Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Four Approaches to Evangelism *

Part two:  Taking the Mystery out of the Gospel

Let’s face it—many Christians are uncomfortable sharing their faith. Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid of being asked questions they can’t answer. (The solution here is to study apologetics.) Others are afraid of ridicule—and that will happen sometimes. Some are simply embarrassed or intimidated; it’s too much like confrontation. Some are simply too shy—it’s a personality thing. Well, perhaps this blog series will help to overcome some these apprehensions.

Of the four approaches to evangelism I’ll be writing about, the first if proclamation—proclaiming the “Gospel.” I know what follows is Evangelism 101 for most Christians, and that you’ll be familiar with the verses I quote. Actually, my focus here is not on how to share Gospel, but how to explain it in a way non-Christians will understand, and in a fashion that will give new Christians a concise explanation. So, let’s begin by defining Gospel.

Theologically, it’s the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, especially concerning Jesus as the Messiah. The Gospel reveals that Jesus is God in human flesh (Phil 2:6-8); He came to earth to offer salvation to sinful humanity through His sacrificial death for our sins on the cross (called the “atonement”); He promised to return a second time at the end of this present age to set up an eternal kingdom in a “new heaven and earth” (Rev 21:1); and He will give eternal life in glorified resurrected bodies to everyone who has accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.

To put it succinctly and in less theological terms, the Gospel is what God has done for us that we can’t do for ourselves, because we are unable to be “good enough” to earn salvation through our own behavior. In other words, no one can live up to the standards of righteousness and holiness that God expects of people who wish to spend eternity with Him in heaven (Rom 3:23; Rv 21:3). Not only do all of us do things our conscious tells us are wrong, but we also think things (Mt 5:28), and say things (Mk 16:17-18) God condemns. Indeed, we often don’t even do the things our conscious tell us we should be doing. This too is sin in God’s eyes (Jas 4:17). (By the way, we can generally trust our conscious when it convicts us because it reflects God’s universal moral code all people share—see Rom 2:14-15.)

So, the Bible makes it plain there is no wiggle room in terms of earning salvation. It can’t be done. Everyone sins and even one sin can bring us under judgment (Jas 2:10). Both the Old and New Testaments teach this (1 Kgs 8:46; Ro 3:23). They also teach that every human being will one day stand before God and give an account of their lives. This includes both Christians (2 Cor 5:10) as well as non-Christians (Rv 20:11-12). The “good news” for Christians is that this judgment is not one of condemnation but of awards for our service to God (1 Tm 4:8). This is not true for unbelievers. They will experience eternal separation from God and everything good and true and beautiful forever (Rv. 20:11-15).

The bottom line is this. If salvation is attainable at all, God must take the initiative by reaching out to us even though we are sinners.  And He did this (Ro 5:8). And amazingly, if we accept His forgiveness and receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He does not hold us accountable for our sin (Rom 8:1). This is what Christians mean when they say we are “saved by grace” (see Eph 8-9). We don’t earn it; it’s a gift—but a gift we must be willing to accept on God’s terms. Which is that Jesus Christ is the only way that God chose to save us through grace (Acts 4:12). Jesus said this Himself in John 14:6.

So, how is someone saved? For such an extraordinary, life-transforming, and even mysterious event, it’s really quite simple. Non-Christians must hear and believe the Gospel and then receive Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9-14). This is where proclamation comes into play. As Paul pointed out in Romans 10:14, unbelievers can’t hear the Gospel unless we tell them about it. I’m not saying everyone should go door-to-door or stand on a street corner passing out tracts on the Four Spiritual Laws. But I am saying that every Christian has the responsibility to be prepared to share the Gospel, and that God will provide those opportunities if we’re attuned to them (Col 4:5). I also believe, in spite of the apprehensions mentioned above, every Christians can share the Gospel—even if it means not saying a word! I’ll explain this in my next blog.

*  This and the other blog articles in this series are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced electronically or in print. But feel free to link this blog to your own website, personal email list, or Facebook friends and groups. I explore the topic of this series of articles more fully in my book Engaging the Closed Minded; Presenting Your Faith to the Confirmed Unbeliever (Kregel Publications).

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