I remember standing in front of my audience getting ready to start my sermon. It was the first opportunity I had to preach since being at my internship, and I didn’t want to take it for granted. My audience was a group of juvenile delinquents at a nearby corrections facility. I was ready to proclaim to them the Good News (what the Bible calls “the Gospel”).
The funny thing about “good news” is that in order for good news to exist, bad news must exist as well. I was reminded this last week when CBC had a lecture series on the love and wrath of God. To say the lectures were phenomenal would be an understatement! Our professors explained how God’s wrath was his response to sin, and that the opposite of love isn’t hate but indifference. Wrath is God’s permanent dispensation towards sin – though he is also merciful and patient with those who are sinners. A loving God can do nothing else but hate sin.
We can’t fully understand God’s love unless we first understand His judgment.
It isn’t until we realize that we cannot do anything to reconcile ourselves back to God that we realize the price that Christ paid through his death on the cross. It isn’t until we are able to grasp the full measure of our sin that we fully understand how amazing it is that the transcendent God of the cosmos came to the earth as a babe and died a murderer’s death for a crime he didn’t commit.
It isn’t until we fully comprehend the bad news that we can fully appreciate the good news.
When I preached my sermon that day to those delinquents I was preaching to the choir. I shared with them the story of my own life. I had attended church for a while as a teenager, but I didn’t see a need to be saved. It was as though I didn’t see myself as depraved – but as a “good person.” A few months later I was arrested with a group of my friends for breaking into a house. It was at that moment that I realized the “bad news” as it was being allegorized in my life. I remember just sitting on the sectional in my family’s living room crying, feeling the burden of my disappointment and unworthiness. I let my friends and family down. And I realized that I had been letting God down as well – not just with this run-in with the law but also with my everyday life.
I mark that day as the day I decided to repent and follow Christ. The date was August 31, 2003.
Take time today to remember that you have sinned, and that you deserve nothing but God’s wrath and judgment. Whether you gossip, lie, steal, or you’re just a hater – all sinners are going to be held-accountable one day for their insurgences. That is the bad news.
But the Good News is this: Jesus came and died – taking the full force of God’s wrath as he hung from the cross. We have justification, reconciliation, and redemption through him. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”