Saturday, December 26, 2015

Don't Be Afraid, it's Good News!

If you saw a headline that said "Great News! Stock Market Crash Wipes Out Wealth of Millions!" you'd wonder about the writer's sanity. Good news is supposed to benefit people, so they jump up and down in delight. The night Jesus was born, an angel appeared to shepherds out in the field to bring them this good news. The angel explained, "I bring you good news of great
joy for all people--Christ the Lord has been born, the Savior!" Well, he had brought the best news of all, the message of salvation for all people, and that took their fear away. The shepherds jumped up and ran into town to see what the angel had described:  the baby in the manger who was their Messiah. They saw, and were so excited that they "told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child." That was a perfectly understandable reaction to hearing and seeing good news.

These days, I often hear people explaining the good news of Jesus Christ in a way that sounds more like that crazy headline. The overall message is something like, "God is perfect and holy, and your sin is so bad that it has separated you from him. So you are cut off from God and you're going to suffer an eternity of torture for your sins. But, if you make the decision to accept his forgiveness, today before something happens to you, and live a good life from now on, including working hard to eliminate sin from your life, you get to avoid punishment and go to heaven forever." Does that really sound like good news to you?

Without really meaning to, this approach says sin is the biggest problem there is, and that God has saved us through the death of his Son on the cross, but even that isn't effective unless we make the right decision, in the right way, at the right time. The focus is on us, our sin, and what we have to do to save ourselves, not on the over-arching plan of the Eternal (who was here before the plan itself began). In Ephesians 1, among many other scriptures, the Bible tells us that the story of God and his children starts much earlier than "creation and the fall" in Genesis 1-3; and is driven not by the problem of sin but by God's desire to share his love with created beings who can choose to love him (and each other) freely. Sin has been dealt with decisively -- but sin is not the main character in the story: God is.

The Good News really is "good news" -- the best news anyone can hear! I like to summarize it in these words:  "God loves you. Jesus came to prove it. That's what Christmas is all about."  And that's good news at Christmas time, and all through the year, don't you think? Merry Christmas!!!

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