The Gospel

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, April 10, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

Many of us still have Easter Sunday fresh on our minds. Many of us heard a message about the death and resurrection of Jesus and the good news, which we today call the Gospel. But many of us do not know what the Gospel is, and sadly, there are a number of pastors and preachers who either do not know it or just do not preach it. I do not know what message you received this past Sunday, but I want to make sure we know what the very thing that makes Christianity different from every other religion or belief system: the Gospel.

Now the Gospel has often been simplified so even a child can understand it. Here I will describe it in two ways. I grew up on the mission field working with my parents behind the scenes for family-based ministry teams to Juarez, Mexico. The primary Gospel presentation we gave is called the Wordless Book. Using small, felt pocket-books, we could explain the Gospel to an illiterate child or an adult with ease. The Wordless Book contains five pages, each a different color: Gold (Yellow), Black, Red, White, Green. Some versions add Blue in there. Each color represents a different part of the Gospel. Gold represents Heaven and man’s perfect bond/relationship with God. This is the condition that Adam had before he sinned, and what Christians will have after all things come to an end. But then the Black page comes, which is sin. Sin is what separates us from God and creates a barrier between us and God. Sin cannot be in the presence of God without being totally destroyed because of his holiness. But the story does not end there. The Red page describes the death and resurrection of Christ, which many of us heard about this past weekend. The White page describes how when we lean on and trust in Jesus, his blood washes us white as snow. He gives us a clean heart, a new nature. And the Green page is growth in Christ, the process of being made more and more into the image of Christ.

That is the Wordless Book. Each of these pages has a set of Scripture verses that go with it, mostly from Romans. Now there is another presentation I have used when I was a leader with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship when I was in college. This one is called the Big Story. The Big Story used four circles that represent four major events of world history: Creation, Sin, Redemption, and Restoration.

To summarize quickly, Creation is how God created the world: perfect, peaceful, without problems. Sin is when mankind wrecked that perfect world with their rebellion against God. Redemption is Jesus coming to the earth, dying for our sin, and then rising from the dead. And Restoration is the process we go through as Christians to be made into the image we were originally intended to have.

Each of these presentations gives a very brief summary of what the Gospel is, boiled down to a five-minute presentation. However, there is one problem with these models. Many people’s knowledge of the Gospel is limited to these quick summaries. Their understanding of Christianity is limited to this brief synopsis. In the link to the Wordless Book summary, you will notice how the suggested pattern is to lead someone into the “Sinner’s Prayer” in the middle of the presentation. Here is where I have an issue. Remember, I grew up using these materials and it hasn’t been until the last couple years that I realized there is something seriously lacking in Christianity, not just in how we understand it, but how we live it, and how we share it.

I am not against the “Sinner’s Prayer” by itself, but how we have grown dependent upon it for “being saved.” Today, many American Christians (and I would say European Christians too) understand “being saved” as nothing more than affirming a few doctrinal statements, repeating a prayer, and then thinking that is all that it takes to be saved. But when one examines their lives, there is often no difference between “pre-salvation” and “post-salvation.” They still live just like they used to. They may occasionally give God a second thought but ultimately, they just treat salvation like a vaccine. They treat it like a “get out of hell free card.” Is this salvation?

No, it is not. Jesus said you must be born again to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is something we cannot do. It takes a supernatural, re-creating work of the Holy Spirit. Paul tells us as Christians we are a new Creation. The “Christian” was something that had not existed before. God had not created anything new since day 6 of Creation until 2000 years ago, when Christ’s ministry took its effect. We have a new nature. Our old nature is going to pass away. We won’t have our old tendencies, our old desires, or our old longings, all of which are geared towards serving self. Can a selfish person think of others? Yes, they can, but they do so to serve themselves, either doing so in front of a camera, or simply to make them feel good. But the new nature is going to be geared towards Christ. Our every thought, every longing, is going to be pointed towards pleasing Christ. And when we fail, when we sin, the Holy Spirit will convict us and discipline us. If we do not receive this discipline, we are not saved, because we would be illegitimate children.

Many times, people wondering if they have been saved will reference back to where one time they had said a prayer, but there is no evidence that they were ever saved to begin with. I’ve talked with several atheists on the Internet forums, and one thing I found very interesting: a number of them claim to be ex-Christians, including ardent defenders of the faith. Yet so few of them know the slightest thing about Christianity. John tells us that those who depart from the faith were never among us to begin with. Jesus said not all who were from us were among us. Jesus gave a parable of tares among wheat, wolves in sheep’s clothing. He also gave us the Parable of the Sower, which a friend of mine re-wrote in an extremely unique way: the Parable of the Slasher Film. Of the four soils, three take root, but only one survives. I recommend looking at this “alternative parable.” It will change how you look at this portion of Scripture.

Are you saved? Are you born again? Looking back to the time when you said the “Sinner’s Prayer,” you might be able to pinpoint a time, but Paul tells us to examine ourselves to see if we are indeed saved. Where is the evidence? Do you show fruit which bears the nature of God? Or does your fruit bear the nature of self and sin? Do you believe the Gospel? Are you depending upon the Lordship of Jesus Christ to sustain you continually? Are you being made closer into the image of Christ? I am not asking for perfection. I’m asking for direction. I know I do not meet the standard because I know what it is. But am I getting closer to that standard overall? I must examine myself to make sure I am; and I must not attempt to change the standard to meet where I am. I must change to the standard. There is no bell curve to get into heaven.

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