Some time ago I took an evangelism class that was supposed to make it easy to share the Gospel message. There was an outline that we were given to memorize that included a lot of different scriptures and options of what to say based on the response of the person we were talking to. We practiced on each other in class and then tried out our new formula by dropping by the homes of recent visitors to our church. While most of the time we were able to get through our outline successfully, rarely did it feel comfortable or natural.
Since then I’ve come to realize that instead of a memorized formula, we need to just learn some key truths. As the annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus approaches, I thought it a perfect time to remind ourselves of basics of the Gospel summarized in the most familiar verse in scripture.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
What God is – “For God so loved”
If you were to make a list of people that you love, who would be on it? Parent, friends, children, sisters, brothers, etc. Generally, we wouldn’t include the person who twisted things around at work and really let us to take the fall. Or that relative who is constantly picking at every little detail of your life. Or that person who has flatly rejected you again and again.… The honest answer would be that those kinds of people wouldn’t make the list, would they? Aren’t you glad God isn’t like that? Where would we be all be if God only loved those who loved him first?
What God did – “He gave His One and Only Son”
Often you hear even committed Christians who are going through a rough time say something like this… “If God loved me, then He wouldn’t have let ____ happen.” The truth is that getting what we want in life is not what determines God’s love for us. God’s love is most clearly seen in His ‘giving’ … specifically in the giving of His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Romans 5:8 says it like this. “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” This verse states plainly, that Christ’s death is what proved God’s love for us.
Who it is for – “Whoever”
Most people know that God loves the world, but rarely do we stop to grasp what that really encompasses. His definition of “whoever” is far broader than ours would be. It means that His love crosses political, racial, socioeconomic, and cultural boundaries. It’s not limited to a particular race or ethnicity or gender. It is extended to people who have committed all types of sin. It’s not limited to a particular time in history – It existed before the earth began and will continue into eternity. As the psalmist says… it is from ‘everlasting to everlasting.’ (Ps. 90:2) As big as that seems… it is also very intimate and personal because God’s love isn’t just a blanket for the multitudes… It’s reaches out and holds an open hand each of us as individuals.
What is required – “Believes in Him”
This verse doesn’t say that whoever believes the facts about Jesus will have eternal life. It says “whoever believes IN HIM.” It’s a different kind of belief. Plenty of professors and theologians have oodles of knowledge about God and the Bible that would impress anyone, but to hear them talk about the “historical Jesus” in a way that questions His existence or relevance makes it clear that all their book knowledge hasn’t impacted their hearts. Facts aren’t what makes one a Christian; it’s belief IN HIM, that begins in the heart that brings about spiritual birth. (Rom. 10:9-10)
What the promise is – “Shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
When you mention the words “eternal life,” most people default to thinking about streets of gold and pearly gates that will swing open at the moment of our death. While heaven is definitely part of eternal life, it doesn’t start there. Those who believe in Jesus possess eternal life immediately… right now, in the present tense! Jesus lives within us through the presence of the Holy Spirit, and because death had no hold on Him, it has no hold on us either!
As you prepare to celebrate Christ’s triumph over the grave, think about the sure and true words of Jesus: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (Luke 6:37-40)