What is the Gospel | 06.11.23 | Just The Beginning pt.1
Pastor Drew Williams
What comes to mind when I say “good news!”???
For my daughter, Emmy, she thinks there is candy somewhere in the house, or it means that one of her friends is coming over to play.
For someone awaiting a call from the doctor, it means that the test came back clear, and they can release the burden of stress and anxiety.
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For someone who is more cynical, they might think that bad news is right around the corner, since they are always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But when the first followers of Jesus said the phrase, “good news,” it carried a specific weight. It actually was a bit more like the emergency broadcast announcement that takes over televisions when something super important is needed to be communicated to everyone in an area.
The phrase “good news”, which has been translated “gospel” in most English translations of the Bible was a political term used by Rome to give updates from the capital. If someone came to share some news with you, it might be about something that happened in a different town. It might be something that happened in their family.
But if someone came and said they needed to declare the “gospel,” the “good news”, it was news about Caesar. It was news about the law of the land. It was news that would affect every part of your life, because of the regime that was in power.
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Today, we are starting a summer series journeying through the Gospel according to Mark, but this isn’t a declaration about some new battle that Caesar had won, or some new building project in Rome that would require everyone’s taxes.
Mark, along with the other early followers of Jesus actually coopted the word “gospel” and turned it around to talk about the true king, Jesus. And the good news they had about this new king and his new kingdom was one that would affect every part of life for everyone.
Mark was an educated young man who was a protege of Simon Peter, one of the closest followers of Jesus. And since Mark could read and write, he was able to write down stories about Jesus and lessons about how life would be different now whenever Peter got up to speak.
So let’s open our Bibles to Mark, chapter 1. Just a reminder that we’re starting to practice bringing our own Bibles to church with us so that we can grow in the habit of Scripture reading throughout all of our lives. But if you’re using the black, seat-back Bibles, you’ll find Mark chapter 1 on p27 of the NT.
As we spend the next weeks following Jesus through this book, pay special attention to all the ways that this news, this “good news”, is making changes to every aspect of our lives, because the one in charge is different from before, and all of us get to live according to new rules under the reign of this new king.
[SLIDES] Mark 1:14-28
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The beginning of Jesus’ ministry comes in a time in history that seemed anything but good. God’s chosen people, who had been under foregin rule and oppression for hundreds of years, felt desparate for God to rescue them.
For now, the government over them continued to let them worship God in their preferred way in their religious gatherings, but once they entered the public sphere, there were all kinds of restrictions designed to keep faith private and not let it influence the rest of their life and the people around them.
They worked hard in their jobs and tried their best to build community, but it was hard to get ahead because of the oppressive weight of the taxes they had to pay.
Rome was the opposite of everything the people of God hoped for. Their rules and laws were heavy. Their culture enticed people away from God and worked to advance a different agenda that pulled families apart and weakened communities.
And anytime a Roman official would enter a town and gather a group of people and say the words, “Come hear the GOOD NEWS, come hear the GOSPEL of how Rome is prospering…” it was always in reference to something Caesar was doing to build his own wealth and legacy and power at the expense of everyone else beneath him.
So you can imagine the interest and shock of people when this rabbi from the northern province of Galilee started gathering groups of people and saying, “Come hear the GOSPEL, come hear the GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of God.”
This was news. NEW news. And this guy was saying it was GOOD news. About God as king?! Was it true? Were their hopes being fulfilled?
So we can see that everyone was coming to this premise with different assumptions. And we do the same thing, too. We come to the stories of Jesus with assumptions based on what we’ve heard, how we were raised, what we’ve seen in movies or heard at church before.
So we’re going to spend the next few weeks following Jesus through the book of Mark, trying to answer two questions: 1) What is the good news of the gospel? and 2) What are we invited to do in response?
So let’s go back to our passage to see how Jesus begins his ministry:
[SLIDE] Mk 1:14
Jesus came proclaiming, and the word used implies an official announcement just like the heralds of Caesar would make. And Jesus comes proclaiming the Gospel, the good news, but it’s not the good news of Caesar. It’s the good news of God!
But what is the proclamation of the good news of God? Verse 15 tells us:
[SLIDE] Mk 1:15
Jesus says “the TIME is fulfilled, it’s completed, the waiting is over…the kingdom of God has come near, some translations say the kingdom of God is AT HAND, it’s approaching, it’s pressing in, it’s so close you can touch it.”
Jesus is saying that the TIME is now, and he uses a specific word for time in Greek, kairos. In Greek, there are two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos time is where we get the idea chronological from, with past, present, future. I t’s the time that moves in a sequence and progresses along.
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Kairos time, on the other hand, carries with it the idea of significance. It’s a special time, a weighty time, a memorable time, a time of event.
Chronos time describes the hour and minute on the clock, or the day of the week. Kairos time is like overtime in a championship game: it doesn’t matter what the clock says because the whole event is amped and electric and fraught with importance.
So Jesus says the KAIROS is now, something important is here, and I’ll tell you what it is: it’s the kingship of God. God’s reign. You thought Rome was in charge? You thought the government made the rules and influenced your life? I’ve got news for you, God is actually in charge. His influence affects every part of creation. Everyone’s status has now changed, because there is a new king, new rules, new expectations, new promises.
But as we’re going to see with every part of Jesus’ ministry and teaching, the announcement is only part of it. Jesus didn’t come to simply tell us something and let it sit in an intellectual zone.
The kingdom of God isn’t just an idea that we are aware of but doesn’t affect our lives. The fact that God is king, and that he came as Jesus to show us life and defeat death and bring about transformation for the sake of the renewal of all things…that’s not just a slogan we put on our bumper and continue to live the same way we did before.
No, the good news of the kingdom of God is supposed to transform the entire way we live. It’s supposed to transform the entire way we see ourselves. It’s supposed to transform the entire way we relate to others.
And any time there is a Kairos moment, when God is pressing near, we have an invitation to respond. Jesus tells us how:
[SLIDE] Mk 1:15b
It’s here, it’s now, God is actually pressing near, and whenever that happens, REPENT, and BELIEVE the good news.
Remember, I told you we were going to be asking two questions today: 1) What is the good news of the gospel? and 2) What are we invited to do in response?
We already talked about the first one, that God is king and that has implications for everything changing about how we relate to God, ourselves, and others. But this section is where Jesus is answering our second question: what are we invited to do when God is pressing near and showing us something?
Repent and believe. So let’s break that down.
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The word for repent can also be translated as “change your mind” or “turning around” or “convert”. So Jesus is saying that when God is pressing near, when we are experiencing a kairos moment, when something is pressing on our hearts from reading the Bible, or when we’re in the middle of a big moment as a family and we can FEEL that this is an important moment, we are called to REPENT. We are called to TURN. Turn to what? Turn to God!
It’s like when you’re out walking and out of the corner of your eye, you notice something shiny. If you want to find out what it actually is, you’ve got to TURN to see it.
God works in the same way. He gets our attention through his Word, or through a song, or through something someone says, and we can either keep going along with our life in a straight line and pay no attention to it, or we can turn towards what God is making shiny to see what it is he’s saying to us in that moment.
So that’s the first thing we’re invited to do in response to God when the good news of his presence is drawing close to us: repent. Stop, turn, ask him what he’s saying to us.
[SLIDE] Mk 1:15c
The second step is believe. Jesus actually says, “believe IN the good news.” The word for believe means to trust, to have confidence in, to rely on, to act as if it’s true and trustworthy.
So now we’ve got to notice that “believe” means more than “thinking” something. The Greek word that we translate as believe can also mean to “entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence.”
I can’t just THINK it. It means that I believe in the integrity of something so much that I’m able to ENTRUST myself to it. There is a vulnerability with true belief.
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For instance, if I say that I BELIEVE that this aluminum can that is ONE MM thick can hold my weight when I stand on it…then I’d better back it up! If I SAY it, but then don’t DO anything, don’t ACT on my belief, what would you all say?
“Oh, he doesn’t really believe that.”
Or, a different example: If I’m looking for something in my house, like, say, my shoes have gone missing. And I look in all the usual spots, but I can’t find them. I’m going to ask my wife, “Megan, do you know where my shoes are?”
And she’s going to ask me, “Have you looked in the closet where all the shoes are kept? Really REALLY looked?”
I looked there, but I didn’t see them. But am I going to say, “they aren’t there” ? Is that something I BELIEVE? Do I believe it enough to ENTRUST myself completely to my wife? Because, if she looks in that closet and finds my shoes in 0.3 seconds, she’s going to throw those shoes at my head!
Belief REQUIRES action, otherwise it’s not belief. It’s just thoughts. It’s just opinions.
If I say I believe that the good news of Jesus can change lives, but then I don’t share that news with anyone because I’m too afraid of what they’ll think of me, it means I actually believe that other people’s opinions of me are the most important thing in life.
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If I say that I believe God invites everyone into his family, that all are welcome, but I personally complain when things change at church because they aren’t the way I like them…my ACTIONS are showing my true belief that MY PREFERENCES are the most important thing.
If I say that I believe that Jesus is the king of all creation, and that the Bible is God’s word, but I don’t try to grow in my habit of Scripture reading, or spending time in prayer…if I don’t even try to grow in those things, so that I can get better at them…my actions are showing that I actually believe those aren’t things worth working on.
If I say I believe that the good news of Jesus is a strong enough foundation for my life, but then I don’t actually step with the full weight of my life on it…do I truly believe it?
Belief requires action. So when God is pressing near to us, when he is showing us something, or putting something on our heart, or making something stand out from Scripture or from a sermon…He’s also INVITING us to DO something about it.
Because the kingdom of God is here! The kingship of God is now. We actually GET to live as if God is king, as if his rule and reign has an affect on our lives and the lives of those around us.
We don’t have to live according to the kingdom of the world anymore, where people can only look out for themselves and have to push others down in order to get ahead. We don’t have to live according to the kingdom of the world that says people are valued differently based on where they came from, or how much money they have, or whether or not they can fit in.
We get to live according to the kingdom of God, where everyone has value as an image-bearer of God.
We get to live according to the kingdom of God, where serving others is the way of love, and power is shown in weakness and humility.
And we can see exactly how that worked with JESUS in the rest of our passage from today. He starts talking about the kingdom of God pressing near, he invites people to repent and believe, to hear and do.
[SLIDE] Mk 1:17
When encounters some of his first disciples, he says that he has an opportunity for them that is different than their chosen profession. So, as the kairos occurs for them, as they feel something important pressing in, they can either ignore it and keep going, or they can ask what God is trying to say to them.
So what did God say to them? “Follow me.”
And what did they do about it? “IMMEDIATELY, they left their nets and followed him.”
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Then Jesus goes into town and encounters a man oppressed by a dark force. And under the influence of that dark force, the man actually declares that Jesus is from God. He actually speaks truth!
But remember, belief is more than just KNOWING the truth. It’s more than knowing things ABOUT God. Belief requires action. And this possessed guy wasn’t exactly signing up to follow Jesus as his apprentice.
But when the kingdom of God presses near, it shows up with all the benefits of God’s kingship and authority. Relationships are mended. Love is shared. Sickness is healed. Empathy is extended.
Jesus is the king, and has authority over everything, and when he sets you free, you are free indeed!
The kingdom of God is here, it’s now. It’s pressing in. And when we take notice of what God is doing, we can either ignore it and keep going with our lives, or we can repent and believe. We can ask, “what is God saying to me or showing to me?” and then we can ask, “What is God inviting me to do? How is God inviting me to take a next step in trusting him?”
The people in Capernaum saw God at work, and what they DID was start to spread the news, causing Jesus’ fame to spread throughout the surrounding region.
Because when Jesus is at work in someone’s life, sharing that news isn’t about making THEM famous, and it’s not about bringing attention to ME. It’s about pointing to Jesus! I actually don’t have to worry what other people will think of me if I’m just pointing to what Jesus has done in my life or in someone else’s life. Because if they don’t respond to it, they aren’t rejecting me!
My identity is secure as a beloved child of God, made as an image-bearer of God, invited to join Jesus in his work of redemption and reconciliation. That will always be true of me.
So I turn those two questions to all of you now, in response to this morning: what is God saying to you? What is he inviting you to do about it?
We’re going to focus on those two questions a lot, because the life of an apprentice of Jesus is always asking those two questions.
That’s also why we are focusing on the spiritual habit of Scripture reading this summer. Because God’s word is one of the primary ways we hear from God.
The good news is that Jesus is king, and we can either live as if he’s not, and keep trying to play by the rules of the world, or we can turn to God, see how he works around us. We can live out our faith by putting our trust in him, we can live differently from those around us because WE know that God’s ways are actually the way we were all created to live.
We get to spend time hearing from God to reinforce his message of love for us, instead of listening to the message of the world that says we aren’t enough until we get ahead of others, even if we have to beat them.
No, the good news is that our worth and value is secure because God made us, God chose us, and God will keep showing us his purposes for us.
We get to realize that God’s love for us is best experienced in community with others, so we can invest in the relationships of our life group, or we can join a life group if we haven’t already, instead of believing the lies of the world that say others will just hurt you so you’re better off alone.
No, the good news is that we never have to be alone again because we’ve been adopted into the family of God, and we’re all able to help each other learn how to grow and follow Jesus in every area of our lives.
And the good news is that God’s love is so vast and abundant, that when we fully believe it, when we fully rely on it, when we fully receive it, it’s too much for us and we can’t help but overflow. And God is able to use that, God actually WANTS to use us, to share his love and healing with others.
God is pressing near. God is trying to get your attention. What is he saying to you right now? What is he highlighting for you right now?
And how can you respond? What is he inviting you to do?