Friday, 15 October 2010
When the Good News Doesn’t Sound Good To Me
When I’m hungry to feel clean, Jesus is the good news, right? But what if the good news of who he is and what he’s done doesn’t sound that good to me?
What if the gospel doesn’t seem to scratch where I itch?
An Itch For Feeling Good About Myself
There are all kinds of reasons we feel dirty. A quick go-to for women is overeating. It’s not the only one by any means, but it’s a pretty common experience in American culture. We binge and then we feel gross. When we feel bad enough, we take action to get clean again. If we’re successful we don’t just feel clean, we feel better about ourselves. In fact that’s one of the stated goals of a recent Facebook clean eating group I joined.
The gospel offers a different goal. The goal of the gospel is to make me pleasing to God, not pleasing to myself. My standards are different from his. I can be quite pleased with myself and not at all pleasing to him. But if I don’t care about that, then the gospel isn’t very interesting to me.
For example, let’s say I feel gross about overeating and someone tells me Jesus will make me clean. That’s nice. But what I really want is to be thin. I want women to envy me and men to admire me and clothes to look cute on me. I probably won’t say this out loud. I may not even fully realize it, but this is the reason I yawn at the gospel.
Even as a believer, I can get side-tracked by unworthy goals. But there’s one difference–I have already known the true God, and been known by him. Thus when the gospel seems boring to me, it’s a red flag waved by God himself. Something else is going on under the surface of my life. I’m trying to please a different god.
My Real Need
My real need is to be rescued from the grip of an idolatry that is blinding me to the glory of the true God at that moment (2 Corinthians 4:4). It’s a temporary blinding, to be sure, but it is obscuring my vision as surely as a permanent one. The glory of self-image and the approval of others shines bright and promises much, throwing a pall over the true Glory.
Because of this blindness, my idol might be hard to see. It may have become as familiar as wallpaper in my life. It may be as pervasive as room spray. I’m going to need help seeing it. I’m going to need more help recognizing the bondage. I’m going to need the explosive power of the gospel to break that bondage. Again.
I can get some of this help from other believers. A friend might notice my growing obsession with body image. She begins to recognize it as “conduct not in step with the gospel” (Galatians 2:14). She may take me aside and ask what’s going on, or things may have ballooned to the point that she may need to confront me publicly, as Paul did with Peter.
Because the truth is, once the smoke screen has been blown away, idolatry is unmasked. It’s nothing less than seeking to please a different god and believe a different gospel (Galatians 1:6, 10). My real need is far worse than the one I feel.
Good News At Last
The good news is that the gospel is big enough for every real need that I have. This idol –whatever its name turns out to be–is not too big or too strong or too familiar or too pervasive for my Jesus. He stands ready to rescue me with all the power of his person and work.
He set about this work before time began, knowing me and choosing me. He left heaven at the proper time to descend into my world. He lived the life I should have lived. No idol ever ensnared his affections. Not for one moment. Not the Greek and Roman deities of his day. Not the idols of comfort or success or people pleasing of mine. Nothing replaced the true God in his mind and heart and will.
Then he dared to be accused of my crime. As he hung on the cross the Father pronounced, “Woe to you, you filthy idolater!” The Father poured out every curse and removed every blessing. My incessant idolatry was cleansed by him that day. By that word I’m clean. By my confession today I’m cleansed again.
Freshly delivered from my idolatry I sit at his feet, fully clothed by him and in my right mind once more.
Thank you! That’s the best news I’ve ever heard!