The Good News – Divided from God

Often, to understand why something is good, we have understand why a situation was bad in the first place. If a swimmer gets into trouble, then the lifeguard diving in to help them is good news. The swimmer has to recognize that they’re in trouble for them to see that though. If you think you’re happily swimming away and a lifeguard dives in to rescue you, then you’re at best confused and at worst angry!

It’s like this with the good news of Jesus. We need to appreciate the trouble we’re in to understand the good news of the rescue.

In church at the moment we’re thinking about a four point summary of the message of Jesus – the good news or gospel. This summary is found in a booklet called Knowing God Personally and we’re having a little series of posts to think a bit further about each of the four points.

Last time we thought about how God loved us and created us to know him. We ended with the question: Why don’t people know God personally? The short answer to that is sin, but these days that’s a word that needs a bit of explanation.

Sin Is Rebellion Against God

The story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, found in Genesis 1-3 right at the start of the Bible moves from the creation of the most incredible world to a world terribly broken by sin. At the end of the process of creation we read:

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.

(Genesis 1:31a NIV)

In this world God gives a straightforward command:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

(Genesis 2:15-17 NIV)

Then in Genesis 3 we find that Adam and Eve, the man and woman God had created and who were to keep this commands being tempted to break it and falling for the temptation:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

(Genesis 3:6 NIV)

This helps us understand what sin is. It’s not just doing something a bit naughty. It’s not even just doing something that hurts someone else. At its root, it is rebellion against the God who created us and the good standards that he sets. Later in the Bible, the great king of Israel, king David, after he had sinned terribly wrote:

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

(Psalm 51:4 NIV)

He’s not denying his sin against other people, but recognizing this reality that sin is rebellion against the one who made us.

Everyone of Us Is a Sinner

King David being a sinner indicates something, which is that sin didn’t stop with Adam and Eve. The story of the Bible from Genesis 3 onward shows us that. The very next part of the narrative is the first murder in the Bible, when Cain kills his own brother Abel. Things get so bad that just a few chapters later we read:

The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.

(Genesis 6:5 NIV)

Following the sin of Adam, we are all born sinful. Again as David puts it:

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

(Psalm 51:5 NIV)

And so, as the early follower of Jesus, Paul, who spread Jesus’ message around the world, puts it:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

(Romans 3:23 NIV)

This explains much about the world around and much about our own lives. On the one had we are commonly appalled at a world that seems so full of evil and a human race in rebellion against its creator and his ways is a compelling explanation of that. On the other, in our most honest moments, we are also horrified at what we have done. We often try to rationalize it as “I’m not as bad as some people” or “of course we all make mistakes.” But the truth is, we know in our hearts that we have played our part in making the world as it is.

The Bible’s analysis of us is painful, but only because it is true. We are all sinful people.

Sin Separates Us From God

The most frightening part of this is that sin has serious consequences. When God commanded Adam not to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he made it clear that this would have the consequence of death.

Spiritual death is to lose our relationship with God and be under his judgement. This happened to Adam and Eve as they were cast out of the garden of Eden and so out of God’s presence into a cursed world:

So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

(Genesis 3:23-24 NIV)

And of course, Adam and Eve eventually died. In fact, we get an uncomfortable account of Adam’s descendants in Genesis 5 with the repeated refrain “then he died” to emphasize this.

This is the kind of consequence we still face today. People are spiritually dead, because they are separated from God. Paul writes:

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins

(Ephesians 2:1 NIV)

This has ultimate and eternal consequences, i.e. we will all be judged by God and the punishment we face for our sin is eternal separation from him and his good loving care, to live eternally under his judgement. Christians, following the example of Jesus, have called this hell (e.g. Mark 9:43-47). Paul writes again:

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might

(2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 NIV)

Again this is difficult, because we often want to think differently. Many prefer to think that death is the end, which is depressing enough, but God tells us death is much worse than this, it is an eternal horror. Many others, if we must insist there is a good place and a bad place, think that surely they’re one of the ones who will go to the good place. But this isn’t true. You and I are simply not good people however we try and dress it up. We’re rebels against God and our destination is hell. Finally, some people like to try and paint hell as the fun place in contrast to the do-gooding tedious alternative. Well if you think eternal separation from the love of God and living under his punishment forever is fun, you need a rethink of your definition of fun!

Let me remind you, we’re trying to explain the good news of Jesus here! The point is, we need to understand that we’re drowning so that we can grasp how the rescue mission of Jesus is good news. That’s the issue in this second point. We’re understanding that being separated from God by our sin puts us in terrible trouble.

We’ll look at Jesus’ rescue mission next time, but if you want to know about it now, then have look ahead in Knowing God Personally.