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How Is God's News Bad for Good People, and Good for Bad People?

“I have some good news and some bad news…”

Have you ever heard this phrase before? This usually causes us to ask a question in our minds like: Is there more bad news than good news, or the other way around?

There are lots of ways people say this phrase, here are just two examples:

“The good news is you got the job; the bad news is the pay is half what you thought it would be.”

“The bad news is your house and all your belongings were destroyed in the fire; the good news is no one was hurt.”

Depending on how you say it, what inflection you use with your voice, where you pause, it could communicate all sorts of things, right? There was actually a study done on how people gave and received bad news, you can find the details of that at the end of this article in case you’re curious.

What they discovered was kind of fascinating. They divided up two kinds of people, what I’ll call the “givers of news” and the “getters of news.” Here’s a summary of their findings:

Givers & Getters

The givers believed what’s best for someone is to lead with good news.

If someone was giving the good news to someone else, they wanted to soften the blow and lead with something good and positive. They thought that by doing this, people would be more receptive and able to receive bad news second.

The interesting thing is, the getters wanted to receive the bad news first.

They wanted to get the bad stuff with over with, to have it hit them early on, and to end with the good stuff. You may share this sentiment, I certainly do.

Let’s look at one more example of the good news bad news scenario to see which you would prefer first. You’ll notice it’s the same sentence, just in a different order.

1. “The bad news is you have cancer; the good news is what you have is treatable.”

2. “The good news is what you have is treatable; the bad news is you have cancer.”

One of these deliveries probably hits you differently than the other. There’s one that sounds better than the other. In either case, we’re going to look at how God delivered His news to the world. Here’s the good news:

God, as the giver, has saved the best news for last.

God’s News for All People

The problem is, it doesn’t start with good news, and end with good news.

Wouldn’t it be great to hear: “I have some good news and some good news...which would you like first?”

That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? But at least for now, it’s not the reality. Someday everything will be good for those who love God, but until then, let’s talk about God’s news for all people right now. For you and me, your family, your neighbors, your hair stylist, your kid's teachers, the people you go to church with, and so we don't make this list too long — let’s just throw in all of humanity. This news is for everyone.

God’s news for all people is a bit surprising, and seems totally backwards at first; but when we understand why it’s this way, it (should) make us run to Him with a heart that is incredibly broken, but also incredibly grateful (In case you’re curious, this is the seventh paradox in a book I wrote called "Paradox").

Here’s the surprising news: God’s news is bad for good people, and good for bad people.

Bad News for Good People

I hate to have to do this to you, but the bad news is, you’re not a good person.

Not at all. Not even close.

You’re the worst. I’m the worst, too.

Together, we’re the absolute worst. Put all of humanity together, and we’re the all-time worst. We’re undefeated in being the worst. The title will not be challenged, there will be no rematch, we are the undisputed champions of being the worst. In an age of participation trophies, this one we’ve definitively earned with hard work, ingenuity, and dedication. The trophy is truly ours alone.

And just in case we may think that this trophy belongs to all of those “other bad people,” we have the Apostle Paul who is happy to point out where our name has been neatly etched on the side with everyone else’s.

At one time in Paul’s life, the dividing line between the good and the bad was impeccably clear—until it wasn’t. Until he measured Himself up to the standard of righteousness, to Jesus Himself. He discovered he wasn’t on one side of the line with a bunch of other Pharisees and good people, staring over at all the bad people who couldn’t get across.

Instead, he stood on one side of the line with the rest of humanity, looking over to see just Christ, by Himself, on the other side.

Once Paul came to this realization, he wrote about it. He wanted everyone to know where their default status with God was. In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives his summary in the opening chapters of how he (or more aptly, God) sees the human condition. It’s pretty brutal. Paul pulls from eight different places in Scripture to make one big case for a bad humanity:

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is 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.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes. Romans 3:11-18  

You can’t spin this in any sort of positive way, right? We don’t send these verses as encouraging texts to people we care about, do we? Imagine if I sent my wife this:

“Hey babe, the poison of vipers is on your lips. Love you.” Insert hug emoji here.

I am not getting a hug emoji back, I can tell you that much.

This is tough, demoralizing; or maybe as you read this you think, “that’s not me.” But again, Paul pulls from eight different places in Scripture because he wants to emphatically let us know, we are not good.

If you haven’t read a lot of Paul, He is incredibly encouraging in a lot of different places in his writings, but not here, and not yet. Paul will be encouraging just a few verses later, but this bad news is so important to realize first. It’s interconnected and in some ways, sets the table for the good news to be greedily consumed once the bad news has had a chance to set in.

The good news that Paul will give next can only land properly once we understand and accept that there isn’t a good molecule in our body. This is not popular to say, is less popular to hear, but let me say it clearly this way:

Understanding and accepting that you are not a good person, actually points you in the direction of the God who is.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it does. Because it means you can’t “I’m a good person” your way out of anything besides missing a relationship with God.

Thinking of yourself as a good person and trying to prove it, points you away from the God who knows you aren’t.

We can’t hide anything from God. We can’t fake it ‘til we make it, and we won’t make it because we try to fake it. You and I can’t get close to God by being good. We have no shot. We have to get to a place where we can say:

“The problem isn’t out there, it’s in here. It’s me. I’m the problem. I’m not good. Only God is good alone.”

If we stopped there it would be depressing right? But we won’t stop here, because that’s just bad news… so let’s talk about the other side:

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/mantinov 

Good News for Bad People

To lift your spirit a little bit, and to start to tip-toe into the amazing, good news God has for you, here’s the second realization:

The good news is, God came here for bad people like you.

This is far, far better than we deserve. This is life changing news. This is the ugly-crying, heart wrenching moment of where we understand the incredible grace that we get from God. Paul explains it just a few verses after telling everyone how crappy we are:

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24

Paul brings hope to the entire world with these words. He essentially says whether you’re religious or irreligious, whether you’re a Jew or Gentile, or anything else there is hope for you. But specifically, he brings hope to two types of people:       

For the religious rule followers struggling to justify their goodness to themselves, to others, and to God — there is hope in Christ.

For the ones who feel like failures, who have rejected, despised, or ignored God and His ways — there is hope in Christ

God’s timing with the good news, for you and I, couldn’t have been more perfect. We desperately needed to hear this, and still do, every…single…day. Here’s how Paul puts it:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8

This honestly seems like an offer that’s too good to be true, in that bad people get the good grace God is offering. That would be true, but it’s also the reason we come to God in the first place, He gives us what we don’t deserve!

Final Thoughts

And if you can’t, won’t, or don’t believe that to be true, can I ask you a question?

How many of you have seen God be faithful to you, even when you were unfaithful to him?

You’ve probably experienced something good from God, even when you didn’t deserve it. Encouraging words came from someone when you were depressed and lowly. Somehow you got enough money to make it through a challenging time. You experienced the peace of God as your life was chaotic all around you. There are probably more than a few examples that you can think of.

Everything good you have ever been given is from God. Including the life that you can now live for Him, because of the life that He gave up. To sum up the good news:

God died for us not because we are good, but because He is good.

Study:
“Do You Want the Good News or the Bad News First? The Nature and Consequences of News Order Preferences.”
Angela M. Legg, and Kate Sweeny. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol. 40, no. 3, Mar. 2014.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/RoterPanther 

Kile Baker is a former Atheist who didn’t plan on becoming a Christian, let alone a Pastor, who now writes to try and make Christianity simple. Kile recently wrote a study guide to help people “look forward to and long for Heaven”. You can get one on Amazon here. He also writes at www.paperbacktheologian.com. Kile is the grateful husband to the incredibly talented Rachel, Dad to the energetic London and feisty Emma and Co-Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Northern Nevada. He single handedly keeps local coffee shops in business.

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