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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hello, Christian, it is the GOOD news!

Take a look at the following Bible verses. Something is a little off with each one. See if you can spot the errors.

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you rather depressing news that brings great melancholy to all the people:"

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he was proclaiming the sour news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they began to be baptized, both men and women.

Luke 4:43 But Jesus said to them, “I must proclaim the overwhelmingly mellow news of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, for that is what I was sent to do.”

Mat 9:35 Then Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the guilt-inducing, ridiculously troubling news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness.

Have you spotted the errors? If not, maybe you're like me. Maybe you've been a Christian for quite a while, but you require something a little more extreme to get it through your thick skull that the Bible does indeed call it GOOD news! It's not grim news, dour news, sad news, bad news, so-so news, lousy news, heavy news, or "I can't bear to hear it" news. It's GOOD news.

Please be reminded that I said I needed something a little more extreme to make that ultimate connection. For me, a sledge hammer was necessary. SMACK! Note from God: how many times do I have to tell you, it is actually GOOD NEWS?

What's the big deal, you may ask. Well, of course, it's good news. Duh.


Then why are so many of the world's Christians walking around like they were baptized in vinegar and just lost their last friend? Why are more Christians like Eeyore than Pooh? Why do we schlep through life like we're wearing a harness of 10,000 bricks?   

Actually, there are dozens of reasons. A few are global enough that we'd best take a look at them. But before we do, let's go back to the good news. It really is good. And too few of us, myself-chief of sinners in this area, honestly understand or believe how good this news really is.

According to The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the  Greek word used in the New Testament is euaggelion. When translated, you get "good news" or "gospel," ie: God's good news. The use of this word in the New Testament is not, ahem, rare. 76 times, we are told about the gospel or the good news. It is good news because you have been saved. You have been set free from the law of sin and death. Your eternity has been paid for. You are now called friend of Christ. You are now a new creation. You are heaven bound and endowed here with the Holy Spirit for one incredible adventure. You didn't do it. Jesus did it for you. He took our whole heap of sins on his broad shoulders, bore horrid torture and death on a cross, to wipe our bloody death sentence off the books forever. If you believe in Jesus for salvation, it is done. Finished. Jesus said so with his dying breath. Do you get the implications? You are free. FREE. No condemnation. No need for guilt. No need for further sacrifice. No need to walk around, ducking our heads as if someone might whack us with a stick.    

There's a worship song by the Newsboys that says, "I am free to run. I am free to dance. I am free to live for you. I am free." I feel hugely stoked whenever I hear it, but I don't know if even that song comes close to covering it. And I am certain that my feelings during that song don't come close to representing true acceptance of one massive reality. FREE. This is the GOOD news. Jesus saved us. Eternal life waits for us. Death can go sit in the corner and play solitaire because he has no business trifling with a Christian.

This is good news. This is HUGE good news. This is the best news anyone in the history of the universe ever heard. THIS IS PARTY YOUR BUTT OFF NEWS. If you go to the mailbox tomorrow and find out you hit the lottery for a billion dollars, that's CHUMP CHANGE compared to Jesus. If you were voted "High Celebrity Genius Sexy Pants of the World," that would be NOTHING compared to Jesus calling you "friend." Get it? I am serious. You need to get up right now, smile like a Cheshire Cat and do a happy dance. You need to wake up tomorrow morning and chuck off the covers as if they were chains, and go live like you mean it.

Disclaimer: No. I am not saying, go eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die. I'm not saying go sin all you want or any such nonsense. If you're a Christian, that just won't work. You'll make a mess of things. Epicurius tried it, and all it got him was fat, drunk, diseased, and lonely.

Okay, back to the topic. It is GOOD news. And many of us don't live that way. We ought to bring a sparkle wherever we go, but often, we bring dark clouds. We slouch. We sigh. We hem and haw. We glare. We grimace. We shake our heads. If the Apostle Paul was here today, he would likely say to us the same thing that he said to the Galatians.

You foolish Christians, who has bewitched you?

What the heck is wrong with us? As I said up there, there are a myriad of reasons, but three are so universal that we had best be aware of what they are so that we can regularly flush them down the toilet. The three villains are: Satan, the World, and our own Dang Selves.

Satan: the enemy took a 3rd of the heavenly host with him when he defied God and was drop-kicked out of heaven. He is the roaring lion, seeking all of us to devour. He's got thousands of years of human history to reflect on, so he and his minions really do know how to get at us. I'm convinced one of Satan's biggest weapons is guilt. Whenever we look in the mirror, Satan wants us to see the words "YOU SUCK" painted across our faces. Remember that sin? Remember that thought? Remember how awful you were to so-and-so??? You are a loser. Blah, blah, yaddah, yaddah. The enemy does not want us EVER to know the extent of the good news. He wants us to believe there are strings attached: yeah, you might have been saved, but...  He wants us to hit the never-ending hamster wheel of "Am I saved? Or Not? If Not, then..." Been on that? No fun at all. We walk around second guessing ourselves. Dude, get this. Jesus did it. He paid it in full. You didn't have jack in your account to pay the debt, but Jesus had more than enough. And no, you aren't some weird exception. No, your sin isn't special. No, Jesus didn't say, "I have died to save all of you--wait, scratch that. Uhm, all of you, uh...except that guy. Whoo. That guy's a real pip. There ain't no saving him." That is not, what Jesus said. Read what He did say, "I came to save the lost." And "Come to me, you who are weary and heavily burdened, for I will give you rest for your souls."

The World: the world gets us Christians feeling all down, depressed, and lonely because the world wants to call good things evil and evil things good. And that gets us feeling cruddy. We are salmon swimming upstream against a tide of cosmic stupidity and rampant erosion of morality. The world is curse, folks. At the fall of man, the world got nailed also. It is still God's creation, and it still has more beauty than we will ever consider, but it's corrupted and frail and changing. There's bad news every day on every channel. And we Christians feel powerless to stop it. Here's the thing: God has not left the building. Sure, Satan has the keys to the world right now, but his time is coming. And WHOA, when it comes, {submit cataclysmic butt-kicking image here} 

Self: we are truly our own worst enemies. If you spend any time in counseling, you'll learn that so many mental/emotional problems begin with negative self talk. We put ourselves down. It can become like a macabre addiction where we try to get attention by beating ourselves up. Seriously folks, you are not half the things you think you are--the bad stuff, that is. Jesus died for you. Are you kidding me? You are more precious than all the gold and jewels in all the mines of the world. One little drop of Jesus blood spilled would have been enough to prove you are worth loving to God. But he didn't just get a pricked finger. He put it all up on the cross. Do you see now? Not only did God die for you, but He loved you enough to want to spend eternity with you. Seriously? I have some great friends, but I don't know that I'd want to live with them. Jesus is right now, building a place for you. A place that will last forever, and Jesus will welcome you one day. And then, those days won't ever, ever end.

Those three villains--they are all bullies. And for too long, we Christians have been the victims too timid to fight back. No more. It is GOOD news. And God's word trumps those villains and every other masked nightmare you can name. Read HIS word. See what HE says. Believe it. Then, go forth and be FREE to share the GOOD news.

Remember when Peter says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." ??   Who will ever ask you...if you don't look like you have hope?