Easter Equals good News for Everyone who Believes
Intro: Well Morning friends, visitors and those online. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are finishing our Easter sermon series thinking about the implications of Jesus being King of Kings. Specifically, we are thinking today about our responsibility as Christians to share THE GOOD NEWS of Jesus. So let’s pray…
PRAYER: Well, lasty week, on Good Friday I shared with you some STATISTICS from the Australian Community Survey that stated 42% of Australians would still accept an invitation to an Easter church service. That’s 4 in 10 people (who are currently non-Church goers) would say yes to coming to an Easter church service. Then, there was a further 28% who were undecided. They might say “YES”. They might say “NO”.They’re undecided. The fact is – only 30% of Australians are a definitive no – if invited to an Easter church service.
Now I’d probably agree that some people within this 30% are becoming louder and more aggressive. We live in a society that no longer accepts the idea of live and let live. Rather, due to certain spiritual and political forces SOME NON-CHRISTIANS believe it is their moral duty to denounce Christian faith because of our views on 1) humanism, 2)sexuality, 3) abortion and other moral issues. So, there is a growing group of people in Australia who are not just atheist or agnostic. They are actually becoming anti-Christian and anti-Christ himself. So, I know, that interacting evangelistically with some of these anti-Christians can be painful and discouraging.
BUT I’D SAY that anti-Christians still probably make up less than 10% of Australia. And it would be incredibly sad to see the hostility of A FEW – stop Christians from sharing the good news of Jesus with THE MAJORITY who are still relatively open. Yet (all too often) one bad encounter with a super-hostile anti-Christian often puts us off evangelism altogether or makes us defensive in how we do evangelism.
Now I’m not sure THE SAMPLE SIZE or the DEMOGRAPHIC of the Australian Community survey. I suspect that some parts of Australia would be more open than others to a conversation about Jesus. But the statistics roughly rang true with me, including when they said women, university graduates and new (non-English speaking) migrants were particularly open to invitations to church. This rang true. Personally, I have also found that people from POORER, DISADVANTAGED BACKGROUNDS are also more open to Christian conversations. This is good for us – in Redfern-Waterloo. But right across Australia – we need to remember that the hedonism, materialism and sexual immorality espoused by the western world is leaving people pretty empty. It doesn’t really satisfy. People are still looking for more.
The Bible kind of tells us there is a God shaped hole lurking within every non-Christian. Some people try to fill the hole with drugs or money or sexual conquests. Other people try to fill the hole with holidays and religion. But there is only one thing that can really fill a God shaped hole and that is a relationship with God – through Jesus. And Easter tells us that is now possible because Jesus died for our sins and rose again…
Point 1: Evangelism means talking about Jesus as Saviour and Lord
Show: Matt.28:16-18 (READ)
Explain: Well these verses lead up to what is called THE GREAT COMMISSION of Jesus. Jesus tells the disciples (and by extension the Christian church) to go and make disciples of all nations. This is mission and evangelism 101. The word EVANGELISM actually comes the word gospel. EVANGELISM could be translated gospelling. A bit like gossiping. But what your gossiping about is Jesus. And this gospelling is what we should do in response to the Easter story.
Now you’ll see in these verses the disciples are now worshiping Jesus, (although some doubted). There are only TWO RESPONSES to Jesus (and the Easter story) – you either A) FALL-DOWN IN WORSHIP of Jesus or B) you doubt the Easter message. If the Easter message is true – worshiping Jesus as Lord is the right response. Remember the apostle Paul’s famous words in Romans 10 (Slide 3); “If you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead you will be saved.” (Rom.10:9). THIS IS GOOD NEWS for everyone who wants to be saved AND avoid going to hell.
Now let’s unpack again – why the Easter story is good news. Good Friday is good news – because Jesus died for our sins. On the cross Jesus took the punishment for every command you’ve broken and every person you’ve hurt. Jesus took the punishment for you. This is what Christian scholars call Penal Substitutionary Atonement or PSA. (Slide 3). There is a PENALTY for sin – it is death and hell. But Jesus was the SUBSTITUTE who took the penalty for us because he loves us. By doing this Jesus has ATONED or paid for our sins. Now in my personal opinion this is the heart of the Christian gospel. This truth speaks to THE HEART, not just the head. Remember God promised that one day he would take out our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. Well as PSA focuses on Jesus’ love for us (dying for us) something starts to happen to our heart.
You’ve all heard me ask the question (again and again) how many people do you know that love you that much they’d die for you? (PAUSE). Well it’s a good question to remeber! As a heart surgeon (for God) I ask this question (again and again) because evangelism is first and foremost HEART SURGERY. The gospel is a message that appeals to the heart as much (or even more) than the head). The Bible says; “We love God, because he first loved us.” (1Jn.4:19). So a good evangelist knows how to explain Penal Substitutionary Atonement in such a way that it stresses God’s love for us in Jesus. Then, as we stress Gods love for us in Jesus dying for us the Holy Spirit often works the miracle and breaks the hardest of hearts.
But then we get to Easter Sunday and this is also good news. Jesus resurrection shows us Satan, sin and death have been defeated. THIS PART OF THE GOSPEL is what Christian scholars call Christus victor (ENTER). Jesus is the victorious King – who defeats Satan, sin and death for me. It is only through understanding Christus Victor that we can join with the apostle Paul in saying “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil.4:13). Or Paul’s famous words in Romans; “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom.8:37). People (especially broken people) are looking for something to give them HOPE in this world. (And that is Christus victor. Christus victor). If you’ve struggled with mental health issues or addiction or even a bad marriage – Jesus has the power to help you be victorious in the battles of life. THIS IS GOOD NEWS.
Illustrate: Now imagine if AstraZeneca or Moderna came out with a vaccine tomorrow that defeated death. It would be labelled GOOD NEWS and the companies would make more money than they did from Covid. The media would be sharing the good news on every channel and all the richies would be lining up for the first jab. It would be heralded as good news for the world. But what pharmaceutical companies are trying to do, God has already done 2000 years ago and it is good news. Death has been defeated. This good news needs to be shared…
And this brings us to the third aspect of the gospel – what scholars call (ENTER) Christus Exemplar. Jesus Christ modelled the perfect, joy filled is meaningful life for us to follow. Jesus is good news because he actually models for us the best way to live a life pleasing to God. Like Jesus we need to die to self. Like Jesus we need to put others before self and like Jesus we need to put God first in everything. In a world full of gurus saying follow me – Christus exemplar is good news because Jesus shows us the sort of life that gains God’s stamp of approval in resurrection life…
Apply: So this kind of gives us the content of the gospel. Liberal churches (like high Anglicans and Unitings) usually preach Christus exemplar – calling Christians to faith that emulates Jesus – like looking after the poor. Pentecostal churches usually preach Christus Victor – focusing on how to live the victorious Christian life by faith in Jesus. AND EVANGELICAL PROTESTANT CHRISTIANS traditionally focussed on Penal Substitutionary atonement – stressing Jesus’ love for us – in dying for our sins. Now the famous Anglican minister – JI Packer – once said all three aspects of the gospel – must be preached for the gospel to be fully understood. But he also stressed that if Penal Substitutionary Atonement (which is so often neglected) was not made clear – hard hearts would remain and Gods amazing grace would not really be grasped. Again, I agree. When I am doing evangelism – I am especially focussed on Penal Substitutionary Atonement, with Christus Victor and Christus Exemplar playing second and third fiddle.
Point 2: Evangelism is about Making Disciples (of all People) – for Jesus
Show: Matt.28:19-20 (READ)
Explain: Well Jesus now talks about MAKING DISCIPLES of all nations. Please note: this is A COMMAND coming from Jesus who has all authority on heaven and earth. Jesus commands us to make disciples – by going, baptising and teaching. The key verb in the Great Commission is MAKE DISCIPLES and the three sub-verbs (tell us how to make disciples) by going to all people, baptising those who believe and teaching them to obey. NOW MAKING DISCIPLES is MORE THAN simply sharing the good news.
So far we’ve seen evangelism is sharing the good news of what Jesus did at Easter. Now that good news could be SHARED in A CHRISTIAN TRACT – like this one used by Jesus Cares when they do street ministry. On the front it says “The Good News of God.” If you’d like to find out more (or get involved with Jesus Cares evangelism) speak to Alexandra. This tract simply explains that Jesus is the bridge between God and man. You could also SHARE the gospel by reading John 3:16 with someone and explaining it in your own words. What you are doing is sharing why Jesus death and resurrection is good news for them…
Now traditionally the good news of Jesus was shared with many people through INVITATIONS to A) church or B) big Christian rally’s. Basically, a good Christian speaker (like Billy graham) would be invited to speak somewhere and all the Christians would then invite their friends AND family to come and hear the speaker. Now this is still a useful process, especially for big church services like Easter or Christmas. Because of the Great Commission we should be inviting our family and friends to come to church and hear the good news. Just invite people to come and listen. At these big church events I will always do my best to explain the gospel and I will always give people an opportunity to respond.
But in the 1970s and 80’s (as people’s willingness to come to church dwindled) – inviting people to courses like Christianity Explored, Alpha or Evangelism Explosion became more popular. Same gospel content as the speakers used at big Christian rallies. But packaged in a new course kind of format. In our church we use Christianity Explored and this is what I usually tell people when I’m inviting them to come. “Look if you’re interested in finding out more about Jesus, come and do Christianity Explored with us. It’s a seven-week course, that goes for about an 1hr 15 mins – once a week for 7 weeks. If you come the first week and don’t like it – just pull out. But honestly most people find it helpful in understanding the Christian faith. What we do is look at short Bible passage in Marks gospel, watch a short 20-minute video and then talk for a little bit about the content of the video. Of course, our hope is that you might finish the course and decide to become a Christian. (I think its important that we are upfront with people and they know our agenda). But I also say; whether you become a Christian or not is entirely up to you. What do you think? Would you like to come and try the course?”
As a church we tend to use tracts, Christian conversations and sermons to whet people’s appetites. But we’ve found that Christianity Explored gives people a good overview of Jesus life, death and resurrection as they look at Mark’s gospel and it has a high strike rate when it comes to people becoming Christians. So, if you have someone who is showing a bit of interest in Christianity – don’t think “how do I get them to church?” Instead, think, how can I get them to do Christianity Explored? We regularly run this course as a church and we’ll always make time for people interested in the course. But fact is – most of you who have been Christians more than a couple of years could do Christianity Explored with a friend or family member yourself. It’s not hard. But we need to remember SHARING THE GOSPEL is still step 1 in making disciples. When we share the good news of Jesus – we ALOS need to ask for a personal response (that’s step 2) and then we need to help people grow towards Christian maturity (that’s step 3).
So step 2 in evangelism involves asking people to accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This is the baptising bit – when Jesus says baptise them into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As you share the good news – you need to ask the question would you like to accept Jesus as your Saviour and Lord? Would you like to pray a sinner’s prayer? Would you like to get baptized as a Christian?
This is what sales people call “going for the close”. And true evangelism is more than just sharing the good news. When people are responding positively to the good news – you need to ask them to take a step of faith. Would you like to get baptised and wash your sins away? Would you like to say a sinners prayer? Really it’s the same question. Do you believe? Are you in? (Now at this point your heart will be pounding and you’ll feel awkward. It’s always hard going for a close). SO SUCK IT UP, pray a silent prayer and just do it. Step 2 in making disciples is calling for a response – of repentance and faith. At this point you are also moving the new believer towards the church. Now of course, anyone can conduct a baptism. But I think it is better if people are baptized in a church or in partnership with a church, because step 3 in making disciples is teaching the person to obey everything Jesus commanded. This happens most naturally in church community.
Apply: Now I find STEP 1 – sharing the gospel and Step 2 – calling for a response the easy bit. I’ve seen so many people say “yes” to Jesus – it no longer makes me nervous. BUT STEP 3 “teaching people to obey everything Jesus commanded” is hard, tiring and requires lots of patience (especially with some of the ratbags in Redfern). For some reason – some of you are just really stubborn, slow learners. But this is where real discipleship, friendship and grace kick in. None of us change overnight. Many of us have addictions and deep wounds. But in church community, (and with lots of grace) we do encourage and teach one another to obey everything Jesus commands.
Point 3: Evangelism should be done Confidently knowing Jesus is with us
Show: Matt.28:20b (READ)
Explain: Well as Jesus sends us out to make disciples – he gives us the glorious promise that he is with us – in the task of evangelism. And, the way Jesus is with us in evangelism is through the Holy Spirit – who leads us, convicts us and gives us words to speak. This should fill us with confidence in evangelism. Don’t be nervous. Don’t be defensive. Just be confident that Jesus is with you and you have the words of eternal life. So just share them and offer to share them.
The incredible reality of Easter is that Jesus death and resurrection really is good news to be shared. The truth of Easter touches people’s hearts as they grasp Jesus’ LOVE for them. It fills them with HOPE as they see Jesus power to help them. And it inspires people to step out in FAITH following in the footsteps of Jesus. And as this Easter message has been shared 1) Christianity has grown to be the largest religion on earth. What’s more, 2) some of the hardest and most crooked people on earth have really been miraculously changed. I myself am living testimony to the power of the gospel. God took a druggie and turned him into a preacher.
The good news of Jesus we are sharing is powerful to change peoples lives because it really is good news. So trust the gospel and expect the gospel to be received positively. I’ve seen again, and again, that when we faithfully share the gospel (not watering it down or turning it into something else) some people do become Christians. There’s no TRICKERY or CLEVERNESS to it. There’s no sleight of hand. The plain ordinary gospel of 1) Jesus our Penal; Substitute, 2) Jesus Christus Victor and 3) Jesus Christus Exemplar is powerful to save. And believe it or not – Jesus and the Holy Spirit are still using this good news – to save sinners, draw them to God and change their lives.
Of course, its not going to happen with everyone. Not everyone gets it straight away. I mean wven with the apostles (who saw Jesus face to face) some worshiped, while others still doubted. So at the end of Christianity Explored (or whatever gospel presentation) some people may still have doubts and sit on the fence or say no. But getting the right response is not your responsibility in making disciples.
Your responsibility is to 1) share the unadulterated gospel with everyone who will listen. 2) Your responsibility is to call for a response. What happens next is up to the Holy Spirit and the human will of the person involved. You can’t control that. But if you get a favourable response (and the person becomes a Christian) you also 3) have a responsibility TO TEACH the person everything Jesus commanded. Now teaching everything Jesus commanded is beyond the scope of most of our abilities. So I’d recommend connecting them to a church and giving them your love, your time and your knowledge of Jesus (as best you can) because it takes time to grow as a disciple. But hang in there: Love them as brother or sister in Christ. Show them grace in their failures and keep encouraging them to obey everything Jesus commanded – because this is part of making disciples and this is what Jesus called us to do.
Soi in the words of the apostle Paul let me say; “Lets not be ashamed of the gospel fort it is the power of God, for the salvation of everyone who believes; first for the Jew and also for the Gentile For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith – from first to last.” So despite the perceived hostility of the world, lets NOT BE ASHAMED of the gospel. We have the words of eternal life. So who could you evangelise this year? Who could you invite to do Christianity Explored? Who does God want you to disciple and invest in – a little bit more this year. And if you are visiting today (and not yet a Christian, but keen to find out more) grab the card out of the front of the Bibles, tick the box – I’d like to find out more about Christianity and put it in the offertory bag and we’ll be in touch shortly. Lets’ pray…