Jesus’ Good News

I want to give you the best news that any one ever gave me. It won’t sound like good news at first, but please stick with me to the end! Straight up, I want to introduce you to Jesus.

Before we get there though, I need to tell you about humanity and Jesus’ Father. For eternity before Jesus came down to earth, He lived in Heaven, in perfect unity with His Father and the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit confusing, but all three of them are God, and yet all three people are just one God. (If that seems weird to you, don’t worry; you’re in good company with every thoughtful believer). God is wonderful, beautiful, and perfect. Nothing could ever make Him any better than He is, and nothing will ever detract from His worth and radiance. We answer to him for everything we do. He created humanity, designed us, and as a result He owns us like a potter has rights to a vase he has created. Our lives are not ultimately ours; our morality is not debatable; we answer to God.  And God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible.

All right, here’s the tough bit to swallow. God demands that we be perfect, on pain of death. Jesus said, “You are to be perfect as your Heavenly father is perfect.” And God isn’t unspecific about what perfection is. There are whole books of the Old Testament that spell out his Law for Israel, and the New Testament makes pretty clear that now the law is even stricter. Where the law in the Old Testament said “don’t commit adultery,” Jesus makes sure that we realize that in God’s eyes just “lusting after a woman” is committing “adultery with her” in our hearts. God requires perfection; no lust, no coveting, no valuing of anything we have above Him, no lying. Nobody measures up; Isaiah, one of God’s servants described humans as “sheep, all of whom have gone astray” and “not one of them is righteous, not even one.” Paul, one of Jesus’ friends, reminds us that the punishment for not being perfect, for sin, is death. Whenever we screw up and offend God in all His beauty and holiness, essentially we rebel against what He designed. Rebellion against God is like the highest treason. Treason against an earthly government usually meets with capital punishment. How much more would we deserve to die for treason against the God of the universe?

You might think, “Well, if I do a lot of good stuff, that should cancel out the bad.” Unfortunately, justice doesn’t work that way. If a murderer gives millions of dollars to charity, is he any less a murderer, any less deserving of punishment? Good and evil do not cancel each other out even in human justice. God cannot be bribed with good behavior. Plus, human rebellion extends well beyond our outward behavior into our hearts. Our very hearts betray us! Scripture describes us as enslaved to sin unable to escape or even as dead in sin, needing resurrection from our sinful hearts to some sort of a new life.

Now you’re probably thinking: that is a scary God. God’s Word agrees, saying that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”  What are we supposed to do? Nobody can be that perfect can they? Even God’s servants said as much! But as much as God is Holy and just, He is also loving and merciful. Like a father who longs for a rebellious son to come back home, God longs for his children to stop rebelling, to come home to fellowship with him. But we can’t be perfect on our own; we need a savior. Jesus said, “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever trusts in him will not die, but have eternal life.” Because of God’s great love for us, he sent Jesus to take our punishment. This is the marvelous good news: though we deserve death and God’s anger, God has called us back to joy in fellowship with God by turning from sin and trusting only in Jesus! Even though none of us are perfect nor ever will be in this life, God has made a way for us to return to friendship with Him.

When Jesus was on earth, He made a habit of calling disciples to follow Him. What could be simpler? The way back to God is to follow Jesus. Jesus came to earth to live as a perfect example for us; He is God who became a man two thousand years ago. However, mankind didn’t just need a good example. If there is a chasm a mile wide of our sin separating us from God, someone else amazingly jumping the chasm is not going to help us get across. God would need to provide a way for us to get across too. We needed a way for God to save us without compromising His Holy anger against sin. What’s more, God wanted a way for Himself to get all the praise in our salvation. God gave us all that in Jesus. Jesus leads us to the cross where God judges our sins in Jesus’ death, to Jesus’ tomb where we learn that we are no longer enslaved to sin, and to Jesus’ resurrection where we learn to live the way God designed. Of course, none of this happens by taking a trip to Jerusalem. All of this is done by faith in what Jesus did two thousand years ago; Paul tells us that “the righteous man” (the perfect man) “lives by His faith.” If we try to follow Jesus by working in our own strength (if we try to take any credit for any part of our salvation), God is not pleased. But if we follow Jesus by faith, always trusting God and his work in Christ, then God declares that we are righteous.

To follow Jesus, first you must follow him to the cross. God has been planning for Jesus since before time began. After all, nothing really surprises an all-knowing God. Another servant of God likes to describe Jesus and everything he did on the cross as “the blazing center of God’s glory.” This event–the death and resurrection of Jesus–is the core of everything else beautiful and wonderful that we can enjoy about God. Here is a little poem that sums up what Jesus did there:

Holy God in love became,
Perfect man to bear my blame.
On the cross he took my sin;
By His death I live again.

Remember how God is Holy, refusing to tolerate evil? If he just judged all of us for being evil He would be perfectly just. However, He is not only just. He is also loving and merciful. Without the cross, God would have something of a dilemma: should he be righteous and judge mankind with the death it deserves, or should he be merciful and compromise his holiness by letting them live? God in his wisdom designed a way to become both “the just and the justifier of those who have faith in Jesus Christ.” In more normal terms, God designed a way for himself to stay Holy while also being merciful to mankind.

God worked this miracle by sending His Son to die for us. Sin deserves death, and God in his almighty power took the sin of those that follow Jesus and put it onto Jesus on the cross. Thus essentially Jesus took all the rebellion that His followers ever committed and pulled it onto Himself where God judged it. What’s more though, God took Jesus’ perfect and Holy life and he put it onto Jesus’ followers. Believers don’t become perfect of course in reality, not this side of Heaven, but God chooses to see Christ’s perfection rather than our screw-ups if we trust that He will do so. Martin Luther, an old follower of Jesus envisioned this exchange of sin for righteousness like a marriage. When you get married what is yours becomes your wife’s and what is your wife’s becomes yours through a covenant, a life-long agreement. In a similar way, Jesus gets all of our sin, and we receive all of His righteousness because of the agreement he has made with his followers. When believers come to the cross we don’t do anything; at God’s command, we trust that Jesus can deal with our sin problem and bring us back to God. This is the very promise of God! If you will turn from your sin and trust Christ to restore you to God he will! There’s nothing to drum up, nothing to do, only to trust. That trust starts everything; the Bible describes it as a “New Birth” because you have a whole new life in Jesus. Everything has to start with faith, and everything has to progress by faith too.

Remember that Jesus’ call is to follow Him. After Jesus died on the cross he was taken to a tomb for three days. Thus next, we must follow Him to His grave. The death that Christ died he died for sin, triumphing over Sin itself and death, its result. The Bible describes Jesus as setting captives free. Remember how the Bible described sin as slavery or even death? In Jesus, God judges all of our sin on the cross and we are freed from sin as a taskmaster! Another old believer named John Owen named one of his books after this concept in something of a tongue twister: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Sin and death died for a believer at the cross. Where before our heart betrayed us, now God has put His Holy Spirit within us to prompt us toward righteousness, to guide us in the way that God designed. All-powerful God dwells within us. It is still impossible for us to put sin to death on our own; Paul talks about the frustration of trying in Romans 7, but he talks about the glory of living free from sin, relying on the Spirit in the next chapter. Jesus is the only solution to sin. On our own, trying to escape from sin is like trying to escape from your own body. It’s always with you. But God made a way for us to kill our sin by faith, leaving it in the tomb, without actually dying ourselves!

Next, in following Jesus, we follow Him by faith in His resurrection. A lot of Christians stop with following Jesus to the cross and the tomb; they trust that Christ can deal with their sin, but that’s all they want from Him. One of Jesus’ brothers, a guy named James described this kind of faith as “dead.” It looks like faith because it says the same things, but “even the demons believe” right facts about God. True trust in Jesus always yields a heart that wants to follow Him (not just to deal with our problems) but to learn to love God and to love those that God puts around us. This is what it means to follow Christ in his resurrection. We don’t do this in our own power either; this is done in faith that God’s spirit is at work within us. However, God has promised us that before time began, he knew those who would believe in Him, in fact He designed them so intricately as to “prepare before hand good works, for them to walk in.” He describes our lives in Christ as fine workmanship that He designed. God did not just save us from our sin problem, he also gave us the amazing gift of being able to live now in righteousness.

Jesus described this as His Kingdom. Jesus’ Kingdom is not like a political kingdom on this earth yet. Someday it will be. Right now, Jesus says that it’s something like yeast, invisible within His believers but ever growing and having an ever broader impact as His followers learn to love. We live according to God’s rules, even though the rest of the world does not. As a result, Jesus tells us that bad stuff will happen to us; just like the rest of the world persecuted Him and even killed him, they will also persecute true believers. However, our hope is not in this life. Our hope is in our mighty savior who is coming to gather all of his people to himself, to create a New Heaven and a New Earth free from sin entirely some day.

There is no better gift than the gift of God’s Son. If you would like to talk further, leave a comment below and I will gladly send you an e-mail so that we can get in contact.

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