The Gospel, or Good News, is that the Creator, Almighty God, has had mercy upon sinful humanity, sent His only begotten Son through the Virgin Mary, our Lord Jesus of Nazareth, fully God and fully Man, who lived a righteous life, was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin, suffered in our behalf, and, although sinless, offered Himself for us, dying a sinner’s death on the cross. He died. He was buried, with Roman soldiers guarding the sealed tomb. Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day. He was seen by His disciples, by over five hundred witnesses at once, many who lived into the first century, able to refute His resurrection, but, instead witnessed to Him. Jesus ascended into the sky, promising to return even as He was taken. He commanded His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe whatsoever He commanded. Fifty days after Passover, after that first Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion, Eucharist) Jesus’ promise of Another to come was fulfilled at the Feast of Pentecost. The eternal Third Person of the One true God, the Holy Spirit, came down in a supernatural demonstration of power and unity to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission to “go and make disciples.”
The Gospel is the “Story of stories.” All other stories—narratives—find meaning as they are related to this Story.
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Sharing your own testimony is important. It relates the great Story and how your story became a part of that Story. Better out, it tells how your story became a story with a guaranteed happy ending because of His Story.
Yet, your testimony must testify to the truths of the Gospel, so that others may hear and receive the Gospel:
1. IT ALL BEGINS WITH GRACE. Dr. D. James Kennedy helped us to remember what “grace” is with this acrostic: “God’s RIches At Christ’s Expense.” Indeed, Heaven (eternal life with God) is a free gift. It is not earned nor deserved. Salvation is all of grace. God took the first step towards us. He “walked the aisle” to come to us as God put on human flesh in the Person of Jesus our Lord. Grace is a gift. You don’t work for a gift. You cannot earn it. Otherwise, it is not a true gift. Likewise, human beings cannot earn our way to God through good works (and most religions are good works and some groups and some people who claim Christ as Lord even think of good works preceding new life, but that can never be). “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9 NKJV).
Grace makes sense when we understand what God has said in His Word about human beings. God calls us to:
2. FACE THE TRUTH ABOUT OURSELVES. Humankind are sinners (violated the laws of God put into our hearts and codified in the Ten Commandments). Men and women, boys and girls, are powerless to self-transform. We need, as Martin Luther put it, an “alien righteousness” to mercifully condescend to us and change our hearts. Without changed hearts we cannot be fully human, be the people that God wants us to be.
That leads us to think about another great truth.
3. GOD IS A GOD OF LOVE, BUT IS ALSO A GOD OF JUSTICE. Every child should know the essential truth from the Bible, that “God is love.” That singular truth is transformative to the human soul. Yet, the Bible, also, says that the God of love is also a righteous Being who will judge sin. Both of these revealed attributes of our Creator leave every human being with the greatest question in the cosmos: what must we do to come before our Creator? How do we please God?
This question leads us to the revelation that has, literally, changed the world.
4. OUR ANSWER TO THE GREAT QUESTION OF HOW TO BRIDGE THE DIVIDE BETWEEN OURSELVES AND A HOLY GOD IS THROUGH HIS OWN PROVISION: JESUS THE LORD. St. Augustine put it this way, “What God has required, God has provided.” God mandated a perfect life. He met it. God required a penalty to be paid for sin. God provided it. How? God answered this ultimate problem of mankind by fulfilling His own Law’s demands, as well as bearing His own judgement for disobedience through taking upon flesh and coming to live among us. God the Creator subjected Himself to His own creation. He was born to the Virgin Mary, lived a sinless life, fulfilled the divine role of an eternal High Priest, bearing the sins of a world of sinners who would, in time, repent of their sins and believe in Him as Lord and Savior. Jesus is God in the flesh. Jesus lived the life that we could not live and died a death on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. He rose again from the dead. That should be said again: Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross for our sins and precisely as He had told His disciples, Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day.
Once you have come to know this truth, then you must respond. Even no response if, of course, a response.
5. REPENT AND BELIEVE. To become a Christian is to recognize that you are a sinner in need of salvation from the wrath of God and from the eternal consequences of your own sin. It is, then, to turn away from that old way of thinking—to repent—and to trust in Jesus Christ our Lord alone as “God in the flesh:” the resurrected and living Lord of your life. To trust in Jesus Christ is, thus, to be involved in the greatest “exchange” or transaction in cosmic history. What is it? Through the power of the timeless power of the sacrificial death of Jesus the Messiah on the cross on that hill called Calvary, and by the divine seal of authentication and final, undeniable, incontestable proof (and indication of your own destiny) in which God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus Christ receives your sins and the judgement for them, and you receive His perfect life. Thus, God the Father looks upon you as He looks upon His only begotten Son.
In Christ you are made new.
The Christian faith is not a cultural ID. It is not a national, political, fraternal, or any other sort of human organization. We are “the Body of Christ,” set apart “for good works” for God and our fellow man.
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments teach us that once we believe, we must grow in our Christ-likeness. We must mature as followers. This called discipleship. The key areas of discipleship are:
- the Bible (as a follower of Jesus Christ you grow as you study His Word, pray His Word; as you do the Holy Spirit will come to you, strengthen you, and guide you all of the days of your life);
- Worship (we are all created to worship God; we long for it and so many people fill their lives with the worship of those things that cannot bring the satisfaction that the soul longs for; worshipping our Lord privately and publically is essential for growth as a Christian);
- Prayer (this is, quite simply, the creature speaking to the Creator through the authority of Jesus Christ who said, “No one comes to the Father but through Me;” we may learn to pray by actually repeating God’s own Word back to Him through the Psalms; we may pray by using the written prayer of the Church, like the Book of Common Prayer; and, of course, these methods help us to learn to speak to our loving Father in our most transparent and authentic way: to talk with Him);
- Fellowship (In Acts 2:42, the Bible shows that after the Apostle Peter preached and thousands came to repent and believe in Jesus and were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; immediately, these new believers gathered into smaller communities where they could be taught the Apostle’s doctrine of the Word of God, have fellowship with each other, for encouragement, for the Lord’s Supper, also known as Holy Communion or the Eucharist, and to worship God with common prayers, confessions, gifts, hymns—the special singing of God’s Word set to lyrics and music for congregational singing, and receiving the blessings of God through His ministers set apart to spiritually lead a flock of believers; God has shown us that He wants us each to be settled into a local church—a parish church—where we belong); and
- Witness (sharing our faith with others, inviting others to come into the life of our Lord Jesus Christ in our local church).
The ministers, staff, officers, and People—your brothers and sisters—work and pray daily to cultivate a Christian community where you may grow in the grace and knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.