A Sermon on the Gospel
he following is a sermon I delievered Sunday morning (August 6, 2006) at Christian Tabernacle (Houston, TX). I was preaching a short segment on “Sharing the Good News” in the New Member’s Class. Headed by Irvin Clark and Marcella Willhoite, this particular class revolved around Discipleship. This was my first sermon. I had only 15 minutes.
I have been given the task to answer three questions this morning about sharing the gospel. I’ll admit that I might appear to be a bit overly excited because the gospel means so much to me. I’m sure it does you too. But maybe to me it means more – at least at this moment – because I am still on an emotional high.
My wife has just delivered our third installment to the Abshire legacy. She gave birth to Kylee Emerson just two over two weeks ago. What a blessing children are. And even more the blessing of being trusted to raise children to love the gospel. So I’m more excited than usual for two reasons.
One, I now have three children. And two, I now have three gospel opportunities. I have led friends and strangers to the gospel; even a cousin when I was young. But never have I led my own child. This is something that stirs in my heart waiting to become real.
In fact, before the delivery, Kathy and I had a short time of quietness and we prayed. You might have expected me to pray for a smooth and light active labor, and I did, but only for a few short sentences. My thoughts, as well as Kathy’s, were not on the delivery, they were set on our coming child. Most of our prayer was concerning Kylee’s love for the gospel. We prayed that she would cling to the gospel as if it were all she had. We prayed that she would love Christ for all that He has done for her. We prayed for her salvation. I must admit, I was a little selfish in the prayer in that I specifically prayed that I be the One who lead her to the gospel and saving faith. My heart was right though. Nevertheless, whoever did it, I wanted it done. I just preferred that I do it. You can’t blame me for that!
Let’s turn in our booklet to page 35. The three questions are there. At the top of 35… “Why should I tell others?” Secondly, “Who should I tell first?” And thirdly, “What should I say?”
Since our time is short, I want to draw your attention to the third question because I think that if you understand the content of the gospel or the stuff that you sharing, then you will basically conclude the correct answers to questions 1 and 2.
When preparing for this, I recalled something that happened at work and thought that it would serve us well this morning. I work in an office near a conference room where we have cable TV. It was around noon so some of my co-workers were in the conference room laughing and hollering like they were watching a football game or something. Their bolstering was synchronized. I walked in there to see what was going on and noticed that it was not a game at all.
They were watching a car chase on the news. A man was fleeing from the police. The sirens were many and so were the road side warnings. But this criminal was not giving up. People were beginning to line up on the over passes in order to see the chase pass under them. Some were putting up signs saying, “Don’t stop! You can make it!” Others were concerned. They were saying, “Give up! Slam on the brakes!”
I stood there with them and watched. It had already been going on for over 15 minutes and continued for what seemed like forever. I mean it was going on and on. This guy would not give up. I think he ran out of gas and was eventually caught after hitting several cars and endangering many people. The cops bagged him and we turned the TV off.
As sinners, we are like the criminal. We are fleeing from the law in a high speed chase. We have no concerns for dangers or innocent people. We just don’t want to be judged. We want our life in our own hands and could care less of others. Right?
Jesus is like the police screaming the sirens and chasing us. He will eventually catch up with us. We’ll run out of gas or crash into concrete wall or something. Or, we can brake for Him. While His intentions are not to throw us in jail, we don’t see it that way. Rather, we think of Him like we do the Hollywood cop. He is the mean, scruffy jerk that can’t wait to push us up against the wall and cuff us.
Instead of surrendering we push the pedal to the medal. We drive and drive. We cannot go far enough or quick enough. We see the signs, “Give up! Slam on the brakes!” And if we ignore them, we will eventually run out of gas or crash. We will get caught and receive justice.
Some of us (by God’s grace) come to our senses and slam on the brakes. We surrender. We would rather have Jesus deal with us mercifully then justly. We don’t ignore the signs. We stop.
This is how the world is. This is a parallel to life. Sinners are running from God and if they don’t stop and turn, they will be judged rightfully.
We are those who decided to slam on the brakes and turn ourselves in. We have chosen to surrender our rights to the law of Christ instead of having the law enforced upon us. Now, since we are no longer a law unto ourselves, we must do what Christ says we do. And one thing He tells us to do is to proclaim the good news – the gospel.
To use the illustration, Christ calls us back to the highway, not as the criminal speeding from Him, but as one of those people who show up on the overpass. We are to be those who scream and hang signs that say, “Give up! Slam on the brakes!”
This is sharing the gospel.
Of course you could be like those who scream the wrong thing cheering the criminals on, “Don’t stop! You can make it!” No matter which group, you are there and you are screaming whether you know it or not. My goal this morning to is to make sure that you are screaming the right thing.
Let’s look at the suggested ideas for what you should say. I am going to give you some words that might make it easier to remember these points. They are Conviction, Conversion, Connection, Conclusion. You don’t have to write those down yet, you can when we reach them.
Number 1, Conviction. It reads this, “Share what your life was like before you received Jesus. Tell of an inward problem you had, such as rejection, loneliness” and so on. “Describe how it affected you outwardly.”
Just like anything you share, it is easiest for the hearer to understand something that you share when you make it personal. It tells them that (1) you are not talking about something that you have not yourself experienced, and (2) it is a real experience – they can relate to that. It is human and real – especially this.
Here, this is what I like. It says, “Share what Paul wrote to the Romans.” Now they may not know who Paul is much less the Romans, but the idea is to share what God’s Word says because your word (as good as it may be) is not living and active like God’s Word. See the Bible will cut to the heart. Ours just wound the flesh at best.
It says to share Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Notice the word all. This means you. This means them. This means everyone. Everyone has “sinned and” (watch the verb tense) “fall short.” Listen, if we are honest (and so are they) then we have to admit that we have done something wrong – regardless of the level of intensity. We have sinned. The verse tells us to our face the hardest truth to swallow. We have (past tense) sinned and (present-future tense) fall short. We have done it initially and we continue to fall deeper and deeper. We drive further and further from God. The highway is long and we’ll drive as long as it is there.
What you are doing is bringing up conviction. Conviction is the realization of guilt. It is recognizing that we are sinners. We have done wrong. We have offended God. And if they can admit that, then we have grounds for the good news. See, this is the bad news. And unless you have the bad news, the news of Christ is not good at all. You don’t need Him.
Point 2, “Tell of a change of heart resulting in your conversion. When did it happen? Where did it happen? How did it happen?” Again, you sharing your experience and making it real. Helping them to trust its legitimacy. Right the word “Conversion” over the top there.
Let’s bring the Word back in. Romans 10:9-10 (now these are probably verses you are all familiar with, you probably had these given to you when you were led) “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. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”
What does this mean? Well it’s pretty simple to understand. You are to admit your sins and surrender your life to Christ. This is what it means by confessing Him as Lord. It is making Him Lord of your life. That is to say that He is now in charge. What He says do, you do. And all this must be internally and externally true. What I mean is, your should fully believe in heart so that your life reflects it.
Now it doesn’t mean that you are saved once you speak certain words. No, that would give some problems to those who are mute. The Scriptures are just saying that it is with your heart that you believe unto salvation. But it is with your mouth (and your life) that you prove it to be true.
You can’t be like the school principle who announced that he believes that there is a bomb hidden in the school timed to blow in 5 minutes, but never dismisses the students and teachers. No, he doesn’t believe. He says he does, but he doesn’t. The Bible is saying that if you believe that Christ is Lord, then you will indeed obey Him. You will not just say that you believe. You will act and that is the sign of true conversion.
Point 3, Connection. “Invite the person to share the same life-changing experience. Explain that it will work for him or her as well.” Notice, it doesn’t suggest that you explain how but that it will work. You see, you don’t want to make their life up for them. You only want to tell them that they too can experience a change as you have described about yourself.
Romans 10:11 reads, “anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” God will not deny anyone. Nor will He treat anyone differently. If you are black, white, tall, short, God will take you the way you are. This is important too. See, after dragging them through the mud making them realize that they worthless sinners that have made God angry, some might think that they are too sinful for God. But that is not so. God is more powerful than sin. His work on the cross was for any and all sinners who put their brakes on and surrender.
At this point, you are connecting them to the gospel message. You are making it personal to them. You are sort of putting them in the game and making them feel as though it is time to play.
Point 4, now it is time to play – Conclusion. “Use this illustration. God wants to have a relationship with us. But we have sinned against God, and sin prevents us from having a relationship with Him. We are separated from God because there is a ‘sin gap’ between us.”
Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death (eternal separation from God)…” Now you are putting the ball in their hands. You brought them to the court, now you are urging them to play.
Let’s continue. “Most of us are aware of our sin and try to do good things to make us worthy of God’s acceptance. We try to make up for our sins with good works, hoping that it will bridge the gap between us and God. But the separation is too great. No matter how hard we try, we can never do enough to bridge the gap.”
Sounds like we’ve got a problem, right?
“God did what we could not do. He bridged the gap and made a way for us to have a relationship with Him by sending His Son, Jesus, to die on a cross and pay our sin debt. Through the shed blood of Christ, we now can have access to God.”
Then you can return to Scripture, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Romans 6:23. Nice. The Bible says it for you. And it was all in the same book so you don’t have to worry about thumbing around the Bible. It is easy enough. Just stay in Romans.
It is important in the conclusion that you do not play for them or even push them into playing. Let them do that on their own. In fact, Jesus never charged you to save the lost. He only charged you to proclaim the gospel. See we are not the cops following the criminals. We are those on the over passes waving the signs screaming, “Give up! Slam on the brakes!” We scream. We throw our signs. Then we leave rest to God.
Makes it easy, don’t you think. You don’t have beat yourself up when someone responds negatively – because they will. In fact, most will. But it is not your fault as long as you present the gospel the right way. If your gospel says, “Don’t stop! You can make it!” like these fluffy preachers who talk about self esteem; you know those who tell you, “You are great the way you are! God wants you just like that! You are a good person.” You know what I’m talking about.
Don’t be like them. Be like Paul who clearly spelled it out for us in Romans. Talk about Conviction, then Conversion, then Connection, and then Conclusion.
That being said, let’s quickly answer questions 1 and 2 if we can. Question 1 reads, “Why should I tell others?” Well, you will have two types of people to tell so you will have two responses. One type, the Christians, will take joy in what you say. The gospel is the most wonderful thing to the believer. The other type, the unbelievers, the criminals still in the car chase, will have the opportunity to slam on the brakes.
So there are two reasons here. (1) “So others can rejoice with you.” And (2), “So others can avoid an eternity in hell.” And I think you could write a number 3 here next to Matthew 16:15-16. These are the words of Christ. He says “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This should be the best reason why – because Christ, our Lord, said so. Easy enough.
Question 2 reads, “Who should I tell first?” Well, we know that all have sinned, so all need to know. But on a more strategic level, think about those whom you have the most influence. First, “Members of your own family.” This is what Acts 16:31 means. It says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your family.” See, your family is not saved because believe. They will likely come to belief because you believed and share your belief with them. This is not a universal truth, but a proverb. Something that is generally true.
Secondly, tell “Those in relationships with you” like your “co-workers, neighbors, and friends.” Just like your family, your friends and those who are with you much of your time. They are more open to what you wish to share.
So it should be clear. You know the gospel and you know what to do with it.
Good. Thanks for your time and I’ll see you on the overpass.