Christianity is sometimes referred to as the Good News. What’s so good about it? Even if you don’t believe in the God of the Christians, you ought to know what Christians believe, in order to understand why billions of people have chosen to believe. The Good News aspect of Christianity does not capture the depth and breadth of Christianity, but it is a valuable introduction.
God is Omnipotent. “Omnipotent” means all-powerful. This does not mean God is capable of the illogical. He cannot make a square circle, for example. I can’t imagine that he has the slightest interest in demonstrating how many angels he can place on the end of a pin, either. What it does mean is that God has created a grand and stunningly detailed universe that he manages perfectly. This omnipotence is closely associated with his omnipresence (he is present everywhere), his omniscience (he knows everything), and his timeless existence. God’s omnipotence is not, in itself, good news. However, when connected to God’s other characteristics, God’s omnipotence is extremely good news. When God has a great idea, he makes it happen…and all his ideas are great.
God is Good. We should never take this for granted. God’s goodness is crucial but, in the realm of possibilities, an unlikelihood. Consider the other “gods” out there. I don’t understand Hinduism very well but it seems the object of Hinduism is to lose one’s individual identity in the oneness of the cosmos. This is god. Perhaps there is an explanation for how the loss of self-awareness is different from death, but I can’t fathom it. The Greco-Roman gods were arbitrary and capricious. Allah seems to be fond of rule-bound men who are willing to prove their religious zeal by blowing themselves up in marketplaces. Humanism, that poly-headed monster, has for its gods the most finger-pointing, rule-spouting, self-oriented, smug representatives of the human race. There are explanations why people follow these gods, but the explanations are pathetic and tragic.
But God, the triune God, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, is a good God, and it is this fact upon which all reasonable hopes rest.
He Created Humans to be like himself. God created humans in his image. This means that humans have been granted a glorious array of physical, mental, and spiritual abilities. We have been granted life, and it is God’s intention that we should always have it. It also means we were made to represent him, speaking and acting in ways that please him, to the benefit of all creation.
Things fell apart for humans through the Fall. Sin caused a major rift between God and all people. Why did God let this happen? To a degree we must guess. However, we can deduce that, if God is good and omniscient, he knew that granting humans moral agency would result in failure. But he also knew that the failure could be rectified. We can also conclude that the rectifying process would usher humans into greater wisdom, making them more God-like than what could have taken place through an uninterrupted Garden of Eden. And, so, human history boils down to an overarching plot line: humans (some) responding to God’s guidance and, so, being refined; and God’s patient interventions in history to bring about the salvation of these people.
Dramas continue to take place in individual humans, but history was decided before creation, and its course was sealed at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His obedience on the cross resulted in him being made Lord over all creation.
God Delivers from Sin. God is delivering those who trust him from the power of sin and, ultimately, from sin entirely. Sin is fundamentally rebellion against God but, simultaneously, it is thoughts and actions that damage our relationships, and damage our selves. Sin is destruction. To be fully human it is necessary to be free of sin.
God Delivers from Legalism. Humans are lawmakers. One problem with human lawmaking is that we all make up different sets of laws and then we get angry at each other because we can’t agree on what the laws ought to be. Another problem is that, no matter what set of laws we make up, we fail to keep them. This is a problem because we want to believe that we are good enough but, knowing that we fail to meet our own standards, we are left either uncertain about the sufficiency of our goodness or, worse, we become certain we are not. This problem applies even to those trying to conform to God’s good and just law system. Because of our failures, the Law, while it acts as light for our paths, because we routinely fail to keep it, it also serves to condemn us.
This is where the Good News of Christ’s work comes in again. Christ freed us from the bonds of the Law because we are no longer judged by it. Jesus took our sins upon himself, freeing us from the condemnation of the Law. We no longer wonder whether we can be good enough. It has been made clear to us that we cannot be good enough, but what was a terrifying problem has become irrelevant. Jesus was good enough and we are judged on the basis of his righteousness. Salvation is assured. While the need for righteousness remains, we have been freed from the heavy burden of having to prove ourselves worthy to others and to ourselves. Righteousness, no longer a threat, has been properly assigned its place as a means of grace, as a means for us to flourish.
God is delivering his people from the power of death. Though our current bodies remain under the curse of death, he will raise the faithful with incorruptible bodies. Death is our greatest fear and our greatest enemy but because of Christ, its threat is no longer meaningful. Instead, we can live our lives on the basis of life. We can see our present lives as foundational for eternity. Though our bodies will fail us, those in Christ are merely at the beginning of life’s adventure.
God has made his kingdom for all nations & tribes. The power struggles, the ideological debates, the squabbles over borders, the wrangling over narratives, the fights over equality, the fights to reach the top of the heap—all will end. In the kingdom of Heaven, God rules and the great nation proceeds with social peace, justice, and contentment. The kingdom will not be boring, however, lacking drama because it lacks conflict. People will be full of activity, like children, but with capacity, building, growing, creating, learning, and celebrating together.
God proved his love for us by sacrificing himself on the cross, enduring pain and shame for our sakes. On the cross, Jesus addressed the need for justice. We have all sinned and we have all been sinned against, but Christ took our punishment and he took the punishment of our enemies on himself. On the cross, Jesus proved the importance of grace, and he proved his love. Those who love him are washed clean, not by their own merit but by the gift of Christ, freely offered up out of his love for us.
The Good News is that God controls world history. The Good News is that God is full of loving compassion for us. He wants all of us to flourish, to be healthy, and to be immersed in a community of love. All this he offers to us freely. The cost, if it can be called a cost, is that we must trust him. We must recognize that flourishing is only possible by living according to his wisdom.