Alpha & Omega

Idolaters Anonymous
Stealing God's Glory

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The Good News of Jesus

Jesus began his public mission by announcing "good news": the good news that the long-awaited reign of God has finally come near to us in the person and life of Jesus (see Mark 1:15; Luke 11:20). He was, and still is, on a rescue mission directed by his Father. Jesus's Good News was, and is, that his Father eagerly offers His kingdom to any people willing to receive Jesus as Lord (see Luke 12:32). This kingdom is not a worldly political power; nor is it a highbrow clique. It is rather the invincible realm of the life-giving power of God's Spirit as found in Jesus, the crucified and risen Galilean. This power attracts and sustains human relationships to Jesus as our Lord and to his Father as our Father. It is the power of divine love to build, under the Father of Jesus, a lasting family out of people who are by themselves incapable of sustaining unselfish love (agape).

The Good News of Jesus is an invaluable gold coin with two bright sides. One side is what God does for us in Jesus. The other side is what God does in us with the Spirit of Jesus. Neither side should be overlooked if we seek to know and to follow the real Jesus rather than some inadequate imposter. Just as a coin with only one side is impossible, so also is truly Good News without both sides.

The "heads" side of the precious coin, what God does for us in Jesus, can be outlined as follows: the Father of Jesus has sent Jesus into our troubled, rebellious world to identify with us, and even to suffer and to die for us, in a way that proves His Father's merciful, forgiving love for us, His enemies (see Romans 5:8). In his earthly life, Jesus preached and lived out this side of the Good News coin, and even gave us an enacted parable of it in his Last Supper with his disciples: "While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body'. Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins'" (Matt. 26:26-28). The heads side is God Himself paying any price needed, in His Son Jesus, for a just and merciful reconciliation of us to God (see Romans 3:23-26, 5:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19). He seeks, in Jesus, to befriend His enemies, even us.

The "tails" side of the precious coin, what God does in us with the Spirit of Jesus, takes this form: upon being raised from the dead by his Father, Jesus was given unique authority and power to dispense the very Spirit of God to his followers (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:5-8; Matt. 28:18-20; John 20:21-23). The apostle Paul thinks of the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Jesus as interchangeable (Rom. 8:9), and he portrays the risen Jesus as a "life-giving Spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45). What's more, he thinks of the Good News as involving the presence of the risen Jesus in the followers of Jesus, including in Paul himself: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20, NIV; cf. Rom. 8:10). Paul also expresses this side of the Good News as follows: "God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). The Spirit of the risen Jesus, as the very Spirit of God, takes up residence in the disciples of Jesus. The tails side of the Good News, then, is that we become a temple of the Spirit of God and of Jesus, owing to the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus abiding in us (see John 14:15-21; 2 Cor. 1:21-22, 6:16). In giving us the gift of His Spirit, the living God pours out His self-giving love in our hearts (Rom. 5:5). We are thereby brought from death to everlasting life, thanks to the faithful obedience of Jesus that entitled him to dispatch his Father's Spirit to us (see Rom. 5:18-19).

The tails side of the coin is widely neglected, but it is a vital part of the Good News. It brings the Good News out of the past (and out of the "outside") and into the present lives of people. It is by the present indwelling Spirit of God that we know that the Good News is fact and not fiction (1 Cor. 2:9-12). Paul puts the matter directly: "... you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father'. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children" (Rom. 8:15-16). The Good News is a merciful offer of adoption to us orphans. The Spirit of God testifies, and confirms, that we, as followers of Jesus, are no longer orphans but children of the living God — children blessed with the indwelling Spirit of our Father and Jesus. One result is that the main demand on us is this: be true to who you are now in Jesus, namely, a child of the living God.

We receive the Good News of Jesus as an unearned gift of God. We do not earn it. God first loves us, before we do anything by way of response; His love thus does not need to be earned and cannot be earned. As we trust and obey the Lord, in keeping with the attitude of Jesus in Gethsemane, we appropriate the Good News. Our will yields obediently to the will of our Father, and we realize our being children of His. We are no longer our own, for, as Paul observes, we have been bought with a price: the price of the dying Son of God (1 Cor. 6:20). The Good News is palpably good for us only as it makes us new via the presence of God's Spirit within us. The main indicator of this presence is our relating to God as our Father, with calls of "Help!, " "I will obey," and "Thanks!" The Good News of Jesus is intended to be good for us now, and not just in the future. It is designed to help us now, and bring us into abundant life now.

As adopted children of heaven, we receive the joy of the Lord. The Good News is news of glad celebration: celebration of the Lord's unearned merciful love for all of us. He does indeed come in judgment, but His judgment is not condemnation but disarming mercy in Jesus. This is Good News indeed. Will we receive it instead of our idols?

Hearing

You call me out of darkness,
from the silence of my fear.
Out of precious love you call
and into life.
I hear.

I hear. I hear.
But still this dread.
This awful space that
silence makes to
mourn its dead
forever.

I will not listen anymore
to words and words and words;
to sounds at once enslaved to hearts
and yet set free from love.

I will not listen anymore
to silence not from You;
a silence full of emptiness
where hope cannot break through.
I hear the sound of broken glass
its shards they pierce my fear.

My heart in desperate deafness
now might finally hear You near.