News You Can Use (Easter 2016)
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News You Can Use
The news you can use is good news
We all could use some news you can use. I’m kind of a practical guy–I don’t want news I can’t use. I want news I can use. A lot of times you come to church and you get news you can’t use, some kind of theory or useless facts that don’t contain any importance.
Stuff like, approximately 40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year. It takes 142 licks to reach the center of a Tootsie pop. There are more plastic flamingos in the U.S. than real ones. Daniel Boone hated coonskin caps. All that is useless. If you’ll listen for a moment, I want to give you this Easter Sunday some news I guaranty you can use. I’m committed to making this morning brief, quick and concise.
I kind of feel like the chicken who wanted to lay an egg on the freeway and the rooster said, “If you’re gonna do it, lay it on the line and do it in a hurry.” So today, I am committed to laying it on the line and doing it in a hurry. To help you follow along, please take out the outline.
In the next 24 hours, billions of people will be celebrating Easter all over the world. What’s the big deal? It’s about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And when Jesus Christ rose from the grave after being dead for three days, it did two major things. First, it proved who Jesus was (that He was who He said He was). And second, it validated everything Jesus said.
First It PROVED Jesus was who He said He was
Jesus made some incredibly outrageous claims while He was here on Earth. He said things like, “I came from Heaven” (John 6), “I’m perfect” (Matthew 5:58), “I’m the Savior of the world” (John 3:16), “I’m God” (John 10:31), and “I’m the only way to Heaven.” Read this incredible claim with me from John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
No religious leader ever made that claim. When Jesus said, “I am the only way to Heaven”–folks, that doesn’t leave many options. There are no other options. There isn’t a whole lot of middle ground there. You either say, “Yes, He was who He said He was,” or “NO, He is not.” He is either who He said He was, the Lord, or He was a liar, or maybe some kind of lunatic.
And Jesus said, “The way you’ll know I am who I say I am is this: I will not stay dead. I will come back to life after three days in the grave.” The Bible says Roman soldiers put a large stone in front of the tomb and placed an official Roman seal on that tomb and placed a 24-hour guard around it. But they were only postponing the inevitable, because Jesus said, “I’m gonna come back alive.”
Jesus was saying, “I am God. Now don’t believe Me unless I do the miracles of God.” Jesus said, “Hey, here is what I claim, and here is how I am going to prove it–I will rise from the dead. And if I don’t do it, guess what–I’m not God, I’m a fraud! But if I do come back from the dead, then I am God in the flesh.
Jesus said, “The way you will know I am who I say I am is I will not stay dead. I’ll come back to life after three days in the grave.” There is no confusion in Jesus’ mind. He didn’t say, “I am A way,” but “I am THE way.” Pointedly, it means there is no other way.
There are a lot of people who say, “I believe Jesus is a good teacher,” but there is only one problem with that. He didn’t make that claim. He claimed to be God. Now if He wasn’t who He said He was, He wasn’t a good teacher. He was a fraud.
Understand it this way–if I were to say to you, “My name is Chris Mueller and I am an okay teacher.” Some of you may say, “I can buy that.” But if I stood up here and said, “I’m Chris Mueller and I’m God”–that’s a whole different ballgame. You’d say, “He must have just come off Sunset Boulevard.”
So when Jesus made statements saying, “I’m God,” He is either who He said He was, or He was the biggest fraud or nut that ever lived. Which position do you feel more comfortable with? Jesus said in Mark 10:34, “They will mock me, spit on me, scourge me and kill me and three days later I will rise.”
Why did they crucify Jesus anyway? Because He claimed to be God. So the religious leaders had two options–either fall down to worship Him or get rid of Him. So they killed Him. The only problem was, He didn’t stay dead. And three days later He came back to life—“I’m back!”
Now the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a matter of public record. This was not something that was done in secret. It was big headlines in the Jerusalem Times. The whole city knew about it and eventually the whole world knew about it. It was big news. This person was publicly executed and three days later He is walking around again.
If CNN was there, it would’ve been live on mini-cam. There are at least fifteen instances of what Jesus did after He came back to life. He walked around Jerusalem, He talked with people, He ate with people, they touched him, He talked to over 500 people at one time. And ultimately all His friends were killed for their belief in His resurrection–this was common news. “But,” you say, “I believe that!” And so do most Americans.
George Gallup did a survey some years ago and said that 89% of Americans accept the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an historical fact–89% believe Jesus was who He said He was. But even if you don’t accept the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, do you realize you use Jesus Christ as a reference point every single day of your life? Every time you write down a date–March 2016 from what? Jesus Christ.
You see, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most significant event in history. It split all of history into BC and AD. It is the most important event of history. Whether you believe it or not, you still use Jesus Christ as a reference point every single day of your life.
But what makes the resurrection important? It’s this! God came to Earth, lived among mankind for 33 years, and because He loved us, even though we ignored God and rebelled against Him and His perfect standard–even though we deserve to be tormented forever for our sin. Jesus took our punishment–we deserved the cross. Then because He was God, Jesus rose from the dead and showed Himself to many before ascending to Heaven.
“But,” you say, “How is this news I can use?” Well, by resurrecting from the dead, not only did Jesus prove He was who He said He was, but . . .
Second It validates what He said was the truth
ALL He said! And what did He say? Let me share four key statements.
#1 You are in a lot of TROUBLE with God
Read John 3:36 with me, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” God is perfect and Heaven is a perfect place and if you’re going to live there, you have to be perfect. Anyone here perfect? I don’t know about you, but I don’t stand a chance.
Jesus taught there are two ways to get to Heaven. Plan A is to live a perfectly sinless life. If life were a baseball game, living perfect would mean you’d bat a thousand your whole career. No one can do that–no one can live perfectly. We don’t even come close.
How many of you have taken/stolen something that wasn’t yours? How many of you have lied to someone about anything? How many have lusted after another person at one point? So all of us are thieving, lying, perverts. Those are not mistakes, friends–those are sins. God is perfect and sin is opposed to His character. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
You say, “I will change, Chris.” No you won’t. Jeremiah 13:23, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also, can do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”
You might clean up your act externally. You may even start acting religious, but your heart is still far from God, like the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. Matthew 15:8, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.”
You and I are in trouble with God. You are going to die and you are going to face Christ in judgment. What will you say to Him so He’ll let you into Heaven? You have already failed at Plan A. What about Plan B? There are only two ways to get to Heaven, only two–Plan A and Plan B. Plan B is trust the One who came from Heaven, lived perfectly and offers us the only way to be right with God.
#2 Jesus loved you so much, He took your PLACE
In Matthew 26:28 Jesus said, “For my blood is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The reason Jesus allowed Himself to be killed was to take the punishment you and I deserved for sin.
The Bible says the wages of sin is death. Jesus took your place and my place on the cross–He died in our place. And when you exchange your life for His, this verse says He provides complete and total forgiveness.
We all carry guilt, the “if onlys” of life. We’ve all done things we regret, said things we wish we could take back. And that guilt builds barriers–barriers to others and barriers to God. Colossians 3:13, “Bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
Forgiving has the idea of canceling a debt. How long do you remember a debt that’s been paid? You don’t. God has forgiven it, so you can forget it. What God did through Jesus, is to provide a way to Etch-a-Sketch our lives. In Jesus, He can turn our lives over, shake us, and as a result in Christ, we come out clean–brand new. He wipes the slate clean.
Your sin falls on Christ and God punishes your sin there. As a result, Christ’s perfect righteousness can cover you so when you die, you can stand in God’s presence–not because of what you did, not in your perfection, but Christ’s. God the Father now looks at you and sees Christ’s perfection, leading to statement number three. What Jesus said is this . . .
#3 You can go to HEAVEN when you die
Only a fool would go through life unprepared for something that is inevitable. What is going to happen to me when I die? You are going to die–the stats don’t lie: 100%. What will it be like? Check it out from the source. First Corinthians 2:9, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Heaven is not wearing diapers and playing a harp. It is not floating on clouds wearing a white sheet. Heaven is awesome: love, peace, and perfection. Endless, joyful activity and rest at the same time. Will you go to Heaven when you die? Heaven is a perfect place. If you are going to live there you have to be perfect. I don’t stand a chance, and either do you.
There are only two ways to get to Heaven. Plan A–live a perfectly sinless life. Or Plan B, turn from your sin and trust in Christ alone. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Plan B, put your life into the hands of the One who lived perfectly and took your place, took your punishment for you, the day He wore my crown–leading us to statement number four.
#4 Resurrection TRUTH will set you free
John 8:32 says if you follow His Word, the Bible, “The truth will make you free.” Most people I know in life are not free. They are captive to worry, to depression, they’re bound up by bitterness, anger, fatigue or insecurity. They’re enslaved by addictions–lust, money, pleasure, self, pride.
Most people are not free, they’re not living–they’re merely existing. And Jesus said, “When you know the truth, it’s going to set you free.” His truth gives you a great purpose–not merely get up in the morning, go to work, come home, watch TV, go to bed three times then go to parties on weekends. Life isn’t merely making money, spending it, retiring then dying.
A lot of people have much to live on, but little to live for—tragic. God made you for a purpose. What is it? Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” And John 17:3 says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
Knowing Jesus sets you free because it’s not a religion, but a relationship. You see, God knows all about me, but He also wants me to know all about Him. That’s a mind-blower. Knowing about God–that’s a religion. Knowing God through Jesus is an intimate relationship. You can’t know God personally if your life is centered on possessions, position, or popularity. But you can, if your life is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. That is news you can use, if you act, if you seek Him.
So what is the big deal about Jesus rising from the dead? It proved it’s all true and validates all that He said. It is the resurrection that guarantees you will live again. Romans 8:11, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
Bow your heads with me. If you say, “Jesus, I not only believe you took the punishment for my sin, rose from the dead, will live in me and through me–but I believe in giving my life to you and following you is what you made me for. Awaken my heart, give me mercy. Cause me to be born again internally. Help me to know you genuinely, not just know about you.
“I surrender. I die to self, I seek to follow only you. I give you my sin and I beg for your righteousness and forgiveness. I am asking now that you let me personally know you and make me ready to live with you forever in Heaven. Amen.” People, to help you, fill out the card and talk to someone to follow up with the Gospel.
Becoming a Christian is not your choice, it’s God’s! Salvation is not cleaning up your life, but surrendering your life. Going to Heaven doesn’t come by acting nice, but it is God transforming you from the inside out. Being forgiven doesn’t come from carrying around a Bible. Salvation comes by having God write His words on your heart.
Being saved doesn’t come by obeying a bunch of rules. It’s God giving you a new heart that wants to obey God’s Word. Being ready for Heaven means God changes your heart so you start to live for Heaven now. Ending up in Heaven means you want to be with Christ now even before Heaven and love being with His people now even before Heaven.
God is angry with you, friends–your sin must be judged. Your sin is rebellion against Him. God must punish your sin. Either Christ will be punished for your sin, or you will be punished for your sin. Only in Christ can you be forgiven and go to Heaven. If you do not turn to Him you are destined for Hell. Christ alone is risen from the dead. The only way you can live in Heaven after you die is to die with Christ and rise again with Christ. Exchange all that you are for all that He is. Let’s pray.
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