Monday, June 21, 2004

Bad News – Good News

I was reading a book on evangelism the other day and came across a concept that sounded a lot like some things I have shared with people over the years. The writer was addressing the motive for becoming a Christian. In summary, he says that too often people become a Christian in order to experience a better life. While it is true that there are blessings in being a Christian, it's not the getting of blessings that is the correct reason to become a Christian.

Instead, his idea sounds much like what I've told people. Before the good news can really be good, the bad news must really be bad. Here's the point. The only truly legitimate reason anyone should want to become a Christian is because we are all guilty of sin, sin condemns, and unless we are saved, we will die in our sins and face eternal condemnation.

That may not be a popular message, but it's thoroughly biblical. It certainly is more biblical than the notion that a person should come to Christ so that he or she can receive great blessings, live a better life, get one's needs met, etc. Do those things happen? Yes! But, they are secondary benefits, if they come at all, for in truth, there is no guarantee that life will necessarily become any easier or better should a person become a Christian.

The truth? Thousands upon thousands of Christians have faced persecution, their families have been torn apart over the very faith they claimed for themselves, and life has been anything but a bucket of blessings. Many have experienced torture and death. Many have been forced to watch their spouses and children suffer and die. They have lost all their worldly possessions and found themselves dumped out as refuse. Where are all their blessings?

Surely, we can understand that for those people the getting of happiness, the meeting of personal needs, and the enjoying of material possessions has little, if anything to do with their faith in Jesus Christ.

The reality? The book of Hebrews says that it is appointed unto man that we die once and then face judgment. Why become a Christian? To deal with the problem and consequence of sin. To escape judgment and condemnation. In fact, whether we ever receive a single blessing, ever find our needs met, or have material things to treasure, if we find forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life, we have found the reason for becoming a Christian.

The world is increasingly filled with disappointed people who turned to Jesus only to find that Jesus didn't respond like some kind of cosmic candy machine. They found that there were no buttons to push to deliver the moment's desired blessing. Instead, they found that faith brings its own burden, known as a "cross" in scripture. They found that not only does Jesus not automatically deliver all the goodies they expected, but he asks – demands – something from them. That's not what they signed up for, so they quickly sign out and quit.

Perhaps it's time for us to return to the real reason to turn to Jesus and put our faith in him. We're all lost in sin. We're undone. We're without hope. We're condemned before God. There is only one thing that can turn the situation around. Jesus. In him, we can be saved. Anything and everything else God might choose to do for us or give us, is truly a blessing, but the real promises of God have to do with eternal things, not temporary ones.