Bible · Christ · Jesus

Believe the Gospel

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

When word reached the ears of the people of Palestine that John the Baptist had been arrested, there was shock and dismay.

“What happened?”

“How could this be?”

“What did he do?”

And the story was told in a simple sentence: John would not keep silent in the presence of public sin. The private behavior of Herod the Tetrarch (Luke 3:19) and Herodias had become the public scandal and shame of the nation. Herod had taken his brother’s wife for himself.

But it was not marital infidelity alone that John preached against. John rebuked the ruler of the land “for all the evils which Herod had done” (Luke 3:19). From the ministry of John three principles are established.

First, there is right and there is wrong in life regardless of what people with power, prestige, or personal wealth say, or do. God has written His Law in stone, summarized in the Ten Commandments, and God has written righteousness on the consciousness of every soul that comes to any level of maturity. John rebuked Herod because this is a moral universe and nothing will ever change that.

Second, there cannot be a separation of church and state, or religion and politics, because the attitude and actions of government officials affect the moral fabric of society by which families are held together. Religion is not a component of life; religion is life. Religious beliefs permeate every facet of human existence and affects how we eat, drink, sleep, work, talk and dress. This truth is reflected by the way the Pauline epistles are written. They are written in two parts, doctrinal and practice. The first three chapters of Ephesians, are doctrinal while the last three chapters are practical. Someone has said that all doctrine should be practical, and all practice should be doctrinal.

Third, there is Moral Evil in the world. John rebuked the ruler “for all the evils which Herod had done.” The “evil” John has in view here is Moral Evil. The Moral Evil that men do must be distinguished from Natural Evil. There are harmful things that come to us in life, but not because of personal wrongdoing. Rather, some evil comes because of the presence of sin in the universe itself. In Luke 13 there are two illustrations of this concept.

First, the story is told of some citizens in Galilee who were murdered without mercy by Pilate. Then Jesus mentioned a tower in the town of Siloam which collapsed. Eighteen people were killed. These Natural Evils of political murder, and accidental deaths, did not happen because of any Moral Evil on the part of those individuals who were hurt, but because of the presence of sin in the universe.

This distinction between Moral Evil, for which an individual will be judged, and Natural Evil, which an individual cannot control, is important because there are tragic events in life. A parent who has a child that is afflicted with a physical ailment, or a person who has contract a deadly disease might be tempted to believe themselves to be great sinners.   Like the man born blind in John 9 the heart wonders, “Lord, who has sinned that such a thing should happen?” There is great guilt. But, it is a false guilt. There is comfort in the teaching of Jesus who explained that sometimes Natural Evil is allowed in order to manifest the glory of God. It is God Himself who has allowed this. Leviticus 4:11 explains.

“And the Lord said unto him [Moses] Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who Maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, Or the blind? Have not I the Lord?”

God does not hesitate to take responsibility for all that happens in the Universe of His creation, and by so responds to that which might be called “Surd Evil”. The word “surd” is from the Latin “surdus” and means to be “deaf”,” silent,” “stupid.” When applied to God, one of two charges are often made. It is sometimes argued that God is certainly powerful, but since He does not prevent evil, He must not be altogether good. Others have argued God is certainly good, but since He does not prevent evil, He must not be altogether powerful.

Several years ago a Jewish rabbi had a son with a rare disease by which the child aged rapidly. Not too many years had passed before the child looked like an old man. And then, the child died. Reflecting upon the ordeal, the Rabbi wrote a book to address the question, “Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?” The author’s conclusion was that that bad things happen to good people because God means well, but He is not able to control His universe. This is an example of Surd Evil, and it is wrong.

God is always sovereign and He has done something about the essence of evil. God has sent Jesus Christ into the world to deal with every form of evil so that we read that after “John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee.” (Mark 1:14)

Bodily and boldly the Son of the Living God visited a particular geographical location, and our hearts cry out to heaven, “Come to us, Lord! Come to us!” In the form of the gospel Jesus does come to individuals today. Those who have ears to hear can listen afresh to His message. “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Notice the fourfold message of the Messiah beginning with the statement that “the time is fulfilled”. In context the Lord Jesus was referring to the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Daniel.

While he was in exile in the land of Babylon, Daniel was presented with a calendar of coming events. It was revealed to the prophet of God that in 483 years Messiah would appear. The prophetic clock started to tick when a king by the name of Artaxexes issued a decree in 457 BC allowing the Jews to return to their homeland. Jerusalem was going to be restored and rebuilt. Then, according to prophecy, 483 years later, Messiah, Jesus, the Anointed One was baptized and began His public ministry. And in this we learn a spiritual truth.

God always keeps His word and He keeps it on time. God has never yet said anything that did not come to pass in the appointed hour and so we read the words of Galatians 4.

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5)

The second part of the Message of the Messiah is that the kingdom of God is at hand. The phrase “Kingdom of God” is used often in Scripture. What this phrase means is that rule of God, the divine kingly authority has been entrusted to the Person of Jesus Christ. (Luke 22:29) The Kingdom and the King of the Kingdom has come into history. Because the Kingdom of God has come to earth in a very real way, there are several facts that can be noted about this unique kingdom. For example, the Kingdom of God is designed to save. The purpose of the Divine rule is to redeem men from the power and pollution of sin. (1 Cor. 15:23-28)

Second, the Kingdom of God stands opposed to the “Kingdom of this Word” (Rev. 1:5) which is under the authority of Satan (Matt. 4:8; Luke 4:5). The opposition between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of this World is real and intense. A spiritual battle will rage until the destruction of Satan Himself. (2 Cor. 4:4).

Third, the Kingdom of God is supernatural. It cannot be explained by gimmicks and gadgets, budgets and buildings, promotions and pressure. One of the largest movements in the country today is the Church Growth Institute. Unfortunately, so much of what is suggested for building the local assembly is natural. In fact, it is fleshly. The Kingdom of God cannot be explained by the devices and designs of men.

Only God can defeat Satan.

Only God can destroy death (1 Cor. 15:26).

Only God can raise the dead to incorruptible bodies (1 Cor. 15:50).

Only God can make a soul stop wanting to sin.

Only God can restore the earth to Paradise (Matt. 19:28).

Only God can change the hardened heart of a man or woman clever enough to live a religiously hypocritical life as Nicodemus.

Then fourth, the Kingdom of God cannot be destroyed. It can be rejected (Matt. 23:13) and it can be opposed—by Communism, Atheism, and every other religion in the world, but it cannot be destroyed.

Because of the permanency of the Kingdom of God perhaps it would be wise for individuals to repent and come under the rule and reign of the Sovereign of the Kingdom of God, even Jesus Christ the Lord. That is the third point of the message of the Messiah.

Now, for repentance to happen, there must a measure of genuine sorrow for sin. This is a fundamental problem because sorrow for sin is no longer natural to the heart, since the Fall. Sin hardens the heart.

Karl Menninger realized the hardness of the human heart and wrote a book, published in 1975, “Whatever Became Of Sin?” As a psychiatrist Dr. Menninger saw patient after patient with mental illness, and only one thing in common, they had no sorrow for what they had done in life, no matter how much pain and sorrow their attitudes and actions caused.

The Bible is right. The heart is desperately wicked, and deceitful. People pretend to be one thing in public and act very differently in private. If there is to be any gospel repentance, there must be sorrow for wrong actions, meaning the evil that has been done. If there is to be any true sorrow, then God must grant repentance as a gift of grace, and He will, to those who ask for it. We can say this with great confidence because the very word “gospel” contains this concept. The English word “gospel” comes from the Anglo-Saxon “god spell”, or “God’s story”. The Gospel is God’s story of the way of eternal salvation, and that way is through Jesus Christ the Lord.

For time and for eternity it is good news that God has sent Christ to deliver us from the burden, the power, pollution, and presence of sin which is why Christians love to testify to faith in Christ and exhort others to believe the gospel.

“Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s power in the blood,
power in the blood;
Would you over evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful power in the blood.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s power in the blood;
power in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful power in the blood.”

Believe the gospel. That is the message of the Messiah.

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