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We know very well that many people live lives filled with pain and desperation—these I don’t have in mind. I’m talking about those of us who say there’s a “gospel” and despite saying that we view life within the gospel as one long dead heave—joyless! About a hundred years ago Hugh R Mackintosh dryly remarked that whatever else that faith was, it wasn’t “infectious”.
I think I recognize that remarks like that can be overworked. It hacks me off when people dismiss the great sorrow of sufferers who suffer long; they do it with inane advice like, “Don’t sweat the small stuff—and it’s all small stuff” (a book title of a few years ago). Is that not sickening?
I have in mind a view of the gospel that affects our view of the world that affects our view of life across the board. And I hold leadership mainly responsible for our warped view of the gospel that drives people to (sort of) see life as something to be endured until the Big Fire and then we’ll be made happy for enduring the unhappiness to which we’ve been called in the gospel. What a rip off!
The cure—to the degree that there can be a cure at all in this life—is to grasp the good news nature of the good news! Say we shouldn’t believe the gospel, say it’s baseless, say it’s a pipe-dream, says it offends the intellect, say it’s Freudian wishfulness, say it's the opium that puts people asleep so that they'll put up with anything—all of that might be true (not!). But if it's true don’t say it isn’t good news for words wouldn’t mean anything then.
But what is it that’s good news?
There lies the major difficulty. Our leaders aren’t developing the “good news”. They’re offering us church-growth schemes, how to make our assemblies bigger, “happier”, more friendly; they’re promising unbroken prosperity and disease-free lives, happy and conflict-free marriages, or they’re calling us to moral excellence and Christian involvement. When all these fail or remain elusive the “good news” (which we have lost sight of in the religious shell-game) is either completely forgotten if ever it was known or regarded as “good news” with so much fine print added that it would take a generation of lawyers to work their way through the conditions and qualifications.
Jesus is Lord—that’s the gospel! God reigns in and through Jesus Christ—that’s the gospel! God reigns in this present chaotic world bringing creation to a glorious finale—that’s the gospel!
There’s nothing that can be said against that that couldn’t have been said or wasn't said on that Friday when they “did away” with Jesus on the cross! “Look, God has failed! Look, God’s Redeemer is a loser! Look, Rome and militant corruption and cruelty rule the world!”
Colossians 2:15! See what really happened at the cross!
Revelation 21:5 (NJB): “Look, I’m making the whole creation new.”
Develop that week after week.
In a Peanuts cartoon Schroeder is playing great music well and Lucy is content to blandly listen to it. Only Snoopy knows what great music is truly for—it’s to make people rejoice! He's spinning like a top, dancing like Astaire and smiling like a Cheshire cat and it offends the great artist and the intelligent listener. Great music is to be played and intently listened to—it's not supposed to make you rejoice or dance! Snoopy doesn't care what they think, he has the heart for it and dances! Well, until they shame him into embarrassment at his own joy and he crawls off. Shame on them! CLICK
It isn't always possible even for a great musician like Schroeder to rejoice in the great music he plays. Reminds me of preachers who have the preaching buzz and are all serious about their business but know no joy in the truth of it—you have to hear it and recognize it for what it is. You have to hear it! You realize it isn’t about you; it’s about Him! It isn’t about us; it’s about Him!
Turn that truth loose in a sustained, rich development and watch the world change, even now, for countless poor souls whose faith will become infectious.