Over the years I’ve found this graphical representation of the Gospel really helpful. I’ve done it 100s of times with a pen and a piece of paper however on the recent Baptist Youth Summer Camp I needed to include it into a presentation. I thought I’d write down the sequence and explanation.
The first slide is a line (continuous for those that care). It is my experience that most folk think of morality as a relative quality, rather than good or evil we believe we hang somewhere in the balance.
To kick off a conversation it’s useful to throw a few very well know faces at a teenage audience. There are three “good” people that I find are always tagged as “very good” by South African teenagers: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. These are great examples because they press home the exclusivity of the Gospel later on (“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”) Ask any kid where on the line Nelson Mandela should sit. Guaranteed they’ll shout “good”.
Once you’ve got a baseline for “good” have some fun with bad. I’ve asked 100s of kids where they’d put Lady Gaga, without exception all have said “bad”, most have said “very, very, very bad” bordering on pure evil :). Other great examples are Adolf Hitler and Osama bin Laden.
Now it’s time to get relative. On the camp I used the examples of the Camp Director, Ulrich Fobian, our MC, Mark Paul, and one of the worship team, Cjay Jansen. Here’s the point: everyone puts themselves on a ladder comparing themselves to the people around them. We compare ourselves to our family, our friends, our pastors, our youth leaders… everyone. Where would you peg yourself? It’s like we’re trying to climb a ladder, hoping that if we get close enough to “good” God’ll look down, notice us and say “That one is good enough, I’ll choose them for My heaven.”
But that takes sovereignty away from God and gives it to ourselves, it makes salvation a work that we do, a goodness found in ourselves, a righteousness of our own making.
This game we play of relative goodness leads only to death and destruction.
You see God is holy. The angels declare of Him, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”
What does that word mean? Quick analogy, put water and cooking oil into a jar, mix them around a bit, wait 10 minutes, what happens? The water and the oil separate. The word holy describes God’s complete separation from sin. Jesus said, when the rich young ruler came a questioned Him, that “only God is good.” We work on these relative horizontal scales of goodness and badness, comparing ourselves to everyone around us, but God works on absolute scales, good or bad.
Which brings us to sin. Sin isn’t a mistake, an oops, a little problem – it is a debt we owe God we can’t pay, it is a crime committed that demands a sentence, it is a rebellion against God which separates us from Him. And God is clear, “The wages of sin is death.” It doesn’t matter what you do to make yourself look good on the outside God looks at you on the inside and sees your true state, your sin, your separation from Him, and God hates sin, He is holy, and is separate from it. The games we play, hoping to look “gooder” than the guy standing next to us, make us look despicable in the sight of God, in fact “our good deeds are like filthy rags” before Him.
That’s really bad news. And truthfully no one will ever understand the Good News until they understand who they are before Him.
The right response to our sinful state is the question “How then can I be saved?”
So here’s the Gospel, Jesus died for you. He paid the price, took the punishment, reconciled you to God. The Bible says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” AMAZING! Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was a substitute. But not only that, Jesus rose from the grave. God accepted His payment. When Jesus said, “It is finished” it really was. His Resurrection means that God’s wrath is appeased.
The gates of heaven are open wide. Praise the Lord! But if the Gospel presentation stops there it’s short.
Jesus commission His apostles, and us, to proclaim that salvation is available to all by repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Repenting means turning from our sins and turning to Christ. Forgoing everything else, our goods works, our social standing, any other mechanism of approaching God. Rather than trust in our own work we’re to trust in Christ’s work upon the cross. We rely upon Him and His righteousness alone. If “you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And that’s it.
This is a base, a mechanism, a springboard. There are so many other words that can be added in order to convey the truths of the Gospel, however it is distilled to “Christ died, Christ rose, repent for the forgiveness of sins.”
Helpful? Concerns? Questions?