The Good News In Three Words
By Howard Green
If the current generation is known for one thing, it is this: People demand to be heard. There is a sort of ‘in your face’ mentality to much of the discourse we see, speak, and hear. In the process, words have become cheapened and are thrown around like a plentiful commodity to be carelessly wasted. Words have power and I would suggest we use them to further the gospel….not diminish it. Three words succinctly express the good news that Jesus told us to bring to this world and they are: judgement, repentance, and atonement.
Proverbs 10:11 – “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life…”
We live in a world where communication is running rampant. Twitter posts, hash tags, one liners, and sound bites set the tone for personal and not so personal interaction. Social media rules the day and in the process….words are plentiful and often cheap.
In generations past, words meant something and had weight. When someone ‘gave you their word’ or made a commitment….it was something you could count on. Much of the talk today seems to be a mile wide but only an inch deep. This is often exemplified in the world of politics, media, and the market place.
The church has an obligation to be different in a world that has made words ‘dirt cheap.’ Words and phrases are being used by some in order to bring people in that should never be used. You have heard some of them….including the shallow suggestion of ‘accepting Jesus’ all the way down to the sales pitch of the prosperity gospel and it’s good life. I won’t provide you with a litany of the words and catch phrases being used for so called ‘evangelization’ efforts because they are too numerous. This is what happens when the church uses the world’s tactics to reach out to people.
Church is not a numbers game, because breadth should never be mistaken for depth. I’m all for church growth as long as discipleship, sound doctrine, and true conversions are the fruit. Cleaver programs and marketing campaigns will never produce the results that prayer, fasting, and going will produce.
When we do speak to this broken world, our message must be different. Many mainline denominations are flatlining because they have moved away from the truths of the Bible and replaced them with empty platitudes and words like: Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors, and Finding Yourself Again.
On the other end of the spectrum are the cult movements who are working to appeal to the masses with slick marketing campaigns. At least 10 times in just the past week alone, I’ve seen the same advertisement on several prominent websites. The ad is for a video produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon church) called: The Book of Mormon In 60 seconds. Mainline denominations left their first love and they are dying.
Cults including Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses are getting ‘their version’ of the truth out there and appealing to people…especially millennials via slick worded marketing and even street witnessing. The Jehovah’s Witness’ Watchtower publication states that through Bible study you can find true happiness, and JWs will be pleased to show you the scriptural answers you need to know if you are to be truly happy.
Words are being used by the cults and false Christian movements to deceive many people into following a system or movement….not Jesus. The words they use are pleasant sounding, based on family and morals, and seem to address the problems of modern life. As with any effort that isn’t based on the centrality of Jesus……their words are deceptive.
As we observed, Christians employing the world’s tactics and slick worded marketing campaigns for ‘evangelism’ doesn’t produce godly lasting fruit. The dying mainline denominations use catchy words and platitudes to try and reach people that they will never actually reach because they have for the most part, exchanged the Bible’s words for clever ‘un-offensive’ tactics.
So how should church leaders and other believers evangelize and speak in light of the times we live in? I would suggest by using our words wisely, judiciously, and boldly. Many Christians are already doing this daily. When they use social media or other forms of communication, they are salt and light. These believers know how to make a defense for the hope they have in them with gentleness and respect. Their godly speech is distinct from the ways of the coarse world around them. Christians make the most of their words by using them to explain the gospel clearly to everyone possible.
1 Peter 3:14 – But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
What happens when believers engage co-workers, friends, family, and even strangers with love, boldness, and biblical clarity? I believe the results are eternal. They may not always be measured in follow up cards, hits on a site, or swelling membership.
The results are clearly witnessed in lives filled with renewed holiness, Christlikeness, and discipleship. Not only that, but when we speak into the lives of non-Christians….the results are up to God, not us.
There are still men of God who won’t compromise and continue to preach sermons focussed on the gospel in lieu of popular seeker sensitive life enhancement talks. Solid teachers and pastors are speaking about the real issue of the day. Frankly, it’s the same issue today that it’s been since the day Adam and Eve rebelled……it’s the issue of God’s holiness and our sin. My pastor has articulated this issue so well and breaks it down to the basics when he says:
“God is holy, we’re not, and that’s a problem.” – Pastor Mark Vroegop College Park Church
Three very powerful words sum up our message to the world and bring the good in ‘good news’ to bear upon people’s lives. We must be consistent in boldly speaking these three words and we do, we are bringing the focus and glory to one person: Jesus.
Judgement – Repentance – Atonement
People don’t understand their need for a Savior unless they understand God’s coming judgement and the reason for it. God’s divine judgement is the penalty for sin and as we know, sin is something we all have to deal with because all humans are sinners. People don’t think much about sin unless they begin to understand who they are sinning against. We have to ask the hard questions of people we come into contact with and ask them an all important question about how they deal with sin. This will quickly turn small talk into talk about eternal matters.
Great men of God have understood that preaching the ‘good news’ first requires telling people about their dreadful state before a holy God.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “The trouble with people who are not seeking a Savior and salvation, is that they do not understand the nature of sin.”
D.L. Moody said, “It is a great mistake to give a man who has not been convicted of sin certain passages that were never meant for him. The law is what he needs…do not offer the consolation of the gospel until he sees and knows he is guilty before God.”
Once we speak words of truth into people’s lives like the word judgement, they may begin to come to terms with their precarious situation regarding eternity. Some will come to repentance because of the sorrow they have over the evil they committed. We cannot bring anyone to repentance, it’s the Holy Spirit that does this work in individual hearts. Repentance is a word that makes the good news……good news indeed. We can choose to turn from sinning and follow Jesus.
2 Corinthians 7:10 – “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
God provided a way for us to be cleansed from sin and become one of His children, instead of an enemy to be judged. Atonement is what Jesus accomplished on the cross when He paid for every sin we have ever committed. He reconciled us to God and paid a debt that we could never pay through any effort of our own good works, deeds, etc. Jesus paid for it once and for all. When people understand how evil all sin is before God, some will understand the need for God’s divine judgement to fall. Some will have godly sorrow in their heart that produces true repentance. They will also begin to understand that Jesus is the lamb that was sacrificed for the sins of the world including all of their sin…. That’s atonement.
Judgement, repentance, and atonement are three words that are the very core of what the good news is all about. If Christians want to be an effective witness for Christ, then talking to people about these three important words is necessary. I understand that they are words that may be uncomfortable and not easy to speak to others about, but they are so necessary. I want friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances to know that following Jesus doesn’t mean He becomes an ‘add on’ in their life. Following Jesus means becoming a disciple, following daily, and dying to self….and that is such a different message then the one most people are living by.
As we enter the time of year we become even more mindful of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection….may three words help you engage this dying world with renewed strength. Judgement, repentance, and atonement point people to the only One who can give true hope and salvation. Use your words to bring glory to God by sharing the gospel.
Please write us here if you have questions about what it means to follow Jesus.
All for Him,