Our afternoon study called ‘A People Made Ready’ resumed this past Sunday. In our first study, we looked at the question, ‘What is the Gospel?’ We saw that the gospel is the announcement of the reign of God, though Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all. Essentially, the gospel is a message about Jesus.
Spreading this gospel means introducing people to Jesus – telling people the good news of who he is in light of his saving accomplishments. And since he is Lord of the world, all the people of the world must give their allegiance to him. If we profess allegiance to this King, we ought to spread this great and glorious gospel. That was week one.
But there is something else about the nature of this gospel that warrants careful consideration while spreading it: the gospel is the climax of a much larger storyline. Jesus did not appear out of the thin air.
The Gospel is the Climax of a Much Larger Storyline
The preaching of John the Baptist in all four Gospels is significant! He prepares the way for the coming of the Lord (Malachi 3:1) and the great and awesome day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5). John the Baptist’s ministry is to prepare God’s people for the climax of the entire history of redemption! The gospel is the climax of a much larger storyline. Paul tells us that all God’s promises (from the OT) “find their yes in [Christ]” (2 Cor 1:20). This means God has a history of making promises. As the storyline of the Bible progresses, the suspense thickens: how will God keep his promises? Without charting out what these promises are, at least two observations are in order: (1) though the Gospel is the announcement of God’s reign through Jesus Christ, it’s a climactic announcement that shouts ‘fulfilment of promises!’; and (2) unless someone is remotely aware of the larger storyline, they are unlikely to appreciate and understand this climax.
Understanding the Storyline is Not Trivial
In Colossians 1:5-6, Paul tells the Colossians that the gospel bore fruit among them and all over the world “since the day [they] heard it and understood the grace of God in truth.” This passage doesn’t tell us explicitly that we need to preach the storyline of the Bible, nor that x-amount of the storyline needs to be understood before the gospel can be rightly believed. But it tells us that people need to understand the grace of God in truth. And as is the case with any story, the more someone understands the plot (promises) of the storyline, the more they’ll understand and appreciate the climax (Lord-willing).
When it comes to the storyline of the Bible the gospel is the climax, and it is where the grace of God is most clearly displayed! We greatly serve fellow sinners when we help them see the context or big picture in which this climactic event takes place.
How do we Share Big Picture Stuff while Sharing the Gospel?
How do we do this? Though there are hundreds of thousands of people in the GTA who have, at least, a semi-Christian view of the world with a decent amount of biblical literacy, there are more who don’t. People in our culture are becoming increasingly biblically illiterate (even churches can be!). So how much of the storyline do we need to communicate in conjunction with gospel bites about Jesus? Though this largely depends on the nature of any given conversation Matthias Media’s Two Ways to Live booklet is an excellent resource for sharing the Gospel in light of the basic storyline of Scripture. (Just click the link above to see the six picture presentation).
A Brief Outline of Two Ways to Live (without pictures)
Here is a basic outline of the tract that you might find helpful:
1. God is loving ruler of the world. He made us rulers of the world under him. (Gen 1-2; Rev 4:11). BUT, is that the way it is now?
2. We all reject the ruler – God – by trying to run our lives our way without him. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world. (Gen 3; Rom 3:10-12). WHAT will God do about this rebellion?
3. God won’t let us rebel forever. God’s punishment for rebellion is death and judgement. (Gen 3; Heb 9:27). God’s justice sounds hard. BUT …
4. Because of his love, God sent his Son in the world: the man Jesus Christ. Jesus always lived under God’s rule. Yet, by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness. (Gen 12:1-3, 15:1-6; and 1 Pet 3:18). BUT, that’s not all …
5. God raised Jesus to life again as the ruler of the world. Jesus has conquered death, now gives life, and will return to judge. (1 Pet 1:3) WELL, where does that leave us?
6. The two ways to live:
(1) OUR WAY = Reject God as our ruler. Try to live life our way. The result: Condemned by God; facing death and judgement.
(2) GOD’S NEW WAY = Submit to Jesus as our ruler. Rely on Jesus’ death and resurrection. The result: Forgiveness by God and eternal life. (John 3:16; Rev 21:1-5)
At the end of the booklet, the call is to (1) Talk to God; (2) Submit to Jesus; and (3) Keep trusting.
Practical Instructions for Sharing Two Ways to Live
1. The six points are six pegs on which to hang a gospel conversation. You can enter in at any point. (You don’t need to start at the first point).
2. You can elaborate more or less on any point. This will depend on the conversation you are having.
3. Learn to connect topics of conversation to the six pegs (pictures) of God’s big picture.
Here is an example of connecting a conversation to one of those pegs: If someone is reading the news and comments on how messed up the world is, you could pipe up and say, “It really is messed up, but ya know, the reason is because we all reject God as our ruler; and we try do things our way. That is the main problem. That’s what the Bible teaches. Have you ever thought about that much?” This would be an example of entering in and hanging a conversation on the second peg. If the conversation continues, you will likely talk about the fall in Genesis 3, and there is great potential to end up focusing on Jesus who redeems rebels.
Spreading More than the Gospel
So, the gospel is the climax of a much larger storyline that provides the very framework needed for understanding it. Accordingly, it’s important that we spread them together (Jesus according to the Gospels & the storyline of the Bible). Indeed, we ought to spread more than the gospel. The more biblically illiterate a person is, the more we need to give them more than the gospel.