Can there truly be good news without bad news? There has to be an alternative scenario possible in order for one reality to truly have significant impact. We have to embrace both truths for impact to occur. If I try to sell you on a new product, you have to be discontent with your current reality; you have to believe that what you have is inferior or ineffective before you’d likely to be willing to give something else a try.
The same is true with the gospel. I can tell you that you are loved by God, but if you don’t feel unloved where you are at you probably won’t care that God loves you. If you don’t know lack there is no impetus to respond to the offer that God will provide for you. The gospel of Jesus is that we are sinners who need forgiveness and a Saviour, not simply that God loves us.
I read a very good analogy pertaining to this topic. “Downplaying the reality of the sinner’s plight is like this: Suppose you’re having terrible abdominal pain and you go to your doctor. The doctor does many tests and discovers that you have an aggressive form of stomach cancer. He knows that if you immediately start treatment you have a good chance of being cured, and without treatment you’ll be dead within months. But he doesn’t want to make you feel bad by telling you that you have cancer. So, he tells you to stop eating so much spicy food and sends you home. Telling you that you have a serious problem is your only hope. If you don’t know about your cancer, you’ll never try to find a cure. The same is true of our spiritual state. That’s why we must expose people’s guilt before God, even when it’s not popular to do so.”
In Acts 3:12-26 we read Peter’s sermon to the crowd in the temple courts after Peter and John healed the lame beggar. Peter begins with the bad news before he gets to the good news. On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) Peter also started with bad news before presenting the good news to the people. How did they respond? Did they dismiss his message? Did they heckle him or chase him out of town?
Acts 2:37-38: Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.
The number of believers jumped from 120 to 3000 at Pentecost! After Peter’s sermon in Acts 3, Acts 4:4 tells us the result: “But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000.”
It is interesting to note who Peter’s audiences are in those two narratives. They are the religious faithful who have come on pilgrimage for the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2), and the religious faithful who are in the temple courts to worship (Acts 3). This should remind us not to take for granted that those who sit in our pews week after week are good to go because their behaviour is right. It is too easy to slip into a self-righteousness mindset. Periodically we need to remind ourselves of everybody’s need for the Saviour day in and day out.
If our preaching and witnessing of the Good News does not include the Bad News, then I would dare to say that our ministries are not biblically sound. Our culture of relativism and tolerance pressures us to downplay the Bad News. But as the biblical narrative shows preaching the Good News has to include the Bad News (at some point). King Jesus builds His kingdom through us as we share the whole gospel.