I love this quote, “The definition of a fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you do.” So true. But as a culture, we have always had a love/hate relationship with total commitment and self-abandonment. We admire those whose commitment leads them to do great things, like win an Olympic Medal or lose a tremendous amount of weight. And we applaud their commitment because we value the object of their goals. But on the other hand, we detest the commitment of terrorists, idealogues, and others like that. We brand them as activists, fanatics, or extremists.
But in Jesus’ day, this is exactly how the world saw His followers. They were activists who wanted nothing more than to see the entire world come to the same understanding they had regarding Christ. They were extremists who sacrificed everything for a cause greater than themselves. And they were fanatics, no longer interested in the things of this world because they had their life focused on something unseen, mystical, and illogical.
And of these, the Lord said the “world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:18). My, how we have changed today.
Today, the church falls into two main camps. One, the camp where our relationship with Christ is defined by rule-keeping and our ability to follow the law. And two, those who view their relationship with Jesus as something profitable to add to their already busy lives, much like sprinkles on a cupcake or sweetener to our coffee. But there is another option. And these are the ones whose relationship with Christ is not based on guilt, religious duty, the hope of heaven and eternal reward, or the fear of hell and eternal punishment. No, this select group is drawn to Christ because of His overwhelming beauty and glory and the irresistible power of His Kingdom. The very kingdom we are commanded to proclaim today. Remember? We are to proclaim, like Jesus, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). And we are to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.
And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (Matt. 4:23)
Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (Matt. 9:35)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Matt. 24:14)
But what is the “Gospel of the Kingdom”?
In the first century, the words “gospel” and “evangelize” referred to heralding the good news that a new emperor had been installed in the Roman Empire. Heralds would go out to proclaim the good news, informing people that a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing had begun. They then exhorted people to get down on their knees to worship the new emperor, their rightful king. The apostles used the same term to describe the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom of God. The gospel that the apostles preached was the announcement, the heralding, that Jesus of Nazareth had become this world’s true Emperor (Lord), launching a new era of peace, salvation, and blessing, and because of it, everything has changed.
And it was this message that turned the world upside-down during the first century. But it is a message seldom preached today. Did you ever wonder why?
Once we begin to see the glory of Christ and the wonder of His Kingdom, everything changes. He is no longer a historical figure, but Someone we literally adore and long to be with. He is Someone we will gladly abandon all to follow. Are you interested in knowing more about this glorious Christ and His wondrous Kingdom? Then keep listening.