Recovering the Original "King Jesus" Gospel!July 10, 2023
Recovering the Original "King Jesus" Gospel!
1 Thess. 1:1-10
Intro -- If we stick strictly to what the scriptures tell us in Acts 17 about Paul and his team's ministry in the Macedonian city of Thessalonica, we learn that they stayed there only 3 weeks. Yet, in such a short period of time, they left behind a freed-up, filled up, fired-up, fruit-producing church that was not just the talk of the town, but of the whole of the Roman Empire. How? Was it in their techniques, or persuasive talk, or positive thinking, or in the programs and procedures they used to find the sinners and then follow up with after they made decisions for Christ? NO! I submit it was in the nature of the gospel they preached, which was the original "King Jesus" gospel.
In contrast, the leading denomination in the world in respect to size and evangelism, has reported a decline in baptism for seven years in a row. According to Christianity Today, one out of four Southern Baptist churches reported no baptisms in 2012. If we take the 46,000 churches in the SBC and use the 1 out of 4 percentage, that would mean 11,500 churches had zero baptisms. Let's assume only half those churches have pastors, that's 5,750 pastors; each church has at least two deacons, that's 23,000 deacons; each church has three Sunday School teachers, that's 34,500 teachers, and each church has a total offering of at least $50,000. (The total annual offering for those 11,500 churches would be 575 million dollars.)
Putting all this together; in 2012, the SBC had 11,500 churches, 5,750 pastors, 23,000 deacons, 34,500 Sunday School teachers and gave a total offering from these churches of $575 million, yet all of this together did not result in one single baptism. And, even worse, the SBC is considered the leading denomination in evangelism, so these stats are as bad or worse in other denominations.
The SBC counts 15.7 million members and 5.8 million Sunday worshipers. (This means 9.9 million members are missing in action!
What kind of gospel is it that has produced so many deciders for Christ who by their lifestyle raises the question of what they decided? Why is it that for the first 300 years of Christian history governments and religionists wanted to kill Christians and today, for the most part, in the Western World, nobody wants to kill them anymore?
One doesn’t have to have keen discernment to notice there is a great disparity between the message and the fruit of modern outreach efforts in comparison with that of the New Testament.
What has happened? In my humble opinion, the answer is two-fold: The Master’s Assignment and Announcement have been severely and seriously tampered with. The “American” brand of Christianity privatized the assignment from making disciples of all nations to making ME a better disciple. It then has compartmentalized the nature of the announcement and the number who are sent forth to make the king’s announcement so as to exclude the majority of the laity and leave the job to the professional, full-time clergy persons. And even these, as a whole have changed the announcement so as to offer Jesus as the Manager who supplies the stage props for our life movie, entertaining us, psychoanalyzing us so as to make us feel good, giving us a fire insurance policy against Hell, and assuring us of free pass to Heaven when we die, as well as teaching us that salvation is all about ME.
What is the difference in the original gospel and today's facsimiles? What does the "King Jesus Gospel" sound and look like when transmitted and received? Perhaps the clearest answer and real life illustration is found in the lives of the believers in Thessalonica. The King Jesus Gospel involves:
I. A Proclamation of the Gospel Based on the Scriptures -- 1:5a, "our gospel"
"Our gospel," as Paul stated it, was an announcement based on scripture. Rom 1:1-2, "Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,(What scriptures was he talking about? OT).
Jesus public ministry begin with an announcement of the gospel. What did he preach? Did he declare, believe in the virgin birth, sinless life, the sacrificial death of the Christ on the cross, His bodily resurrection, and victorious ascension back to Heaven? NO.
Notice His words in Mark 1:14-15: "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Jesus said, in essence I have come from heaven and I brought my world with me -- that world is called the kingdom of God or heaven.
Jesus proclaimed that the long promised kingdom of God, or heaven, was breaking into time in His person. I assert that for the most part, we have lost the King Jesus gospel of the kingdom of God. The good news Jesus announced was that in His person the faithful Son had come and would complete the story that begin with Adam, Moses, Abraham, David and the children of Israel.
The gospel of the kingdom of God is the good news of a new creation – a new order of God’s government – one of righteousness and justice, bringing peace to all peoples and nations as they receive the good news in repentance and faith. For many, it is a shock that this has already begun in the person of God’s Son. Through becoming man, living his sinless life, learning obedience through suffering, and finally through his death, resurrection and ascension to the Father, the kingdom has come definitively to this planet. With God becoming man, a permanent shift of cosmic proportions has occurred. Restored to the image of God, man has been reinstated into co-partnership with King Jesus in rulership of the universe, and the new creation has begun.
Peter closes his gospel presentation on the Day of Pentecost as an herald of the King of Glory with this assertion, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that this truth I have just announced has now received its full confirmation in the resurrection, ascension, and sending back of the Holy Spirit, and we our full commission to publish and proclaim it. Here’s the proclamation summarized: “God has made that same Jesus whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36-37)
The First Century Christian’s message was the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom, which is God’s dynamic rule, breaking into human history through Jesus, confronting, combating and overcoming evil, spreading the wholeness of personal and community-of-faith well-being, taking possession of his people in total blessing and total demand. As kerux or heralds of the King they made known the good news of God’s renewed reign over all of creation. Christ’s kingly authority extends over the entirety of creation. God’s mission is equally comprehensive. It is to declare the fact that to surrender to King Jesus is to embody the good news that He again rules over marriage and family, the market place and all government, art and athletics, the sauna room and the schoolroom, sex and the city! Since it is a gospel of the kingdom, its coverage is as wide as creation.
This is a far cry from the individualized, watered down gospel message of today that pleads for people to come to Jesus for peace, purpose, prosperity, problem-solving power and the personal security of positive identity and the promise of an eternal destiny in heaven when you die. This is not the message that causes governments and religions to want to kill Christians.
In the early church, all were heralds or announcers sent forth by their Lord and Christ with the King’s message we call the gospel. The announcement was called in the Greek the kerygma. One of the most frequently used words in the NT, and usually translated by the word family of preach and preaching, is the word “kerygma.” The apostolic “kerygma” was a proclamation of the death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus that asserted that in His person, He was both Lord or King and Christ. This confronted mankind’s rebellion and religion with the necessity of immediate and radical repentance, and promised the forgiveness of sins, to those who believe and are baptized in water, with a drenching of the Holy Spirit, poured out upon them for enjoyment of the King and employment in His kingdom (Acts 2:38)!”
Paul and the early Christians understood something we do not. The gospel of the kingdom is not just about a gift. It is about a change of allegiance. If Jesus is King then Caesar is not. The problem, of course, was that the affirmation of the Lordship of Caesar was the fundamental assumption upon which the Roman life and society of New Testament times was built — it’s political, social, economic, cultural, and religious life. The declaration “Jesus is Lord” was understandably viewed as subversive and a threat to everything the Romans held dear. That’s why Christians had to die. That’s why tyrants such as Stalin and Mao both tried to stamp out the church.
The kingdom of God isn’t about a piece of real estate called heaven; it’s about a real state -- a real state of a living, loving relationship with the King. It is about the about the companionship of an Unchanging Person—Jesus, and the partnership in the Unshakable Kingdom of Almighty and Sons! Jesus is the kingdom personalized, universalized, and realized!
Jesus established His kingdom definitively at His First Advent, is extending it progressively through His kingdom agents and ambassadors, the people of God -- His Church -- and He will establish His kingdom decisively, victoriously, and permanently at His Last Advent.
The essential nature of the kingdom of God is divine power, wrapped in love, directed toward reconciliation of man to God, of righteousness, peace and joy--displacing the rule and ruin of the demonic.
In the redemptive work of Christ, the kingdom of God is an actual reality that is available and accessible and upon entering it by the miracle of the new birth, we have access to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, all the hosts of elect angels, the company of the redeemed of God – to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant who are ministering spirits to those heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14) everything is new. We have a new standing - a new approach - a new name - a new sacrifice - a new priest - a new law - there is a new kingdom, a new body, a new covenant. In chapter 10 of Hebrews, we are told that He has perfected forever those who come to Him, and the Holy Spirit has brought us into the covenant and then brought the covenant into us – writing in our hearts and minds (Hebrews 10:15-17).
The Gospel is about forgiveness and eternal life, but it is also about much more. It is about embracing a new King. It is about heralding the death of the gods of our age — whatever they are. And they are legion- scientism, consumerism, individualism, humanism, capitalism, conservatism, liberalism, secularism to name just a few. We announce their ruin and proclaim that there is one God and His Son Jesus is Lord.
The King Jesus Gospel involves:
II. A Demonstration of the Power of the Gospel of King Jesus -- 1:5b, "because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (KJV -- in much assurance").
1Cors 4:20, "For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power."
Notice the Word came with power and the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit without the Word is weaponless; the Word without the Spirit is powerless" (John Stott).
There are two truths in the expression, our gospel came to you in word, power and the Holy Spirit. One, it means that conversion is an inside miracle that only the Holy Spirit can produce. Two, it means that the gospel was confirmed by outside, visible miracles that demonstrated that King Jesus' gospel was who he said He was and had accomplished what His gospel message asserted.
From the outset of the New Testament, one is impacted with the obvious – the gospel was advanced by signs and wonders. When Jesus initiated His public ministry, He proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was available and accessible by the miracle of the new birth. To further authenticate His claims, He performed miracles, signs, and wonders that demonstrated that the power of God was present to overthrow and oust the devil and his demons from their trespassing occupation of God’s property and from their enslaving holds upon God’s people. When Peter preached to the crowd on the Day of Pentecost, he stated that Jesus "was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs" (Acts 2:22). The disciples saw Jesus as their model and followed Him in the ministry of signs and wonders. After the Great Commission was given, the apostles continued to carry out what Jesus had begun to do and to teach.
After the Resurrection, during the approximate 35 year period of the Book of Acts, there are over 80 references of the miraculous in the ministry of the apostles and the disciples recorded.
The Spirit of God gave the Church a supernatural entrance and will give her a supernatural exit. Therefore the church must live a supernatural existence and experience. The church may employ Madison Avenue tactics to draw the masses, but there won't be any miracles. And without the obvious presence of the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit, we will boast about being many for God, but we won't be much for God!
Dr. Jerry Rankin, former president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board, in speaking of reaching places such as India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Argentina, Uruguay, and the Ivory Coast with the gospel says, “I am convinced the people in these areas under Satan’s power for these many generations will not be changed without a remarkable demonstration of the Lord’s power.”
Fifty years ago there were no known Christian in the country of Nepal. Today there and estimated 900,000 Nepalese Christians. The Nepalese Christians attribute church growth to miracles, prayers, and Jesus' continuing acts of healing and deliverance. Nepali Christians say their neighbors often call them to pray because sick people are being healed and the demon-possessed are set free…. At least 40 to 60 percent of the Nepali church became Christians as a direct result of a miracle. Most of the people don't know what we are talking about when we preach the gospel. That's why it is very important to demonstrate the Gospel. We preach. Then God heals the sick when we pray. The gospel is not only preached but demonstrated in Nepal."
In the American church, we tend to analyze with natural reasoning what we can realize only by Supernatural Revelation! We tend to rationalize the Supernatural to the Natural in order to minimize our lack of power. We tend to philosophize and sermonize about God’s miraculous word and works in the past, rather than believe that we can realize them NOW!
The typical evangelical, fundamental church has no mystery about its operations nothing explicable only in terms of God's miraculous working. So many believers have rationalized, psychologized, analyzed, and traditionalized everything until the church is paralyzed and institutionalized! They believe that the only miracle God works today is in saving a person's soul. True, this is an awesome, and the most important miracle in your life, but that is not the end of supernatural living, it's only the beginning!
We need not only revival and reformation, but a radical interior renovation of our worldview to embrace the power of the life, love, and light of kingdom living under and open heaven as supernatural co-partners for the advancement of the kingdom of heaven over the cross-defeated, kingdom of darkness.
Living saved, but not supernaturally is living below our privilege and short of what Christ died for us to have. Teaching the Gospel without demonstrating the Gospel is not enough. Good preaching, sound doctrine, and being a good person is not enough.
Hearing about the Holy Spirit without experiencing Him is grievous; believing in His presence without seeing Him manifested in signs and wonders is hypocrisy; believing in healing without seeing people healed is absurd, and believing in deliverance without people being delivered is absolutely ridiculous.
Testifying that one attends a good church with good worship, preaching and fellowship is not enough. Having good Bible studies is good, but not good enough. Knowing about God without truly knowing and experiencing God is worthless. Just reading about the book of supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts without living the book of Acts is unacceptable. It is time that we become the ones telling the stories of God’s signs, wonders, and miracles -- not just the ones hearing about them.
What we so desperately need is bold proclamations of the gospel attended by mighty demonstrations of the power of Spirit, which will compel people to pay attention -- to look, and to listen. When God so acts, he can do more in a minute than man with his organizing can do in a generation.
We must refocus and re-frame the manner of our praying. To accept a miracle-less, gift-less church is to settle for a diminished statement of who Jesus is, of what His church is and what her mission is.
Beloved the crying need of today is for an authentication, demonstration, and explanation of the supernatural, the spiritual, and the eternal reality of the gospel of the kingdom as we align ourselves with Jesus’ strategy for world impact. When we embrace His commission we will have access to His power and will see greater things happen than Jesus did! (John 14:12)
The King Jesus Gospel involves:
III. A Replication of the Process that Reproduces Disciples who Make Disciples -- 1:6-7, "And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia."
1 Thess. 1: 8: "For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything."
A. They were Miracles of Grace -- 1:4 -- They were chosen in Christ by Christ and for Christ. They were the recipients of the mystery of the grace of God, the marvel of the love of God, and the miracle of the saving power of God, which came to them in word and power in the message of the gospel of God.
B. They were Mimics of the Men of God -- 1:6 -- The word “imitators” is a Greek word (mimetes) from which our English word “mimic” derives. Upon being converted to Christ, the Thessalonians became mimics of Paul, Silvanus, Timothy, and, ultimately, Christ Himself. As he writes, “You also became imitators of us and the Lord,” the apostle was commending their humble emulation of him as he followed the Lord. That is to say, they followed Paul as he followed the Lord. To the Corinthians, he would later write, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).
Jesus said, “A pupil or disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
C. They were Models of the Transforming Power of God --1:3, 7 --
The King Jesus gospel not only confronts and convicts, but it changes the person who believes it. It makes disciples and not just deciders! It leads to a holy life and not just a get-to-go-to-heaven-when-I die type life.
Paul said, that those Thessalonian Christians were examples. The word is patterns. It's like a pattern that someone would lay out and then trace around. He says your life was literally the model or the pattern of Christian living. Remember Paul told Timothy, he said, "In all things be a pattern of good works." Or he told Titus. And then Paul told Timothy "be an example or a pattern of the believer."
They had a faith that was alive -- resting on the past as they looked to a crucified Savior.
They had a love that was aglow -- working in the present with a Lord that was crowned Savior.
They had a hope that was aflame -- anticipating the future as they looked for a coming Savior.
Their example was very effectual to make good impressions upon many others. Not only was their example effectual, it was very extensive, and reached beyond the confines of Thessalonica, even to the believers of all Macedonia, and further, in Achaia; the Philippians, and others who received the gospel before the Thessalonians, were edified and challenged by their example.
D. They were Megaphones in Broadcasting the Gospel -- 1:8
The phrase “sounded forth” carries the idea of the sounding out of a trumpet or of thunder, to reverberate like our echo. It is not used anywhere else in the N.T. So “from you” as a sounding board or radio transmitting station (to use a modern figure). It marks forcibly “both the clear and the persuasive nature of the word of the Lord."
A trumpet is a wind instrument. The gospel must be trumpeted by believers being breathed upon by the Holy Spirit.
The King Jesus Gospel is too good to keep to ourselves. Our attitude should be that of Paul as he says, "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel" (1Cors 9:16). Are you convinced that the gospel is as great, glorious, good, and powerful as the NT asserts it is? Are you proclaiming it, announcing that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah? Or, are you like a goldfish in a fish tank, always opening and closing your mouth but nothing ever comes out! Like Arctic rivers -- frozen at the mouth! Only 5 percent of modern Christians ever share their faith with an unsaved person.
What made NT Christianity so vibrant, victorious, and dangerous was that every member was considered a “kerux” – this was an announcer, herald, or preacher for the King and His Kingdom. They went forth with “charismatic muscle” or experience and a “kerygmatic message” or expression. When Christians recover the “King Jesus" gospel, they will be constrained by love for its King, that they will hurl themselves out, out, and onward, to the ends of the earth, heralding, announcing the good news:
Their message will announce with passion and power, born of faith in the Spirit and the Word, that through the death and resurrection of Jesus a new order of things has come into being. Not just something in an individual’s heart, but a new reality in history. The fullness of time has come; a new creation has been birthed; the long-anticipated age of the Spirit foretold by Joel has arrived. Now the last days of this present evil age has come as well as a new world of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
The reason you must believe and repent isn’t just to go to heaven when you die, get peace in your heart now, or a have happier marriage and better kids. The reason to repent and believe is quite simple, “God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” and the ruin and route of the devil and his demons is ongoing; the curse is being reversed, and the kingdom is coming and His will is being done on the earth as it is in heaven. This being true, there are no other options other than rebellion and more religion; repent or perish!
The King Jesus Gospel involves:
IV. A Jubilation that is Centered in the King's Person -- 1:6b -- "for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,"
Sherwood Wirt asks, "Is Christianity nothing more than a sorrowful and woebegone Via Dolorosa, i.e. a pathway of sorrows? Is our existence on this planet a cosmic tragedy, and is the Bible a moralistic stepmother, a Miss Manners directing us to quit whatever we are doing and do something else?" No! Ten thousand times NO!
Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie, former pastor and honorable chaplain of the United States Senate, accurately diagnosed modern day Christianity’s greatest problem: “Joy is the missing ingredient in contemporary Christianity. The problem is our powerless piousness and grim religiosity.”
William Tyndale described the Christian gospel as "good, merry, glad, and joyful tidings that makes a man's heart glad, and makes him sing, dance, and leap for joy."
Pastor Philip Ryken, in his commentary on Galatians 5:22, gives a great definition of joy: “Joy is the ability to take good cheer from the gospel.”
Wow! If this definition is valid, then when I as a believer get discouraged and downcast it’s because I have displaced the gospel and lost the joy of His salvation. In my self-curled sinfulness I have re-calibrated my gaze to the low horizon of my own little world rather than the broad horizons that encircled the gospel of God.
We have had a four-square and a full-gospel church, but God’s desire and design is a WHOLE GOSPEL church filled with King Jesus Gospelers! God desires that His Church recovers and is captivated and motivated with a passion for His-Story, the Big, Good News Story that’s played out on the stage of life with a God-entranced view of the world that’s hope-filled, joy-abounding, Spirit-empowered, Christ-exalting, devil-crushing, and world-conquering! A dangerous, demanding, yet supremely delightful and destiny-fulfilling God-authored, Christ-centered, cross-shaped, and resurrection empowered WHOLE, KING JESUS GOSPEL that is not just in word only – but in power in the Holy Spirit, with much assurance!
We need to begin to pray in earnest in the manner the New Testament church prayed as they faced powerful, satanically energized opposition:
Act 4:29-30, “ And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus."
We pray, Sovereign Lord, like the Church in the book of Acts, lifting our voices together to you, the Creator of heaven, earth, the sea and everything in them.
Lord, we ask you to take care of their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal. Let signs and wonders be performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. We are not just open to signs and wonders, but desperate for them so that the world we are war with may know the kingdom of God we announce doesn’t consist in loud talk but in great power.
Empower us in such a way that the name of Jesus will be vindicated, the unsaved liberated, and Satan’s kingdom decimated!
Sovereign Lord, grant our request and let the place where we gather together be shaken with the glory and power of your presence. Grant a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us so that we can go on speaking the Word of God with boldness and see signs and wonders confirming the Word we are proclaiming for the glory of God!
Merciful and Mighty Father, through our yielded lives let the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the cancer-ridden be healed, the deaf hear, and some who die, be raised up, and let the poor have the good news preached to them. In the name of King Jesus, we pray!