How many of you have ever had someone walk up to you and say, “I’ve got good and bad news, which do you want first?”  I would venture to say that most people pick the bad news first, not because they are a “glass is half-empty” kind of person, but rather because hearing the bad news first always seems to make the good news that much better.  Imagine your doctor coming to you and saying, “Good news, I have a cure for your problem” (without you even knowing you have a problem).  You might respond by saying, “Well…that’s great, but I didn’t know I was sick.”  Now flip that and imagine your doctor coming to you and delivering you bad news…news like, you have a condition that is causing you to die, BUT…I have found a cure!  Now, the good news all of a sudden becomes great news! 

I am currently in a teaching series on Wednesday nights at our church concerning the subject of “the Gospel.”  If there is anything church members love to talk about, it is the Gospel, but at the same time, if there is anything church members cannot seem to define…it is the Gospel.  If you do not believe me, just ask a member of your church this week to define and explain the Gospel to you.  You might here things like, “The Gospel is the Good News;” or “The Gospel is the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ;” or “The Gospel is God loves you and sent His Son to die on the Cross for your sins;” or maybe even, “The Gospel is God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  My guess if that you asked that question, “What is the Gospel?”, you would get a variety of responses.  But how many would be able to talk about the fullness of the Gospel?  How many could speak clearly about the bad news behind the good news?  I would venture to say…very few!

One of the great problems in our world today is that most people do not understand the exact nature of their spiritual condition before the Holy God of all creation.  I am sure this happens for a number of reasons, but perhaps one of the main reasons is that many preachers today do not even understand it themselves.  On July 3, 2005, in a live television interview with Larry King, the popular preacher, Joel Osteen, was asked if he uses the word sinner in his church.  He replied to Larry King by saying, “I don’t use it.  I never thought about it.  But I probably don’t.  But most people already know what they’re doing wrong.  When I get them to church I want to tell them you can change.  There can be a difference in your life.”  He also said earlier in the interview, “The Gospel is called Good News.  My message is a message of hope, that God’s for you.  You can live a good life no matter what’s happened to you.”  You see, for many people who hear things like that, they might say, “What’s wrong with that?”  Isn’t God for me?  Doesn’t He want me to live a good life?”  My answer is to this is, “NO!”  Romans 5:18 says, “Therefore…one trespass led to condemnation for ALL.”  Ephesians 2:1-3 speaks of all mankind being children of wrath, dead in sin, and left without any hope of redemption.  The Scripture is crystal clear that, because of sin, every human being stands to bear the wrath and judgment of God.  Man is condemned before a holy God.  Man is dead in sin and has nothing in him that could satisfy the justice and holiness of God.  Man is utterly depraved, completely destitute spiritually and has no hope of salvation or anything good in and of himself.  Now, how is that for a positive message?  If you are one of the 20,000 people that attend Joel Osteen’s church, that is not a message you will hear from him.  In fact, you will hear the opposite.  You will hear how you can live your best life now; you will hear how being positive is really all you do to do to change your life; you might even hear a little bit about Jesus and the Good News here and there; but I assure you, you will not hear the bad news!  You see, the bad news is critical to be shared because it makes the good news, really good news!  Without the bad news, the good news just becomes okay news!

I disagree with Joel Osteen!  I do not think most people know how bad they really are!  I do not think most people even understand the depth of their sinful condition.  How could they at his church?  He never tells them, thus at best, they only get half of the news of the Gospel…and I fear this is the reality in many churches all over this country.  The Gospel is bad news and good news.  The Gospel is Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  The Gospel is the full redemptive plan and message of God that culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ!  It is bad and good news and we must tell people both!  People cannot understand their needs for a Savior if they do not understand their natural standing before God.  Listen to Romans 5:9-10, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”  Only through Jesus is there hope!  Without Christ, we stand condemned!  Apart from Christ we can do nothing!  When man hears the Gospel, he should first feel helpless and without hope, leaving him to look to something beyond himself…then you bring in the Good News by pointing him to his only hope of salvation in Jesus Christ!

This is why Ephesians 2:4 makes me want to shout every time I read it, “BUT God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ-by grace you have been saved.”  Halleluiah for God’s grace!  All of a sudden there is hope!  When you tell people they are condemned and hopeless before a holy God on their own, they will think, “What can I do?  Where I can I find salvation and forgiveness and grace?”  That’s when we point them to the greatest news of all; the news that, as Romans 5:18 says, “One act of righteousness leads to justification.”  The work of Christ on the Cross makes salvation a reality to those who are being saved!  The Scripture says, “Where sin increased, grace increased ALL THE MORE.”  How does that not make you want to shout?  God is a fully redemptive, all-satisfying God!  Jesus Christ rescues us from the wrath to come!  Through Christ we no longer stand condemned and yes, through Christ, God is now for us!  Jesus becomes our righteousness and gives us the ability to stand forgiven and fully justified before the Holy God of all!  Romans 5:11 says, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

So…the bad news is essential to the good news!  Without the bad news, the good news really just becomes okay news and people’s lives never fully get transformed by the power of the Gospel!  People need the full Gospel…and when they get the full Gospel, guess what happens?  TOTAL TRANSFORMATION!  When God showers His grace on people and opens their eyes to their sinful condition and they respond by faith to the power of the Gospel, they are altered in every way possible…totally transformed! 

So… what is the Gospel?  It is good and bad news!  It is Romans 3:23-24!  It is the full redemptive plan and message of God that culminates in the person and work of Jesus Christ!  …good news or bad news, which do you want first?