I was in a Middle Eastern country, about six years ago, and we had leaders from all kind of backgrounds and denominations. People that, I remember sitting in front of them and teaching, and thinking, as I looked at this crowd, “This group may never, ever come together without people killing one another again, until they get to heaven.”
I mean, I had Iran pastors, Iraq pastors. People from Saudi Arabia, born-again believers in Jesus that were Palestinians, born-again believers who were Jewish from Israel. I mean, these people, many of them were taught since they were little boys and little girls to kill one another.
And I got to teach them, and as I was teaching them a series on the Invisible War, about spiritual warfare, we talked about how bitterness and unforgiveness opens the door to evil in our lives.
And it was just a moment where I’ve rarely seen something like this happen: There was an Iran and Iraqi soldiers who were now in ministry. And the man stood up and said, “Before we go on I need to do something. God convicted me.”
And tears streaming down his face and everyone was sitting down and he got up, this soldier, and this man got up, this soldier, now both involved in ministry. And he walked over and said, “When our war and our countries warred, I was on the front lines. I’ve killed hundreds, or thousands, of your people and I want you to please forgive me.”
And I watched these two grown men who were taught as little boys, “Kill, kill, kill, kill,” and who did that, get reconciled, first to God and be forgiven, and then have a new capacity to forgive and love each other, and I watched two men embrace with tears going down their cheeks, and seeing peace and reconciliation.
God wants to do that in your heart. God wants to do that, through you, to people in your family that are alienated. He wants to do that, through you, to people at work that are broken and hurting, and feel like they’re bitter, and people get busy and medicate their lives because down deep in their heart, their search, they don’t recognize, “I just want to be loved. I want to be loved.”
And for the great majority of people in this room you’re the conduit of that love.
And for others, this is an exciting day for you. You don’t know it yet. But He brought you on this day to reconcile you to Himself. For you to know that He’s real, He loves you, you have a problem like we all do. But Jesus came to rescue you.
Act four is how it all will end. It’s exciting, you get to the very end and there’s a book called The Revelation. It means what’s going to be unveiled.
Often, in the Old Testament, God would tell us things that would happen seven hundred, a thousand, fifteen hundred years in advance down to the specifics, even naming names, empires that will happen, specific prophecy because He wants us to know this isn’t just a book. It’s not fiction, it’s life.
And so at the end of the book He tells us what’s going to happen forever in history. And it’s called restoration or consummation. Jesus is going to return and He promised He would make all things right in heaven and on earth. I mean, that’s hope!
Notice, every moral being: Angels, us, will be judged justly and repaid for their thoughts, choices, and actions. When Jesus comes back, as the righteous judge sin, death, and Satan will be vanquished forever and then God will reestablish what? Perfect-love relationship, in a perfect environment, forever and ever.
When Jesus first came, He came as the Savior, to pay the price for sin, to offer to whoever would. And, by the way, the whoever would… the hard part is our pride. It’s really about not believing God is good. It’s not believing that He really loves you and so, “No, no, no, no. I’ll do life my way.” But God says, “I got a great plan for your life, and I love you, and I want you to receive My love.”
And so, He came as the Savior. When Jesus comes back, He’ll come back as the judge.” And everyone will get exactly what they deserve.
And what He wants you to know is that He doesn’t want to judge you. He wants you to come under the blood and the forgiveness of what He’s provided, so that on that final day, when sin is judged, and death is swallowed up, and Satan is cast into the lake of fire…
And there is a reality, and heaven is real, and there’s a promise, He wants, “whosoever,” it’s not His desire that a single person would ever perish but that all would come into a knowledge of the truth. And for some, He brought you today so you can cross that line.
Notice, how the end will be. The love gives hope but leads to perseverance. I mean, the fact of the matter is, life’s hard, right? You’ve been ripped off, people have walked out on you, people have lied to you. You have health issues that don’t get better.
Here’s what you need to understand: This story is the story of all eternity. You live inside this little thing called time. Inside time everything is not going to be fair. When Jesus comes back, part of Him judging is, real love demands justice.
Those people that have abused kids, those people that have lied, those people that have hurt others, those people who have annihilated – what kind of God would it be when we go into, oh, well, He’d just say, “Oh, well, they just had a bad day. I’m just not going to…”
There is a part inside of you that cries out, “That’s not fair!” Especially when it happens to you. And what you need to know, what gives you hope and allows you to persevere: There is a day coming when God is not only loving and kind and compassionate, but He is holy and just, and all the scales will be balanced and everyone will get exactly what they deserve. That’s what justice is.
But what He wants us to understand is that we don’t want to get what we deserve and Christ came to pay for what we did. The result is eternal life.
Listen to what it’s like, Revelation chapter 21, this is act four, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. And I heard a loud voice,” John is speaking, getting his revelation from God. He’s watching it.
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men and He will live with them and they will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. And He will wipe every tear from their eyes and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ And He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
What gives you hope? What gives you perseverance in the midst of a hard life and in a fallen world it’ll be hard. Is to know that you have eternal life, that heaven is real, that there’s hope.
Now that’s the story, okay? I encourage you if you’ve never read it, maybe for the next year just say, “I’m going to read this.” Get something easy to understand.
If you’re like me, I had never opened it and I remember saying, “God, I don’t know if you exist or not, but all of history is divided between this one called Jesus, between B.C. and A.D., and life has been defined by this one man. I owe it to myself to at least examine what Your Word says.”
And so I started a journey and I read it and I asked God, “If You’re real, reveal Yourself to me.” And so I would give you that challenge, if this is new to you.
But the story of God’s love is simple: Act one, creation. He made you for Himself. Act two, how it all went wrong. Sin, it’s a fallen world. Act three, He came to rescue you and He loves you. And act four, He’s coming back again and He’s going to make everything right.
Here are the two questions: Question number one, is that story true? And question number two, if it’s true, how do you get in on that rescue, right? Is it true? Everyone has a story.
I’ll guarantee you, you may not think about it but you have your own little story. You have a worldview. You are thinking, living, spending money, prioritizing your life around some little story that you’ve either heard, or come to believe, or patched together, and what you’re doing and where you’re going has one little light.
Now here’s my question: Where did you get your story and is your story true? Because here is why I’m staking my life on God’s story. He’s not telling me I need to somehow become one with the ocean. He’s not telling me I need to be religious and pray five times a day and try and appease a god who is not loving.
He’s not telling me I need to be a religious, good person. He’s not telling me, “Just pull it up by the bootstraps.” He’s not telling me be sort of a nice, moral person and be as upwardly mobile as possible, and be successful.
All those stories crash. He’s telling me this story is true, I’m made for Him. Even in my fallenness and my sin, because I rose from the dead to prove it’s true in space-time history.
This isn’t some religious or anecdotal thought or something made up in a corner. This is God, the Son, living on the planet, who died, and for forty days after He died, appeared to people in a resurrection body, with over five hundred witnesses, verifiable.
The resurrection, that’s why I believe this story.
Notice the text I gave you. Paul makes the point in the whole chapter, I Corinthians 15. But he summarizes in these two verses, verses 19 to 20 and 21.
He says, “If for only this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men.” In other words, if you think He’s a nice, moral teacher and let’s follow His teachings and be good to one another he says, “You’re to be pitied.”
He didn’t claim to be a nice, moral teacher. He was the definition of radical. He was the definition of revolutionary. He said, “I am God.” They killed Him because He claimed to be God. They killed Him because He said, “The Father and I are one.” They killed Him because He said, “No man comes to the Father except by Me.”
Jesus was either the truth, or He was a liar, or a lunatic. But notice what the apostle Paul says, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, Adam, the resurrection of the dead comes through also a man, Christ. For as in Adam, all die. So in Christ all will be made alive.”
You might circle in your notes, “All,” and “all.” We’re all going to die. And the only reason we’re going to die is because there’s sin in the world.
And the only reason there’s sin in the world is because in act two our first parents sinned and we inherited that. But all will be made alive. Every single person will be resurrected, and to those people who say, “God, you know, I don’t want your stuff, and Jesus, I don’t believe in you. And, tell you what, you can have all this big light, I’m going with my light.”
You know what God will say to those people, even though it will break His heart? He’ll say, “Thy will be done. Thy will be done.”
God will not coerce, or force, anyone to be with Him forever. So, people who have said, “I don’t want anything to do with You in this life…” all hell is, is an extension of people getting their will. No one will be in any situation saying, “Oh, God, I wish I could get into heaven. Oh, I wish I could love you, but I can’t.”
His arms are open. But He’s just.
Well, how do you receive the rescue? Let me tell you the good news. That’s what the word “gospel” means. It means, “good news.”
There are four facts of the gospel. I want to summarize them and as I do can I ask you, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ would you listen to this with fresh ears and say to yourself, “Do I really believe it? Do I really believe God loves me this much? And if He loves me this much why in the world wouldn’t I trust Him for other stuff?” Okay?
You know, like my future, and like my decisions, and like my family, and like my singleness, and like my priorities, and like my money… And why wouldn’t I do life the way His love letter says, if He really loves me this much?
And if you’re a person that may be here and checking it out, and came with a friend, let me encourage you to listen with these kind of ears: “Could it be that this is true? Could it be that I’m made by a personal God who loves me?
Could it be that my problems, many of my own making and the making of other people because I have sinned, and could it be that Jesus came and died and rose from the dead and today is the day I could receive forgiveness?”
So, let me give you the facts. Fact number one of the good news is that you are a sinner. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And that’s not an offensive word. I mean, it’s been used in some sort of bad ways.
The word just means you miss the mark. It’s similar to the word “transgression,” it’s like here’s a line, it means you cross over it. We know what’s right to do and we do the wrong thing, right?
I mean, and you don’t have to learn this.
It’s in us, people! We’re selfish! We fall short. Now, if there’s anyone here that’s never had a bad thought, never sinned, never hurt anybody in any way, you’re absolutely perfect, you do not need this. However, check with the person you came with.
Second, the penalty of sin is death. “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” See, God is fair. There’s wages, right? When you go to work, what’s a wage? A wage is simply what you get for what you do.
And the Bible says that the wages, or what we’re going to get paid for our sin, is separation forever. The first two facts of the gospel are bad news. But then the good news kicks in. Christ died to pay for my sin. But God demonstrated His love for you in that while you and me were yet, literally, enemies, sinners – apart from Him – Christ died.
Circle the word “for.” It’s an important word. Died for you. It means He died in your place and for your sake. In the old days, because it’s a vivid picture, if you can imagine on a terrible day of rage, that somehow you killed someone, and you did it, and you were convicted by a court, and they said, “The death sentence.”
And they stuck you in an electric chair and strapped you down, and the guy is ready to pull the switch because you justly deserve to die for someone that you killed.
What the Bible is talking about in this verse is that Jesus would walk in the room and say, “Time out. I don’t want this one to be killed.” And so it’s gotta be just. And he would unstrap you, you would get up, and he would sit in the electric chair to take everything that you deserve and they would pull the switch.
See, that’s the gospel. At the heart of the gospel is substitution. At the heart of the good news is what you could never do, I could never do for myself, Christ died in your place. Why? Because He loves you. He wants to reconcile you.
But finally the good news doesn’t become great news in your life, that’s all true. A lot of people intellectually believe that, but you must personally receive Christ, by faith. A biblical faith.
“Yet to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name He gave the right or the authority to become children of God.” See, when a person crosses that line, and the Spirit of God comes into your heart and into your life, you become a child of God, and then you start taking on family resemblance. You have an appetite for His Word because it’s a love letter.
Your life begins to change. You don’t have it all together, your problems don’t go away but you literally become, are you ready, more whole and more holy and you become a conduit of His grace.
But you need to receive Him. Knowing the truth of the gospel doesn’t save or forgive you. By faith you need to receive it. And, see, faith isn’t intellectual ascent. It’s not just saying, “I intellectually believe there was a Jesus, I intellectually believe maybe He was the Son of God, I intellectually believe He rose from the dead.” Great for you all, that’s truth.
Biblical faith is the mind, will, and emotions trusting that to the point of action.
That’s biblical faith. You know what I find in Christendom today? There are millions and millions of people standing, agreeing, and cheering that it is possible that God has indeed done that and their lives have no family resemblance because they think faith is intellectually believing what we talked about is true.
Faith is getting in the wheelbarrow. And it’s saying, “I’m turning from my sin, I’m receiving the gift, and it’s a transfer of trust and I am now following you by your grace.” And you know what happens? Your life changes. It changes not by trying hard. It changes from the inside out. Have you ever done that? That’s receiving Christ. “As many as receive Him.”
The other big lie in Christendom, and this is what I grew up with, is that being a Christian was like being religious, or trying to be moral. Believe me, there’s a lot of people that are a lot more moral than most Christians.
You know what a Christian is? A Christ-one? It’s, “Do you have the Son?” The Bible says if you have the Son you have life, if you don’t have the Son, you don’t have life. It’s all, remember? The story starts with you’re made for Him, He wants to be with you. Christ wants to live inside of you and He wants to reconcile you and have a new relationship where the old passes and everything is new.
Have you ever experienced that? It’s an offer, it’s a free gift.