Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Gospel Summarized

I'm teaching a class soon at Church on evangelism, and part of it is learning how to explain the Gospel message very simply in just a few minutes. I thought I'd put it up here. Let me know if you have any suggestions or if you find it helpful.



“What is Christianity all about in really simple terms?”


1. God created us to be with Him. The Bible teaches that God is good, and that He created everything that exists. He made people so that we could enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. He promised that if we lived His way, life would go well and He would fulfill all our needs.


2. We have rebelled against Him. The first man, Adam, decided to break that relationship with God. God told him not to eat one piece of fruit, but Adam didn’t trust God and ate it anyway. When he did that, he sinned. We all do that every day. When we lie, cheat, hurt other people, honor other things above God, and act selfishly we’re basically telling God that we don’t trust Him, and that our ways are better than His ways. Because we’ve rebelled against Him like this, the only thing left for us is eternal punishment.


3. Jesus paid our price of rebellion. But the great news is that God loves us even though we continually rebel against Him. So He came to Earth as a person, Jesus, to save us from ourselves. He paid our price of rebellion by being tortured and killed on a cross 2,000 years ago. He paid that price for all people, everywhere. He loves us so much that He died to bring us back into a relationship with God so that not only will we not be punished, but we’ll get to be His children again and experience life in the best way possible.


4. We can reject His love. But we can choose to reject that love. We can choose that we’d rather live whatever way we want to, or that we don’t believe it, or that we’ve got better things to do. If we do that, God will have to punish us. No matter if we ever seek God out or not, doing nothing is still rejecting His free gift. He wants to be with us, but there’s nothing He can do if we refuse His love.


5. We can accept His love. But we can also choose that we do need God, and that we want to accept the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. We can choose to trust in that sacrifice and trust that God knows what’s best for us. If we do that we can not only be forgiven for our rebellion, but we can then experience life in the most fulfilling way possible. This love is free for anyone who wants it, no matter what bad decisions they’ve made in their lives. It’s not about being a better person, but understanding that none of us are good people, and that only Jesus’ sacrifice can make us into good people. God loves us so much that He desperately wants us to accept His love, but we can also choose to reject it. He loves you very much, and He wants to be with you. He is wanting for you to choose Him.

10 comments:

Rick Lannoye said...

That was simple, alright, but simply wrong if what Jesus originally had to say about God is correct!

For starters, Jesus told us God wants to relieve suffering, not to be the cause of it! To put that simply--Jesus did not believe in Hell.

I've actually written an entire book on this topic--"Hell? No! Why You Can Be Certain There's No Such Place As Hell," (for anyone interested, you can get a free ecopy of my book at my website: www.thereisnohell.com), but if I may, let me share one of the many points I make in it to explain why.

If one is willing to look, there's substantial evidence contained in the gospels to show that Jesus opposed the idea of Hell. For example, in Luke 9:51-56, is a story about his great disappointment with his disciples when they actually suggested imploring God to rain FIRE on a village just because they had rejected him. His response: "You don't know what spirit is inspiring this kind of talk!" Presumably, it was NOT the Holy Spirit. He went on, trying to explain how he had come to save, heal and relieve suffering, not be the CAUSE of it.

So it only stands to reason that this same Jesus, who was appalled at the very idea of burning a few people, for a few horrific minutes until they were dead, could never, ever burn BILLIONS of people for an ETERNITY!

True, there are a few statements that made their way into the copies of copies of copies of the gospel texts which place “Hell” on Jesus’ lips, but these adulterations came along many decades after his death, most likely due to the Church filling up with Greeks who imported their belief in Hades with them when they converted.

Bear in mind that the historical Protestant doctrine of the inspiration of the Scriptures applies only to the original autographs, not the copies. But sadly, the interpolations that made their way into those copies have provided a convenient excuse for a lot of people to get around following Jesus’ real message.

Joshua Tucker said...

Hi Rick, nice to meet you. Thanks for dropping by my blog and sharing your thoughts.

I see where you're coming from, but there's a lot of texts I would have a hard time reconciling with your conclusions.

For example, Jesus' continued use of terms like "condemned." In John 3:18 Jesus said, "Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because He has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God." It seems to me that Jesus desperately does not want to condemn anyone, but the nature of sin is that it leads to death. He provides a way out, but many of us have voluntarily chosen we'd rather have sin and whatever consequences go with it. At the very least you have to deal with the fact that condemnation in some capacity was something Jesus spoke about freely.

Jesus also said in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?' Then I will announce to them, 'I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!" At the very least, you must admit that Jesus talks often about the fact that some will be "out" and some will be "in." He clearly says, "Depart from me!" Maybe you don't prefer the traditional understanding of Hell, but there can be no doubt from Scripture that at the end of time some will be with God and some will not.

Along with many other statements from Jesus' own mouth, such as the parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25, there's the rest of the New Testament. 2 Thess. 1:7-9, for example, affirms that there is a day coming where Jesus Himself will "take vengeance with flaming fire on those who don't know God and on those who don't know obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus." I can agree to the extent that the modern understanding of "Hell" is cartoon-ish and pulled together from a few references in the New Testament. But the idea of a coming judgment is very real, and there can be no critical viewing of the Bible and denying that such an event is coming.

Joshua Tucker said...

I can see where you're coming from. Hell is a frightful idea, and a bit uncomfortable, to say the least. But God's justice is not nullified by His love. Rather, His justice is what makes Him divine, right, and sovereign. Make no mistake, our rebellion against God is completely worthy of death. Any understanding of how God views sin is absolutely clear in any single book of the entire Bible, even the Gospels. We have betrayed God in the worst possible way, and punishment does await for those who do nothing about it. But God's love and mercy is greater than His justice, and He has provided a way for us to be with Him without any fear of punishment whatsoever. His justice only reinforces His love.

Forgiveness from no punishment at all is not only less valuable, but worthless. Why bother with focusing so much on mercy and forgiveness and sacrifice when there's no punishment anyway? Why go through all the trouble of being tortured, mocked, and killed for mankind if really they're already fine? It makes no logical sense, and the weight of Scripture affirms that. Without the reality of Hell, the Cross is an absurdity.

On a side note, any time an individual comes up on his own with an interpretation that almost no Christians anywhere believe, it's safe to say that belief is probably erroneous. Would God have really had all Christians everywhere believe in Hell for 2,000 years only to come and give one person special revelation that no such thing exists? Is it really possible that God has decided to give one person a correct revelation of truth, and has left the rest of us in a haze of lies? That, also, goes against God's nature explained throughout Scripture. Truth is obvious, and that is one of the many reasons we don't like it. Friend, you have had to do many Scripture gymnastics to come up with these conclusions. Be careful that your own preference has not caused you to read your own conclusions into Scripture, rather than letting plain Scripture explain itself.

As a Christian, I would strongly urge you to be extremely careful you're not spreading your own understanding, instead of God's revealed truth. It is a dangerous thing to go around saying Jesus said something he hasn't.

I hope you can take my words in love from a concerned person who only wants to see God's truth spread and embraced.

In Christ,

Joshua

Paul Ford said...

Joshua, glad to see a new post! And, I'm glad to see you have a heart for serving God by teaching His word to others. May God bless you.

I have one small issue, if you can think about it. Your first point, you state, "He promised that if we lived His way, life would go well..."

I'd like for you to think about if you know of any Christian who are suffering.... If you know of some, ask why are they suffering.

Also read this verse for an example....

Psalm 34:19 - A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;

I don't believe God promises an easy life. But does promise to help, and promises that our life in heaven with Him will be beyond our imagination. It's been said, One moment in heaven will erase a lifetime of suffering.

God bless.

Joseph said...

Hey Josh. Thanks for the post. There is so many things I would like to say but it is your blog and I probably shouldn't. God bless man.

Joshua Tucker said...

Hey Paul,

I appreciate your comment. I didn't mean at all that Christians don't suffer. In context I'm trying to talk about the Garden at the beginning of time, but maybe I should just come right out and say that. At that time I don't think there was any suffering, and I do believe that they experienced only life in the best sense possible. That is, until sin entered the picture. Now we all have to deal with sin in our lives, and all the consequences that come with it.

Maybe I can work on re-wording that sentence to make sure I'm not accidentally implying that Christians are only happy and never have problems. At the same time, Jesus did promise that His life was life to the fullest, or life overflowing, or life in abundance. I really believe the Christian life is the most fulfilling possible way to live, but "fulfilling" is not the same thing as "happy, without problems, and no suffering." Thanks for the comments, and let me know if what I said made sense or not, or if you know another way to word that sentence in a simple way that doesn't convey the wrong thing.

Brian Johnson said...

Hi Joshua,

it's always hard to summarize the biblical gospel, as there's a lot to it.

See my British website:

http://www.whatisthegospel.org.uk

theogineer said...

Hi Joshua,

Nice site! I found it through your review of Mere Christianity and then poked around a bit. I'm about to start leading a book study with a group from church on that marvelous work soon, and was casting about for material and found your excellent comments.

I was especially intrigued because I'm a former Red Raider and attended the Sunset congregation for several years during the Jim McGuiggan and Richard Rogers days. What great memories and experiences!

As a fellow admirer of C. S. Lewis, I appreciated your thoughtful insights into his books. Keep up the good work, and I'm sure I'll be back to check out more of your writing.

God Bless,
David

Rick Morgan said...

Thats a great way to put the simplicity of the gospel.

It is tempting to add to the simple with traditions and ideas that make it appear that we have to do some good works to achieve salvation.

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