Your “Good News” -Ain’t all that Good!
– The Good News (glad tidings)
The Semi-Good News:
- Notice, that in this version of the Good News, our primary motivation for “repentance” and turning from our life of sin is a fear of Hell. Not that a fear of Hell is a bad thing. But if we are honest with ourselves we will agree that the reality of how we preach, and how we have heard the gospel is in the context of “escaping hell“. (Think Jonathan Edwards – Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God)
- “Heaven” is an exciting alternative to Hell, but the reality is that for most evangelicals, Heaven is mostly exciting because its- not Hell. As a “choice of two alternatives”, Heaven is a great place to be. But let’s be honest, most of us aren’t all that excited to sit around on a cloud and play a harp all day. (more on this comment to follow)
- In this Gospel, the person of Jesus serves as a mechanism by which we attain the salvation we desire from Hell. Little is spoken of as to who He is, How He lived, or Why we would even desire to follow Him in the first place. Jesus (and his death on the cross) are the manner in which we are saved. Kind of a “Means to an end.”
- The object of our desire in this gospel is a place -Heaven. Alternatively it is eternal life.
- This good news is ultimately a teaching of a soteriology (how we are saved). In other words, when we share the gospel in this way, we are talking people through a process of salvation, with Jesus as the engine of that process.
Notice How Jesus is the means by which we get eternal Life.
The GOOD “Good News”
Now consider an alternative perspective to the Good News.
No, its not my version. In fact, another quick glance at the history of the church will demonstrate that it has been the prevailing perspective for the vast majority of the Church’s history. This good news has little to do with Hell, or Heaven. It has everything to do with a King. And a Kingdom.
In the 1st Century, the Greek word “euangelion” was common. It was kingdom language. It was yelled by heralds, spreading the good news of a new emperor through the land.
“Good News! Good News! -There is a new Caesar.” or
“Good News! Good News! – Our King’s army has defeated the enemy in battle”
So, when in the 1st Century the followers of a man recently crucified as the “The King of the Jews” testified to the establishment of a new Kingdom, they were acting as heralds of a new “eaungelion” – the good news of a different type. It goes a little like this…
He called it the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven”
Eaungelion! Eaungelion! The Kingdom of the Servant King is at hand.
Now, notice a few things about this Gospel (Good News)
- Notice, that rather than a fear of Hell, the primary focus of this gospel is not an escape from Hell, but rather the person of Jesus, as King. Its about Him…all about Him!
- Rather than escaping Hell to go to Heaven (a cloudy happy spiritual place), Jesus spoke primarily of the Kingdom of God during his three year “campaign”. No, I’m not saying there is no Heaven. But I am saying that Jesus spoke little of it. In fact, if you take a close look you will see that “Heaven” actually comes down to earth in the end where God establishes His New Jerusalem and “tabernacles” (lives or dwells) with man, as it was always intended. Heaven is where we go when we die, but Earth is where God goes when he reigns.
- Rather than serving as a “means to an end”, Jesus (as King) is the absolute object and focal point of the Good News. He is not a mechanism by which we are saved, but the center of all things. The Good news is not about us getting a ticket to Heaven, but that Jesus, a King of immeasurable love and grace is taking over, and has adopted us as his beloved children to reign with Him. Jesus is no “means to an end”, but is the beginning and the end. All in All.
- The object of our desire in this gospel in not a place, but a person. Its Him. All Him.
- This good news, rather than a soteriological explanation of a process by which justification occurs, is the actual good news of our Kings victory over death, and the curse of sin that binds us, and of the successful redemption of all creation to the Father under the Son.
The real good news is JESUS.
Its all there. But we have a tendency to read into the text whatever preconceived ideas we have been exposed to. I know I do.
But think it through.
Look at the landscape of the church today, and consider how we get to where we are. We work by all means available to get as many as we can to attend our church gatherings (comfy seats, coffee and donuts, terrific bands and “relevant” sermons) and then employ the same strategies used in large scale sales seminars to get “commitments” from people to get to Heaven by following these simple steps and reciting this simple prayer (or for the more bold – come up front to be prayed for)…
…and then we wonder why
- the vast majority of people who make confessions of faith each year are in no way connected to a group of believers or following Christ just 12 months later (See Barna Group research on this topic)
- the church looks suspiciously like the the world (we drive the same cars, live in the same homes, give the same amount of money (approx 2.7% of income for evangelicals and 2.7% for atheists in America), have the same divorce rates, etc. etc.
- the Church struggles so much to help its members actually follow Jesus that we create entire theologies around the issue (think about the Lordship Debate – we would not be having this discussion if the gospel that people bought into was about a King, rather than a ticket to Heaven)
- the christian book shelves are littered with books about people who spent 15 minutes in Heaven, books on how to get spiritual and monetary blessings, and books on how to get the most out of life before we depart on our magic carpet ride to heaven etc. But it just makes sense….if Jesus gives out tickets to heaven perhaps he gives out golden tickets to our wildest earthly fantasies as well (think Willie Wonka)
If the gospel is that we don’t have to go to Hell despite our sin, and we instead can go to Heaven if we just believe in Jesus, then in effect we are really just buying into “getting saved”. And let’s be honest…who doesn’t want to get saved.
So then, in effect, aren’t we just doing our best to save our lives?
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Matt 16:25
But if we hear and profess the Gospel that I hear so boldly and clearly in the Gospel accounts and throughout the scriptures, then we are called not to “get saved”, but to drop our nets and our lives and follow the servant king….Follow him in service and love of others. Follow Him in obedience to the Father. Follow Him in giving of ourselves to others. And follow Him to death, on each of our respective crosses so that we will be united with Him in His death…and ultimately His life.
Now, that’s not for everyone. But it is the Good News.
I firmly believe that what is missing from the Gospel that we proclaim in our church gatherings today is Jesus. And instead of telling people about Him and His glorious reign, we tell people about Hell and Heaven and how to avoid one and get to the other. It is no wonder that the church has lost its heart for Jesus…we are so busy telling the world about the salvation that WE get and the Heaven that WE can go to that we have tragically forgotten to tell them about the King that we serve…the true hope and joy that we have…in whom all things come together, who is intrinsically lovely and lovable, and in whom all of us find Life.
We are spending our lives looking for the WAY to Heaven
We are spending our time arguing about TRUTH
We are furiously working to get eternal LIFE
And all the time all of these were found in a person.
He is the WAY, He is the TRUTH and He is the LIFE!
Lets start telling the world of our King, whom we love, and who loved us first.
Perhaps then they might fall in love with Him, and follow Him
….. rather than say prayers to get to Heaven.
For a couple of good reads on this topic whose perspectives I would agree with check out