March 24, 2017 Jonathan Evans

The Gospel is not what it produces

Fallbrook in rain
When Jesus says that “the poor in spirit” are blessed, he doesn’t say that they are blessed because they are poor in spirit. They are not blessed because they are this way. Rather, astonishingly, they are blessed although they are this way. 
In effect Jesus is telling those who know they are destitute, helpless, and without resources to secure for themselves the blessings of God, that the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God, is here now. That it has come to earth. That it belongs to them.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom God…he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5-6) It’s possible, then, Jesus explains to Nicodemus, that one can see or enter the kingdom of God now. Yet, the only way in is to be born in. I was born an “Evans”. My children are born into the Evans name. To be “born again” or “born from above” is to be born as a citizen of heaven, to be born into the kingdom of God.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) What is this eternal life? It is not something separate from the kingdom of God Jesus mentioned a few moments earlier in his conversation with Nicodemus. They are not two worlds apart. Rather, eternal life is the life of the everlasting kingdom. It is this new life begun now.
“The poor in spirit” can begin to live the life of the kingdom now on earth. They can live it out and experience it now as citizens of heaven. In and through their lives they can be witnesses of and bear witness to this already-but-yet-to-come kind of life.
But. But! The kingdom of God is not The Gospel or The Good News. It is the result of the Gospel. Yes, the Good news is about the Kingdom, but it is not The Kingdom of Good News. It is the Kingdom of God, which because of the Gospel—God’s rescuing of sinful humanity through his Son, Jesus—has come to earth. Jesus is the Way and Entrance for sinful humanity to come into God’s kingdom, and he is the Way and Entrance for God’s Kingdom to come into the earth. 
Here is “the eternal purpose that he (God) has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11). How can what has always been come to be? Only if something is created into which it can come “to be”. Here is the world and human history created for the sake of God’s glory in Christ Jesus crucified and resurrected. Nothing that is made could exist —everything that is made exists ultimately because of God’s purposes and plans in Jesus. 
Still, we often confuse the results of what Jesus has done with what Jesus has done. If I pick a fruit from off The Gospel Tree and offer it to you, I can’t say, “Here is the Gospel.” No! Rather, “Look, here, now! This is the fruit of the abundance of life found in Christ.” 
If we preach mercy, love, hope, peace, joy, forgiveness, healing, freedom but fail to connect these blessings to Jesus, the cross and the empty grave, we offer the world an empty, powerless “gospel”. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). We have been blessed with Christ, and it is in and through him that all other blessings come to us. None of these Gospel blessings could exist apart from the Blessing of Christ himself. He is the Blessed One, the Source of All.
Let the poor in spirit, then, rejoice, for the kingdom of God has come and is theirs, both now and forevermore, in and through Jesus Christ.    
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