Church’s are known by their evangelistic pattern. Among the many platforms for emphasis, two of the more prominent are prophecy and Christian living. Either of these can be constructed from a negative or positive approach. Prophecy can be frightening and foreboding or enlightening and visionary. Christian living can feature the worst in human relationships or the excellence of human potential. Both platforms find general appeal among the masses.
It is refreshing to sense our fellowship seeking a balance between prophecy and Christian living. Perhaps we’re coming to realize these platforms can explore more of the good news–and not so much bad news. This is certainly permissible as we model our evangelism after the ministry of Jesus Christ. His testimony did occasionally offer prophetical insight (i.e., Matthew 24) and condemnation of the worst in human nature (the Pharisees), but Jesus continually uplifted, served, and inspired those who would receive His teachings.
There’s a lot of good news out there–but you don’t hear much about it in some churches. Too often the preaching and publishing of the gospel center on tragedy, suffering, reprehensible conduct, celebrity mischief, murders, kidnappings, immoral trysts, war, disease, floods, hurricanes, injustice, family strife, and so on. Lot’s of bad news!
Through many years of church association, it seems there have been an inordinate number of believers from our church “culture” intrigued with making sense of bad news. Rather than being moved with sorrow or love or pity over reported events, it has been somewhat religiously expected to figure out how bad news was actually good news leading to fulfilled prophecy. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is the ready response to tragedies among religious leaders who quickly use every round of bad news for selfish purposes. How easily God’s people can be influenced. Why not motivate believers through the “good news”?
Jesus Christ came to this earth in human flesh and preached the gospel of the Kingdom of God. He urged listeners to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15). What is the gospel? The word “gospel” comes from the Anglo-Saxon godspel, which means good tiding. The Greek New Testament word for gospel is euaggelion, which is the word from which we derive “evangelism.”
To put it in the simplest of terms, the gospel that Jesus came preaching was the “good tidings (good news) about the Kingdom of God.”
Following his triumph over Satan in the wilderness temptations, Jesus increased His public teaching. He came to Nazareth (his home town) where He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath (Saturday). In the synagogue, Jesus was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and He opened it to the section we know as Isaiah 61:1-2. Luke records, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering the sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19). In verse 21, Jesus tells the audience that these verses in Isaiah refer to Him.
In this quotation from Isaiah, we see the theme of Jesus’ ministry. It’s what He lived and preached and accomplished till His death. It is noticeably absent of bad news. Interestingly, there is a line from Isaiah 61:2 that is not included in Luke’s account. It’s worth noting. Isaiah 61:2 reads, “To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.” Wonder why this underlined portion is missing from Luke’s account? You also have to wonder why it is, then, that so many who preach today do so with an attitude of vengeance or judgment. Why find God in all the bad news when Jesus’ ministry emphasized “the gospel” (GOOD NEWS) to the poor, and offered Him as one who brings relief to the oppressed?
It seems a ministry can do no better than to follow the themes of Jesus’ ministry. If more of us would do that, we would be celebrating the fulfillment of prophecy with the development of the gospel or glad tidings.
As I think back, like too many people, my understanding of the Bible, particularly prophetic emphasis and interpretations, was formulated from four sources:
1) the ideas/theories/heresies/lies learned through childhood;
2) the sermons heard from ministers and lay members (some who presumed to be full of the Holy Spirit, thus supposedly having “special insight” denied to just faithful disciples);
3) the Bible, books, booklets, pamphlets I read; and
4) personal interpretations/ideas/possibilities that seemed to make sense through the aforementioned resources.
But what does 2 Peter say about leanings toward personal interpretations? “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). Even so, many Christians are tempted to force some prophetic perspective from the headlines and tragedies (earthquakes, forest fires, spread of disease) in everyday life. It’s as if Christian belief is primed through God’s failure to intervene for his creation rather than the remarkable gifts and involvement He provides every day. Does bad news validate God’s Word more than good news?
Remember, Christ came preaching “glad tidings.” His message and life offered hope and good news for sinful man. He taught that each of us could have a part in the Kingdom of God by living “Kingdom” principles in this life. Christ taught the better way to live. He taught repentance (which delivers us from bondage of lawlessness) and belief in Him as our sacrifice for sins (delivering us from the penalty of eternal death). He also promised that the Holy Spirit would be given freely to those who believed the “glad tidings.”
There’s an interesting aspect to the ministry of Christ. It had little to do with bad news. Please check out our booklet shown below!
Charles Groce, CGI minister