Jack Graham - Good News, Bad News - Part 1
The title of this message is "Good News/Bad News". And it’s found in Romans chapter 1. So begin finding in your Bibles, Romans chapter 1. How many Bibles do we have here today? Let me see your Bibles. Hold them up where I can see them. Okay, good, students! Fantastic! Again, the title of this message. This is THE ESSENTIAL GOSPEL series, the book of Romans, and it is "Good News/Bad News". Now we’re dealing with a very, very heavy subject today, and so maybe we ought to begin with something a little light. You’ve heard the good news/bad news jokes from the past?
I heard about of old guys; they loved baseball. And all through the years they talked about baseball, and they were just wondering will there be baseball in heaven? I’m kind of wondering about that myself, being a big baseball fan. And one of the old guys had one of those near-death experiences where he saw the light and went to heaven; came back. And he was telling his friend about heaven, what he saw there, and he said, "And I’ve got good news and bad news for you, George". "What is it"? He said, "Well, the good news is there is baseball in heaven". He said, "Oh man, that’s great"! He said, "What could be the bad news after that"? He said, "Well, you’re pitching on Friday".
Well, it’s actually not bad news to go to heaven; it’s good news! And it's this good news of Jesus Christ that we're talking about and as we begin verses 18 through the end of chapter 1. It is what one Bible commentator called the most terrible passage in Scripture. Terrible, not in the sense that it's bad, but it's terrible in the sense that it is fierce, it is frightening in so many ways. It is dark and it is disturbing, because what we have in Romans chapter 1:18 through 32, the walk on the wild side, if you will. It's really you can smell the stench of hell and of burning flesh. Is that descriptive?
When you read Romans 1. It's a very, very tough and challenging passage of scripture. Because as Paul is making his case for Christ and the need of everyone, the necessity of the Gospel for people to be saved, for people to go to heaven, he talks about sin and guilt and the fact is, he's like a prosecuting attorney with God as the judge. There's no jury of your peers on this one because God is the Supreme Court of the universe. God is the judge, Paul is the prosecuting attorney here in the first several chapters of Romans, and he is prosecuting the case that all are guilty, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God".
Everyone needs the Gospel; everyone needs Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord! That's the big idea! That's the big point of what we're about to take on over the next several weeks. I was walking in the mall, Deb and I, it's been a while that I've been in a mall after all this past year, so we were actually in the mall and we went by a jewelry store and I noticed a young couple there and they were picking out a ring. They were looking at diamonds. And the jeweler had brought out a black piece of cloth, velvet, a dark piece of cloth to lay those diamonds on the cloth so they could see the color and the clarity and the beauty of those diamonds even better. Well, that's what's happening here in God's Word. Against the dark backdrop of sin and judgment and even the wrath of God upon sin, against that dark, terrible background comes this beautiful good news of the Gospel of Christ. So what we're going to do is read it straight up, and then the message.
Verse 18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth (key word) suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse". Note that. Everyone has some light of the Gospel of Christ, the creation. We'll get to that. Verse 21: "For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, for they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, The Bible says, 'The fool has said in his heart there is no God.' and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images (this is idolatry) resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves".
Now, we’re about to get to some adult content, and I thought long and hard about how to express this. I can tell you if you’re a parent of one of these pre-teens, this is going to be an opportunity for you to talk to your children and to teach your children some very important things about truth that shows up right here. So, here’s what the Scripture says. God gave them up to impurity and verse 25, "because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen". Paul, right in the middle of this darkness says "Oh, by the way, God is God! Praise Him forever". And then he says, "God gave them up", in verse 26, "to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature", that's Lesbianism, "and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another", that's homosexuality, "men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error".
Again, adult content. Verse 28: "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God", they suppressed the truth; exchanged truth for lies, "God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done". And here's the result, "They were all, they were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless".
Isn’t that amazing by the way, students, that right in the middle of this terrible declaration of these awful, heinous, hellish sins is "disobedient to parents"? Woah! That is one of the big ten, you know. "Honor your father and your mother". But "disobedient to parents", and then boom, boom, boom, "foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless". What a description of our collapsing culture today! "Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them". So now we're passing laws and approving a sinful behavior and codifying it. And what used to be, as one man said, slinking down back alleys is now marching down Main Street in America. It's true. This sermon is about... is not about that really, all that, it's about God's righteous judgment for all sin. It's about the wrath of God!
Now you probably didn't wake up this morning and say, "Oh, I hope he preaches on the wrath of God today! We need a good excoriating sermon on judgment and hell"! Not many best-selling books in the Christian world on the wrath of God. But students, all students, it's in the Bible because, yes, we sang it earlier. "Your great love, Your great love, thank You for Your great love"! And I'm sure there's more songs written about the love of God, and rightfully so, more songs written about the love of God than any other theme. But with His great love there is also great wrath! The Bible speaks of the great wrath of God. The Scripture says that "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God in judgment". The Bible says that "God is angry with the wicked every day". God who is love, is also just and righteous! And His love is a holy love because God is holy.
The Scripture says of God, "He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity". Even to look at sin. When Jesus died on the cross and became sin for us, took our sin and God’s wrath and judgment on Himself, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me"? because in that moment of spiritual death when He was bearing the sins of the world, God the Father turned His back on His Son. He could not with purer eyes, even to behold iniquity. God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus. And it’s the good news in the midst of all of this terrible news. And it’s the terrible news that we see all around us; that we hear all around us. You know, this week we passed a disturbing milestone with the Corona Virus, COVID-19 with in America with 500,000 deaths. Who could have imagined when this started a little over a year ago that we would be looking at 500,000 deaths? A virus that spread, infections everywhere, so contagious.
There’s a virus called sin that spreads everywhere and all of us infected by this virus of sinful rebellion against God. Sinfulness. We’re born with this infection. We carry it from generation to generation. And because of this the Bible says here in Romans chapter 6 that "The wages of sin is death". It is a deadly virus and it is killing and destroying everyone it touches.
Now before we go on in this message, we should make no apologies for God's holy wrath. None! Or no excuses for the guilt of every one of us! All of us, and every person on the face of the earth, the Gospel truth includes the fact that God must in His holiness and righteousness judge sin and punish sin and sinners who are unforgiven. That there is an eternal condemnation, consequences to sin! And that's what this is about. And when we take a walk here in Romans chapter 1, but for the grace of God go every one of us. There is no sin that you and I would not commit apart from the love and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s all here! And so it reminds us in this terrifying, dark and disturbing passage just how thankful we are. This destroys our pride and we remember that but for the grace of God there go I.
There are three parts I’m going to cover with you in this passage: First, we’re going to talk about the dreadful problem of sin and guilt. Secondly, we’re going to talk about the destructive process of sin and guilt. And then we’re going to see the deadly penalty of sin and guilt. First is the dreadful problem of sin and guilt. The question is who is guilty and the answer is all are guilty. "The wrath of God", verse 18, "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness, the unrighteousness of men, who suppress and repress the truth". And then he says, "because it is plain to see in creation, in the skies, in the season, in science itself", it is plain to see the intelligent design of the universe. God is clearly seen! The Creator is seen and known by the creation that He has made. Behind what is made is the Maker! And anyone and everyone can understand that simple truth.
Psalm 19 and verse 1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God". Paul said, "It's the majesty of God, the greatness of God, this glory of God"! The power of God is seen in creation. "The heavens declare His glory". God's tracks are in the sky. His fingerprints are on all of His creation. We're not the product of chance, but we are made by the hand of God. And creation reveals that. The grandeur, the greatness of creation. And in just knowing God in a general sense, this is called by theologians general revelation. And in just the revelation of God in a general sense of looking without, and even looking within, we can believe that there is a God, that we can know this God, and we cry out, the very fact that people search for God, that human beings have this insatiable hunger for eternity. The Scripture says in Ecclesiastes 3 that "God has set eternity in our hearts". There is this desire to know the Creator. And it's in the skies, it's in the soul, it's in creation, it's in the conscience.
Helen Keller was after an accident at birth, or illness rather at birth, was left blind and deaf. Therefore, she could not communicate. She lived in a world completely void of knowledge. A woman, a teacher by the name of Ann Sullivan made it her life's mission to teach Helen Keller to communicate, and she primarily did it through touch. Teaching her words and means of words through touch in the palm or on the face. Ann Sullivan wanted Helen to know God. And so she "typed in" or "texted in", if you will, on her palm, on her forehead the words for God. Now remember, Helen had never known of God; she'd never heard about God. She was living in a world of silence. And yet when Ann "typed in", she touched in the name of God, Helen communicated back by saying, "Oh, I know Him! I've known Him all along! I just didn't know His name". She could not see or hear, but intuitively she knew that God existed. So within and without the evidence is obvious.
That's what Paul is saying. God has made it evident. In verse 19, God reveals himself to all who seek Him. You can know God! You can know Him not only in a general sense, but because God has revealed Himself now in Christ, you can not only know Him intellectually, but you can know Him personally and relationally. Even intimately. Now when we bring this passage up, it's inevitable that people ask the question, well, what about those who have never heard the name of Jesus? What about those who have never heard the Gospel? Perhaps you've witnessed to a friend and someone has thrown that up. It's often a smoke screen to change the subject. But it's a sincere question by many. What about those who have never heard? The fact is that God is true and just. He will judge, "Will not the judge of the whole earth judge rightly". God will reveal Himself to the sincere seeker.
There was a man in the New Testament by the name of Cornelius. He was a Roman soldier, Centurion. He was seeking God. He didn't know Jesus but he was known as God fearer. And he prayed. Maybe it was on some night. He looked out over the sea and saw the magnificence of God and the majesty of the ocean. And he wanted to know God and he cried out something like, "If there is a God, may I know You. I want to know who You are". And on the other end of the line, God was working on Simon Peter's heart, the apostle of Jesus, preparing him to go to this Gentile, this Roman with the Gospel of Christ. Peter balked at first but ultimately, he went and Cornelius the soldier became a follower of Jesus. The point is that if you want to know God, if you want to know the truth, that God will get you the truth. This is why God has called us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel of Christ. This is the missionary call because everyone everywhere, each on, everywhere needs Jesus Christ.
It's been said, why should anyone hear the Gospel of Jesus multiple times when there are people in the world who've not even heard it one time! And God is preparing the hearts. And if you’re checking it out lately you will discover that people of all kinds of religions and backgrounds are finding Jesus around the world through dreams, introducing them first to Jesus, but ultimately the Gospel of Christ gets there. Nobody’s saved by a dream, they’re saved by Jesus, but Jesus is introducing Himself in magnificent, miraculous ways around the world. I’m telling you, if anyone wants to know Jesus Christ, the message is going to get there! That’s on God. And it’s partly on us because we have the opportunity to share the Gospel! The fact is everyone has a choice. And while we’re talking about those who have never heard the Gospel, let’s talk about you who are hearing the Gospel right now! You are accountable to God! Let’s let God be God concerning those who have never heard.
The Bible says in John chapter 1, verse 9 in introducing Christ to the world, that Jesus is the Light that lights every man who comes into the world. Every person has some light of God and ultimately the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So, yes, every one, the Scripture says, is accountable to God. Everyone is responsible for the problem of sin and guilt. It is a dreadful thing to consider this judgment that falls upon those who reject and repress and suppress this truth. He says, verses 24 and 25, that these move into idolatry; exchanging the truth for a lie - the truth for a lie.
C.S. Lewis said this... One of the first books I read as a young Christian, I wanted to learn how to defend my faith and the intellectual, some of the intellectual components of the Christian faith, and I began to read C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity. Here's what he said regarding idolatry and what happens when people plunge into their sin. He said, "When Satan puts into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could be like gods. (First temptation was 'If you eat of this fruit, you will be like God.')" He said, "it was the idea that they could be like gods, could set up their own as if they had created themselves, be their own masters, invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history. Money and poverty and ambition and war and prostitution and classes and empires and slavery. The long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy". So, the dreadful problem of sin is the emptiness and the brokenness of humanity, and the idolatry, exchanging the truth for a lie, worshiping created things, worshiping himself.