I. The Old Testament Story

The Bible begins by telling us that the universe was created by a spirit commonly called 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 through 27, which says this in the English Standard Version of the Bible:

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 make choices that were not in our own best interest, and the end result was that human nature became broken. The Bible tells us this in Psalm chapter 53, verses 2 and 3 which says this in the English Standard Version:

“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.”

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.

II. 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 tells us this in the Gospel of John, chapter 1 verses 1 and 14, which say this in the English Standard Version:

“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.”

The Bible tells us that God became a man and lived as apart 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 common in human nature his entire life.

The Bible tells us this in Hebrews, chapter 4 verse 15 which says this in the ESV: “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.”

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 that we could go free. The Bible tells us this in 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 21 which says this in the English Standard Version: “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. The Bible tells us this in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 1 through 8, which say this:

“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.”

III. 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 are true will experience a change of heart that transforms how they make choices in their lives. The Bible explains this in Galatians, chapter 5 verses 19 through 23, which say this:

“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.”

So when someone listens to the eye witness testimony in the Bible and makes the choice to trust what it says, 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 and 20 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 that 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.

(to be continued)