The Bad News This Christmas
"What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! ...As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit...There is no fear of God before their eyes.'... No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known... This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
Romans 3:9-13, 18, 20-22
Back in 2004 I re-dedicated my life to Christ; I was living in San Francisco at the time, and at first didn’t have a single Christian friend. The friends I did have were at best ambivalent towards Christianity and at worst openly hostile; for a couple of months it was basically me and Jesus, and it felt like the whole world was against me. Amazing then how I look back on that time in my life with affection; I can’t remember ever feeling more close to my Savior, or seeing his strength work in my life in more powerful and unexpected ways. I get a bit teary-eyed right now just thinking about it.
One thing that really sticks out is how many doors God opened to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my friends. I had one friend in particular who to this day is in my prayers and remains close to my heart. My newfound faith hit him hard, and I know he was genuinely concerned I would only find the same hurt and rejection in the institutional church I’d experienced in my youth. I shared that my faith was a relationship with Jesus, and that he was loved by God as well. That statement brought an incredulous response of offense - “Why are you telling me that? Of course God loves me. Why wouldn’t he love me?”
I was so sure the message of God’s love would be the key to open my friend’s heart, but I was wrong. Why? As I look back I realize I’d try to cross the finish line but skipped over the start. The statement “God loves you” begs a question - why? Why does God love you and me, and why does it matter? Those of us who are Christians know the answer - we’re born into sin, fallen from the moment of conception and utterly helpless before God when it comes to our sin and salvation. That’s the part where God’s love starts to make sense in light of Christmas and the cross - God becoming flesh, then sacrificing himself for our sins, giving us the life we don’t deserve and taking upon himself the punishment that should have been ours.
Over the years as I look back on the times I’ve shared the gospel with people, getting them to believe God loves them is almost never a challenging proposition. Having them admit they’re born into sin and helpless before God without Christ - that’s where we usually lock horns, and that’s often been the end of the discussion.
Joni Eareckson Tada discusses this in her devotional titled “The Bad News” - she says, “Christmas is upon us and our hearts are happy as we celebrate the arrival of Jesus, God's Good News! But let's not forget the bad news -- that a heart without Christ is full of deceit.” This is the foolishness of Christ to Jews and Gentiles that Paul talks about, the offense of the cross. Yet, for the cross to do its work each one of us must first fall to our knees and humbly confess the reality of our fallen state and our need for Jesus.
The good news? Convicting hearts is the work of the Holy Spirit - so don’t give up. Don’t stop praying for those lost family members and friends, and don’t stop sharing. You never know when the bad news will someday become the best news ever!