Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson

Good News to Get Us Through the Bad News

Every now and then, thick in writing, I come up for air. When people ask me when my sermon is completed, I often respond with, “When I begin preaching.” And in reality, it is still not finished. I am learning that writing is a worse tyranny. It is like the movie, Stranger than Fiction. An IRS auditor (Will Ferrell) has his life interrupted by the sound of a personal narrator. Her interruptive voice, seemingly out of nowhere and in the oddest moments, is driving him crazy.

It’s not quite this extreme, but as I have written, I wake in the night thinking about words. I read an article (like today’s review of The Intern in the NY Times), in which Robert De Niro plays a kinder, gentler father figure. It’s not his typical “vein popping intensity” role. Suddenly, I am compelled to find a place for this phrase. The passive paralytic in John 5 is anything but this. Perfect!

I am learning a lot about writing. I am learning things about myself. Most of all, I am becoming convinced in deeper ways that Jesus’ statement that the heavens have opened (John 1:51) does mean that everything has changed—and is changing! Life is to be different. It is a messianic world we now live. The Word has become flesh. A kingdom has emerged with divine force. God is establishing His rule, and glory is breaking forth. Ancient hopes are being fulfilled and the forces of darkness are about to be put in their place. Life has come to life, meaning lives can be transformed from top to bottom. Life as we know it can be more expansive!

This is really the essence of the gospel we need to be preaching. In Christ, we have forgiveness, but we also have a King and a kingdom and a foretaste of God’s future kingdom now. As NT Wright underscores, new creation has begun with Christ’s resurrection. God’s Spirit has come to breathe in new life. The world is a different place. There is no need to retreat into gloom and negativity, especially for those in the church. As Peterson puts it, we live in resurrection country. Yes, we still carry old cemetery habits. But believers have the necessary room to live robustly, knowing that we are under an open sky, and in eternity the best is yet to come.

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