Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Kingdom Narrative of the Gospel

The Gospel According to Mark tells us that the Lord Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14). I believe there is only one gospel and that it is the announcement that the kingdom of God has come, and Jesus is the one God has anointed to be King. Someone asked me, then, how I would share the gospel of the kingdom of God with a 24-year old at a Starbucks.

In such a conversation, I might look for it to go somewhat along these lines: I would listen to whatever he has to say. Sooner or later, he will talk about how messed up things are. It will probably not take too long for him to get to that — he’s a 24-year-old. He is not thinking about the next life, he is thinking about how messed up this life is. That will most likely be the point of his greatest concern and lead to the point of his greatest need.

That’s when we can discuss the nature of the world, and I will point out that God did not create it for the mess that we see, but that God created the world, and us, to reflect His glory and goodness. That’s what Genesis 1 is about. In the beginning, God — who exists as Father, Son and Holy Spirit — created the heavens and the earth, and it was all good. Then He said, “Let Us make man in Our image and according to Our likeness … and let them have dominion over all the earth.” We were meant to bear the image of God, to be His “icon” in the world — to show off His goodness all over creation and bring all of creation into alignment with the splendor of heaven.

However, man rebelled against God and decided to do things his own way. He disconnected from the life and goodness and glory of God, and that’s when everything hit the fan. Even creation itself got messed up, because man had dominion over it and now man was messed up himself. It affected us all, which is why the Bible says that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

But God immediately had a plan to rescue mankind from this mess and restore creation. It began with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the book of Genesis. God created a nation from them, Israel, to bring forth this rescue into the world, to every nation and people. But even the nation God created got messed up. So God promised that He would raise up a King from out of this nation who would rescue it and all the other nations of the world. This is the Messiah, which means “Anointed One.” And this is what the Old Testament is about — God promised through His prophets that this Messiah would come and set everything right in the world. The Messiah would bring the kingdom of God into the world and would Himself be King.

This is where the New Testament begins, where the promise begins to be fulfilled. The Son of God, who created the world, came into the world. He became flesh and dwelt among us to get personal with us. His name is Jesus and He is the Messiah God promised, the one God anointed to be King.

Jesus came preaching the gospel, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come. Return to God and believe the good news.” He taught us about the kingdom. [This would be a good place to talk about the nature of the kingdom, for example, in the Beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, the parables of Jesus, and the healing ministry of Jesus.]

Jesus said that whoever would trust in Him would enter into “eternal life,” which is the life of God’s kingdom both now and forever. And He said that if we seek this kingdom — the rule and reign of God to set everything right — and make it our priority in everything, everything else would be taken care of.

Now, Jesus was not unopposed in this. The enemy of God, who fooled man away in the first place, was desperate to stop God’s destiny for the world. Sometimes he is called “satan,” sometimes “the devil.” And there are a number of what the Bible calls “principalities and powers,” the demonic forces and influences that stand behind every oppressive regime, government and expression of evil in the world.

But they were no match for God and no match for His Messiah. The great conflict took place at the cross, where Jesus the Messiah not only dealt with our sin and our sinfulness, He disarmed the “principalities and powers.” Through His death, He broke the power of the one who has the power of death (that is, the devil). Three days later, God raised Messiah from the dead. He is called the “firstborn from the dead” and the “firstborn over all creation.” With the principalities and powers disarmed, and Messiah raised from the dead, new creation has begun, and all who belong to Messiah, through faith in Him, are part of that new creation. Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee that all who belong to Him will also be raised from the dead when He returns.

The kingdom of God has come to set things right in this broken world, and Jesus is the King. All authority in heaven and on earth belongs now to Him, and He sent His disciples out to tell the whole world, to teach all the nations all that Jesus taught them. But the world is still messed up in many ways because the kingdom is a work in progress. Jesus told parables about how the kingdom starts small and grows big. One day it will be here in all its fullness, when King Jesus returns. It has already begun but is not yet done, and we are living in between the times.

God’s purpose is to gather everything in heaven and on earth together as one and reconcile all things to Himself through King Jesus. And King Jesus is calling the whole world to become a part of His kingdom, to trust in Him and walk in His ways.

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