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Mark III: Proclaiming the Gospel of God - Mark 1:14-15

Mark’s gospel answers the question: “Who is Jesus?” Mark tells us the answer right away, but then he spends the rest of the book showing us why it’s the only possible answer. He does this is by showing us what Jesus does: Jesus’ activity reveals Jesus’ identity. As we look at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we see Jesus “proclaiming the gospel of God.” This means that in order to understand who Jesus is, we need to know what His gospel is.

As we listen to Jesus’ preaching, we just might be surprised at what Mark calls “the gospel of God.” While we only have a one-sentence summary of Jesus’ message, we do see three important aspects to his preaching: first, we feel the urgency of His proclamation: “the time is fulfilled!”, then we hear the content of the gospel, which is the announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of God, and finally we hear the call to respond to the gospel with repentance and faith. And so those three aspects of Jesus’ proclamation are urgency, kingdom, and response.

When Jesus says that the time is fulfilled, He isn’t making the point that God’s cosmic countdown has hit zero. The urgency is not so much “act quickly” as it is “act appropriately” in light of the new situation. Since we want our evangelism to be like Jesus’ was, we need to realize that urgency is not emergency. Jesus’ urgency comes from the import of his announcement, not from a sense of panic. When we don’t understand this, our evangelism becomes manipulation instead of proclamation. There may also be a time and place, like at a deathbed, where you need to call for a decision immediately, but ordinarily, evangelism isn’t a time bomb situation. Gospel urgency means impressing on people the fact that the world situation has changed: God has acted, Jesus is now king, and they need to act accordingly!

And that gets us to the second aspect of the gospel of God: the arrival of the kingdom of God. The good news of the kingdom is that God has sent His beloved Son to be in charge of everything. The gospel in its simplest form is this: Jesus is Lord. Or, as Jesus preached it before He accomplished His mission: the kingdom of God is at hand!

And here we need to realize that while the gospel includes and even requires a personal heart transformation, it is much bigger than that. If all we ever mean by “the gospel” is telling people to ask Jesus into their hearts, then our gospel is far too small, far too weak, and it doesn’t capture the message that Jesus preached. No, the gospel is about everything, because Jesus is king of everything.

Here’s why it matters: when we make the mistake of shrinking the gospel, then we struggle to see how most of our lives relate to the gospel. Things like art or music or homemaking or education are seen as getting in the way of the gospel – don’t build a beautiful church building, share the gospel! Don’t spend hours learning to play challenging music or fashion incredible meals, share the gospel! Don’t waste time studying Latin or Hebrew or deep theology, share the gospel!

The person who talks and thinks like that is well-intentioned, but they don’t understand the gospel! They’ve confused calling people to respond to the gospel with the gospel itself, which is like confusing a coronation with the work of actually ruling a kingdom. But the gospel is about the rule of God in the person of Jesus Christ, and believing the gospel entails following Jesus in every area of life, not just Bible reading, prayer, or evangelism.

And that’s the third aspect of Jesus’ proclamation: responding to the gospel. This of course does include individual conversion. The gospel demands a response, and the right response is clear: repent and believe the gospel. In every aspect of your life where you’ve been living as if you were king instead of God, repent of that, and turn it over to Jesus.

That’s really what repentance is: turning, changing direction. Responding to the gospel means more than just hearing an announcement about a new king. It means changing your life in submission to that king. And so if we are going to proclaim the gospel like Jesus, our evangelism must be transformative.

Because the gospel is about the arrival of the kingdom in Jesus, and because gospel living depends not on willpower and imitation but on Holy Spirit power and regeneration, the gospel must be preached in words, not just modeled in deeds. And those words must explain who Jesus is and what it means to follow Him, so that hearts can be changed as Spirit of God uses the preached Word of God to bring about repentance and faith.

The gospel that Jesus preached is an urgent announcement that God’s kingdom has arrived, and that everyone everywhere must repent and believe in response to that good news. And since Jesus is your king, then that’s your gospel, too.

Posted on Thursday, February 08, 2018 by CJ Bowen