Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
The Good News: part 3
….Continued from part 2....
The Good News, the real Good News, is all good news. There is no dualism involved. Jesus began his earthly ministry announcing “repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” He continues his earthly ministry proclaiming “repent, the Kingdom of God is at hand.” “So,” you may ask, “when do we get to see that Kingdom come? It has been 2,000 years since Jesus announced that it was at hand. Shouldn’t it have arrived by now? ” The Kingdom of God came when Jesus announced it 2,000 years ago. It comes just the same today. “Know ye not that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you? ” If you are sitting and waiting for the world to come to an end so that the Kingdom of God can come, you have been blind, looking everywhere except within you. You have stopped your ears that you should not hear his voice and it disturb and disrupt your peace in the things of this world. It is this “world” within you that must come to an end before the coming of the Kingdom.
Stephen Crisp, a contemporary of George Fox, had this to say concerning the coming of the Kingdom of God:
In testimony and witness bearing, the greatest thing we have to expect in this day of the Lord, is, that God will set up the kingdom of his Son Christ Jesus; and unto this all the prophets did bear witness in their time, and now it is our turn to bear witness of it, by sensible and living experiences of the accomplishment of those things that they prophesied of, that the Lord will set up the kingdom of Christ, and bring down and lay waste the kingdom of Antichrist. This our Saviour taught his disciples to pray for, more than sixteen hundred years ago, that the kingdom of God might come; and all the true disciples of Christ ever since have prayed for the coming of this kingdom, and many of them have seen the coming of it, and rejoiced; and others have died in the faith of it, and have been gathered into the kingdom of Heaven.
But, my friends, that which chiefly concerns us at this day, is to behold the kingdom of Christ, the eternal Son of God, within us, to go forward and prosper; and the kingdom of Antichrist suppressed and destroyed, and utterly laid waste; and this is wrought two ways, first, inwardly; second, outwardly.
First, inwardly; there is a great inclination in the minds of people, to look more at the operation of God’s power in this great work outwardly, than to look at it inwardly, but unto that there must be a daily cross taken up, and it is my business at this time to tell you in the name of the Lord, that your duty and mine is to turn our minds to the working of the power of God in ourselves, and to see that other kingdom of the man of sin weakened and brought down within us; then there is no fear but he will carry on his work outwardly, and we shall see as much of that work as belongs to our generation; but the great matter and chief government of you and me, is to see the kingdom of God set up within us, which stands in holiness and righteousness: Our business is to walk till we see the righteousness of this kingdom set up within us, in our hearts and souls, and to have a real change made. (Originally taken from the Sermons of Stephen Crisp, Sermon XIV, The Kingdom of God Within. Now available for download at http://nffquaker.org/page/the-kingdom-of-god-within)
Jesus’ purpose today, as it was 2,000 years ago, is two fold: to restore men and women to their rightful heritage as beings created in the image of God, and to build the covenant community, the people of God, whose existence rests solely upon experiencing Jesus in their midst in his functions as prophet, teacher, king, priest, orderer, guide, and shepherd. This is what the dualistic statements above deny as being possible.
After his resurrection, Jesus announced, “All power in Heaven and Earth has been given to me.” All power is given him to accomplish his full purpose. You can’t separate what the churches call salvation from God’s purpose for the covenant community. This is not a plea or a statement “to attend the church of your choice” or you are damned. By and large the churches of today are not the covenant community. God’s purpose is more than transporting saved sinners to Heaven. No sinner shall enter those gates which stand open and are never shut to the righteous.
Man was created in the image of God and was breathed into life by the breath of God. Here came the first covenant, the first agreement, between God, the creator, and man, the created. Only under certain conditions could man retain the image of God and the breath of life. In the day he forsook that covenant he would die. In the day mankind turns to the lie, they lose the light, the truth, and the life. Thus they enter into the darkness, deception, and death.
God’s covenant to mankind began with the practical conditions of maintaining our position in the light, the truth, and the life: the image of God. God’s covenant with man changed after Adam and Eve. It began to contain elements of and promises of restoration. Even to envious Cain God offered his covenant. “Sin lies at your door. It seeks to devour you, but you must master it. If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? ” But Cain was more interested in mastering Abel, his brother, than mastering sin.
At the time of the Exodus, God sums up the whole of his covenant history by saying, “If you will hear my voice and keep my covenant, I shall be your God and you shall be my people, a nation of priests, a special possession, for all the nations are mine.” This is the basis, the foundation, upon which the Old Covenant was built; not ritual or cultic practice.
Then came prophetic indications that there was something even better coming, a new covenant, which was to be experienced within and among the people of God. What could this New Covenant accomplish more than the old? Remember that in breaking covenant with God, man forsook the light to wander in darkness, forsook the truth to trust in lies, and forsook life to build his own kingdom in the power of death. Jesus, the new covenant, states, “I am the truth, I am the light, and I am the life.” It is because he is the truth, the light, and the life that he is the way to the Father, that he can restore mankind into the image of God and bring them to sit down in Heavenly places.
All the failures to build the covenant community are failures to achieve unity, for there can be no community where there is no unity. Unity is only achieved by coming to Christ to be taught and led by him.
The covenant community is a Christ-directed organism not a human institution. It is the manifestation of the kingdom of God on Earth. It is here, in this community, that the order of the gospel is experienced. Just as Christ is the Messiah, so this community who knows Christ as head is messianic. “As He is in this world, so are we,” said Paul. Without this community, without this order, the Earth is formless and void with darkness over the face of the deep. This Christ-directed organism can’t be replicated by the will or the authority of man.
How then does one become part of the people of God?
“If,” said God to the Israelites, “You will hear my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be to me a people for my own possession, a holy nation, a nation of priests...” (Exodus 19: 5-6) This “If you will hear my voice and keep my covenant...” is the prerequisite for being part of the people of God.
This points out two things about being part of the people of God. First you are come to the God who speaks, revealing righteousness and holiness. Second, you are come to the God who demands a covenantal relationship with His creation.
Jesus, who is the covenant, says, “Learn from me, take my yoke upon you, for I am meek and lowly, my yoke is easy and my burden light. Thus you will find rest for your souls. If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”
The purpose of the covenant is to bring man up out of the fall into our rightful standing before our creator; a position of ultimate advantage that alone gives us satisfaction and security. This is our true identity.
The serpent offered and still offers mankind a counterfeit identity saying, “You shall be as gods...” without all the fuss and trouble of denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus. But the promise of being like gods never produces Godliness.
Who are you? If you will hear my voice and keep my covenant you shall be to me a people for my own possession, a holy nation, a nation of priests.
“The day is coming and now is,” said Jesus, “when the dead shall hear the voice of the son. And those who hear shall come up out of their grave.” We are come to the day when the voice has gone forth and bone is connecting to bone. Flesh, sinew, and skin are clothing the bone. The prophecy to the breath has gone forth and God has poured his breath upon all flesh. The Good News is that Christ is come to lead you into the restoration and into the covenant community, which is the Kingdom of God.
….To Be Continued....
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