And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"
With these words, "a multitude of the heavenly host" praised God as they declared God's goodwill toward mankind at the birth of the Savior of the world. God has always had goodwill toward mankind. His deep, passionate love for all of mankind has never, ever changed. Even the separation that came about because of sin never changed His love for all of mankind. In fact, He so loves all of mankind that He gave His only begotten Son as the way to completely close that separation. Whoever believes in Him has eternal life! Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That is love!
And in His great love and great sacrifice, God Himself has made the way for "whosoever will" to have an everlasting relationship with Him. The message of the angels was a declaration of God's goodwill toward man, and our message, as Christians, to the world is also God's goodwill toward man!
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men's sins against them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Cor 5:18-19Our message to the world is not "turn or burn." Our message is not "get your act together." Our message is not "stop sinning" and it's not "change your behavior." Our message to the world is, "God loves you so much that He was in Christ reconciling you to Himself, not counting your sins against you!" That is good news, and that is our message to the world.
Our message is not, "you'd better make sure you have a personal relationship with Jesus." Our message is, "you get to have a personal relationship with Jesus!" There is a huge difference between those two messages. A completely different foundation. The first foundation is fear-based, as in, "God's gonna get you if you don't walk with Jesus." The second foundation is based on God's agape-love, as in, "God loves you so much that He is absolutely passionate about YOU, and He is absolutely passionate about wanting an eternal relationship with you!" Jesus words, "No one comes to the Father but by Me," are not a "condition," but rather a blessed hope!
Many in the church have sadly made the gospel into a threat rather than making it out to be the promise that it is. They've not always presented a God who is "longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." And what is this repentance? It's not "changing our behavior," because changing our behavior will never, ever be good enough to save us! Repentance is changing from unbelief to belief. God waits patiently for people to come to faith.
And so the foundation of salvation is not a fear-based message and it's not a message about us changing our behavior. The foundation of salvation is God's agape-love.
But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)It's God's kindness and love toward man, and not by our own works through which we've been saved. It's not through our own so-called "repentance" (stopping sinning and starting to to "good"), but rather it's the through the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" - a work that God Himself does in us when we believe. Again, true repentance (Greek word 'metanoia') means a change of mind, a rethinking of things. If repentance means changing our behavior, and that type of 'repentance' is what saves us, then we've been saved by our own efforts and changing, and not by God's kindness and love, and not by the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. So true repentance that saves is a change of mind that brings a person from unbelief to belief, and thus to the regenerative work of God.
The gospel is more powerful than we make it out to be. Trust God and trust His good news! He'll work things out in you that you never could've dreamed of if it were up to you to change your behavior. His love and grace are not only the foundation of the Christian life, but His love and grace are inextricably woven into every last aspect of it! Once it truly grips you, you can never go back to a performance-based life, or living day to day with a focus on sin and on changing your bad habits into good habits. You find that it never worked that way and it never will! When you find that the foundation and essence of your life is God's love and grace, it will be impossible to escape you that there is something far more powerful at work in you that can never be drummed up by your own willpower or attempts at 'good Christian living.'