The Gospel, Simplified: Offering God’s Answer To Man’s Problem
“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14
What is the most important thing to occur in any person’s life? Our culture may answer that question with any number of things, from getting married, or having a child, to landing the dream job and career, to having a secure and healthy retirement. All of these things are noble achievements to want. But does it describe the ultimate most important thing that is to take place in a person’s life?
Throughout my life there have been a few times when I have heard the news of the death of a friend or acquaintance and occasionally a family member. Immediately after the obligatory “Oh, I am so sorry to hear of your loss”, my very next thought is “Was this person saved? Did he accept salvation through Jesus Christ?” In some instances, I have even asked a friend or relative of the person directly.
Sometimes the emotions that come from not knowing the answer to that question sticks with me for a few seconds. In one case of a family member, I had seen the deceased a week before his passing and replayed in my mind my interactions with him about approaching the subject of salvation. The uncomfortable feeling of not knowing for sure if I had engaged him about the most important decision of his life weighed on me.
If you are reading this article right now, you are alive, and on course for the most important event to take place in your life. The sobering reality for each and every one of us is that there is an appointment that we must make on time with our creator God. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” Hebrews 9:27-28 NKJV
The Message of The Gospel: PRAYER
Prayer is the first thing that must happen before sharing the gospel. You will need the guidance, wisdom and boldness of the Holy Spirit on how to engage the heart that is prepared for the gospel. Furthermore, keep in mind that you are not the one responsible for salvation, you are responsible for sharing the good news about salvation. In the early church the apostle Paul prayed for the opportunity to share the gospel with others. He writes: “meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.” Colossians 4:3,4 NKJV
Prayer prepares your heart as well; in that it puts you in a peaceful state of mind knowing that you are being obedient to what God has commanded you to do. Even if a person refuses to hear what you have to say, remember that they are not rejecting you personally, but the word of God on the matter of their salvation. They are rejecting your message about God for them.
Prayer also helps to prepare the heart of the person who is listening. Recent events including the global pandemic and national turmoil has more and more people asking, “Why is all of this happening?” Increasingly, more and more opportunities are available now than at any other time to share the gospel to people who actually want to hear the answer to that question. At this very moment God maybe preparing a heart that is open to hear the salvation message of the gospel. It would be wise to pray for a prepared hear that needs to hear the gospel to intersect your path, by the divine will and purpose of God.
Keep in mind, however that everybody is not willing to hear what you have to say. As a matter of fact, one’s heart cannot understand or respond unless they are ‘drawn’ by God’s spirit.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44
The Dilemma And Challenge For Every Christian
Sharing with others your Christian faith can invoke feelings of gladness and excitement, and intimidation and fear.
As Christians there is a peace and security in knowing that we have salvation that comes only from Jesus Christ. That is the good news. The bad news is; however, we also know that there are people around us who do not have salvation, some of these people may be our own loved ones, family and friends. Our love for them may bring a sense of uneasiness knowing that their eternal fate and destiny is at stake.
That same love should compel us to want to share with them the transforming power of the gospel, the ‘good news’. Whether we like it or not we have a mandate to share the gospel. That mandate comes from none other than Jesus Christ himself.
Some may wonder if we are to evangelize and share the gospel as an ongoing part of the Christian experience. In a word, yes. Here’s why. We as Christians are in fact ambassadors for Christ. We know that God’s purpose of Christ is to reconcile the world to himself through Jesus Christ. Currently you and I are the ambassadors, still called to carry out the original mission of sharing the message of God reconciling the world to himself by Jesus Christ. Clearly the ministry of reconciliation is a part of every believer’s calling. 2 Corinthians 5, 11-20
What do we share?
It is very important that we understand exactly what it is that we are sharing and why we are sharing it. There is a lot of news both good and bad that is being piped every day into the homes of millions of people. In truth some of the news is indistinguishable. Some of the news is merrily a rerun or repeat of yesterday’s news. So, is it any wonder that people are a bit turned off from yet another person claiming to have ‘good news’?
The gospel is very distinctive in that it highlights the entire summary of God’s plan for mankind. It presents the problem that mankind faces, and it presents the solution that God has put in place to solve it, and the benefits of accepting God’s solution.
The basics of the Christian gospel, or ‘good news’, is the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God. It is the saving act of God due to the work of Jesus Christ who died on a cross to pay the full penalty of our sins. It was established as acceptable to God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, which brings reconciliation between mankind and God. Simply, we as mankind are guilty of sin. That sin separates us from a Holy God. God demands that sin be punished. God loved us so much that even though we got messed up really bad with sin, that he determined according to his purpose to reconcile us back to himself by Jesus Christ. Jesus, willingly paid the ultimate price that God demanded for the cost of our sin.
That price was none other than death on a cross, for every human that has every existed. As a promise of accepting that his death fully satisfied the price to be paid, God raised Jesus up from the dead, and was restored fully back to life. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 NKJV
The very heart of the gospel is telling the truth about how God has the plan of reconciling sinful humans back to a holy God by accepting the completed and finished work of Jesus Christ.
How do we share it?
No doubt the thought of telling others about the love of God and his plan of salvation for individual lives can seem and feel intimidating. But it does not need to be so. Have you ever told some good news to your friend or loved one who you really care about and was excited to share it with them?
As Christians we have the best news, we could share with anyone because it is the answer to some of life’s most difficulties, and it solves the most basic human flaw that we have. It promises a future that we can only imagine. Perhaps the way we share this good news is the barrier to us actually telling more people about it. So let’s explore some methods and evaluate their effectiveness and cite some examples of real world experience.
Church Attendance and Sermon
Perhaps the most common introduction to the gospel may have come by way of hearing a sermon preached at a church. Certainly, for many that was where the first notion of the gospel was introduced. It typically is a preacher who uses the Bible and highlights the condition of the sinner, the Holiness of God, the punishment for sin, and the answer to being forgiven and reconciled back to God. Countless people have surrendered their lives in this manner. Great evangelical preachers are very effective at preaching the gospel to the masses. Sounds great and that is but one of other methods that can be equally as effective.
Small Groups and Discussions
The intimacy of small groups can be so inspiring to watch and participate in. In small group settings of like-minded people where there is a welcoming and inviting atmosphere, people have a tendency to open up themselves more and let their guard down, when they know they will not be judged, or treated as an outsider.
When it comes to sharing the gospel, this is a great environment to connect heart to heart with people and share ideas about the gospel and to ask and answer questions. A lot of honesty can be generated in small group discussions about the gospel and the impact it can have on a person’s life. Plus there is the added support of like-minded people who have the same goal of helping each other in their spiritual journey, and who are willing to pray, read and explain the scriptures for clearer understanding.
1 ON 1, Heart to Heart
I have found that we as people have far more in common than we are different. Taking the time to actually talk to someone you know very well and have an ongoing relationship with or friendship will open up doors to a heart that no other channel can do. First and foremost, the other person needs to know how much you care about them, and not how much you know.
Your reason for connection with them has to be grounded in real love for them personally. You must have a burning desire for the outcome of their spiritual journey. People can easily tell if you are not genuine and sincere and they will not listen with an open mind.
Your one on one conversation is not to exploit your Bible knowledge or scripture recital, but to have an honest conversation about who they are and what their perceptions of God and Jesus Christ are. It is the time to convey empathy for where they are at in their life and offer the gospel as the solution. You are offering the solution of hope to help them in this life here and now and the eternal rewards in the future.
I personally love heart to heart conversations, and they can be easily initiated in just about any setting and it does not necessarily have to be long and engaging. Sometimes just a few engaging thought-provoking questions is all it takes to get the conversation started.
Real World example: As a young Marine many years ago, I was a wild child who was a modern day prodigal son. The freedom of being away from home and overseas was thrilling and exciting and I took full advantage of the sinful lifestyle my youth would indulge. Little did I know that God had other plans and that my life was orchestrated to meet three other Marines one Friday night while I was drinking at a bar on the island of Okinawa Japan.
These three Marines of lesser rank than I, were committed to sharing the gospel and love of Jesus with anyone who would hear, drunk or sober! A subtle non-threatening approach and a couple one liner jokes got my attention, because they were not like other self-righteous religious folks I knew.
Their approach disarmed any defenses I had because I could tell that they were very sincere and actually cared. They shared the gospel, very straight forward and told the truth of God and let the word of God do the talking. I could not argue with them because it was not their words, but rather God’s words. Short brief and right to the point, a hug and a pamphlet and they left.
They had effectively planted a seed or seeds that God would use to grow in my heart over the next several weeks. And God also used very specific circumstances to get my attention about the seriousness of the gospel and the eternal implications. I am forever grateful for the short heart to heart conversation by one of those three Marines, that led to my personal salvation! For me this is by far my favorite method to engage others about the gospel.
Other Methods and Techniques
When it comes to sharing the gospel, we must remember that everyday life presents opportunities to demonstrate the love of God through us, so that we can have the chance to converse about the hope that is in us that makes us act the way we do.
Grocery store encounter: A small act of kindness can be the difference for a stressed-out mom who is juggling a screaming child and shopping with too little cash at the register. What an impact it would be if you have the means to offer to pay the difference for her, with no strings attached.
How about going even a step further and asking to assist going to the car and help her load them. An act of kindness can open the door to more conversation to why you would help her, or a quick opportunity to give a pamphlet or explain that someone is helping you daily to get through your struggles of life.
Bus stop encounter: While it may be difficult to get people to disengage from their smartphones at a bus stop, there will no doubt be one or two who want to do anything other than stare at a screen before going to work to stare at another screen for eight hours.
A simple smile and pleasant conversation can warm up the awkwardness that takes place among strangers. If it is a regular daily commute to work, no doubt you will see the same faces. So be the person that they are glad to see every morning or evening and begin to ask how their day was and how they are feeling and then really listen.
Share a small detail about your day or your personal life. Gently ask a probing question about your own curiosity about life. Perhaps an open-ended question with a touch of humor like, “Have you ever wondered what God is thinking about while we are here waiting for the 705 bus?”
And then explore the answers from their point of view, then explain what God says his thoughts are about us. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
Offer to explain later during the week what exactly those plans and hope for the future are.
What if I mess up?
Some fear of sharing the gospel with others comes from our perceived inadequacy to say all of the ‘right things’. The gospel is the best thing ever heard to the prepared heart.
Most people can relate to the intimidation Moses must have felt when God asked him to deliver a not so nice message to Pharaoh, King of Egypt. But consider this; prayer opens the door for your message to the right heart that is ready to receive it.
Preparation and practice is your best defense against getting tongue tied, or stumbling over words. Our love of people and their need to hear the lifesaving message of the gospel should inspire and motivate us to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
We should strive to know the simplicity of the gospel message and how to convey it to anyone. It is far more important that people hear God’s words and not our own. We are to demonstrate love, while speaking the truth.
We are admonished to be prepared to give an answer to anyone who may be seeking. “But in our hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
End with Prayer
As it was in the beginning very important to pray for your ability to be effective in sharing the gospel with a prepared heart, prayer is also the closing acknowledgement that the person hearing the gospel is ready to take the next step. In a quiet alone setting if possible, offer to pray with the person and lead them through a simple prayer that has them acknowledge the following:
That they are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness.
That God has made a provision and paid the penalty for sin in Jesus Christ.
That God has accepted the death of Jesus Christ as the payment for their sins.
That God has guaranteed the payment and their acceptance of his payment, by raising Jesus Christ from the dead.
Simply ask that Jesus will come into their heart and live with them and that they will surrender their lives to him as Lord.
Some ongoing follow up will be needed, and it is important to let the new believer know that this is the beginning of a new way of thinking and living, and that it is a lifelong process of regeneration of the heart and mind.
And just like any other newborn baby, they are experiencing for the FIRST time being BORN AGAIN, which means that nurturing and growth are a natural part of the new life.
You should also be equally committed to praying for the new believer so that he or she will be strengthened and encouraged to seek their heavenly father as they begin this new journey that will give them an eternal home with the Lord.
Eugene Coghill is a contributing writer at Faith Filled Family Magazine, and the creator of Kingdom Living, www.eugenecoghill.com a Christian based inspirational blog. His achievements have included two published novels, Love Is A Fishnet (2008) and most recently, A Loving Deception (February 2020). He is in pursuit of a freelance copywriting career with American Writers and Artists, Inc. and is a member of the Professional Writers Alliance.
Some past careers have included the United States Marine Corps, law enforcement, corporate Investigator, and is currently a professional driver (tractor trailer) for Walmart.
Inspirational speaking, especially to troubled youths has become his growing passion to share his own story of overcoming a very abusive and challenging childhood.