21 Apr 2019
The message of first importance in the Bible is "Christ died for our sins. . . and was raised on the third day. " Elsewhere, Paul also said that he "decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. " (1Cor 2:2). In other words, the central message of the Bible is the gospel. And this gospel speaks of 3 nails- that represent the immeasurable suffering of God's Son on the cross for our sins. It also speaks of 3 days- that the saddest and gladdest days of the whole world were just 3 days apart. And finally, 3 words- Jesus loves me. It sounds simple, but it speaks of a profound love of God for unworthy sinners. Come and find out the central message of the gospel, and how this can change your life in this sermon today.
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Well, we are so glad you can join us on this special Easter weekend. Ah, this is a special weekend for all Christians, for all Bible believing churches. Because this is the weekend, we remember the most important three days in human history, where God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to die and to rise again, to save us from our sins.
Indeed, this is about Jesus Christ! And He was born as a carpenter's son in a very ordinary family. But of course, He was more than a carpenter. He came to be the Saviour, to be the sin bearer of this world. Jesus was raised in a carpenter's family and He look forward actually to the time He will give His life on the cross.
This is what we call, as Christians, ‘The Good News or the Gospel’. And the Bible is really about the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. This is the central message of the Bible. The Bible is not a thin book, it's a pretty thick book. There are a lot of words there, there are many paragraphs, chapters there.
But if you asked me, “What is the Bible all about? Is there a central message that ties everything together?” It would be this, this is what Paul said, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins.” [1 Corinthians 15:3] This is the message of first importance, Christ died for our sins.”
The message of God that He wants all men to know is that, He sent His Son to pay for our sins. And you see this is what we call the good news. The good news is so important because it's right here maybe for the first time in your life you hear bad news. The bad news is that we have sinned and according to the Bible, we are sinners, and this is the bad news that God is angry at sins. God is angry at sinners. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” [Romans 1:18]
Some of you say, “Yah, God is angry with sinners and therefore we need the Gospel, the message of salvation, for sinners. So Jason, go preach this to many people, to all the robbers, murderers and rapists, cheats, swindlers. Preach the Gospel to them, but I do not need the message. I'm quite alright. I’m quite a moral guy. I'm quite a good chap and I don't think this is a message for me.”
Well, suppose today, we are all in a kind of a competition, a kind of a jumping competition. I used to say this very often, but bear with me alright. So, let's say there's a jumping competition. We are all in it. And if you jump far enough, you will qualify for a prize. So you, join the rest of us in this jumping competition, standing broad jump.
Generally, people jump I think, 2 metres. I, I, I don't want to try. I don't want to spoil the stage here. But generally, we jump maybe about 2 metres. If you're really good, 3 metres. And if you're even better, maybe 3.5 metres. So everyone, in this world joins this competition and we jump. And you are special, you are the best jumper of all of us.
You're so strong, so well-trained. You're so muscular, you jumped 4 metres. And then you look back at all of us, all the rest and you say, “Ha, ha, I must be the one to win the prize.” Then the judge comes along, he looks at everybody jumping and he looks at you and you say, “Sir, surely I win the prize.” He says to you, “No, sir, you don't win the prize.” “But I jumped 4 metres.” “Yes, you jumped 4 metres, but you don't get the prize.”
You say, “Why?” “Because the qualifying mark is one million meters.” You say, “What kind of a competition is this? Everybody jumps 2 to 3 metres, I jumped 4 metres. I should win.” “No, you don't win because the pass mark is 1 million metres.”
I think you get the point. We like to compare ourselves with one another. I'm not like the rapist. I'm not like the murderer. I don't cheat and steal like that guy. I am quite a moral chap. I give to charity. I donate to the poor. I try to avoid sins. I'm faithful to my wife. I try to be as honest as I can in my business dealings. I am quite good, so surely I qualify for God's favour.
I'm sorry, you may think you do very well, you jumped 4 metres, everybody's two or three. But the pass mark is one million meters. Which means, it is mission impossible! See, this is the high standard of God! God's standard is absolute perfection, absolute righteousness.
In fact, the Bible says, “If you break one law, you know what? You break the whole law.” In other words, there is no one who is righteous, there is no, not one. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none who does good and sins not.
And this is the scary part about the message of the Bible. We may imagine ourselves to be quite okay. We think that God will be quite favourable towards us. We think that when we die, we will stand with the rest of the world and be judged based on the standing broad jump we have done on earth. We think we will qualify, but God says, “You are way off. You're so far away. You do not qualify.”
My friends, the message of the Bible is not for some rotten criminal out there. It's for all rotten people right here - you and I. According to the Bible, according to God's verdict we are all sinners. We are guilty before our Holy God and we will be judged for our sins, one day.
The Bible is very clear about this coming judgement that all men would face before the Holy God. The Bible tells us, all sinners will be thrown into a place called, hell. And hell is a place of everlasting torment. It's a place where there is an everlasting burning, in the lake of fire. There is everlasting darkness. They'll be an everlasting weeping and gnashing of teeth. And that's the judgment we sinners deserve before a most Holy God.
My friends, this is a truth that confronts you today. You come to church, you might think, “I'm quite a decent man. I'm quite a moral lady. I just want to do some religious dues. Surely that would add up to something that will favour me when I meet with God.” The Bible says, “If you're looking to yourself to save yourself, you are doomed.”
But here is the good news. Here is the amazing news. This is a message therefore of first importance. When we are guilty and when we know we are guilty before a most Holy God, this message shines through - Christ died for our sins. You say, “What so special about Christ dying for our sins?” Because Christ is the Son of God, and He came down to be born as man. And He is the only One in this whole world who jumped that one million meters, spiritually speaking, and even more.
He's the only One who lived that perfect life. He never sinned against God and when He lived that perfect life, He went to the cross and gave Himself up to save you and I from our sins. In other words, the bad news of the Bible is that we are damned. We are guilty, we are hopeless and we can never save ourselves. But the Good News of the Bible is that Jesus did it all! He died to save you and me from our sins. And you know that little puppet show, really tells us this message in three simple phrases.
1]. Three Nails
The first phrase was that it was just about three nails. You say, “What so special about the three nails?” Where it was three nails that held Jesus to the cross. You see God is so holy. He cannot, let me say this, God is so holy, He cannot just say, “Oh, I love sinners. They have done wrong things, but I'll just close one eye and let these sinners come into heaven, and be saved.”
You know something. He love sinners but He cannot just let sinners come in. Why? Because He's a Holy God. He's a just God and sin must be paid for. He's so inflexibly righteous in all that he does, that sin must be paid for. And if He is to spare us from our sins, it must be paid for by His Son. And so the cross, is where Jesus must be tormented and tortured. On the cross, it is where He hung, so that He may bear away our sin.
Pastor Paul described the sufferings of Jesus on Friday. He described for us, to hear once again the stripes, the furrows upon His back. How He was more marred than any man after being whipped with the cat of nine tails. How the strips of flesh and skin were ripped off His body as the whip wrapped around Him. He was punched. He was buffeted. He was spat upon.
And then, with the three nails, He was nailed to the cross. Nerves being severed by the nails. He dislocated, probably His limbs. And when He was hoisted up there on the cross, He had to suffer the agony of suffocating because He can't move. Or if He should move, the excruciating pain that should come from all the dislocations. He's suffering from heart failure as His blood oozed from His wounds. He was mocked. He was reviled. And there, He was a pitiful sight on the cross.
You say, “Why? Does He deserve any of this?” No, but He's taking on the punishments for you and for me. And there on the cross, the Son of God suffered. The Chinese have a way of causing death, which is very cruel, on observation. We, I, I've watched enough pugilistic movies, martial arts, kung fu shows, ancient shows. And, and they say that, “If you are a traitor of the nation, they kill you by this process called, “五马分尸”[ Wǔ mǎ fēn shī]
So people tie ropes around your forelimbs and around your neck, and the ropes are tied to five horses. And at the crack of the whip, the horses run and gallop in five different directions, dismembering your body and decapitating your head. It looks scary but actually it is a very quick way to die. You don't suffer that long, not that much. Not that I want to die that way, of course.
But the Romans were far more cruel because the cross is a classic, it's a genius way of inflicting maximal pain without letting you die. And so, Jesus hung on that cross like many other criminals would and suffered from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the hands of men. And what's amazing is that even though, we know this is an extremely torturous and painful way to suffer, He did not utter a word that says, “Help me! Save me! It's too much!”
And then, the miraculous thing happened at noon day, at 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday. Some two thousand years ago, a darkness shrouded the entire land. And no one could see what was happening. The Gospel writers, the Bible writers didn't tell us what happened during those three hours. But we know it must be something difficult, because at the end of the three hours, Jesus cried out now, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”
All those years Jesus walked on the earth, whenever He prays to God, He prays, “My Father.” But now as our sin bearer, He cannot say, “My Father.” He could only say, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me.” The agony He felt was not the nails alone, was not the strips alone, was not the boxing or the punches on His face alone. What He really suffered under, was the separation of His soul from the Father. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me.”
So why would the glorious Son of God, who made the heavens and the earth suffer at the hands of wicked men and worms like us? It was not because He sinned, but because we sin. So, the Bible tells us, “He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities and upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” [Isaiah 53:5]
This peace, my friend, is peace with God. Because the reality is that we are enemies of God. And God is angry at sinners. We are not at peace, but Jesus died so that now we can have peace with God. We can be reconciled with God and with His wounds we are healed, spiritually healed. Our broken souls can be healed.
Peter tells us, “He himself bore, not his sins but our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” [1 Peter 2:24] What do you mean by this healing? It's actually coming back to God, “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul.” [1 Peter 2:25]
Today, Christianity seems to give a brand of teaching that says, “This healing is about physical healing. It's about physical stuff, material wealth. That's why you need to come to Jesus.” Let me tell you, that cheapens the work of the Gospel. That cheapens the work of Jesus Christ. He did not come to heal you from your infection or for your cancer or from your lack of money, He came to save you from something far greater - from alienation from God. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” [John 1:29]
So, you may be a successful man or woman sitting right here. You're rich. You're comfortable. You have a good life. You're not sick and so you may come to church this morning and say, “I'm just trying to be religious. I'm just trying to soothe my conscience, at least I come to church.” Let me tell you, if you understand God's perspective of your life. If you just understand that like myself, we are wretched sinners before God. Then you will understand and appreciate this wonderful message of the Bible - Christ died for our sins.
It's all about three nails, and that's what the children sang for us. It's a message so simple and yet so profound.
2]. Three Days
But the children not only told us about three nails. The children also sang a song that reminds us about three days. Friday was a scary day. Friday was a sad day. Friday was a day where the followers of Jesus must have felt so crushed. Because the Saviour, the Messiah, the conquering King, they thought has died. His body was a mangled piece of meat. There is no life in that body. They must have despaired.
But this is not the end of the story. Because the children and the Bible tells us about three days. Friday is a sad day but Sunday is a glorious day.
In 1815, that's a long way ago, about 200 years ago there was a battle. There was a war that took place, we called this, ‘The battle at Waterloo’. And that is when England was having a war with France and England was represented by Gen. Wellington and France was led by Napoleon.
They had a battle and you know in those days after the battle is concluded, you need to send news back to your country about how the battle went. And in those days, they do not have SMS or WhatsApp or Facebook live, and show you what's happening in wartime. And so, long way off, the battle is concluded and they needed to signal back to their country the outcome. So, what they do is that they use church towers to send forth messages via blinking lights.
So, they have devised a system that they can understand by the blinking of the lights what has happened. So when they got the news, when England got the news about the battle at Waterloo, this is what they received. They received the message, ‘Wellington Defeated’. And you could imagine the whole of England plunged into despair and sorrow. We lost! Wellington lost! Wellington defeated!
But a few hours later, the whole message now came through. You see what happened was that they were transmitting the message, but a thick fog descended to block the message. And so that was a truncated message. But when the fog lifted a few hours later, the full message came in, which says ‘Wellington defeated Napoleon’. And everything changed after a few hours, isn't it?
And so, Friday, Friday is the day we seem to get a message, ‘Jesus Defeated’. Jesus is a joke! Jesus is a liar! Jesus is a failure! Jesus is a hoax! Jesus cannot save you. But on Sunday, the full message came in and it is, ‘Jesus defeated Sin, defeated Death, defeated Hell, defeated the forces of evil, defeated Satan. Jesus is the all victorious Saviour’. And that's why Paul, he tells us what is the message of first importance, “Not only that Christ died for our sins, but that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day.” [1 Corinthians 13:3-4]
If world history stopped on Friday, we are doomed! But praise God for Easter Sunday because He is risen today. We don't serve a dead Saviour. We don't worship a useless man who died like any other criminals. We serve a Saviour, who said, “I will rise!” And He did rise. Before He went to the cross, He repeatedly hinted to His disciples, to others, “Destroy this temple, destroy this body and in three days, I will rise again. I give you the sign of the prophet Jonah. Just like Jonah was in the fish belly for three days, I will be buried and I will rise again after three days.”
And the resurrection of Jesus was witnessed not just by a few people, but the Bible tells us more than 500 over people and the disciples, the apostles, they spend the rest of their live, telling the known world there, Jesus is resurrected today.
And my friends, that's why you and I, we have a great hope of our salvation. We are not risking all on something uncertain. We are giving our lives to a Saviour, who has proved it all on the cross. This is exactly what God has said, “The death of Jesus is not a misfortune. The sacrifice of Jesus is no accident. It is exactly what the Scriptures has said.” [1 Corinthians 13:3-4]
I find it amazing they are some people who calculate the number of prophecies Jesus fulfilled in His first coming and the number is 332. So Jesus in His lifetime, fulfilled 332 prophecies. You say, “What's the significance of that?” Some other people calculate further that the probability, I do not know how they do it, but that's what they say, the probability of Jesus fulfilling all 332 prophecies is one in a? Guess, what's the probability of anyone fulfilling all 332 prophecies?
Even if your maths is brilliant, I don't think you'll get the answer. I don't know how they got it. Some of us may say, “Oh, one in a million.” Nah, it’s more than that! One in a billion? It's more than that! One in a trillion? It’s more than that! It's more than six zeros or nine zeros or 12 zeros or 50 zeros. You know what's the number? It is one in 84 hundred zeros behind.
In other words, it is near impossible! Jesus is the only One who has completely fulfilled all these prophecies according to the Scriptures. My friends, the Bible is very clear - you are a sinner. Yes, you may feel like you're not as bad as someone out there in prison. Someone out there killing young children. But in the eyes of God, we are all guilty as charged.
The Bible, however, tells you of a wonderful news that God gave His Son, Jesus Christ. And this Saviour proved He is the Son of God, when He laid down His life and when He took it up again. And now, we have a blessed hope that there is salvation in none other but Jesus alone. He is the way, He is the truth, He is the life, no one else comes to the Father except and only through Him.
So, the message of the resurrection is a beautiful one. It is said that Earth's saddest day and gladdest day were just three days apart. Friday is the saddest day. Sunday is the gladdest day. As Christians, we sorrow when we hear about the sufferings of Christ, but we greatly rejoice, because of the resurrection of Christ. A lot can happen in three days!
3]. Three Words
So, the children told us about three nails, they told us about three days and I just want to end with their three words. You remember what are the three words? Jesus loves me. Just three words.
You know what's the Bible about some people read the Bible and think it is a book that is meant to condemn us. Now I say, it is true that when you read the Bible properly, it should condemn you. It should bring you to a state of despair. Why? Because the Bible tells you, you can never jump a million meters.
The Bible condemns us in the sense that I can never earn my way to heaven. But don't forget, the Bible is actually God's love letter to us. The Bible displays and tells of the amazing love of God. Why did God send His Son? Why? The Bible says, “For God so love the world that He gave His Only Son.”
This is why I love being a preacher. I know sometimes the things we preach can be hard-hitting, like telling you, you are a sinner and that you deserve nothing but hell. That's quite difficult for people to listen to. But let me tell you, that is in the glorious context of God's amazing love for you.
I don't mind being a doctor in the past, and telling people that they have some kind of sickness or disease. Why? Because it is out of kindness that they would know the disease that they may be healed. And really as a preacher, it's the same. I'm telling you, your disease of sin, so that you may be healed. Because I know of a Great Physician who loves you.
How much did He love you? He did not just give you medicine, He did not just give you something free of charge, He gave you His life. He shed His blood. He went to the cross. It was for you. Easter is not just something someone else celebrates. Easter, I hope it's something you celebrate because you knew what it took for God to save you from your sins.
My friends, this is the good news- that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, Christ died for you. This is God's love! And he leaves you with a choice. He doesn't force His love on anyone. He doesn't force His love on those who are unwilling.
But for those who are willing, for those who are willing to humble themselves and say, “I am a sinner. There is no excuse and I can't save myself.” For those are willing to humble themselves, to turn, to repent, to turn from their sinful ways, I say, “There is great salvation waiting for you today.” The love of God is amazing! That He would give His Son so that He may save you from your sins, wash away your sins, give you eternal life, bring you into a real life changing relationship with Him and His Son.
Will you today repent and believe?
Let's bow for a word of prayer together. My friends, this morning I share with you the good news of the Bible. It is not good advice, as if you have to do something to earn your salvation. But it is good news because it is something that is already done. Jesus on the cross, said, “It is finished.” Your debt is paid. How do you know it's paid? Because three days later, the Saviour rose again.
God has declared through the resurrection of His Son, the payment is complete, his wrath is appeased. And now, there is a salvation available to all of humanity. God's love is not just some syrupy, sweet, sentimental feeling. God's love is concretely shown in the giving of His Son, some 2000 years ago. And the message of salvation is still reverberating around the world till today, right here in this hall. You can be saved, right here, right now.
Will you today humble yourself, repent, turn from yourself, turn from your sins, turn from your attempts at self-righteousness? Turn from that and look to Jesus Christ alone, that's what the Bible is all about. This is the message of first importance - how Christ died for you and is risen today.
I pray today you will not just hear this message, but you'll believe this message. And that you will be beautifully saved, that you will now know for sure your sins are all forgiven. You have eternal life. You know Him because of this good news. My friends, there is no greater love than this that God, the holy One of Israel would give His Son for you.
Maybe you have always been looking for love but you've looked at love, look for love in all the wrong places. Let me tell you of a unconditional love that flows from the cross of Jesus Christ. Harden not your hearts, please don't! Open wide your arms, open wide your heart, to repent and receive this gift of salvation. For the wages of sin is death, spiritual death, eternal separation from God but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
On this Easter Sunday, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are not teaching anything new. I pray God today, will lead you to the old, old message of Jesus and His love. Maybe today, you have taken your eyes off Jesus, your Saviour. And you have been attracted, allured by the lusts and cares of this world. May God ignite in you, once again a fresh passion and love for Him.
Maybe today, you're despairing in life, you're going through the valley of the shadow of death. It seems like you're living in the days of Friday and Saturday, but don't forget Sunday. Christ is risen, He is our glorious hope!
May this day be a great day of joy, because you're willing to come to Jesus to be saved. Because you are once again reignited with the love of God. And because you know all things will work together for good to them that love Him.
May God bless you richly this Easter. May Jesus be the Lord of your heart and life. Father, bless each one, that this message will not just be something that we are familiar with, but something that will continue to change us. May You be gracious this day, to even call sinners to Yourself, O Lord. We commit their souls to You. May they open their heart wide to You and Your Son, we pray all this in Jesus’ Name.
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