Good, good news!

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. – Galatians 1:6-9 ESV

Can you hear Paul’s urgency, his frustration, his sharp edges in this passage? It is rare for Paul to launch mortars this early in one of his letters, but he’s certainly lighting them off here. The reason is because turning to a different gospel is not just bad, it’s deadly.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. I remember when I first understood the good news as good news. This was quite a while after I had first heard it, because it took a while for me to understand how good this news really is, and I didn’t really get that until I understood how bad I am.

Good news! Jesus loves me. Good news! He died for me. Good news! He’s perfect, and obeyed and obeys God perfectly, so his death was a perfect sacrifice for me, paying the penalty that I simply could not pay.

Good news! He rose again from death and lives forevermore, interceding for me.

Good news! He is everything I’m not so I need to receive his gift and lordship, giving my meager everything to him in exchange for his infinite everything so that all he is can fill the howling vacuum of my emptiness apart from him.

Such good, good news this is!

Astonishing, isn’t it, if my eyes stray from this good news toward some other salvation-scheme that’s less Jesus and more me? Why would I do that? But how susceptible I am

, as so many of us are, to replacing this good news with something else.

Oh my soul, focus on this good news, learn all of its music by heart, and sing it well for those who don’t know it, so that they can pick up the tune as written by the Lord of all good news.

Rest for your souls

From today’s reading of Matthew 11

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:25-30 (ESV)

“You will find rest for your souls.”

The rest Jesus speaks of is not a physical rest; many of us in the affluent West live lives of comparative physical luxury, rest, plenty and convenience that would be the envy of royalty in past ages. Unfortunately, the curse of our fallen nature and fallen cultures is one of spiritual, mental and emotional unrest. The entirety of human history is one of striving; a “striving after the wind” as the author of Ecclesiastes would say.

Jesus offers to us what we have always wanted. We don’t earn it through intellectual effort; in fact, the good news of this rest is hidden from the wise and understanding and revealed to those with the faith of a child. We don’t earn it through moral effort, that endless pursuit to fill our sash with the merit-badges of righteousness, to clean ourselves up to become presentable to God. We don’t earn it through physical effort, the self-denial and self-punishment that characterizes so much religious activity. We don’t earn it at all.

This is such good news. God has delivered all things to Jesus. Jesus is the answer to the deepest need and longing of our hearts; to be found once again in our long lost garden of fellowship with our Creator. Jesus is the revelation of God to us and he calls us to quit turning over the same unfruitful furrows and to submit to his lordship and learn from him. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

We don’t earn it. We bring no qualifications. We’re not the “best and the brightest”. This good news of rest from Jesus flies in the face of all the human wisdom, philosophy and striving that we have been immersed in our whole lives. But it is the only way to finally become what we were created to be: fully known and fully loved children of God.

Come to Jesus. He will give you rest.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:22-31 (ESV)