Really Good News

posted Dec 9, 2012, 7:40 AM by Phil Clark   [ updated Aug 27, 2015, 12:16 PM by Sonrise Lightmyway ]
I was talking to a friend the other morning.   Our discussion drifted in and out of several topics, one of which was the question posed by my friend, "Why is he so crabby all the time?".
Having known this person for many years, and having experienced that same crabbiness myself during seasons in my life, it was an easy question to answer.  Without judgement or retaliation for occasionally being the object of his crabbiness, I simply stated that his view of God was incomplete, that as a result of that incomplete view of God, he was functioning as an incomplete Christian.  His belief about God and himself was off just enough to compromise the power available to him to live free from what was causing the crabbiness.  I said that the root cause of his crabbiness was his sense of condemnation, fear and shame.  He feels condemned and ashamed.  In that condemnation and shame he is insecure and afraid.  In his fear, he goes to great lengths to perform to some made up standard that makes him feel acceptable (which is a moving target and only satisfies for the moment) or he reacts to his inability to measure up by retreating or lashing out at others as a way to protect himself.  He has a particularly critical spirit.  He is very critical of the closest people around him, including me at times.   Over the years, I have observed in myself and in others the tendency to project outwardly on to those around us those feelings we have towards our self.   When we are at peace with who we are, we tend to be at peace with those around us.  If something is at war with us in our soul, that conflict tends to get projected outwardly onto others and onto our self as well.   Projected self hate is the root of much of the hate we see inflicted on others in this world. 

While he can be very caring and nurturing, my friend spends most of his time hiding from God.  He looks at his human condition and is ashamed of it.  He believes that God sees that ugly human condition inside him and is not pleased with it.  He lives with a constant awareness of his imperfection and experiences loneliness and fear as a result.  When confronted with the idea of a perfect being, who is God, and that God wants a relationship with him, his awareness of his imperfection intensifies.   So, like most of us, he runs from God.    Here is the problem.  If God sees our human condition, and is displeased with it, what person in their right mind wouldn't want to avoid confrontation with perfection?  Yet instinctively, we know that God is the source of all joy and pleasure.  It is coded into our spiritual DNA.  To put it another way, it is hardwired into our circuitry.  Most men acknowledge God and understand his existence through the world around them.  Some live in denial of that knowledge, but almost all people acknowledge God in dire times or near the end of their lives.  So we want what we don't want, right?  Most churches I've attended tend to feed the notion that if you try harder, God will love you more.  While not said, it is implied, or made convenient to believe. 

We are taught Biblical truths that say that Jesus loves us, died for our sins, rose from the dead and lives now in heaven, and will eventually return to judge all men.   Tradition also focuses on Bible truths that say that if we confess our sins, he will forgive us, cleanse us and that his Holy Spirit will live in us.   With the Spirit in us, we can have joy and peace.  In essence, this is the good news message I grew up with.   Somehow, I still find ways in my own depravity to mitigate the good news with a twist on those truths.   My dark version of these truths gets warped into something like this:   "God hates sin.  I sin. Therefore, God hates me until I ask for forgiveness.  Once forgiven , I can enjoy God, until I sin again."  Then he hates me, or at least dislikes me intensely, until I ask forgiveness again.  His love seems dependent on my ability to avoid sinning.   This thinking leads us to a performance based relationship that goes up and down like a roller coaster ride.  One day I am doing good (at least in my own mind) and the next day, ooops, I screwed up again.  Eventually, we spend more time hiding from God than we do enjoying His indwelling and presence in us.   We begin to think like this:  "God loves me, but he doesn't like me because I sin.  I should be a better Christian.  God is disappointed with me.  Why would I want to spend time with someone who is always disappointed with me?"  We retreat from God back into condemnation, fear and shame.

It is time to blast this lie out of the water once for all and bring freedom to the captives!  Here is the good news....

God's acceptance of us is no longer based on the condition that we perform a certain way.  His love and enjoyment of us has nothing to do with how good we live our lives.  It is based only on faith in Jesus.  If we ask God to forgive us once, based on the permanent performance of Christ, God will do so for eternity.  We move then from a performance based relationship to an unconditional based relationship.  We no longer have to hide from God.  Our nakedness has been covered once for all.

Romans 8 best describes the good news in an airtight way.  In a nutshell it says that God no longer relates to us on the basis of our performance.  He abolished the performance system and now relates to us on a completely difference basis.  The performance system (the law) has been done away with.  It served a purpose for a time to help us understand our need for a savior who could save us from our failure to perform.  The performance system tutored us in this respect and was good for a time.  It helped us understand how holy God is and how imperfect we had become, and how incomplete we were in our sin condition.   There was always a way into God's presence under the performance system, but it was only available to high priests who had to go through lengthy cleansing and purification ceremonies.  It was required in order for God's chosen people to experience God's blessing.  It was a relationship or covenant based on performance.  When Christ died on the cross, he became the perfect sacrifice, the final sacrifice, completing everything that was left undone by the performance system.  He was the closing act to that way of relating to God.  Jesus ushered in a new way of relating to God.  It is called "grace".   The new system whereby God and man can enjoy a relationship with each other has nothing to do with our performance and everything to do with God choosing to forgive once for all, all those who believe in His Son.   Don't miss the point here.   The grace system means that God chooses to not see our sin anymore as a condition for enjoying us and we him.   It is not based on how good we are anymore.   God's perfect righteousness and holiness was satisfied once for all for all those who believe in Jesus.  We can enjoy God's presence in our life and have peace, being free from condemnation, fear and shame, not having to run and hide from God anymore, but instead run to Him.  Jesus, who was God, made it a point to hang out with tax collectors, sinners and generally bad people.   He enjoyed them for their inherent value as his creation, not because of how they performed.  Interestingly, that unconditional approach to friendship caused them to be drawn to him and to be changed.   Love changes people.

What does that mean for us?  God is not mad at me.  God is not disappointed with me.  God likes me.  God is my friend.  He doesn't judge me or make me feel shame, no matter how bad I blow it in this life or how many times I blow it.  In fact, when I invited Christ into my life, I am as perfect as God now.  That sounds crazy to say, but the Bible teaches that "he (Jesus)  became our righteousness".  It is not my performance that makes me acceptable, it is my faith in Jesus performance that makes me acceptable.   It also says, "He has removed our sin from us as far as the east is from the west."  That is really good news.  So even though I live my life on earth in imperfection, wrestling with generations of dysfunction handed down to me and the consequences of my own poor choices as well,  even though that imperfection has physical consequences at times that is not profitable, or that lead to trouble rather than blessing, I can still approach my holy God friend at any time and ask him to be my righteousness and holiness.  When I know that I am loved by the most powerful force in the universe, and that the one who created it all has paid the highest price for my friendship, and invites me moment by moment to enjoy that friendship, this knowledge gives me the power to make good decisions which lead to making me whole.  I am at peace and my joy is complete.   In that state only, will I project onto others what I am experiencing internally.  Acceptance and not condemnation.   Only then can I love my neighbor as myself.

The 21st century church must be aggressive in teaching the entire Gospel.  The Gospel that teaches grace.  Somehow the grace message got misplaced.  Teachers and pastors must focus their energy on this good news of God's unconditional liking us as much as he loves us.  Too many of us are still stuck in the performance system, unable to break away from the old relationship paradigms formed by our father experiences and do not understand grace yet.   We will say that God loves us, but inside we also believe that God doesn't like us.  What a tragedy to live life that way.   A community that understands grace, will itself extend grace rather than condemnation and judgement.  You will know this grace community by it's fruits.  It will be serving the poor, the condemned, the broken and ill.   People will respond to that grace and will enter into relationship with Jesus.   Unconditional love will reach towards the most undesirable people who could never return a favor, because those consumed by grace will project onto the undesirables all the love they experience themselves in Christ.