Nearly all fundamentalists and evangelicals promote some concept of the Good News—also called the Gospel. In fact, the words ‘evangelical’ and ‘evangelism’ are taken directly from the New Testament Greek word for good news.
But what, exactly, is the Good News?
John 3:16, the most well-known passage in the Bible, is often shared as the epitome of the Good News message, and it’s a very good start!
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
However, this is only a limited expression of the Good News and has also attracted a lot of interpretive assumptions that negate much of its value as a ‘Good News’ statement.
The Limits and Misuse of John 3:16
Not only does John 3:16 cover just part of the Good News Jesus taught, but when conservative evangelicals read and share it they often assume negative doctrinal elements that are not implied by the text.
Here is the typical understanding of John 3:16 with the added doctrinal baggage:
God so loved the world [though he can’t bear to look at us because of our sin] that he gave his one and only Son [to suffer and die on the cross in our place and take the punishment for our sins], that whoever believes in him [and prays the sinner’s prayer] shall not perish [in the eternal fires of hell] but have eternal life.
None of the bracketed concepts are part of the Good News of John 3:16 at all. They are inserted elements of misguided doctrinal assumptions, and they cause fear, alienation, and other great harm. In fact, they turn the good news of Jesus into bad news.
If John 3:16 does not express the full Good News message of Jesus, and if negative baggage often inserted in sharing the Good News is not valid, then what is the Good News?
Five Important Aspects of the Good News of Jesus
There at least five major components of the Good News. They are captured in the graphic below by my good friend Dick Ford, and they form the basis for a new series that begins with today’s post.
Good News! God is not Angry and Harsh with Us as Many of Us Thought but Loves Us Unconditionally
When I was a fundamentalist, I believed God was angry, harsh, and vindictive toward us. Perhaps you never thought this but multiple millions of people still do. I believed it for two reasons:
- The ministers and teachers of the church assured me it was so
- I read the Bible incessantly and it seemed to confirm what the church leaders said
Gradually, I began to focus on the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament and found that I, and my leaders, were absolutely mistaken. Instead of being harsh and vindictive, God loves us unconditionally and seeks our peace, happiness, and reconciliation.
When we feel alienated from God, it is Good News to learn that God is not alienated from us. He is not angry or vindictive but loves us individually very much.
Good News! God’s Love for Us Takes Away Our Fear, Guilt, and Self-Condemnation
Thinking that God is unhappy with us affects our self-image and leads to self-destructive behavior. This only intensifies when we face judgment and condemnation from others—including Christians. So when we are twisted with selfishness, hate, emotional scars, low self-esteem, and self-destructiveness, it is Good News to learn the Father loves us so much; it frees us from fear, guilt, and self-condemnation.
In response to the Father’s love, we can love ourselves properly and begin to love others as well. These are both acts of reconciliation.
Good News! We are not to Follow Religious Rules but to Live the Way of Loving People
When we are burdened by legalistic rules and the constant failure to measure up, it is Good News to learn that the Father is not interested in religious rules but in our loving one another with good will toward everyone. Jesus teaches us repeatedly to love others with genuine regard for their well-being.
Once we realize the Father’s love for us, and we begin to love ourselves, we can then grow in loving others by seeing them as the Father sees them.
Good News! As Followers of Jesus, We are Agents for Expanding God’s Kingdom on Earth
The first three elements of the Good News are so wonderful that anyone can embrace them easily, but the fourth element might cause some people pause. Following Jesus and his Good News also requires commitment.
Those who follow Jesus are expected to love others—all others. This is a growth process, but we should all be committed to growing in our love for people. Secondly, in following Jesus there is a commitment to help expand God’s kingdom on earth. We do this in several ways: by genuinely loving others, by continuing to develop as a follower of Jesus, and by sharing the Good News of Jesus.
Good News! Death is not the End because Jesus Offers Us Eternal Life and Happiness
The previous points of the Good News are so welcome that they would be sufficient in themselves, but there is a BONUS!
In addition to Good News that affects us in our life here and now, Jesus offers us eternal life—an eternity of peace and happiness. He demonstrates his ability to provide this to us through his resurrection and victory over death. So when we are fearful of death and the end of our existence, it is Good News to learn that there is provision for an afterlife of peace, joy, and happiness.
There are certainly other significant aspects of the Good News of Jesus, but these are the ones we will explore throughout the rest of this series. If you do not yet follow this blog, you can do so now to stay tuned and not miss any of the coming episodes.
In this series so far:
What is the Good News of Jesus Anyway? (Today’s Post)
God is not Angry and Harsh with Us as Many of Us Thought
God’s Love for Us Takes Away Our Fear, Guilt, and Self-Condemnation
Do You Still Feel Guilt and Fear because You Fall Short of what God Demands?
We are not to Follow Burdensome Religious Rules
We are Agents for Expanding God’s Kingdom on Earth
Death is Not the End because Jesus Offers Us Eternal Life and Happiness
When the Good News of Jesus Doesn’t Sound like Good News At All
The purpose of this blog is to support those re-evaluating traditional religious beliefs. If you find the blog helpful, consider following to avoid missing future posts.
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Have a great day! ~Tim