Is the purpose of the gospel to make us comfortable or to comfort us amidst affliction, misery, and evil? Is the goal of the gospel to become an emotional pick-me-up or to be a "very present help in trouble" when we walk through the valley of death? Is it an umbrella we pull out when the storms of life rain down on us? Is it the power of God that breathes new life into us after we've been drowned by sin and evil?
The gospel of Jesus Christ assures us that when we suffer, he is with us. But, it doesn't promise us that we won't suffer. When we're hopeless, the gospel shows us that Jesus has defeated sin, death, and hell. It doesn't promise us that we will never be despondent. The gospel doesn't promise us happiness or that we'll always have the strength to cling to Christ when temptations try to tear us away from him.
Our Christian faith is a consequence of God's word opening our ears to hear the good news, that Jesus died for our sin and rose again for our justification. It's not meant to make us comfortable. It's meant to give us comfort in the midst of concrete, real affliction, misery, and evil.
The good news of Jesus Christ guides us into godly worship, not self-worship.
The gospel isn't intended to improve our mental health, emotional well-being, or shrink our expanding waistline. That doesn't mean the gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to say to us about our frustrations, confusion, anger, grief, and misery. But, what it says points us to the cross, to Jesus' bloody suffering, and death for the sin of the world. At the cross, we don't hear Jesus' last words address our health, wealth, happiness. Instead, he begs his father to forgive us because we don't know what we're doing.
The gospel doesn't call us to live, laugh, and love as if Jesus died, so we could live our best lives now. Jesus didn't need to die so we could pursue a better life. He was stricken, smitten, and afflicted, rejected by all men, to cancel our guilt.
Our guilt is obvious to anyone who has eyes that see and ears that hear. We treat sin lightly. We don't imagine evil is too pervasive. We believe we're good people. But then why did Jesus have to die to reconcile us with God? Why is the gospel of Jesus Christ necessary if we only need it when we're anxious or stressed? Do we even need God to say anything to us if justice and peace can be had by just changing our attitude?
The gospel of Jesus forgives sin. But do we even believe in sin anymore? Do we go to church to hear God's preacher proclaim the good news that we will receive strength to resist temptation and hope amid death? Or do we want to hear the good news of true happiness found within twelve-step programs to better our marriages and lay off junk food?
We now live at a time when most, if not all Christians, have been indoctrinated in the feel-good gospel. It's medication without the pills. It's anesthesia without the mask. It's a eulogy for the living dead. And because it has nothing to say to us about real affliction, misery, and evil, we must pretend they don't exist. We demand a gospel that makes us comfortable because the gospel no longer comforts sinners horrified by very real sin and guilt and their very real earthly consequences.
Jesus doesn't send gospel preachers to make us comfortable.
The purpose and goal of the gospel are Jesus crucified for the sin of the world. Its aim is to glorify God, not us. The good news of Jesus Christ guides us into godly worship, not self-worship. It creates faith that trusts that no matter what earthly or spiritual evil befalls us, God's word will see us through. He will cover our sins. He will breathe new life into our dead bodies. He will protect and defend us against all the assaults of evil and Satan.
Jesus doesn't send gospel preachers to make us comfortable. The cross doesn't set us free to live in un-repentance, wallowing like pigs in the muck of our sin. Good Friday doesn't show us a way to live without the pain of death; it shows us Jesus, who in great pain, died for us. The gospel doesn't promise us Satan will never defeat us, but that even when we lose the battle, Jesus has won the war.
The good news of Jesus Christ announces that though we will fall on the battlefield, Jesus will defend and protect us even in death. Sin, death, and hell will be too much for us, but our Savior has defeated sin, death, and hell, and he will raise us to eternal life.
Jesus is our firm foundation when real, concrete suffering and death confront us. He is our refuge when evil overwhelms us. Christ is our rock and our salvation. We boast about him, not ourselves. He is the Lamb of God for sinners, wounded, and sacrificed to cancel our guilt. On him, all of our hope is built.