BUT FIRST, THE BAD NEWS


Good news isn't good news unless there's bad news to which to apply it. The Good News we speak of applies to the human condition, which is hopelessly bent towards destructive selfishness—self-centeredness, self-absorption, self-promotion, self-preservation, self-sufficiency—the list goes on. We want what we want, we want it now, and we want it on our terms. But why?


We are born with a resistant and rebellious nature—a sinful nature—towards God, and if we’re honest, we know it and feel it. But God created us and desires to have relationship with us; to protect and provide, love and enjoy, and give us purpose and meaning that He already determined for us to live a fulfilling life. However, because of our sinful nature, we reject God and have broken relationship with Him, and willfully rely and trust only on ourselves to get our wants and needs met, and to find some meaning and purpose apart from Him.


So, what's the bad news? We are separated from God and believe we can live without Him, but really we are on a path to destruction. As our efforts and ideas fail to fulfill, we end up in damaged or abusive relationships, unhealthy dependencies or addictions, physical, mental, or emotional pain and dysfunction, or even just simply feeling alone, empty, and unhappy. That's a bad situation to be in.


So how can we fix this? 

WORK HARDER!

 

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." That's what we do—we still turn to ourselves and try even harder to make life worth living. And we may see short-term successes, but eventually every road taken apart from God leads to a frustrating and miserable dead end. So, when we reach a point of desperation, we decide maybe it's time to give God a try.


But in our broken, hurt, and sinful states we are hopelessly prone to pursue God—and find a fix to our problems—by following what we believe to be the best spiritual practices and religious works that will earn God's favor and forgiveness, reconcile the relationship, and get Him to move in our lives. We have learned to work hard and follow the rules to get ahead in life and to be loved, so we believe we can and must do something to earn God's love and acceptance. Furthermore, we also believe our best efforts and practices will bring us salvation—the healing, restoration, and wholeness of being we all long for in our desperate and broken lives.

 

But what we've believed isn't true.

GOT RELIGION?


All this hard work pursuing God gets one thing in return: religion.


Religion compels you to obey the letter of God's Law and Word so you will be accepted and loved. Religion compels you to good works to prove you are worthy of blessing. Religion compels you to right behavior to be in right relationship with God. Religion compels you carry these burdens alone.


With that, religion reinforces trusting and relying only on yourself, because everything depends on you. Religion reinforces selfishness through entitlement, because you are good enough and you've done enough, therefore you deserve God's love, forgiveness, and blessings in return. 


But this is when religion leaves you disillusioned and wanting because despite all your efforts and rule-following your life is still a mess, your relationships are still strained, you still feel alone and miserable, and God seems silent and absent. 


This is where religion fails you.

RELIGION KILLS


You did your best to follow the rules to the letter of the law; you cleaned up your act, did as you were told, and even served your family and neighbors dutifully. But you also inevitably made mistakes and fell short of expectations. Shame and guilt-ridden—because God is surely angry with you—you redoubled your efforts (again), but in the end, you just didn't measure up to God's standards that would grant you His favor and fix your life.


For all you've done, you're right back where you started, and maybe even worse off. At this point you've tried everything and nothing has worked. You are still hurting; you are still broken. But now you're also confused and spent, likely feeling hopeless and ready to give up—on God, on love, on relationships, maybe even on life itself. This is religion killing you.


But there's Good News!

GOOD NEWS!


In the midst of this bad situation, it is time to hear some good news.


You can stop trying. You can lose your religion.


The ultimate Good News, which is the Gospel message and what the entirety of the Bible points to, is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (see photo) summarizes it: Jesus Christ died on a cross for our sins and three days later He rose from the dead, conquering sin and death and offering the gift of salvation to all who would believe in Him alone for eternal LIFE.


So, all of your efforts, and all of your religion, that you placed your hope in for the life and love you desire was "something that was never true in the first place." For all you've done, none of it mattered in gaining God's love, acceptance, and forgiveness. Only the work of One matters to God—that of Jesus Christ.


You just need to believe it.

FLIPPING THE SCRIPT


In the story you've been writingyou pursue God by believing and following rules religiously, sincerely trying to behave rightly, and because you've borne such a heavy yoke of effort, God is won over and He returns to you in love, forgiveness, and with the gift of salvation. Your efforts finally get rewarded. But that’s a false narrative.


The real story is that you—and everybody—deserve to reap what you've sown, and all your rejection and sinfulness don't deserve to be reconciled, and the debt you've incurred before God is too much pay. There is nothing you can do, but justice must be served, which is to remain separated from God forever—a death sentence spiritually, mentally, and physically. That's really, really bad news.


But God loves you and wants you to trust Him with your life.


God's story—the true narrative—is God pursuing you, wooing you back to Him, never leaving you despite your rejection of Him, and reconciling the relationship with Him through—and only through— the work done on the cross by His Son, Jesus Christ. Rejection, hatred, and sin nailed Jesus to the cross, which He bore knowing that through His death and resurrection they would be overcome forever, and anyone who would come to Him and trust and believe in Who He is and what He did for all mankind would be saved and reconciled. In His great love, mercy and grace toward us, Jesus served our sentence, paid our debt, and restored our relationship with God, which is really, really good news.


So what must you do to be saved? What must you do to have abundant and eternal life? What must you do to have a relationship with God?What is the "work" God requires of you?


Just trust and believe, and receive His grace, mercy, and the gift of salvation given through the cross.


That's it. Jesus did it all. It is finished.