Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Gospel of the Kingdom of God

The gospel is among the most widely celebrated themes in all Christianity. Ironically, differing gospel messages are printed in literature, broadcast on television, preached from the pulpit, and solicited door to door. In our modern age, competing denominations have advanced a gospel of grace, a gospel of salvation, a gospel of peace, a health and wealth gospel, a social gospel, and even gospel music.
However, while enormous attention has been focused on what various religious leaders have proclaimed, few have truly understood Christ's gospel of the Kingdom of God. In fact, religious leaders have deceived millions of sincere men and women regarding Christ's message to mankind. Certainly, they talk about Jesus, His life and His death, but they ignore the profound message that He preached.
Ministers lure members into their congregations by teaching that by professing belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, one gains an almost effortless and automatic ticket to salvation. By this, they lead followers to believe in Jesus, but they don't teach them to believe the message that Jesus preached
The Gospel Jesus Preached
During His ministry, Jesus Christ powerfully and passionately preached a message about the Kingdom of God. This gospel was to be the motivating hope of true Christians. It was to be their reason for being. But tragically, few have understood it. What was this gospel that Jesus preached?
After years of silent preparation, Christ launched His ministry in Galilee. There, speaking with urgency and authority, Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God was coming: As Mark writes:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).
This profound message affected people in different ways. A few were inspired by His words, some were bewildered, and others actually felt threatened. Nevertheless, His declaration of the Kingdom was relentlessly consistent. As Matthew records Jesus to say:
Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand... and Jesus went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues the gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:17-23).
When the crucifixion of Jesus drew near, He entrusted the gospel of the Kingdom to His disciples. They were to continue to preach His vital message of hope. In fact, He explained, that this gospel of the Kingdom was to continue to be preached right up to the very end of the age. As Matthew writes:
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come (Matthew 24:14).
After Christ's resurrection, the apostles traveled to local cities and faraway nations, preaching Christ's message. They taught that we must have faith that Jesus is the promised Messiah. We must believe that His Kingdom will reign on earth, and that to be a part of that Kingdom, we must repent of breaking God's commandments, be baptized, and strive to overcome our human nature and live a Godly life.
The Original Corruption of the Gospel
The disciples faithfully preached Christ's gospel, but it was not long until Satan began his work of corrupting this message. A mere twenty years after Christ's crucifixion, the apostle Paul found himself forced to battle false teachers who had infected new Gentile converts with the idea that, to become a Christian they must first become Jews by being circumcised. Combating this, Paul wrote to the brethren in Corinth, warning them:
For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him (II Corinthians 11:4).
A Modern Counterfeit
Paul confronted a growing perversion of the gospel in his day. It was one which required Gentiles to be circumcised and keep Jewish ceremonial laws. While few would ever be fooled by such a message, many must now combat another perversion of the gospel.
In the heresy widely preached today, thousands of false ministers propagate a gospel in which the focus is only about the life of Jesus. This teaching purports that Jesus lived a perfect life for us, and died to pay the penalty for our sins. While this may be true, they then add a heretical twist by teaching that all one must do is believe on Him and they will live forever in heaven.
In their theology, there is no longer a need to keep any of God's laws. They promote the idea that belief in the life and death of Jesus as our Savior alone grants people eternal life. The Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary is an example of this common belief. The Editors write:
One may conclude that the facts of Jesus' life constituted the Gospel, which was interpreted and applied to suit the occasion on which it was preached (P. 319, Article Gospel).
Certainly the facts of Jesus' life are part of the Gospel. Christ's life has deep and profound importance. The behavior He displayed and the events surrounding His life are essential to understanding the example we are to follow. Further, His death and resurrection make eternal life possible for believers, but the facts of His life are not the complete gospel. They certainly were not the focus of Christ's ministry. They were only a part-only the beginning of the gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples preached!
Believing in the facts of Christ's life, death and resurrection is a prerequisite to the Kingdom. However, those who preach that this is all that is required are giving individuals a false sense of comfort. They teach followers that by accepting these facts, they will go to heaven when they die, but such a message is actually damnable! The consequence of such belief is that many mainstream Christians are left with only a sentimental concept of Jesus as a God that exists primarily for their comfort. Vast numbers trust that if they give their heart to the Lord, He accepts them just as they are. They think that since Christ's death paid for their sins, all they have to do is profess belief and this makes them "born again." They imagine that the kingdom is set up in their hearts and that eternal life in heaven is guaranteed, but this is far from the truth.
Is Belief in Jesus all that is required?
Promoting the belief that Christians only need faith in Christ's sacrifice does an enormous disservice to believers. It creates a false sense of security that can never be realized. Belief in Christ's atonement is absolutely essential, but it is only the foundation of what is required.
Consider that the devil recognizes the power and the majesty of God. He understands and believes in the life and sacrifice of Jesus, but he has chosen the side of darkness, and purposely violates God's law. In that context, the apostle James reminds us of this vital truth, stating:
Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble, but wilt thou know O vain man that faith without works is dead (James 2:19-20).
Belief in Christ is essential, but truly believing must be reflected in a conviction to change our way of life! It will result in subjecting our will to God so that we can harmoniously live forever in His Kingdom. Genuine faith will function as a catalyst, promoting change in our character and producing the lasting fruit of obedience to God's law. No matter what your local minister, pastor, or priest might say, the Almighty is the one we should listen to and He is perfectly clear on this point. Certain "works" are a prerequisite to attaining God's Kingdom. Absolutely nothing in His Holy Word ever contradicts this truth!
Without this kind of life-altering faith, our religion is in vain. It is empty of substance and useless! Jesus warned that some would profess just such a belief in Him, but their faith was unacceptable. He warns:
These people draw near to me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9).
The gospel of the Kingdom demands much more of us than mere lip service! It requires repentance-a change in the way we live. It requires that we overcome sin and our own human nature. This gospel of Christ insists that we quit behaving in ways that continue to break God's law. We must begin to actually keep the Ten Commandments (Mat. 5:17-19, 19:16-19). The gospel Jesus preached demands that believers prepare for the Kingdom of God by actively practicing the way of life that will be taught and lived in His Kingdom in the world to come.
The Gospel of the Kingdom Changes Lives
The gospel of Jesus Christ captivated and motivated His followers to such an extent that they became dramatically changed people. They grew to become individuals totally committed to obeying God. They were willing to give up everything if necessary for Christ and many of them did. They felt honored to suffer persecution, torture, and even the loss of their lives to preach this message of God's Kingdom to others! Why would they be so willing to endure such things?
The answer is that after Jesus was resurrected, He visited His disciples and taught them

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