Isaiah 52:7 says, "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news..., who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, 'Your God reigns.'" Christians everywhere understand that the gospel means "good news." From the time the Holy Spirit awakens a person's heart and they take their first Christian breath they know that the gospel is good news. This heralding truth (good news) pierces the darkest darkness like nothing else.
But there's something about the good news that doesn't get talked about enough. It's the implications of the good news as it relates to you and me. The gospel says incredible things about Jesus, no one argues that point. It also announces that I'm wonderfully made, the hairs on my head matter, and I am loved to the point of being called beloved by God himself. These are rock solid truths and realities that need to be repeated over and over again thus embedded in our souls. But there is another implication of the good news that few grasp as deeply. We'll sing about it passionately but rarely talk of it with the same enthusiasm.
Amazing Grace is one of the most sung worship songs of all time, even at funerals. When we sing it, we sing it loud and strong. "Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me." Saved a what? Have you ever paused to consider that you are singing to the world that you are a skunk? How does singing at the top of your lungs that you're a wretch bring comfort? Or how about the consolation it brings to those grieving at a funeral. In the present day lingo it would sound something akin to loudly singing what a loser or troublemaker I am.
Why does it work? Why does a song that proclaims our wretchedness get sung as often as it does and at the same time brings comfort to our ache? Could it be that our soul of souls knows it's true? There is something so profound in those few lines that it clears the deep, deep fog of pain and or makes a tragedy palatable. But it doesn't stop there; it throws an anchor deep into eternity for us to hold onto. "When we've there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, we've no less days to sing God's praise than when we've first begun." In the long run of our lives it's that truth in the lyrics of the song that change us, not the bagpipes.
How does the truth of the song do that? It changes, when in addition to singing of our woeful wretchedness we talk about it as passionately. It's one of those paradoxical mysteries of God that helps transform us. But if the gospel is the good news, there must also be bad news. The bad news is that we are the bad news! The good news is that it is good that we are the bad news. Simply stated, the one very important piece of what makes the good news of the gospel so good is that we are bad.
Now if I stopped writing right now my point would be incomplete and incredibly unhelpful. So I want to close with hopefully pulling all three of these truths together. The key is knowing and holding them together simultaneously and that's accomplished by our faith, the Holy Spirit and God's word.
The centerpiece of all humanity is Jesus Christ (Col 1:15-17). I cannot say it better than the Bible, so I won't. Yes, Jesus walked among us (John 1:14) but He didn't simple come to live, he came to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). In John 16:8 Jesus tells his disciples that when he departs he will send the Holy Spirit to convict the world of sin and righteousness. We need the Holy Spirit's help to embrace the truth about God and us in concert. There is sin and righteousness in our lives, in the same breath and at the same time. The only way we can celebrate the news that, "We are bad," is if we simultaneously know how loved we are. They are different and unequal truths but God put them side by side. God's great love (good news) and our wretchedness (bad news) go together. The beauty of the good news is that Jesus died for the bad news.
A great quote from Tim Keller sums this entirely. "I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me." He goes on to say that "This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time; neither swaggering nor sniveling." I would encourage everyone to pray and ask God how it works in your life.