1 Samuel 1:1-8
Today Jesus says four things to the people. 1) The time is fulfilled. 2)The Kingdom of God is at hand. 3) Repent and 4) Believe in the Gospel. This is his initial proclamation. Should we walk around shouting out these four things downtown? I do not think we will make any converts. If we say that the time is fulfilled, and we mean is that Jesus has come for the first time, people will say, "I have heard that already.” If we say, "The Kingdom of God is at hand", people will respond, "Oh yeah? Well where is it?" If we say, "Repent", they will say, "Stop judging me!" or if we do a better translation and say, "Change your mind!", they will ask for proof that they should. Then when we finally say, "Believe in the Gospel!", they will laugh and say "Oh, is that all? You are just one of those. Leave me alone."
Jesus had a difficult audience too. The people whom Jesus was preaching to were weary of so-called Messiahs; they had been promised salvation by many different people who had all failed. The difference here was the preacher: he said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” and there he was: the king. He lived the Gospel. He was the Gospel. The Christian Gospel does not fall on deaf ears when it is preached by a saint, but it seems mediocre when preached by someone who ignores it.
When we say that the world is completely different because of Christianity, but then we live like everyone else, they know that we do not really believe what we preach. When we say that “the time is fulfilled” but then waste this fulfilled time in the pleasures of the world, they know that we do not really believe that our message is urgent. When we say to them, “Repent; change your mind” but continue in our sins and selfishness and in our pride refuse to change ours, they know we do not mean it, not really.
Before we worry about whether we can get them to hear these words, can I get you to hear them? Can I get me to hear them? The world does not believe because we do not believe, because, if we did believe, we would live as if it were true. The message of the Gospel is very powerful, but only where there is any evidence that it actually makes a difference.