The good news that brings great joy

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. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 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.

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.

 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 ChristAnd 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 *)

* New King James Bible translation. All emphasis added.
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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 38 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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22 Responses to The good news that brings great joy

  1. Amen,Mel! Well said.

    Love that being saved “for” something, rather then only being saved “from” something. Many people who struggle with stuff take the problem away and then they just feel emptier then ever. We can’t just take the problem away, we must fill ourselves up with Someone better.

    Also really like how you said, “joy is primarily relational, not transactional.” Our churchian red tape says something very similar, “we believe our faith is both rational and relational.” Head and heart, and not simply a transaction. Although the transaction alone is pretty delightful. I mean, we hand Jesus our yuck, He hands us His grace.

  2. sklyjd says:

    “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.”

    Ok I checked out what to expect when you consider eternity. Evidently, when in heaven the saved “will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.” And “seated at the right hand of God.” This sound quite good so far as eating food is one of the greatest pleasures, and I should mention how crowded that right handed seat will get. You also get a room because “his house has many rooms and a place prepared for you, so you can be where I am.” From this I assume you are in a room just like normal, I must ponder what would it have in it.

    I am not sure about these two comments that seem a bit overwhelming for me. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” And “When Christ who is your life appears then you also will appear with him in glory.” This suggests you are absorbed into God to be part of his body or something, not sure if I would be keen on that, however I suppose it may have some merit.

    If you are absorbed into God himself, I do not know how you could possibly be “before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple.” I suppose there will be no clarity to be found on this, but I am definitely not keen on this next one “They will see his face and his name will be on their foreheads.” Talk about being owned, sounds a bit like servant slavery to me.

    This is another good part. “Never again will they hunger Never again will they thirst.” No argument from me here, but I would be very unhappy about this, “the sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat.” I came to live in sunny Queensland because I like hot weather. Heat seems to be a bad thing here.

    I find the following quite good, but it appears we are becoming very cloned like robots. “He will wipe away ever tear from their eyes. No more death or mourning, crying or pain.” And “No night the Lord will give them light.” including “people will neither marry nor be given in marriage.” This following comment may or may not be good as he has not expanded any explanation about it, and it could turn into a real hell “He is making everything new.”

    Are you sure this is a place you would want to be forever? Apart from the food it sounds strange and weird. In my opinion why would you need food if there is no death, no night time and no sun and heat, no emotions, no marriage or couples I assume, but only a life of subservience with plenty of food? In my opinion it is obviously written from active human imaginations.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Ok I checked out what to expect when you consider eternity.

      You’re kidding, right? You googled heaven? LOL! Now, that’s actually funny. And what does what you said here have to do with what I said in the post? You obviously didn’t get it. Let me put it this way. I suppose if you observed two people intimately in love, you would also dismiss them as slaves in bondage, right? After all, being in love looks a lot like subservience and slavery to the outside observer. Of course, you could just google “being in love” to see how to dismiss that sort of thing. 🙂

      I would comment on your points in particular, but since this isn’t at all what I’m talking about here I will leave it alone. I will say this. According to your abysmal understanding of “heaven” I wouldn’t want to go there either. I’m not talking about some poorly constructed religious straw man. Quite the opposite.

      Sorry skyljd, you’re not going to find the answer to this one on Google. This post was written to people who already have the kind of relationship I’m talking about, or would at least desire to have one.

    • Citizen Tom says:

      @sklyjd

      Consider this verse.

      1 Corinthians 2:9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
      9 But, as it is written,

      “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
      nor the human heart conceived,
      what God has prepared for those who love him”—

      None of us understand God. If you read the passage where 1 Corinthians 2:9 is found, you will find it says you cannot understand what Mel is saying. Yet what Mel saying is simple enough. What is the reward for us in heaven? The opportunity to know God.

      Why can’t you understand? Why don’t you want to understand?

      • sklyjd says:

        “None of us understand God”

        Why then Tom do Christians claim to know what God wants but maybe it is not his truth in the Bible? From this admission and many other Christians claims that “God works in mysterious ways” or “who knows what God does” especially when they have to explain death or disastrous events.

        Therefore, are you not contradicting yourselves when you claim to know what God will do to everyone when they die, such as receiving an eternal life in heaven or hell and getting an opportunity to know God. Surely you should be claiming that “maybe” he will do this and maybe there is no heaven?

        “Why can’t you understand? Why don’t you want to understand?”

        The fact is I do completely understand, that is the big difference. This is so far removed from real life it is mind-boggling. Why can you not recognise the difference between reality and ancient fantasies?

        • Mel Wild says:

          Why then Tom do Christians claim to know what God wants but maybe it is not his truth in the Bible?

          Skyljd, I would like to interject here. You are taking Tom’s point and the verse (1 Cor.2:9) out of context. A mystery doesn’t mean we never know something, it means that we are ever knowing it more, but we never come to the end of knowing it. You could say scientific inquiry is a form of mystery. We grow in knowledge but we never come to the end of it.

          So, I can know a lot about God and still not fathom the depths of God. Here’s the passage in context:

          9 But as it is written:
          “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
          Nor have entered into the heart of man
          The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

          10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor.2:9-10)

          Then Paul goes on to say….

          13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor.2:13-14)

          The “natural man” here is someone who simply reads the text but his or her heart is not open to it. The Bible is not a textbook, it’s a spiritual book. It’s rational and logical but it requires a different kind of understanding to discover its treasures. So, these things CAN be understood but they are spiritual things that you will not understand by just reading them like a book. Your heart must be open to receiving them, then you will understand them by the Spirit.

          Therefore, are you not contradicting yourselves when you claim to know what God will do to everyone when they die, such as receiving an eternal life in heaven or hell and getting an opportunity to know God.

          This is non sequitur, your conclusion does not follow. Many things about what God tells us are very clear. And where people go after they die is pretty clear in Scripture. Exactly what that afterlife may entail is somewhat of a mystery because we don’t have a mental grid for something outside of our natural world, we only have analogies and metaphor to describe it. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a clear basis for our faith.

          The fact is I do completely understand, that is the big difference.

          LOL! That’s the most ironic thing you said here, Skyljd. You think you understand but you clearly don’t understand anything we’ve said. You’ve shown that you know absolutely nothing about it. But, yet, here you are pretending that you do.

          This is so far removed from real life it is mind-boggling. Why can you not recognise the difference between reality and ancient fantasies?

          Haha! I’ll give you points for hubris. Your claim to know everything about “real life” is amusing. You must be very young. 🙂

        • sklyjd says:

          “A mystery doesn’t mean we never know something, it means that we are ever knowing it more, but we never come to the end of knowing it.”

          This is a most bazar explanation. If you will never know something it will always be a mystery, why then gamble your life on a subjective explanation, why convince yourself that what you presume to be real is going to be real?

          “You could say scientific inquiry is a form of mystery. We grow in knowledge, but we never come to the end of it.”

          This is a ridiculous comparison because in reality science works on investigation, experimentation and builds on the evidence and the facts already obtained, tests and retests everything before it moves along. Of course, science knowledge is often slow but at least it advances, whereas Christian religious knowledge is static, builds faith on words in the Bible, creates assumptions and often uses lies in many failed attempts to find something in the real world, it tests absolutely nothing, avoids controversy and it is still stuck in the superstitious days of the goat herders and the Roman Empire.

          “So, these things CAN be understood but they are spiritual things that you will not understand by just reading them like a book. Your heart must be open to receiving them, then you will understand them by the Spirit.”

          I guess your heart is open, just as many ex-Christians, pastors and ministers of between 10-30 years of service to Christianity used to testify, however I expect they will dispute your claim.

          “And where people go after they die is pretty clear in Scripture. Exactly what that afterlife may entail is somewhat of a mystery because we don’t have a mental grid for something outside of our natural world,”

          The point is you do not know anything more about God’s word and the afterlife than the most atheist of atheists, or in another words you can only know what is written in the Bible. “I do not know” are the words that the Christian worshipper avoids more than any others. Is this “mental grid” that you claim we do not have taken from the neuroscientists perspective?
          The after death explanation is not clear in scripture to anyone who is not indoctrinated into your ideology, this is why thousands of paintings and descriptions of Christianity over the many decades from thousands of people are as diverse as you can possibly get and their works are interpreted by the artists imaginations.
          The obvious images of burning in brimstone and fire, devils with pitchforks up ones arse, snakes and half human creatures, the horned devils and zombies etc. These can only be forged from fantasy, why do you insist you actually know this is real? And by the way Mel, judging from your image I have quite a few years more of experience in real life than you.

        • Mel Wild says:

          This is a most bazar explanation. If you will never know something it will always be a mystery, why then gamble your life on a subjective explanation…

          Yours is a most bazaar response, Skyljd. I said mystery is EVER knowing something, NOT never knowing it. I said we never know it fully. And why are you gambling your life on a myopic worldview that only fits in your head? Your flattened world is not compelling. This is why atheism is losing ground with respect to world population http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/07/why-people-with-no-religion-are-projected-to-decline-as-a-share-of-the-worlds-population/

          I guess your heart is open, just as many ex-Christians, pastors and ministers of between 10-30 years of service to Christianity used to testify, however I expect they will dispute your claim.

          Yes, it is open. Your’s apparently is not. You can point to all your angry ex’s and I can point to all the atheists scientists and philosophers who became Christians. So what? You’re not making a point here.

          The point is you do not know anything more about God’s word and the afterlife than the most atheist of atheists, or in another words you can only know what is written in the Bible.”

          Not true at all. If atheist knew anything about God they wouldn’t be atheists. I know a lot about God because I have an intimate and personal relationship with Him that has transformed my life in every way imaginable, and continues to transform it after 40 years of knowing Him. I know a lot about my wife after living with her for 38 years that you won’t find on Google either. You’re making a judgment based on ignorance. You argue against what you know nothing about which makes you a very foolish person.

          And by the way Mel, judging from your image I have quite a few years more of experience in real life than you.

          Then, that’s really sad. You’ve grown older but you’ve not matured relationally. You come on blog posts that are NOT written to you, are not apologetic in nature and not meant to open debate, and you don’t come here to learn something or ask honest questions but just to argue and waste people’s time. Good-bye, sir. You’ve wasted enough of my time.

        • Citizen Tom says:

          @sklyjd

          Completely understand? Doesn’t come across that way.

          I have communicated with you. To the extent we have communicated, I know you. That is the common English language usage of the word “know”. Since I have read the Bible, I have received His Word, so I “know” God.

          I don’t understand you well. How does your mind work? Do you know? Or do you just think you know everything?

          Since God is the Creator, I would be foolish to say I understand Him. That does not mean He cannot be known. The whole earth is filled with the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3), but we don’t have to see evidence of His glory. For the sake of our egos, we can suppress the knowledge of God (Romans 1:18-32). Wilful ignorance of God is sinful.😞

  3. You wrote… 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.

    Good word… Just before my dad died, I told him that I view his coming death as a momentary good bye as if he was moving out of state. That is God’s life in us. We can know that all that happens to us now is temporary.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Exactly, Patrick. If this short life is all there is, we’re here for a moment then we’re gone, that would be the ultimate injustice. We would be cut off forever from the people we love. Those who lived marginalized lives of suffering in this life would just die. No justice whatsoever. This is why death is considered our enemy in Scripture, and why Jesus set us free from death. But even this freedom is a means to a greater end. We are freed from death so we can be in joyous relationship with God and each other forever. The same life we have in God today continues on and is even more glorious in the life to come.

  4. LOL! Playing devil’s advocate here Mel, or perhaps atheist spawn, but parts of skyljd’s comment are pretty good.

    He said, “Are you sure this is a place you would want to be forever? Apart from the food it sounds strange and weird. In my opinion why would you need food if there is no death, no night time and no sun and heat, no emotions, no marriage or couples I assume, but only a life of subservience with plenty of food?”

    I too used to wrestle with my perceptions of heaven, as in I wasn’t going there, because I didn’t want to be a mindless cherub on a cloud who could no longer even cry about it. Those words were supposed to comfort me, but instead they freaked me out. I can laugh about such things today, but that really is the stuff of nightmares. I don’t think skyljd really wants to understand, but I would sure enjoy hearing some of your thoughts on heaven, Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I think what sklyjd is talking about is a very bad caricature of heaven. Gerber babies with wings and harps, floating on clouds, and mansions in the sky, which really have nothing to do with it. Here’s a good rule of thumb. If it sounds boring, you’re not describing heaven.

      But I do think it’s funny when someone who blames God for suffering in the world doesn’t want to go to a world where there’s no suffering because it sounds like we have to be subservient robots. Really? Imagine that. LOL!

      • LOL! Good point. We blame God for our suffering and then we are terrified of having to go somewhere where there is no more suffering? So obviously we’re confused, irrational, and don’t even know what we want, let alone what’s best for us!

        In the end that really was my conclusion too, I had to simply trust that God got heaven right. All I know for certain is that we aren’t cherubs forced to sit on a cloud and play harp music for all of eternity.

        I think there are no more tears, because there are no more moments of frustration and hopelessness. But God doesn’t say there is no more emotion or passion or excitement, just no more tears. 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          I think there are no more tears, because there are no more moments of frustration and hopelessness. But God doesn’t say there is no more emotion or passion or excitement, just no more tears.

          Exactly, IB. Think about it. God created emotional beings capable of immense joy and pleasure. It’s man who creates robots! And if God created desire and passion in the first place, and fullness of joy is found in His presence, then I don’t think we even have a grid for joy in this pretty mundane and often dismal life (by comparison). We only get superficial glimpses.

          This whole thing kind of reminds me of C.S. Lewis in two stories. The first, from “The Weight of Glory”:

          “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

          The second, from his book, “The Great Divorce”:

          “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Another appropriate quote from C.S. Lewis “The Great Divorce” that speaks to your comment on “no more tears”:

          “Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say “Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences”: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven, : and the Lost, “We were always in Hell.” And both will speak truly.”

      • Nan says:

        Hmmm. I just re-read sklyjd’s comment and for the life of me, I’m unable to locate any reference to Gerber babies with wings and harps or floating on clouds.

        In actuality, there are many and varied descriptions of “heaven” in the bible. I would say it pretty much depends on which one sounds the most appealing to each individual.

        Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

        • Mel Wild says:

          Skyljd is saying that he doesn’t want heaven because it doesn’t have some of the natural things he enjoys today, like scorching heat. I was simply responding with a typical stereotype of heaven, which would not be heaven at all.

          Albert Einstein once said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”

          Absolutely! That’s exactly right, Nan. What’s ironic here is that this is actually a positive statement. It was Einstein’s imagination that allowed him to think outside of the box and come up with things like the theory of Relativity. In fact, without our imagination we wouldn’t create or come up with anything interesting. We would indeed be robots living boring and mundane lives.

          Here’s the thing. If God created us, He’s the one who created desire, passion, joy, and pleasure. It’s man who creates robots, not God. Anything that’s boring is made up in the minds of people who have no concept of any of these things.

  5. Cindy Powell says:

    “This is where we find eternal life. It’s not in a place called heaven, it’s found in a Person” – Yes – and thank goodness! I think one of the reasons people struggle in faith is because they come to Jesus because of what they need Him to do for them rather than because they need (and want) Him. Recognizing He IS heaven–which means we can access heaven here and now–makes all the difference. Ps 16:11 does pretty much sum it up – one of my favorites. Now, to just stay in that awareness … but that, I suppose, is the journey. Blessings Mel!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Now, to just stay in that awareness … but that, I suppose, is the journey.

      Yes, that about sums up with Jesus told us was obeying Him…

      9 I have loved you just as My Father has loved Me. Stay in My love. 10 If you obey My teaching, you will live in My love. In this way, I have obeyed My Father’s teaching and live in His love. 11 I have told you these things so My joy may be in you and your joy may be full. (John 15:9-10 NLV)

      And oh what a glorious journey it is! 🙂 Blessings to you as well, Cindy. Always appreciate your comments.

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