The Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. Mark 1:15
The Kingdom of God holds vast differences to the religion of the Old Testament. While the law, particularly the ceremonial law, gave specific rules concerning food and drink and what is clean and unclean, the Kingdom of God has at its focus a transformation of heart.
So why do we even have the ceremonial law? The law and ritual of the old testament hold great merit in teaching us about God. They can show us, in physical ways, what our relationship with God is to be like. But these laws, like all analogies, fall short of fully expressing the truth of faith. It is possible to follow the laws and rituals and still fail to gain the truth they were given to show. In reality you could even live with good morality – abstaining from evil and doing good – and still miss out on the truth of faith. Orthodoxy and faithful practice of faith can be just mere outward human acts that miss the deep truth of faith.
The reality of faith is that unless our lives are changed inwardly, our actions fall short of the true meaning of life. True faith, the faith that comes with the Kingdom of God, is a faith that is lived out in righteousness, but not a righteousness of personal strength. The Kingdom of God, the life of true faith, is a righteousness derived from a transformation of the heart. It is a righteousness that gives us the strength to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors, that is anyone and everyone, as we love ourselves. The Kingdom of God is not a religion lived out in solemn penance, but a life filled with peace and joy. And this joy is beyond any false joy that the world can promise. This co-joining of holiness and joy are the key tenets of the Kingdom of God.
And this Kingdom isn’t something that we earn, but through faith. When we turn from sin and our desire to live by our own power and rules, then we can enter into the Kingdom of God. We can set aside the death that we have earned for our sin and receive instead the free gift of grace through Jesus. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation but God gives it to us freely. God offers us the Kingdom – the holiness and joy of life that we can only have through faith. Faith is not just a mere assent to belief in God. Faith is a confidence in the pardoning of our sin by God.
The Kingdom of God is not just a set of moral virtues, laws, and rituals that can teach us about God but a way for us to experience God fully and allow God to transform our lives and fill us with holiness and joy that are the full life lived in the Kingdom of God.
This is the 6th in a series of posts based on the Standard Sermons of John Wesley. These 53 sermons are required reading for every Methodist preacher and form the basis of Methodist theology.