As I walk through the grocery store I'm taken by all the pretty things around me. The perfectly prepared treats, the well-dressed patrons, the shiny cars in the parking lot. I don't live in a rough neighborhood in the inner city. I don't live in the slums of a third world county. I live in a nice neighborhood in America. I can look around me most days and see nicely dressed, well adjusted people going about their every day lives.
But there is a huge problem with that. I can get so caught up in their nice exteriors, that I can ignore the fact that many (if not most) of them are sick. The truth is sin has infected everyone, no matter how nice anyone looks on the outside, and that sin ultimately leads to death. Sin doesn't care if you are a got-it-together mom, the adorable 2 year old at the park, or the kind neighbor boy who mows your lawn and shovels your walk. Sin infests us all; no one is immune. The worst part about this sickness is that there is no vaccination. It's not a 24 hour bug. No, it's a sickness that ultimately leads to death. But not just physically, I'm talking about spiritual death.
I truthfully don't like to think about hell. It's a scary thought; it's an uncomfortable topic and it's not very easy to write about.
But, hell is real.
Hell is an eternity of torment and suffering and agony completely separated from God. That means after 10,000 years of total suffering wishing for one drop of water to wet your tongue you will be no closer to the end of your suffering than you were when it started. (Luke 16:19-21)
I don't know about you, but I'm a chicken. I hate being home alone in the darkness. I'm terrified of persecution let alone suffering and torment. The very thought of hell makes me squirm uncomfortably. But the reality is this is the sentence of an unfathomably holy God that each of us deserve.
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands: there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away,they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” - Romans 3:10-12
The outlook for the multitudes of sin-infected people around us is not good. There is no hope; there is no sweet smile to escape what is coming. There is only the just punishment of a righteous God.
And that, my dear friends, is why I love the message of EASTER. You see Jesus sat in the Garden of Gethsemene the night of his betrayal and prayed in agony that "the cup" would pass from him. For so long, I never fully understood this. I've read many accounts of Christ's followers being martyred in terrible ways, yet going to their deaths singing joyfully. So why, when Jesus faced torture, was he praying so intensely that he sweat drops of blood? Because the true suffering of the cross was not the physical pain of tourture and death. It was "the cup" of God's wrath. The sum off all the righteous judgment of a holy God on all people, poured all at once upon HIS ONLY SON. He was completely forsaken by God with no hope of escape or easy way out until he had fully suffered the entire weight of it all: Your sin, my sin, all sin.
And after he hung on that cross, as the final sacrifice, as the only sacrifice that could actually forgive sins (Hebrews10:11-14), he called out "It is finished" and died (John 19:30).
Yet, death and the grave, the one thing that cannot be escaped by any of us, the ultimate consequence for sin, had NO POWER OVER HIM.
Oh, this is the best part.
HE ROSE AGAIN! Never to face death again. He didn't just win the battle, he stomped out death and defeated it for all eternity.
Death... Sin... Hell... ... the reign of sin and Satan: they lost.
They fell beneath the glory and all consuming power of the risen and victorious Jesus, the Messiah, the King of Kings. The necessary penalty for sin had been paid. PAID IN FULL.
This is indeed the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ.The news that shows the reality of our sin and yet the undeserved victory won for us in Jesus.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." - Romans 10:9,11
As this victorious Jesus rose to heaven he gave this command:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” - Matthew 28:18-19
With all the authority that had now been given to him by the Father, what does Jesus command us to do?
GO MAKE DISCIPLES.
You see the reality of sin, death and hell? It's real. We need to look beyond the shiny exteriors that people put on and see the reality of multitudes walking towards an eternity in hell. We need to pray that God would "restore to us the joy of our salvation" and give us hearts that break over each soul that doesn't know the good news of Jesus Christ. We need to pray for strength to overcome our own insecurities and weaknesses over sharing the gospel and let the urgency of the news we've been given spur us on to share it.
The amazing truth is that there is a cure for the sickness. There is a remedy for the death sentence. But, if those of us who know it live in the joy of our salvation and yet, ignore the dying around us, how will they hear the good news?
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:14-15