The gospel of good news and bad news

I heard a sermon recently, so typical of so many sermons these days, a sermon I would call, "The gospel of good news and bad news." This is the problem with the church today. It is not a methodolical problem. It is a theological problem. We desperately need to teach a gospel of good news, good news, and more good news.

When I went to Sunday School, I heard the same thing, the gospel of good news and bad news. "I know God loves us and all that, but you still have to be obedient." Good news and bad news. We are suffering today of the gospel of good news and bad news.

The gospel of good news and bad news is killing us. People will not dedicate themselves, no matter how much we press them to do so, to a gospel of good news and bad news. It is just not all that exciting. Only the gospel of good news, good news and more good news is exciting. Only the gospel of good news, good news and more good news is worth dying for, and worth living for.

We justify the preaching of a good news and bad news gospel because it is not all bad news. It is not like those pulpit-pounding, hang-them-over-hell, scream and stomp and shout and spit and "you are sinning and you need to quit" crowd. "We preach a balanced gospel," we like to console ourselves.
A little bit of grace to make you feel loved; a little bit of condemnation to make you behave. That is not the gospel of the New Testament. "There is therefore now NO condemnation." (Romans 8.1) Not a little; NO condemnation. It is all about good news, good news and more good news.

You know the gospel I speak of, the gospel of good news and bad news. You have heard this gospel many times. We have good news and bad news. The good news is God loves us very much. The bad news is, He wants us to behave and insists that we do so.

The good news is that God will forgive us of all of our sins. The bad news is that He commands that we turn our backs on sin.

The good news is God is a God of love and mercy. The bad news is, God is a God of holiness.

The good news is all about grace. The bad news is all about justice.

The good news is "Neither do I condemn you." The bad news is, "Go and sin no more."

I am not saying that what is presented as bad news in these sayings is not true. They are true. They just are not bad news. They are part of the good news, good news and more good news.

It is good news that God asks us to go and sin no more. Sin always destroys. God shows us the way to live life and live it to the full. (John 10.10) It is always the way of righteousness.

It is good news that God is a God of justice. Justice is a good thing. Thank God for his justice.

Holiness is a good thing. Truth is a good thing. Righteousness is a good thing. It is all good. All good. Good news, good news and more good news.

Who would want to live in a universe without righteousness, justice, and holiness? Justice implies that sin is punished. It implies that there is a judge who has all the information needed to execute justice and has the power to carry out the sentence. We have that kind of God. It is a good thing.

A lot of preaching in this generation makes about this much sense. Suppose I said to my child, "I really love you, Son, but in spite of the fact that I really love you, I will not let you play ball in the street."

It is true that I love my son. And it it true that I will not let him play ball in the street. But, the relationship between these two is a little confused. I don't prevent him from playing ball in the street in spite of the fact the I love him. I prevent him from playing ball in the street because I love him.

From his viewpoint, it is good news, good news and more good news. He has a dad who loves him and he has a dad who knows how to keep him from danger.

In a similar way, God does not say to us, "Go and sin no more" because he is half loving and half mean. He says to us "go and sin no more" because He is all loving and sin is always destructive. It always hurts, always destroys, always causes more harm than good.

Sin is tricky because it always appears it will make life better. It never does. It always makes life worse, in the long run. Sometimes the long run is not until eternity, but it always in our best interest to live the Christian life. Throughout eternity, we will be glad for every obedience and sorry for every transgression.

The most dramatic example of this dynamic is Jesus himself in the Garden of Gethsemene. It clearly seemed, from that perspective that going through with the cross would be excruciating pain and calling 10,000 angels would be a huge relief. But, Jesus could see "the joy set before him." (Hebrews 12.2) He could see His own joy set before Him. He did the math. It was a half a day of excruciating pain and all eternity of greater pleasure. That perspective motivated Jesus to go through with the cross. He has always been glad He did.

And we will always be glad when we do things God's way. Always. It is always in our best interest to live the Christian life. Always.

That is why, the gospel is a gospel of good news, good news and more good news. It is not a gospel of good news and bad news. It is all good news. There is no part of the gospel that is not good news.

The gospel of good news, good news and more good news is this. God loves us. He will forgive us all of our sins. He will cleanse us of all unrighteousness. In addition, because he loves us, he wants to make life better for us. So, he has given us some instructions for how to live life on planet earth. The instructions do not necessarily make life easy in the short run. Still, we will never regret following God.