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,
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
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
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.