In the New Testament are four books that tell about the life and message of Jesus. They are called the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The word ‘gospel’ simply means good news (εὐαγγέλιον)—the good news of Jesus.
The English transliteration is ‘evangel’, and sharing the evangel is evangelism. The primary purpose of the church is to live this good news and share it with others; but what is it? What is this good news that is so desirable and so important?
Most ancient cultures understood their gods to be demanding of them. What else would explain the reverses, disasters, and conquering invaders they experienced if not the displeasure of their gods?
The gods had power and expected their subjects to meet their demands, and when they failed to please their gods they were punished. The problem was that people never knew for sure what would please or displease the gods, but every time there was a drought, a raging fire, or a flood they tried to regain their favor. And when they were defeated by their enemies they doubled down to understand why their gods had forsaken them.
So the gods seemed angry much of the time, and the people felt alienated from the gods they could neither please nor control. They accepted that they were failures in the sight of the gods and sought a way to placate them.
The Old Testament experience was not so different. Much of the Old Testament portrays God as angry, violent, and vindictive—dissatisfied with the actions of his people. The Israelites developed laws to reduce his anger and sacrifices to reconcile themselves with God.
From time to time the love of God broke through in the Old Testament, but even in the time of Jesus the Jews tried to please God by following laws and offering sacrifices.
Jesus Tells a Different Story
Jesus tells a different story about God. He tells of the Father who loves us—every one of us. There is no need for us to feel alienated because the alienation is all on our side; the Father is not alienated from us. This is good news!
Further, Jesus tells us we need not follow legalistic rules to please the Father; instead we are to love others—we should love them as well as we love ourselves and treat them in that light. We do this by reflecting the Father’s love: as we understand how much he loves us we see ourselves differently so that we can love ourselves more appropriately. Then we can genuinely love others as we love ourselves; as we see them the way the Father sees them we will treat them differently.
This causes all the baggage that has burdened us to fall away! We no longer fear God, we are free of the burdens of trying to please God by observing legalistic rules, we gain inner peace and self-worth, and we are reconciled to others (at least on our part). This is good news!
Jesus is the agent of the good news, and he invites us in Matthew chapter 11:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Jesus brings us new life in relation to the Father, ourselves, and other people. This is good news indeed!
Good News about Eternity
This message of Jesus is very much the good news for us in our daily lives; it is his primary message. If this is all Jesus gives us, it is sufficient; but there is one more aspect of the good news to discuss.
I also believe in a future manifestation of the good news: resurrection and an eternal life of peace and happiness in the Father’s community. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates the validity of his promises of future life after our earthly life is over. So the good news means we can live a new life today and in eternity. This is good news!
Here are the major components of the good news as I see them:
- The love of the Father
- The release of the burden of baggage
- The hope of eternal life
This is such good news that we must share it with others. And even after we share it with them initially, we need to help them as they grow and continue along on their journey. Unfortunately, some believers have a plan for helping people grow that is dysfunctional and even harmful. We will talk about that next time.
I invite your comments and observations below.
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Have a great day! ~Tim