A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking to our team of Awana workers about the gospel message, and how important it is for us to be always ready with a clear, correct and confident presentation of the gospel. That night I explained that every presentation of the gospel—good or bad—always says something about:
- God (who He is in relation to us)
- Us (who we are and what our problem is)
- Jesus (what God did to solve our problem)
- Response (what our response to God’s saving work needs to be)
To share the gospel clearly, we need to have a solid understanding of these four “building blocks” and how they relate to one another. To change up the metaphor, we should understand that these four big ideas are like links in a chain: each “link” depends on what came before it, and impacts what comes after it.
For example, how we understand God is foundational to everything else. How we understand our problem depends on how we understand God, and will impact what we say about the work of Christ. And finally, what we say about the work of Christ will directly impact what we say about our response. If Jesus just came to set us a good example, then our response is to follow that example and live a good life. But if Jesus came to actually save us, then our response is to trust that He actually did this.
Sharing the gospel clearly, then, requires that we understand how these four links connect with one another to form a solid chain.
To share the gospel correctly, our understanding of these four links needs to be completely shaped and informed by Scripture. It is wise to use the actual words of Scripture as often as we can.
- According to Scripture, the most foundational truth about God is that He is the creator. (Genesis 1:1, Acts 17:24).
- As the creator, He has certain rights over His creation.
- When we see how amazing His creation is, we recognize how amazing He is and how much He deserves.
- As creatures, we owe everything to our Creator.
- We all do recognize How amazing He is (Romans 1:19-21).
- Nevertheless, we do not give our Creator the thanks and honour that He deserves, choosing to give our affections and allegiance to the things God has made instead of to God Himself. The Bible calls this sin, and we’ve all done it (Romans 3:23).
- God’s judgement against our sin is physical and eternal death (Romans 6:23).
- Jesus, the perfect son of God, died as our substitute, taking God’s judgement instead of us (Romans 3:23-25, Galatians 3:13, Romans 5:6-9, Isaiah 53:4-6, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
- He accomplished our salvation on the cross. He didn’t just die to make us save-able; He actually saved us (1 Peter 3:18, Romans 5:1,10).
- The preceding verses show us that our salvation largely consists in being reconciled to God. He is what makes the good news good.
- Because Jesus saved us, there is nothing we can add to His gift. All we can “do” is receive it. The Bible calls this “faith” (Romans 4:5-4, John 3:16).
- Because Jesus is the king, believing in Him always results in repentance and a life of submission to Him (Romans 6:1-4, Romans 8:1-4, Colossians 3:1-17).
To share the gospel confidently, we need to be so familiar with the message that we don’t need to stop and scratch our heads when we do have the opportunity. 1 Peter 3:15 instructs us to be always “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
When it comes to being always prepared, there is little substitute for actual practice. Practice on your own. Practice with a good friend. Get so familiar with the gospel that someone could wake you up at 3 in the morning and you’d be able to explain the gospel to them.
It’s true that there are times when it’s best to help someone understand the gospel one piece at a time, in the context of a relationship. In those cases, really understanding the four building blocks is so important. We’ll know where to begin, and how to help someone really grasp the gospel as we work our way through the building blocks over the course of what might be several conversations.
But on the other hand, it’s also important to be ready to share the gospel all at once, in a condensed way, with little notice.
I remember a co-worker (who knew I was a Christian) once asking me, “So, what does God need to forgive us for?” Without realizing it, I had been disobeying the command to be “always ready,” and so I blundered my way through several minutes of disconnected ideas before the conversation fell apart.
I wish I had been ready. I wish I had been able to say to him, “I believe in the God who made you and me and everything we see. This God deserves our honour and thanks and worship, but we’ve all chosen to rebel against Him and worship the things He’s made instead of He Himself. And because of that we deserve His judgement, and we can see His judgement on display in the pain and misery of our world today.
“But in His great mercy this same God sent His son Jesus who came and lived a perfect life and then died on the cross for my sins. He took my place and paid the penalty for my sins instead of me. And after three days He rose again as King of the universe. And God has forgiven my sin and made me a part of His family and kingdom all because of what Jesus has done. And that can be true for you, too. If you believe in the Lord Jesus you will be saved.”
That’s one example of what it can look like. Now why not try it yourself?