Faithlife Sermons

Easter 2021

My name is Adam Diaz, I am the primary teaching paster here at Abide.
If this is your first time joining us, I just want to welcome you and thank you for being here to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with us.
Before I start, I want to make a couple comments about kids.
We love kids
We don’t mind if the kids make a little bit of noise, we are glad they are with us
We don’t see kids as an inconvenience
We see it as our responsibility to show kids our God and how much we love Him.
The more I’ve studied the life, death, resurrection, and claims of Jesus, the more I’ve grown into the conviction that there is nothing more important
in all the world
What you believe about Jesus has eternal implications.
If the stories about Jesus and the claims that he makes are true,
it ought to change everything about the way we live our life.
The reason I think Jesus changes everything about the way we live our life
is that when we truly meet him,
we stop living for this life
and start living for the life to come.
Jesus said he came preaching the gospel of the kingdom.
Matthew 4:23 ESV
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
To understand the gospel of the kingdom,
that is to say, the good news of the kingdom,
we need to start by going back to a garden.
This garden can be found in Genesis 2:
Genesis 2:8–9 ESV
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:15–17 ESV
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
As you study scripture and learn more about this garden, you come to realize this garden was paradise.
There was no toil or pain.
There was no conflict or rebellion.
There was closeness with God, the Bible says that God walked with man in the garden.
It was a beautiful garden, there was amazing food, there was joy,
Most significantly though, God himself was there!
Think about how much more pleasant an experience is with good family and friends...
Magnify that by 1 million, because God is the supreme friend.
The garden was a perfect place, there was no evil there
In fact there was no evil in the world at all
Then, as many of you are likely familiar with the story of Genesis 3,
Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
At first glance, a person might think, “what’s the big deal about eating some fruit?”
But more than the fruit is what the fruit represented.
Namely, obedience, communion, and submission to God.
By taking the fruit,
Adam and Eve rebelled against God
Adam and Eve rejected God’s provisions
Adam and Eve rejected God’s goodness
Adam and Eve brought evil into the garden, into a perfect world.
At this point in the story, God would have been perfectly justified to abandon mankind forever.
God created mankind good,
God gave mankind everything they could ever want to be happy and satisfied and have a full human experience
And man spit in God’s face and declared, “I’d rather do it my way than your way God”
And this is what SIN is.
Every time we do anything in rebellion against God, we are sinning.
We are essentially continuing in the footsteps of our first parents which is to say that we know better than God
We are saying our way is better than God’s way
And even though God would have been perfectly justified to abandon mankind forever

God Promised Redemption

The entire Old Testament is a giant picture pointing us to some future savior who would come and offer REDEMPTION to mankind
So when the gospel of Matthew says:
Matthew 4:23 ESV
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
Jesus was talking about the REDEMPTION of mankind.
Jesus is the the one who the Old Testament points to as the savior of mankind
The gospel of John tells us that Jesus is God become flesh, to dwell among men and deliver grace
In Matthew 4, Jesus is proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom.
Jesus is talking about restoring mankind to be able to live once again in a garden, in the presence of God himself,
With no more sin
With no more conflict
With no more suffering
With no more injustice
Where humans experience fullness of joy
Where mankind lives life to its fullest potential
Sounds great, right?

Here’s the problem...

If Jesus is going to bring back the garden, paradise, the kingdom of heaven...
Who should he let in?
God can be in the garden, because he is perfect. He is without sin and is glorious in every way.
But what about people? If God let’s all the rebellious people on this planet into the garden/kingdom,
The garden/kingdom will no longer be “good”
So, I want you all to ponder this question for a moment. Seriously think about this question:

Who should God let into the garden/kingdom?

Or let me ask the question another way...

How good should people be so that God will let them into the garden/kingdom?

We obviously don’t want Hitler in the garden.
If Hitler is in the garden, it won’t be a good garden.
In fact, I don’t think I want any murderers in the garden.
Or liars or cheaters or thieves...
This begins to beg the question,

How can a good and righteous God let ANYONE into the garden/kingdom?

We tend to want to set the standard right below wherever our perceived level of morality lies...
The problem is that we don’t get to set the standard.
God has already set the standard.
The psalmist says...
Psalm 5:4 ESV
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.
It’s because God is so good, that evil cannot be in his presence. This is a concept the Bible calls “holiness”
Some wrongly perceive this as pettiness or vindictiveness
God is neither petty nor vindictive
God is “holy” and “righteous”
The Bible describes God as being so good, that it is fundamentally impossible for evil or anything that is not good, to be in His presence.
Jesus is speaking here and says:
Matthew 5:20 ESV
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Scribes and Pharisees were kind of like pastors and seminary professors of the day...
The devoted their lives to study the scripture and diligently worked to obey everything that was written in it.
Yet God said that these Scribes and Pharisees “Honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
And, according to Jesus, they were not good enough to enter the garden/kingdom.
In case the standard is not clear at this point, Jesus makes his position explicit a few verses later...
Matthew 5:48 ESV
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
If you want to enter the good and perfect garden/kingdom, and commune with the good and perfect God,
That is the standard.
And God is JUST and RIGHTEOUS for feeling this way about the garden.
If the garden is to remain good and pure, there cannot be any imperfection in it.
This is justice.
We hate injustice.
It’s part of our human nature to hate injustice.
The idea of someone committing a crime, then going free makes us cringe
Or, conversely, someone not committing a crime, and being severely punished makes us cringe just the same
Our hearts cry out for justice.
We want to see the wrongs in the world made right.
If we, who are imperfect people desire justice,
How much more does God,
who is perfect,
desire justice?
Because God is holy. Because God is so good, he will demand and deliver justice for every wrong ever committed.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, I’ve seen all sorts of evil go unpunished. How is that Just?”
Let me assure you all,
in the end,
God will sort everything out,
and there will be perfect justice.
Because of God’s perfect justice, no one cannot enter the good garden.
We cannot enter the kingdom that Jesus came to preach.
If I’m doing my job right, at this point I want you to be thinking:

How is this good news?

How was Jesus using the term “gospel” which means “good news?”
Or, let me put it another way:

If God truly is holy and just, how can there be any good news for us?

There is a story in the book of Exodus where Moses asks God to reveal His glory.
God agrees but says Moses will be unable to see God’s face and live.
This because God is so good and so holy, that even Moses, a servant and prophet of God is too sinful to see God’s face.
It’s dangerous for sinful man to even be in the presence of the holy God, much less look upon his face.
So God puts Moses in the cleft of a rock and
as God passes by
Moses is able to see God’s back...
And as God passes by Moses,
God proclaims this about himself.
Look with me in Exodus 34 verse 6.
Exodus 34:6–7 ESV
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
On the one hand we have
“A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
And on the other hand we have
“A God who will by no means clear the guilty.”
This is the great mystery of the gospel.

How can God punish the guilty, and at the same time, be forgiving and gracious?

And for thousands of years, this remained a mystery...
Now Jesus enters the scene.
So much can be said about the life of Jesus but I want to focus in on a specific story.
Matthew 9:1–2 ESV
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Finally, we have a hint as to the answer for the graciousness of God. Jesus will forgive our sins...
Matthew 9:3–5 ESV
And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
Mark and Luke’s account of the story add, “This man is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The scribes were right to think this way...
Which is easier to say...
It’s easy to say “Your sins are forgiven” anyone can say the words but how would you know that anything has happened?
It’s hard to say “Rise and walk” because the evidence will be right in front of you.
The irony is that, even though it’s EASY to SAY, your sins are forgiven,
to ACTUALLY forgive sins,
to balance the cosmic debt of evil creates,
is far more difficult than healing a paralytic...
Watch what happens:
Matthew 9:6–7 ESV
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.
So Jesus uses the supernatural sign of healing the paralytic to validate his claim that he has authority to forgive sin.
Using today’s lingo,
I would say this is a pretty big flex.
But this still does not answer the question:

HOW does Jesus forgive sin?

Because let me tell you friends, he does not simply sweep sin under the rug and turn a blind eye.
That would be disgusting. That would be unjust. That would make any person cringe. This is not how God operates.
This story does not answer the mystery:

How can God punish the guilty, and at the same time, be forgiving and gracious?

Let me read to you, how Jesus forgives sin:
Matthew 27:27–29 ESV
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”
Matthew 27:30–31 ESV
And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.
Matthew 27:32–35 ESV
As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross. And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots.
Matthew 27:36–38 ESV
Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
Matthew 27:39–40 ESV
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
Matthew 27:41–44 ESV
So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.
Matthew 27:45–46 ESV
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
The beatings, the thirst, the crown of thorns pressed into Jesus’ skull, the mocking, the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and Jesus feet...
I believe these things were awful...
But I believe these things paled in comparison to the wrath of God poured out on Jesus.
On the cross, Jesus bore the payment for our sin.
Billions of souls… eternal punishment… all the sin of the world...
Piled on Jesus.
Isaiah prophesied about this 700 years prior saying:
“It was the will of the LORD to crush him.”
When Jesus told the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven” he knew fully what it would cost him.
When Jesus offers to forgive your sins,
and my sins,
and invites us to follow him,
he know exactly what it cost him.
Friends, the story doesn’t end here:
Matthew 27:57–60 ESV
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away.
Matthew 28:1–3 ESV
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
Matthew 28:4–6 ESV
And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
Did you not hear me?
The Jesus who we worship is not dead, he’s alive!
In Jesus’ resurrection, he demonstrated his POWER OVER SIN AND DEATH.
In Jesus’ resurrection, he demonstrated that he has AUTHORITY TO OFFER YOU LIFE.
Friends, Jesus came with the good news of the kingdom.
Jesus came to restore the garden and invite you to be a part of it.
So I circle back around once more to the question of the day:

How can God punish the guilty, and at the same time, be forgiving and gracious?

How could Jesus come proclaiming the “gospel of the kingdom?”
God took his wrath, stored up for us, the guilty, and put it on Jesus, the innocent.
In his death and resurrection, Jesus paid the price to both maintain God’s justice
offer forgiveness to all who believe.
This is the good news friends.
This is the gospel.
There is no better, no more significant news than this.
Let me pray and then we will continue to sing.
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