If I told you about my adult grandson’s good health, even if you knew nothing about him, you would be happy for me because it is always nice to learn that a friend’s family members are doing well. However, if I explained that a health crisis last year nearly cost him his life, yet he is now almost fully recovered, you probably would enthusiastically rejoice with me. Indeed, my grandson Charlie was hospitalized with Covid and spent 77 days in ICU.

     At one point, a doctor warned us that Charlie needed “Divine intervention.” Subsequently, thousands from across the country prayed fervently for his recovery, and God heard our prayers! That is such wonderful news that I cannot stop rejoicing! Learning the bad news of how close we were to losing him significantly enhances the good news that he is healthy and almost fully recovered!

     If we simply tell others that God loves them and wants them to go to heaven, it is welcome news but often quickly dismissed. Instead, non-Christians need to understand the bad news first. And the bad news is this: Without God, we are without hope. We are sinners, which separates us from God, and the punishment for our sins is to spend eternity in hell, where “the fire is not quenched.”

     That is awful news. However, there is great news. Jesus died an excruciating death on Calvary’s cross to atone for our sins. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus rose bodily from the grave and proclaimed, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).

     Compared to simply learning that God loves us and wants us to go to heaven, when we comprehend that we deserve eternity in hell, but Christ has atoned for us, we rejoice, give thanks, commit, and share that truth on an entirely different level!

The distinguished psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger wrote a book titled, “Whatever Happened to Sin?” His premise was that the rise of secularism combined with the ignorance of God’s Word produced a culture with a numbed conscience and little awareness of right and wrong. Therefore, when presenting the gospel, he suggests preachers and teachers should begin by explaining the reality of sin and the need for repentance.

     Consider that Jesus’ first recorded sermon was not simply “God loves you.” Rather, it was “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).

Likewise, the Apostle John confronted his readers with some bad news. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8), followed by the good news, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

     Similarly, the Apostle Paul first gave the bad news, “For the wages of sin is death,” followed by the good news, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

     On the day of Pentecost, Simon Peter preached terrible news, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth… was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:22-23). Yet he followed with the good news:

“But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24).

     It is not surprising that “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). The people were convicted of their sins after hearing such bad news. So, Peter replied with the good news, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

     Again, in Acts 3, Peter proclaimed bad news followed by good news, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead” (Acts 3:15). He then concluded, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

     Pastor David Jeremiah wrote,

“With the rise of secularism, the concept of sin is fading. If there’s no God—at least, no personal God—there are no divine rules to govern us. So why feel guilty? One person said, ‘I came to the realization that I don’t believe in sin. I still admire Jesus a lot.” The contradiction of that statement was lost on the man. He has a form of godliness without its power, purpose, convictions, or realities.’  As one preacher said, ‘You have to get people lost before you can get them saved.’ In other words, if people don’t realize they are lost, they won’t sense their need for salvation. That’s why we must preach the ‘whole counsel’ of God, including its demands, warnings, and judgments. In times like these, it’s dangerous to ignore the reality of sin. But how wonderful to embrace the grace of God’s full and free forgiveness!”

     “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see!”

     The need to acknowledge our sin and repent of our disobedience comes first. That is why Jesus preached, “Repent and believe the good news!” (See Mark 1:15).


                   Bob Russell is Retired Senior Minister of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY.




Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4