Talking the Gospel Begins With Talking About God
by Bob Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]
I want to talk about God. I want to talk about God because we have almost lost the gospel.Losing the gospel, we have lost our ability to share the gospel. Even more important, we have lost our ability to talk the gospel.
Losing the gospel, we have lost our ability to make an impact in our world.
Losing the gospel, we have misunderstood the nature of Christianity
Losing the gospel, we have lost sight of the true nature of God, or vice versa.
Have we made conversion too easy and requirements so few that many authentic inquirers miss the real thing? Have we caught the climate and values and philosophies of the world, as one catches a cold? Do we speak with a raspy voice or almost no voice at all?
Evidences of the problem-the "cost-nothing" gospelFirst, the influence of the world can be variously described, but it is at its heart humanism. Humanism has led to a departure from Judeo-Christian values. The focus is the human being. Roots in the Enlightenment, reason. It has come to dominate Western culture. It is in our schools, education without biblical foundations, even with the foundations intentionally removed. Self-gratification and personal happiness are the highest goods. Sin rejected as a Puritan idea. No absolutes-except that there are no absolutes.
We grow up as church kids, nominal, inheriting our faith.
We learn not at all to think the faith. We are seldom challenged to live the faith.
I see two reasons: first, the world's strong influence which is often stronger than the influence of the church; second, the language commonly used to describe what it means to be a Christian.
Second, the language typically used to define Christianity has changed. We have moved away from respected Christian ideals and values, and a basic fear of the Lord. We have adopted new language. God loves you and has a plan for your life. Of course God loves me, life is about me. You are in control-accept him, ask him into your heart. God wants to bless you and give you everything you need and want. All of this is free and costs you nothing. Just come and enjoy yourself; then leave and enjoy yourself.
Jesus used significantly different terms. Follower, disciple, Christian. He doesn't call us so much to a changed life as to an exchanged life. Christianity is not self-help, self-actualization, maximized potential, positive thinking. Such false ideas redefine God in secular terms. God's love becomes God's tolerance. God's generosity becomes a heavenly bank account or a celestial Santa Claus. Sins become mistakes or addictions; demonic actions become problems. Mentioning sin is legalistic intolerance. With all, or even one, of these changes, the message is softened. We maintain interdenominational cooperation and unity at the expense of losing our revivalistic and evangelistic edge.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? What is God like? Matt. 16:21ff. We also think in temporal, momentary, self-serving terms. We miss the power and depth of being Jesus-followers. True love is Matt. 16:24-25. Jesus is not offering a benefits package, but a reconstructed exchanged life. To get the new life, you have to lose the old life.
Evidences of the problem-the "gospel of change" vs. the "gospel of exchange"
Christianity is an exchanged life; Col. 3:1-4. I give up mine so I can have his. It is not asking Christ into my life, not accepting him, but that he will be come my life. If I ask Christ in, I still have my old life and I'm still in charge. If I keep my life, I cannot have his. The gospel is not a gospel of change that is measured by guilt; it is a gospel of grace that centers in exchange.
How does one life the exchanged life? Gal. 2:20. Self-denial, for what reason-so Christ controls. This teaching of Jesus is the opposite of what is often preached today. Many want to tell about the benefits without mentioning the cost. Our Western definition of Christians has been reduced to everyone who believes in Jesus (in the name of love), regardless of how they live. And believing in Jesus is often no more than acknowledging Christ's existence. Doesn't matter if they look like Christ or love him, follow him or imitate him, as long as they say they are Christians. I argue, as does Scripture, that believing in Jesus, trusting him, in the biblical sense is placing one's self completely at his control, evidenced in baptism-submitting to another, washed and made new. Matt. 7:13-14. Phil. 3:8-12. 1 John 2:3-6.
We must define knowing Christ as the Bible does.
Finding a Solution: it is about God
The evangelistic message is first and foremost about God. No subject is more important. We must present a true, balanced, biblical picture. People make decisions for eternity based on how well we communicate God's nature. Rom. 11:22. Contrast the sternness of God and the kindness of God.
What are the foundational elements?
- Creation. The creating God.
- Rebellion. The God who cries. We must see that God calls because we are in need. He calls to recreation. He calls away from sin. We must talk about sin. People don't want to feel any condemnation. But only guilt and godly sorrow lead to repentance. We have people talking about repentance but not doing it. They are not doing it because they do not know guilt. Sin is not to be presented in a self-righteous or condemning way. The standard for holiness is not us, but God. This is not a list of do's and don'ts but a focus on God's character and perfect holiness. John 16:8-11.
- God's love. The God who calls. John 3:16, good text, but only in context.
- God as Lord/King. The God who controls. This is not bad, but good. Salvation and submission to Christ's Lordship are one and the same, one event. You cannot be saved, and then later submit. This is not an easy gospel, but a powerful one. When people respond, they come broken, expecting complete transformation. This kind of message does not drive people away, but encourages. People are looking for something to live for, something worth dying for, something to stake their lives on.
Have to talk about eternity as we conclude--heaven and hell.
Ignorance of eternity causes two problems. Failure to understand heaven leaves us with no hope; failure to understand hell leaves us with no fear of God. We have too temporal/temporary a view, we are weak, manipulated by circumstances.
Eternal perspective still exists in some places in world--taught to new converts. Church is multiplying rapidly, looks like church in Acts, devoted, filled with power, operates in supernatural with word preached boldly.
Our loss of passion for evangelism is our failure to acknowledge of talk about the reality of hell. The idea that some of our friends, loved ones, are on road to eternal torment, separated from God, should bother us. ...So none would perish. 2 Cor. 5:11.
Last updated November 4, 2011