The 3 R's of education—reading, (w)'riting, and (a)'rithmetic—are still essential to a sound, practical education. Various approaches and strategies of learning have been tried, but the basics, and even the old one-room schoolhouse environment, have great merit.
Fads and trends come and go in most areas of life, especially when it comes to diets. The basics of good nutrition, limiting calories, and regular exercise are still fundamental to good health.
So it is with the Christian faith, especially its core—the gospel. Different paradigms and approaches are popular for a time, but the redemptive story of God's love is still the most simple and powerful element of Christianity.
Sharing the gospel
Over the years, I've heard sure-fire ways to share the gospel. The idea being that someone would have to believe once they heard one of these approaches. The problem is one size doesn't fit all.
Another difficulty is being so focused on the approach, we fail to connect with people in a personal way. They sense this, and resist or outright reject what we offer.
When I was wandering in spiritual lostness, and under the influence of a mind-altering substance, I was approached by a couple college guys. I was in a different reality and mind-set than them.
After sharing their plan of salvation with me, they tried to fend off any resistance I might have. They told me, "You can still have a sports car and be a Christian!" I was not in the least interested, since I subscribed to the popular mantra of the day—turn on, tune in, dropout.
As addressed in my book, evangelism and sharing the gospel are too easily reduced to, "Jesus died for your sins." While this statement is true, it doesn't tell the whole story—the gospel story of redemption.
The 3 R's of the gospel
The essential gospel (my version) has three elements— He (Jesus) came, He died, He rose. These three essentials are also expressed in what I'll call the 3 R's of the gospel—relationship, redemption, and restoration.
Although these are echoed throughout the Scriptures, the apostle John sums up these three elements in his first epistle—
- Relationship— 1 John 1:3
- Redemption— 1 John 1:7
- Restoration— 1 John 2:1-2
Relationship with God has always been at the heart of the gospel. For starters, humanity was created in God's image (Gen 1:26, 27). Abraham, the man of faith, was a friend of God and seen as righteous because of his trust in God (James 2:23). And faith itself is about relationship—
Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him. (Heb 11:6 NCV)
Jesus called His closest followers friends (John 15:15), and was condemned for being a friend to tax collectors and sinners (Matt 11:19)
Relationship with God should always be a priority when sharing the gospel. Relationship is at the heart of redemption.
Redemption reveals the heart of God. This is expressed in the first eighteen verses of John (John 1:1-18), which summarizes the whole book of John.
It's easy to get caught up with terminology and definitions when explaining redemption. A simple way to describe it is the act of rescue and reconciliation. This is expressed in 2 Cor 5:17-19.
If our intent in sharing the gospel isn't reconciliation, then we're missing the point—a point illustrated by Jesus' three parables in Luke 15.
I sum up the idea of God's work of restoration as, the end which is the beginning again.
What was lost in Eden is restored by Jesus on the cross. The redemptive work of Jesus restores humanity to a state of innocent relational trust, which Adam and Eve knew in the beginning.
This points us toward the end of the age, as seen in the book of Revelation. We look forward to the Lord's return for His restoration of all things (Acts 3:19-21; Rev 21:3-5).
Keep it simple and true
Much more could be said, but isn't necessary. Sharing our faith and God's story of redemption should be both simple and true, not clever.
God desires relationship with all people, and we, His creation, were created for that purpose. Relationship with God comes through faith—trusting in Him and His work of reconciliation on the cross.
Deep down, everyone knows they need restoration. King David declared, "He restores my soul" (Psalm 23:3). This is what a world wandering in darkness seeks, and we followers of Christ are charged with sharing it with them.