The Good News for America
In a society that is all about comfort, ease, pleasure and feeling good, how can we call a person to suffer and die to themselves and live for others? In other words, what is good about the good news of Christ?
What is the good news of Christ? Is it good health and worldly blessing or is it something different? The gospel is that Christ died for our sins, and that God raised him from the dead, nothing more and nothing less. Why are the death and resurrection of Christ the good news? Well, it is only good news if you recognize that mans greatest enemies are sin and death. If you recognize this, then the gospel of Jesus Christ is the best news in all the world. Let’s take a look at the trouble that the apostle Paul called the law of sin and death.
The literal meaning of sin is, to miss the mark. It was the term in which the spotter, who stood next to the target, would yell back to the archers when an arrow missed the bulls-eye. You sinned; you missed the mark you were aiming at. When the New Testament says you have sinned it is saying that you have missed the mark that God has set for you as a human being created in His likeness. You have missed what it means to be truly human.
What is his likeness? Now the likeness of God is a deep subject, but we can easily grasp some things about it. The Bible tells us that God is love and from this, we can gather when we were created in his image that we were created for love. That is we were created to have a love relationship with God and reflect that image to all around us.
But, how can this be if God is a spirit? How can we love a spirit? That is a tough question for a three dimensional being to comprehend. Even so, one thing I do know is that we can reflect God by loving those that have been created in his image. Human beings are living symbols of the living God. In fact, they are the only thing in all of creation that image’s God. So, to love or hug a person is to hug God. To smile at another human is to smile at God. To do good to another human is to do it to and for God (Matt.25:30-40). It is here we can also see what sin really is. It is doing something to hurt a fellow human created in God’s image or neglecting to do something one ought to do to help a fellow human. It is breaking or being unfaithful to the love relationship we have or should have with our fellow-man. When you act in an unloving way toward your brother, you have sinned. If you break faith with the image of God, you have sinned against God.
Now the next question is what is love? We have seen that God is love, and this is where Jesus comes in. Jesus came here to reveal the father (John 17). He came to teach us what true love looks like. In making known the father he made known what is true love. He did it by living and dying a sacrificial life for others. In this, he lived for God and fulfilled the great commandment “to love God with your whole heart, soul and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” This work of revealing the Father as sacrificial love reached its peak and fulfillment in his death on the cross. As he died, he said, “it is finished.” In this act of dying for others Jesus fulfilled the law of love and opened a new living way of approaching God, not through religion but through love, not just any kind of love but through the kind of love demonstrated by Jesus.
The atonement is God demonstrating his sacrificial love in Christ for his creation. How can the death of Christ be reduced to a payment of a debt, to a broken law? The atonement must be grounded in God’s love, not the law. Love freely given, never demands its pound of flesh as the law does. “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” In the death of Christ, God deals with the sin problem by covering it with his love; while at the same time demonstrating his love to man by covering over with his love their anger and hatred. “Father forgive them, for they know not, what they do.” In this act of love, he revealed his love, by forgiving freely, mans hatred and anger. (Colossians 1: 21, 22)
In the death of Christ, we also see a revelation or a revealing of man’s nature. Man is angry and filled with hate and a false sense of justice and righteousness. Man needs his pound of flesh. The law is broken, someone must pay; someone must be punished for the law is their God. I find it peculiar that many in the Christian movement have embraced a theory of the atonement which image’s God in exactly the same way as sinful man, strange indeed.
This work of revealing the Father is to be continued by his body, the church. This revealing of the father begins in the church by believers loving one another, just as Christ has loved them. In loving one another as Christ has loved them, they show the world the Father even as Christ showed them the Father. When the church fails to do this, it is missing the mark and is living in sin. When it is living in sin it is living under sin and is walking in the flesh and cannot be pleasing to God. It is a terrible sin to hurt or hinder the work of the church from revealing the Father. This happens whenever a member of the church acts in an unloving manner toward a brother or for that matter, another human being.
We are not alone in this work of revealing the Father to the world. God has put his Spirit in the body of Christ and in each of its members, to help them in this great work of revealing the true God. In truth, this work is the work of God and when he calls us, He calls us to join him in that work, and if we accept that call, we become his fellow workers.
We can gather from all this that we are most human and most godly when we are loving our brothers and honoring the love relationship with God and man. When we fail to do this, we sin. We miss the mark of loving one another, the very reason for which God has created us.
The gospel of Christ is the message that God has forgiven our unloving acts and has taken them on Himself. Furthermore, it tells us if we put our faith in Christ, he will put his divine life in our hearts to help us to become like the Father. When a person believes, they begin to find themselves being transformed into the image of God as their love for God and man grows.
However, the gospel could not be the good news of God unless it addresses the problem of death. In actuality, most people think of death as a problem at the end of one’s life, but when we take a closer look, it is something that affects all of life. It is as the Bible said, the king of terrors that cast a shadowing doom over all of life. It is the shadow of the abyss that robs life of all meaning. In the classic book, the “Denial of Death,” Ernest Becker shows how the fear of death operating on a subconscious level influences and actually controls a lot of our thinking and actions. In view of this, one would have to conclude that to bring one’s life under control you would have to have something to deal with death on a conscious and subconscious level. Well, God gave us this when He raised Jesus from the dead. The message of the resurrection is the best news that mankind has ever heard. It frees us from the fear of death and empowers us to live a life of freedom and meaning.
Of course, we did not need Mr. Becker’s book to tell us about the power of death, for scriptures long go echoed the same thought. The writer of the book of Hebrews says, ” Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death-that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:14-16). The apostle Paul actually says that death is the catalyst for mans sinning. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:56-57). Note that Paul does not say death is the sting of sin but rather that sin is the sting of death. Though Paul does not tell us how death causes us to sin it is plain that he is pointing to the fear of death as the source of much of our sinning. However, he also shares with us the good news that Christ has overcome death in his resurrection. In the resurrection, God has placed us with Christ above sin and death giving us a victory over them in Christ (Eph.2:6). Now, that is good news. LD