"Good news from far away
is like cold water to the thirsty soul."
There was a time when we were living in West Africa when I would check my email more than 20 times per day! Our kids were small and I spent days and weeks home with them and never leaving our little compound. I wasn't waiting for any specific message, but my soul was thirsty for a piece of good news; something to break through the monotony of my days. I was longing for something to excite my mind and give me something to look forward to. Have you ever felt that way? Has life ever left you thirsty for a bit of good news to kindle your hope for the future? Are you waiting for a God-given interruption to alter your days?
"Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom"
Another word for "good news" is gospel. If you had asked me this question just a few years ago to explain the, "good news of the gospel", I would have given you an answer similar to this, "Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and rose from the dead. If we trust Him as Savior and Lord, He will forgive us and give us eternal life." It's a decent answer, and I believe it is true. But, is it complete? Was I missing something? When Jesus was on earth and "proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom", the events which I just described hadn't even taken place yet! So what was Jesus talking about? What was He telling the people that was such good news?
Consider the conditions of the world into which Jesus entered. The Jewish people had returned from their years of exile in Babylon. They were back in the land of Israel, but they still weren't free. Rome had taken over much of the world and was ruling with a heavy hand of tyranny. Tax laws were digging big holes in peoples already shallow pockets. Roman authorities and soldiers were a constant and unwelcome presence in daily life. The leaders of the temple and religious systems were thriving in their positions of authority. But, most Jews were wilting under the weights of religious laws and cultural expectations. The Kingdom of Israel was bowed low with poverty and oppression. It was into this state of existence that Heaven opened its door and sent Jesus to earth. All the glorious realities of Heaven pierced our world heralding this good news.
The Kingdom of Heaven is run by a very different set of laws than the Kingdom of Earth. And those laws work on earth too!
Through Jesus' life and teaching, the Kingdom of Heaven was infiltrating earth and setting people free from the inside out. And through these cracks in the Kingdom of Earth and its authorities, a new and wonderful kind of existence began to spread. It didn't take people out of this world, or even rise up to overpower it. Instead, it gave people a new way to live in it.
The teachings of Jesus felt light and forgiving compared to their old ways. The task masters of Toil and Obligation were being replaced with the masters of Grace and Love. The repentant heart was elevated as more valuable than perfectly following the religious rules. The humble in heart could come near to God, no matter their religious or social status. For people who thought that God was nearer to those who perfectly followed the religious rules and were leaders in the synagogue, this was good news!
But, there's so much more! Jesus seemed to take logical approaches for being good and living a good life, and flipped them upside-down!
You want to live in peace? Let go of revenge and love your enemies.
You want to be energetic and productive? Leave your work and take a day off every week.
You want your business to be successful? Give up tediously accounting for every penny and share generously with those in need.
You want to get a lot done in a day? Lay your stress aside and first, spend time quiet time with God; be still.
You want to be righteous? Give up trying so hard and accept the righteousness of Jesus.
His ways, the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven,
are easy and His burden is light.
The trouble with this good news, that there's a better way to live, is that it doesn't make sense! The ways of Heaven can't be figured out logically. They don't fit with the worlds economy. We have to choose to believe that the laws of Heaven will actually work here on earth. They go against our understanding and defy our human logic. Applying the good news of the kingdom to our life on earth requires faith.
"And without faith it is impossible to please God."
I used to believe that if I worked really hard and didn't take days off, I would get a lot done in life. I was proud of my efforts. I would say, "I'll rest when I get to Heaven, there's too much to be done here". This made sense to my natural mind and fits with what the worlds teaches. But, the results were neither pleasant nor good. I became less and less productive (though I was working more and more hours). I was increasingly tired, grouchy and anxious. When I learned more about God's command to take a weekly day of rest and decided to live that way, transformation began to happen. I started to be excited for Monday mornings! I was rested and eager to get to work. I was far more creative and productive. My attitude became more peaceful and happy! Learning God's way, and following it, set me free from my life of unending work and weariness, and gave me the benefits of productivity, rest and peace.
This is very good news indeed!
What parts of your life feel heavy and burdensome? In what areas could you use some good news that would bring relief?
Elizabeth George once said, "Keep your finger on the pulse of Jesus." In other words read the accounts of Jesus' life in the gospels very often. Learn how He lived. His life was a perfect demonstration of how to live the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven in the middle of this messy, earthly life. Begin living by the ways of Heaven now and see the difference it makes in your marriage, your family, your neighborhood, workplace, city and even your church. You can leave behind the burdens of religious obligation and your toiling for approval. You can embrace the masters of Love and Grace. You can live life God's way and be free.
Can you feel the relief? Such good, good news!
Follow along with me during this series as we keep digging into the realities of the Kingdom and learn to bring them to earth.
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If this is sparking something inside you, and you want to speak with someone about the Kingdom of Heaven or whatever else is being stirred in your heart, message me. It would be a privilege to speak with you.