“I’ve got good news and bad news. Which one do you want to hear first?”
That question always leaves me puzzled about what to say or how to feel. Should I dread the bad news that’s about to be delivered? Or hope that there is good news to offset it? Which one should I hear first?
Usually, I just ask for both. Bad news without the good news is depressing, while good news without the bad news is nothing more than false hope. And oftentimes, the good news is only good in light of the bad news.
So it is with the gospel.
The good news is that Christ died on our behalf and rose again to rescue us from an eternity apart from God. The good news is that, through him, we can be adopted as God’s children and become a part of his royal family, heirs to his kingdom and beloved members of his household.
And the bad news? The bad news is that our sin made Christ’s death necessary. We are responsible for his death and for offending a Holy God who saw his death as the only possible solution for our sin. Without it, we would have no hope, and we would still be destined for an awful fate.
Without the bad news of our sin, the good news of the gospel becomes simply a nice story or an improbable tale that is difficult to believe. Why would God do something so extraordinarily horrific to his own Son? As any father would tell you, this fact alone makes the message of the gospel hard to swallow.
But the seriousness of the solution only illustrates the seriousness of the problem. The more fully we grasp the reality of our dilemma, the more fully we can appreciate God’s willingness to provide a solution.
We were broken. We were hopeless. We were doomed. There was no way out. For any of us.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved
— Ephesians 2:4–5
The gospel is not just good news. It is very good news! But if it is truly very good, then our sin must necessarily be very bad. But believing this requires a very personal admission: it’s not just that we’re broken but that I’m broken. It is one thing to say that Jesus died for sinners. It is another thing to say that Jesus died for me, a sinner.
Me, a sinner? Yes. Me, a sinner.
As someone who has been a believer for more than 30 years, I can honestly say that the gospel has grown sweeter over time simply because my sin has become more appalling. What I may have once been ignorant of or dismissed as inconsequential is now a glaring soul deformity that affects how I think, speak, and behave. My journey of self-discovery (sin discovery) has not been a fun one, but I’m so glad that the gospel has been there to buoy me when the self-awareness of my sin tries to drag me down to despair. The gospel is not only what saved me over 30 years ago. It is what sustains me more than 30 years later.
So these days, I live in a constant state of good news/bad news. Don’t worry, it’s not a psychological disorder. It’s a reflection of the world in which I live — not the world around me, but the world inside me. If I lose sight of either the bad news of my sin or the good news of my salvation, I can veer toward crushing hopelessness or self-indulgent ignorance. Keeping both in my field of vision grounds me in reality and makes walking by faith both possible and preferred. It’s the space in which the good and the bad become the godly, as God’s working out of my salvation puts rubber to the road of faith.
If you’re a rubber-to-the-road kind of person, the type of person who prefers action and results, might I suggest taking a closer look at the bad news and good news of the gospel? Embracing both may have the transformative effect on your life you’ve been looking for. As you come to understand how very bad you are, you might just have a new appreciation for how very good God’s amazing grace can be. And then the good and the bad could become your godly, and you will discover a life you’ve always desired but could never attain: a life characterized by love, joy, peace, and the blessings of living a gospel-centered life. And that’s very good news indeed.