God’s Kingdom and Following Jesus
For Jesus’ audience, the Good News was that God’s kingdom was at hand—it had arrived here on earth! Let this sink in. Jesus repeatedly called his message “the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). God’s kingdom is essential to Jesus’ gospel. Simply put, we can’t fully grasp Jesus’ gospel without knowing about God’s kingdom.
At this point, are you asking yourself, Do I know what the kingdom of God is? Can I clearly communicate what it is to someone else? How many times have I shared the gospel and not mentioned God’s kingdom? Can I truly say I’ve shared Jesus’ “gospel of the kingdom of God” if I haven’t said anything about God’s kingdom? We’ll consider these questions about the kingdom of God more below. For now, note how central and prominent the kingdom of God is to the gospel—it was the very first thing Jesus said about it!
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In the same way that the kingdom is vital to Jesus’ declaration, his call to follow is also an essential element of his gospel. It’s one of three imperative responses to the gospel that we see in Mark 1:14-17. It’s the element that pushes us to realize that Jesus didn’t call people to a mere decision of the mind, but to live an entirely new life. Of all the gospel elements, following Jesus might be the most neglected one in our day. We’ve been led to believe that a one-time prayer for the forgiveness of our sins is enough, that this is all that’s required. As soon as you add Jesus’ call to follow him to the gospel, it radically changes the gospel. It transforms the gospel into what Jesus originally intended to be “the discipleship gospel.”
We’re spending some time introducing God’s kingdom and following Jesus now because these are two elements are often absent from “gospel” proclamations today. In fact, they’re usually not mentioned at all. To not say a word about God’s kingdom and to leave out Jesus’ call to follow him from our gospel proclamations renders our “gospel” to be a non-discipleship gospel. And non-discipleship gospels do not lead people to become maturing and multiplying disciples. We’ll get into more detail on these things in Part 2, but for now, allow these things to start to germinate in your mind.