Can I Give You Some Advice?
The news last night featured price increases from our beloved Starbucks. A small coffee camouflaged as tall will now cost over two bucks. This was a lead news story. It felt more like advice than news. The implied advice was to think twice before buying coffee at Starbucks.
News, as N.T. Wright suggests, involves a significant event changing the future and transforming the present.
Over the past several weeks, my friend Fitz has been driving me crazy with texts about USA Women’s Soccer. The World Cup absorbed his world. The USA team’s winning streak absorbed my phone with Fitz’s texts. When USA beat Japan in the final, you can imagine how my phone blew up. This was news for my friend. It was a significant event. The big win meant the future of women’s soccer in America would change. The news would also transform no-name athletes into world class, famous champions.
I didn’t watch any of the soccer games. I’ve never played soccer, don’t know how the game works, and seriously don’t care. Fitz’s news seemed foolish and irrelevant to my life. I’m sure there were Japanese folks who were scandalized by the news. When USA beat Japan 5-2, I replied to my friend’s multiple exclamation points and smiley faces with an “awesome” just to be done with it all.
We are called to be ambassadors of the good news of Jesus. The Gospel. Some see the news as foolish. Others are scandalized. Some take the news of Jesus and employ it once and only for a salvation ticket. Sometimes a short-sighted Gospel sounds like this: “Jesus died for your sins.” Is this true? Absolutely. Is it the whole story? Heck no.
If the Gospel is a simple statement of “Jesus died for your sins,” how do people translate such news? Do they wonder why God abused his kid? Will some get stuck on the violence required by God? Some, undoubtedly, will be transfixed on how or why their sins would even warrant such a cosmic spanking. That would be a ridiculous scandal. Perhaps such a short-sighted approach is why many today view the good news as not so much… or even foolish.
“Jesus died for your sins,” is true, but it’s also attached to a greater story of a significant event changing the future and transforming the present. The cross of Jesus goes all the way back to the perfection of paradise created by a God of love with a heart to share. The story sees God’s creation walking away from the goodness of God to pursue their own goodness. This introduces sin and death. God immediately pursues his broken creation to redeem and restore. His intentions of eternal life on a perfect earth WITH Him will be the love story involving us all. He is a personal God working His plan with us, within us, and from an extremely close proximity as He becomes one of us. The ultimate act to definitively defeating death, sin, and brokenness was for Jesus, the God-man, to exhaust and drain evil’s power through a purposeful, substitutionary death. By Jesus’ resurrection, there is undeniable and credible hope of what restoration will look like for all of us on a redeemed earth. This is the coronation of a King restoring His Kingdom THIS is news! THIS is good news. This historical event happened, changes the future, and transforms our lives now.
Why then do many resort to being mere dispensers of advice?
Some people have never played the God game. They don’t know the rules, and seriously don’t care. Why? They’ve never understood the whole story. They’ve never heard it. They see God as a big bully in the sky. He is dangerous. He is distant and uncaring. Or… God just doesn’t exist so let’s all relax and quit worrying.
Why do we settle for giving advice? Maybe behavior modification is the best we can hope for with such a jaded audience. Maybe if we give out advice for happy marriages, healthy finances, functional kids, and psychological tips for in-laws, THEN we could give’em a little Gospel. You know, “Jesus helped your marriage, finances, kids, and in-laws… and He died for your sins.”
Here’s the reality. People aren’t buying this anymore — not even our advice. They don’t believe in such a God anymore. N.T. Wright, in his book “Simply Good News,” writes, “They are right. That God — the dull, distant, and dangerous one — does not exist.”
That’s the why the whole story (from Genesis to Revelation) of the really good news of Jesus is critical. The really good news of Jesus shows a marvelous God many have never seen. There is power in God’s news. It all lies within the Gospel story of Jesus and our rescue. Do we believe THIS is the power of God for salvation, or do we lean more into our own wisdom and advice giving? Will we proclaim and preach the whole story? Will we settle for giving advice? Advice giving makes us look good and sometimes grows our gatherings. N.T. Wright suggests, “The whole point of advice is to make you do something to get a desired result.” More works. More exhaustion. More of Christ’s sufficient work buried from the headlines.
Yesterday I saw a father and son fishing. They had a third-wheel tag along kid with them. It appeared this other kid was, perhaps, a nephew with no athletic fluidity like the father’s son. Father and son were casting their rods with great expertise. The awkward extra wanted to give it a go. It was a disaster. There were failed casts with lines tangled. Sitting in the nearby sand, I was embarrassed for the extra. But the father’s son began to give instructions. The father’s son began to show his uncoordinated cousin the how-to’s. But it was more than just fishing advice. The father’s son wasn’t just showing how to cast, but how to enjoy and soak in the joy of fishing. There was something bigger happening. The cousin began to get it, loosen up, and cast deep into the waters. All the while, the father was about fifteen yards down the coast, casting his own rod. I noticed the father glancing to his son with an inconspicuous smile of approval. The father had taught the whole story of fishing to his son well. Eventually, the son became an ambassador — a real fisherman who could teach the whole story to someone else. He was a disciple of the greater story shown to him by his dad.
I start Matt Chandler’s “To Live Is Christ To Die Is Gain” tomorrow. Three more days of study break.