Now more than ever, we all need the good news of Christ's gospel. But what was the message Jesus brought?
[Darris McNeely] Now more than ever, we need the healing balm of good news. News that gives us understanding about the current distress. We need the grace of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need the hope given by the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God. Humanity is at a defining hour in its history. In recent months, the world has experienced a global pandemic and economic collapse. In the United States, we have witnessed an eruption of protests and riots surrounding the problem of race relations. Calls for structural change in many parts of the culture are further dividing the nation. Has America, many are asking, lost its way? Our world desperately needs some good news. These big problems fill our social media feeds and cable news programs. I know we want to hide from these problems. I hear people deleting social media apps like Facebook and Twitter from their smartphones. They're tired of the constant negative news feed and the chatter opinions that never stop, everyone's shouting their viewpoints and solutions. I think we're all longing for good news.
Beyond the United States, we see the nations held in a brutal grip of abusive governments keeping people in grinding poverty and fear and draining their hope. Individuals need some good news that will mend hearts and souls. Many look to religion for solutions, yet religion is often part of the problem. Armed conflict fans the fires of religious fervor in the Middle East. And out of devotion to their god, the Muslims fight each other among their sects and then threaten Jews and Christians with extinction. Government leaders grow increasingly worried about such frightening weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists who will stop at nothing to achieve their ends. Now, more than ever, we need good news. The true gospel of God that gives us an understanding for the current stress.
2,000 years ago, God sent His son Jesus Christ to Earth prophesying a wonderful future for humanity. His message called the gospel literally means good news. The very good news that the world so desperately needs today. Our English word gospel is derived from the Old English expression, good spell, which means a good tale or good news. In the Bible the Greek word evangelion, which is translated gospel refers to a message from a king, a favorable report about a significant event. In essence, the word gospel is good news from God to us. Jesus Christ came to proclaim the wonderful news about God's plan and purpose and the focus of that plan is the kingdom of God.
But what exactly is this good news, this gospel that Jesus Christ preached? Is it only a wonderful story about Jesus Christ's birth, life, His activities and message, His death and resurrection? Certainly, these are an integral part of the good news of God's plan for humanity. But there's much more to His message. The gospel reveals the glorious destiny of mankind. It's a message about the life and death of and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It's a message showing how God intends to save humanity from its present problems. The gospel is a message of salvation to hurting and dying people, all people of all nations. Jesus Christ brought good news, the most wonderful news this tired, troubled world can hear.
An entire section of the New Testament is devoted to the historical record of the message Christ taught while on Earth. This portion of the Bible, appropriately called the Gospels, comprises the first four books of the New Testament called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Jesus proclaimed the fullness of the true gospel of the kingdom of God in those four accounts. Mark tells us, "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.'" That was the essence of his message. The gospel of the kingdom of God, the essence of the message, Jesus Christ instructed His followers to preach and to believe.
When Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, He said it was at hand and He commanded us to repent and believe the good news about the kingdom. But the Greek word that is translated at hand in that phrase in Mark 1 is the word engizo, it means to draw near to something. It doesn't imply that something has actually come, rather that it is close, it's almost here. Other translations have this phrase as the kingdom of God is near, or draws near, or has come near. They make it clear that the kingdom of God has not arrived, but that it is near.
What Jesus was saying had to do with the message of the kingdom, as well as the availability of Himself as the King of that kingdom. Kingdom, in that sense, was very near to them, even though it would not arrive in the literal way that God had revealed it to the prophets. Jesus Christ was the personification of the message of the kingdom. He was the ruler, the King of the kingdom. He was its representative, the One through whom humanity would be able to enter the kingdom. Jesus went on to say, "Repent and believe in the Gospel."
Repent means to get a new way of thinking, a fresh set of eyeglasses on our personal life before God. It also means to understand this world in a new and different way. Christ wanted people to not only hear the gospel but to change their life, to begin to follow the way of the kingdom of God. To get not only a new mind but a new life, and to reflect that new mind in that new life. To repent means to think differently and to live differently. In short, we are to live our lives now by the laws and principles of the kingdom of God. When Jesus taught His disciples to pray thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven, He was laying down in clear indirect terms the reality of this kingdom existing in heaven as the realm of God and that He, Jesus, had broken into the realm of man, the physical, as the embodiment of that spiritual kingdom. Jesus embodied the kingdom in His teaching.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we will live with this reality. Knowing God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His dear son. Here at the beginning of any discussion of the kingdom of God is what separates true religion from a false religion. True Christianity from a false version requiring very little commitment from anyone. To be led of the spirit is to seek first the kingdom and its righteousness. This is essential to having accurate understanding of the gospel, and the real meaning of life. The gospel of God brings us the answers and solutions to the pressing problems in America, the rest of the world today.
I'm going to say something else. You cannot bring lasting peace, harmony, or justice to this world apart from understanding God's true gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. It is what is missing today when people look for answers to the pressing social, cultural problems that are facing us. Politics has failed, education has proven itself morally bankrupt. Much of modern religion has lost its way. The news media blinded by its loss of perspective is planted firmly in bias. Entertainment and cultural swirls in a cesspool of moral and spiritual filth, reflecting unfortunately the failure of all other parts of society. The pillars of this house we call America are hollow, decaying, standing on weak foundations of existence. The dominion of darkness of the god of this world creeps ever further into this world. The light of the gospel of the kingdom of God still shines a path for us to follow. Our hope must be in the reality of the coming kingdom of God. That is why Jesus taught his disciples to pray, "Thy kingdom come." And so, every day we must pray, "Thy kingdom come."
We'll explore further the fullness of the meaning of the true gospel here on Beyond Today.