loving. Jesus absorbs the wrath we deserve.
Can you see why the Gospel is the most important thing in your life and everyone’s life? Can you see what I am so passionate about proclaiming this message? Everything pales in comparison to this. The bottom line is we have an eternity waiting for us. Everyone in this room will be in one of two places, In God’s presence or Hell. Because of what Jesus Christ did, everyone who places their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will be saved.