Teaching the Gospel to the Lost
Over the last few weeks, I've been painting a picture of how we can practically apply our wonderful responsibility of sharing the gospel with the lost in a simple, step-by-step approach. By following these steps I believe each of us can obey Jesus' radical call to make disciples by simply interacting with the lost people who are already in our lives in intentional, Jesus-imitating, gospel-focused ways. So after we intentionally touch base with the lost, begin to winsomely talk with the lost, and seek to sincerely befriend the lost by interacting with them in meaningful ways at our dinner (or breakfast, lunch, snack, coffee, etc.) tables, we must teach them about the truths of the gospel in a way that relates to their lives.
Jesus tells us that making disciples means "teaching them to observe all that [he has] commanded [us]" (Matt. 28:20). Being a disciple means obeying Jesus, so to make a disciple we must teach people what this entails. If people do not understand what Jesus demands of them, they cannot truly follow him. You may be thinking, "Easy enough, but how can I do this? I mean, how in the world can I teach my lost neighbor 'all' of what Jesus commands. There's no way I can do that in one dinner setting." If you're thinking this, you're right. There's simply too much to Jesus' call to discipleship to get across in one conversation. Simply put, it takes time. Think of it like this: learning what it is to be a disciple is more like learning a program of study in college than learning a few helpful pointers in a work seminar. Teaching the gospel to the lost involves a valuable investment of time.
This is why the picture that Jesus most frequently uses when explaining how the gospel changes people is that of farming. In Mark 4:26-29, for example, Jesus explains this reality in a parable. He says that "the kingdom of God [the rule of God established by the gospel] is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises day and night, and the seed sprouts and grows (emphasis mine)." In other words, the way the gospel typically grows is over time. Its fruit does not grow overnight (or in one meeting with a new friend). As we "scatter" its seed in the lives of our lost friends we need to be prepared to work "day and night" over time until God makes the seeds grow. This is a wonderfully picturesque way of explaining how we are to teach people the gospel.
Therefore, we must prepare ourselves to invest time, effort, and energy into doing real life with the unbelievers whom God has placed around us. This is what Jesus did in his three years of public ministry, and this is what we must do if we are to truly follow him in making disciples. It is in the development of these relationships that we are able to model and explain who God really is, what Jesus has really done, and the real change that occurs when the gospel takes root in our lives. Teaching the gospel to the lost is not a pitch, not a single conversation, but a lifestyle of planting and watering gospel seeds in the context of real growing relationships.
And it's as we really get to know our lost friends, family members, neighbors, etc. that we learn how to teach the gospel to them. What I mean is this: each person is different, and is in a different situation, and both of these truths call for a unique way in which to communicate the truth of the unchanging gospel (see 1 Cor. 9:19-23). So as we lovingly embrace our new friendship with our lost friend we must seek to understand how the gospel speaks to their unique situation. How does the gospel speak to a failing marriage? How does it speak to those who think they have all they need in this life? What does it have to say to elderly people who are in their last years of life? Etc... We will learn how to communicate the gospel to each person we encounter as we learn to love them like Jesus.
So where should you start planting gospel seeds? Which lost person, or family, do you need to befriend in a more meaningful way in order that you can most helpfully communicate gospel truths to? Who is Jesus calling you to love in this way? Who are you supposed to sacrifice your time, effort, and energy into so that they can come to see Jesus as their only true hope? Whoever it is, they NEED the gospel! And you are the one called to help them understand the gospel. Please pray about this, and please pursue them...for Jesus' sake.
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