joining the dots

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How much confidence do you have in the gospel? (Part 3, Experience of the gospel: Why is your life better with Jesus in it?)

Read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Why is your life better with Jesus in it? Just ponder that question for a moment. What would be different about your day tomorrow if Jesus wasn’t part of it? Would it be better or worse? Would you priorities or values change that much if you gave up on Jesus? Is your life really so much different than your neighbours who don’t follow Jesus? And if it is different, is it good different, or bad different?

Day two of the previously mentioned Ugandan Crusade and I’m having a faith crisis. As hundreds of people gather around the platform – drawn in more by the music and the hype, than having the opportunity to hear me speak – I’m just not sure what exactly I’m meant to be encouraging these people to leave behind and where I’m meant to be encouraging them to head.

The question that is racing around my mind is, “Why is my life better with Jesus in it?” Is my life better with Jesus in it? I decide that I can’t use the talk I’ve prepared. As the praise and worship team give it everything they’ve got, causing me to worry that the makeshift and somewhat rickety platform might collapse at any moment, I realise I’m in trouble. I swing from praying that God would speak to me and help me answer the question that is perplexing me, to hoping that the platform will collapse, or the generator will run out of petrol, so that the crusade will be cancelled.

Finally, it comes to me. In a moment of divine clarity, my muddled mind settles and it becomes obvious to me why my life is better with Jesus in it. Heading back to my Baptist roots I quickly scribble down a three point sermon on a scrap of paper. As I’m called onto the platform I head up the steps with confidence, not confident that the steps won’t break, but confident in Jesus, confident in the good news, confident that the gospel message is good news to the people waiting for me to speak.

Why is my life better with Jesus in it? In summary, he saved me from sin, he reveals the best way to live life and he gives me a hope for the future.

Does your experience of Jesus give you confidence? In Jesus’ day, it wasn’t just because he taught (knowledge) that people followed him and word about him spread. It was because people experienced Jesus – they had their lives transformed.

As we rapidly move through the 21st Century, experience is becoming more and more significant. In the past the first question people would usually ask of Christianity, or anything else for that matter was, “Is it true?”  However, today the first question is usually, “Does it work?” Experience speaks louder that knowledge. Now, I’m not for one moment saying that the ‘Is it true?’ question isn’t important, it is. It’s just that today, more often than not, people will want us to answer the ‘Does it work?’ question first, then move onto the ‘Is it true?’ question. If we can’t answer the experience question, we’re never going to get onto the knowledge question.

Author Rob Bell talks about a trampoline. How do you get people to jump with you on the trampoline? Do you sit them down and tell them all about the trampoline, how it’s made and the principles behind it? Probably not. Instead you simply invite them to jump with you on the trampoline. Increasingly, we are going to need to invite people to experience the gospel, before we can tell them about the gospel. People need to experience the Christian life, before they actually sign up. If you think about it, that’s pretty much what happened with Jesus’ disciples.

Let me remind you of the three stories I encouraged you to read in the introduction, Mark 1:21-28 (Jesus drives out an evil spirit), Mark 1:40-45 (Jesus heals a man with leprosy) and Mark 7:31-37 (Jesus heals a deaf and mute man). These three accounts all reveal a simple reality; good news spreads. People had their lives transformed, people witnessed Jesus in action – they experienced him. And the good news spread like wildfire.

Talking about good news is the most natural things in the world. Whether it’s a TV series you enjoy, your new car, your child’s success or that new coffee shop that you think every one must try, you talk about it freely. You don’t need to go on a training course to teach you how to talk to people about these things.

If talking about good news is something we probably all do, it begs the question, why isn’t talking about Jesus the most natural thing in the world?

When it comes to evangelism I think that our biggest problem is not our lack of knowledge about what we should be talking about, or even knowing how we should be talking about it. I think for many of us the biggest problem is the ‘why should we be talking about it’? Perhaps the question, “Why is your life better with Jesus in it?” is a telling one. If we were really experiencing the good news of Jesus in our lives, could we stop ourselves from talking about?

Experience the good news; share the good news, that’s the natural progression. Therefore, if we are not sharing the good news as much as we think we should be, perhaps we’re not experiencing the good news as much as we should be.

However you look at the gospel, it’s all about transformation. The ‘personal salvation gospel’ is about transformation, the ‘social gospel’ is about transformation. If your framework is thekingdomofGod, it’s about transformation, if the emphasis is on discipleship it’s about transformation.

Transformation is something that we need to experience, just to know about transformation, is not to be transformed. It’s having these stories of transformation, these stories of experiencing the gospel, which will increase our confidence in the gospel, which will motivate us to tell people about the gospel.

When was the last time you experienced the transforming power of the gospel? You see, a lot of Christians are what I like to call ‘Past tense Christians’ – that is their focus is on how they were transformed in the past – when they became a Christian. Then there are other Christians who are ‘Future tense Christians’ – they focus on how they will be transformed in the afterlife. Now both of these aspects of transformation are important. However, I think first and foremost we must be ‘Present tense Christians’ – that is being transformed in the here and now, as we continue to become more Christ-like.

My confidence in the gospel will increase, and  my evangelism will be more natural if I’m talking not just about how Christ transformed my life 25 years ago when I became a Christian, or how I’m looking forward to heaven, but how I am being transformed at the moment, how I experienced Christ at work yesterday.

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to begin by figuring out how you would answer the question, “Why is your life better with Jesus in it?” And  then, make sure you are a ‘Present tense Christian’ and that you have up-to-date stories of how you are being transformed.

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About Phil Green

By day I work for the Evangelical Alliance, by night I lead a small charity called a little bit of HOPE.

2 comments on “How much confidence do you have in the gospel? (Part 3, Experience of the gospel: Why is your life better with Jesus in it?)

  1. Pingback: Today's news and notes from around the web for and about Christians and Christianity

  2. Pingback: How much confidence do you have in the gospel? (Part 4, Power of the gospel: Do you lack confidence in God’s power?) « joining the dots

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