Monday, January 17, 2011

If the kingdom is "at hand" why do things look the same?

Many unbelievers point to continued suffering in the world as evidence that there is, in fact, no “kingdom” of Christ. How good can the reign of a holy God be when it is attended by oppression, sickness, disaster and continued strife between men? If a “king” has come, shouldn’t we see his throne, his castle, his fortifications and armies?

Unfortunately, many believers look at the world around us and and ask the same question, leading to doubts, insecurity, and a ministry characterized by ineffectiveness and fruitlessness.

Mark 1:14-20 addresses some of those concerns. Even though the arrival of the kingdom is not accompanied by great fanfare (castles and armies and such), it demands radical change in the lives of those who hear of its arrival.

Several conditions attend the arrival of the kingdom.

First, its Context is Immediate. Jesus says that the “time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand.” Unlike ourexpressions in which we use “kingdom come” as a distant event (“you could tell him that until kingdom come”), we pray “thy kingdom come” in recognition that the kingdom is both here and is also coming: it is “already, but not yet.”

Second, its Circumstance is Normal. Mark quotes Old Testament prophets to teach that John the Baptizer was the messenger before the Lord/LORD, and that Jesus is the “one greater than” John. But with the arrival of the king, and of the kingdom, Andrew and Simon still have to fish for a living. Men still need to eat. James and John still have to mend broken nets. The earth still yields thorns and thistles from the curse of the Fall (Genesis 3).

Third, its Demands are Comprehensive. The kingdom is at hand, so “repent, and believe the gospel.” When a king has conquered territory and is establishing the reign in his realm, the occupants have a choice: join the new kingdom or rebel and face the consequences.

Fourth, its Effects are Radical. The king issues a call that is 1) to him — not to a cause or to a principle; 2) to service — to become fishers of men, not to simply know something; and 3) to fellowship — he calls men to follow among others whose names they know, not to a faith that is private or anonymous. And men leave all to follow him. Andrew, Simon, James and John left their business, their family and even those on the payroll in order to follow Jesus.

Are we, too, required to quit work? Not necessarily. But if mending nets and tending family prevent us from following him, they must go.

The fanfare of the kingdom of Christ is the radical change of nature, the wholesale reorientation of mind, will and emotions, that occurs in men when they are exposed to the arrival of the kingdom in the preaching of the gospel, hear the call of Christ, and repent and believe.
It does not matter, then, that the nets are still broken.

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