Bad News/Good News
Bible Reading: Luke 3:1-22
I was talking to someone recently about the convoluted process in which they received the bad news of their cancer diagnosis. Unfortunately, the news came later than it should have, because doctors failed to discern the telltale signs in a timely fashion. The delayed diagnosis resulted in a delay in treatment, unfortunately allowing for the unnecessary progression of the disease. It would have been better for her if she’d heard the terrible news sooner, so she could have received the necessary care.
The Bible has a message of good news for us—Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)! Yet in order to understand and fully appreciate the glory of that good news, it’s necessary for us to understand the depth of the bad news. John the Baptist was heaven sent in fulfillment of prophecy to “prepare the way of the Lord” (Luke 3:4). He ministered in a time of great darkness. The leaders of that day were ungodly men and their religion was a hypocritical sham (Luke 3:1-2). “The word of God came to John” and he boldly proclaimed it to the people (Luke 3:2).
“He preached good news to the people” (Luke 3:18). But much of what he had to say could hardly be termed “good news”. His message was one of sin and pending judgment. He boldly addressed the sin problem, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3). No one was exempt, as he exposed the sins of the common people (3:7), tax-collectors (3:12), soldiers (3:14), religious leaders (Matthew 3:7) and political rulers (3:18-19). He warned of pending judgment. He spoke of the “wrath to come” (Luke 3:7) and of One who would come and burn the chaff “with unquenchable fire” the chaff (Luke 3:17). He spoke without fear of repercussions. As a direct result, he was eventually imprisoned and ultimately put to death (Luke 3:20).
It is impossible to appreciate the good news of a Savior without coming to terms with the dreadful news of sin. It is impossible to be cured of a problem without first diagnosing its nature and severity. John the Baptist proclaimed bad news, and it is bad news still. We are all sinners by birth (Romans 3:23). Because of sin, we deserve God’s wrath and judgment (Romans 6:23). John the Baptist declared truths related to sin and judgment in his day. The Spirit has this same ministry in our own lives (John 16:8-11).
John the Baptist not only made much of the sin problem, he also made much of the Savior. His ministry was one of preparation for the coming Lord (Luke 3:4-6). He spoke of the One coming Who was mightier than he, acknowledging His preexistence and true identity (Luke 3:16; John 1:15, 1:34). The multitudes were following John. They wondered if he was the Christ (Luke 3:15), however, he told them “don’t look at me, look to Jesus.” His was a Christ-exalting ministry. There is salvation in no One else (Acts 4:12).
John the Baptist spoke prophetically of Christ’s death, saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29)! The problem of sin and pending judgment can only be resolved by such a Savior. We live in a culture in which the concept of sin has been virtually exorcized from thought. What was once called sin is now deemed a disorder, or a mistake. Countless reasons and excuses are given for social maladies, but sin is never a part of the equation. Years ago, H. Richard Niebuhr offered this critique of theological liberalism, describing its message this way: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.” That spirit of ministerial negligence has infiltrated much of which identifies itself today as “Christian.”
In preaching and accepting the whole counsel of God’s Word, it is necessary to make much of sin and much of the Savior. The Bible itself could be summarized this way: “Man sins, God saves.” The bad news of sin is very bad, but we need to hear it, if we are going to seek the cure God has provided in Jesus.
“It is in appreciation of the gravity of the bad news, the glory of the good news (and God Himself) is fully realized and appreciated unto salvation and worship!“Jerry Conklin
AT THE CROSS
Alas! and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sov’reign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Chorus: At the cross, at the cross,
Where I first saw the light,
And the burden of my heart rolled away –
It was there by faith I received my sight,
And now I am happy all the day.
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree! (Chorus)
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut its glories in,
When Christ, the mighty Maker, died
For man the creature’s sin. (Chorus)
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While His dear cross appears;
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness,
And melt mine eyes to tears. (Chorus)
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away –
‘Tis all that I can do! (Chorus)