“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
What is the most unbelievable thing you ever heard about?
How about this, if you trace your family tree back 25 generations, you will have over 33.5 million ancestors. And many other people are related to those same 33.5 million and so you had better be nice to everyone because you never know when that other person is your long lost cousin.
Or how about this unbelievable fact: It would take a modern spaceship 70,000 years to get to the nearest solar system. So, the next time you see a SiFi movie where they flit from solar system to solar system, you might remind yourself of that fact.
Or how about this: If you dug a well to the center of the Earth, and dropped a brick in it, it would take 45 minutes to get to the bottom, which would be 4,000 miles down.
Here is another one. Honey is the only food consumed by humans that does not rot or turn bad. If you found a hundred year old jar of honey, you could eat it without a problem.
Some more strange facts: A donkey can sink in quicksand but a mule cannot. Every time you sneeze your heart stops a second. Albert Einstein never wore socks.
Winston Churchill was born in a ladies restroom at a dance. The great wartime British hero, who was Prime Minister several times, was born in a ladies’ loo.
We can go on. The average person will eat 8 spiders while asleep in their lifetime. Hummingbirds are the only creatures that can fly backwards. Cockroaches can live 9 days without their heads before they starve to death. A flamingo can eat only when its head is upside down.
And here is one that I do not like. The average left-handed person lives 7 years LESS than a right-handed person.
Some of those things are pretty unbelievable, but they are not the most unbelievable thing in the world. The gospel is. Think about what we are saying in the gospel.
All human beings are condemned sinners. In Romans 3, Paul says, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; there is no one who has understanding, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one” (3:10-12). That is Paul’s estimate of all of humankind. No one has been good enough to please God.
Well, that is certainly believable. Most people, if they take a long look at themselves, at their real motives for doing things—at their jealousies and envies and resentments and suspicions, if they take a long look at those secret things of their lives that they do not want anyone to know about—they pretty much have to admit that Paul got it right. Everyone has ugly secrets. Everyone has had bad moments of which we are heartily ashamed. And we know that our secrets are plain to the all seeing eye of God. God knows exactly what we are. Having said that, the obvious conclusion would be that God despises and condemns us, and we deserve condemnation.
Now here comes the unbelievable part of the gospel. God in his mercy decided to save some anyway, and God chose an incredible way to make his salvation known to his people. God came among us as Jesus Christ and died on the cross for our sins. Through Jesus, all of our sins are washed away and forgiven, so that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
That is the unbelievable Good News. The Lord Jesus is our hope of eternity. He is the light of God and the heir of all things. He has a people, and if we believe on him, we are his people whom he has redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.
This is the very essence of Christianity. We can argue about many things within the faith. We can argue about the whether or not there will be a rapture. We can argue about how to square Genesis with biology, geology, and astronomy. Those things are not really the main point of Christianity. Here is the main point: through belief in the crucified Christ, we have eternal life.
That is the good news, and it is so good you wonder why everyone in the world does not believe. Yes, I know that I have said that the gospel is unbelievable, but I meant by that term that it is such good news, it is so great, that we almost do not dare believe it is true. Or, as we sometimes say, “it is too good to be true.” It is like a person that won the lottery. They keep saying, “I cannot believe it, I cannot believe it”—but they still accept the money.
The gospel is unlikely, even illogical. God should not have done this. God should not have saved anyone, but God has chosen to save his people, and, knowing that, how can we refuse to join that gospel throng?
But some people do refuse, we meet them everyday, people who do not believe in Jesus. Why? Why don’t they believe?
Well there may be several reasons, but one is that many people have a false impression of themselves. Earlier, I said that anyone who really looks at themselves, realizes that we are not nearly as good as we want others to think we are. However, many people never do that, never really look at themselves at all, and therefore, they have a false opinion of what they are. They think that they are all right. They are doing just fine and truth be told they do not really need to be saved by a crucified Christ. They think they deserve to go to heaven to live in the presence of God.
They compare themselves to other people and they think, I am better than that governor who goes off to Argentina and commits adultery. I am better than those Jewish rabbis in New Jersey that got arrested this week for money laundering for the mob. Therefore, I am just fine thank you.
It is this false impression of ourselves that John Calvin had in mind when he wrote, “It is certain that man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face” (Inst. I.I.2). God is the standard of righteousness, not some person in the news media.
I heard about a woman who, a generation ago, lived near a factory that ran 24/7, with a constant column of smoke pouring from its smokestacks. The woman would do her wash and hang it on an outdoor clothesline and ash and soot would settle on the clothes so that she never really saw the color white. She would look out her window at the dirty white clothes on the line, and she would think, “That is white,” but of course she had no concept of white at all. Even so, as long as we compare ourselves to other sinners, we have no concept of the pure white of righteousness of God.
This is a failing of our society. Our society seems to feel that we are all on an assembly line of life, and God is a kind of inspector who operates by percentages. God watches us as we come down the line, and God throws out the worst, say the bottom 10%, and lets the rest through. Thus, if I am not as bad as others, then I am all right.
But the goodness or badness of other people has nothing to do with my fate on Judgment Day. That is God’s decision, and God does not operate by percentages, God does not operate by human standards at all. God’s standard of righteousness and holiness is God, and we all fail to meet that standard. Compared to the holiness of God all our righteousness is filthy rags. What then shall we do? We can only cast ourselves at the foot of the cross and trust in Jesus.
But many people hesitate to do that. The gospel is, as I have said, unlikely and illogical. A crucified Christ is the way of everlasting life? It takes a leap of faith to believe that—and that leap is a fearsome thing to some folks.
I heard a story about a man who should remain nameless. His life continually revolved around the thought, “Suppose that one day I shall be unable to work, what shall become of me?” He would awaken at night, crying out in fear because of some horrible nightmare in which he lost his job. As the years past, this fear took a heavy toll on the possibilities of his life. Sometimes something inside him would urge him to embark on some little adventure, but he would say, “No no, I might get hurt, I might lose my job.”
He fell in love with a wonderful woman and dreamed of asking her to marry him, but then he thought, “I might get sick, I might lose my job, and then I would be out of work with a wife and family.” So, he hesitated, and he lost the woman he loved.
Finally, the worst happened, though it was not what he expected. He was stricken with a fatal illness. The doctor told him he had only months to live. The doctor was amazed when the man smiled and said, “Thank God, I am safe.” In 3 months, he was dead. That is one of the most pathetic stories I have ever heard, the story of a man who never lived at all because of fear.
Some people show the same fear of the gospel. They are afraid of commitment. A relationship with Jesus scares them. What they don’t understand is that Jesus is life itself. We were created to live in communion with God and the only way we can do that is through Jesus. So we do not lose anything by committing to Jesus Christ. I have heard testimonies in which people talk about what they gave up for Jesus. I did not give up anything when I became a Christian. I gained a whole new way of living and thinking. I ceased living in the old wicked way of darkness and started living in the way of the light.
But let us talk about another reason why people hesitate to accept the wonderful gospel of Christ. I said earlier that we are all sinners, but some people think their sins are too much for God. They may even magnify their sins and paint themselves as worse than they actually are. Consequently, they may think that they are beyond the help of God. They look at every bad thought, they consider all those secret hates and fears and think that they are monsters of depravity, beyond any hope of salvation.
Some folks try to get around this feeling of guilt by becoming atheists. They feel too guilty to deserve God, so they let themselves out of their guilt by pretending that God does not exist. That solves the whole problem of their sins. If there is no God, there is no reckoning for sin.
For example, a woman steals from the company she works for, and she gets away with it. She will never be found out in this world, but what if one day she must stand face-to-face with a righteous God and answer for that sin? That is a fearsome thought. Every time that woman looks at a cross, she has that thought.
She must do something. She could confess the theft and take the consequences, but that is too humiliating, so what does she do? She announces to the world that she has reasoned about the proofs for the existence of God and found them wanting. So she does not believe in God anymore. But what is the truth of the matter. The truth has nothing to do with proofs of God and everything to do with her guilt.
Guilt does funny things to people. It is said that the Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula used to despise and mock God, yet whenever it thundered, he would hide under his bed. Poor man. He was so overwhelmed with guilt that he denied God, and yet the presence of God was so real to him that he feared sounds from the sky.
To some extent, that is the condition of every person without the gospel. We stand condemned by the very existence of holy God, but there is a remedy for that condemnation.
In the biblical book of Numbers, the people of the Exodus wandered into an area that was infested with poisonous snakes. Many were bitten and died. Then Moses caused the image of a serpent to be cast in bronze and set up on a pole, and the promise was that whoever was bitten by a snake could look upon the image on the pole in faith, and be healed. Jesus used this OT incident as an allegory. In John 3:14-15 he said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus is the bronze serpent who was raised up on the cross for us. Sin is like the bite of a poisonous snake. It kills our souls. But the good news is that Jesus heals, Jesus saves.
Make no mistake abut it. There will be a day of destruction for sin. There will be a judgment for wickedness. For those who refuse the gospel there will be hell and the lake of fire.
But that does not have to be our fate, for we have the promise that “whosoever believeth” on Jesus “should not perish” If we believe in the only-begotten son, we have forgiveness and everlasting life. Can you believe that? You had better. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
|HOME||About YARPC||Sermons||Prayer Center|
Copyright 2000 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last Modified: 02/02/13