Most people in your city think that Christianity is all about advice—that it’s a list of “do’s” and “don’ts.” They couldn’t be more wrong.
We react far differently to news than we do to advice. Imagine a young wife who, nine months earlier, sent her husband off to war. It’s been a devastating, frightening, and lonely nine months. But a good friend comes over and gives her some sound and helpful advice to help her through. The friend tells her: “Be strong. Be patient. Stay busy. Find yourself a good hobby and some projects to fill your time until your husband comes home. Keep writing him those letters. Stay strong.”
How is the young wife going to react? She’ll likely appreciate the advice and try to absorb it. It will be a help of sorts, but the advice doesn’t produce joy or relief.
Imagine, though, the same young wife in the same situation. Imagine that same friend coming over, but instead of offering good advice she speaks good news: “Did you hear the news? The war is over! Your husband is coming home! He’s coming back!”
How will that young wife respond? Will she break down and cry tears of relief? Will she run into her friend’s arms, screaming and celebrating? One thing is certain: she will rejoice! People react differently to good news than they do to good advice. Advice gives people more work to do. Good news gives people freedom.
News Brings Joy
Jesus didn’t come with advice for us to absorb and follow; he came with news. The word gospel means “good news.” It is news that brings joy. The gospel is history-making, life-shaping, paradigm-shattering news. It is news about something done, in history, that changes you, that changes everything, forever. Jesus does something so radical, so violent, so dramatic, and it seals this good news and makes a way for us to join the Big Story.
It is this news that makes Jesus so attractive; it is this news that separates him from all other religions. He didn’t come dispensing advice on how to clean yourself up and make yourself better. He didn’t offer a list of action items or set of instructions about things you must do to find God, freedom, rest, or peace. No! Jesus came saying you can be known, loved, set free, forgiven, and made new.
This new life is open to anyone. Anyone can be made new, made clean, set free, given a relationship with the living God. And it is free. There is no earning it. It is yours, no strings attached. The gospel says all this has been done. There isn’t any more doing to do. It’s not advice, so don’t treat the gospel like mere advice. Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again to earn the way to God, freedom, rest, and peace for you.
Nobody else has ever spoken this way, arriving on the scene and offering news of a new life instead of advice about a better life. Founders of other religions and worldviews ask you to do something—to perform and obey—to bring your doing to the table in order to enjoy the benefits of karma, nirvana, inner peace, a better future, salvation, or whatever the benefit might be. Christianity is the one faith whose founder tells us not to bring him our doing, but our need.
This article has been adapted from Justin Buzzard’s new book, The Big Story: How the Bible Makes Sense Out of Life. Used by permission of Moody Publishers.