The Good News of the Kingdom of God

God's Love for You

God loves you. He desires to bless you beyond measure. When we think blessing, we often think of tangible or financial blessings. But there is something far greater, a blessing of infinite worth. The greatest good in this universe is God, and He desires to bless us with an intimate relationship with Himself. Jesus tells us that this is what eternal life is, that we know Him and the Father (John 17:3).

The Bad News of Sin

Sin is the most destructive force in this universe. Sin is so horrible that it caused a curse upon this whole world and separated mankind from God. The sad reality is that no one is good enough to earn heaven because we have all sinned against God and we fall short of His glory (Rom. 3:23). Think about it like this; Have you ever told a lie before? I know I have. Have you ever stolen anything before, regardless of value? I know I’ve done that as well. Have you ever committed adultery? Many people say they haven’t done this sin, but did you know that Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 that if you look at someone lustfully then you have already committed adultery in your heart. Now this last question is one that helps a lot of people really understand the weight of sin; Have you ever murdered anyone? Most people have never murdered anyone, and this is actually something that leads them to believe they are still a good person because they think they are still better than those who have murdered. But did you know that the Bible says in 1 John 3:15 that if we hate someone that we are a murderer and have no eternal life in us?

So when you stand before God on judgment day and He judges you based on these commands, will you be innocent or guilty? If we are honest, we have to all admit that we are guilty before God of breaking many of His commands. If we stand before Him on judgment day and He judges us based on what we have done, none of us will be considered good people who deserve eternal life. Instead, we will all be judged as guilty of sin and rebellion against God. And because of these sins, we all deserve to be separated from God in Hell. This is important for us to understand because if we think we are able to earn eternal life by our good behavior, we will never understand what Jesus came to do for us. We aren’t good people who deserve eternal life. Instead, according to the Bible, apart from Christ we are God’s enemies who deserve His punishment (James 4:4).

The Good News of Jesus

But the good news is that God still loves us, even though we have lived our lives in sin and rebellion against Him (Rom. 5:8-10). The solution that God has made for our problem of sin is that He sent His Son Jesus Christ, to come and live a perfect life, without sin. Then Jesus died on a cross as a sacrifice for your sins so that you could be reconciled to God, have your sins forgiven, be set free from sin and become a part of His Kingdom (2 Cor. 5:18-21). God then raised Jesus from the dead to show that He has power over sin and death.

Response & Reflection

The most important part of Jesus' message is understanding how we are to respond. Many people are deceived into thinking that you are a Christian if you simply believe the facts about who Jesus is and what He did. The facts that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that He died on a cross and rose from the grave are certainly important facts that one must believe in order to be a true follower of Jesus. However, just intellectually believing a set of facts does not make you a Christian. In fact, the Bible says in Luke 4:41 that the demons believed that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God, but clearly they will not have eternal life.

In the Gospel of Mark, we are given a summary of Jesus’ message that teaches us the proper way to respond to who Jesus is and what He has done for us: “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”” (Mark 1:14b-15). Notice that Jesus tells us that we are to do two things. We are first to believe in this gospel message about who He is and what He has done (Luke 9:20-22). The second part of Jesus’ message is that we need to repent.

The most basic definition of repentance is a change of mind. What many people fail to realize is that we have two major problems in regards to having a right relationship with God. Our first problem is that we have sinned and broken God’s commands. This sin separates us from God and brings physical and spiritual death (Isa. 59:2, Rom. 6:23). When Jesus died on the cross, the Bible says that He died for the sins of the whole world (1 Tim. 2:3-6, 1 Jn. 2:2). So then the question must be asked, does that mean that everyone will now be saved? The answer to this question is no. The reason why is our second problem.

Our problem with sin goes deeper than the fact that we have sinned against God. It’s not simply that we have sinned and are guilty of sin. Our second problem is our heart attitude of rebellion where we desire to continue to sin against God because we desire to live our life the way we want and we refuse to submit to God’s rule over our life. This is why repentance is so important to the message of Jesus.

In the passage in Mark 1:14-15, Jesus said that God’s Kingdom is at hand. God’s Kingdom is His rule. God desires a relationship with all people. However, this relationship must be based on us choosing to come under His rule where we submit to Him as God and desire to follow Him and His ways. Repentance is a change of mind where we agree with God that sin is wrong and so we now desire to turn from sin and turn to following Him and His ways. This doesn't mean we have to be perfect in order to start this relationship with God, but that we now genuinely desire to turn from the things that hurt and offend God and now live for Him (2 Cor. 7:10). God knows that we need help in learning to follow His ways and He is very gracious and merciful and desires to help us in this relationship.

In order to enter this relationship with God, He calls us to change our mind about living in sin and now desire to follow Him and His ways. He wants us to desire Him and to love Him above all else. Jesus told us that if we want to follow Him, we have to choose to deny our sinful desires and give our life over to following Him: “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it” Luke 9:23–24 (NASB95).

When we make the choice to repent of our sin and rebellion against God and come under His rule, the Bible tells us that God forgives us of all of our sins and He doesn’t even remember these sins any more (Col. 2:13-14, Heb. 8:12). It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done; God will wipe your sins completely away and will not hold them against you. God also graciously adopts us into His family and makes us His children (John 1:12, 1 Jn. 3:1-3). And not only that, the Bible also teaches us that God supernaturally changes us into a new person by placing His Holy Spirit inside of us who causes us to be born again (2 Cor. 5:17, John 3:3-6, Eph. 1:13). God is so gracious to us that He sends His Spirit as a Helper to come into our life to teach us and help us follow God’s ways (John 14:16, 14:23).

So now I want you to stop and think, have you made the choice to repent, to turn away from living in sin and to give your life over to following God and His ways? If you haven’t made that choice, I want you to stop and think about what is holding you back? What sins of this world are holding you back from having a right relationship with God? Do you think those sins are worth it? Are they worth trading a right relationship with the God who created you and loves you enough to give His life for you?

Loving & Following Jesus with our Life

It is very important that we realize that a relationship with God is not just an event we did in the past; it’s a relationship that we are to live out every day. Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we love Him, we will obey His commands. This is important to understand because this relationship with God is something that should change how we live. The greatest commandment in the Kingdom is that we love God with all of our heart (Matt. 22:37). He should now be our highest affection and this should lead us to now desiring to follow His ways.

In order to learn to follow God’s ways, we have to take time to get to know Him, just like we would in other relationships. God has revealed to us the way He wants us to live in the Bible. This is why reading the Bible is so important to our relationship with God. If we are going to love and obey Him, we must first learn what He is like and what He desires from us.

So if you have made the choice to repent of sin and follow Jesus, you should set aside time each day to spend with God in prayer and reading His word. This should be more than a few moments right before we rush out the door or right before we fall asleep because this relationship with God is now supposed to be the most important part of our life. So we should set aside a good amount of time to first pray and then read the Bible (See Matthew 6:9-13 for a good model for our prayer). As you go to read the Bible, pray first and ask God to help you understand and apply the truth of His word to your life. It is important to pray first as this shows humility as we realize we need God’s help and this also helps us focus on Him and not just reading words on a page.

If you’ve never read the whole New Testament before, you should start in the Gospel of Matthew and just read straight through the New Testament. It is often helpful to set a goal of a number of chapters you want to read each day (I would suggest 7 per day). This will help motivate you to keep reading even on days that you don’t feel like. As you read, it is important that you not simply seek to learn information or accomplish the task of reading a certain number of chapters. Our relationship with God is not about getting smarter or doing tasks; it’s about loving Him and becoming like Him. God’s will for you is to be holy as He is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). We learn how to be like God by reading and applying God’s word to our life, in context. So as you read, it will be helpful to take notes and find at least one or two things that you can work on applying to your life each time you read.

We are at War

As you begin to follow Jesus, you will face opposition. The Bible teaches us that there is a real devil (Satan) and real demons. Many people are deceived into believing that the devil is in Hell. That is not true. The Bible says that he and his fallen angels were thrown down to this earth and that they make war against people to try and turn us away from God (Rev. 12:7-9, 17).

Jesus told us that Satan is a liar and the father of all lies (John 8:44). Satan has set up a system in this world that is based on lies that go against God and His ways (1 Jn. 5:19). He has influenced the world around us in almost every way imaginable. He is behind much of the evil in this world and yet most people have no idea that he is doing these things. One of his greatest tricks is to make us think he’s not real. He then seeks to get us to blame God when evil happens.

It is important that we understand who Satan is and what he is trying to do so that we can overcome his lies and schemes against us. Satan begins lying to us as soon as we are born. We are born into a sinful world and we learn the sinful ways of this world very early on. These sins quickly corrupt our heart and our mind. Then as we go to school, Satan seeks to deceive us into believing that there isn’t even a God through the horrible deceptions of the Theory of Evolution. If we realize that this is a lie, Satan has also created many different false religions that seek to lead us away from the one true God. And then if we get past these lies and realize the truth that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6), Satan then seeks to deceive us through many different false teachings about God and the Bible.

Truth Will Set You Free

We really are at war, so it is important that we be aware of these lies. The best way to overcome lies is to know the truth. This is why Jesus taught us that if we want to be His followers, we must stay in His word and learn the truth that will set us free: "So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32 ESV). When we study and apply the Bible to our life, God’s truth sets us free from Satan’s lies and the evil ways of this world. This is why it is so important that we make time to spend with God every day.

We need to have our mind renewed and washed clean by God’s truth. We are to no longer to be conformed to the ways of this world that is ruled by Satan’s lies: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1–2 NASB95).

As you go to try and spend time with God each day, you will begin to encounter this spiritual war. You will notice that distractions will come; you many have a lot of random thoughts come into your mind, the phone will ring, your alarm to wake up won’t go off, you won’t feel well or things may come up with work or school. One of Satan’s main goals is to keep you away from God’s word. Satan knows that if you read the Bible for yourself and learn the truth, he will have a much harder time deceiving you. This is another reason why it is important to pray before you spend time with God in His word. Ask God to help you concentrate and ask Him to protect you from the evil one and lead you away from his temptations (Matt. 6:13).

This idea of having a real devil trying to deceive you and distract you may seem intimidating, but there is good news. God is way more powerful than the devil, and He is inside of us if we are following Jesus (1 John 4:4). So as we choose to submit to God and His ways, the devil is resisted and we can have victory as we follow Jesus by faith: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (1 Peter 5:8–9 NASB95).