The Core Gospel

You’re sitting at Starbucks with an old friend from high school. A cup of steaming brew is warming your hands. You look across the table at your friend.

Life has not been kind to her. Some bad decisions. Some hurtful betrayals. Some painful circumstances. She hasn’t known how to live. She hasn’t known who she is. And now she asks you for answers … to put her life back together … to start again.

What your friend needs from you is more than a listening ear without answers at the end. She doesn’t need your well-meaning advice or self-help hints or the latest psychobabble. What your friend needs most from you is the gospel—the story of life as God meant it to be lived. If you don’t see in this conversation an opportunity to share the gospel, the one who needs counseling is you, not your friend!

So what would you tell her? Let’s assume that you take your courage in your hand and decide this is the time to talk about … what? Do you know the gospel—the story that saves and sanctifies us? Do you know the story that is “the power of God” to heal broken people and transform wasted lives? Can you tell that story to your friend in the next five minutes? Can you tell a story that is “the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel”?

Were I sitting in Starbucks with your friend, I would hold up my left hand, tick off my fingers, and tell this story:

“It all starts with God and his purposes (1). There is a God who stands behind all this … a God of goodness and beauty and astounding grace. And that God has a purpose for this world and for you. He has a plan to win you to himself.

“Because of that plan, he created the heavens and the earth (2). And he made human beings in his own image—bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh—so he could have intimate relationship with them.

“But we spurned relationship with God (3) and chose to trust ourselves, please ourselves, worship ourselves. And the world has been broken ever since. Our lives limp along, powerless and painful. Our relationships fall apart. We look in the mirror and are ashamed of what we see.

“But God did not abandon us, even when we abandoned him. He made a covenant with us (4), a covenant of love and grace, with promises rooted in God’s purposes for you and me. It guarantees that God will never stop pursuing us, never stop loving us, never stop hoping for the best of us—no matter how far we fall or run.

“Through history, God has formed communities for those who seek him (5) … places of nurture filled with others who help us learn about God, live in more godly ways, and love as God has loved us. Clan. Israel. Church. God knows none of us can walk to him alone.

“When the time was right, God’s purposes and promises met in the person of Jesus Christ (6). Jesus was God in the flesh who lived his life trusting God, pleasing God, and worshiping God rather than himself. And the result was a life of such shining perfection, of such beauty and power, people have marveled over him for the past 2000 years.

“To further God’s purposes, Jesus allowed himself to be crucified (7). God’s enemies rejoiced, thinking they had hurt God and his plans. But, in his wisdom, God used the death of his Son to achieve his purposes. He sacrificed his sinless Son to show mercy to sinners. He took the punishment our sins deserved and laid them on Jesus Christ.

“And then, he raised his Son back to life (8), rewarding Jesus’ trust and obedience with the gift of life eternal. In doing so, God gave us a hint about his purposes for each of us. When we are willing to die to ourselves God will give us new life. Jesus shows the way to God’s purposes. We follow in his steps.

“The word trust or faith is important (9). When we trust God, all the benefits of covenant and community and Christ’s cross and resurrection flow into our lives. When we trust, God unleashes his Holy Spirit within us. God does all this, not because we finally do the right thing, but because we trust the right one. It is through faith that we are saved and sanctified. It is a gift of God, given to all who are willing to trust him.

“God’s power begins to work in us, to change and transform us (10). The Holy Spirit teaches us how to live and how to die to habits that lead to death. We learn to live like Jesus. Not overnight. Not all at once. But surely and completely in the end.

“One day, Christ will come again (11). Everything—you and me, this world, good and evil—will be given to God. His purposes will reign supreme. His plans will be fulfilled. And the God who knew you before the world began will welcome you to live the life he intended all along.”

That is the story I would tell. That is the gospel in five minutes … the gospel on one hand. Do you know that story? Has that story changed you? Can you tell that story to others?

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© 2012 by Tim Woodroof. Reproduction of this material requires permission from the author.