C.S. Lewis in his renowned book, Mere Christianity, talks about a person’s walk with God beginning with dismay, not comfort.
Not a comforting thought, is it?
We so often want to soft-sell God, to start with the good news of peace and joy, to clean up the messy Old Testament passages, and to overlook the hard sayings of Jesus when we’re just not quite sure what to make of them. I was reading this morning some Old Testament laws and regulations concerning the sacrifices and cleansing periods required for various maladies…over all of which God is sovereign. Something in me wanted to say, “But you allowed the (sickness, deformity, whatever) in the first place, and then you require a payment for it? That doesn’t seem fair…”
Ever had those thoughts?
God made us the way we are, and then we are told the way we are is fundamentally flawed.
The Law shows us that no human can measure up to the standards of perfect holiness…other than One.
That, my friends, is the bad news of the Gospel.
Which is, in essence, calling it “The bad news of the Good News”, since that’s what “Gospel” means. We must begin, as C.S. Lewis suggests, with dismay – the bad news first. Otherwise, who needs the good news? The good news is so very good because we receive it after the shock of the bad news.
The bad news is, YES, we are fundamentally flawed, regardless of anything we have ever done or not done. We are less than perfect – worse than that, we are “born in sin and steeped in iniquity” (Ps 51:5). There is nothing we can do to fix ourselves or to be worthy to approach a holy God on our own merit.
When we have looked that square in the face and accepted it, then we are ready to receive the very great Good News: the God who set all this in motion has already provided the only and final Sacrifice we will ever need.
Because of love. The pure, all-consuming love of God that makes our very best, shining efforts at love seem dingy, tarnished, and broken in comparison. The love that was willing to die to reconcile us to God. The love that pays at great cost for us to have free will to love in return.
The problem for some is, we too must pay a price to receive the free gift of God.
No more than we can afford; only our pride.
We must first swallow the bitter pill of the bad news and let it work its way into our innards. We must truly understand the truth that we are NOT good enough, and NOT deserving, and that God is God totally separate from us and does not owe us an explanation (or anything else). He doesn’t have to make sense to us, He doesn’t have to do what we feel He ought to do. He is God – there is no other.
In that place of humility and dependence, our greatest, most desperate need is met in a rushing flood of overflowing abundance, beyond anything we could ever hope for. We are The Boy Who Held Back the Sea, but in this story, we allow the hole in the dike to come unplugged by letting go of our stubborn pride, and we stand basking in the refreshing, life-giving free flow of forgiveness, of acceptance, of joy. Oh, the Good News more than makes up for the bad news. What a wonderful Savior!
Maybe this week you can greet someone with a smile and “So, have you gotten any bad news lately?”…just don’t forget to follow up the bad with the good. 🙂