The Kingdom Gospel
The True Gospel
The most impactful thing I’ve read in years is something that I keep repeating to myself over and over. It has shaped my preaching, my counseling and my own living. You’ve probably heard me say it at some point: Every problem is at its core a Gospel problem. I truly believe this. Every argument, every anxiety, every sin, every broken relationship has at its root both a need to better understand and better believe the Gospel. Christian life is transformed when the Gospel is embraced and lived out daily.
The problem, however, is that many professing Christians do not clearly understand what the Gospel is, and therefore, do not and cannot live it out. If asked, most Christians will say that the Gospel is the good news that Christ died for our sins. Which is true, He did die for our sins and that is good news. But that is like saying cooking a cake is stirring eggs into flour. It is a crucial, important ingredient and step. But if that is all of cake making that you know, then you’ll be incredibly disappointed in the soupy mess in your bowl. It will look nothing like the pictures of cakes that you’ve seen. Soon, you’ll begin to wonder if cake is even real, because it certainly hasn’t been real in your process. Your problem is that you have only a partial understanding of the cake recipe. What would change if you got the whole recipe?
Likewise, so often Christians hear of the abundant life that Christ has come to give. We read of the amazing, fruit-filled life painted for us in scripture, a life filled with love, joy, peace and rest. But what we experience is far from the picture. And so many Christians are left disenfranchised with the Gospel. Is it even real? It certainly hasn’t been real to them. But the problem is that most Christians operate off of a partial understanding of Christ’s Gospel. What would change if they got the Gospel in its entirety, as Christ preached it?
So what was the Gospel that Christ preached?
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15)
The Gospel that Jesus preached was the good news that “the Kingdom of God has come near.” Jesus’s Gospel, the true gospel, is about Kingdom, not just forgiveness. It is the good news that Christ, through His atoning sacrifice on the Cross, is opening the door for us to become citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Understanding the Kingdom Gospel is crucial to experiencing the life the Gospel is meant to produce.
The True King
In reality, everything everywhere already belongs to God. He sits in sovereignty over it all. But, sin exists because mankind does not live in recognition of God as King over it all. Instead, we all build little kingdoms where we sit as bosses over our lives. Where our will and our ways and our views and our emotions and our desires reign supreme. This is the invitation of sin. To reject the sovereignty of God, the design of God, and the words of God, and instead to run after what we think is best. This has two profound effects on our lives.
- First, we damage our life and the lives of those around us with our attempts at being King or Queen of our domain. We are terrible at ruling our own lives. We lack the wisdom. We lack the power. We lack the purity. We lack the resources. As a result, inevitably, our lives result in hurts and brokenness and self-inflicted wounds. They feel empty and we are left wanting for more. The Gospel proclaims the good news that there is a Kingdom made available to us in which life flourishes and joy abounds. Unlike us, this kingdom is ruled by a King who is eternally wise, eternally powerful, and eternally good. Under His reign, peace and love and joy are the norms, not fighting and anxiety and exhaustion.
- Secondly, every little kingdom we build stands in rebellion against the true King of it all. Which means, not only are we self destructive in our own decisions as inept rulers, but we also stand opposed to the true Ruler and He stands opposed to us. This is an incredibly scary place to be. One day, the King will deal with all of those who stand in rebellion against Him, as He has a right to do. In our rebellion, humanity has profoundly injured each other and the rest of God’s creation. Judgment is what we deserve. The Gospel is the incredible news that God has chosen mercy over judgment. In Christ, He is inviting and calling rebels to lay down their broken rulership and come and flourish in His Kingdom, not as mere slaves or citizens, but as children of the most High King!
God as the true King is at the core of Christ’s mission as Savior. Listen to how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Sermon on the Mount:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Matthew 6:9-13)
Prayer is about accepting and asking for our Heavenly Father’s leadership and provision and protection as King. In fact, Jesus taught on the Kingdom of God more than any other subject. He uses the word for “Kingdom” 119 times in the gospels. By comparison, he uses the word “love” 75 times. Nearly every parable is framed as “The Kingdom of Heaven is like” or “The Kingdom of God is like.” Jesus’ teachings were meant to renew our hearts and minds to understand what (real, eternal, spiritual) life as God designs and rules it is like.
The True Christian Life
In 1 Peter, Peter carries this lesson forward when he writes: 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:11-12). What does he mean by “foreigners and exiles?” He means that we do not belong to this world, but to a different Kingdom. Our citizenship is elsewhere and we should live our lives the Kingdom of God way. So much so, that when God returns the world will recognize Him and His Kingdom because they saw His ways through us and our good deeds.
The true Christian life is all about living out the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is in Heaven. But this doesn’t come naturally to us. We have been shaped by our own little kingdoms and this world around us that rejects God’s rule. Which means, discipleship is about growing in our understanding and application of the Kingdom of God’s values and ways. God uses His Spirit and His Word to shape for Himself a people here on earth that live out the ways of His Kingdom.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14).
- Have I understood the Gospel being primarily about Kingdom change or about forgiveness?
- What would change if I saw the purpose of my life here on earth as living out the values and ways of the Kingdom of Heaven?
- Take time and pray the Lord’s Prayer. Slowly and deliberately walk through the elements of the prayer focusing on God as the one who posses “the power, the Kingdom, and the glory forever.”
- Read Psalm 103 and meditate on what it teaches about God’s dominion.