Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Kingdom Community: Disciple Making and Curse Reversing

"From that time Jesus began to preach and say, "Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand". ~ Matthew 4:17 (NASV)
Being raised in a Baptist home as the son of a preacher I can say that I have no idea how many church services and sermons I have witnessed and been a part of, how many "alter calls" I have heard or how often it has been pressed on me to know that Jesus died for my sins. In fact every year for my birthday my grandmother sends me a five dollar bill and a tract containing Romans Road... "just in case".

Yet of all the sermons and preaching, I can honestly say that growing up I never heard anything about the Kingdom of God. As an adult I find this amazing, especially since the phrases, "Kingdom of God", "Kingdom of Heaven", and "the Kingdom" appear so many times in the Gospels. I am even more amazed that I have grown up hearing so much about the "Gospel" yet very little about the "Kingdom".

The majority of the Evangelical church culture is under the opinion that the Gospel is "the good news". But this begs the question, "the good news of what?". The term Gospel is the word εὐαγγέλιον, meaning "good news". We have already spent some time discussing the context of the word, Gospel. The Roman machine was an empire of domination conquering a fourth of the Earth's population. The Empire assured her conquered oppressed peoples that they were better off as Romans, that now they would have the "Good News" of the Roman Peace. Rome would provide justice and usher in a new era for humanity better than anything before in history.

Jesus and the early Christians would take the term Gospel and apply it to God's covenant and mission. The good news was not found in Rome, but in Jesus. Jesus was Lord, Cesar was not.

Jesus movement begins and stays as Kingdom movement.
The above text, Matthew 4:17 is very telling about what Jesus thought and taught. Notice the text does not say "this is one of the things Jesus began to teach...", or "for a little while Jesus taught...". No. "From that time" refers to Jesus' public movement. Jesus went into the wilderness and succeeded in defeating the Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and upon returning hears the news that John the Baptist, who was himself leading a revolution movement never before seen in Israel, has been arrested. According to Matthew, it is then that Jesus begins his public ministry. So from the time he goes public he preaches that the Kingdom of God is here, and this is the foundational, essential message of his movement all the way to the cross and beyond.

The Kingdom community, making disciples.
Matthew then tells that the proclamation of Kingdom by Jesus is involved with the action of recruiting and making people disciples. After telling of the message of Jesus' public movement, Peter and Andrew are called and come follow Jesus. Matthew then again reads in verse 23 that "Jesus was going around Galilee (with his disciples) preaching the gospel of Kingdom and healing every kind of sickness and illness".

The Kingdom coming was the true good news and this was evident from the fact that wherever the Kingdom Community went, disease and sickness were no more. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God was here and proved that this was the Gospel by demonstrating the power of God's Kingdom. God's Kingdom was now at work reversing the curses of sin and death that had been hanging over the planet since humanities disobedience and expulsion from the garden in Genesis 3.

Gospel according to who?
A startling conclusion I have come to from reading the Gospels is that what most Christians say the Gospel is is something very foreign to the historical gospel demonstrated in the New Testament works with Gospel as their title. Jesus was born and he did die, yes. But like every other human, his life was more than a beginning and end.

What did Jesus dedicate himself to?

What was his vision and mission?

If one uses the new Testament, and particularly the Gospels, to answer these questions one will find a Good News containing more than individual salvation and forgiveness, more than atonement and a promised entry into heaven upon one's death, more than what most Churches in our culture preach it is. The Gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom, that it has come in Jesus and that we are apart of its glorious victory.

The Cross is the great climax of history where Jesus claimed victory over sin and death and secured for himself a people. Not a people for a heavenly afterlife however. Through his death Jesus exodused a people out of darkness so that they could continue his movement of bringing light to a broken world until He returns bringing a consummated Kingdom of God to earth - where "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

We, his eternally blood-bought people, are bought and purchased for the good works of the kingdom (Ephesians 2:10). It is our prayer that Grace Church of Dunedin will be a people conscious of our identity as the community of the Kingdom, a community bringing the good news to Dunedin and surrounding communities.

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