Tom Gilson

Good News in Jesus Christ!

The other day Shane Fletcher and I were talking briefly about what the Gospel really is. He said he’d like to know better. So would I, in many (many!) ways. It’s so multifaceted!

What is this good news in Jesus Christ?

The Gospel comes from root words meaning “good news,” which it really is, centered in Jesus Christ. At the heart of it all is this: God’s love for you and me, and all the world. We, like all others, have rejected his love and turned to our own paths, independent of God, sometimes actively rebelling against God. (Romans 3:23)

The natural result of that is that we’re separated from God, the source of all love and hope and life and joy, with no power to return to him on our own efforts. Physical death is inevitable for all, but it’s really just a punctuation mark in an ongoing existence of deadness spiritually: we can’t experience God’s life (Romans 6:23a). We can’t respond to reality, not even the great and good reality that’s more real than all the created world. We’re not all the way dead until we reach that punctuation point of physical death, so we do have some experience of life and joy and love, but it’s only a passing shadow of the real version God wants us to experience.

He loved us so much, though, that he gave his very self for us through Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose again to conquer death. “Sins” is a technical term, though one with all too well-known effects. It means “missing the mark,” or as Romans 3:23 describes it, “falling short.” It’s about falling short of God’s good and perfect character. Jesus died so that we might live (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 6:23b).

How do we gain this life?

The Smug Pharisee and the Tax Collector

What does it take, then to qualify for this life? I don’t think anything Jesus taught ever gave a clearer answer than Luke 18:9-14. You have to know who the players are in this short story. The Pharisee represented the religious elite. Jesus’ ministry was marked by criticism of their smug hypocrisy, including the smug superiority you see in this story. The tax collector was the bad guy of that day. This one has no name so he represents what people of the time thought of all tax collectors. That means we was part traitor, collecting taxes for the occupying conquerors; part thief, skimming a share of the top; part rich-guy power-player, using his position to push people around so he could live large.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

To be “justified” means “to be right in God’s eyes, through God’s own choice to forgive you of your wrong and see you that way from that point forward.” It’s what it takes to entire into the real life of God.

This is incredibly good news for those who will humble themselves and ask God for his mercy. It’s not so good news for smug religionists who think they don’t need to.

For more, please see my free ebook, What Is Christianity?

(This has important implications for life in blog-land>>> )

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5 thoughts on “Good News in Jesus Christ!

  1. Thank you for posting this.
    The passage in Luke also clearly shows us what the gospel is not. It is not based on any self-righteous effort on our part.
    While many of us will intellectually acknowledge this, it strikes me that self-righteous smugness can still easily creep into our hearts.
    How often do we prostrate ourselves before God and pray like the tax collector?
    Just so you know I’m preaching to myself here. As I read this an examined myself I felt convicted that I could identify more readily with the Pharisee than with the tax collector. While intellectually I will identify myself as a sinner in need of God’s grace; I am thankful that I live a relatively moral lifestyle and that I seek to honour God. I do see myself as a “good” Christian.
    Am I being too proud of myself when I owe it all to God?
    Can others relate to this?
    I would be interested in any comments or feedback.

  2. Am I being too proud of myself when I owe it all to God?
    Can others relate to this?

    One way to understand this is through the parable of the two sons. We are always teetering between being one or the other. Most of us who are long time Christians though tend toward being the elder son. Proud of our righteousness, ready to take credit for it and believing we are worthy of God’s grace. If you haven’t read it The Prodigal God by Tim Keller is the best exposition on the subject that I’ve read. Short, insightful and painfully on point.

  3. The older I get the more I see my faults and am utterly amazed and thankful for God’s redeeming grace. I’m not the least bit deluded into thinking that I’m somehow deserving of it.

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
    That saved a wretch like me.

  4. Two quotes (as best as I can recall them…) come to mind:

    Grace: “Don’t let anyone charge you for what God has given you for free”. (Paul Ellis)

    Grace: “You can try, or you can trust”. (Watchman Nee)

    The response from Grace, from us, to condemnation as such lists one’s many and varied sins: “Yes, you are correct about that, and what of it?” And then one hands to God an All-Sufficient resume’ which He, All-Sufficiency Himself, has already filled out.

  5. Good News In Christ:

    God is Immutable Love. The Christian has it that He comes to us full of both Grace and Truth. It is Christ Who both raises all standards to unobtainable heights and deepens the ocean of Grace. We ask of Him, “Which is it?” His answer: Both. It is Christ Who both widens the Rod of Love to distances too far for us to reach and spreads Love yet wider, yet deeper, yet higher. As He enlarges the exclusion, He expands the inclusion. We ask of Him, “Which is it?” His answer: Both. It is Immutable Love whereby all hope is destroyed, and, it is Immutable Love whereby all hope is restored. The name for this entire arena is this: Grace. The Pharisees point to Divorce and declare it God’s plan while Christ points us to the beginning – to E Pluribus Unum – and calls that God’s plan. What then of our fragmentations within sin? The Immutable God answers: I pour Myself out for, and into, you – My beloved. His Immutable Nature is itself both the unyielding grain whereby our hands are filled with splinters and the unrelenting abolition whereby we are mended. He makes of Himself both our all-sufficient Means and He makes of Himself our Ends – our final Good. It is Christ, Grace and Truth Himself, Who both amplifies the exclusion and upsurges the inclusion. None of us are fully comfortable in this tension of both/and, this tension of Grace/Truth. It seems we hate either the Truth or the Grace. It seems we favor either the Truth or the Grace. In Christ God manifests within Time to the bitter ends of Physicality and therein comes to us “…..full of Grace and Truth…..” as no other can – all vectors wholly full – and therein the seamless epistemological-ontological Exemplar Himself writes in Word’s Corporeal that which just is the ceaseless grammar of an immutable and timeless language. His Pen is Himself and high atop His Hill He spreads His arms wide and He pours Himself out for All-Men – whom He calls “My beloved” – and thereby He pens exactly what He thinks of us – permanently. He is the Pen whereby we are all found condemned. He is the Pen whereby we are all found ransomed. He is the Pen whereby we are all granted our all-sufficient Means. He is the Pen whereby we are all granted our Ends – our final felicity – which is Himself. His Pen is Himself – He is that Pen – our Means, our Ends, our all in all.

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