The Return Of The King
by Keith Giles
Most people who call themselves "Christians" would explain the Gospel like this: "Jesus died on the cross for your sins and if you believe in Him and confess your sins and invite him into your heart you can go to heaven when you die."
Unfortunately, this is not the Gospel. Although it is a fairly accurate (although oversimplified) description of the Doctrine of the Atonement, it is not the Gospel message.
I've wondered how it is that followers of Jesus who spend hours in Sunday School and at Church services and at Bible Studies could possibly misunderstand the Gospel message. Obviously the problem is that we have teachers who don't understand the Gospel either. We also have years and years of Evangelism where the Atonement is all we've communicated and thousands, perhaps millions upon millions, of "Christians" came through the door with this misunderstanding.
Up until a few years ago I was not only one of those "Christians" who misunderstood the Gospel, I was also a licensed and ordained pastor who miscommunicated the Gospel message to others.
This Atonement Gospel makes the message all about salvation in the afterlife and largely about what happens once I am dead. Consequently Pastors around the globe struggle to inspire their flock to do good works in the here and now, and find it near impossible to lead their people to practice the spiritual disciplines or even to live Godly lives. "Why shouldn't I do what I want? God will forgive me of all of my sins won't he?" And the one who has largely communicated an Atonement Gospel has no real answer to this.
I believe that this fundamental misunderstanding of the Gospel has also lead us to a misunderstanding of faith and a blurring in the focus of our lives as followers of Jesus.
Because we have churches full of people with a Gospel that only addresses our afterlife, and an idea of the Gospel as a "Get Out Of Hell Free" card, we inherited a behavior pattern of sin, arrogance, and materialism within the Body of Christ.
SO...WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
If there's one thing that Jesus spent his time communicating during his earthly ministry it was the Gospel of the Kingdom.
"I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." (Luke 4:43)
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)
"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." (Matt 9:35)
"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom.." (Matt 4:23)
REJECTING GOD AS KING
In the Old Testament we read (see 1 Sam) where the people of Israel asked God for a King to rule them "such as all the other nations have". Samuel the prophet was grieved and felt that the people were rejecting him personally but God's response was, "they are not rejecting you, they are rejecting me".
In short, God's plan was to be the King over his people and they decided to rebel.
When Jesus announced his ministry and began to preach the "Good News" of the Kingdom he was announcing that God was re-establishing His Rule and Reign on Earth. This Kingdom of God would be established in the hearts and minds of those who wanted to have God as their King.
There are many today who read the words of Jesus and take his message of the Kingdom of God as being about the afterlife. This affectively makes 90% of what Jesus preached irrelevant for our lives here and now. For those who read the Gospels this way the only way to enter the Kingdom Jesus describes is to die. However, Jesus clearly meant that the Kingdom was for the here and now. That was why it was "Good News" and it's also why it threatened the religious establishment of his day. They clearly understood that his message was about right now and they met this threat head on by putting Jesus to death.
One thing that remains true is that we DO have to die in order to enter the Kingdom of God. This is why Jesus tells us that unless we take up our cross (the instrument of our death) daily and follow Him we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. It's also why Paul says in Romans 12 that, in view of God's mercy we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (dead to sin but alive to God).
Ultimately what Jesus is asking us is if we are willing to stop living our lives under the banner of "Keith is Lord" and start living, right now, under the banner of "Jesus is Lord".
The King has announced his Kingdom and the door is wide open.
Are you ready to step inside?
To reply to me you must send an email to "elysiansky" at "hotmail" dot com.
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