Tuesday, November 18

The gospel of Jesus Christ (the Kingdom of God)

“As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:9)

It is increasingly hard for me to understand, if there are millions of people that claim to be followers of Jesus Christ in the 250,000 churches, why the morals and values of the Christians of this time are increasingly suspect; the young are abandoning the 'faith' in growing numbers, saying that they are 'good teachings' but not reality.

Any one in the world today that utters biblical teachings are increasingly under the gun of intolerance, hatred, and 'anything goes' secularism that is rapidly coming to a violent conclusion for those brave (or stupid) enough to speak Scriptural truths with definitive and authoritative declaration.

T.M. Moore, of BreakPoint, believes he has the reason. "It harks back to a Chesterton comment back around the turn of the 20th century. It's not that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been tried and is simply found wanting. It's that the Gospel of Jesus Christ----the Gospel of the Kingdom-----has not been tried."

According to Moore, the Gospel of the Kingdom is the message the Christ came to give the people of His generation. "The Kingdom of God" was the primary focus of Christ's ministry, Matthew 4:23; 9:35. This is what the gospel writers, according to Moore, refer to as "the Gospel of the Kingdom." This kingdom, in Moore's words, is "a realm of power, real spiritual power, in which, increasingly, all things are made new and every aspect of a person's life is reconciled with God, unto the praise of the glory of His grace (1 Corinthians 4:20, 2 Corinthians 5:17)."

It is when we enter into that Kingdom that we begin a change that has taken root in our heart, transforming us into new creatures with renewed spiritual power. Moore says that it is totally believable then, that "the sum of Jesus' preaching and teaching is often reported as consisting in the words; 'The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, therefore, and believe the Good News.

Maybe that is why despite the millions of "born-again" believers that populate the world today are not really following the true gospel, but being led astray. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, expressed his shock at the congregation there, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel." As in those days, today the believers of Jesus Christ seem to have only enough desire to have a 'sense of forgiveness, the accompanying peace of mind, and a tentative hope that they will be going to heaven when they die.'

It's almost as if they don't want the power to transform their sinful lives into a reflection of holiness, goodness, beauty, and truth...that would defy the false doctrines of the 'near Christianity' that have become the staple of the Church. As Moore continues, "They simply chose to minimize the power of His saving grace by adding to the Gospel in certain ways and detracting from it in others. So, their professions of faith notwithstanding, Paul said that they were deserting the true Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom."

So, how do we know whether or not we are true subscribers to the Gospel of the Kingdom, the true faith that Jesus Christ spent His three years in ministry upon this earth professing?

'Near Christianity' is our fail-safe.....we've said the prayer, attend regularly, and are generally 'nice' people who give to 'those in need' at least the dollar store gifts at Christmas, give our dented and expired cans to the local food pantries, and find the easiest way to live in the shadow of the example Christ set for us. Roderick C. Meredith, author of Do You Believe the True Gospel?, gives the 'near Christian's beliefs' in a nutshell,

"Just give your heart to the Lord. Jesus was born in the manger as the Christ, the Son of God; to save as many souls in this age as would accept Him into their hearts. When He grew up, He went around performing miracles and forgiving people. He kept God’s harsh law for all of us before finally being nailed to the cross along with that old law. He rose from the dead on the third day and appeared to many witnesses. Then He returned to heaven and began to set up His Kingdom in the hearts of men. He’ll forgive your sins and come into your heart—just as you are—if you’ll only accept Him. Jesus saves! Just believe on Him, and you’ll be saved—born again. And, when you die, you’ll go to be with Him in heaven—forever!”

There is much more, Meredith warns, that just such a process as described above. "It can easily be shown from the Bible that the Gospel does not revolve solely around the personality of Jesus, the Son of God. Of course, Jesus is our Messiah who shed His blood so that our sins might be forgiven. We need to deeply appreciate and proclaim this Truth.'

Meredith tells us, "But that in itself does not constitute the complete Gospel. Certainly, we need the understanding of Christ’s sacrifice. The Bible says, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Consequently, the name of Jesus Christ is absolutely vital. Yet it is absolutely false to say of Jesus, as many now do, “He is the Gospel. He is the Kingdom of God.” There is much more to the true Gospel message preached by Jesus Christ."

“There is clear agreement among the synoptic Gospels that the kingdom of God was the principal theme within Jesus’ message," according to the Oxford Companion to the Bible. Meredith adds, "The true Church is to preach both elements: first, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and, second, the true name of Jesus Christ."

There is a change, fundamentally, at the core of who, what, and why you are. It isn't simply a prayer said that shows the true repentance, the turning away from towards something else and a burning desire, unquenchable, that grows to know God, understand God, and be transformed by God in each and every way not just on the surface, but at a sub molecular level.....a spiritual level......that leads you to follow Christ, proclaiming with such astounding boldness the Good News, where even the threat of death does not deter you............

Near Christianity removes our responsibility to our faith and lays it upon Jesus Christ, by whom we get the 'free ride'. It denies that we have to continually 'put on' Jesus Christ and deny the flesh by identifying with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and submitting our foolish, limited, and self-protecting will to that of Christ.

Near Christianity doesn't deny self, the picking up of our Cross and following Christ. It allows that we can express our desire to follow Christ in our own way, for our own chosen allotted time, and then drop the mini Cross carried in the pocket of their jeans and rocking to the tunes of the latest heavy metal bands, regardless of their lyrics; continues at work to cheat the system, talking shop with the same coarseness of language; or decides against attending church because the latest college game is on, professional sports are playing at the same time, or relatives are in town who really aren't 'religious.'

It is 'near Christianity' that is found in the 3,000 plus "mega-churches" that dot the landscape, because in such an environment it is easy for the "country-club" Christian to hide....and feel 'spiritual'. The 'born-again' game is played in these places, where such 'near' Christians are biding their time until the "Return" and there is nothing else that has to be done: a gift to a missionary there, perhaps; a new building 'for the youth' over there; and the occasional foray out into the community 'enmasse' to do a charitable work for 'those in need' ---whatever it is to get that temporary 'good feeling' before returning to our previously interrupted lives.

So, what is this "Kingdom of God" that Moore and Meredith speak of? The Bible describes it “.................a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever." God Himself promises to set up this kingdom Himself, in the last days of the earthly kings. When is this day to come?

In Luke, Christ tells his disciples, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away’”

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” As Christ told His disciples in Matthew's account, only the Father knows the day, hour and time in which the Kingdom of God will come.

So, the Gospel of the Kingdom, referred to as "the Gospel of Jesus Christ" or the Good News is so much more than a simple prayer, a stop-gap belief in Jesus Christ for the sake of salvation, or acknowledging the logical authority of the Biblical text.

The message and true Gospel is this:

The Gospel is about pursuing God in a relationship; to gain understanding that defies human understanding about a God that is holy, sovereign, love, righteous, merciful, a consuming fire, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent who is Spirit revealed as a Trinity; three distinct persons in one. And believing why we would have to pursue such a relationship.

That Adam and Eve disobeyed God's law, and introduced into our humanity a spiritual and physical death because of the just punishment of sin, which is death. God had designed mankind to serve God and glorify Him, through the balance of relationship between man and woman; both images of God...half of the whole.

Mankind, due to the action of sin, now lives in a dysfunctional state, against the intention of the Creator's design, and there is no human capable of being righteous, without sin...because it is inherited and part of our born nature since the Fall. Our best 'good' is viewed by God as 'filthy rags' and therefore is rejected justly and righteously by God.

Man was given the Ten Commandments, to be obeyed absolutely without exception, and the greatest of them were the first and second. If man broke one commandment, all were broken. It's purpose was to reveal our sin and the inability in keeping such perfect laws, creating within sinners who love their sins a desperation to be delivered from the just penalties of such violations.

There are only three constants in our lives; life, death, and judgment. We are as a grain of sand upon the shores of this world......insignificant and small compared to the wondrous works of God.....and the pursuits of life in this world is vain and futile, due to its fragile nature......no labor can prevent our death.....and we cannot take our gains; possessions or riches with us. The only thing we can count on when we die is the judgment that lies before us at the White Throne.

Faithful and non-believers will all be judged by a just and righteous King. It is our true response to the Good News that will determine our fate; not our works, which are useless and soiled by our sins or our declarations, lukewarm and temporary.

Through our 'new birth', by which we are assured salvation, we become a new person producing new fruit, that which is pleasing to our God. It is not through our own ability that we gain this new birth, but by the grace, unmerited and undemandable, of Christ that we have been offered salvation.

The only way we can receive Christ's gift is to repent of our sinfulness, turning away from the flesh, and confess our sins to our King openly, exposing our covered sins as well as our iniquities. Because of His mercy, He has given to us, upon this step of faith and expressed understanding, the Counselor of the Holy Spirit to produce fruits worthy and pleasing to God.

Without faith, which is given in measure to all of us alike, gives us the ability to please God, by seeing the unseen, and become justified through our faith.

Jesus is the most important part of the Good News; because He is the way, the truth, and the life through which we can have life through Him. There is no other avenue for salvation, and Christ actively seeks our attention to His gift of eternal life by knocking on the door to our hearts. All we have to do is answer the knock, calling upon the name of the Lord and we will be saved.

What is the difference between the expressed doctrine of those 'born-again' believers of the 'near Christianity' faith movement and the true gospel of the 'evangelical' believers of the Christian faith?

One relies on the humanity of humanity and the other on the grace of a King who was fully human and fully God.

Which do you think is the logical choice, the right gospel?

One that corrupt humans created, express, and describe or one that defies humanity's attempts to change it for their own benefit?

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