Archive for April, 2010

Advice for Sharing the Gospel from Someone in dire need of Advice

April 8, 2010

I have found at university that it is not an uncommon thing for a member of the Christian Union to be under confident in their knowledge of the Gospel, which whilst ironic since the primary purpose of the CU is to evangelise, is also somewhat a relief considering I too fit into this category. Many times I have tried to practise evangelism by explaining the Gospel to myself, but often my thoughts have become confused. I know that we are saved by grace and that it has something to do with the cross. And the Holy Spirit figures somewhere doesn’t it, err he? And there is something to do with good works but they definitely do not save us. Surely there must be a simpler way to explain the Gospel?

Evangelist Rico Tyce, author of Christianity Explored, has been known to say that the British have forgotten how to evangelise and that it has taken Australian Christians in order to re-teach them. How fortunate it then was that one Sunday morning I was able to press Australian evangelist John Chapman for advice on how to share the Gospel.

Summing up the Gospel

Before I reveal what John Chapman said I want to first recall what I once heard British Christian Justin Mote teach. He said that Jesus sums up the Gospel in Mark 1:15:

15“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” – Mark 1:15

To set the context, “The time has come,” and “The kingdom of God is near,” point to the time period between Jesus’ first coming and his second coming. It is the time in history in which God has given people the chance to “Repent and believe the good news.” Justin taught that the Gospel can be summed up in six words. “Repent and believe the good news.” This was exceptionally comforting news to someone like me who thought the Gospel was complicated.

Returning to the advice Australian evangelist John Chapman gave. He said that the Gospel is simply this: “Jesus is lord and Jesus is saviour.” I see his point. Jesus says, “Repent and believe the good news.” In order for people to repent they need to see that they are unworthy before God [Rom 3:23], and that they should follow his decrees [Lk 8:21]. He is their only lord. For people to believe the good news they need to understand that there is nothing they can do in order to win favour with God [Gal 2:15-16], and that they must place their entire hope in Jesus trusting that he died to make them right with God [1 Pet 3:18]. He is their only saviour. Preaching that people should repent and believe the good news is the whole Gospel summed up and is a great thing for us to tell our friends.

Further reflection on John Chapman’s Gospel summary led me to believe that there are two dangers when sharing the good news. Either I might be tempted to overemphasise repent, or I might be tempted to overemphasise believe. I wondered what would happen to those I spoke the Gospel if I preached repent without believe, or believe without repent. The answer I deduced is that they might be tempted to believe that Jesus is lord but not saviour, or tempted to believe that Jesus is saviour but not lord. I want to reason that believing either of those is a dangerous thing.

The Danger of accepting Jesus as Lord but not as Saviour

By accepting Jesus as the rightful Lord of our lives we will follow him and obey his commands. This is a good thing. However, if we fail to acknowledge Jesus as our only saviour then we will try to get to God by keeping his laws and this is utter foolishness. Jesus alone has paid for every one of our sins.

The Danger of accepting Jesus as Saviour but not as Lord

To see that Jesus is our only saviour is the heart of the Gospel. However, if we fail to acknowledge that Jesus is lord then we will believe that we can sin as much as like and still be saved. There is a half truth in this sentence. No matter what sin we have committed we can be forgiven through Jesus’ death on the cross. This is done through our repentance, by accepting that what we have done is wrong and needs forgiving. But it is impossible for us to repent of an act if we do not believe what we did is wrong. To be saved we need to accept that we are spiritually sick and repent of our sin. In order to repent we must truly hate what is offensive in God’s eyes. We cannot do this if we think that Jesus’ death is a license to freely commit sin. Jesus is our lord if we claim to be a Christian and we must obey him.

I feel that there is a difference in me now when I come to share my faith. Am I still afraid when I evangelise? Yes. Am I still under confident in my Gospel knowledge? Yes. Am I still unsure what to say to people? No. “Jesus Christ is both lord and saviour, so repent and believe the good news.”

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Loved Yesterday, Today and Forever

April 2, 2010

With it being Good Friday it is great time to be reminded of the core Gospel truth: That God loved the sinful world so much that He came to earth in the form of a lowly human to suffer an agonising death on a cross as a once and for all perfect sacrifice for the sins of those who trust Jesus. It is an awesome truth that shows to what extent God was willing to go in order to have a loving relationship with His people, and it serves as the primary motivation of worship to Him. As the scriptures say:

19We love because [God] first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

I was reminded today that what is specifically remembered on Good Friday is something that should be joyfully remembered daily. It is the foundation of all Christian belief and the reason for the hope God’s people have in Heaven. Furthermore, without the cross the true extent of God’s love cannot be seen. How great it is to commemorate the death of Jesus in celebration. And so as God’s people lavish themselves on this Good Friday with the beautiful grace that God has provided, I desire to offer three encouragements from scripture that will help with the joy of daily revelling in God’s love.

God loved His people so much that He created them foreknowing He would have to die on a cross

4For [God] chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will – Ephesians 1:4-5

There is an age old question that goes like this: If a parent was planning to have a baby but had the foreknowledge that their child was going to grow up into an evil person, should they still decide to have that child? It is a tough question to answer. Many people use examples like Hitler, or Stalin to illustrate the severity of giving birth to a child who will grow up to become evil. They question whether it is worth having a child who will cause countless evils. I personally would not know how to answer that question were I asked it. But, God does have an answer. He has already answered that question by deciding to create humanity. God foreknows all things. He foreknew the fact that Adam & Eve would rebel against Him in the Garden of Eden and cause the fall of humanity. God foreknew that He would have to come down to earth and suffer the punishment for sin on a cross in order to be able to have a loving relationship with His children. And yet He still chose to create them in spite of this.

God loves His people with the exact same love He loved them with on the cross

8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

I was recently struck by how readily I affirmed this scripture without truly understanding its riches. I acknowledged the fact that God was the same today as He had always been, but I always carried the underlying assumption that His love was greater for me at the cross because of the amount of suffering Jesus was willing to endure in order that I enter His kingdom. It was almost as if I felt His love for me today had diminished because He was no longer going to great lengths for me. I look back now and realise how me-centred this was. God was gracious towards my ignorance. He pointed out that the love with which Jesus was willing to die for His people is the exact same love He has for them this very day. This means that the love Jesus showed for His people when He choose to be brutally flogged by whips, cruelly pierced by nails, viciously humiliated with insults and forsaken by the righteous wrath of God, is the exact same love He has for His people today and will continue to have for them forever.

God will continue to show His people His love in Heaven by continually reminding them of the cross

11Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” – Revelation 5:11-12

Current society is production driven. Goals and targets are assigned and expected to be met. How these targets are achieved is of little importance, as long as the means leads to the ends. It is possible that this culture has influenced some Christian thinking. It certainly affected me. I assumed that once I was in Heaven (the ends) that Jesus’ death on the cross (the means) became largely academic, a thing of the past. But the striking truth recorded in Revelation is that God’s people never stop praising Jesus for His wonderful death. This should not be surprising considering that the cross is where Jesus’ majesty, glory and beauty can be seen most clearly. A king’s throne is the centre of his power and it is the cross that is Jesus’ throne. It is by remembering Jesus hanging on His throne that His people are reminded of His holiness and their sinfulness, and are therefore able come to a deeper understanding and adoration of His awesome love and perfect justice which He brilliantly masterminded through His plan the cross.

It is my prayer that these three encouragements has helped to show that God not only loved His people with the love He showed them on the cross whilst He was suffering, but that He also loved His people with that exact same love before He had even created them, and that He will continue to love them with that exact same love forever and ever because God loves His people the same yesterday, today and forever.