I want to share a simple explanation of the Christian faith with the English speaking world that I believe is…needed. The name of the simple explanation I want to share with you is “The Message of Christianity.”
Part 1 – The Old Testament Story
The Bible begins by telling us that the universe was created by a spirit that we commonly call God. When God created men and women, he decided to make them in His image. The Bible tells us this in Genesis, chapter 1 verses 26-27 which say this in the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV):
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
As a result of being made in the image of God, we were given the ability to make choices that have real consequences. We could even make choices that are not in our own best interest, and the end result of that was that human nature became broken. The Bible says:
“God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 53:2-3 ESV)
So in order to be a Christian, the first step is to believe that we were created in the image of God, but something went horribly wrong and God’s original design has been broken. Everything the Old Testament says is written to prove this to us.
Part 2 – The Gospel Story
So what is God’s response to the corruption that exists in human nature?
The Bible’s answer is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You see, God’s agenda was that we would be in charge of human history, and in order to fix what we broke, God became human. The Bible says this:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14 ESV)
The Bible tells us that God became a man and lived as a part of our broken and corrupt world, with one important difference: he remained completely pure. He personally experienced the frustration we have when we have to make choices in life, but he remained free from the corruption in human nature his entire life.
The Bible says: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)
Because Jesus Christ was completely innocent and free of the corruption that exists in human nature, he volunteered to be punished in our place so we could go free. In 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV), the Bible says: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Then after Jesus Christ died, God proved that we could be free from the corruption that exists in human nature. The proof is a historical event that took place in the past, which is known today as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Listen to what the Bible says:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ESV)
Part 3 – The Story of the Church
And so what? What difference does listening to the Gospel make in our lives?
The people who listen to the eye witness testimony we have in the Bible and believe the stories written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are true will experience a change of heart that transforms how they make choices in their lives. The Bible says:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:19-23 ESV)
So when someone listens to the eye witness testimony recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the Bible and make the choice to trust what they say about Jesus Christ, the direction of their lives will begin to change from participating in the works of the flesh to displaying the fruit of the Spirit consistently.
This process of changing the direction of their lives is known as discipleship. Jesus spoke about it in Matthew, chapter 28 verses 19-20 (ESV) which say this: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.”
This leaves us with a choice to make about how close to God we want to live our lives. We can choose to help new believers learn the habits they need to participate in the community that God is building around the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (or not).
This requires older, more experienced Christians to be personally involved in the lives of new Christians to help them learn how to make choices that keep them from becoming distracted and misled about understanding how to serve the Lord.
Now I want to change directions at this point and talk about the Method of Sharing Christianity. My next concern is to take a moment to explain what Jesus expects from anyone who has heard the eye witness testimony about Jesus Christ recorded in the New Testament and believes it is true. I want to talk about the practical aspects of your responsibility to share the Gospel with others.
Practical Concerns For Sharing The Gospel
God has brought you to this point in your life for a reason. God’s agenda is for you to become a messenger who can share the information found in the Bible with others. This does not involve preaching and teaching (or least not as you might think of preaching and teaching in you live in a country where people have civil rights upheld by the local government).
Jesus expects us to reach out to others. He wants us to invite others to listen to the eye witness testimony that you have heard in The Message of Christianity, and share it with others.
This is how we prove our loyalty to Him.
Unfortunately, that can lead to some potentially serious problems because there are a lot of people who do not want to hear the truth about Jesus Christ, and you have to learn how to protect yourself from them. This is an important part of the discipleship process that has been overlooked by the Church in countries where civil rights are guaranteed.
You see, the Bible tells us that we are in a war, and people who behave in reckless and careless ways on a battlefield while a war is bring fought are going to get hurt or killed. That leaves you with two options: your first option is to run away from the fight, and your second options is to learn God’s survival strategy for the fight.
God’s Survival Strategy
When Jesus was here, he told his disciples that “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV). Jesus expected his followers to share the truth about who He is and he warned them that some people who heard the message would behave like a wolf about to eat a sheep for dinner.
Let’s be clear on this: if you want to serve the Lord by sharing the Gospel with others, you are going to be attacked by the wolves. So how exactly did Jesus expected His followers to survive in such a hostile environment?
The answer is to build healthy relationships with the people we want to reach. Paul talked about doing this being his ministry strategy. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 (ESV) he said “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
Let me say something that might shock you: if Paul where here today, and he wanted to share the Gospel with Muslims, he would take the time to learn how to follow Islamic Law.
Would you be willing to go that far?
Learning how to blend in to the local community is God’s survival strategy. If you put in the effort to build relationships by being as “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16 ESV) when you are surrounded by Muslims committed to observing Islamic Law, the chance that they would be willing to turn on you decreases.
This is Jesus’ strategy for sharing the Gospel with unbelievers, do you want to do the Lord’s work the way the Lord told us he wanted the work to be done?
(to be continued…)
There are challenges to doing the work of an evangelist who shares the Gospel in the English speaking world, and I went on the Internet looking for resources that shine a light on what those challenges are. If you want to hear trustworthy men talking about the practical things that a real Evangelist has to do in order to share the Gospel with an unbelieving world, take a look at the recommended resources below.
I. Recommended Books:
#1. The Christ Centered Preaching of Martyn Lloyd Jones
Note: In this book of sermons, I want specifically want to recommend “No Substitute,” a sermon that was preached in 1969.
#2. Revolution in World Missions
II. Recommended Videos:
#1. Testimony Of A Dying Man’s Conversion
#2. Christ-less Christianity by Michael Horton
__________III. Recommend Song(s):
“Could It Be” by Michael Card
Here is one final thought on doing the work of an evangelist:
If I firmly believed, as millions say they do, that the knowledge and practice of religion in this life influences destiny in another, then religion would mean to me everything. I would cast away earthly enjoyments as dross, earthly cares as follies, and earthly thoughts and feelings as vanity. Religion would be my first waking thought and my last image before sleep sank me into unconsciousness.
I would labor in its cause alone. I would take thought for the morrow of eternity alone. I would esteem one soul gained for heaven worth a life of suffering.
Earthly consequences would never stay my hand, or seal my lips. Earth, its joys and griefs, would occupy no moment of my thoughts. I would strive to look upon eternity alone, and on the immortal souls around me, soon to be everlastingly happy or everlasting miserable.
I would go forth to the world and preach to it in season and out of season, and my text would be: WHAT SHALL IT PROFIT A MAN IF HE GAIN THE WHOLE WORLD AND LOSE HIS OWN SOUL?
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