I want to talk this morning for just a few minutes about good news; there’s enough bad news in the world; even today before Sunday School, we discussed “current events;” which may be “good” in the sense that they show that redemption is nigh, but even so, everything we discuss seems to be about wars or catastrophes. And we know it will get worse before it gets better, but even so, have you ever noticed how “current events” are never really “good news?” I’ll also bring out a few examples of “bad news” that we may think exist here in the truth, but actually don’t, and the “good news” to show for it.
Think for a minute about good news you’ve gotten recently or in the past; it can be worldly, nothing wrong with that; maybe you got a new job, or you got a pay raise, maybe your football team won, maybe you got into the school you wanted. Or, it can be good spiritual news, that’s always even better; maybe you know someone who got baptized, or you yourself got baptized, or you’ve been to a great Bible School, or you got married, or you’re expecting a baby. So what does most good news have in common, what is it about good news? Most of the time, you want to share it, right? You want to share it with others; especially good spiritual news. When there’s a baptism, people halfway around the world know it the very hour it happens; same thing with a marriage or a newborn. The joke in our community is that the three fastest means of communication on the planet are telegraph, telephone, and “tell-a-Christadelphian.” When you have good news, you want to share it with the world. Everyone likes good news, especially when times are tough; it’s like cold water when you’re thirsty (Proverbs 25:25).
If you look at Lamentations, it’s quite a bit depressing; but then despite all the bad things that had happened, Jeremiah still says, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).” In both the books he wrote, he was genuinely sad; there’s a difference between being sad and being miserable. Paul tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15).” It’s ok to be sad; we have all felt that at some point. Jesus would have never been referred to as a “man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:3)” if it wasn’t ok for him to be sad. He wasn’t a miserable person, trying to make others feel bad just so he would feel better about his own sufferings. Unfortunately, some of the most miserable people I’ve ever met were Christadelphians, and it’s very sad, because we have the greatest hope in the world, and even though we all go through bad times, as I’ll talk about later, we still have to keep the “good news” in mind, because if that won’t motivate us, the “bad news” that we decide to keep around won’t help, either.
I first began writing this talk a few Sundays ago, Delis was playing the organ that day and she played hymn 106, on the schedule for today; I looked at the words and just thought, “What great news!” Have you ever thought about the Judgment Seat, and thought about the idea of a giant movie screen, and your family, friends, and your meeting all sitting there watching as all your worst sins are paraded for everyone to see? Obviously, we know it’s not actually going to be like that, especially if the next words out of Jesus’ mouth are, “well done, good and faithful servant (Luke 19:17).” The Bible has great news about this, in Jude 24. “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy…” He’s able to present us faultless; without sin, and he’s able to do it with exceeding joy. Jesus says there will be sheep and goats (Matthew 25:32); there’s no such thing as a “not-so-good sheep” or a “pretty good goat.” None of us are going to miss out on the Kingdom by the skin of our teeth, as if Christ is going to think real hard but then say, “sorry buddy, you were really close, but I can’t let you in.” The same thing applies if we do make it; he is not going to give us a disgusted look and then say, “Fine, I guess you can come in, but you barely slid by.” He’s going to say, “Enter into the joy of your Lord (Matthew 25:23), come inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34)!” It is God’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom (Luke 12:32); he’s not trying to keep us out! We’re told to approach the throne of grace with confidence, that we may find mercy (Hebrews 4:16), remembering that God already wants us to be there.
We shouldn’t be afraid of God; he’s our father who knows us and pays attention to every little detail (Psalm 139); nothing is hid from him (Hebrews 4:13). We obviously have to have a balance of the way we see him though; if we only believe him to be a God who loves and forgives, we’re missing out on how he’s a righteous and just God and we live in sin without thinking about retribution and how he will not allow wickedness to continue forever. But if we only know him to be a God who is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11), then we live in total fear and we obey God for the sole purpose of not being punished, and that is not right either. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18); if we love God, we will do what he asks of us because we love him, not because we’ll be punished if we don’t. Sin is sin; God doesn’t “let things slide,” but he also knows that there will be weaknesses; and that’s why Jesus came; not because we’re righteous, but because we’re sinners (Luke 5:32), we’re sheep gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). Jesus also promises us that any sin that we commit can be forgiven (Mark 3:28), and that there is great joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7). We’re God’s children now (1 John 3:2), and when he appears, we will be like him, raised above all weakness.
For each of us, our world is made up of three circles; ourselves, the people who are close to us, like family and friends, and then the world as a whole.
It’s been a rough year; I’ve been asked to pray for people more this year than ever before and I’ve asked more people to pray for me this year than ever before. I’ve seen and heard about lot of people suffering this year; one file I wish I still had from my old hard drive was a list of people who I had been asked to pray for this year; there were about eight different problems that people had, between physical and spiritual problems, and the list, last time I counted, was up to around 40 people. I’ve had my share of tough times this year as well; but there’s good news: to them that fear God’s name, the Sun of Righteousness will arise, with healing in his wings (Malachi 4:2); it doesn’t mean we should just forget our problems because “one day they’ll all be gone.” And at least we have assurance that even now, God knows what’s going on, he’s not blind to our problems, and we have a direct, 24-hour-a-day connection to him, whenever we need it. Peter tells us to cast all our cares on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). We’re also told in Hebrews 6:10 that God is not unrighteous to forget the good that we do. Even though people might forget, God does not. And even though we can’t earn a reward, God has promised that the righteous will be rewarded.
It’s been another rough year for the world as well; a few days ago, we saw on the news that yet another school got shot up by some idiot. One of the presidential candidates even said about the shooting, “stuff happens.” He’ll probably lose voters for it. But it’s interesting that I feel the same way at this point; what we see on the news is really nothing new, is it? Here in Richmond, we’re very fortunate if we can turn on the 11 o’clock news one night and there hasn’t been a violent crime committed. Getting an email from VCU every once in a while, saying that a crime was committed on campus, is actually totally normal; we got one a few days ago. Nothing on the news should really surprise anyone anymore. At a study weekend recently, a brother gave a talk on Ecclesiastes. One verse he used says, “Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? Thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this (Ecclesiastes 7:10).” And then he quoted the verse in his own words, which were, essentially, “There ain’t no such thing as the good old days.” The world is as bad a place as it has ever been; sure, maybe the crime rate is up, but there’s nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Look back at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17); So we don’t see “graven images” nowadays, fine. But we see people having other gods, not honoring their parents, stealing, murdering, committing adultery, coveting, and so on. The Ten Commandments were given some 4,000 years ago. Nothing has changed since the days of Moses. Even a comedian recently said something about how he used to pull out the Gideon Bible in a hotel room in New York City, and look out the window into Times Square and check off the commandments as he saw them being broken. So don’t ever think that previous generations had it a lot better than we do now. God never said it would be easier for one generation than another.
The good news here is that a better day is coming, for us, and for the world. In our Sunday School class, we’ve been going through Isaiah; it’s full of good news for the future; there are at least twelve chapters (2, 9, 11, 25, 32, 35, 42, 53, 60, 62, 65, and 66) that are about the future Kingdom, as well as many other chapters in the Bible, such as Psalm 72, about when Christ will bring peace that this world has never seen and will fix everything that’s wrong with this world. Even though God tells us that tough times will come, the good times to come will make up for it all.
Now we come to what God has done for us, though his Son. Jesus was “good news.” Sure, he prophesied about Jerusalem being overthrown (Matthew 24), and he certainly wasn’t pleasant when he was condemning the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:13); but he came and fulfilled everything that needed to be done, he lived perfectly, never once sinning (Hebrews 4:15); he fulfilled all the prophecies about himself, even to being wounded for our trangressions (Isaiah 53:5). We remember that the Gospel is the “good news concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” If we have good news to share in our normal life, we usually want to share it; we would never think of keeping it a secret, hiding it from others, especially if we hide it intentionally. We have the good news of the hope that God offers us; to be saved from eternal death and to serve him and live and reign with his son forever, to inherit the earth and to bring the world back to the way God intended for it to be from the beginning. It is the greatest hope, the greatest news in the world, and we should want to share that with others; to let our light, our good news, shine before all men (Matthew 5:16). ffffffffffffff