For a while I have been writing about the power of the Gospel. I would like to switch the focus now to the place of the gospel. I personally believe that the place of the gospel in our lives is not where it should be. It is often called the basis of our faith, the foundation of our belief. I would say that it should be the cornerstone of our daily thinking. If the gospel is just something we experienced at some point in the past, that now guides our present and determines our future something is wrong. Paul was probably the greatest theologian to ever live, and the one thing he mentions in all of his writings and conversations we have recorded is the gospel!! Check it out! Not once do we see Paul opening his mouth without the Gospel coming out. I look at that an ask myself why is that not the case with me? The answer is simple. I have not placed the Gospel in its proper place in my life. I also believe that conditioning is part of it too. Let me see if I can explain it.
In this day and age education is seen as crucial. Because of this more and more people are getting educated in a worldly system that teaches them that everything is questionable and relative. So when a Christian tells someone that believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven they are met with a barrage of questions. Most believers turn to rhetoric, or a methodology of apologetics to “defend” their beliefs.
I believe this is not a bad thing but oft-times a sad one. The believer is, in most cases, floundering to answer the unbeliever’s probing, and many times honest, questions. Why? I believe the answer is two fold. 1st the believer is often ill equipped or ill trained in defending the faith so it becomes a battle with the unbeliever. 2nd the believer lacks the knowledge of the gospel, which is necessary in order to share it. You may be thinking that 1 & 2 sound alike but there are some key differences.
When most people think of training in this context they think of an evangelistic “technique.” While methods and “techniques” may not be bad they have one inherent flaw; the user relies on the method rather than the power of the Word of God. You may be thinking to yourself, “but the Romans road is the Word of God.” True. But what do you do when you have used the Romans road and the listener asks, “what about all the rest of the world? Would God really send all those people to Hell?” Or, “how can you be so adamant that you have the only truth? After all there are so many religions out there, is it possible that yours if only one of many ways to get to heaven?” In this day and age you may even have to “prove” that there is a God, and that man has a soul, and that this is not only your opinion or the meaning you have taken from the Scriptures.
So how do we overcome the objections? How de we present and defend the Gospel? I believe that every situation requires its own answer. This is not a “cop out” it is merely an acknowledgement that there is no one method or technique with which we can universally present the Gospel. The solution is not found in training or methods but in the individual Christian’s preparation before God and an in-depth personal understanding of the Gospel and what it really means. The Apostle Paul is an excellent example of what it means to understand the Gospel and to express it in a way that answers the questions and objections of the unbeliever.
I want to make it very clear that I am not proposing any change whatsoever to the content of the message. The gospel is unalterable! If you change any part of it, it is no longer the Gospel. What I am saying is that while the message is not to be changed the means by which the message is given can and should be adapted to fit the current need. How do we do this? By understanding two things: the nature, and the content of the message.
Right now you are probably thinking, “I know the content of the message! Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, crucified on a cross for the sins of the world, and then rose again on the third day. That is basic Sunday school material, duh!” True, those are the basics. But how does that relate to the individual objections, and questions? I cannot answer that. I know, I know, “so why are you writing this?” Because I needed the reminder and thought you might too. I have known the Gospel since I was knee high to a short grasshopper, but I was not saved until the age of eighteen. Why? Because the gospel made no sense to me until it answered the questions in my heart. To some this may seem as if I am subjecting the Gospel to some personal measuring stick. I assure you I am not. What I am saying is that until I realized that the Gospel would fill the longing of my heart I did not want it. Why? For me it was because I thought I could be happier without it. I thought the gospel was restrictive, that it would take away my freedom. I did not understand that only in Christ could I truly be free. It wasn’t until I realized that only with the change the Gospel could make would Iever truly be happy that I accepted it. That was my objection.
I know that it seems like I am being very wishy-washy here. I just can seem to put it more clearly than this; if you don’t understand something, how can you explain it to someone else? Is the gospel just the basics, or is it a never ending wellspring of knowledge and power? Is it the only source of true Joy, and peace? It is all of that and more. It is the power to transform lives, redeem the soul, erase guilt, justify the wicked, make peace with Almighty God, gain entrance into heaven, obtain peace, satisfy the soul, and so much more that I can’t even begin to write it all out. But when you ask the average Christian what the gospel is they tell you the basics, and say it is the means to get to heaven. While this is true it is very shallow. It is like saying that a car is just a means of transportation. While that is true it is more than that, its components are many and varied, its engine is a remarkable feat of engineering, its braking system is a complex mix of hydraulics and friction, etc. So why do we look at the gospel as we do a car; just as a means to an end? Because we have never truly thought about it. Because we do not understand what the Gospel is. We believe, but if we are honest we don’t really know what we believe.
I am not trying to bash anyone, or make anyone feel inadequate. These are the thoughts that have been in my head. I have just recently been challenged by the Word and the Spirit in my life that I have not thought about these things enough. And I have been chagrined to realize that because I truly do not yet have a full understanding of the Gospel I have been hesitant to share it. The challenge is not to have a complete understanding (it won’t happen until we get to heaven) but to continually strive to understand what God has done for us. This is the proper place of the Gospel. It is only when we meditate on the Gospel and God’s gift to us in Christ that we will seek to share the good news. I know I need to, what about you?