The gospel is not good advice, it is good news.[i]
This simple sentence helps us understand the core of the good news of Jesus Christ. In Hebrews, we find this promise,
“for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:10).
It is good news that we receive our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, instead of trying to be a “good enough” person to make it into God’s good graces.
It is common for people to reject commitment to Jesus by saying that God will accept anyone who is a “good enough” person. That sounds nice but is far from good news. Not to mention it is an impossible standard
If you are supposed to be “good enough”, then you are on the clock. You need to be better than you were yesterday. You can’t make that mistake you made yesterday again. You will blow it later today, and tomorrow you have to avoid that error. You have placed yourself on a cycle of un-meetable expectations of being a “good enough” person – if you take the standard seriously.
You can make another choice with being “good enough”. You can redefine good as a standard relative to you and your decisions and reject any kind of objective divine standard of righteousness. In that case everything you do, by definition, is “good enough”. But this is a game for children, and we know (if we are honest), that standard isn’t worth anything.
But we like setting these kinds of standards for ourselves, even if they lead to crushing defeat. One reason is that it allows us to change roles with God. We become gods, and God becomes our servant. How often have you thought, or how often have you heard someone say, “I have done everything God wanted me to do and He hasn’t done anything for me! I’m done with him!” That thought is made possible by a relationship of exchange with God – He tells me to do stuff, I do it (really?), and God is supposed to return the favor. This view of God has more to do with Roman paganism that with the God of the Bible. Nonetheless, we are drawn to it.
This point of view is common to humanity. It is common to Christians as we stumble through our walk with Christ. But it is not good news.
What is good news is that God has completed all the work necessary to effect salvation and that He freely offers it to people. It is what Hebrews 4 refers to as, “rest”.
Our job is to put our trust – all of it – in Jesus Christ. “For we who believe enter that rest” (4:3a).
The good news of salvation given by the grace of God and received by faith in Him leads to a life of loving attention to Him and obedience. The work now done in my life is a response to what I have received, not a striving to receive it. It is an act of love and a desire to be closer to my Savior, not a behavior driven out of fear and anxiety of missing out.
The gospel is good news.
[This post is drawn from our sermon series on Hebrews]
[i] I have heard several people put it this way, most notably Tim Keller.