Now that we are standing at the crossroads (having returned to the point of our departure from the truth), we can look to the ancient paths: the Scriptures. In doing so, we can find the right path and recover the broader meaning of the good news, or gospel.
Matthew records the beginning of Jesus' ministry and message with the following words: "Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Matt. 4:17).
In Matthew 24:14 Jesus describes the gospel in relation to the kingdom when he says, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world. ... Matthew again describes Jesus' ministry by saying: "And Jesus went about all Galilee ... preaching the gospel of the kingdom ..." (4:23). Matthew reiterates this theme again in chapter 9, verse 35 when he writes, "Then Jesus went about the cities and villages ... preaching the gospel of the kingdom. ..." Our Lord told his disciples to "preach, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10:7). Mark writes, "After John (the Baptist) was put in prison, Jesus came ... preaching the kingdom of God" (1:14). Philip "preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12).
The gospel (or good news) is the fact that in Christ, the reign of God is at hand and now is breaking into the world. His redemptive kingdom, which has come, continues to come forth and will be fully consummated on the day of Christ's return.
The message of the kingdom includes the remission of sin, the gift of eternal life, and the restoration of fellowship with God; the wall between man and God has been breached. This is good news.
There is a great conversation in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings where Samwise is talking to Gandalf and asks Gandalf a great question: "Will everything sad come untrue?" The Kingdom message is Christ (because of his death and resurrection) setting things right again-making everything sad come untrue.
In essence, the church bears witness to the in-breaking reign of God, and serves as an instrument by which God is making "everything sad come untrue!"
The call upon humanity in the wake of this pronouncement is to repent, turn from your self and sin, and enter the kingdom of God, receiving salvation. It is the reign of God (or this full gospel) that the church is sent into the world to bring forth as God's instrument and to which it bears witness. Again, we do not invite Jesus into our lives; he invites us into his! Jesus' mission is the mission Dei or redemptive mission of God in which he is making all things new. And, this is the mission of every follower of Christ.
It is time for the people who attend church to hear this message of God's grace and go into the world and share this glorious message of Christ. Let's stop being so complacent and help this sad world to be set free in Christ.
- Edwards is the pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Muncy.