What Gospel Story Do You Tell? (Help Wanted)

Friends: This one is a bit risky, I suppose. But I really want your thoughts. I’m on assignment–someone asked me to write down the gospel, for use in a youth ministry context. I’ve shared the gospel in teaching too many times to count, but I’ve never tried to write it down. It’s a challenge! What do you include, what do you leave out? How do you keep it theologically sound, without filling it with ‘Christian’ words? And don’t forget all the important elements! But, in the process, how do you make sure it’s more than words–that it’s music, story, and poetry? That it reflects the beauty of the one who lived it? Do you feel the challenge? It’s so important to get it right!

youth ministry, student ministry, small groups, disciple-making, discipleship, Christian, teaching

(Photo by bgottsab at Creative Commons)

A couple of years ago, I did one of the more interesting Bible studies I’ve ever attempted. I went through the book of Acts and tried to analyze and understand each place that they share the gospel. How did the original apostles tell the gospel in the first years after Christ’s return to heaven? I was struck–and disturbed–by the huge differences between how they told the gospel and how we typically do. I set out to try to tell the gospel story in a way that is truer to the model of the apostles.

So, here’s my attempt. I welcome any and all feedback (although I don’t promise to agree 😉 ). What’s missing? What lags? What do you really like? What would you change? Join the discussion in the comments below . . . and thank you! Your feedback is super valuable to me on this one . . .

Tonight, I want to tell you a story. It’s a story of good news and bad news, of villains and heroes, of deep questions and haunting answers. It’s a story of pain and heartache, and of final victory. It’s a story of battle and romance, of war and love. It’s an epic story, that many have heard and few truly understand. I think it’s the greatest and most powerful story I’ve ever known. In a way, it’s your story and my story. And it’s the story of the universe.

The story starts with God. Before there was an earth, a moon, stars, and a solar system, before there were fish and bugs and dogs and people, God lived alone. Have you ever thought of this? Have you ever thought of the universe before there was a universe? When there was nothing? It kind of hurts your brain to think about. You’d think God would be lonely. And He would have been, except that it wasn’t just Him. God the Father also had a son, named Jesus. They lived in perfect friendship forever, because they shared the same Spirit.

Then, they decided to create a universe. They created this world, and you and I, so that they could share their perfect friendship with us. Like an artist who simply must share their gift with the world, or an athlete who simply must compete, God is so full of love that He created us, just so He could love us. This is part of your story.

If you’ve ever wondered what your purpose is in life, if you’ve ever wondered why you are on this earth, if you’ve ever wondered if you have real meaning and value, then this is the answer. You have a designer. You were made for a purpose. Just as an eagle is made to soar in the sky, or a horse is made to run, or a lion is made to hunt, you were made to love and be loved by God.

To be clear, God’s love is no Hollywood romance, or cheesy valentine’s day card. This is the type of love that sweeps us into a story far bigger and greater than we can ever dream. It’s the type of love that demands all of who we are. It’s the type of love that exists between soldiers who protect each other’s lives in battle. It’s the type of love that exists between brothers who stand shoulder to shoulder to defend their country. It’s the type of love that a man and a woman share when they’ve been happily married for 50 years. It’s the type of love that demands more than we could ever offer and gives us more than we could ever imagine. It’s the type of love that when you experience it, you think, “This is what I am made for.” That’s what God made us for. (pause)

But then, Bad News entered the story. Adam and Eve, the first people who ever lived, chose to reject God and His love. God, the creator of the whole universe, offered them perfect friendship with Him, and they chose to love themselves instead. They chose to try to live without God. This sin broke their relationship with God. Like a friendship breaks when you choose yourself over your friend, or a sports team falls apart when one player is selfish, their relationship with God was broken.

And this brought more bad news. Because of that one act of selfishness, even more sin poured into the world. Lying, murder, dishonesty, sexual sin, anger, and death soon followed. The world that God created to show His love and goodness became a place of darkness and death. And ever since, every human ever born has been full of sin–of selfishness.

But of course, I don’t have to tell you this. You’ve felt the bad the news. You’ve experienced the loneliness, the emptiness, the false hope that this world holds. You’ve experienced parents that fight, or siblings that are selfish, or friends that turn on you. And you’ve seen it on the news. People fighting for power. Women horribly mistreated so some man can get sex. Modern day slaves being brutally oppressed. Shootings, civil wars …

But the bad news gets even worse. The Bible tells us that there is only one solution for sin. Only one payment. Only one satisfactory response. That solution is death. Just as sin kills our relationship with God, and with others, it eventually poisons our very soul. The Bible says that “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.” It also says that “the wages of sin is death.”

But God–Jesus–wasn’t ok with this as an ending. He created us so He could love us. And so, even though we were the ones who messed it up, even though we are the ones who sin, Jesus left heaven and came to this earth to fix the problem.

The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave us His only son.” (Jn 3:16) Jesus–God–became a human. He lived on this earth for 33 years. And, to be honest, it didn’t go well. More bad news. He walked in our dirt. He experienced our hurt. He tried to tell people about the God who loves them. He tried to tell people how they could have a relationship with God. But people mocked Him. They laughed at Him. They called Him crazy. And then, they killed Him. Jesus–God–was dead. All of heaven waited in silence. The whole universe paused. This seemed like the worst news of all. (pause)

But, in reality, this was when the story began to turn. This was actually Good News. The Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross on purpose. It says that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Because Jesus lived on this earth without ever sinning–without ever doing anything wrong–He could die so that we don’t have to. When He died on the cross 2000 years ago, He carried with Him every sin that you and I will ever do. He died so that we can live. His death paid the price for our sin. It was a total payment, once and for all. He took your sin, and my sin, with Him to the cross, and left it there. The Bible says, “He Himself bore our sin, in His body, on the cross … by His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) Christ died to pay for our sin, so that our relationship with God could be healed.

And then, three days later, He came back to life. He rose from the dead. This is one of the most documented facts of history. And really, it’s no surprise. Jesus is God–of course He can come back from the dead! And when He did, He conquered death. By rising from the dead, He made it so that our souls don’t have to die. We can join Him in living forever. Sure, all of us will physically die, someday. There’s a 100% chance of that! But those who choose a relationship with Jesus will never really die. Their bodies will. But their souls–the real inner you–will go and spend eternity in heaven, with God … the God who loves you.

This is the real Good News. By dying on the cross, and raising from the dead, Jesus paid the price for sin, and made it so that we can have relationship with God. God loves you so much that He sent His son–Jesus–to die so that you can be a friend of God. God’s greatest wish for you is that you would experience His love, and let it change your life. And let me promise you, it will! When God’s love and presence takes over your life, everything changes. He takes charge! He begins to change your desires, your habits, and your actions. You begin to love and live differently. You become enlisted in His mission, His purpose on this earth. It’s what you were made for. It’s why you’re here.

So, how do you do that? How do you start a relationship with God, even today? It’s so simple, it’s hard to believe. The Bible tells us that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) In other words, if you believe Jesus is who He says He is–God, and that Jesus did what He said He did–died on the cross and rose again for your sin, you will be saved. In another place, it says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9) This means that we can’t do anything by ourselves to fix our sin problem. Trying to be good won’t fix it. Doing religious things won’t fix it. Only Jesus can fix your sin. Only through Jesus can we have a relationship with God, again. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6)

So, what do you need to do? If you want to have a relationship with the God who loves you, here’s what you need to do. First, you need to believe that Jesus is who He says He is. You need to believe that Jesus is God, and that He loves you. This was our first bit of Good News. Second, you need to believe that you are who God says you are: a sinner who needs to repent. Confess that you are separated from God, because you are a sinner. Agree with God that your relationship with Him is broken, and that you can’t fix it on your own. This is the Bad News. Third, you need to believe that Jesus did what He said He did: that He paid the price for your sins. Personally receive Jesus’ gift of forgiveness and payment for your sins. Receive Him into your life as God–the one who loves you and leads you. This is the ultimate Good News.

You can do this at any time. Believe Jesus is God and that He loves you. Accept that you’re a sinner who is separated from God. Confess that you need Jesus to fix that problem, and receive the payment that He already paid on the cross. The Bible says it this way, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not die but have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16)

Remember our phrase from before? “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If you want to start a relationship with God today, I encourage you to ‘confess with your mouth.’ Find someone to talk to about Jesus that already knows Jesus. Ask them to pray with you. Tell Jesus–and them–that you believe these things tonight. And ask Jesus to come into your life, forgive your sin, and lead you and love you.

It’s the best decision you’ll ever make. And, you’ll be joining the best story ever told.

Animated Social Media Icons Powered by Acurax Wordpress Development Company
%d bloggers like this: