Reprise: A Gospel Conversation

Oh NoThe adult Sunday School Class at the local church I serve has recently taken up the topic of evangelism. In this class we are all seeking to better understand the concept of evangelism and what it is as well as what it is not. During the first part of our study of this topic we are focusing on answering the question “What is the Gospel?” by utilizing the book of the same name authored by Greg Gilbert (reviewed here). As part of this endeavor each week we look to provide biblical answers to questions which arise from our study. This week part of the assignment is to answer a series of questions which explain to whom man is accountable, what is the chief problem facing man, what is the solution to this problem as provided by God, and finally how do we respond to this information.

Although I am leading/teaching this particular class, I am completing the assignments along with the other participants. So I thought I would use all of you readers of Parking Space 23 to help me check my work. The rest of the blog is my answer to these questions, supported by Scripture. Your job is to read the blog and provide me with helpful Feedbackcomments to improve my answer/presentation. The remainder of the blog is written as a fictional conversation between me and an unbeliever.

A Gospel Conversation

It is best to start our conversation with God and a few specific things about Him in order to introduce the need for a Saviour, likewise I will take the time to explain why Man has that need.

God is the creator of everything that exists as is primarily evidenced by the opening lines of the Bible (Gen 1:1), but even more pointedly as it pertains to our discussion we must recognize that God definitely created man(kind) (Gen 1:26; 2:7, 21 – 23). From this point it is not a far leap to acknowledge that if God has created everything, including mankind, that He must own what He has created, which is exactly the point made by the psalmist in Psalm 24:1.

CreationIt should be easy to see at this point that God is different from us in that He is the One who has created and owns us, for simplicity’s sake we will refer to that difference with the term “holy.” Holy or holiness is a means of encompassing in a single term the idea of God’s separation from us or His otherness. As a matter of fact the Bible tells us that there are angels in heaven whose sole job is to announce the holiness of God to all the host of heaven (Is. 6:2 – 3) and even that He commands that we be like Him (Matt 5:48).

So following along this line of thinking, if God has created and therefore owns everything, us included, and He calls upon man to be perfect as He is as we just looked at; is it unreasonable to believe that God has a right to hold man accountable as his possession? I am glad you agree for that is exactly the point James the apostle made in his letter to the church (James 2:10).

Now let us look to see how man has done in obeying God. Man’s track record goes south very quickly on the timeline of redemptive history recorded in the Bible, remember I told you a moment ago that Genesis 1 & 2 recorded the creation of the world and the specific creation of man and woman – well in the very next chapter, three, the first sin is recorded. You have probably even heard the story of Adam and Eve and the “apple.” Well the Fall of man was the beginning of spiritual separation between God and man as well as the beginning of mankind’s slide into degradation which even resulted in the destruction of the world by a flood (Gen 6 -7). Even after such events as these the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman church that “none is righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10) demonstrating that man has not kept in the past nor will he keep of his own accord, God’s Law. However, the Bible also teaches that there are consequences for this lack of obedience, called sin (Rom 6:23).

Perhaps at this juncture you are thinking that God views your life as a balance sheet of Scalessome sort where He lists all your good deeds in one column and your bad ones in a parallel column, and that as long as the “pros” outweigh or outnumber the “cons” in quality and quantity then you will be okay. If this indeed is what you are thinking, and I must admit it makes sense logically by our way of thinking, you would be wrong. The same Apostle Paul, wrote a letter to a young pastor in which he addresses this very idea (Titus 3:5). As you can see, in the Bible right here, Paul very simply states that your good works are not what reconciles you to God. So if not good works then what; or better Who can reconcile man to God?

In a word, Christ! I know from some of our previous discussions that you at least attended Sunday School from time to time as a child. As such, I am sure you remember hearing what is sometimes called the Christmas Story detailing the birth of Jesus the Christ (Luke 1:26 – 2:39). What you probably did not know back then is the Christmas Story is the detailing of the events that God used to come to earth as a man (John 1:14) without giving up His divine nature (Col 2:9).

Jesus GodIt is important that we understand that Jesus is God or the next point will not appear to be nearly as significant as it actually is; not only did God come to earth as a man – Jesus – but He also paid the penalty for sin in order that we might be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:21; Col 2:13-14). That is to say, that Jesus who never sinned actually stood in the place of sinners to take upon Himself all the punishment that was due to them/us so that they/we might be reconciled to a Holy God and found blameless and pure.

Christ accomplished this by going to the Cross and actually suffering physical pain and death at the hands of men, as well as separation from God the Father in receiving the penalty for our sins. What’s more He did all of this while almost the entire world reviled Him and thought Him to be a liar and a fraud (Rom 5:8). It would seem that not much has changed in the way of man’s consideration of Jesus even today.

As amazing as all this is, it is not all that Christ accomplished on our behalf. He even defeated death! For it was not enough for Him to die, He was also resurrected from the grave (1 Cor 15:4) and was seen by His followers afterward (Luke 24:13 – 49). Furthermore these witnesses saw Him ascend into heaven (Luke 24:50 – 53) where He is living still at the right hand of the Father (Heb 12:2).

Pay UpEarlier we spoke about the necessity of man, as a sinner, being required to pay the penalty for his sin (Rom 6:23). What we did not focus on as much at that moment was the gift of eternal life which is Christ Jesus; however we have just discussed the wonderful act of sacrifice Christ endured willingly so that the gift would be available. Now we must take a look at the means by which a sinner can lay hold of that same gift.

There are really only two things that a sinner must do in order to be saved; repent of his sins and believe that Jesus is Lord and Saviour. I want to make the point abundantly clear that repentance, or forsaking all your past sins, especially the sin of unbelief, is a REQUIREMENT of salvation. This means that you actively and purposefully leave behind your past actions in order follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). As a matter of fact Jesus began His earthly ministry with the call to repentance (Matt 4:17).

The sinner must believe that Jesus is who He says He is, namely God. And that He has Hopeaccomplished salvation on your behalf (Rom 10:9). Likewise, if Jesus is God and has accomplished your salvation on your behalf, then He must be in position to make claims upon your life – that is what it means that Jesus is Lord as well as Saviour. See Lord is another word for Master and that is exactly who Jesus is.

Now if you truly believe everything we have discussed concerning God, man (yourself) and Jesus then I invite you to repent of your sins and acknowledge Jesus as Lord over your life and Saviour of your soul.

 

  • Jason

    Love it Andy! Thanks for going through this. One practice I try to incorporate (since you asked for feedback) is to use one section of Scripture and stay there. I use Ephesians 2:1-10 quite often since it defines sin and the Gospel.

    But, if you never did what I do, you’d still do the same thing I do 🙂 GREAT WORK!

  • Pastor Darren Paulson

    Thanks for this, Andy. Since you asked for some comments, I’d like to respectfully address two things that kind of jumped out at me.
    I thought you very clearly spelled out man’s “problem” and God’s solution. You especially addressed Christ’s substitutionary death and His resurrection. But I didn’t think you spent enough time talking about His substitutionary life as well. The fact that Jesus fulfilled the Law perfectly in our place so that we don’t have to is as equally important as His death, in my opinion. I quickly re-read the blog, perhaps I missed it.
    The other thing — and I just think this is an emphasis that’s kind of unnecessary — is the force you place on repentance. Don’t get me wrong, repentance is important. But if a person is regenerate – if a person has had his eyes opened to the truth by the Holy Spirit – repentance is a ‘natural’ result. It can’t NOT happen. When Paul says “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord (that He’s the Messiah sent to save sinners) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,” there’s not a real hard emphasis on repentance there. It was interesting to me that when you listed your two requirements for salvation, you put the repentance before the believing.
    I also would go real easy on the “actively and purposefully leave behind your past actions” part of the deal as well. Let’s leave some work for the Holy Spirit to do in the lives of new believers and make sure we don’t require of them what Jesus doesn’t. I’m not suggesting we send a “go ahead and sin that grace may abound” message by any means. But immediate and measurable “changes” don’t always accompany salvation in somebody’s life.
    Because of our out-of-balance fear (in my opinion) of easy-believism, I think we place too large an emphasis on behavior modification. The Gospel is most definitely NOT about behavior modification. Let the Good News sink in and a person’s behavior will “modify” as he/she grows in the knowledge of Christ. Luke 9 is about discipleship, not salvation.
    Anyways, thanks for the encouragement. Grace and peace.

    • Jason

      Darren, thanks for posting and commenting. Do you think there is a lot of leeway in what we say in evangelism? In other words, do you think there is only one way to evangelize? I’m not saying there are multiple truths to proclaim. Rather I’m wondering do you think a person could talk about a few points of biblical truth regarding the Gospel and still have the Gospel? Could I solely use Eph 2:1-10 and have all I need for a Gospel presentation? Also, Jesus and John the Baptist preached repentance, so I’m not sure your point is entirely invalid, but I’m also not sure Andy is wrong to tell a person to repent.

      • Pastor Darren Paulson

        I do think there is leeway, absolutely. I hope my comments re: Jesus’ substitutionary “life” didn’t come across harshly. I was thinking Pastor Andy was asking for feedback re: an evangelism class, and just thought this point would be an important one to cover. I talk to my Sunday school teachers about this regularly. Every Christian kid knows Jesus “died for my sins,” but I’ve found very few of them understand the importance of His Law-abiding life as well.
        I also hope (haven’t gone back and read) that I didn’t say that Andy was “wrong” to talk about repentance. He’s certainly not wrong, and I apologize if I said that. I think I may have talked about what I perceive to be an over-emphasis on repentance. Please let me explain … if repentance means a “change of mind” or a “turning” toward Christ — in other words, agreeing that His means of salvation is my/our only hope, then absolutely, we need to encourage repentance. But I think this kind of happens automatically. If the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of a person and he/she receives Christ by faith, then this “turning” has already occurred.
        What I’m afraid many mean by the word, however, is a “change of life” or an immediate turning from sin — even a ‘sorrow’ of sorts. Now this may, in fact, occur. Amen. But it isn’t something we need to look for or demand if a person comes to faith. This turning from sin – a Godly sorrow over our sin – these things happen as we disciple a believer. But they may, in fact, not occur for some time. I just wanna make sure we don’t front-load the Gospel with demands that Jesus never made.
        The book of John is the most evangelistic book in all of Scripture — “belief” or “believe” is mentioned 140(ish) times. Repentance? Zero. In the book of Romans, Paul talks about righteousness over and over and over again. Not sure if he mentions ‘repentance’ one time.
        Anyways, just my two cents. 🙂 Thanks for writing back! Sincerely, Darren

        • Karl Heitman

          Jesus did in fact demand repentance, a change of mind that results in new thinking & actions (Luke 13:3). In the Johannine epistles, a sinful lifestyle indicates no repentance has occurred (1 Jn 2:3-6, 3:9-10). In Romans, Paul does mention repentance (2:4) and then says we go from being slaves of sin to slaves of righteousness (6:17-18). No one is saying babes in Christ become mature instantly, but a truly repentant sinner will no longer be characterized by the old man (2 Cor 5 :17; Eph 4:24) and willfully submits himself to the lordship of Jesus.

          • Pastor Darren Paulson

            I agree, Karl, although I don’t know if I’d use the word ‘demand’ – Jesus certainly understood that a “change of thinking” needed to accompany a decision to place one’s faith in Christ. It has to, right? Nobody can become a Christian without having a change of mind. But I don’t interpret the word ‘repent’ like many of the Lordship guys do. I don’t think it means (necessarily) an immediate change in lifestyle and/or “sorrow” for our sin. This may occur, but it may not. I think a person may come to Christ and yet have a very hard (slow) road to recovery and/or Christian maturity.
            Thank you (sincerely) for the Romans reference — I would still submit, however, that repentance as we sometimes like to define it was not a focus of either John or Paul. Of course I also agree that, generally speaking, a truly repentant sinner will exhibit fruit. So long as he abides in Christ, he most certainly will. But we need to be really careful (in my opinion) that we not place unrealistic expectations on a new believer — this is where discipleship plays such a key role. As we plug into the life of the convert and disciple him/her, there we may stress the importance of abiding in Christ and living a life of obedience. But front-loading the Gospel with demands of “Godly sorrow” and immediate lifestyle changes … yeah, I don’t see that in the Bible.

          • Jason

            Darren,

            Thanks for unpacking your thoughts, there is much I can agree with you. There is one verse that comes to mind however, how would you explain 2 Cor. 7:7-11?

          • Pastor Darren Paulson

            Dang it. That’s a great passage. LoL. Yeah, that passage is a tough one for me to spin to my advantage in this discussion. 🙂 I really wish Paul hadn’t mentioned ‘salvation’ in this verse, or else I wouldn’t be that nervous.
            It seems to me that Paul is writing to Christians in this letter – or he assumes most are Christians, certainly. However, 5:20 and chap. 6 may indicate he has unbelievers in mind as well.
            I certainly believe a “Godly sorrow” for sin may happen in a person’s life — both at conversion and after (I certainly hope the ‘after’ applies to all of us, right? It’s good and healthy when Christians feel sorrow for our sin.) It sounds like Paul is hoping — knowing that his ‘tearful’ letter produced the results he’d hoped — that the ones feeling guilty don’t just feel bad, but that feeling bad leads to repentance. The question I have is this — is the repentance on the part of believers who turn from their sin, or is the repentance on the part of unbelievers who turn from their sin and get saved?? I’m gonna dive into this more … thanks for bringing this passage up!
            Again, I just want to say that I do believe a Godly sorrow for sin and immediate behavior change may accompany salvation in the life of a believer … that would be great. I’m just not sure it always happens, and I sometimes feel as if we “demand” a certain kind of response before we think somebody is legitimately saved or not.
            I know easy-believism is a danger, certainly. But if we disciple converts like we’re supposed to, I think many of these concerns can be dealt with then.
            Looking forward to getting back to you on 2 Cor. 7 … thanks for bringing that one up … jerk. 😉

          • Jason

            🙂 I do try 🙂

            One verse that makes sense to me and some of your questions is 2 Timothy 2:25. Repentance seems to be a gift from God, 2 Timothy 2:25, “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God should grant to them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth.”

            God gives people repentance. Believers even live a life or repentance, it is a habitual character of believers. I would even go so far to say, repentance is the nature of a believer. Failure to have this nature would cause me to wonder if he/she was truly saved.

            I sometimes get the sense that you don’t want to box everyone into a one-size cookie cutter. (to which I’d say amen!) Even in this context, are you saying we need to be careful how we gauge holy affections? It is possible tow people are sorrowful and their emotions do not look entirely the same, right? Am I reading into what your saying there?

          • Pastor Darren Paulson

            Great stuff, Jason.
            So I had Adrian Peterson on my fantasy team this year (don’t worry, I’m going somewhere with this.) I thought he was punished too harshly as a result of the issue with his son. (I thought he went too far, and I had no problem with him being disciplined for it — I just didn’t think he deserved to miss the season.) At any rate, one of the things that bothered me was a quote from some guy in the NFL offices. He said something like, “We haven’t seen sufficient remorse from AP — we don’t feel as if he’s truly sorry for what he did.”
            I was like, “What? How the heck do you know what ‘sufficient remorse’ looks like?!” That’s the thing, Jason – remorse looks different for different people. Sorrow looks different for different people. It’s completely subjective.
            If a guy at my church “gets saved” one Sunday and then I see his car parked in front of Centerfolds two nights later, I’m not going to immediately question his salvation. I’m going to say, “This guy needs to be discipled!” Now, in the discipleship conversation(s) I’m going to make sure (to the best of my ability) that he understands the Gospel. But if he understands it and has accepted it as truth, we then talk about obedience and holiness and abiding in Christ. But I don’t assume that going to Centerfolds means he hasn’t repented. What it probably means is he battles the flesh just like the rest of us. But I’m not questioning his faith unless and until it becomes very obvious to me that He has completely misunderstood the Gospel.

        • Jason

          Hey Darren, I think I understand what you’re getting at. I didn’t think you to be harsh, unloving, or prideful OR SAYING Andy was wrong 🙂 I appreciate you commenting, asking, clarifying too.

          I was just asking for some clarification to make sure I understood you.

          I think you hit the nail on the head regarding repentance, for someone getting saved, it does happen automatically.

          It sounds what you’re worried about is someone expecting the fruit, life, discipline, actions and maturity of a 10 year old believer even though the person’s conversion is 4 hours old 🙂 right?

          I think I hear you saying we need to be patient with young believers b/c over time they are about to uncover much sinfulness and there will be sorrow from them as they learn many of the actions in their life are defined as sin. Is that true? For example, a druggie, drunk, lustful, adulterer, thief, harsh, impatience, rock star gets saved he may only realize at first drugs are a problem. So he places his faith in Christ, begins to struggle and get off the drugs, to begin to realize drunkenness is a problem too, so he is broken over his sin and turns from then. He then discovers all the girls are a sinful, broken, turns from them too . . . etc . . . over time he begins to even realize being harsh, impatient, and quick to respond without really understanding people is a problem too, so he continues to be broken, turn from those actions and learn how to follow Christ as a worshipper whose life mirrors the integrity, humility, love, compassion, and patience of Christ.

          Am I close? What am I missing from what your saying?

          • Pastor Darren Paulson

            Jason, I think you’re exactly right. I understand the “Lordship” concerns … we don’t want people to be assured of a faith that may, in fact, not exist. But it’s a discipleship issue, really, and it should be addressed in a discipleship context.
            Expecting a person to completely change in his/her behavior immediately following a conversion experience — or even before it, which is completely unreasonable … how the heck is an unregenerate person supposed to change?? — is unrealistic, in my opinion. It may happen, but it often doesn’t. And we shouldn’t question a person’s salvation if/when maturity is slow to come.

  • pastorandylynch

    Hey Everyone, I want to thank you all for your comments and the subsequent conversation stimulated by the same! Unfortunately, I am unable to be as involved with commenting and replying this week as I’d like to be, as I must prepare to present 2 sermons and a Sunday School this week. I actually had no idea this topic/post would generate such interest or I might have saved it for another less busy time.
    Once again, thanks for your interaction and know I am at least reading and considering everything presented in the comments!