I have been a Christian for a while. I was blessed in hearing the gospel from a young age and became a Christian at the age of 7 and was baptised two years later. I distinctly remember being 7 and being unkind to one of my sisters- I felt this burden of guilt and the weight of being unclean before a Holy God. I went to my mum and in tears told her how I was feeling, and then after her explaining that we can’t be perfect because we sin and that is why we need Jesus to save us, I was lead in a prayer, acknowledging my sin and asking Jesus to be my Saviour and Lord. As you can see, growing up in a Christian home, we were taught from a young age the Truth of the Bible and reality of God and my mother encouraged us to spend ‘quiet-time’ with God regularly (she even bought us little magazine devotional books to encourage us, which I really loved).
At around 8 or 9 years of age, I was enrolled in a local drama club and made friends with a young girl around my age. On learning I was a Christian and attended the local Christian school, this girl came to me and said, “My Grandma says I was baptised in an Anglican church when I was a baby and so I am a Christian. Do you think I am?” I was shocked- here someone was asking me if I thought they were a Christian and I had an opportunity to share the gospel. My response? I failed miserably. I went on to ask if she believed God created the world and if the Bible was true (I didn’t even mention Jesus!) I remember heading to the car once mum arrived to pick me up and told her how much I was shocked I couldn’t explain what a Christian was. Mum supportively bought me a little tract to take the following week to give to the girl and we talked through how to explain the gospel to others. The following week I gave the tract to the girl, but I never had another opportunity to talk with her the way I had.
People come in and out of our lives and knowing and living out the gospel truth is vital. In 1 Peter 3:14-15, we read:
But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 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.
In these two verses, we are exhorted to not fear the world but honour Christ the Lord, always being ready to provide an account for the hope we have- the Gospel. But how does this practically look? Is it simply waiting for an altar call somewhere and hoping our friends happen to be at the same event? Is it down to the way I explain something? Am I responsible for the salvation of my unsaved friend? These are tricky questions and important to consider.
Firstly, someone simply reciting a version of “the sinner’s prayer” does not make someone a Christian. You see, the Bible tells us that the gospel changes hearts:
…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.- Romans 10:9-10.
Becoming a Christian has two parts- belief and confession. Knowing, understanding and believing the Gospel is life-altering. As Matt Chandler says, “The gospel is such power that it necessitates reaction. Jesus Christ has worked such an outrageous wonder that he demands response, whether hatred or passion. … To present the gospel, then, is to place a hearer in an untenable position. The heart of the hearer of the gospel must move, either toward Christ or away from him” (The Explicit Gospel, p.63, Crossway, 2012). Someone cannot hear the gospel and then continue on their merry way- they have to actively make a decision and this decision is Holy-Spirit empowered. I have the responsibility to share the gospel and live it out, and it is the Holy Spirit who changes a hearers heart.
In the years since my conversion, my knowledge of God has deepened and my relationship with Him has too. I have gained a greater appreciation of the grace offered me (and oh how much I need it!). But often I become so focused on living the Christian life, that I forget my main calling- that to share the sweetness of the gospel with others. Sometimes, sin becomes a bit too uncomfortable a topic and the cross seems a little too gruesome, so I put it on the shelf to bring out at Easter or communion. The even bigger problem is that Matt Chandler along with others like David Platt, believe this is a bit of an epidemic in Christianity:
If you don’t talk about sin, if you don’t talk about blood, if you don’t talk about the cross in those ways, then don’t talk about the gospel, because the gospel is bloody and horrific.
If we don’t understand the bad news, we will never grasp the good news. The bad news is not that we don’t measure up to the law but that by the works of the law none of us will be justified before God (Gal. 2:16). What alternatives to the cross are there? Be a good man? Be a good woman? Be a good Boy Scout or Girl Scout for Jesus? This is what it boils down to for many in the church: replacing the centrality of the cross with something more appealing, something we think is more weighty.
But the reason we do this isn’t so much to rectify an imbalance but to idolatrously elevate ourselves. It’s like the charismatics who want to make the day of Pentecost central to the Christian faith. Or the Calvinists who want to make TULIP central. Liberals want to make social justice the center. Fundamentalists want to make moral behavior the center. (Their motto is “Do, do, do,” but the cross screams out “Done!”) All of those things are good things, biblical things. But to make any of them the center of the Christian faith, the grounds of our hope, is to disregard the only power of salvation- the message of the cross
-Matt Chandler, The Explicit Gospel, p.59 (Crossway, 2012)
This is a wake up call for me- what is the centre of my faith? Am I saved by grace but acting as though I am saved through works? Am I trying to please God so He will love me more? He has shown the extravagance of His love on the gruesome, bloody cross and I now need to live in a way that each day is showing my gratitude for it. As my heart fills with thankfulness for the mercy of His loving grace and as I am reminded daily by the amount I need this grace, my actions will flow from this deep understanding.
When I meet up again with that non-Christian friend, I will by His grace, share the gospel. I will stop putting it off. When I allow my self-righteousness lead to anger with my children, I will by His grace, confess my sin and point them to my need for Jesus. When I pray around the table with my family, we will start praying for our neighbours and that man who walks along our street that God in His mercy will save them. When I am asked what I got up to on the weekend, I will honestly say that I celebrated my relationship with Jesus by going to Church and meeting with other people who love Him. I will stop waiting for the altar call at some random event and start making the most of every opportunity. This is the truth of the Gospel. The reality must infiltrate our heart and life. Presenting Jesus to people must come above self-preservation. Like I share the joys of my children and family life with friends, joys and struggles of the reality of a day-by-day walk with Jesus need to be on our lips. This is my wake-up call. This is my prayer and my accountability. May the Holy-Spirit grow me to be a Gospel-Centred woman, because my relationship with Jesus and other people who come to love Him, are the only two things that outlast this life and come with me into the next.