The gospel is God’s “delivery system” to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers. All believers are set apart or commissioned to be a part of the delivery process. It is only through this “means of grace” that a person receives the full benefits of Christ’s finished work on the cross.
God’s commands for all people serves an important role in evangelism. His law exposes the hearts and souls of those who are separated from God. His law is a means of diagnosis to help people recognize their utter need for help. It reveals that all the problems in this world are symptoms of a bigger problem… a sinner’s need to be rescued.
How can a believer enter a conversation about sin? How can a believer build a platform that allows them to safely transition to rescuing a person who is on a slippery slope to eternal destruction?
Technically speaking, it is appropriate to declare to a lost soul, “Without Christ, you are going to hell because of your sins!” John the Baptist, the Apostle Paul, even Martin Luther didn’t mince words when declaring the need to repent of our sins.
For the rest of us, there may be a better way to start a conversation about sin.
People today are hearing messages about sin that comes across as a scolding. They will hear, “You need to do better!” Popular television preachers attempt to motivate Christians by declaring, “God has given you the capability to improve.”
When people view Christ as a teacher more than a Savior, they are not interested to come to church and read their report card from God. Like a student who has been struggling in class all semester, all they are hoping for is a passing grade. They go to church and compare themselves to the “A” students who tend to treat church as an honors society for the privileged elect. Filled with hopelessness rather than hope, they are choosing to remain at home.
When God is perceived to be a demanding boss, nobody wants to receive a weekly job performance review and be exposed as a fraud. Instead of confronting the symptoms of sin, people are going to great lengths to hide it.
Perhaps one way to talk about sin is to start in the garden – the source of original sin.
The Fall is not a fictional account of a talkative snake, a woman deceived, and a gullible man who fell for all of it. It is God’s account of how sin entered the world. The Fall is an ongoing reality that effects the entire world. The challenge is that it doesn’t fit into our world view.
People like to think that everybody has the potential to be good. The possibility of creating heaven on earth is referred to as a noble cause and a worthwhile human pursuit. Breaking this notion makes spiritual conversations difficult.
We can begin a conversation by bringing up the symptoms of sin before addressing the disease that is causing the symptoms.
There is pain, frustration, and loneliness throughout the world. Why?
There are bad people who do bad things to innocent people. Why?
People lie, cheat, and steal. They take advantage of others. And if they are not doing it, they are thinking about it. Why?
The answer is original sin.
It’s like an infection that promotes pride over humility, selfishness over servanthood, and even death over life.
Like the garden, people are still being deceived today.
Snakes are not hanging on our tree in the backyard telling us, “You will not surely die.” Instead, like a gentle breeze, a voice whispers approval to pick the fruit the world offers to find knowledge, serenity, security, and escape. The words attempt to cloak the obvious reality that we are naked, alone, and afraid – and we will surely die.
God has already provided a remedy for sin. He has already provided the means to escape eternal death. Victory over original sin is assured. The cure for the disease of sin is the gospel. Believing in what Christ has already done for us in the only means to receive a right relationship with God.
God’s plan of salvation is not a self-improvement plan, but a change of status.
Believing in Christ means having the confidence and assurance of what our grade will be on the report card when it arrives in the mail. The grade will not a D minus or an F, but an A plus. Faith alone receives Christ’s work on our behalf.
Believing in Christ is knowing with certainly how our job performance review is going to go. This is our status that Christ has already won for us. In response, believers work for a great boss who is loving and forgiving.
The concept of sin does not have to be avoided to start a meaningful conversation. It can give us permission to address the feelings of emptiness, loneliness, and busyness. It can serve us well to transition to providing the means of grace – the solution – found only in the message of the gospel.