"Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the message of Messiah" (Romans 10:17).
Below is our Gospel Diagram, the tool we often use to explain the comprehensive Christian message. Unfortunately, many people hear only bits and pieces of the gospel message, and too often the forest is lost in 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 images and text below. This is the greatest story ever told. It is the true story all of us are living in...
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
According to the Bible, it all starts with God. 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 infinitely good, righteous, just, loving, and truthful. The Bible says we all know God exists through intuition, reason, and the experience of creation outside us and our conscience within us. Finally, God is not the universe. He created the universe and is distinct from it. He exists outside the matter-space-time universe. He is eternal; the universe is not.
When God chose to create the world, he did so in accordance with his perfect character. And so it was a world filled with innocence and life. After created the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon, and stars, and the plants and animals, last of all he made one man and one woman. The man and woman were the pinnacle of his creation, made in his image. They were to care for the earth and the life on earth as God's stewards. As such, the man and woman were not machines or robots. Instead, they possessed free will, which is one of the things that made this world perfect. God created human beings with free will so that he could enter a relationship with them. But that free will meant the man and woman could rebel against God, if they wanted to. And this is what they did. They had plenty of trees to choose from. There was only one that was off limits. But both of them ate from the forbidden tree, unleashing sin and death into the world and changing history forever.
As a result of man's rebellion against God, the universe changed. Innocence and life were lost, and sin and death came into the world for the first time, separating the man and woman from God and introducing the results of sin and death: guilt, shame, blame, fear, anxiety, and despair. The relationship between God and man was broken, as was the relationship between the man and woman. Creation began to break down and deteriorate. But not all hope was lost. God promised he would provide salvation through "the seed of the woman." One day, a Messiah would be born who would break down the wall of sin and death, save mankind, and rule over mankind forever.
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 fallen 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 despair, and permanent forgiveness and eternal life are out of reach. The suffering we see in the world today is caused because of sin inside us. We have become darkened inside. We are filled with anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth. We fail to love God and love others. We are cut off from God's blessing and headed toward death.
Is there any way to get through the sin-death barrier and back to God? Is permanent forgiveness and eternal life still possible? We'd like to think so. And so we have developed various religions that promise to deliver us from sin and death. There are many different forms and varieties. Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism, and Humanism are the major religions of the world. Although they differ in particulars, the general idea is the same. It is up to us to try. If we try hard enough, we can get 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 are correct. All religious programs and systems are built on the philosophy of try. It's up to us to break through sin and death by being good.
The problem is that no matter how hard we try, we cannot 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 may block God and the sin-death barrier out of our minds and compare ourselves to the people around us and think we are pretty good. But that's not the standard. The standard is God's perfect character, which none of us can match. As Paul says in Romans 3:19, "All sinned and keep falling 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. None of us love as we should. So none of us can get through the sin-death barrier, no matter how hard we try.
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 powerful, perfect Creator. Permanent forgiveness and eternal life are unattainable. We experience guilt, shame, blame, fear, anxiety, and despair. We want to do something to break through the sin-death barrier, but no matter how hard we try, we can't get through. Religions promise freedom, but they don't deliver. Is there any hope? Is there any good news?
Now the good news begins! Motivated by love for us, God took the initiative to save us. But there was only one way he could do it and still maintain his perfect character. The only way was to send his one and only Son into the world from above. This is Jesus, the Messiah. So how do we know Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, and not just a good man? Let's consider the evidence. First, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Because he made this claim, he must be either a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord himself. Second, John the Baptist testified that Jesus was Son of God (John 1:34). Third, Jesus was born of a virgin, Mary, who was a descendant of the Jewish king David, in accordance with many Messianic prophecies. That Jesus was born of a virgin is important because if he had had a human father, he would be infected by sin, just as we are. Fourth, Jesus fulfilled dozens of specific Old Testament prophecies that were hundreds of years old by the time of Jesus' birth. Fifth, Jesus taught with unprecedented authority a way of life that had never been taught before (see the Sermon on the Mount). Sixth, he performed hundreds of miracles such as turning water into wine, calming storms, causing blind men to see, feeding over 5000 people with a few loaves and fish, and even raising the dead. Finally, Jesus lived a perfect life, as testified to by his own family and the 12 disciples who lived closely with him for three years. Given all the evidence, we may believe based on clear and convincing evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be--the one and only Son of God, the Messiah who came into the world from above to save mankind from sin and death.
Although Jesus had proved he was the Messiah and the Son of God, he was ultimately rejected by the Jewish leaders of his day. They viewed him as a threat to their own power. So they conspired with the Roman governor, Pilate, to put him to death on a cross. But God used this horrible injustice for the greater good of mankind. When Jesus died on the cross, he was paying the penalty for the sin of humanity, including each one of our personals sins, past, present, and future. Jesus was qualified to pay for our sins because he was fully God and fully man in one person and because he was perfect. He took the penalty that we deserved to pay because of our sin and paid for it completely, so that we could be released. Notice that the "Sin" part of the barrier is now crossed out. Sin was forever defeated because of the substitutionary death of Messiah Jesus, the perfect God-man.
But if Jesus had remained dead, there would be no proof that his substitutionary death actually paid for sin. Furthermore, the "Death" barrier still lies between God and man. But the Bible tells us, and history confirms, that three days after Jesus died and was buried, he was raised from the dead by God the Father. So not only has Sin been defeated by Jesus, but also Death. Through his bodily resurrection from the dead, Jesus proved his victory not only over Sin but also over Death. His resurrection proves our own resurrection from the dead. How do we know the resurrection of Jesus happened as an historical event? Once again we must consider the evidence. The tomb was empty. Over 500 eyewitnesses saw him over a period of 40 days. The 12 apostles changed overnight from cowardly evaders to courageous evangelists. Over the next 300 years, throughout the Roman empire and beyond, tens of thousands of people came to believe the apostles' testimony that Jesus had risen. The most logical explanation for these facts is that Jesus really did rise from the dead 2000 years ago as an historical fact. So now, both Sin and Death are defeated!
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. Messiah Jesus now possesses all authority over the universe as the glorified God-man. According to the Bible, he will come a second time to judge mankind. The time between his first and second coming is the time in which we live. It is a time of decision. The good news of his substitutionary death and bodily resurrection is spreading to every nation and people group on earth. Some will believe the good news, and some won't.
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.
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!
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!
The Jesus Film
Interested in learning more about Jesus? Watch this film, a faithful account of his life as recorded in the Bible. See how great Jesus is!