Dr. Larry Moyer
What Exactly Is the Good News of Easter Sunday?
Easter Sunday is approaching. You prayed for a door of opportunity, and it has opened. You have a chance to tell your best friend the one message she needs most. Suddenly, the question comes to your mind, “What exactly is that message?” At a religious convention when 60 people were asked the question, “What is the gospel?” only one had a biblical answer. If the gospel message is not clear in your mind, it won’t be in your friend’s, either.
Let’s first examine what the message is not.
It’s not about how to find happiness. Many non-Christians are the happiest they have ever been – so happy that they don’t see the need for Christ. On the other hand, it’s possible to be a Christian and be unhappy. Believers often become discouraged because of persecution or the agonizing hardships of life, and can experience loneliness or even depression.
The gospel message is not about reconciling human relationships. God wants a man and a woman to experience marriage, not just a merger of two people who live under the same roof. But a husband and wife who have a solid marriage will still be separated from God forever if they are unbelievers. Furthermore, even couples who know Christ face marital struggles at times.
Nor does the message concern how God can help you out of a problem you face, whether it is a jail sentence or an unavoidable job loss. Circumstances before conversion don’t necessarily change after you come to Christ. A murderer may still face the executioner’s needle. A person who has lost a job may still incur debt.
The gospel message is bigger than that. It is defined in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and can be reduced to 10 words, “Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.” That’s the gospel.
What characterizes that gospel? First, it points to something Christ has done – not something he will do. It’s past, proven, done. The death and resurrection of Christ leave a non-Christian without justifiable defense. If someone looks at the catastrophes of today and questions God’s love, he has to explain away the cross. If a lost person questions whether Christ was God, he has to explain away the resurrection. Moreover, an unbeliever may be disappointed with the actions of Christians today. But the message has nothing to do with what Christians are doing. It deals with what Christ has already done – his death and resurrection.
The clear message of the gospel also highlights the depth of Christ’s love. He didn’t just die. He died for me, just as he did for you. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says, “For my sins.” He didn’t die to show me how to live – giving instead of getting. He didn’t die to show me how to die – putting others first. His death was substitutionary. A sinless Savior took a sinner’s place. Had he not died, I would have to suffer my own punishment. Amazing love!
Next, the clear gospel message puts the emphasis where it needs to be – eternal life in heaven not temporal life on earth. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
God is not offering earth with heaven thrown in. He’s offering heaven with earth thrown in. When I know him, it doesn’t matter how, when or where I die. I am going to be in his presence forever. The span of our lives on earth is brief and uncertain. The length of life with him is eternal. Even though the circumstances in my life today may be very difficult, as a believer I know he’ll be with me. But when I die, I’ll be with him where there is no pain or problems.
One final thing characterizes the gospel message: the simplicity of the response. How can you benefit from Christ’s death and resurrection and receive eternal life? Trust in Christ, the one who did it all, as the only way to heaven. Jesus promised, “He who believes in me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). Eternal life is free.
If we’re confused about the gospel on Easter (or any other day), it’s because we’ve made difficult what God intended to be simple. Christ died for us and arose. Trust in him alone. Receive his gift of eternal life. As you recognize the clarity of the message, it ought to cause you to ask not only “Who can I tell?” but “How many can I tell?”
Dr. Larry Moyer is the founder and CEO of EvanTell, an evangelism training ministry. For more information, visit http://www.evantell.org.