He is the Gospel, the good news, of His Father. There is no Gospel apart from the Lord Jesus, He is the sum of all God has done to redeem sinners. But mankind with supernatural help has reduced the Gospel to a few simple facts about Jesus and mental assent to those facts. I say supernatural because I believe the enemy of our souls, Apollyon, the devil, has his malevolent hand in the corruption of men’s understanding of the Gospel.
The Gospel is larger than the doctrine of justification by faith or how to gain eternal life when you die. It is about possessing eternal life now; it is about entrance into a kingdom, the kingdom of God’s dear Son. When Jesus came on the scene preaching, His message was not a Reader’s Digest condensed version about the forgiveness of sins. It included that but was much more. The Scripture says of our Lord’s first preaching, “Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).
The hors d’oeuvres may be wonderful but they are designed to increase the longing and desire for the meal to come. You don’t make a meal out of spinach dip and crackers. Yet many pastors proclaim a gospel that focuses on what I call the fringe benefits of the Gospel. They are as follows: cancelling our sin debt and getting heaven when we die. Like the appetizers, the benefits of this Gospel are superb, but there is something even better than these. At the heart and soul of the Gospel is reconciliation with God Himself; being united in communion with the Lord Jesus.
Jesus did not think in narrow terms of salvation as we do; He saw the good news encompassing a great deal more. It was the announcement of a kingdom come, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35). The Lord said the end would not come until “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
They said their preaching was about God’s kingdom. In Acts 8:12 it said of the ministry of Philip, “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.” Luke describes the preaching of the Apostle Paul as, “reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God” (Acts 19:8).
The evangel of our preaching is not only the assurance of the kingdom of God when you die but entrance into the kingdom when you believe upon God’s only begotten Son. The Gospel is not about preparing people to die as much as it is preparing them to live, and live now.
The genre of the New Testament doctrine of salvation is entrance into a kingdom now but not yet. In other words, the kingdom of God is current and it is here. It is a spiritual realm we enter presently by faith, but the kingdom it is not yet a physical reality. One day it will manifest itself in the material realm. The good news that Christ and His apostles gladly proclaimed was that the poor and broken could enter into that kingdom now before it has materialized on the earth. This is why Jesus began His great Sermon on the Mount (a sermon about how the subjects of the kingdom live), “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). It is theirs now; they have entered it, that is, if they believe that Christ has opened the kingdom to them by His redemptive life and death.
Jesus was not preaching that if Nicodemus would believe and be born again that when he died he would see and enter the kingdom. No, Jesus was explaining that it is by the new birth that a man can see and enter now.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God . . . unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” -John 3:3,5
For more on this ministry transition, click here.
For more on this ministry transition, click here.
For more on this ministry transition, click here.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on it or all that it encompasses but Scripture does give some lanterns to guide us to a biblical understanding of diversity and how it relates to the kingdom. And what we know for certain is that the kingdom is diverse because God is the most diverse Person the universe has ever known.
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page with what diversity means. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
DIVERSE = Differing from one another; composed of distinct or unlike elements or qualities
We’re given a clue in Genesis when God promised Abraham he would be the father of many nations, which foreshadowed how Jesus would be the light for the nations so that salvation would reach to the end of the earth (Genesis 17:4, Isaiah 49:6).
A meeting of the United Nations is not comprised of people who look the same or approach life in the same manner. They are not carbon copies of each other, nor are they trying to be. When the UN gathers at its headquarters in Manhattan, the world is given a tiny glimpse of the beauty, safety, and wisdom found in diversity.
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” –Revelation 7:9-10
Diversity bespeaks the Gospel. Where else do you find people of every stripe, language, background, and vocation blended together in a joyful concoction of beauty and unity?
Thanks to the Tower of Babel, the human race has more colors than a Bob Ross painting. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but the point is there. We have a variety of colors and it all stems back to when God sent out the earth’s limited population to diverse places around the globe.
But, in a tactical maneuver calculated before the foundations of the earth, He would not leave them scattered. When the Son of God became a man, He came with the purpose of gathering and reconciling His multicolored, multicultural, multifaceted bride and presenting her faultless before the throne.
Newsflash: His mission did not fail.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came One like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. –Daniel 7:13-14
The kingdom is populated with different cultures, castes, and countries. It’s peppered with people raised in different environments and contexts, climates and neighborhoods.
Jews, Gentiles, people from the Far East, people from poverty-stricken third world countries, billionaires from Wall Street. Thieves, murderers, Pharisees, drunkards, tax collectors. Physically attractive, physically unappealing (see: Jesus, Isaiah 53:2), people we hold in high regard, and people we disagree with.
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are You to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
God’s empire is one body made up of different parts with each part, like the human body, having a different role and function. However, in Jesus’ body there are no negotiable parts. There will never be an emergency surgery to remove spleens or tonsils, appendixes or gall bladders, because each part serves a strategic purpose and each one is here to stay.
Through these different parts, Jesus’ personality is displayed in varied ways. If we were all alike, not only would our lives be incredibly boring but Jesus wouldn’t be fully demonstrated in the most vibrant way.
There’s a reason we all look different and have varying personality types with different weaknesses, strengths, temptations, talents, and abilities. Each of those things tells us something about Jesus in a particular way that reveals more of His person than we could see on our own.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. –Romans 12:4-8
From the very beginning, God made us different. Adam and Eve, different and unique, varied and distinct. Yet the same God took what was diverse, scattered, and fragmented and made it into one. Jesus is the creative genius that takes what is plural and makes it singular.
Though Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations, the covenant was made to one nation (Genesis 12:2, Exodus 19:6); a race of new creations reconciled through a costly sacrifice after their story started with a fall. Perhaps Creator God blowing into a handful of dirt specks to make one body wasn’t a one-time event.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. –Ephesians 4:15-16
For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one Man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. –Romans 5:19
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. –1 Corinthians 12:13
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. –1 Peter 2:9
That marvelous light is the earmark of God’s empire. And His empire is here. Jesus even taught us to pray “on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven isn’t comprised of one color. Heaven doesn’t speak one language. Heaven isn’t full of one personality type. Jesus didn’t die for a white church. He didn’t die for a black church. He didn’t die for a church full of pastors. He didn’t die for a church full of moms or car salesmen, writers or musicians. He didn’t die for a church full of blue-eyed athletes, teachers, or homeless people.
As Scripture has proven time and again, Jesus died for every tribe, tongue, and nation, and He did so in a way that meant only He could reap the glory when He made them all into one race, with one background: sin, and one future: grace.
She insisted that she only wanted to play with it and would return it when finished, but with every petition she heard the same answer: “No!”
All parents have witnessed this scene with their children. Even if they have only one child, they’ve seen his or her exercise of dominion. The unwillingness to share is more than the symptom of the fall; it’s also a demonstration of a child’s innate understanding of a kingdom.
This is perhaps the best way for Westerners who know nothing about monarchies to understand what a kingdom is; it is the effective exertion of will. It is the realm in which a person can enforce his or her desire. Geo-politically, a kingdom is the dominion of a monarch’s ability to impose resolve and execute decisions. His territory extends as far as implementation of his will extends.
Therefore, when Tommy exerts his will over his sister’s, it is an example of his kingdom, albeit a small one. That is perhaps why a child’s favorite word is no; we enjoy the wielding of power, even though the power has little consequence. “No” gives the child the sense of control within his juvenile realm.
The extent to which a person can impose his will is to the borders of his empire. Even the poor peasant that was subject to the king had a mini-kingdom where he had limited authority.
When Jesus came on the scene of His generation, the Apostle Matthew says that “Jesus went about all Galilee . . . preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 4:23). He was declaring the good news about a kingdom—the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom of God and what does it mean when the Bible speaks of the Gospel of the kingdom? These are some of the most important questions we can ask.
Andrew Peterson is a sculptor of sentences, a gifted singer/songwriter, and a delighter in all things beautiful and true.
Striving to marvel ever more greatly over the mysteries of God and His greatness, Andrew creates sound with purpose. He has 17 albums, several of which debuted in or reached the top 10 of Billboard’s Top Christian Albums, and is the author of The Wingfeather Saga series, currently being animated for the screen.
Prior to our meeting, like any journalist, I researched the 42-year-old Illinois native, listened to his music, read his blogs, looked at pictures of his beautiful wife and their three cute kids, and discovered we share a mutual love for C. S. Lewis, Oxford, and vibrant literature. What my research failed to tell me was how extraordinarily kind and unassuming he would be.
He was well dressed, well read, well spoken, and well mannered. His words were kind, his posture open. His tone was light, his humor on point. He praised others and spoke little of himself. He gazed at the world with eyes ready to see magnificence in this arena of beauty in which we live.
For me, he was a human version of Claritin®, the antihistamine that clears allergies from impairing your vision. I left Franklin with eyes that seemed to see the world a little brighter than before.
This was in part due to his easy going nature and in part due to his obvious love for “the jewel of the Gospel” and the miracle of grace, something that hasn’t ceased amazing him though 33 years have elapsed since 9-year-old Andrew made a public confession of faith in Christ and was, as he put it, “humiliated in baptism.”
“The beautiful paradox of the Gospel is that as you begin to realize how broken you are and how desperately you need Jesus, the level of wonder and appreciation for how deeply He loves you increases,” he said. “I think that is all sanctifying so that the older you get the more you grow in grace. The church talks about growing in grace, that’s a growing in a deeper understanding of how badly you need grace. Then what you get is a saint. The saints are the rascals that walk through the world with this astonishment that God really does love them like He says. That’s what I hope for myself.”
This heavenly bedazzling, which often results from study, is something that won’t reach completion this side of heaven, a reality Andrew feels keenly.
“I’m still on an ongoing cycle of sin, self-hatred, the wrong kind of repentance, followed by these evidences through people, through communion, through church, through books that I read, whatever it may be, of God continuing to push back against that deep-rooted assumption I have about who I am and who He is. It’s ongoing, and every time I’m a little more astonished by grace.”
My small group girls will come over tonight and we’ll have a birthday party for him and watch David Payne’s An Evening with C. S. Lewis (we won’t watch the exact one linked but it is so good and well worth the time to watch a YouTube video with “antique” graphics) while drinking tea and celebrating the work of God in his life and legacy. Until then, here’s a little blurb I wrote about “Jack” for the November/December RTM Magazine, along with 12 quotes from his famous sermon The Weight of Glory.
We hope it propels you to worship the One who conquered hell for your redemption.
The best writer, in fact, for not only did He craft the true and better “tale as old as time,” but also the tales that will go on after time as we know it has ceased.
In this story called life, we’re given glimpses of the great Writer imaged in His characters—our fellow man—and an image of God’s authorship is, for me, often seen clearest in the writings of C. S. Lewis.
When I read Lewis’s works and drink in the way he uncloaks simple and profound truths by wrapping them in sentences spun in so much beauty, I see God. Not only because Lewis is pointing me to Him but because His handiwork is on display in the way it’s written.
What follows are 12 quotes from The Weight of Glory, in successive order as they appear in the sermon Lewis originally delivered in Oxford on June 8, 1941. We hope these nuggets of truth will stir your heart and imagination to the Glory beyond this world, which is the same Glory that became flesh and dwelt among us and continues to dwell among us through His masterpieces of creation, including you.
He said men would be, “unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving.” At Thanksgiving, we pause busy lives and schedules to return thanks to the Almighty God who has lavished His many blessings on us.
Presidents have issued proclamations of thanksgiving starting with our first president, George Washington. We have known as a nation what it means to be grateful to a good God who has and is kind to the undeserving. But what do we know of ingratitude? Are we sure it is as venomous as other sins? Are we convinced that among all that is deemed wrong there is none worse than unthankfulness? Do we fear an ungrateful heart as much as a heart of unbelief? I think not.
Ingratitude is not seen as a major thing except when others display ingratitude towards us. Then we believe it to be a great evil. Why is ingratitude in us not thought to be a serious sin, if not a cardinal sin?
The answer to that is also the answer as to why unthankfulness is so deadly.
If God showers blessings rather than curses we may express a modicum of thankfulness but internally we are most grateful to ourselves. We self-congratulate, “I’m a good person and I live in such a way God can bless me.”
This spirit prompted the disciples to ask our Lord in John 9 about a man born blind, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). We’re right where the disciples were—we believe bad and good happens for the most part because people deserve it.
Ingratitude is a by-product of a self-righteousness that believes good, success, and prosperity is earned. And so, instead of being thankful to a merciful God who has blessed me far more than I deserve, I want to take some (if not most) of the credit for my blessings. We become glory-robbers. We steal what does not belong to us—thankfulness.
Wherever the sin of ingratitude lingers, unbelief is present. The Bible says this is so.
“…because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” -Romans 1:21
Eve was led to believe by the deceiver not to see how good the Lord was to her and her husband, but how He was withholding something good from her. A spirit of ingratitude roused in her. She couldn’t see how gracious her Creator had been. She couldn’t utter thanksgiving for all the fruit trees she could eat from, all she could see was the one withheld from her. Ingratitude.
It works the same way in our hearts. Instead of counting the many acts of God’s kindness to us, all we can count are the things we think we deserve but do not have. Thus, the spirit of ingratitude breeds murmuring and complaining. The heart is choked and the soul withers. Bitterness fills up where thanksgiving ought to exist. All because we believe the lie that we deserve better than we have and that God is not as good as He claims.
Ingratitude played a huge part in the first temptation and first sin, and it plays a no less role in our temptations, and—God forbid—our sins. The sin of unthankfulness is much larger than not saying grace over our food or not singing a hymn of praise; it has much to do with the state of our souls before a holy God.
Where ingratitude reigns, unbelief is allowed to control. The unthankful person will never believe in a good God of grace but will deem Him to be critical, censorious, and condemning. There can be no peace between the ungrateful and God.
But let the joyful sound of the Gospel make melody in a thankless heart and something changes. The person sees how undeserving they truly have been all along. Bitterness for the hard times is replaced by a thankfulness that God was there and didn’t forsake them. And when that person has been brought to faith in God, what is the first thing that comes pouring out of the mouth? Isn’t it thanksgiving? Yes, a grateful heart sings:
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.”
“And when I think that God, His Son not sparing,
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, how great Thou art!”
“My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”
Where the Gospel light has shone, the result is thanksgiving. To the degree you see how unworthy you are of His matchless grace, you will give thanks. Your thanksgiving is in proportion to your understanding of your undeserving.
We are a saved people, a redeemed people, a people who did not deserve the mighty Prince of heaven to come and ransom us. His mission was not with a sword to slay us but a cross to save us. We have a new name, the redeemed. Our adoption is sealed, His blood has removed the curse, we are loved by the Father, shepherd by the Son, and have communion with the Holy Spirit. Every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies is ours. The broken have been made complete in Him. Our cups are full, our barns have plenty, and our houses are warm.
We are not alone. We have the God of the Trinity to fellowship with us, and we have His church, joined to a brotherhood that lasts beyond the grave. All of His amazing grace has been given to us for the Bible says, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Whenever we think we do not possess but lack, we need only remember that within one of His promises is all the power we should need. He has said, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).
And should that not be enough, He has promised an innumerable number of promises for every situation we face, “by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).
May we hate the terrible sin of ingratitude and fight its every attempt to steal our joy. From this moment on, do not forget that a small heart praises small, but a heart enlarged with His love and blessings praises large. And should you feel little thankfulness, please beware that the tempter lies close to your door. Give him no lodging or comfort. Remember the Gospel and your rightful place as one who sits at the King’s table unworthily and without merit. Once a rebel but now a friend; once outside but now within the house of your Father. Not a prodigal but a prince or princess ruling in a Kingdom that is eternal and exceeds the heavens.
“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” -Colossians 3:15