Someone asked me to prepare to talk about the gospel with some people who had not heard it, or had not heard in a long time.
It is a pleasant challenge, but one that I’m fairly familiar with, as I’m of the impression that opportunities may occur every day to engage in a conversation about the gospel. I certainly prefer conversations to just presentations, even though there’s an argument that the gospel is just a declaration.
In any case, I was reminding myself of this message, and it occurred to me again, that this which I believe to be good news is bad news.
What? I hear the quizzical mind ponder. What on earth do I mean by that?
Put it this way. Jesus is the King. That is awesome news. Knowing who Jesus is and seeing the kind of guy He is in scripture, that is superb news. And the fact that He has come to set us free from slavery to sin. Well I cannot think of better news than that – sickness, addiction, wayward behaviour and foolishness becomes erased and replaced by a servant heart, peaceful mind, joyful soul and wise behaviour. All under the rule of God’s kingdom. That is a sweet advert to roll out.
Unfortunately for some however, the declaration of the rule of Jesus does mean the end of the rule of Self. That is too big a blow for some. I was sharing with a dear friend that the realisation that Jesus Rules is a huge knock to the ego. I don’t mind Jesus being part of the cabinet for decision-making. I’m even happy to name Him as Prime Minister. As long as He knows He is part of a system where all decisions are subject to a vote. So if more of me wants to do something and Jesus says otherwise, the principle will be that He will be over-ruled and the majority will have its way, whilst still singing songs of love and adoration to Jesus the Prime Minister.
Yet Jesus is not described as the Prime Minister. Not even as the President. He is Lord. He rules. He rules alone. Getting accustomed is bad news to everything that I have been used to. It is bad news as it brings an end to that which ruled before, which actually does not want to let go of the control and power it has held for so long.
I am often confronted by this reality from time to time. Even being a Christian for so long it has been so easy to build routines and rituals which eventually deify something in the place of Christ. A way of doing things. An item, a relationship, some resource or activity. It might even have the blessing of church, but left unchecked it becomes a controlling influence in the place of Christ. It’s not just an individual challenge either.
Sometimes on a communal scale we can get lost in the routine and tradition and ritual of things to actually put aside how Jesus rules in our lives. It is just as important to deal with it at that level as it is on the individual level. The good news again raises a threat to some established orders and routines. The good news is certainly a spot of bad news for those who seem to feel that doing it as they did for years is satisfactory without any signs of spiritual growth or any indication of spiritual fruit from the endeavour.
It is all well and good talking about how the gospel is a threat to the Prince of the Power of the Air and the forces of darkness. That is true. It is just as bad however, to those of us who prefer to stay in the dark, who prefer our own rule to the rule of the Prince of Peace.
Appreciating that, helps us to understand the lack of response from others. It is not always the case that they don’t understand, or are not ready yet. Sometimes it is just as much an issue of people rejecting it through the most powerful response available to them – apathy. Minimising the importance of the news, so that it is not even the last piece you get in a news bulletin like the one about the cat being rescued or the grandmother doing a sponsored knit for charity.
Thankfully the good news about the good news being bad news is that the heart of the good news can still break through and make the difference. Just as the darkness cannot overwhelm the light, so the beautiful brilliance of the light of Christ can still pierce the most apathetic or rebellious heart. He can still depose the alternative powers. All power in heaven and earth belongs to Him, and as long as we’re committed to knowing Him and celebrating the good news in sharing and living it, there remains the hope of seeing others acknowledge Him for who He is.
That’s good news.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden