Today Pastor Choi continues his sermon series on Jesus’ ministry: preaching. The central theme of Christ’s preaching was the Kingdom of God. Pastor Choi explains the two aspects of the Kingdom of God: here and now (present) and that is to come (future). In the end, he exhorts God’s people to establish God’s Kingdom in their hearts by repentance and forgiveness.
Following is a summary of the sermon:
Jesus’ Ministry (part 2): Preaching Mark 1:14-15
14 Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15, NASB).
I promised you last Sunday a three-part sermon series on Jesus’ ministry. First, I talked about His teaching ministry: his teachings are filled with truth, grace, and wisdom. It would be a grave mistake with eternal consequences if we fail to tap into God’s great resource for us—the Bible where we find Jesus’ teachings. Today, as part 2 of the series, we will think about His preaching ministry. During His ministry for three years, Jesus would go around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the Kingdom of God (Luke 8:1). Today’s text well sums up what He preached about: Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).
The catch phrase for His ministry is this: The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15). The central theme of His preaching was the Kingdom of God.
What is the Kingdom of God?
A child in China once asked a missionary what the Kingdom of God is. The missionary simply explained that the Kingdom of God is the kingdom where God is King. The Kingdom of God is, indeed, where God is King and we are His subjects. In the Kingdom of God, God is in charge and we are His citizens. He is our loving Father and we are His children. In God’s Kingdom He is our Lord and we are His servants. He is our boss and we are His agents working together to bring about His Kingdom here on earth.
We all wonder when and where Kingdom of God is going to come. I will explain briefly this morning that there are two aspects of the Kingdom of God: here and now and that is to come. Present and future. Let me explain the future sense of God’s Kingdom first. It will come in the end times. One day Jesus’ disciples asked Him when the end of the age is going to come on the earth—the full consummation of God’s Kingdom (Matthew 24:3). Jesus answered: there will be wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters, heavenly signs, and the persecution of believers. The gospel must be preached in the entire world before it comes. There will be false prophets and false Christs. Lawlessness is to be increased and people’s love will grow cold. Then, the end of the world will come and Christ will return in His glory. Since nobody but God knows exactly when it is going to be, Christ commands us to be prepared, watch, and pray. That is the Kingdom of God in the future. The full consummation of God’s reign both in the heavens and on earth.
Here’s the other aspect: the Kingdom of God here and now—it is the foretaste of God’s Kingdom in your heart and this is what we need to be concerned about while we are waiting for Christ’s coming. In fact, that’s what today’s text is all about: God’s Kingdom here and now. Let me elaborate on it.
The Kingdom of God at hand
Jesus begins verse 15 saying, the time (kairos–God’s time) is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand. “At hand” means God’s Kingdom is right next to you and to your heart. By the way, the Kingdom of God at hand— it reminds me of an imagery of Jesus standing at the door knocking: Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20, NASB).
What is your answer to His call? Jesus asks you to open your heart and invite Him so that you may have the relationship with Him: Christ as your King and you as His servant. Invite Him into your heart and to your throne: you give up your throne to Him and serve Him as your Lord. He calls you to establish this wonderful and eternal relationship with Him. He wants you to walk in God’s light and truth. He wants you to do justice and walk humbly with God. He wants you to pursue holiness with Him and peace with one another (Hebrews 12:14).
You may wonder what’s the first thing you need to do to establish the Kingdom of God in your heart. Jesus answers, “through repentance.” Now, think with me. Out of so many words Jesus could’ve chosen for His ministry catch phrase such as “The Kingdom of God is at hand, therefore, be good/do good/serve the poor/ pray/read the Bible/go to church/transform the world” and so forth, why did He choose the word “Repent” instead?
Repent is one of the most beautiful words in Christianity that has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, and consequently has been shunned by preachers and believers for years in America. E.g. In my seminary days, the emphasis of preaching class was “Give a positive and uplifting message.” Therefore, shun negative words such as sin or repentance. But, you know what? If Jesus used them, so shall I. So must every preacher. In fact, it would be a great disservice to you if I only focus on the “feel-good” words never mentioning words that are essential in the Christian’s life. I just don’t want to omit the words that Jesus frequently used: the words that are crucial in our relationship with God and with each other. Repentance is the word Jesus often used in the context of forgiveness.
Why repentance is important? Because it is a means to restore our relationship with God and with each other. Everyone needs a relationship with God, therefore, everyone needs repentance. Without repentance, there’s no forgiveness, and there is no relationship with God. No matter how holy and devout we may think we are, we still need to repent to God and to one another. As often as we can. Repentance is a tool to make up our broken relationships with God and with each other. By the way, the tense for Greek verb ‘to repent’ here is present and it carries the meaning of “on-going” action of repentance, not just a one-time and done deal. Repentance is an on-going act before God. If you had repented twenty years ago, and never did repent since, something is wrong. To me, repentance is a daily act with God and with each other.
Believe in the gospel.
Jesus said, repent and believe in the gospel (v. 15).
Believe what? The gospel. The good news. What is the good news? The good news of God. The good news that God originated and brings to all. The good news that Jesus came and died on our behalf. Last Sunday, one child asked me why we call the Friday when Jesus died on the cross good. I explained that although it was sad to see Him crucified, we still call Good Friday because of the good that God brings forth out of Christ’s death on our behalf. I cannot have enough of this great news for all. In fact, the greatest news of all with the eternal benefit for you and me.
Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from the penalty of our sins. The same Jesus asks us (the forgiven) to forgive others. Lent is the great time for forgiveness. First, we seek God’s forgiveness for our sins against God and against others. Next, we ask for forgiveness from others. Thirdly, it is our turn to forgive others’ sins. Now, some of us have a hard time forgiving someone in our lives. For whatever wrong they have done against us. Let me tell you. God commands us to forgive. Forgiveness is not a suggestion or option. It is a command like the Ten Commandments. E.g. You shall not murder/steal.
Forgiveness is intentional not emotional. When we forgive the perpetrator, we do not rely on our feelings. Rather, we use our will power. It is about giving up our right to revenge and putting it in God’s hands. “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” says the Lord (Romans 12:19). E.g. On October 2, 2006, a non-Amish man Charles Karl Roberts IV, a 30-year old truck driver, entered an Amish Schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, PA. He tied up all ten girls and shot them all. Five of them died. When a trooper came in through the window, he turned the gun on himself. The same day the Amish community visited the killer’s father and told him, “Chuck, we will forgive you.” More than thirty Amish attended the burial of Charles Roberts the perpetrator. Among them were the parents of several victims. Listen to a mother of a victim: “To me when I think of forgiving, it doesn’t mean that you have forgotten what he’s done. But it means that you have released unto God the one who has offended you. And you have given up your right to seek revenge. I place the situation in God’s hands. And I choose not to hold against Charles because it really doesn’t help me anything anyway” (Video, The Amish, The American Experience).
If Jesus starts His public ministry in America today, what catch phrase would He use for His ministry? I believe He would take up the same sentences that He used 2000 years ago in Israel: the Kingdom of God is near, therefore, repent and believe in the good news. Establish your relationship with God by repenting of your sins. Ask for God’s forgiveness and forgive those who trespass against you. Believe in the greatest news of all: Jesus loves you and died for you.