Saturday, July 11, 2015

Good News?

  The "back story" behind this week's sermon is the version of the "good news" that most of us have heard all our lives. If you believe in Jesus and commit your life to him, you will have eternal life. If you don't, you will spend eternity in Hell. 
  It's that last part that's always bugged me. If the "news" about Jesus is really "good," why is it that the vast majority of the human race winds up being tormented for all eternity. And yet, for years I continued to read the Bible through the lens of this version of the Gospel.
  But as I continued reading the Bible, I began noticing verses and phrases that didn't seem to fit that view of what God is up to in the world. For example, when God calls Abram to be the "father of many nations," he also says that "in you shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:3). 
  The first time I really let that set in, I was astounded. Right from the beginning of God's work in this world to restore what had been marred by the Fall of Humankind, he announces that what he's doing is for everyone!
  I also began noticing verses in the Psalms that looked forward to the day when "all flesh" would acknowledge God as their true and rightful master. And then there were the passages in the prophets, especially in the Book of Isaiah, that pointed to a bigger plan than just the benefit of one tribe, or a select few. In fact, God commissions the prophet in this way:"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth" (Isaiah 49:6).
  Of course, all of this comes to a critical point when Jesus comes and offers the blessings of the Kingdom of God to those whom the religious establishment had deemed unworthy of salvation. In this light, the New Testament Apostles looked for the day when "every knee shall bow ... and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:10-11). And at the end of the Bible, one my favorite verses expresses God's purposes for this world in this way: "I am making all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
  It doesn't sound like the traditional "good news" is consistent with those aspects of biblical teaching. In fact, it seems very clear from these and many other Scriptures that God's purpose through Christ is to redeem everyone and everything in all of creation!
  I must confess, I'm not quite sure how all that will work out. The Bible is also very clear that we must respond in faith to receive the wonderful gift of new life. And yet, there they are, those verses that insist that God has already chosen all people; that God intends to save all people, and more than that, to renew all creation! While we may not understand how all that will work out, I think we have to respect the idea that if the Scriptures state so definitively that this is God's plan, then that's what we should expect to happen! 
  At the end of the day, I think some of us may have to broaden our understanding of the "Good News" so that it's truly "good" for us all!

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