Your “Good News” -Ain’t all that Good!

Gospel –  εὐαγγέλιον euangélion 
– The Good News (glad tidings)
 
I believe that we have been sold a Pseudo Gospel! 
 
Over the last few years God has been teaching and stirring my heart to a realization that has massively changed the direction of my life.  And that of my family. Our entire understanding of the Gospel has been unwound (and rewound) by a completely different perspective of exactly what this “good news” that we Christians proclaim…really is. I now believe that I have been sold a pseudo gospel my whole life that has reduced the immensely good “good news” to something like a caricature of that which God intended. Perhaps you have heard this same Gospel? It goes a little like this: 

The Semi-Good News: 
In the beginning God created, and God was Holy. 
But you have sinned and have fallen short of God’s commands for you. In fact, all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God (Romans 3:23). So because of this, you are destined to go to a place called HELL. Hell is a place that was prepared for the Devil and his fallen Angels, but where man goes because of his sin. But you don’t have to go to Hell. 
 
You can escape the torments of Hell and go to a better place after you die, called Heaven. 
Heaven is a wonderful place where God lives and there is no sin or death. But to escape Hell and get to heaven you need to have your sins paid for. So God sent his one and only son to die on a cross and bare the wrath that you deserve so that you can be forgiven of your sins. Jesus paid the price of your sin by becoming sin so that you can “go to Heaven”. 
 
So, if you want to escape Hell, and go to heaven, all you need to do is believe that Jesus died for your sins, repent of your life of sin, and turn to Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Of course, you also need to make sure you find a “bible believing church” and get “plugged in” 
 
And that’s the GOOD NEWS! 
(at least the one we have been sold)
 
Now, I know that I am losing some of you already, and that in many minds I must be sounding like a complete heretic. I mean, who would argue with the preceding description of the Gospel? Isn’t all of the above true? But bare with me for just a minute. Now, before I lay out what I believe the REAL GOOD NEWS is, allow me to point out a few things about the “good news” of this “gospel” that we have all been exposed to for the last hundred years or so. 
  1. 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)
  2. “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)
  3. 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.”
  4. The object of our desire in this gospel is a place -Heaven. Alternatively it is eternal life. 
  5. 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.  
Look Familiar?
Notice How Jesus is the means by which we get eternal Life.
Now, for context, it is fitting to explain that this version of the gospel is relatively new in the historical landscape of the Church. A brief study of the last couple hundred years will reveal that this “gospel” emerged in the midst of the Revivalist movement of the 18th Century.  Charles Finney, John Wesley etc. and the large tent revival meetings of the era led to the development of this “Revivalist Theology” version of the good news, focused intently on the conversion of souls and evolving into many of the common church practices we embrace today… such as the alter call, and the sinner’s prayer (previously unheard of in the church). This movement culminates in the works of men like Billy Graham who further develops the methodology of conversion of souls to include the “all heads bowed, all eyes closed” hand raising that still permeates our church practices today. 
 
In essence, the Good News of the gospel in this “Revivalist Theology” is that we don’t have to go to hell, and that if we trust in Jesus and his work on the cross that we can go to Heaven. 
 
Now I’m not saying that this is not good news. Who wouldn’t choose Heaven over Hell? But I would challenge you to consider that it it is not THE Good News. 

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. 

“Euangelion! Euangelion!”

“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…

In the beginning God created, and God was Holy
But man rebelled and attempted to find life apart from God, subjecting the creation to the rule of another King (a serpent accuser), and another Kingdom. And subsequently we have been subjected to the reality of this kingdom…with its never ending toil, greed, abuse, sickness, inequity, poverty, rape, murder, war, hatred, selfishness. And Death. 
 
But God is good, and had established a plan (from before the creation of the world) to redeem His kingdom to Himself. He would restore his creation to its former unbroken condition, and His image bearers back to Life in Him, breaking the chains of oppression and the hurt and sorrow of a broken world that carries the burden of man’s sin. So around the year 3BC, a King was born, and at around age 30 He entered His capital City – Jerusalem (with palm branches laid at his feet, as all Kings of that day did when they entered their city)
 
But his Kingdom was different. 
 
His inauguration was atypical for the kings of His day. His crown was less comfortable. And His throne was his cross. While he lived, He served others. He related to the broken, and the hurting. The wounded and impoverished. The children and the sick. The prostitutes and the tax collectors. 
 
And He spoke of His Kingdom. 
He called it the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven”
And he said it was “at hand” 
Imminent. 
 
And it would be like no other Kingdom, for He would be the servant King. A King like no other. He is compassionate. He is loving. He is gracious. He cares for the lowly, heals the sick, plays with the children, breaks bread with tax collectors, and speaks circles around the mumbo jumbo of the religious elite. He is a Lover. And a friend. And yet He is King! A king worthy of being followed. He is immensely lovable. For He is Love. 
 
So as He breathed His last breath, and blood and water gushed from his side, the ruler of this Kingdom (who had tried to tempt this “son of Adam” to gain the kingdom by means other than a cross) thought he had conquered the servant King. The Accusers greatest tool, death, had won. Or so it seemed.
 
3 Days later He rose from the dead and restored the “temple” of which he had spoken (Matthew 24). Not the one built of stone, but the temple that was his body – the dwelling place of YHWH. He had conquered Death. He had overcome the accuser and has overcome the accuser’s greatest threat – death itself. And He has established a new Kingdom, here on earth (in part) as it is in Heaven (in full)
 
It is like no other Kingdom. Because He is it’s King. 
And there shall be no want when His reign is made complete. There shall be no need. No Pain, No Hurt. No Sorrow. NO DEATH!. 
 
His resurrection is as the first of a new creation, a new Adam. And we can share in his resurrection  – If we share in His death, and his burial through baptism. He is sitting at the right hand of His Father, the Creator. His work is finished. He is victorious. And soon He will return. To complete what he has begun. He will make all things new. Correct all wrongs. And of His reign there will be no end. 

Eaungelion! Eaungelion! The Kingdom of the Servant King is at hand. 


Now, notice a few things about this Gospel (Good News)

  1. 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! 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
  4. The object of our desire in this gospel in not a place, but a person. Its Him. All Him.  
  5. 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 not that we escape Hell, and get to go to Heaven. 
The real good news is JESUS. 
 
The Good News is that Jesus, the promised King has come. He has established his reign on earth, and has ushered in a new Kingdom that is entirely unlike the one we live in today. He has overcome the curse of sin – death, and will resurrect us when He returns to ultimately reign on earth as He does today in Heaven. 
 
And that’s GOOD NEWS!
 
At least, it is for the poor. It is for the bankrupt at heart, the downtrodden, the leper and the prostitute. It is for the children, and the persecuted. The Orphan. And the Widow. But perhaps not so much for the self righteous…or the rich. Not so much for the power brokers of this world, or for the religious elite who have it all together. For the kingdom of God is not like this world, and in His Kingdom the last shall be first and the first shall be last. 
 
Now Hold on One Minute….
 
I know, I know…..But go back and read the gospels. 
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)
So, here’s a thought….
 
What if the Luke Warm condition of the Church in America is not despite our best efforts to share the gospel with the world, but rather, directly because of HOW we share the gospel to the world? 
 
Think about it….
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


King Jesus Gospel

Scot McKnight








Surprised by Hope
     N.T. Wright

 

5 Comments on “Your “Good News” -Ain’t all that Good!

  1. I grew up with that same understanding of the first gospel. But thankfully, while living in Spain, God revealed to me the true gospel. It really does all come down to GRACE. (in my untrained mind.) Without Grace we could not experience relationship with Christ. Without Grace we could not experience daily redemption. Without Grace. we would not have access to the God who just wants to be with us, and wants us to be with him. i used to fear heaven because it sounded boring. Like you said, it was the better option than hell. The older I get, the more I long for it. Yes, it will be a beautiful, amazing place, but ultimately, it will be awesome because we will get to be WITH GOD. We will get to be with the person who saved us from ourselves. How cool will that be.
    When this if our understanding of the Gospel, we stop evangelizing out of a need to seek approval from God, because we are “getting more people on his team.” Instead, we, as broken people, are sharing Good News with broken people.
    I would encourage you to stop by http://www.themissionbook.com and think about sharing your story. There is a place where you can write your own chapter for submission. Thanks for sharing Dylan!

    Like

  2. I think if you take the Gospels, Acts and the NT letters seriously, you'll end up with a presentation of the Gospel which includes the one you refute and the one you propose to be honest.

    Also it's not belittling to Christ or to the Holy Spirit to suggest that their work is to bring us to God, quite the opposite:

    “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

    Like

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