That sense of relief you get when you hear something good is the differentiating factor between news and good news. When I hear my daughter is taking a test a college, it is simply news. When I hear she passes her test at college, it becomes good news. There is relief and joy knowing that she was successful. There is a huge difference between news and good news.
Good news is part of the DNA of the Christian Church. Without the message of good news, the church has nothing to offer. We preach relief. All over the world pulpits are proclaiming to larger groups and individuals are witnessing to friends and family. These proclamations are about giving lost people hope as we show how Jesus brings relief. But the nature of that relief determines the extent of the good news. What exactly is the relief we are proclaiming?
After 4000 years of human history, a prophet called John came to prepare God’s people for the ultimate sense of relief. Here is John’s message, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt 3:2). Doesn’t sound like relief to you? John’s role was to prepare people for the coming of Jesus, The Messiah. Perhaps John was just getting people’s attention so that they might get the real message of relief from him. What did Jesus proclaim when he started preaching? Matthew records, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” (Matt 4:17).
To understand how ultimate relief is displayed in a message of repentance, we must understand the dominating power of the Kingdom of Heaven. Both John and Jesus were preaching a message about how Jesus would bring full and final victory over sin and death and every power of darkness in the created realm. Jesus’ Kingdom is an eternally reigning kingdom that brings eternal reconciliation with God to all who turn from being faithless enemies to faithful citizens. Those who remain as enemies and deny the Lordship of Christ remain under the eternal wrath of the all-conquering King. Jesus paid the ultimate price for his Kingdom’s victory. He took the full brunt of God’s wrath on human sin by dying on the cross in place of all who would turn from sin and believe in him. He rose as Savior and Lord and took his place on the throne as the conquering eternal King. Relief in the message of John and Jesus comes from being delivered from eternal condemnation to eternal restoration and a sure hope of glory. Relief comes through repentance from sin as we turn in faith to Jesus Christ our Savior.
Is your good news good enough? The answer comes by asking yourself about the relief you are proclaiming. If the message of Jesus is simply your deliverance from a life of drug abuse – it’s not good enough. If it is simply victory in your life at home or work – it’s not good enough. If it is simply fixing your broken marriage – it’s not good enough. If it is making our society safer or more moral – it’s not good enough. If it is gaining political victories – it’s not good enough. If it is bringing you some sense of satisfaction in your daily life – it’s not good enough. If it teaches you how to prosper in this world – it’s not good enough.
If it is taking you from eternal condemnation to eternal reconciliation with the all-powerful God of Creation, then you have heard the only truly good news that correlates with the words of John and Jesus. The gospel is more than a menial temporal benefit. It brings an eternal transformation to the glory of the infinite God of eternity. When the gospel lacks the message of sin and repentance, it lacks everything that makes the death and resurrection of Jesus the very substance of good news. When we preach repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as our only hope as sinners, we preach the only way to eternal salvation and authentic eternal relief.
Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!