Is There Any Good News?

One of the first things that Jesus of Nazareth did when he began his teaching career was to travel all through his home region of Galilee, teaching in all their synagogues, where he "proclaimed a good message."  (In Greek, "kerusso" = proclaim "euaggelion" = a good message from "eu" = good and "aggello" = bring news. "aggelos" = messenger, from whence "angel".)  This phrase became, in English, "gospel."

What was this message? Why was it good?

The message was, and is, that eternal life is available from Him.  This is good, is it not?

Is this message relevant to us?  You decide.  Everybody dies, right?  Has anyone else offered you a way around this?  Not your doctor, I'm sure of that.  And not your boss, your mom, or your best friend, either.

How do we obtain this eternal life?  And at what price?  That is, what do we have to do to get it?

The answers are that we obtain eternal life through belief: believing that Jesus of Nazareth is God; that there is no price; that we get it be reaching out (spiritually, not manually) and taking it.

Believing that Jesus of Nazareth was and is God has complex implications.  God doesn't require us to understand all the implications of this belief before making the grant of eternal life that He promises.

The first implication is that we are, in a way, as good as dead.  That is, our life sooner or later ends in our death, which we have no power to change.  And we are spiritually "dead" in the sense that we are not, by nature, in contact with God.

The reason for this is that we have done wrong.  That we've done some wrong things against others is easy to see; it's a bit harder to see whether we've done wrong things against God.  Regardless, God has decreed that death is the eventual penalty for all sin.

What is wrongdoing? What is sin? Is there any absolute right or wrong?  The ten commandments are simply a summary, they aren't a complete description.  They describe what God expected of the Israelites toward Himself and toward others.  But they don't give a clue about what sin is in its essence.  That clue is in Isaiah: "...each of us has turned to his own way."

The kernel, the nubbin, the core of sin is simply egocentrism -- self-centeredness, self interest.  Offense of others begins when we think of ourselves first.  It's impossible to avoid this, you protest.  I agree.  That's why we're all sinful.  Not all sin is horrible.  Some is actually admirable though it doesn't satisfy God.  But as long as we're egocentric, we are unlike God -- "ungodly."  

It might be especially hard for us Americans, who take for granted political and personal freedom, to comprehend that we are not free in the cosmic sense.  The cosmos originated from the mind of God; He is its master and therefore ours as well even though He does not dictate our actions.  He made us, so He has the right to rule us if He wishes.  In fact, since He made us, He has the right to do anything He wishes with us, just as an artist can place her brush anywhere on the canvas, and make something beautiful or something repellent; just as a novelist has the right to create a character who is admirable or one who is deformed.

Freedom is always circumscribed.  It's limited by feasibility at least.  It's limited by opportunity, by random events that expose or cut off possibilities.  It's controlled by law, regulation, tradition, and the inhibitions of self.  Freedom is also relative to the consequences of our actions.  Once we've made a choice, we no longer have the ability to make a choice.  This is not trivial.  If you invest your money in Walter's Widgets, you cannot also invest it in Helen's Hangars.  And if Walter's company goes belly up, you are not free to avoid the consequences.

We are also free to jump off many types of metaphorical cliffs and real ones too,  but must then endure the consequences.  So there is no absolute freedom.

What most people refer to as "freedom" is chiefly permission to use discretion in daily life, and not to live under oppression, which unfairly restricts our freedom to do well.

We have, in simple fact, been born free in the sense that God places no controls on us except the natural ones that surround us and our own propensity for self control.  And we are not free in this same sense: we are the captives of our nature.  We cannot avoid selfishness; we cannot avoid satisfying, to one extent or another, our natural appetites and inclinations.

One of the implications of belief in Jesus as God is that this puts us in spiritual contact with God; a new spiritual sensibility is created within us that sets us free, in a small but important way, from being captives to our nature.

So there is good news: belief that Jesus of Nazareth was and is God rescues us from the spiritual death that we're born into, begins to free us from the limitations of our animal nature, and gives us many priviledges that are detailed in scripture.  Details are found best in the gospel of John and the epistles to the Romans and Ephesians.