Episode 1. The Righteousness of God (Bad News)
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One of the things about God is that He’s perfect. Pure, holy, righteous. They’re all words used to describe God. And whilst ultimately there’s a huge amount of Good News around that – the …
It’s Monday again, back to work for most of us. And depending on whether or not you enjoy your job, that’s either good news or its bad news. The statistics tell us that two thirds of people don’t enjoy their job. Isn’t that a tragedy. So for two thirds of people, every chance that you’re one of them that’s bad news.
Now you and I would rather have good news than bad news. I would and I’m sure you would too. And so when it comes to thinking about God, well that has to be good news, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. That word ‘gospel’ literally means, not ‘truth’ as many of us think it does, although it is the truth. No, the word ‘gospel’ means good news, glad tidings. That’s why the angel who spoke to the shepherds that night of Jesus’ birth said to them, Luke chapter 2 verses 10 & 11:
Don’t be afraid, for see I’m bringing you good news of great joy for all people. To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour who is the Messiah, the Lord.
There it is! Good news! Hallelujah! But sad to say, before we talk about the good news, which is what we are going to be talking about tomorrow on the program, first today, we need to talk about the bad news.
How many times have we heard that line, “Well, there’s the good news and the bad news, which one do you want to hear first?” And inevitably there are two sides to each coin. And if all I ever did on this program was talk about the good news side of God then I simply wouldn’t be doing my job, because as much as sometimes I’d rather ignore bad news, there is a side of God which quite frankly is bad news for the likes thee and me. At least at first glance that’s how it seems. And yet the reality is that without the bad news, the good news wouldn’t be all that good.
It’s when we come to understand the bad news, that the good news becomes absolutely fantastic news. So that’s why we’re kicking off today with the bad news.
So, what’s Berni rabbiting on about? Good news? Bad news? Well, last week we kicked off a series called Reaping the Harvest of Righteousness. It’s about the righteousness of God, it’s about the blessing that flows in our lives when you and I live out that righteousness. We kind of touch on this a little bit fleetingly last week, but we’re going to pick up on it today and really understand it. Because understanding the bad news about the righteousness of God is critical in:
a) making a decision whether we want to accept Jesus as our saviour or not and
b) living out his righteousness and experiencing the harvest, the blessing of that.
So, what’s the bad news? Well the bad news is that God is righteous. What’s this “righteousness” all about? Well God is completely and absolutely and utterly free from the scourge of humanity which is sin. There is nothing wrong with God. There is nothing impure or unholy or deficient or horrible about God. God is 1000% righteous from beginning to end; from eternity to eternity. And the only reason that’s bad news is that you and I, we aren’t.
You and I know that we aren’t righteous, we know that about ourselves. We are nothing like that. We’re often selfish and proud and angry and rude and … the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? And whilst perhaps you’ve been walking with God for a while now and perhaps a lot’s changed in your life, there’s still some of that muck around, isn’t there?
It’s like that classic little prayer that goes something like this:
So far today, I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or over indulgent. I’m very thankful for that.
But, in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot more help.
So, as the Apostle Paul writes, “We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” Romans chapter 2 verse 23. And the consequence of that sin is this Romans chapter 6 verse 23:
The wages of sin is death.
Now that may seem just a little bit harsh until we get back to the bad news. God is righteous and we are not. There’s nothing in God that is wrong and so His standard, quite simply is perfection. As I was coming to grips with that early on in my walk with Jesus, the question I had to resolve in my mind was, well, isn’t that just a tad unreasonable.
When I was a child, I made mistakes, I wronged my parents, in fact I did it over and over and over again. But they didn’t take me out the back and shoot me. Sure, from time to time I was punished. Maybe they felt like shooting me, but they didn’t kick me out of the house or anything drastic like that. They suffered through my immaturities as parents are meant to do for their children so that the kids can grow up and mature and become responsible adults. That’s what parents do.
So if God is God the Father, what’s with this ‘the wages of sin is death’ thing. I mean, that’s unreasonable isn’t it? The original Greek word used in the New Testament for this word ‘righteousness’ has it’s roots in the concept and the notion of justice. God is a just God. There are no favourites. There is no partiality.
See, often times when a criminal is handed a light sentence for by the courts for something we consider should have attracted a much harsher penalty, well, you and incensed. Why? Is it because we’re mean? No. It’s because one of the things that God has handed on to us because we’re made in His image, He’s handed on to us His sense of justice. It’s part of who we are. It’s part of our DNA and so God is a just God. I mean, you’d be something of a disaster if God wasn’t just, wouldn’t you?
This is where the bad news is. Break the law, get caught, you pay the penalty. It’s bad news. The law in the country is good news, but for the person who has broken the law it’s bad news. And the case of God because He is pure and just and holy and completely righteous, that standard is way, way, way beyond anything that any human being can attain.
Now, this is no mistake. God planned it that way. God knew that ultimately we’d rebel against Him. God knew that. It wasn’t a surprise to Him when Adam and Eve munched on that apple. It wasn’t a surprise to Him when you and I first sinned. I haven’t lived a perfect life and nor have you. The only one who has is Jesus, God’s own Son. And so the bad news is that you and I fall short of that glory of God and there is an eternal penalty for our rebellion. There’s a price to pay. Hebrews chapter 10 verses 26,27,31. Have a listen:
For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
No namby pamby about, “It will be right, I’m not that bad. I’ll be fine. If there is a God then one day I’ll stand before Him.” If we continue falling short of God then there is, “… a fearful prospect of judgement and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God”.
So there it is. That’s the bad news. And it’s very, very bad news. Eternity after all is a very long time. “For the wages of sin is death”.
But that’s only half the verse, and it’s only half the story. Here’s the full story:
For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
And that’s the good news we’re going to talk about tomorrow on the program.