If Gallup polled the un-churched in Hillsboro, TX, or Dallas, TX or NYC, NY, and asked, “Is Christianity about good advice or good news,” how do you think the majority would answer? No poll needed… the statistics are in and available. Tim Keller in Prodigal God documents that young people are fleeing their Christian homes and Christian churches for refuge in the city because they are burned-out on “good advice.” The book of Romans says to the burned-out, burdened, and broken: “You are not fleeing real Christianity; you are fleeing ‘good advice.’” Welcome to Romans. Welcome to real Christianity. Welcome to Good News.
What is the gospel? The word literally means good announcement, good herald, good report, or good news. In the Greco-Roman world the word was used in a very specific way as an emperor or king’s announcement of victory on the battlefield.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones illustrated the difference between “good advice” and “good news” by saying, “Barbarians invade your country. The initial report is not good – death, destruction, desolation. Despair reigns in the kingdom. The king assembles his army, meets the foe, and his army is obliterated. The king’s last act before a violent death is to send messengers back to the capital. What do these messengers report when they reach the capital? They herald: ‘Fight for your lives! They’re coming! Archers on the walls! Cavalry at the west gate!’” The messengers bring good advice on how to survive a barbarian invasion, good advice on how to save yourself.
Gospel news is different. In gospel news the king crushes the brutal invaders, slaughters them in a comprehensive victory. He then sends messengers back to the capital to announce the good news: “Victory! The King won! The war is over! It is finished! Peace! Freedom! Life! No fear! No desolation!”
The Apostle Paul in Romans 1.1-4 says Jesus is the ultimate, universal, final King who won the war against cosmic sin and evil with its invading reign of terror and death. The Savior-King levels them, no contest, by His cross and resurrection.
What is the gospel? The gospel is good news of a Jesus-victory, a Jesus-deliverance, a Jesus-salvation already won. Real Christianity is good news about what Jesus has done, accomplished, worked, or performed to save sinners, not good advice about what we do, accomplish, work, or perform to try to save ourselves.
The gospel changes everything. The gospel is what everyone most needs. This is why Paul says he is “obligated” to preach the gospel to those who are un-churched (verse 14) and why he is “eager” to preach the gospel to the Christians or church in Rome (verse 15). The gospel is not the A, B, C’s of the Christian life; it’s the A-Z’s of the Christian life. It’s both the power of God to become a Christian and the power of God to grow as a Christian. Are you burning out on good advice? Come back to real Christianity. Come back to Good News.