What is the starting point of the gospel? When we’re sharing the gospel with someone, where do we begin? Do we start by talking about a person’s sins? Do we start with God’s love and plan for their life or do we start somewhere different? This is our first lesson in a series, teaching on the Gospel, helping you to grow in your faith and understanding of the gospel, and also equipping you with the ability to share the gospel with others.
In this first lesson, our Pastor talks about the importance of starting a gospel presentation in the right place. He’ll be referencing Will Metzger’s book, Tell the Truth and the Come Home gospel presentation found in the book, which we’re using as our guide for this series.
The Right Place to Start
Modern-day evangelism immediately veers off course because modern-day evangelism consistently starts in the wrong place. And if you start in the wrong place, you have a pretty good chance of arriving at the wrong destination. So when we think about evangelism, there are really two options. There are two beginning possibilities. You can begin with man, or you can begin with God. Now, if you’ve had any kind of evangelistic training in the past or if you’ve seen many tracts, this will sound pretty familiar to you.
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
We’ve heard that right? We may have even said that to somebody. But if we take the time to think through that statement, it becomes apparent pretty quickly that this opening evangelistic line starts in the wrong place and therefore holds the potential for ending up in the wrong place. God can use even our weakest feeblest efforts in evangelism and bless them. But we want to make sure that we’re doing our best to make sure that we’re properly presenting the gospel.
Let’s think about this statement. “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Where does that statement start? It begins with man, it doesn’t start with God, does it? In fact, it’s totally directed towards man, “God loves you and God has a wonderful plan for your life.” It’s almost like God’s the bystander here and this is really all about you.
Will Metzger addresses this in the book. He said he makes a clear distinction between God-centered evangelism and what he describes as me-centered evangelism. And he says this “Me-centered evangelism contains some biblical truths. Yet these are distorted, for error comes when truth is given out of context.” He goes on to say, “May God help us not to contradict the character of God in our witnessing.” And he says, “may the God to whom we witness be consistent with the God we worship.”
In our evangelism, we need to stress the God of holiness, not just a God who exists to give us good times and pleasant feelings. In other words, we want to give them a true biblical picture of God.
Me-Centered vs. God-Centered Evangelism
In me-centered evangelism, the point of contact with a non-Christian is love. We say God loves you, but in God-centered evangelism, the point of contact with the non-Christian is creation, God made you.
Can see there’s a world of difference in the implication between those two opening statements? There is a world of difference that completely changes the tone of the presentation. If you begin with “God loves you” or you begin with the fact that “God created you.”
God’s authority or ownership is blunted in me-centered evangelism. Again, because it’s all about the person that you’re talking to. But in God-centered evangelism, God has ownership rights over your daily life and destiny.
Me-centered: love is God’s chief attribute. God-centered: justice and love are equally important attributes of a holy God.
Me-centered evangelism, God is impotent before the sinners will. In God-centered evangelism, God is able to empower the sinner’s will.
In me-centered evangelism, the persons of the Trinity have different goals when planning and accomplishing salvation than when applying it. And God-centered the persons of the Trinity work in harmony– Salvation is designed, accomplished, and applied to the same people.
And what’s the conclusion in me-centered evangelism? God is a friend who will help you. And the implication is the sinner has something to offer God. Therefore God is robbed of his glory. if we approach evangelism with this me-centered approach, well, we come off saying, “Hey, God needs your help. You’ve got to cooperate with God if you’re going to be a Christian.” But the conclusion of God-centered evangelism is that God is a king who will save you.
The place that we must begin any presentation of the gospel is with God. As tempting as it is to start with them, it is much easier to say to somebody, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, isn’t it? Don’t do that, don’t take the easy way out.
1. God Made Everyone (Owner)
There are three points in the first section asking who is God?
First of all, God made everyone. Now, here are a couple of things to keep in mind. Keep in mind that God placed a knowledge of His existence in the heart of every person, therefore, whether they accept His existence or not at this point is irrelevant.
Do not get into an argument over whether or not God exists. That’s irrelevant at this point. God has given every person a conscience. And in evangelism, we are to speak to the conscience. Me-centered evangelism speaks to the heart. God-centered evangelism speaks to the conscience.
God made everyone. But let me caution you about this. The goal is not to put them on the defensive. If we put them on the defensive, we will probably lose any opportunity we have to further the conversation. Your goal is to get them to think, your goal is to get them to engage their minds. That’s what we want to do.
Again, at this point, you’re not trying to prove the existence of God. You’re not trying to answer questions about evolution. That’s irrelevant at this point. That’s not what we’re trying to do. You’re just simply trying to unpack the question for them, who is God? And the first answer to that question is that God is the Creator or that God made everyone. And there are all kinds of implications to that statement.
But the primary implication is that God is our owner. Boy, that chafes us, doesn’t it? And when you tell this to an unbelieving person, they’re not going to like it. But remember, you’re speaking to the conscience. God put the knowledge of Himself within the soul of every man, so therefore, you speak directly to it. The Scriptural basis for this is found in Acts Chapter 17:22-34. Let me point out a few things here: in Acts 17:24 24, I want you to see where Paul started with these people.
Paul says “the God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth.” What is Paul doing here? He is declaring God as the Creator. He says the God who made the world and everything in it. Notice that Paul is very careful. He doesn’t just say, well, God the Creator. God is the Creator of the world. No, God is the Creator of the world and everything in it.
So, therefore, His ownership extends not only to the world but to every person in the world. Then Paul goes on to say, “The God who made the world is also the Lord of heaven and earth.” The word Lord here means ruler. It means one who commands. We need to let that sink in for just a moment, because Paul immediately establishes two things: one, God is the Creator; two, God is Lord. He commands, He has authority. Now, notice Paul is not debating them, is he?
He’s simply speaking the truth to their conscience. He’s laser-focused. He knows what he needs to say and that’s what he does. And notice what Paul says in verse 26. “Having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”
Let’s summarize what Paul’s highlighting here. Remember, he’s speaking to a group of unbelievers, so first, he says God made the world and everything in it. So Paul identifies God as the Creator, their Creator. Second, Paul points out to them that the Creator is Lord. He is the commander, He is their commander, third Paul points out that God determines where his creation lives and how long they live. So what is the picture here of God? God is a person of authority. God is a person of sovereignty. God is in absolute complete control.
Paul explains to them that God is the Creator, God is the Commander, and God is the one who is the controller of their very life.
What should be their response? Verse 27, “they should seek God in the hope that they might feel their ways toward him and find him”, in other words, Paul is saying the only rational, logical thing to do is to seek the one who created them, who commands them and control the details of their lives.
Who is God? God is the creator. But we also know from Scripture that God is a love-giver.
2. God is a Love-Giver (Father)
Number two, God is also a love giver.
Most people will readily identify with this. God is love. And it’s true, God is love. And because God is a God of love, he desires, as Will Metzger says, to be a loving father and as a loving father, He wants a big family and He actively adopts many into his spiritual family. It’s something that we have to keep in mind, though, that when we’re talking to unbelievers, particularly today, many people will make the mistake of thinking that God is love only.
It’s not that it’s just his dominant characteristic, it’s his only characteristic he’s love. And so that shapes how they think that He’s going to respond to them, they think God’s love trumps all, particularly God’s love for them trumps everything else, including His law, His justice, and His righteousness. Even His Holiness. Yes, God’s love is important. Absolutely it is. Yes, God is love. But that is not all God is. People hear or read God is love. And they think that’s all that God is. We have to stress that he has more than that, much more than that.
3. God is a Law-Maker (Judge)
This brings us to the third point, that God is a lawmaker. Let’s follow the argument logically, what gives God the right to be a lawmaker? We go back to point one, God is the Creator, God owns us. God is the absolute authority over us. Therefore, if God made us and if God has the authority over us, then he has the right, not just the ability, but the right to write the law the way that He sees fit. And we are in no position to argue with his law or to take offense at his law.
And if God made us He also knows the best way for us to live, and His law leads us to live, what would be the best life for us.
What gives God the right to make laws for us? Because God is a love-giver, because God loves us, he wants the best for us. Therefore, He tells us how to live and He tells us how to live through His law. So you can see there’s a real logical consistency here to this first point.
What’s the point? Since God made you, you belong to Him and you’re accountable to Him to follow His instructions for a relationship of love centered on Him.
This first concept is about establishing the authority of God and once you establish His authority, all the other points logically flow from this.
Because God is our owner, our father, and our judge He has the right over us and we are accountable to him to live according to his standards. What are his standards? Well, that’s what we’ll look at in our next lesson. Life equals God-centered living.
Together, let’s make God’s name famous.