April 21, 2019
It’s Not Good News; It’s the Best News Ever
Pastor Bryan Watson
Good morning. Let’s open with a word of prayer.
Heavenly Father, we give You thanks and praise this morning as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Your Precious Son, Jesus Christ. As I deliver this message to Your people today, May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen.
On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence. One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts.
“One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me,” said one boy. Several nuts dropped and rolled down toward the fence.
Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me…”
He knew just what it was. He jumped on his bike and rode off, peddling as hard as he could.
Just around the bend, he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.
“Come quick!” shouted the boy, out of breath. “You won’t believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls!”
“Beat it kid,” said the man. “Can’t you see it’s hard for me to walk?” But the boy insisted, so the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery with the boy.
Standing by the fence, they heard, “One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.”
The old man whispered, “Boy, you’ve been tellin’ me the truth! Let’s see if we can see them.”
Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet they still couldn’t see anything. They gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord. At last they heard, “One for you, one for me. That’s all of them. Now, let’s go get those nuts by the fence and we’ll be done.”
They say the old man had the lead for a good half-mile before the kid on the bike passed him!
Thank God that isn’t the way it really works. Could you imagine if that was the extent of our hope?
But even though he’s not there saying, “One for you, one for me,” what the devil is really trying to say is, “One for me. One for me. One for me. ALL for me.” He is the master prosecutor who stands before God and accuses us day and night. Revelation 12:10 refers to him as “the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night”.
And do you know what? By the law, he’s right. Prior to Christ’s death on the cross on Friday, just how lost were we?
Well, let’s see what Paul says in Romans 3:10-18.
Paul begins with the phrase As it is written: So this isn’t anything new that Paul is coming up with. He is going off of the Holy Scriptures. Paul actually gives 14 indictments against humanity in this passage. Are you ready?
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb; Folks, when we open our mouths, it is the rotten stench of death that comes out. Listerine can’t fix our spiritual bad breath problem.
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.” Are you seeing a theme here? Do the things that we say get us into trouble much?
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Without the grace of God, We. Are. Doomed. You see, we don’t get to set the standard here. This isn’t a comparison against others. It doesn’t matter that you’re better than me or that I’m better than you. We aren’t just trying to save ourselves from the bear by outrunning the slowest person. If we don’t measure up to the standard of God’s perfection, WE AIN’T GETTIN’ IN, and we have even LESS hope than the two nuts by the cemetery fence. At least they had a 50/50 chance!
But thanks be to God, Friday came. TGIF took on a WHOLE new meaning on Friday when Jesus Christ, the only perfect man who ever lived, fully human and fully God, took our sins upon Himself and died on that cross. And He paid our debt.
So why isn’t that the end of the story? Why doesn’t the story read, “And Christ died on the cross as the penalty for sin, and He was buried, and everybody lived happily ever after?” Why not? Our debt was paid, wasn’t it?
If Christ’s body had remained in that tomb and rotted away, death would STILL reign. He had to die to pay the penalty, but He had to rise to bring LIFE! Friday had to happen in order to bring us to Sunday, but it is SUNDAY that makes us ALIVE IN CHRIST! When I walk into a store and pay for something, I’ve given them money and they’ve promised to give me a product in return. But it isn’t until I take possession of the product that the transaction is completed. Christ paid the price for us on Friday, but on Sunday, He took possession of the goods, the freedom of all those who put their trust in Him.
And He did it in a big way!
Folks, His body was dead. DEAD. There are those who claim that the whole thing was a hoax, that Jesus never died. That He had just passed out or faked His death. Those Roman soldiers were trained, professional executioners. They knew death. Jesus Christ was DEAD and anybody who says he was not is simply in denial of the truth.
He was in a tomb. A giant stone was rolled in front of the opening of that tomb. That stone was sealed with an official Roman seal. You don’t break that seal unless you have your own death wish. And that tomb was guarded by professional soldiers who faced execution if their mission failed. And their mission? Don’t let the disciples steal the body.
As if the disciples would steal the body. At this point, most of them were cowards. They deserted Christ like He was toxic. They tried to get Him to stop talking about His death because they didn’t believe Him when He said He would rise again. They watched their leader die, and they took off! As if they’re going to fight a couple of Roman soldiers, break a Roman seal, roll away a giant stone, and steal a body. I don’t think so.
John MacArthur puts it this way. What fool would go to all that effort to steal a body and then die later as a martyr for a HOAX? I know I wouldn’t. If I was willing to die for something, it has be something worth dying for!
The fact is, Christ’s body was in that tomb on Friday, and by Sunday morning, it was GONE! And that, dear brothers and sisters, is a MIRACLE.
And now, here comes the point. The answer to the question: so what?
Well, I’ve got an answer. Let’s start with our scripture passage for this message: Romans 8:34. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
Well, we already know who it is who condemns, right? Who did we say was the master prosecutor? Satan. And he’s not going to make any accusation unless he thought he could make it stick. But do you know what? It’s Sunday!!! Jesus Christ is risen, and is right now at the right hand of God making intercession for us, and when the devil stands up in court and says we are guilty of lust, or we are guilty of greed, or we are guilty of gluttony or gossip or ANYTHING else; if we have confessed our sin and repented, then Jesus is going to intercede and say IT IS PAID. And when the devil replies, “Oh yeah? Well who paid it, because this guy doesn’t have the means?” <walk over to the cross> Jesus will stretch out His arms and say, “I PAID IT. ALL OF IT”.
And because of His action on the Cross on Friday, and His Resurrection and subsequent intercession on Sunday, we have a whole new hope!
He is risen! Not just for those whose circumstances allow for them to be overjoyed on this beautiful morning, but also for those who are suffering or will suffer heartbreak even today. Christ’s Resurrection doesn’t mean that life will be all sunshine and rainbows if we just believe in Him. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Unless He comes back first, we are all going to die. Except for a couple of exceptions in the Bible, every single thing that ever lived since the dawn of creation has died. The wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon, said in Ecclesiastes 3:2, there is… A time to be born, And a time to die; That’s just the way it is in a fallen world. The Resurrection doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to go through heartbreak. If your heart beats, you will have heartbreak and heartache.
But the Resurrection means that heartbreak and heartache are NOT the final answer. We’re going to go through the valley of the shadow of death. But for those who place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Good Shepherd, His rod and His staff will comfort us. We will emerge on the other side of the valley because HE emerged on the other side of the valley and became THE WAY in which we should go. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” He is going to be there to lead us home to the Father if we will follow Him.
And the heartbreak that you feel now will be NOTHING compared to the JOY that you will experience in the life yet to come. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
We’re going to hurt. Bad. And we are going to feel at times like God has forsaken us. But He hasn’t. He dealt with our heartbreak by making a final destination that is so great, so wonderful, that when we use our tiny little fallen minds to fantasize about how great it’s going to be, with peace, and departed loved ones, and feasting, and celebrating, that doesn’t even come CLOSE to what He has planned for us. We don’t have a CLUE. I mean, I know what I think I want Heaven to be like, and Paul tells me that I don’t even have a sniff. No idea whatsoever.
But in the here and now, when I go to a funeral, and I hear the words from 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your sting?”, well right at that moment, I know where the sting is. I can FEEL it, and there’s no point pretending I can’t. Because in this fallen and broken world, it STINGS! And when I walk through a cemetery, I SEE the sting on stone after stone after stone. It wasn’t originally supposed to be this way. But there is something else I know. For each and every person in the cemetery, they got there a lot faster than they thought they would. And that gives me hope. Not because I am looking forward to the grave... no, I’m going to live life for all it’s worth for as long as I’m breathing. But it gives me hope because it reminds me that this broken world is temporary, and before I know it, I will be with my Savior FOREVER in a place so great I can’t even imagine it, and that is why as Christians we can say “O death, where is your sting?” because on Easter Sunday morning, DEATH LOST for EVERYBODY who puts their faith in Jesus. DEATH DIED that day.
THAT’S the glory of the Resurrection.
When I was diagnosed with cancer, I had to face some tough questions for myself that took me past the standard textbook answers to the questions of life. A Christian friend came alongside and with the best intentions said, “I hope you’re not mad at God for giving you cancer.” Do you know what? God didn’t give me cancer. I got cancer because we live in a broken, fallen creation. Romans 8:21 and 22 tells us that creation is currently under the bondage of corruption, and that it groans with birth pangs right now. That’s why bad things happen. Because this world is broken. It’s in bondage to corruption. It groans. But when I had cancer, I held onto the hope that because of Jesus Christ’s victory over death by His Resurrection, I would one day be resurrected as well! His death paid for my sins! And His Resurrection gave me victory over death. And His intercession tells the devil to TAKE A HIKE! Hit the road, Jack! And this fallen world may challenge that, and may test that, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
The Bible says in John 14:19 - “Because I live, you will live also.”
During my fight with cancer, I held onto the words of a song by Chris Tomlin. Let me read them.
There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead
And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
I will rise
In closing, I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. The Son of God dying on a Cross and coming back to life again is more than enough to pay the price for you. He’s paid the debt for your salvation, but it’s up to you what you do with it. You’re the one who has to accept it. Or not.
But if you want to make that decision today to accept what He has done for you, and have your place at the table reserved for you, then I want to invite you to come and talk to me after the service today, or talk to Pastor Dennis, sitting right here. We would love to pray with you and talk to you about what it means to accept this gift from God.
You see, it’s not just Good News. It’s the Best News Ever! Now what are you going to do with it?
Amen, let’s pray.
Lord of Glory, how can we possibly thank You for the Resurrection? The promise that You have made to us cuts through all of the pain and suffering that we go through in this life. You reached out to us and made the way because there was nothing we could do to save ourselves. Our feeble thanks and praise are the best we have, and we offer them to you this morning. Thanks be to God, He is Risen. He is risen indeed! Amen.