DECEMBER 20, 2020
The angel’s words would have probably been banned in today’s culture. They would have been called offensive, hate speech, or not inclusive enough. The angel simply said these words during the first Christmas to a squad of shepherds, Luke 2:10-11 (ESV), 10 “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” “I bring you good news”, 2020 has definitely been a year of bad news from the Coronavirus, to corruption, to all of the craziness we see at almost every turn. Just several days ago, we were having dinner with some friends and this lady commented, “You know, I’m not sure if I can even send a Christmas card because this has not been a year of joy, a year of hope, or a year of thankfulness, or laughter.”
I would definitely say this year has been a year of bad news. Sometimes when I’m talking to people, I’ll go, “I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.” I know you’ve heard that phrase before. I’ll say, “Do you want the good news first and then the bad news? or “The bad news and then the good news?” Invariably, people say, “Just give me the bad news first.” Now, why do most people say that? Why do I say that? Because I want the end to be good. I want to end with good news because I sort of think the good news cancels out the bad news.
Today as I began this talk, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news about Christmas. I know what you’re saying, “Let me hear the bad news”. The bad news, just to cut to the chase, is who I am. It’s who you are. We are fallen and fallible. We’re sinners separated from God. We’re unholy, and God is holy. It’s really easy to see the badness of man. As you look at our society, it’s the corrupt calling the corrupt, corrupt, while we’re investigating the investigators who investigate corruption.
Before I go on a diatribe about that, I’ve got to stop and think about myself. I’m corrupt to the core. Why? Because of my sin. We don’t want to say sin anymore, we say things like, “Well, my bad, I made a mistake. I fouled up.” We say things like that. We know that mistakes can sort of be corrected. Someone might set up an immoral tryst with someone, then when it’s discovered, they say, “Wow, I made a bad error in judgment. I made a mistake and I’ll try to rectify that mistake”. Sin though is different. We cannot, we could not, and we will not ever be able to eradicate sin. We can’t cover it up. We can’t make it better. We can’t gloss over it. By large, that’s bad news.
When we come to Christmas, God sent Jesus to Earth because of our sin. On one hand, it’s good news that God sent Jesus to Earth, but it’s bad news that we’re sinners. The infinite infiltrated the world in an instant, and he came as a baby. He rescued us. He redeemed us, reconciled us, and he desires to repurpose us.
In an age where there’s really no such thing as news anymore, it’s just commentary and opinion, we have Jesus. He is good news. Good news is intrinsic to who he is. God is good.
The context of this statement, Luke 2:10-11 (ESV), 10 “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” We have an angel, probably Gabriel, breaking through time and space, doing a gender reveal for the God of the universe. This angel is announcing it to a squad of shepherds, that God has come to earth in human flesh. It’s literally a collision of the supernatural with the natural. That’s good news.
You can almost go down the list with this good news and bad news thing. When Herod heard the good news that Jesus was born it was bad news to him. When the wise men heard the good news that Jesus was born it was good news to them. When the shepherds heard the good news, it was good news to them, and obviously, the angels were reporting and sharing the good news, and it was good news to them.
I think it’s worth noting that so many people in that first Christmas were so close to the good news. They were so close to the truth, yet some responded to it, the others didn’t. How did people respond to the good news? The innkeeper responded busily. Herod responded to the good news pridefully. The wise men responded joyfully, and the shepherds responded enthusiastically.
I like how Gabriel reported thoroughly. He had so many sources, obviously, worshiping God for a long, long time, seeing what He has done and who He is in heaven. Moreover, the Old Testament would be another source, so many patriarchs and matriarchs prophesying of this moment. Jesus fulfilled 300 prophecies just by his birth. This good news was challenging, no doubt. It was in people’s faces. It was where they lived. I think you could also say it was scandalous as well. God being born in a manger. Dr. Doom definitely wouldn’t approve because there wasn’t even a hint of hygiene. No masks, and definitely there was no social distancing going on. He would have probably encouraged them to wear masks and stay six feet apart because you might have a Super Spreader.
This is the good news. The gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. That’s the first thing. Number two, you have to know the bad news about your condition before you understand the good news. Number three, once you own the bad news, you must take full responsibility for your behavior. You must own it, but you can’t stop there. You then repent. The good news, once you repent and receive Christ is now in you. You then become a reporter, a messenger as you share with others.
The bad news. Here’s something that I’ve noticed about the media. They always bait us with, “This is a bombshell, a bombshell, a bombshell!” Have you discovered that bombshells aren’t really bombshells? They’re just like a little puff of smoke. This, though, was a true bombshell. It’s good news and bad news. But you can’t say, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re talking about bad news, because this is Christmas, everything is good news. It’s all good news.” No, that’s not true. We want to quickly skip over the bad and get to the good, because I’ve heard it said, “Let’s just talk about the good news because people feel bad enough as it is.” I understand that line of thought, but we have to embrace the bad news. We have a bent toward badness, and this bad news is not just about others. It’s about you and me. The bad news is our sin alienates us from God, and we only know good news because of the bad, right? We wouldn’t know bad unless there was good. Good is the standard. The Bible says, Romans 3:10, “There is no one righteous, not even one;” no one is good. No, not one.
Understanding and realizing the bad news, the fact that you’re a sinner separated from God is part of repentance. It’s not just feeling sorry. It’s not just saying, “My bad.” It’s a defining moment when you turn from your sins and turn to Jesus. It’s not just saying one of the most brainless phrases I’ve heard. “I take full responsibility for my behavior,” unquote. It’s like we’ve taken the angel’s words and put our own spin to it.
There’s bad news and good news, but there’s a lot of people walking around with Fake News. The fake news is God grades on some sort of a cosmic curve. We’ve seen curves, and we’ve heard long lectures about how to mitigate and change the curve. Word on the street is God drops his standards and grades on this cosmic curve, and that everywhere, everyone somehow will be saved. Many people who think they’re Christians aren’t. Those aren’t my words. Those are Christ’s words. He said, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘God, I did this. I did that.'” He’ll say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
The fake news goes like this, “This whole Jesus coming in the flesh, God sending him as our savior didn’t really happen. Virgins don’t have babies. And God, if there is one, doesn’t put on flesh.” But let me move to the reality, the bad news of Christmas. There’s sin. There’s shame. There’s separation. There’s death. We all have this bent toward bad news. That’s why there’s something on a visceral level about us that likes hearing bad news about others. We don’t like hearing bad news about ourselves, but we love it about others, especially those who we’re envious of.
You can’t understand Christmas until you understand this fact. The bad news of Christmas is sin, shame, separation, death. The good news of Christmas is redemption, the rescue, and God’s response to our behavior and our response to the gospel.
This news hit the heart of Herod. It hit his pride. It pounded his pride. The news hit the wise men. It motivated their search to a greater degree. This good news hit the shepherds. They were in shock and in disbelief. The innkeeper didn’t even understand the news because he was so busy. The gospel is good news, but you have to hear the bad news in order to know the good news. If you want to change the course of a party, for example, just start talking about just bad news. You can kind of ruin a conversation that way.
To summarize, fake news pretty much says, “If I’m, good enough, then I’ll somehow slide in. If the good news about my behavior outweighs the bad news about my behavior, then everything’s great.” That’s fake news. The bad news is, the Bible says, Romans 6:23 (KJV), “the wages of sin is death;” That’s not good. The compensation for our conduct is self-imposed condemnation. The good news is salvation is a free gift, the free gift of God. It’s eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Romans 6:23 (KJV), “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Man has been reconciled to God through Christ, and that is news you can use.
The angel said, Luke 2:10-11 (ESV), 10 “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Jesus came from Heaven to Earth to bring us from Earth to Heaven, and that’s good news. God is good. He is the standard by which we measure and know goodness.
If man takes on the responsibility of saying what is good or bad, if it begins and ends with man, with what we think good is or bad is, it always leads to absurdity, because one person, one group says, “This is good,” and the other person or the other group says, “This is good,” so you have problems and mayhem. Goodness has to be transcendent; there has to be a source outside of us, and God is that source. The good news is transcendent; it’s outside of time and space.
God is the standard by which we measure and know goodness. I know I don’t realize how good the good news is. It’s God news, and God is good. We also don’t realize how bad the bad news is either, so there’s no way I can realize how good the good news is without realizing how bad the bad news is. His goodness surpasses our comprehension of goodness. God said everything He created was good; the Bible says God saw all that He had made, and it was good.
God gave us free will and that’s good. God didn’t create evil. Some people say, “If God’s so loving, why did He create evil?” God didn’t create evil; he gave us choice and free will. However, man chose to do his own thing, and God, in His genius, in His goodness, created a world where choices have consequences. God gave us a good purpose; everyone has a good purpose on this planet, and He gave us the law-the 10 Commandments, other directives-for our own good.
The logical conclusion to this is when we ask the question of God, “Hey, if God is good, why do people get sick, suffer and die?” I’ve had that question lobbed to me so many, many times. The Bible says in Romans 8:28 (NLT), “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Everything on this fallen planet is not good. It’s not good news. God, though, promises us the good news and bad news, the horrible things and the helpful things, will work together for good. He’ll do it for those of us who were called to his purpose.
Let’s go back to the Christmas story for a second. It wasn’t good news, if you think about it, that Mary took the pregnancy test, and it was blue, and she wasn’t married yet. I mean, that’s not really good news. It wasn’t good news when her fiancé, Joseph, heard that. It really wasn’t good news when they found out, because of a census, they had to take the long journey on the back of a donkey to Bethlehem. It wasn’t good news that there was no room at the end. It wasn’t good news that they had to go to plan B and birth Jesus in a stable. From our viewpoint, it didn’t look that good. That’s not really good news. From our perspective, it doesn’t seem like that’s good. But how about God’s perspective?
Genuine goodness comes from God’s perspective, not our own. Because from our viewpoint, it didn’t look great, but from God’s, another level. We have to understand that He is good and goodness is intrinsic. In other words, it’s his nature. His goodness is also independent. It’s not dependent upon anything or anyone. It’s not dependent upon popularity or clicks or likes or views. It’s independent of anything from the outside to create a greater goodness. He doesn’t need that, He’s God. It’s his nature, goodness, it’s autonomous. He is so good. He couldn’t stand the thought of people he created as good, not experiencing his goodness, so he did something about it. God’s goodness is in his nature. It’s autonomous and transcendent.
We wouldn’t know good news without bad news. We wouldn’t know how good he is without knowing how bad we are. I’m not bad, I’m good. I understand, we do good things, but we’re still at our core, against the brilliant blaze of God’s holiness, we’re bad. We have this Sinetic condition. Why do bad things happen to good people? Consider this, because we’re talking about the Christmas story, God didn’t shelter his Son. He put on human flesh, he lived life in the raw, with all the elements around him. He took the temptations and the persecutions and, ultimately, the death on the cross. God didn’t shelter his Son and he doesn’t shelter us as well.
We will go through seasons of pain and suffering. It’s part of the plight of living on this blue planet. Consider the drama and suffering during that first Christmas. Mary and Joseph were forced to get out of their comfort zone and go places they didn’t really want to go. Maybe you’ve been forced to go places that you wouldn’t have thought of. Maybe you feel that you’re in conditions, like they were, that you never dreamed of. It’s almost like we think we deserve a pain-free life. It’s spiritual entitlement that our Holy God should shelter us from all of the elements. We don’t understand in our culture today, the depth of our depravity. Often, we don’t have the joy of the good news, because we don’t really comprehend the agony and the sadness of the bad news. We see Jesus as something that’s an add-on, something that will help us, that’ll get that base covered. But if we’re going to understand how good, good is, we have to understand how bad, bad is. The goodness of God, the goodness and the mercy of God.
Just in the last several days, Lisa and I met a young woman whose husband was killed in the World Trade Center bombings. She then told us that her brother died recently of a massive heart attack. We have some other friends who told us that one of their close associates, 37 years old, was taken out by an 18-Wheeler in Oklahoma as it was leaving his ranch. And then this guy told me that his brother at the Zenith of his life also died in a car accident. As we were talking, the subject came up, which we should talk openly and freely about it. Where was God? I mean, in these situations, they asked me, does it make you doubt? Does it kind of shake your faith? I said, “Yes, yes, but we quickly have to understand that God is in charge. We quickly have to understand that we’ll never understand. We’ll have to trust and give it to him.”
Another friend of ours shared with us about her adult daughter who was recently diagnosed with cancer. She just lost her husband several years ago. Pain, suffering, bad news. Did God cause this? No. We live in a flawed place, a broken place because of our sin. The Bible is very straightforward about it. The Bible is very straightforward about the situations that people, many who wrote the Bible dealt with, and ultimately what Jesus dealt with himself.
The angel told the shepherds where to find the good news, and that’s when the multitude of heavenly hosts began to praise God and sing Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, goodwill to men. The angel brought good news. Think about when Jesus died and was buried. The apostles, I’m sure concluded, “Wow, that’s bad news.” Mary, the mother of Jesus said, “Oh, that’s bad news.” What happened though when he rose again, you have good news. The greatest good that we can ever, ever comprehend. The law is good news, but it’s bad news because it exposes who we are.
The truth is the good news is not coming; the good news has come. Jesus has already put-on flesh, and lived sinlessly, and died sacrificially, just for us. All that remains now is what you’ll do with Him. Do you receive Him, or not?
Isn’t it interesting that you have so many birth stories on social media, and well-intentioned parents think we all want to see and hear the details of childbirth, and that’s pretty much TMI. I don’t want to hear about it or know about it; that you used a birthing pool or a midwife, or you went to that hospital or this hospital. Just tell us and show us a picture of the beautiful baby.
Jesus said in Luke 18:19, “No one is good- except God alone.” To say that God is good means that God always acts in accordance with His nature, which is totally and completely righteous, true, and good. Goodness is a part of God’s nature. He’s not going to do anything to contradict His nature. Holiness and righteousness are part of God’s nature. He cannot do anything that’s unholy or unrighteous. God is the standard of all that is good, so He doesn’t need, as I mentioned earlier, something or someone outside of Himself to tell Him He’s good. He is just good. He embodies all goodness. There’s no evil in Him.
The Bible teaches that God’s goodness extends from His nature through everything He does, Psalm 119:68, “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Everything that God made was originally good. Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.”
God’s goodness is showcased in the law He gave to these people. Romans 7:12, “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” James 1:17 says. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,”
God can create only what is good because He is fully good. God did not create evil. He created free will, which is good, and we did what was bad with what was good. God though, did not create evil. God’s goodness should lead to thankfulness on our part. The Bible says, Psalm 107:1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;”
Ultimately, God’s goodness is seen in His plan to redeem us from sin. The gospel is good news. In His goodness, God sent His Son to become the perfect and blameless sacrifice, so we could be forgiven of our sins. God does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9 says, it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. Romans 2:4, (KJV). There’s only one who is fully and truly good God. This good God invites us to Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good;”
Luke 2:10-11 (ESV), “I bring you…” the angel, Gabriel said, “… good news of great joy.” That’s powerful, good news, “… for unto you…” You, that is personal, isn’t it? “… is born this day in the city of David, a savior.” That’s God providing for us what we desperately needed, “…who is Christ the Lord.” The good news is the gospel, and it’s personal, it is to you and me. He’s the savior. He saved us from our greatest need, because of our sin, we needed a savior, that’s it, so it’s a personal thing, a powerful thing, and a perfect thing as well.
It is fascinating that many things in life have good news and bad news associated with them, even when it comes to the gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. There’s some good news and bad news. Even Christmas brings us good news and bad news. The bad news, spiritually speaking, is that we’re all sinners deserving of hell for our sin against a Holy God. Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 6:23. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our sin has kept us from his presence and eternal life. The good news is that God loves us. He wants a relationship with his human creation and has communicated that in a variety of ways, such as nature.
In other words, the creation, the Bible, and ultimately Jesus coming in human form to live among us. He desires a relationship with us and desires to teach us his ways so that we can become all he created us to be. Whenever you speak, or whenever you hear the Bible proclaimed, speakers who only focus on the good news are leaving out a vital part of God’s plan of salvation, which includes repentance and taking up your cross and following him.
Until we know the bad news, we can’t truly appreciate the good news. For example, you would not appreciate a stranger busting into your home and dragging you outside, unless you first understood that your house was on fire. Until we understand that we’re destined for separation from God because of our sin, we cannot appreciate all that Jesus did for us on the cross. If we don’t realize how hopeless we are, we won’t recognize the great hope Jesus offers.
The bad news about our natural state, sin, and the good news about God’s plan to redeem us, Jesus never eliminated either of these when he brought peace on earth, goodwill toward men. His peace is available to everyone who is brought to repentance by the bad news and who joyfully accepts the good news.
Here’s the problem of good. When a person omits a transcendent source of good, they say, “Okay, the natural universe can serve as the source of moral values, it seems impossible that amoral matter could create beings obsessed with moral behavior.” Other people say, “Well, the culture or society tells us what’s good or what’s bad, but can it serve as the source for objective and moral values? There are many different cultures that exist, and many can differ quite a lot regarding where their moral framework is concerned.”
The last choice for a source of objective moral values away from God is the individual person. But that kind of plays into postmodernism and Critical Theory where nothing really can be labeled as wrong. It’s just up to the individual person, and we know where that goes.
It’s impossible for the individual to be the source of objective moral laws. Because if two people disagree on what good is, how is the dispute settled?
A transcendent source of an objective moral law that defines what good truly is and implements a way for good to be ultimately implemented, what about God? Without God, nothing can really be called good. C. S. Lewis said, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
The Bible teaches that good and evil are defined in reference to a perfect and unchanging God. One of the reasons why philosophies embracing atheism usually tend toward violence and tyranny is that there’s no sense of a higher authority and no reason to moderate the whims of those in power.
The ultimate fate of all people depends on whether they’re aligned with the good God or opposed to him. Discerning between good and evil is possible only in reference to a single, unchanging standard: the perfect nature of God.
A unique aspect of the Bible’s teaching on good and evil is that all people, without exception, are subject to sin and evil. We need a savior. Every person is created for a good purpose, but we suffer from an evil heart, which can only be remedied through Jesus.
I think it’s humorous when we say, “Follow the science.” Science is awesome. It tells us “what”, but it does not tell us “why” and “how”. During this first Christmas, we’re sort of seduced by the supernatural.
When the shepherds saw the angel, they probably thought, “Are we in Area 51?” Very quickly, they knew they were in the presence of God. You have an opportunity to change where you will spend forever by trusting in Christ and giving your all to Him, and that ultimately is good news.