The Reign of Love Part 1

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So I’m riding on a bus with some young adults from my church, on the way back home from a young adult spiritual retreat, when the girl that I was seeing wouldn’t even speak to me. As a matter of fact, she looked upset with me and I didn’t know why. So when I asked her what was wrong she said, “Oh, you don’t remember what you said to me last night?!” I quickly tried to remember the events of the previous night and couldn’t think of anything I said to her that would be upsetting. “We were all hanging out in our mini-lodge having a good time and then I got tired and went to bed”, I told her, with a confused look on my face. Then she proceeded to tell me that as I was getting tired, I went into the room next door to where all the young adults where talking and laughing and she followed me into the room. I crashed on the bed, as if getting ready to fall asleep, when she came over to me and started to tickle me in a playful way. Then as she was doing this, she said I leaned over to her and said, “Hey, let’s not make this too obvious”, implying that I didn’t want people to know that we had recently started dating. She then left the room and I fell asleep. Therefore she was mad at me since then and was giving me the silent treatment. What’s messed up is that I was so tired that night that I had no recollection of saying that to her and therefore couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t talk to me.

Have you ever experienced the silent treatment? Someone you were close to, all of a sudden, starts to give you the cold shoulder? Then you can relate with how the Jews were feeling during the 400 years of no prophetic word from God in the period between the Old Testament and the New Testament, called the Inter-testament period. Though they had the Scriptures, God hadn’t spoken to them through a prophet for so long, they may have felt like He was giving them the silent treatment. Then, like a clap of thunder and lightening, God breaks the silence! 

God raises up a young adult, named John the Baptist, whose spirit and clothing were like the prophet Elijah, which evoked in the Jewish mind the imagery of the Old Testament prophets. Therefore the strong impression was made on the people that finally God was speaking to His people again through the prophetic word. And what was the message God was sending through this young voice crying out in the wilderness? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew 3:2 NKJV. His stirring message of repentance struck to the very heart of the nation and was designed to prepare the way for the much anticipated coming Kingdom of the Messiah. His purpose had been clearly laid out in Scripture to preach, which means to herald or to announce, the fast approaching Kingdom of Heaven or as it’s also called the Kingdom of God. This is to say he was announcing the reign of God… on earth… through the Messiah. John was a young adult who was so clear on his purpose, so fully alive in fulfilling his purpose, so “all in” in his commitment to ushering in the reign of God, that he was willing to die for the cause that was greater than himself. I wonder how many of us have such a deep, convicting clarity on our purpose. I especially wonder how many of our youth and young adults know the purpose they were designed and redeemed for; that thing that sparks in you like a fire, making you feel fully alive. Sooner or later each of us has to face the soul searching question “How do I know I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose? The answer to this one question will set you on the path to the greatest adventure of your life! So allow your heart to be swept up into the unfolding story John Mark is laying out for us in the Gospel of Mark, which is the first and earliest of the four Gospels to be written, beginning in chapter 1 verse 14. For I believe there will be some of you who will catch what the Spirit is saying here, find the answer to this burning question and your life will never be the same again. The Bible says…

“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom 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 NKJV

John’s preaching was so bold, so fiery, so convicting, that when he called king Herod to repentance for committing adultery and marrying his brother’s wife, he was thrown into prison. Thus far, he had been the visible leader of the growing Kingdom movement, and after his imprisonment one could have prematurely concluded that the movement would die down. But Jesus returns to Galilee, full of the Holy Spirit, and picks up the same message that John was preaching; the announcement of the Kingdom or reign of God. And it’s critical here to understand that because “God is love”, as it says in 1st John 4:8, then this is what embodies every aspect of His character and therefore is also the nature of His universal reign. Therefore love is the principle and power running through the Kingdom of God like an electrical current. So when John the Baptist and then Jesus announced the reign of God, they were announcing the reign of love. Informed by the Scriptures like John, Jesus was also crystal clear on His purpose, so much so that when urged to remain in one city, He said in Luke 4:43 “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” Luke 4:43 NKJV. Jesus would preach in a circuit throughout all Galilee, which was the region and environment in which He grew up. And as a follower of Jesus, you are called under His divine, kingly authority, according to His great commission, to the same purpose. You’re fulfilling your purpose to usher in God’s reign of love when you…


ANNOUNCE IT IN YOUR ENVIRONMENT.

It is the announcement that breaks into your environment and changes everything. I remember growing up as a teenager in high school and desiring a relationship with someone from the opposite sex. Oh, how I wish I had some of the wisdom then, that I have now. Because once I discovered what God intended to make relationships last and flourish, I would have slowed down and focused more on my relationship with Jesus, my purpose in Him and preparing for marriage and family by first being a fulfilled single that was fully satisfied in Him. Yet even with all that, nothing could have prepared me for the day when my wife walked into the room I was in at our apartment in Laurel, Maryland and announced we were having a baby. I was immediately flooded with feelings of extreme joy and anxious shock; with thoughts like, “Oh, This just got real.” It was an announcement that changed everything for us. It changed our environment. Now my office was being transformed into a nursery. All our friends and loved ones continually wanted a play by play of the baby’s development. It was an announcement that changed us. It was an announcement of good news.

You see, the message of the Kingdom or reign of God that both John and Jesus were announcing was called the Gospel, which means the Good News. It was a term that was commonly used in the first century to announce the reign of the Roman emperor, which they claimed brought peace on earth. They called it the Pax Romana or the Roman Peace. In this historical context, the term Good News was also the announcement of a messenger that the king had been victorious in defeating an enemy nation and the kingdom was secure because of this victorious king! Both John and Jesus were men of their times and used this same term to announce the reign of the truly victorious King who brought peace on earth, the Messiah. As a matter of fact this is the point John Mark wants you to get immediately in verse one as he starts to tell the story, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” In verse 14, he uses the term “the gospel of the kingdom of God” as the summarizing framework for everything Jesus preached and taught. 

However when Jesus started preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom there was a sudden difference from when John preached it, that both startled and excited His listeners. Jesus would begin His announcement with “the time is fulfilled” the Kingdom of God or the reign of God is at hand… has arrived… is now! What did He mean by the time is fulfilled? Jesus is directly referring to the fulfillment of the 490 year time prophecy in Daniel 9:24-25, pinpointing the exact time of the Messiah’s arrival and the ushering in of His Kingdom, that was just fulfilled with His being anointed by the Holy Spirit when John baptized Him right on time in AD 27! Jesus is saying the reign of God on earth has arrived right on time in and through Him, the King. Like John, His announcement would always begin with “repent”, which was a military term the generals used when they wanted their marching soldiers to “about face” or turn around. Jesus was saying you’re going in the wrong direction, turn to Me and believe or trust in the Good News of the reign of love being fulfilled through Me.

The Gospel of the Kingdom was not only the message Jesus was announcing, but it was also the entire storyline of Scripture rushing to it’s fulfillment in Him. This story is best understood through 7 scenes like a movie. The scenes are Pre-Creation: God existing in an eternal friendship of 3 co-equal Persons characterized by pure other-centered love. Creation: Out of this uncontainable love, God creates the universe to exist and thrive under His reign of love, with humanity perfectly reflecting His image of love on earth as His crowning act of creation. Fall: The angel, Lucifer, rebels against God’s character and reign of love and brings the rebellion to earth. When humanity fell by his deception, he thus usurped God’s reign on earth, through humanity, and claimed earth as his dominion. Promise: God makes the promise to redeem humanity, restore us back into His image and reestablish His reign of love on earth through the Messiah by making a series of unfolding covenant promises which humanity and the descendants of Abraham failed to keep. Messiah: Jesus arrives as the fulfillment of the covenant promises and the King who will reestablish God’s reign of love on earth through His life, death & resurrection. The last two scenes are Kingdom and Re-Creation, which we’ll come back too in a moment. All the teachings of Jesus, and therefore all of our doctrines, find themselves in the framework of this unfolding story. All of this was and is rushing to their fulfillment in Jesus Christ like many streams into the ocean of God’s love and grace.

My friends, Jesus was a young adult that was making an announcement that changed every thing. He was telling a story that finds its fulfillment in Him.