The Gospel Diagram
Below is the Gospel Diagram, a tool we use to explain the good news about Jesus. Unfortunately, many people hear only bits and pieces of the gospel message, and too often the forest gets lost for the trees. It is the big picture of Christianity that is so compelling...and so convincing. As Francis Schaeffer has said:
"Which account of the world has the most 'explanatory power' to make sense of what we see in the world and in ourselves? We have a sense that the world is not the way it ought to be. We have a sense that we are very flawed and yet very great. We have a longing for love and beauty that nothing in this world can fulfill. We have a deep need to know meaning and purpose. Which worldview best accounts for these things? Christians do not claim that their faith gives them omniscience or absolute knowledge of reality. Only God has that. But they believe that the Christian account of things—creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—makes the most sense of the world. I ask you to put on Christianity like a pair of spectacles and look at the world with it. See what power it has to explain what we know and see."
If you are new to Christianity, take some time with the message below. We believe it is the true story we are living in, and you have a part to play...
In the Beginning
According to the Bible, God is the source of all things. He is one God in three co-equal, co-eternal persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is the Creator, Sustainer, King, and Judge of the universe. He can do anything, he knows everything, and he is present everywhere, though invisible. But God isn't just powerful--he's also perfectly holy. This means he is perfectly good, righteous, just, loving, and truthful. The Bible says we all know God exists through creation and conscience.
God created the original world according to his perfect goodness. It was a world filled with innocence, blessing, and life. He created the sun, moon, and stars, the plants and animals, and last of all one man and one woman. The man and woman were the highlight of his creation, made in his image. It became their responsibility to care for all life on earth as God's stewards. As such, the man and woman were not machines or robots. Instead, they possessed free will. God created human beings with free will so that he could enjoy a love relationship with them. But that gift of free will meant they could rebel against God, if they wanted to. They ate from the one forbidden tree, unleashing sin, curse, and death into God's perfect world. This was the consequence of their rebellion.
As a result of that rebellion, the universe fundamentally changed. Innocence, blessing, and life were lost, and sin, the curse, and death entered the world for the first time, separating the man and woman from God and introducing guilt, shame, blame, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness into human existence. Creation began to break down and deteriorate under the law of entropy. The harmony of creation was broken. But not all hope was lost. God promised he would one day provide salvation through a human child, "the seed of the woman." One day, a Messiah would be born who would defeat sin and death, break the curse, and rule over a saved humanity forever.
The Rule of Sin and Death
According to the Bible, every human being comes from that first man and first woman. No matter where we are born or who our parents are, we are part of one human race. When we are born, we are born into this broken world. We have never seen the world that used to exist, where our first parents dwelt with God in innocence and life. We are born under sin and death, we experience guilt, shame, blame, fear, anxiety, and hopelessness, and permanent forgiveness and eternal life are out of reach. Further, we have become dark inside. We are filled with selfishness, greed, pride, anger, envy, lust, and laziness. We fail to love God and love others as we should. We are cut off from God's blessing and headed toward death because of our sin.
Is there any way to get through the sin-death barrier back to God? Is permanent forgiveness and eternal life possible? We'd like to think so. And so we have developed various programs, religious and non-religious, that promise to deliver us from the cycle of sin and death. Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, and Humanism are the major religions of the world. Although they differ in particulars, their general idea is the same. It is up to us to try. If we try hard enough, we might be able to reform ourselves and break through sin and death. If we keep a certain list of dos and don'ts, if we are "good person," we'll be alright. If there is a heaven, we'll go there. Most people believe all religions are basically the same, and they're correct. All religious programs and systems are built on the philosophy of try. It's up to us to try to solve the sin-death problem by being good.
The Human Solution Fails
The problem is no matter how hard we try, we can never reach the holiness of God on our own and thus break through sin and death. To do so, we would have to maintain perfect thoughts, words, and actions, all day, every day of our lives. We would have to love God and others perfectly. But none of us have done or can do that. We may block God out of our mind, compare ourselves to others, and think to ourselves we are pretty good. But other people aren't the standard. The standard is God's holy and perfect character, which none of us can reach. As Paul says in Romans 3:19, "All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God." When we judge ourselves by the correct standard, we quickly realize we are guilty before God. All of us have skeletons in our closet. All of us have fallen short of the perfect standard. None of us love as we should. For these reasons, none of us can pierce through the sin-death barrier, no matter how hard we try.
Is There Any Hope?
It is truly a sad state of affairs. Through our rebellion against God, sin and death have come into the world and separated us from our perfect Creator. We desire permanent forgiveness and eternal life, but they are out of reach. We commonly experience guilt, shame, blame, fear, anxiety, and despair, but we can't do much about it. No matter how hard we try, we can't break through. Various religious programs and systems, including humanism, promise freedom, but they don't deliver. So...is there any hope? Is there any good news? Is there a solution of some kind out there?
Jesus' Strategic Move
Now the good news begins! Motivated by love for us, God took the initiative to save us from sin and death so that we could be united with him again. But there was only one way he could do it and still maintain his perfect character. It was to send his Son, Jesus, into the world from above. Jesus humbled himself and became a truly man, while continuing to be truly God. We know this is true for many reasons. He claimed to be the Son of God, and the prophet John the Baptist agreed. Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin woman, Mary, so that he could be God and man in one person. He came from the line of David, and was thus qualified to become the king of Israel. Throughout his life, fulfilled dozens of specific prophecies that were hundreds of years old by the time of his birth. He loved the poor and oppressed, and he taught a new way of life that had never been taught before. For three years he performed hundreds of miracles such as turning water into wine, calming storms, causing blind men to see, feeding 5000 people with a few loaves and fish, and raising the dead. Finally, he lived a perfect life, as attested by his own family members and the 12 disciples who lived with him for three years. Given the evidence, it is clear Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be--the God-man Messiah.
Sin Defeated at the Cross
Although Jesus was the God-man Messiah, he was rejected by the Jewish leaders of his day. They conspired with the Roman governor, Pilate, to put him to death on a cross. But God, acting behind the scenes, used this horrible injustice as the very way we would be saved from sin. When Jesus died on the cross as the perfect God-man, he was paying the judicial penalty for the sins of the entire human race. Out of love for us, he voluntarily paid the penalty we deserved to pay because of our our sin, so that we could be released and go free. The sin part of the barrier was forever defeated because of the substitutionary death of Messiah Jesus, the perfect God-man.
Death Defeated at the Empty Tomb
Sin was forever defeated at the cross, but victory over death was still needed. This is why Jesus' resurrection is so important. Jesus' disciples testified, and history confirms, that three days after Jesus died and was buried, he was raised from the dead. The tomb was empty. His body was never found. Over 500 witnesses saw him after he rose from the dead. He appeared to the disciples over a period of 40 days on numerous occasions. Those disciples completely changed after they saw him risen from the dead. The good news spread like wildfire that Jesus, the God-man Messiah had died on the cross to defeat sin and risen from the dead to show he had defeated death. For 2000 years this message has been spreading around the world, and billions have come to believe the apostles' testimony that Jesus is alive. Because of him, sin and death are forever defeated!
Jesus Ascends to the Father
After 40 days of proving his resurrection and providing additional teaching to the apostles, Jesus ascended into the sky from the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem. He now sits at the right hand of God the Father as the victorious God-man. He has send the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit to warn, assist, and comfort mankind while he is away. According to Jesus' own words, he will come again a second time to rule over the earth as the King of kings. The time between his first and second coming is the time in which we live.
Faith in Jesus
Remember the philosophy of try that motivates all religions on earth and how that philosophy fails because of God's perfect character and the sin-death barrier between God and man? As a result of the person and work of Messiah Jesus, what God wants from us is not "Try!" What he wants from us is "Trust!" Other words for trust are "Belief" and "Faith." It is by believing the good new of who Jesus is and what he did for us that we are able to obtain permanent forgiveness before God and eternal life that never ends. This is what makes Christianity different from the religions of the world. In Christianity, we gain eternal life not through trying ourselves but in trusting in someone else. That someone else is Messiah Jesus, the perfect God-man, who died and rose again. If you remember nothing else, remember that trusting in Jesus is directly opposite of trying to be good.
The Unbelief Barrier
Now there is a much different barrier between God and man. No longer does the sin-death barrier separated us from God. Now it is the unbelief barrier. It is belief or unbelief in the gospel that separates mankind today. There is no sitting on the fence. Each one of us has to decide whether we will be above or below that unbelief barrier. Satan, the personal enemy of God and temporary ruler of this world, will do anything to keep a person from believing the gospel and crossing the unbelief barrier. He will discourage, distract, cause doubts...whatever it takes. He'll even allow you to feel happy, religious, or spiritual. The one thing he doesn't want is for you is to believe the gospel. He knows that when you do so, his ultimate control over you is gone forever. Remember, all it takes for you to obtain permanent forgiveness and eternal life is believing the good news about the person and work of Messiah Jesus on your behalf!
The Crucial Decision
Sobering is the fact God has given us one life to make the most important choice we will ever make--the choice whether to believe in the person and work of Messiah Jesus. Provided we have reached the age of accountability, each one of us must make a choice for or against Jesus. We are like jurors who must cast a vote in an all-important trial, and we can't get out of jury duty. We must decide. And that decision will determine our eternal destiny, whether we enter into the new heavens and the new earth or the lake of fire where unbelievers will experience conscious torment away from the presence of God forever. Seconds after death, so many will regret they ended up on the wrong side, that they chose the wrong team. God has provided us with permanent forgiveness and eternal life by grace through faith in his Son. He's offering us a free gift, and it's ours for the taking. What a tragedy if we don't accept this free gift and take advantage of what God is offering us!
A New Beginning
In the future, when Jesus comes again, history as we know it today will end. The war between good and evil, God and Satan will stop. God will create a new universe, and new heaven and new earth, where there will be no sin, no death, no crying, no sadness, and no pain. Everyone who has believed in Jesus in this life will live with God in the next. They will enjoy perfect love and harmony with God and one another. You are invited to this new world, and there’s only one condition—simple trust in Jesus and what he accomplished on our behalf. It is by God’s grace that this opportunity is available to us.