Over this series, we explored various aspects of the Good News of Jesus—things that we learn from Jesus’ words and actions in the four Gospels.
1. We learned that God is not angry and harsh with us as many of us thought. Instead, he loves us fully and freely and desires our happiness and reconciliation.
2. We learned that, because of God’s love, we need no longer carry heavy burdens of fear, guilt, or self-condemnation. If God finds us worthy of love, then we can love ourselves.
3. We learned that we should focus on loving and caring for people rather than keeping burdensome religious rules. Once we understand God’s loves for us, we begin to love ourselves and are in a much better position to love others as we love ourselves.
4. We learned that as believers we become agents for expanding God’s kingdom on earth by growing as individuals, loving people, and sharing the Good News with others in relationship.
5. Finally, we learned that when our life here is over we have a resurrection life of peace and happiness that lasts forever.
This Good News is so wonderful that we have difficulty grasping it all, and it is no wonder that we want to share it with others who are ready to listen. But there are some believers who somehow misunderstand the Good News at every point, so that it sounds more like bad news.
The Bad News of the Angry, Demanding God
By missing a few key truths, many believers try to please God by twisting the Good News into something negative and horrible. Living as a believer then becomes so burdensome that, instead of joy and freedom, it is hard and oppressive. I know—I have been there!
These believers are not evil. They genuinely believe these things—in part because of the way they read the Bible. To them every part of the Bible demonstrates God’s wrath and his demands on how we must please him. So, over the centuries, they developed harsh, misguided doctrines that control them. It boils down to two points: to please God we must A) believe the right doctrines and B) follow God’s many religious rules and requirements.
These beliefs play out in a grotesque mimicry of the Good News we have discussed. Instead of the Good News, they hear this message:
1. God is Angry, Jealous, Violent, and Vindictive
When reading the Old Testament, assuming that God revealed its contents rather than it being written by humans from their limited ideas of God, they become convinced that God is indeed angry, violent, and vindictive. A deadly worldwide flood; mass genocide in the conquest of Canaan; quick retribution and death for those who disobey—this seems like a very angry god. But this is only how Old Testament writers thought of God. Our real insight to what God is like comes from Jesus, which is nothing like the Old Testament sometimes describes.
This burdensome, negative view of God impacts how we think God feels about us and how we feel about ourselves. This often results in embracing the very destructive doctrinal theory that…
2. God Hates Our Sin so Much that He Cannot Even Look at Us
Many believe God is totally alienated from us! He cannot even look upon our sorry, sinful selves. We are nothing but worms in his sight—only good for destruction and eventual punishment in the eternal flames of hell.
This creates for us, in addition to the baggage of fearing God’s anger, the further baggage of seeing ourselves as pitiful, worthless, and unlovable.
This is opposite what Jesus says of the Father who wants all of us to be reconciled to him. God is not alienated from us, but we feel alienated from him because we don’t understand that we are both lovable and valuable to the Father.
3. To Please God, We Must be Careful to Live by His Specified Requirements
Many believers think that because God is picky and jealous we must try to placate him by keeping innumerable rules he requires of us. If we do not satisfy his requirements we are again in danger of hell fire.
This becomes a burden because we never know for sure if we are keeping the rules to God’s satisfaction; and those convinced that they are keeping the rules can become self-righteous and tend to judge other people. This attitude alienates people further from God.
4. We Must Share God’s Disappointment with Us, and His Remedy, with All People
Many who embrace these views also believe we must share Jesus with everyone. However, rather than sharing the genuine Good News with those who are ready to hear it, they often confront people with the message that they are sinful, displeasing to God, and on their way to hell. Only when the person acknowledges this can they ask forgiveness for their sins, accept Jesus in their heart or life, say the sinner’s prayer, and begin to believe the right doctrines and keep God’s rules.
Those who accept this message then take up the burdens from which Jesus wishes to free us. Those who reject the message often leave the encounter with a very negative view of Jesus, the Good News, and the church.
5. If We Do the Right Things, We Will Live Forever in Heaven; otherwise We Burn Forever
On the one hand, some such believers fear they are not doing enough to please God, or that they will do something to fall from grace and ultimately go to hell anyway. On the other hand those who are convinced they are successful in pleasing God think they are God’s chosen and that heaven is a sure shot for them. They can become quite arrogant and condescending toward other people.
The whole goal of going to heaven instead of hell dominates believers to the point that the rich aspects of the Good News in our current life are not evident or are inconsequential. The point of the Christian life becomes avoiding hell.
There is No Real Joy in the Bad Version of the Good News
The Good News of Jesus brings joy, happiness, purpose, growth, peace, and reconciliation. The bad news message brings great burdens, poor self-image, insecurity, narrowness, judgmentalism, and the alienation of those who might otherwise be interested in the Good News.
Those who believe or teach the bad news are not evil—they are simply misled and trapped in a rigid, restrictive system. What they need is freedom—freedom from burdens; they need the Good News of Jesus. These believers are among those whom we are called upon to love even as we love ourselves. Even though they claim Jesus, they are in need of Jesus’ message of love and reconciliation.
Those of us who better understand the Good News can help those trapped in bad news — but not by badgering them. We can help by sharing Good News concepts and by assisting those who have begun to question the validity of the bad news they have been taught.
Let us be observant to such opportunities.
In this series so far:
What is the Good News of Jesus Anyway?
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 (Today’s post)
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Have a great day! ~Tim