There is a VAST difference between good advice and good news.
When the company you’ve invested in goes bankrupt and their share price starts falling, it is good advice to sell your shares as soon as possible. When your mechanic phones you and says your car is starting to give up its ghost and things are starting to go horribly wrong, its good advice to sell your car. When the school phones you to say that your teenage son has been bunking again and been caught smoking at the local mall, its good advice for your son to mentally prepare himself for a good dose of discipline. Good advice, you see, is often the result of bad news.
Old Testament wars
In Old Testament times, if your king went out to do battle with a foreign king, you waited for a messenger to report back on how the battle went. There was no radio or twitter or online news service, you simply had to wait for the messenger.
If the messenger came running back cut and bruised, giving you bad news that the battle was lost, then it would be good advice to take your belongings and head for the hills. On the other hand, if the messenger came back with the good news that your king had won, you didn’t need any advice as you simply enjoyed the good news.
The gospel of Jesus is the good news (Isaiah 61:1, Luke 4:18) that our king has won the Battle for us; the gospel is not good advice because our king has somehow lost the battle.
The World’s Religions are good advice
Here is the difference between biblical Christianity and the rest of the world’s religions. Christianity is the good news that God has achieved for us in and through Christ what we could never have achieved for ourselves. Christ has won the Great Battle against our great enemies of Sin, Death and Satan. We don’t ignore or reject the good news but believe it and then share in God’s victory. All the other religions of the world are not good news, but simply “good” advice, or indeed alleged “good” advice. Advice to pray more, give more, try more, love more and meditate more. But we don’t need good advice, all the good advice in the world cannot save us from Sin, Death and Satan. We need good news that the battle has been won for us.
David and Goliath
Love the account of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. Israel’s army is facing a superior enemy, a mighty champion, a powerful hero – Goliath. The Israelite people and army are quaking at the knees and have given up hope. They are ready to follow the good advice of putting on their Nike’s and sprinting far away. But then David, Israel’s anointed king (cf. 1 Samuel 16), comes. David goes out to Goliath knowing the battle is the Lord’s and wins a great victory for God’s trembling and weak people. The people see and hear the good news of Goliath’s defeat and share in David’s victory.
Principles of interpretation
Because we read the Bible not only to know biblical facts but also to share in God’s redemptive story, we ask: Who am I in the story? Generally, we are taught to see ourselves as the great, faithful, conquering David. So we say things like, “You need to be like David and conquer the Giants of sin, low-self-esteem, addiction and fear in your life.” We tell our children the same.
The problem is that we are not David in the story, we are the Israelites. One of the key insights of Bible interpretation is that God is always the hero of each story, not us.
The real reality
Here is the reality: We face a much greater enemy than Goliath. We face Sin, Death and Satan himself. We are not strong enough, qualified enough or good enough to conquer. We are or should be, quaking at the knees in the light of this reality. What we need is not good advice, but good news. And then Jesus, great David’s greater son, comes. He is God’s anointed spirit-filled king and wins the battle for us. We, like the weak Israelites, can simply share in his victory.
Conquering and victorious
Is it not good news for you dear Christian that Death has no power of you. You can laugh in the face of death! Yes Death is still an enemy and we will still die, but death will not hold us! We will conquer death and be in the presence of God!
Is it not good news for you dear Christian that Satan can no longer accuse you before God because Jesus has paid the appropriate and full price for all your sin?
Is it not good news for you dear Christian that Sin’s consequence of eternal separation from God no longer applies to you? That by Jesus death for you and the gift of the Spirit in you, Sin no longer has domineering power of you?
What we don’t need is good advice because all the good advice in the world can’t do these things for us. We need good news, we need the gospel.