Mark's Gospel begins with these words: "The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1 NIV)
The word "gospel" means good news. Jesus' coming to our world is good news! Jesus' life, teaching, death and resurrection is good news! And the really good news is, this Jesus is alive today and can give us new life.
There is more to the Gospel than saying a prayer that asks God to forgive our sins. That kind of commitment to God, trusting Jesus and His death on the Cross for our forgiveness is the beginning of a new life! The old self with all its selfishness and disobedience is taken to the Cross and put to death with Jesus.
All things become new. Transformation begins. And that transformation from an old life that is all about me to a new life that is all about becoming like Jesus continues for the rest of my life, as I walk with and obey Him.
The good news about this Good News is that we don't have to wait for heaven to be changed. When the Gospel is believed and we walk with Jesus in loving obedience, transformation happens here and now and continues in the remaining journey of our lives. Martin Luther King Jr. used to like to quote an old black minister: "Lord we ain't what we should be and we ain't what we gonna be, but thank God, we ain't what we was!"
I thank God "I ain't what I was." I thank God the old Mike is dead and a new Mike lives, by the grace of God, in his place. I thank God I do not have to be enslaved to the past. I thank God He has sent His Holy Spirit to do transforming work in my life. I thank God He has not given up on me as I stumble along the path toward Christlikeness.
I thank God we have the Word of truth, the Bible, as our plumb line against which to measure all truth claims. I thank God His word is "a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (Psalm 119:105 NIV)
Now for the sobering news in the Good News. The way of transformation always involves a Cross. We are called to follow Jesus. Jesus went to a Cross and died in order to be resurrected and conquer death itself. And Jesus said this: "“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:24-25 NIV)
I have to die to me to live for Christ. I have to say "yes" to Jesus, even though it costs me everything, for transformation to continue and for new life in Christ to fully mark my life. "No, Lord" is a contradiction. If I say "no," then Jesus isn't really my Lord. The way of life is the way of the Cross. The way of joy is the way of abandonment to Jesus. The way to heaven is the way of discipleship, not just saying a prayer and having the past forgiven.
One might ask, "Is it worth it?" Oh, yes. New life in Christ is worth it. Knowing my life counts for something bigger than myself is worth it. Seeing Jesus change my life is worth it. And living forever with Him in His kingdom of perfect love and perfect justice will be worth it.
And that's Good News!