Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Your Gospel...Good or Bad?

Don't you think that the Gospel is the best news in the history of the world? As a matter of fact, the original Greek word for Gospel means "good news"! It is good news that Jesus came to save us from our messes! But, for many, the Gospel has been reduced to a series of statements formalized in a creed or doctrine. Maybe this explains why many who call themselves Christians look no happier than those who don't. In Luke 4, Jesus explains several of the reasons for His coming. He says,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. Luke 4:18-19 NIV
What is good news to a poor man? That he doesn't have to be poor anymore! What is good news to a person in bondage? You are now free! But, if it's really true that Jesus came to set us free and to bring us good news, why are not more believers in Jesus enjoying these realities? Maybe it's because we are more concerned with what we believe instead of in Whom we believe!?! Things like systematic theologies, while sometimes helpful, can become a substitute for a true relationship with God. Instead of drawing near to Him, we get caught up in describing Him perfectly and getting our rhetoric right. What is more important, knowing Him or knowing about Him?

Many believers have made doctrines and creedal statements their source of identity and standing before God. Maybe this is why many avoid asking the question of "why" when it comes to their belief systems. My question is this: How's it working for you? Does what you believe about God cause you to want to know Him more, or does it make you feel the need to fix all of your shortcomings so that you can be "good enough" for Him to come around? If what you believe about God doesn't make you feel better about Him and about yourself, then are you truly holding on to reality or is your version of reality limiting your experience of Him? In Romans 14:17 Paul says that the Kingdom of God consists of 3 things: Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit. If what you believe about God's Kingdom does not bring these realities into your life, then are you really believing the right things?

Do we really believe the "good news", or have we been duped by fools gold? Our version of the Gospel might look right and sound right, but in the end, does it really set us free? Do you really have to have all of your creeds and doctrines in perfect form to feel loved by God? When challenged about your beliefs do you feel threatened and insecure? I'm not saying that we need to throw out our intellectual search for truth. Nor am I saying that we need to live only by "warm-fuzzies" and the shifting winds of experience. But, if our doctrinal studies do not lead us to a deeper experience with the Father, haven't we really missed the point? What good is it to "believe" that God is love if you never really feel loved by God? What good is it to believe in the imputed righteousness of Christ if you never feel completely acceptable in God's sight? What do you think?


Steve Sensenig said...

In Romans 14:17 Paul says that the Kingdom of God consists of 3 things: Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit. If what you believe about God's Kingdom does not bring these realities into your life, then are you really believing the right things?

This is a great point that you made! I hear a lot about the Gospel from people who don't seem to have peace and joy in their life. Peace and joy are not things reserved for the after-life. They are available to us today, and are just a few of the listed fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5.

steve :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Raborn,
This is your niece, Tiffani. You need a better picture.

Raborn Johnson said...

Great point, Steve! Sometimes it seems that believers are the worst advertisements for the Gospel. We tell others that the Gospel is the best news in the world, but do we really (dare I say) feel that way? I have heard it said that many believers will live their entire lives with the same problems that they came into the Kingdom of God with. Isn't there something wrong with this picture? If Jesus came to free the captives, why are more Christians not experiencing freedom? How can we tell others "Jesus will set you free", if we are not living in that freedom first?

Michael Pendleton said...

Hello and welcome to the blog world.

I really and truely and honestly believe the Good News with all my heart, mind, soul, and stregth!

Great Post!

Raborn Johnson said...

Thanks for reading Michael! In the 53rd chapter of Isaiah, Isaiah saw the great news that God was announcing through him and asked "Lord, who has believed our report?". Isaiah saw that the Gospel could seem almost too good to be true. It's always great to hear when someone takes God up on His offer of a "great salvation"!

Anonymous said...

You're doing a great job with this.
Keep up the good work and continue to let God's love shine through you.
We love you!
Mom & Dad

Anonymous said...

I think the technical precision of this 21st century culture is encroaching upon our faith. We have electronics that are accurately measured to precision at .00001 and we never miss. Hence, processing the Gospel through our culture of ultimate technical precision is not easy.

For me, truth and love are paramount, it takes all my time to keep these gospel truths alive in my life.

As for 21st century technical precision in the gospel, not there. The Scriptures are 2000 years old and in no way reflect our supremely accurate culture. Why? We don't need it.

The truthful love and the loving truth!

Raborn Johnson said...

Very well said anonymous! I agree with you that our technically savy culture has influenced the way in which we read the Scriptures. Sometimes, we approach the Scriptures like a textbook or technical manual instead of reading it as a love letter from the Father. I think that this can be a big mistake. Maybe, chapter and verse distinctions were one of the best and worst things that ever happened to the Scriptures?!. It seems that while they are helpful for referencing purposes, they can cause us to chop up the text and reduce it to a bunch of formulas. Instead of the Book leading us to a relationship with our Father, the Book becomes an end in itself. I love the Word of God, but it is meant to lead me to my Creator, not to become a substitute for Him. When the Word is used properly, it will lead us to know God more, not to know about Him more. There is a big difference!

Tom said...

I've read that the greek word for "Gospel" that Paul uses was rarely used (only 2 instances, apart from scripture, in all remaining ancient text) and that a better translation is "almost too good to be true news". The Gospels : The Almost-Too-Good-to-be-True-News of Jesus Christ( I like the way that sounds and thought you might find that interesting.)

Regarding the rest of your post, I agree with it, however I'd say that relationship with Jesus,apart from the scriptures is inadequate. The church that I was in stressed relationship with Jesus as being paramount. It seemed to me that in too many cases, people relied on their experience to determine God's will instead of believing what the bible had to say. The result was, to me, a schitzophrenic believe system about God (i.e. Sometimes He healed, sometimes He killed). And no one could figure out why He did what He did. So, for me, it wasn't until I found out - from the bible - what I could and should believe that I started having any kind of victory in my life.