The gospel has been defined as “the good news that brings great joy.” I think it would be good to ask, “What exactly is the good news that brings great joy?” As evangelical Christians we might be tempted to blurt out that our sins are forgiven so we can go to heaven. While this is certainly good news, it’s not necessary news that bring great joy.
We’re very glad when we first give our heart to Jesus, but I would say this is more about hope than joy. In other words, we’re confident that God will keep His promise to save us if we will trust Him. We’re certainly happy, but it, by itself, will not sustain great joy.
And there’s a potential problem with this definition. We may have come to salvation through fear and not love. I don’t want to go to hell, or go through the tribulation, fill in the blank…. So I accepted Jesus as my Savior from something.
But Jesus didn’t just save us from something, He saved us for something. The former is the means, the latter is the much greater ends. Actually, when we finally get a glimpse of it, there’s no comparison.
For freedom is another reason given. We’ve been set free from fear, shame, sin and death, from bondage to Satan…freed from living a wasted life that ends with our last breath and we’re gone. We’re not who we were before; we’re a new creation in Christ. Old things have passed away! This is also good news. It’s a lifelong journey of discovery of our identity and purpose in Christ. But even this doesn’t give us great joy.
If you remember from the previous posts in this series, joy is primarily relational, not transactional. God is not an ATM machine and great joy doesn’t pop out in piles because we said a prayer and inserted our “go to heaven” card, or even because we can now live an overcoming life and do great Kingdom things for God. While these are all awesome and praiseworthy, they are not the source of great joy.
No, the only reason heaven is heaven is because of who’s there, and freedom is only freedom because of where we are. It’s not just what God did for us on the Cross, or even what He did as us, but also what He did to us.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col.3:1-3 *)
This is where we find eternal life. It’s not in a place called heaven, it’s found in a Person, or should I say, in a Godhead.
3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3 *)
Eternal life is God’s infinite, fully actualized, self-existent, outside of space and time…life. And we’ve been placed into His life in Christ. Which means, we can now begin to experience God’s life that has no beginning or end, sadness, sorrow, disappointment, good-bye’s, or any such thing like being alone or forgotten or without great value. We can experience pure joy, even in the worst of this brief life’s circumstances, because we’ve been placed in Infinite Joy Himself…right now, tomorrow, and forever. As I said last time, this was John’s invitation to us.
3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:3-4 *)
Beloved, that’s what makes this news bring great joy. It brings great joy simply because Joy is a person, and He lives in you and me, and we live in Him. As I’ve been trying to say here, this is how we live from joy. If you haven’t already, hopefully you’re starting to see it now.
11 You will show me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 *)