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The Kingdom of God
“The Kingdom Proclamation”
Many people have been trying to connect the dots in their lives. Their lives and understanding of Christianity have been a series of seemingly unconnected dots, like those children’s pictures but without a key as to which color to draw, or without the numbers to connect the dots allowing the picture to make sense.
In today’s church we have all these talking points. We talk on salvation, repentance, heaven, hell, and other great themes of the Bible, along with practical advice taught in God’s word. But people are still confused because these are singular points with no connecting thread.
This morning I want to present the connective thread that ties them all together into a collective whole, into a picture and connect the dots. The thread is The Kingdom of God.
Over the next couple of months, in our Sunday Evening Service we’ll be looking at many of the misperceptions and misunderstandings people have concerning the Kingdom of God. And this isn’t anything new. This has been going on for a long time.
This morning we’re kicking off our Sunday night series with a message entitled, “The Kingdom Proclamation.” Tonight we’ll be looking at “The First Priority.”
The writer of Hebrews says we’re receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved; that while everything else around us is being shaken to the ground; we have a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
It’s important, therefore, that we understand what this kingdom is, and that we live within it so when life gets out of control we can stand on the solid rock of Jesus Christ. Only then when the wind and waves of life come crashing down we can survive, firm in our belief and hope.
This morning we’re going to start off by looking at what Mark gives us at the very beginning of his gospel. It’s a kind of summary of the whole message he’s unfolding. In our passage he introduces it.
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14-15 NKJV)
Mark begins his gospel with this announcement saying, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1 NKJV)
Mark then gives us a glimpse of the ministry of John the Baptist, the last of the Old Testament prophets who was the forerunner and herald of Jesus’ arrival. As John the Baptist ministry was closing, Jesus came not preaching repentance, although it was an integral part of the message; rather He came preaching the Kingdom of God, and then the need for the people to repent and believe.
That is what I like to call our attention to because it is a perfect summary of Christianity and what it stands for, as well as the message of what the Gospel really is all about.
The reason I am starting here in this series is not just because this is where Jesus started, which in itself is sufficient, but also because there’s nothing that is so desperately needed in our world as a simple and direct statement of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We’re living in days and times of great confusion in which the church is partially responsible. You see the church has mistakenly believed that the more modern we make Christianity look, the more it will be accepted. But with the overall decline in church attendance in America and other Western Industrialized nations along with a decline in new believers reveals that these modern ways and techniques have failed.
And that’s because its sounding more like modern humanism, and frankly people have that in spades in the world. Sadly, our uniqueness is gone. We’re supposed to be a bride for the most glorious Bridegroom in the universe, and inviting others into the glorious event of the wedding feast of the Lamb.
It is therefore urgent if not downright important that we be clear about our approach to the Gospel, because if our initial approach is wrong, everything else that follows will be wrong.
If you are setting out on a journey and you want to go to a certain place, you’ll never arrive at your destination if you’re on the wrong road. The time to be careful is at the beginning, at the very first step.
The reason so many reject the gospel is because they have a totally wrong view of it and thus they know nothing about Christianity.
Their position is that because we live in an age of technology and scientific knowledge, and because everything is changing so fast they try to chart the course for their own lives on the fly. They say that the Bible is old knowledge and no longer relevant.
But I wonder how can we navigate the waters of this world without a chart, without a map?
We’re living in a time of crisis and great confusion. We’re living in a world where sudden disaster can strike at any time, where we can come to the end of our own personal journeys at any moment. So people ask if there’s a chart or compass to help navigate these treacherous waters, and that will give assurance of heaven.
There is such a guide, and it’s the Bible and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
Let’s consider this proclamation
“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” (Mark 1:14 NKJV)
The word “preaching” is interesting. It was used originally in connection with the cult of Roman emperor worship. When a son or heir was born, a proclamation was made, and it was called, “preaching.” There are two things found in the “preaching.”
To preach was to make an official announcement that an heir was born, when he came of age, and then when he ascended to the throne. This is what Jesus came doing. He came preaching, announcing, and proclaiming the fact that God’s kingdom had indeed come, and with that kingdom came the King, which was Jesus Himself.
Now those who were doing the announcing, the “preaching,” weren’t to make it up as they went, nor were they to give uncertain announcements like, “We’re not quite sure, but rumor has it…” Instead they were to give a definite and specific message about the kingdom and the coming king.
And this is what Jesus came doing, and what the apostle did afterwards, and what the church should be doing today.
This is the opposite, however, of what’s happening in modern Christianity. We invite people on a quest to discover truth, and those who come are seeking and searching. People are on a journey to discover the truth. It sounds so wonderful. People like this idea because it appeals to their spirit of adventure.
And this is what fuels their criticism of evangelical Christianity and Christians, and that is we’re too certain that our way is the truth. It’s exciting to search and investigate, but the problem with that is that very few ever want to arrive. They’re more interested in the journey than the destination, ever seeking truth but never finding it.
Life, however, is not a game. Life is serious. Life is real. So God hasn’t invited us on some great quest do discover the meaning of life; rather He has given to us the truth for abundant life, which is only found in what Jesus came preaching and proclaiming.
And we are now heralds of this same truth as we’ve been called to preach the gospel.
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14 NKJV)
Guess what, Paul’s not talking about pastors only, he’s saying everyone who is a believer is a preacher. Unworthy as we are, we’re all heralds of this wondrous truth. Therefore, we’re not called to give our theories or ideas; instead we’ve been given a message from the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, as we’re to announce and preach it with authority.
The message is that all of life’s questions have been answered, and all of humanity’s problems have been solved where people can find rest and peace for their souls through God’s wondrous gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Kingdom of God He brought with Him.
Jesus said, “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV)
When we step into the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ on this side of death, and when we die we’ll pass from this life into eternity and have heaven to look forward to.
We can be like Paul who said,
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” (2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV)
The second thing about preaching is that it…
Jesus went on to say,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” (Mark 1:15a NKJV)
The time that had been spoken of has come to pass. This has been the great message of the Bible, that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives and this world.
Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord said,
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Humanity has done its best to improve the world’s condition, but it has come up short. Humanity has failed to make anything better, even with all of our modern conveniences. The immensity of the problem is staggering, and science has only helped to make it worse. Now we can kill others and ourselves in more humane ways.
The truths humanity has touted have likewise failed; as these truths are constantly changing to fit society needs and desires, which means they weren’t really truths to begin with.
However, into all this confusion comes the Kingdom proclamation, the message that God has had a plan and purpose, and it’s to deliver humanity from its slavery to sin and death. And saying that the time is fulfilled, it means that it has arrived.
The message of the Bible and therefore of the church is not to urge us to try to find truth; it’s to proclaim God’s truth, because while humanity is in a constant state of flux, God remains the same. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.
And so the truth is that God has devised a plan whereby men and women can be delivered out of their failure and sin and become citizens of The Kingdom of God. And God made this plan known to humanity all along.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NKJV)
The Old Testament is God revealing His plan and purpose through the prophets. He took Abraham and turned him into a great nation and through this nation He would speak to the world. He took Moses and gave him the law, which would be humanity’s tutor to bring them to Christ and be saved.
God revealed it all, and the message that is found within the Bible is His plan and purpose to bring humanity back into a right relationship with Him.
Therefore, if this is something that has already been accomplished, then humanity doesn’t need to gain truth; instead humanity needs the truth God has already provided.
We don’t need anything new and fresh, what we need is to know is the truth that’s already been given, because God doesn’t change. He’s holy and righteous; the Father of light in whom there is no variableness, there is no shadow of turning. (James 1:17)
And the same goes for humanity. Humanity hasn’t changed either. People are no different today than they were 5,000 years ago. We are still morally corrupt, lustful, and full of evil desires no matter how advanced we think we are. The problem with humanity is the same as it’s always been, sin.
And so God had been acting throughout our history to bring about His plan to deliver us from our sins, and it all centers upon the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
What this means is that our salvation doesn’t depend on our thoughts or discoveries; rather it’s dependent entirely upon what happened 2,000 years ago when unto us the Son of God was born, and His sacrificial death upon the cross and His resurrection from the dead. And this is then what gives us hope of our own resurrection and eternity with God.
This was the turning point of all history. And so it really doesn’t matter what age we live in, what matters is what happened 2,000 years ago and The Kingdom of God that is available because of it.
So the preaching of the gospel doesn’t invite us on a quest to discover the meaning of life, it says, “Look at what God has already done to deliver us from sin and death and into His glorious Kingdom.”
Further, Jesus didn’t say that the Kingdom was about to come. Instead He said that it had come. In other words, “A Kingdom is wherever the King is.”
Throughout history God had been promising He was doing to do something special, even back in the beginning when he told Eve that her seed, the Messiah, would crush Satan’s head. Even in the beginning God had been preparing humanity for this coming event.
And this is what was prophesied concerning the message of the last Old Testament prophet. Of John the Baptist it says,
“This is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:3 NKJV)
It was only after John was imprisoned that Jesus came preaching saying that the Kingdom of God is at hand. This is the good news, the announcement that the King and the Kingdom has arrived.
The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God in our lives. It means that the Lord has come and that evil and Satan have been defeated, and that the glory of God how shines on those who believe. This is why we gather and rejoice. This is why there should always be an air of excitement and expectation when we gather together.
Years ago Michaela and I went to a leadership conference in Southern California and afterwards we spent a couple of days at the beach. In the room next to ours there were these kids who got so excited at seeing the seagulls land on their balcony or flying close by that they shouted out with glee and in their excitement ran and got everyone else to come and look. It drove me crazy.
But this is how excited we should be at the proclamation of God’s kingdom, and in our joy we should find others to show them what we have found. In other words, this church should be filled to overflowing because we’re excited and want we bring others to hear the good news, the gospel message.
Men and women are slaves to sin and they’re in misery unable to break free. But here comes the King who can break the bars of their jail cells and break down the gates of Hell setting them free. Shouldn’t we get excited and rejoice and tell them the good news?
When Jesus went into His home town of Nazareth, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and read from the scroll of Isaiah saying,
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1 NKJV)
And then Jesus said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21)
Jesus said that the Kingdom of God has arrived. The day of release, pardon, renewal, and new life is now here. A day of God’s grace has arrived. The message is
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16 NKJV)
Forget all this new stuff. Instead let’s get back to the basic and look back to the baby lying in a manger who died upon the cross to deliver and rescue us so that we can be made right with God.
This is the crucial act in all of history, because we cannot enter into God’s kingdom on our own, but by faith in Jesus Christ we can be made righteous through His righteousness.
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation…For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5: 19, 21 NKJV)
The time is fulfilled; the Kingdom of God has come. So we don’t have to set out on some great quest to find the meaning of life; instead we need to follow the King’s announcement, and Jesus ended His proclamation saying,
“Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15b NKJV)
We need to stop searching for truth and start believing the truth found in God’s word and believe in Jesus Christ.
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31)
This has been and still is God’s plan for humanity. This is the Kingdom Proclamation.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study