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Good News Makes You Sad

A couple of weeks ago, Pastor John MacArthur told Ben Shapiro that he intends to offend everyone with the gospel. That's because the good news about Jesus is offensive. It tells us that we are sinners in need of a savior. The gospel makes us sad, but there are two kinds of sadness, a godly sadness and a worldly sadness, one leading to salvation, the other to death. In his second (or, more probably, his third) letter to the church in Corinth, Paul rejoices over the sadness his previous letter had produced in its reader. In his previous letter, Paul lambasted the members of the church for their arrogance and sin. His harsh words evidently had some effect producing sorrow and grief:

For even if I made you sad by my letter, I do not regret having written it (even though I did regret it, for I see that my letter made you sad, though only for a short time). Now I rejoice, not because you were made sad, but because you were made sad to the point of repentance. For you were made sad as God intended, so that you were not harmed in any way by us. For sadness as intended by God produces a repentance that leads to salvation, leaving no regret, but worldly sadness brings about death. For see what this very thing, this sadness as God intended, has produced in you: what eagerness, what defense of yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what deep concern, what punishment! In everything you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter. So then, even though I wrote to you, it was not on account of the one who did wrong, or on account of the one who was wronged, but to reveal to you your eagerness on our behalf before God. Therefore we have been encouraged. (2 Cor 7:8-13a).

Not only does the good news of the gospel entail offense; it is designed to produce deep unrelenting grief, a sorrow so deep we cry out to the Lord for rescue. Christmas is not merely a time in which we celebrate the arrival (and promised return) of our Savior. It is also a time in which we remember just how badly we need one.