Behold the kindness & the severity of God!

In Romans 11:22 Paul says, “note then the kindness and the severity of God . . ..” He goes on to speak of God’s severity toward those that walk in unbelief and sin, but kindness to those who choose God’s way.

I want to focus on two things: I want to show you the danger of walking in sin. It’s dangerous because of the severity of God’s judgment on us when we do, not just on the final day – but even now. I want to show you why you should fear sin, even dabbling with it. But I also want to show you the depth of God’s kindness and mercy to those who turn from their sin to walk in God’s way. I want to encourage you to turn from any sin in your life and come to God so that you will know this kindness.

First –

God’s severity

There are seven stages in a downward spiral of judgment and destruction on us when we continue in sin.

1. Our sin separates us from God. As Jesus says in Mark 7:23, our sin comes from our heart’s wrong desires and when we act on them, we are defiled. We become filthy and unfit to be in God’s presence.

  • As Ephesians 4:18 says, we are “alienated” from God
  • Isaiah 59:2 says, “your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear you.”

Our relationship with God is broken.

2. God gives us over to the power of sin. We see this in Romans 1. It says several times that God “gave them up” to their sin. This is our judgment. God says, “You want sin? You can have it! And that’s your judgment.”

Just like the Israelites of old, when they desired to be like the nations around them and worship their gods. God gave them over to those nations and their gods and they suffered greatly under them.

So it is with us. Jesus said in John 8:34, “everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” In Romans 6 Paul portrays sin as a “power,” a god or a master that enslaves us so that we do its will.

When we sin, we think, “I can do my own thing! I’m free! All those ‘rules’ God wants to put on me . . . not anymore!” But in fact, sin masters us, just like a drug addiction. It rules us and it ruins our lives under its tyranny. Romans 7:15 portrays this well. Here, even though the person wants to stop sinning, they can’t. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing that I hate.” Sin becomes our master.

3. The spirit of Satan comes into our lives. When we remain in sin, we grieve the Spirit of God. We quench the Spirit. We drive the Spirit of God out of our lives. But not only that, we open our lives to Satan to work in and through us. We are in effect saying, “Satan, I agree with you and your way; the way of rebellion.”

Judas is our example here. Just before he betrayed Jesus it says, “Satan entered into him” – John 13:27. Ephesians 2:2 says that Satan is “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” This refers to anyone who walks in sin. As 2 Timothy 2:26 says, we are held captive by the devil “to do his will.”

4. We suffer brokenness and pain. The power of sin and Satan gradually destroys us in one way or another. Sin is like a vicious, malignant cancer in our inner person that brings destruction and death to every part of us.

We lose our wholeness:

  • Our soul is wounded and disfigured.
  • Our physical and mental health suffers.
  • Our relationships with others become broken.

This is the irony of sin: we choose it because we think it will make us happy. We think that God’s way is too hard. Sin is easier; our way is better. But in reality it makes us miserable and destroys us.

Now we come to the lower end of this downward spiral of judgment and destruction. When we cling to our sin in rebellion against God . . .

5. Our minds are darkened. We come to think that our sin is a good thing; even though it’s destroying us. We become deluded in our thinking and blind to the truth. This is a fearful judgment from God!

Several texts describe this reality: Ephesians 4:17-18 says, “you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God.” Romans 1:21 says, “for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.”

God makes fools out of us! We who think we are so wise that we can choose our own way! We come to think that good is evil and evil is good and laugh at anyone who disagrees with us. We think the very thing that is destroying us is what we need.

6. God hardens our hearts. God gives us an obstinate heart that desires more and more sin. Ephesians 4:19 speaks of those with a hardened heart. It says, “they have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”

We become stubborn in our sin. No one can tell us that what we choose is wrong. When we walk in the flesh we become hostile to God’s way – Romans 8:7. We can’t stand to listen to God’s word to us.

This is also a fearful judgment from God because it keeps us in our sin so that, if there is no intervention, we will be destroyed.

7. Finally, we receive eternal death. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” James 1:15 says, “when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

Don’t even begin to think that this doesn’t apply to you because of this or that. It does. There are no exceptions to these Scriptures. If you continue in your sin you will die.

On that final day, we will hear from Jesus, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41)

Behold the severity of God! Realize the danger of sin. Fear it! Don’t even dabble with it.

But also recognize –

God’s Kindness

 – so that you might turn to him and be saved.

When we continue in our sin we are separated from God. But the kindness of God is this: 1. God provides his Son to reconcile us to himself. We can be cleansed and forgiven so that we can be in relationship to God. Romans 5:10 says, “while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

When we continue in sin we are given over to the power of sin. But the kindness of God is this: 2. God delivers us from the power of sin. As Jesus said in John 8:35, “If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.” And there is no power of sin that is more powerful than the Lord Jesus. He can set us free!

When we continue in sin the spirit of Satan comes into our lives. But the kindness of God is this: 3. God fills us with his own Spirit. Luke 11:13 says, “The heavenly Father (will) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” This is what God does for his children.

When we continue in sin we suffer brokenness and misery. But the kindness of God is this: 4. God brings us wholeness and peace. Romans 14:17 says, “For the kingdom of God is (about) peace” that is, shalom or wholeness. Not everything is fixed. There are remaining scars from our sin. But God is merciful and helps us with our weaknesses and one day we will be fully made whole in the resurrection.

When we continue in sin our minds are darkened. But the kindness of God is this: 5. God enlightens our minds to know his way. We receive what 1 Timothy 2:4 calls, “the knowledge of the truth.”

When we continue in sin our hearts are hardened. But the kindness of God is this: 6. God strengthens us to do what is right. Philippians 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

When we continue in sin we receive eternal death. But the kindness of God is this: 7. God gives us eternal life. Although the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23 says, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We will hear these words from Jesus on that final day, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)

Let me end with these words from Ezekiel 18:30-32, that speak of both the kindness and the severity of God and is an invitation for each of us to deal with any sin in our lives:

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

 

The good news of the kingdom of God. Mark 1:14-15.

We’ve been studying the introduction to the Gospel of Mark and how in accordance with the prophecies of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, the messenger comes first, who is John the Baptist, and then comes the Lord, who is Jesus. In our passage today, we come to the end of Mark’s introduction, which gives us some very important insight into what Jesus is all about.

Let’s look at these verses –

Mark 1:14-15

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news.”

Let me first highlight, in terms of the story line, that this is the key transition where John’s ministry comes to an end and Jesus comes fully onto the scene. The baton is passed.

We’ll learn more about what happens to John in Mark 6. But with regard to our verse, I want to point out that when Mark says John was “arrested” it says literally, he was “handed over,” which is foreshadowing of what’s to come. This same word is used in relation to Jesus’ arrest, for instance in Mark 9:31, and also the coming persecution of Jesus’ disciples, in Mark 13:9. So Jesus begins his ministry on a note of persecution that hangs over all that he and his followers will do.

Second, we have in this passage a summary of Jesus’ message that tells us in simple form what he taught, what he stood for, what he was about. The rest of the Gospel gives content to this, but this is where it’s all brought together and so it’s really important to notice and understand this.

If you had to boil the gospel down to just a few words, how would you say it? Or if you had to summarize the whole message of the Bible in a phrase, what would that phrase be? Well, this is exactly what Jesus is doing here. And since it comes from him – this is how he summarizes it all, we should take notice and seek to understand what he’s saying. Which is what I want us to do for the rest of our time together this morning.

Let’s read v. 15 together – “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the good news” – v. 15. (See also Matthew 4:17; Luke 4:43)

First, we look at –

The coming of the kingdom

And we begin with the question, ‘What is it?’

1. The kingdom of God, to say it simply, is God’s promised salvation. It’s more than this, since it brings together most, if not all of the Bible, but it is this.

Our world lives in rebellion against God and is in misery because of this. But Scripture speaks of a day when the earth will once again be under the dominion and blessings of heaven, where God rules unhindered; a day when all the prophecies will be fulfilled.

For now, the world is characterized by three things:

  • Slavery to Satan, the leader of the rebellion. [The people of God came back from exile but were really still in exile, enslaved to the powers of the nations, or the spirits (demons) behind idolatry, led by Satan.] But the promise is that God will set us free – Isaiah 61:1. That’s what the kingdom is about.
  • It is characterized by condemnation for sin and rebellion. But the promise is that God will forgive our sins and he will be close to us – Jeremiah 31:31-34. That’s what the kingdom is about.
  • It is characterized by subjection to death. But the promise is that God will give us new life – Isaiah 25:7-8. We will be whole and at peace. Death itself will be overcome. This is the reality of the kingdom.

So taking this into account, Jesus is saying here that with his coming –

2. The kingdom has arrived. This is made clear in our verse. Jesus said, “the time is fulfilled.” The word “time” here is not about ordinary calendar time. It’s about God’s providential time. Jesus is saying, this is the moment; the appointed time. The word “fulfilled” has to do with fulfilling the many prophecies that were made. Jesus has come to bring them to pass.

Jesus also teaches us in this verse that the kingdom it is “at hand.” This means that it has drawn near. So something new is happening, something powerful, something long promised, something desperately needed.

3. This is why this is good news. We saw previously that the phrase “good news” in both a Roman and Jewish context (Isaiah) has to do with a royal announcement. And here it’s royal as well. It relates to the coming of the kingdom of God and indeed its king.

We saw how in his baptism Jesus is shown to be “the anointed one” or the Messiah. And he is proclaimed by God to be his Son – a royal designation. The gospel is an announcement that there’s a new king, God’s Son! God’s promised kingdom is here!

4. God’s kingdom and Jesus are intertwined. That’s why the rest of the Gospel is about Jesus – his teaching, ministry, life, death and resurrection. But it is summarized here as about the kingdom of God. That’s why in v. 1 it’s “the good news of Jesus” and here it’s “the good news” of “the kingdom of God.” (The good news of God [v. 14] is that what he has promised, the kingdom, he is bringing about through Jesus.)

 The king and his kingdom are interchangeable. God’s kingdom is where Jesus is, and it’s where he rules.

5. There is more of the kingdom yet to come. Jesus talks about this, for instance in Mark 13:26 when he says the world will see him “coming in clouds with great glory and power.” That is, at the end of all things.

Most of his hearers would have expected the kingdom to come all at once. But Jesus teaches that there is an ‘already, not yet’ element to the coming of the kingdom. As he taught in Mark 4, the kingdom is like a mustard seed that starts out small, but eventually covers the whole world. It’s already here with his coming, but it’s not yet all the way here. That will await his second coming.

Now let’s look at –

How Jesus brings the kingdom

1. In his ministry we see the in-breaking of the kingdom

  • He sets people free from Satan through exorcisms, for instance a little later in Mark 1.
  • He forgives people their sins and gives them a new relationship with God. An example here is Levi the tax collector in Mark 2.
  • He heals people, making them whole, including raising people from the dead. He raised a 12-year-old girl in Mark 5.

In all these ways Jesus is communicating that the kingdom is here! And it is being made known through him. The promises are beginning to be fulfilled.

2. In his death and resurrection he establishes the kingdom

  • He overthrows Satan’s authority over this world. He is now Lord. (Matthew 28:18, which was likely how Mark originally ended)
  • He provides for our forgiveness on the cross – Mark 14:24
  • He defeats death in his resurrection from the dead – Mark 16. Death couldn’t hold him. And he pours out the Spirit to give us new life – Mark 1:8.

3. At his second coming he will complete the kingdom

  • Satan will be judged and destroyed
  • We will have a very close relationship with God
  • We will be resurrected to live forever – Mark 13:27

Finally, in this short verse, Jesus tells us –

How to enter the kingdom

Jesus uses the phrase “entering the kingdom” many times. This has to do with how we receive the promises of God’s salvation, made known with the coming of the kingdom. Jesus summarizes this in two words:

1. Repent – This means to have a change of heart and mind that leads us to do God’s will from now on. We turn away from our old lives and walk in a new path according to Jesus’ teaching and example. For instance we love God with all that we are; we love our neighbor as our self; we honor our marriage vows; we take up our cross and serve others and suffer for this.

 2. Believe – This means that we trust in God and God’s promises. We believe that the promise of the kingdom is here and we believe in Jesus, the king who provides God’s grace to us – freedom from Satan, forgiveness and new relationship with God and new life, which includes the promise the Spirit and culminates in our resurrection.

And these two things, repentance and faith, are two sides of the same coin: For if you believe in the good news, you will do what Jesus tells you to, which is repent. And if you repent you show that you have believed in Jesus.

Some questions for us

Do you know how to communicate the gospel? It’s good to know Jesus’ way of doing this, although he was speaking to people who were steeped in the Scriptures.

How would we say it today? Much of what we can share is our testimony. We say to others in various ways that through Jesus God has given me freedom, forgiveness and new life. The fuller framework can be picked up after someone chooses for themselves to become a follower of Jesus.

How is your repentance and faith? It’s not a one-time thing. It’s lifelong. Are you still believing? Are you holding to God’s promises even when it’s hard?

Are you still turning away from sin to follow Jesus? It’s a lifelong process. We live a life of repentance. We learn more as we grow in life what God wants from us. It’s like peeling an onion. We make progress but there’s always another layer to deal with. Have you stopped along the path? Is God waiting for you back where we went off the path?

Repent and believe is what we do to enter the kingdom both now, and in its fullness on the final day.

Is God making his kingdom known through us? God still sets people free from Satan. Are people being set free here and in our outreach? God still forgives and gives new relationship. Are people coming to know God here? God still gives new life. Are people becoming alive to God here?

Is God working among us in these ways? These are signs of the kingdom’s presence. They aren’t the only ones, but they are important. How are we doing?