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Sharing the Gospel

Sunday Evening, April 9, 2006

I.  Introduction:
 How would you answer the questions: How does a person become a Christian?  What is the gospel?  How can I be saved?  Why do I need to be saved?  All of these questions are important for us to answer as we come into contact with an unbelieving world.  Yet, at times, we find ourselves unable to articulate an answer (or at least an answer that we feel is appropriate).  Before I came as pastor here at Trinity, I was asked to possibly teach some on the issue of sharing our faith with others.  Thus, for the next few weeks, I want us to try and answer the above questions in a way that will aid us in sharing the gospel with our neighbors, family members, friends, co-workers, and even strangers.  Tonight I want to begin with a couple of introductory questions.

II.  Question 1: What is the goal in evangelism?

 A.  In order to answer this question, we must first answer another one, namely what is not the goal in evangelism.  The goal is not to get people to pray a prayer.  The goal is not to get people to sign a card.  The goal is not to get people to feel better about themselves or their situation.  Although the list could go on, I think you get the idea.  None of these are the goal of evangelism.  Unfortunately, it seems that many evangelistic programs or methods seem to have these as their goal.  Of course they would probably not admit that, but when you start looking at their materials and what they are teaching, it is safe to assume that the above listed goals have impacted their approach.

 This introduces an important idea: what we believe about the gospel will impact how we share it.  If we believe that salvation is anything less than a miracle of God, then we will approach the task in a way that does not follow the clear instructions in the Bible.  If evangelism is simply getting someone to make a Ďdecision for Christí or winning an argument, then what need do we have of the Holy Spirit?  If this is evangelism, then we would not need the Spirit as much as we would need better techniques.  Not that encouraging people to decide to follow Christ and defending the Christian worldview through particular arguments are not a part of evangelism.  They are just not the goal.  Because we believe that the Bible teaches that salvation is a miracle of God (see Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3), we must have a greater goal than just convincing people that our arguments are right or getting them to pray the sinnerís prayer or something of that nature.  So, then, what is the goal of evangelism?

 B.  The goal of evangelism is to look for opportunities to speak the gospel to lost men so as to make them faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  Letís break this up into two parts.  First, we are looking for opportunities to speak the gospel to lost men.  I have argued this before, but let me say it again, it is so important that we speak the gospel to lost men.  Hear the importance of this in Paulís writing from Romans 10:14-17.  We speak the gospel so that men might hear and have faith in Jesus Christ.  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard, Paul asks in verse 14.  Thus, although it is important for us to live faithfully before a watching world, at some point, we must speak the gospel.  Living a life of obedience before lost people is an act of preparation and validation for the gospel.  Yet, it does not relieve us of the responsibility to look for opportunities to speak the gospel.  Thus, our goal is to speak the gospel to lost men.

 Second, we speak the gospel to lost men so as to make them faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.  The purpose of speaking the gospel is to make disciples.  This is what the Great Commission is all about.  We do not want Ďdecisionsí as much as we want disciples.  It is one thing to pray a prayer after someone or sign a card or go down front, it is a whole other deal to become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, ready to take up your cross daily and follow Him wherever He may lead.  Again, because we believe that salvation is a miracle of God and it involves the whole life of a person, we must emphasize that our goal is to make disciples.  Salvation is a process.  It involves regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification.  If we truly believe this, then it should impact our approach to evangelism and sharing the good news with others. 

III.  Question 2: What is the Gospel?

 A.  Again, before answering this question we should first answer the question: what is not the gospel?  The gospel is not good advice on how to have a better life.  The gospel is not self-help.  The gospel is not primarily focused on felt-needs such as loneliness or depression or lack of purpose.  These are all just symptoms of a much greater problem that the gospel is trying to address (see below).  Many approaches to evangelism come at the situation from this angle.  Yet, we need to avoid the temptation to be man-centered in our presentation of the gospel.  The gospel is not about man as much as it is about God.  Thus, we need to be God-centered in our presentation of the gospel. 1  So, then, what is the gospel?
 
 B.  I have broken the gospel into four major headings (click here for expanded version of these four headings):

1. God: He is Creator and Judge (Genesis 1, Romans 1-2)
2. Man: He has rebelled against God and is a sinner in need of forgiveness and reconciliation (Genesis 3, Romans 1-2).  How can a Holy God love sinful man?
3. Christ: Christ, who was fully God and fully man, paid the price for our sins by taking the punishment that we deserved on the cross.  He defeated sin, Satan, and death by being raised from the dead after three days.  He makes it possible for a Holy God to love sinful men (Romans 3).
4.  Response: the biblical response to the gospel is to repent of our sins and believe in Jesus Christ.  This involves a lifestyle of repentance and belief, in other words, we are to become disciples of Christ, following and obeying Him in all things (Romans 10:9, Matthew 28:18-20).

 C.  For the most part, we will be covering each of these four points over the next few weeks.  I want us to spend some in depth time on each of these points.  Each week we want to focus on particular passages from Scripture that support each point as well as discuss how we should defend each of these points against those who might deny them.  Again, we are not simply trying to win arguments, but we are trying to faithfully share the gospel with people who have a completely different worldview than we do.  Thus, we must be prepared to defend the Christian worldview in light of whatever they believe and practice.  In the weeks to come we will speak more about worldviews and why they are important to understand.

IV.  Conclusion:

 In the end, we want to be faithful in sharing the gospel because we want to be obedient to our Lord.  Listen again to Jesusí words in Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, ĎAll authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.í  These are challenging words indeed.  Yet, the Lord has told us to go and lest we forget, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.  Thus, may we labor together to faithfully proclaim the gospel that men might become disciples of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

1 For more information on being God-centered in our approach to the gospel see Will Metzger, Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002).

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Monday, 14 May 2007 )

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