brown and white swallowtail butterfly under white green and brown cocoon in shallow focus lens

What is Good News?

I am experiencing a growing discomfort as I hear the Good News presented today. Before you label me a heretic in what you read below, please read John 1.1-17, 3 & 15, Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 3, Galatians 2 & 5, Ephesians 2 & 3, and Colossians 2 & 3. As you read these passages, ask yourself, how do these verses describe those who are “in Christ Jesus”? Okay, some of you won’t have time to read eleven full chapters, so read these verses1 taken from those chapters:

  • I am a new creation: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5.17), “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.” (Galatians 6.11)
  • I surrender my whole life by faith to be this new creation: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20)
  • I am God’s child: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God.” (John 1:12)
  • I am given new life as a gift through faith: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2.8-9)
  • I have been justified, and have peace with God: “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
  • I have God’s affirmation in who I am: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
  • I am uniquely created to do things that only I can do: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2.10)
  • I am free to be who God created: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5.1a)
  • I am alive together with Jesus: “And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses.” (Colossians 2:13)
  • I cannot be separated from God’s love: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
  • I am seated with Christ in the heavenly realm: “God . . . raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4, 6)
  • I am in the Spirit, not the flesh: “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit.” (Romans 8:9)
  • I am only alive in Jesus: “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:4)
  • I am continuously being transformed into the image of Christ: “And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

As these verses illustrate and throughout the New Testament, one who is “in Christ” is described as a new creation. Our lives are being changed from the inside out, which inevitably works its way into all of our lives. It is a personal transformation that radically alters our essence, we literally become a qualitatively different kind of being. Our identity is formed on a new narrative. No longer is our identity based upon all the things we grew up attempting to find significance in, but now this is a new narrative. 

These verses are very clear about what it means “to become a Christian,” “be saved,” or “to be in Christ.” And this is Good News! So far, so good. 

But here is where I struggle. Many people today share the Good News as simply praying a prayer. It is some form of fire insurance where if you repeat certain words, then you get into heaven. This kind of conversion is expressed as simply a cognitive belief in some historical event that happened on a cross and a tomb. But I don’t find this kind of “ticket to heaven” gospel presented in the New Testament. 

To be “in Christ,” as described in the New Testament, is about a transformation of the essence, not of intellectual belief. It is not about saying a prayer and acknowledging Jesus died, but it is about the actual exchange of our nature as Christ comes to reside within us. We are told this occurs as a gift given to us by faith. The presence of Christ in us actually changes our essence into a spiritual reality. Whereas prior to this metamorphosis, we were in the flesh, we are now living in the Spirit.

This is analogous to a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. In the cocoon, the caterpillar’s body actually dissolves into a soup and only the central nervous system is retained; from which the butterfly develops. It is a death to life cycle. For those in Christ, this also is more than an intellectual assent but rather a soulful, heartfelt, mindful, and spiritual giving up of our self-centered self and a transformation, as shown in the verses above. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It is a complete remake, not just a rethinking of the head (mind). Does it begin with a conscious decision engaging our mind, emotions, heart, and soul? Yes. Clearly, it does. But it doesn’t end there, and I am not sure one would be “in Christ” if that is all that happens.

Today, I think many of us have turned salvation into simply a mental nod to Christ as Savior.  But there is no life transformation, no flesh dying, and no Spirit reviving and residing. So there is no transformation. I am not one to say when salvation has taken place. I leave that to the One who alone sees and knows all things. But I think we err by defining faith as a simple head nod rather than an inner life transformation that produces outward manifestations.

1Some of these verses come from James Bryan Smith—The Good and Beautiful God (Pg, 168)






2 responses to “What is Good News?”

  1. Mariann Avatar

    I agree. And as usual, because as humans we like to quantify things, churches seem to need to count those numbers.
    Personally I think of myself as having been saved (past) and continuously being saved in the present and finally being fully saved in the end. Or switch out redeemed for saved…

    1. Greg Wiens Avatar
      Greg Wiens

      Couldn’t agree with you more. We have simply made it too easy to quantify and objectify.

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