Sunday, June 05, 2005

Proclaiming enough of the gospel

Today at church, my Sunday school class was talking about what is minimally needed to be able to say that we've proclaimed the gospel. Listening to the many interesting and insightful comments, I began to realize that this is not such an easy question to answer as I'd thought. For one thing, it doesn't take much under the right circumstances for God to work in a person's heart to draw him to Himself. Often just a fragment of the gospel suffices to begin the work, even if it takes many years after that for that fragment to fully take root and bear fruit. But only rarely will we know in advance what it is that is actually needed for the transition to take place. Some of what we say that is true will be misunderstood, and some will be beyond the capacity of our listener to adequately process. And some of what is needed may be beyond our own ability to adequate explain. But we are not engaged in this process alone, for God is working in the hearts of our listeners even as we speak, and can make what we say powerful in ways we could not expect.

All of this indicates that we are not likely to be able to say that we have done all that was needed to present the gospel when we speak to someone. But some things are foundational to faith, and need to be said to people who are seriously considering the significance of Christianity or their lives. These include the following:
  1. There is one God, the creator of the universe, who is different from us and cannot be fully comprehended by us.
  2. We are born alienated from God, and cannot enjoy His company, nor He ours while we are in this state.
  3. This alienation is called sin and is the cause of most of our present suffering, a suffering that will only be intensified after death unless it is remedied.
  4. For us to be reconciled to God requires the intervention of God Himself; we cannot do it on our own.
  5. Because He loves us, God tooke the initiative to send His Son into the world as Jesus Christ to die and be raised from the dead in order that we might be reconciled to Him.
  6. We need to believe that God has accomplishedin Jesus Christ the work we need for our reconciliation and accept it as a free gift in order for it to have value for us.
  7. Being reconciled to God involves a change of heart and lifestyle as we seek to live lives pleasing to Him rather than for our own purposes.
  8. Being reconciled to God also involves being baptized as a tangible sign of our participation in God's purposes and becoming unified with God's people in a local church.
Not all of these things need to be said in the first five minutes of a conversation on spiritual things. Some of them may not be said for months or even years. But until all of them have been understood and accepted, the gospel has not been fully understood or accepted. Because this is often not done, many people fall away from Christianity, for they never full had Christianity in the first place.

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