Preaching the Gospel from Mark

Title: Preaching the Gospel from Mark

Text: Mark 1:14-15

Time: July 16th, 2007

I’m preaching the gospel through each of the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Today, I’m preaching the gospel from the Book of Mark. Last week, I preached the gospel from the Book of Matthew on the passage about the rich young ruler asking Jesus about eternal life. Jesus taught that wholehearted trust in him alone would produce eternal life. Unfortunately, the man refused to trust in Jesus with absolute, unqualified trust, and as a result couldn’t find salvation in eternal life. Salvation is obtained through total trust in Christ for forgiveness of sins, for rescue from judgment and damnation, for entrance into eternal heaven. That’s the positive aspect of the gospel – faith or trust. Today, I’d like to preach the gospel from the Book of Mark, which brings out the negative aspect of the gospel, namely, repentance. With repentance, we not only turn towards Christ with positive faith, we turn away or reject something also, namely, the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Both aspects of the gospel are necessary because when we say we have faith in something, we must also be saying negatively, that we don’t have faith in other things. When we turn towards Christ in faith, we are also turning away from other things. One of the big confusions in our world today, even in many churches today, and in the Christian world in general, is that a gospel message is being preached without repentance. Or in other words, the invitation to believe or trust in Christ is given, but there is no corresponding invitation to turn away or give up trusting in other things. So what in reality happens is many, many people make claims to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, but in reality they have never turned away from conflicting beliefs or trusts. The end result is that many people add Jesus to their already cluttered lives and conflicting beliefs, but Jesus doesn’t get his priority in their lives because they haven’t given up or turned away or put aside other beliefs to make room for Jesus. People today increasingly want their lives as they are but also Jesus too. But that is impossible. To fully embrace Jesus is to also fully reject other things that conflict or contradict with Jesus. To fully trust Jesus is to fully mistrust other things that are incompatible with Jesus. With true faith in Christ, it’s an either/or proposition, not a both/and. The weakness in the church today is because the message of the gospel has been confused so that people understand it as only a positive trust in Christ without a negative mistrust in everything contrary to Christ. To trust Christ supremely is to mistrust myself and other things. To embrace Christ fully I must turn away from many other things that I formerly embraced; now I must reject these things. Whatever I trusted in before to live my life, I must now reject in order to fully trust Christ to order my life. This is the emphasis we find in the preaching of the gospel by Jesus in the Book of Mark. It’s an important emphasis, especially today when so many people have forgotten it. Have you heard this emphasis of the gospel? Have you understood what repentance means? It’s the very first message from Jesus to start his ministry. Let’s hear the gospel as preached in Christ’s first sermon found in Mark 1:14-15 (read).

First, the good news is about the kingdom of God. Mark 1:14-15, “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God is near. . . .’” These are the very first words of the very first sermon preached by Jesus Christ to start his ministry. It’s about the good news of the kingdom of God. What is the kingdom of God – or the kingdom of heaven as some gospel writers describe it? It is none other than the rule and reign of God in the lives of people. It is none other than the control of God in our lives. It isn’t a visible, earthly, concrete, material kingdom – at least not yet, but rather an invisible, spiritual rule of Christ in heart, mind and soul. Today on earth, we have many examples of earthly kingdoms or governments that exist. For example, a few years back there were communist countries ruled or controlled by communist governments. For people living under the rule of communism, life was different than life under another form of government, for example, American democracy. Both of these systems or kingdoms were different and resulted in different ways of life for people ruled by them. It’s the same way with the kingdom of God and other spiritual orders. Ancient peoples used to be ruled by superstition and fear of the unknown spiritual world. Their lives were frightened by many forces and powers they couldn’t understand or explain. That’s no way to live, but they suffered along in it. The many religions of the ancient world grew out of man’s attempt to know and control the unknown, but these beliefs were filled with conflicts and contradictions leaving people spiritually confused. The Jewish faith grew out of God’s own revelation in the Old Testament, but by the time of Jesus, it too had degenerated into a dry system of rules and regulations, does and don’ts. It too left people spiritually empty. But when Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, he came as the King himself leading the way into a better way of life. The kingdom of God is God’s will and way, a better way, the best way. It’s God having His way, God ruling, God’s way of ordering things, God’s organization, God’s management, and God’s way of doing things – that’s the kingdom of God. Why is this good news? Because men and women desperately need management of life that only God can provide. Without God’s management of our lives, we live lives of confusion, chaos, conflict, contradiction, etc. Look around today and we’ll see people living disorganized lives, failing to know what to do with their lives. We need new management – God’s management, that’s the kingdom of God. Here’s an example. A few years ago the Detroit Tigers were the worst team in baseball; they had talent, but they couldn’t put it all together to win. But then they brought in a new manager Jim Leyland, and the team immediately turned around and started playing baseball like winners, even making it to the World Series. That’s like the kingdom of God Jesus offers. By submitting to Jesus the king and entering as citizens of the kingdom of God, our lives are turned around, given peace and purpose, we make progress in the real priorities of life, and for the first time our lives are in order. Yes, we are under authority of God, yes, we must submit, but we do so happily because we need the order God offers to live a fulfilling life. And then someday when God’s kingdom becomes visible, we will share in the victory over all evil with God. That’s the kingdom Jesus preached; that’s the good news.

Second, repentance is the first word of the good news of the kingdom. Mark 1:15, “The time has come, he said, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe in the good news.” We now come to the part of the gospel or good news that is so little preached in our churches today. It is seen as negative, rather than positive. But it was the very first thing Jesus came preaching. Now why did Jesus come with the message of repentance first, and then only later talk about believing? Because in order to embrace Christ as king one must stop embracing other things as ruling factors in one’s life. In other words, whatever it is that is controlling and leading us in life must be stopped in order that Christ might now lead and control us. The word “repent” simply means “change” as in changing our mind or attitude or actions. In our natural state we are rebelling against God. Thanks to Adam and Even we inherited a sinful nature causing us to rebel naturally against God. We want to be independent from God and make our own way in life, but eventually we realize that this only leads to failure and heartache. We realize that we need new management because we simply can’t lead ourselves to our own salvation, neither can anyone else lead us to their salvation. So when we hear the gospel invitation it is truly good news because we’ve been looking for new management for our lives anyway. Again, let me use the illustration of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The final straw was in 2005 when the Tigers had the worst record in Major League baseball and almost set the all-time record for the most losses in one season. At that point the team was looking for a solution. It found the solution in Jim Leyland, who was available to manage because he wasn’t managing any other team at the time. But before the Tigers could make Jim Leyland their manager it had to change; it had to fire the old manager in order to bring on the new manager. You might say the Tigers repented or changed. Only when they turned away from the old manager and turned to the new manager did they become a winning baseball team. It’s the same in our lives today. Only when we repent or change from believing and doing things independent from God to believing and doing things dependent on God can we experience life as it was meant to be. God wants to be in control of our lives, but we naturally oppose that because we want to control our own lives. But our own control leads us to failure, so in order to change from failure to success in life we must be willing to repent or change our heart towards God. Instead of running from God we must be willing to run towards God. Instead of controlling our own lives, we must be willing to turn away from our own control and turn towards God’s control of our lives. Jesus is inviting us to turn away from our own sinful control and turn to him to control our lives with his perfect rule as King. Are you willing to turn your life completely over to the control of Christ? Are you willing to see this as good news rather than bad news?

Third, belief is the final word of the good news of the kingdom. Mark 1:15, “The time has come, he said, the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” If repentance is the first word of the gospel, believe is the final word. We turn away from our own self-rule in order to turn toward God’s rule in our lives. The problem today is that so much of gospel preaching omits the repentance part and skips right to the believing part. But how can a person truly believe if they haven’t repented? To go back to the illustration of the Detroit Tigers, how could the team have made Jim Leyland the new manager if they hadn’t gotten rid of the old manager who couldn’t lead them to victory? How can a person embrace Christ as king when they are still their own king of their own life? Christ is bringing the kingdom of God with him in order that he might recruit citizens of the kingdom. Are you a citizen of the kingdom of God? Are you willing to live and abide by the ways of the kingdom as opposed to your own will and ways? Most people in the world today do not live in the kingdom of God, they don’t embrace the king Jesus, and they don’t enjoy the blessings of living under the control and influence of God. Rather, they either are king of their own life or they submit to some lesser king or control over their life. Little do they realize that God is inviting them to joyfully and willingly submit to his happy rule. Or if they do know it, they reject God’s offer because they are unwilling to give up their life to God. In other words, they just don’t trust God with their lives, either now in this life, or in the life to come in eternity. But the question is, if we don’t trust God with our lives, whom can we trust? A true Christian is someone who has learned that he can’t even trust himself, let alone anyone else, to lead or control his life. There’s just too much to life for a mere mortal to put it together successfully. We simply must trust that God not only created us but also has a plan for us as well. And as Creator he knows what is best for us in life. We simply must trust God to lead us down the path that is best for us. That’s why a true Christian will repent of all sin, turn his back on all sin, rebellion and independence from God and fully and joyfully embrace God’s rule and reign in his life. A true Christian acknowledges sin, confesses and repents of it, and embraces Christ as Savior by trusting in the life, death, and resurrection as the means of salvation. A true Christian trusts God’s diagnosis for the ills of the world – man is sinful and separated from God and will face judgment and damnation. A true Christian trusts God’s solution – the Savior Jesus was sent to die on the cross in our place for sin and judgment, and by faith we can be forgiven, saved from wrath, and enter eternal life. Have you become a citizen of the kingdom of God? Have you fully embraced the king Jesus? Have you turned away from anything and everything that’s contradictory or conflicting with the rule of Christ? The good news is that we can live under new management of Christ in our lives; we don’t have to suffer under our own failed leadership or failed the management of someone or something else. Isn’t that good news!

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