In Sunday School we have been talking about evangelism and how to share the good news of Christ with the world. One of the most common reasons people are reluctant to share the gospel is that they aren’t exactly sure what to say. Toward that end, I thought I would use this edition of Pastor’s Pen to give a brief outline of the gospel message. It is excerpted from the “Plan of Salvation” which is posted on our church website. There you can find a more detailed version:
In his iconic song, “Imagine,” John Lennon envisioned a world where people live in peace, in a “brotherhood of man,” free of greed, hunger, and the national and religious conflicts that prompt needless killing and death. The song aptly describes the realities of our world, where all of those problems and many more exist. Lennon was optimistic that such problems could be solved and we could achieve the kind of world he envisioned if we would all work together. The song ends with the hopeful refrain, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”
Sadly, our experience says otherwise. For all our desire to live in such a world, humans have demonstrated time and again their inability to achieve it. Civilization, education, political movements, appeals to love and tolerance, and many other solutions have been proposed, but all have fallen short. If we are truly honest with ourselves, we would have to admit that the problem with the world is not “out there.” It is within each of us—it is a problem of the heart. We instinctively recognize that the answer is not in trying harder or being better. We need to be made new.
The Bible provides both an explanation of our human problem and the solution to that problem. It tells us that God created us in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27), and that his purpose in doing so was to share with us the same perfect love that he enjoys within himself, in perfect relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
However, we rejected God’s offer of love and rebelled against his authority as our creator (Genesis 3:1-7). Instead, we assumed the right to rule ourselves, and to determine for ourselves what is right or wrong, good and bad, without regard for God’s wisdom.
As a result, the Bible explains, human beings have become estranged from God. Rather than looking to him for wisdom, we have turned to our own wisdom. As a result, we find that all our attempts to solve the problems we create fall hopelessly short. Not only that, but by turning away from God we have cut ourselves off from the very source of our life. Consequently, the Bible says we are “dead in sin” (Ephesians 2:1). This spiritual deadness is a condition that we do not have it within our power to remedy. Like branches that have been cut from a tree, we are powerless to reconnect ourselves to the life we have lost. No amount of desire or goodness can undo what has been done.
The good news is that God was not willing for sin, rebellion, and death to be the last word. In his mercy and grace he has provided a way to be reconciled to him, and thereby be restored to the abundant life for which we were made. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 5:8 that God has shown the extent of his love for us in that, while we were still sinners and enemies of God, he gave what was most precious to him, his only son, as a sacrifice for our sin, to pay the debt required by his justice, which we could not pay. Because Jesus was without sin, he alone could pay the debt of sin for humanity. It was for this reason that Jesus surrendered his life on the cross, and God accepted his sacrifice, cancelling the debt of sin (Isaiah 53:4-6).
Through his death on the cross, Jesus Christ has opened the door to reconciliation with God. All we need do is walk through it. We do that by acknowledging that, as our creator, God is our rightful king, turning away from the idea that we can rule ourselves, and surrendering our lives to his authority. Surrendering to God also involves trusting him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves, placing our faith in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on the cross to remove the debt of sin and reconcile us to God. None of this is our own doing. It is all because of God’s grace, which he has freely offered to all and can be received simply by placing our trust in him (Ephesians 2:8).
When we receive the salvation Jesus has provided we receive new life—a life that no one can take away from us! We also receive the Holy Spirit, who provides God’s wisdom to guide us in the challenges we face in this broken world. Most of all, the relationship God created us to enjoy with him is restored, with the wonderful hope of knowing him and enjoying him forever!
Pastor Jon EnrightOctober 1, 2023