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Evangelism is not easy. In fact, I would compare it to swimming a river up-stream, you know, like those Salmon do. Today, the streams of our culture flow hard against the bold proclamation of the Christian faith. Evangelism is looked at with disdain by those outside the faith; and from those within, it is either dreaded or ignored. Yet, aren't we called to share our faith as Christians? Aren't we called to proclaim the gospel into this dark world? Why, yes, we are. We are told to go out into all the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). We are to be always ready to make a defense for our faith (1 Peter 3:15). We are called God's ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors for Christ's Kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). So, yes, we are called to evangelize this world. Whether it be difficult or easy, we have a job to do.

So, what do we need to do it? Well, and this answer shouldn't surprise anybody – the Spirit and the Word. Every true believer has the Spirit of God dwelling in him/her and can be used of God in this great work. And all the Christian needs to tell the world is right there in the Word of God. But we need to work at this. We need the will to do this great work, and we need to prepare ourselves to handle the Word well. There is a great need for Christians to get a better understanding of the gospel, a bigger view of God, a greater compassion for the lost, and be practically discipled in personal evangelism.

The most pressing need for the Christian today is to get the gospel right and to have the gospel get them. We need accurate knowledge of the biblical gospel, so that we preach the good news as it really is, not as we imagine it to be. And, this is so important, we need the gospel to get our hearts, transforming our thoughts, attitudes, desires and feelings from the inside out. The gospel must be proclaimed rightly and truthfully, but also authentically, with heartfelt love and passion for God.

So, what is the gospel, what is the good news? In a broad sense the gospel is God's plan to save a people for himself out of sinful humanity, from all nations, by the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through his life, death, burial and resurrection. This salvation brings forgiveness for sins and eternal life for all who repent and believe, to the glory of God. This is good news. And as you can see, the gospel centers around Jesus Christ who is the sacrifice of atonement for the sins of God's people. God has made a way where there was no way, for sinners to be reconciled to God.

In a narrower sense, the gospel can be preached to individuals with a simple God, Man, Christ, Response outline, as Greg Gilbert explains in his little book What is the Gospel.[1] In this we proclaim the truth that there is one God and he is the perfect, holy, Creator. We then teach that God created man perfect, but man has rebelled against God, rejecting his rightful rule, and effectively breaking the relationship of God and his creatures. This rebellion and rejection of God is mankind's sin. Sin affects everyone and has incurred God's just wrath on us all. We then preach Christ, God in the flesh, the mediator between God and man. Christ came to live the life we could not live and die the death we deserved to die. By his death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave, man can be brought back to God and not suffer his wrath. Christ not only offers forgiveness, but full reconciliation with God, inviting the sinful world to come to him to become children of God. Lastly, we preach the need for a response to Christ. The way to receive God's forgiveness is to turn from sin (repent) and trust in Jesus (believe). We do not benefit from a Savior whom we reject. But Jesus has given an invitation that whoever comes to him he will never cast out (John 6:37).

The result of this gracious gospel is absolutely glorious. The sinner who hides himself in Christ finds he has been born again, that he is given the Holy Spirit, given a new Heart, and given eternal life that begins now and continues forever in heaven. He will not come into judgment, he will not suffer wrath; no, he will be saved, reconciled to God with joy and peace forevermore.

When Christians in churches today grasp the gospel in its splendor and beauty, they cannot help but speak of what they've seen and heard. The problem is that so many churches and so many members are ignorant of the gospel and have a woefully small view of who God is. When God is small to us, and the gospel is a distant memory, there is inevitably a diminished passion for evangelism. But O, how the world needs the gospel! May you and I not be dull-hearted and small-minded when it comes to the greatest news in the cosmos.

So where does this leave us as Christian's today? I would encourage every believer to swim up this stream of sharing Christ in a hostile world. Like a Kokanee jumping up a waterfall, take the leap and share your faith. We need robust evangelism in the world today. The imperative for churches all over is to preach and teach the real gospel, to pray for revival in the church, and to disciple believers to do evangelism. What a beautiful sight when a Christian shares Christ from the Scriptures with a heart aflame with passion for the Lord.

There is a wonderful cyclical nature to developing this robust culture of evangelism: the more you know and love the gospel, the more you share the gospel with others; the more you share the gospel with others, the more you know and love the gospel. The impact of doing personal evangelism is actually quite astounding. One would think that the only beneficiary would be the multitude of lost people hearing the life-saving gospel and being found by the Lord Jesus. But the impact is glorious for the Christian too, who steps out in faith. Evangelism benefits everyone because it is the proclamation of the gospel – which is the greatest news that addresses everyone's greatest need. So, like Paul wrote to Philemon, "I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ" (Philemon 1:6). Swim the waterfall – it's good for you and it just might save the world.

[1] Gilbert, What is the Gospel, p. 32 

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024