Recently I was asked by some members of our church to listen to a sermon from a church their friends attended, who had been alarmed by some things the pastor had been saying, and they wanted my 2 cents.
I listened to the message and agreed with them that the things they had been concerned about were indeed alarming – but aside from that particular issue, which I won’t go into detail about here, there was something else I heard in the message which caused me to pause.
The pastor was talking about a trip he had taken and how, as he was preaching, people were live-tweeting his message, and the most tweeted phrase was: “I am a good person, I just forgot.” The idea being, that you really are a good person, you just haven’t been acting like one. You just forgot to be good.
He then went on to say this: “When people come to church, they don’t want to be told about their shortcomings, they come to church because they want to hear some good news, and this is the good news: you really are a good person! You just forgot.”
On the surface, that might seem nice, but here’s the thing: is this really the “good news” that Christianity has to share with people? That ‘I am a good person’ – even though people innately have a deep-rooted sense of their own inadequacy? Isn’t the “good news” of the Gospel not that I am a good person, but that God loves me even when I’m not a good person?
The “good news” of the Gospel is not that I’m a good person, but that God loves me even in spite of the fact that he has seen me at my worst and even knows the darkest thoughts of my heart that, although I didn’t act upon them, I wished to do them?
Isn’t the “good news” of the Gospel rather that I am more flawed than I can even imagine, yet at the same time I am more loved by God than I ever dared dream possible – which He proved by giving Himself over to death in my place to rescue me, because I was so lost and so far-gone that I couldn’t save myself? Isn’t the good news of the Gospel that I am so broken that GOD HIMSELF had to die for me, yet against all odds or reason, I am so loved by God – undeservedly – that in some cosmic miracle of grace, he was GLAD to die for me?
It would seem to me that in an attempt to make the Good News better, they have lost the heart of the Good News! But in my opinion, when you really understand the weight of the predicament of human fallenness, and then you see the amazing grace and love of God in light of it, that is what sets your heart on fire, and stirs up hope and gratitude in your heart that a lifetime is not enough to express.
What we need is not to make the Good News better – as if that were even possible. It is already the best news in the world. We just need to let it sink deep down into our hearts and reflect on all the wonderful implications of it.