God has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation. What a great risk that was and continues to be.
After hundreds of years of speaking through prophets, God entered creation in the flesh, reconciling the world to Himself through the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. And forty days after His resurrection, Christ returned to the right hand of God the Father waiting for the appointed day of His return to judge the living and the dead. In the mean time, He has entrusted the message of reconciliation with us.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5.18-20)
No more burning bushes. No more blinding visions on the road to Damascus. No more wrestling with God on the banks of the Jabbok River. From now on, the message of God working through Christ to forgive sinners and to reconcile them to Himself is now entrusted to the very sinners who have been reconciled.
We all know what it is like to be entrusted with something. When you trust someone, you depend upon them to care for something important. When you tell a friend a secret, you trust them to hold it in confidence and not tell another person. When you take a neighbor’s child to the lake with your family for the day, they are trusting you to care for their child. When a general entrusts a message to a private to seek reinforcements, the fate of the battalion rests upon the faithful delivery of that message. When a work group entrusts one employee with the cost benefit portion of the report, the fate of the group and perhaps the entire company rises and falls upon that person carrying out his or her assigned role. To trust is to depend upon and to risk.
And there are different levels of trust. If I borrow your pencil, you are entrusting me with a small investment, perhaps 10 cents. If I borrow your car, the trust is higher. If I take your son to the lake with my family, you have entrusted me with a supreme value. The greater the trust, the steeper the risk.
Which helps us to understand what it means that the Lord entrusted us with the message of reconciliation. The message of His life’s work, the message of the eternal plan of God has been entrusted to those who have been reconciled with Him. What a risky plan.
There are so many different ways to fail that trust. We can fail that trust by actually leading others to rebel against Christ and not be reconciled with God. We can fail that trust by distorting the message, making it not about reconciliation but about how we can get God to serve our interests. We can fail the trust by living in such hypocrisy that our message is invalidated by the life we live. And the list goes on and on. The Bible, and history, is replete with examples of how people who bore the name of Jesus have abused the trust.
But there is another way in which we can fail the trust. We can fail the trust by simply refusing to prepare ourselves to share the message. By not caring enough about the trust to equip ourselves to share it, we fail the trust. And God’s plan to reconcile the world to Himself fades away from the consciousness of history simply because we never took the time to learn how to share the message.
We have been entrusted with a message, but what is in that message? What is the message of reconciliation? How do we share that message? This is one of the most basic responsibilities of every believer, and yet so many believers struggle with how to share the gospel. We are either afraid that we are going to mess it up or fear that we won’t be able to answer some question that our unbelieving friend might ask. But we don’t have to be experts in the Bible or know everything there is to know about God in order to tell someone how to be made right with God. We may not know all the truth, but we can know the essential truth. And God has entrusted us with His truth.
Usually, when we begin to talk about sharing the gospel, we immediately think about canned gospel presentations like The Four Spiritual Laws, the Bridge Diagram, Steps to Peace with God, or FAITH. And canned gospel presentations have their place, it’s just that they are usually a minority place in the work of an ambassador for Christ. In the normal life, we rarely have the opportunity to present a full canned gospel presentation from beginning to end. We are more likely to speak to a specific aspect of the gospel that is applicable to a specific moment in the conversation.
Dr. James Engel developed a model of the spiritual decision making process that is helpful at this point. In what many call the Engel Scale, he plots the movement of a sinner from atheist to a redeemed and reborn fully devoted follower of Christ. Each step of the way is given a numerical value, with -8 being that condition of a atheist and a +5 being a mature believer capable of disciplining another. Repentance and faith in Christ is the moment when the negative numbers become positive. One of Engel’s points in making the diagram is that sometimes the goal of evangelism is to move the sinner up one point on the Engel Scale. We sometimes focus too much on hitting a home run. Most of the time, a base hit is a lofty goal in itself.
Canned gospel presentations allow for home runs, but don’t equip for base hits. Instead, we need to think deeply about the complete content of the message of reconciliation so we are able to not only share each individual component but also able to discuss and dialogue about each part of it.
The message of reconciliation is both a message about beliefs and actions. In order to be reconciled with God through Christ, we must believe some things to be true and we must take certain action steps. For example, consider the following,
…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10.9)
In this one verse, we see one belief and one action step that is essential for reconciliation. A sinner must believe the God raised Jesus from the dead in order to be saved. That is an essential belief. But, a sinner must also confess Jesus as Lord, submitting to the Lordship of Christ. This is an essential action step. And Romans 10 is not the only place in the Bible where certain beliefs and action steps are linked directly with salvation.
In fact, I believe there are eight essential beliefs and four essential action steps for salvation. Scripture clearly links each one of these to salvation meaning that it is essential that we be prepared to share them as part of the message of reconciliation. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will endeavor to identify and discuss each of these essential beliefs and action steps so that the body of Christ can be better equipped to carry out the trust given to them by our Savior and Lord.