The Good News that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed is a message so comprehensive, so altogether new and radical, that it requires deep-seated, heart-felt repentance, complete surrender to the risen Christ, and whole-hearted belief leading to obedience in every area of life. It is the message of the Kingdom of God. Anything other than the Gospel of the Kingdom is not the Gospel at all, but a form of near Christianity that holds out promises germane to the Kingdom, prescribes means related to the Kingdom, but holds back on making the full vision and demands of the Kingdom clear to those who would enjoy the conditions of blessedness.

Near Christianity, therefore, leaves little in the way of Kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it. It leaves what it promises, and what people who embrace it desire: a sense of forgiveness, and the peace of mind that accompanies that, and a tentative hope of going to heaven when we die. As for power to transform sinful lives into beacons of holiness, goodness, beauty, and truth—well, that's something to affirm, but not necessarily something to seek.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Galatians, "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel..." (Galatians 1:6). Did you catch that verb—deserting? It wasn't that the Galatians denied that Jesus was Savior. Not at all. Or even that He was Lord. They simply chose to minimize the power of His saving grace by adding to the Gospel in certain ways and detracting from it in others. So, their professions of faith notwithstanding, Paul said that they were deserting the true Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom.

In our day he might say to the churches in America, "I am astonished that you who profess to believe in Jesus evidence so little of the reality of the Gospel of the Kingdom. What did you believe when you believed in Jesus? From what did you turn, and to what, when you repented? What do you hope for, if not to know God in His glory and be transformed to live out that glory in every detail of your life?" He might well conclude that our generation has settled for a form of near Christianity, not the Gospel of the Kingdom which he and all the apostles, following Jesus, proclaimed with such boldness, and at the risk of their lives.

Anything other than the Gospel of the Kingdom may be like Christianity, or near Christianity, but it is not the Good News of Jesus and Paul. Near Christianity is not the christianity of scripture and, therefore, is no Good News at all.

For Reflection

Have you received the Gospel of the Kingdom? To what evidence in your life might you point to convince someone that that is true?

T. M. Moore is dean of the BreakPoint Centurions Program and principal of the fellowship of ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He is the author or editor of 20 books, and has contributed chapters to four others. His essays, reviews, articles, papers, and poetry have appeared in dozens of national and international journals, and on a wide range of websites. His most recent books are Culture Matters (Brazos) and The Hidden Life, a handbook of poems, songs, and spiritual exercises (waxed tablet). Sign up at his website to receive his daily email devotional Crosfigell, reflections on Scripture and the Celtic Christian tradition. T. M. and his wife and editor, Susie, make their home in Hamilton, Va.