Evangelism in the United States is at an all-time low. I attribute that mostly to the false notion many people have that suggests people are basically good, God is forgiving, and therefore, everyone gets saved. When a Christian’s biblical worldview devolves into this perspective, what naturally transpires is a lack of urgency to share the message of the cross.
I agree that God is very forgiving and that he does want everyone saved. However, scripture is very clear about what it means to be saved, what it takes to be saved, and whose responsibility it is to come on the right side of truth.
Here’s my top 5 basic tenets of the Christian faith:
1.) Everyone Has a Sin Nature
The bible teaches that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
What is commonly misunderstood about this passage of scripture, however, is that for salvation to occur, we must understand that our entire spiritual nature is darkened with sin.
This is a fundamental starting point for salvation, because if people only equate sinfulness with sinful behavior, it’s easy to conclude that since God is merciful, he has an obligation to overlook my offense. Because of this perspective people mistakenly think that sin is confined to moments of small mistakes or mini-failures, not something that leads to eternal separation from God. This is why understanding sin in its fullest context is critical to salvation.
A key indicator that salvation has occurred is when someone expresses repentance, and not just occasional repentance for bad behavior, but a desire to accept the truth of God by dying to self.
If sin only amounts to a few things we do wrong once in a while, or petty grievances God might have toward us when we make a mistake, we have no motivation to actually change our behavior, and no onus to please God with our lives. In this case, we require that God bend to us and our whims, without any consideration for what he might desire out of our relationship, or what he requires in order to have fellowship with him.
Sinful behavior is forgivable. But understanding that sinful behavior is a sign of an inherent sin nature from which we must be saved, is the first, and most necessary step to inheriting eternal life from God.
2.) Jesus Is the Only Way to God
With the rise of globalism and barriers to connecting with people across the world being removed through technology, many of us have been exposed to religious doctrines which are much different than Christianity. This has led many to believe, or at least question, if there might be another (better) way to get to heaven without believing in Jesus. The answer is no.
Since no other religion establishes its belief system on the concept of “original sin” (as outlined above), it follows that in other religions there is no need for a savior. In fact, in most religions (even among many Christians) Jesus has been reduced to merely a good teacher, who challenged the establishment, and was nice to people of low social standing.
The problem that philosophers and religiously minded people can never get around, however, is what to do with the obvious evil that humans incessantly perpetrate. Their answer is usually summed up in the following idea; “Follow the rules established by our founder, and you’ll make it to the other side.”
But Jesus’s life, ministry and teachings, expressed something profoundly different than this philosophy. Notice what the bible says about following religion’s rules as a means to inherit eternal life;
“For whoever keeps the whole Law but stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of [breaking] all of it.” (James 2:10, AMP)
What this passage is saying is that no matter how many foundational principles we successfully adhere to, the moment we break one rule, we become guilty of breaking them all.
Jesus’ life also took another interesting twist which cannot be found in any other religion – its founder claimed that he had to die for the sake of his followers, and that this death was a personal, willing sacrifice he was not required to make, but that he willingly chose to endure because of his love for God.
Anyone who subscribes to the notion that Jesus was nothing more than an historical figure, has not really come to terms with the claims inherent within Jesus’ teachings.
3.) Confess with Your Mouth and Believe in Your Heart
Whenever a person receives a revelation of his sin nature, and believes that Jesus was the sacrifice for that sin, salvation occurs. Check out Romans 10:9;
“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Unfortunately, this verse has either been presented as, (or misunderstood as) an incantation that one must recite in order to get saved. But there’s a much greater revelation packed within this scripture than what may be seen on the surface.
I always say that belief takes action on what faith already possesses. We know that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8), which summarized means that God’s power alone saves us, and when we believe in this power, salvation is activated in our lives.
So in the example of Romans 10:9, when we “declare with our mouth,” after “believing in our hearts,” we are bringing our lives into agreement with God that Jesus took on our sins and God truly raised Jesus from the dead.
Now this is not always an easy conclusion to draw, especially since it requires a fundamental belief in steps 1 and 2 to come to this realization. But this is exactly why it’s imperative to come to an understanding of sin and the sin nature, as well as Jesus’ claims regarding his divinity, and the life and ministry that flowed out of his revelation. The moment that these two factors are settled in one’s mind and in one’s heart, the natural overflow is to declare our belief in it, and whenever this takes place, you can be sure salvation is at hand.
4.) Be Filled with Holy Spirit
An often overlooked, yet in my opinion critically important tenet of the Christian faith is receiving the indwelling presence, or “baptism” of the Holy Spirit.
To be “baptized” in the Holy Spirit is akin to dipping a sponge in water. Whenever a sponge is dipped in water and is removed, the water that the sponge has inherently soaked up cannot necessarily be seen unless it is squeezed out. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit, therefore, is not an outward action that God performs on someone, rather an inward transformation one must willingly receive as he invites the presence of the Holy Spirit in man’s spirit realm to be released into ones’ mind, thoughts and emotions, and eventually into one’s physical body.
It’s unfortunate that this topic has become so complicated since the basic premise is as simple to grasp as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are three expressions of the same God. Sometimes it appears as if Christians have been inadvertently taught to downplay, disregard, or even ignore the positive ministry of the Holy Spirit, simply because they don’t understand certain aspects of it.
But would we be justified in holding the same perspective about God, or Jesus? -that because they are hard to understand, we’re exempt from trying to know them? Of course not. Which is why no Christian should ever allow that same excuse to dominate his attitude toward knowing the Holy Spirit.
I believe one of the most interesting and compelling commands Jesus gave his disciples is found in Acts 1:4;
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”
The purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit Jesus said, was to “receive power,” (v. 8) and this power, among other things, was for the purpose of demonstrating the validity of Jesus’s testimony in the same manner he himself did.
Recall that at the same time Jesus was water baptized, he too, received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, (Luke 3:22), which was example and a foreshadowing of what his disciples would partake in and eventually impart to others, as they became Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth.
5.) Share the Gospel
It’s reported that as many as 47% of Millennials believe that it is wrong to share their faith with someone of a different religion in hopes that they may one day share the same faith. This is a tragic statement for Christians to wrap their minds around.
I believe this reveals two unique issues regarding this generation’s understanding and opinions of the Christian faith.
First, it’s clear that at least half of all “believing” Millennials have never even had a life-transforming encounter with Jesus, or at least one that characterizes and defines the vast majority, (if not 100%) of those who meet Christ. Besides referencing your own personal conversion experience, we see countless individuals whose lives were so radically transformed after they met Jesus, one could say that these people were not even the same people as they were before they encountered the radical love of God.
Second, when one experiences this type of love that surpasses reason, it follows that a person can’t wait to introduce others to such a love. Christian evangelism happens not because Christians believe they have a superior religion to follow, or a greater philosophy about life, but because we have a superior God we worship – a God who loved humankind enough to send his one and only Son to die for the sins of the entire world!
Knowing God personally and intimately benefits a person tremendously, improving one’s relationships, bringing favor into one’s life, expanding one’s capacity to give and receive, increasing one’s joy and happiness, and helping a person in countless other tangible and intangible ways.
Those who don’t regularly walk in, or experience this kind of relationship with God, may be “saved,” but are missing out on what life is supposed to be like when we know the one true God.
Knowing and experiencing God in this way compels Christians to share their faith with others, regardless of what “religion” another is practicing, because as we say, Christianity is not about a religion, it’s about a relationship.
Sharing the Gospel is difficult if one’s only exposure to Jesus can be summed up in list of rules one must follow, or doctrines one is obligated to adhere to. And from that perspective, who is to say that one group’s doctrine is any more or less beneficial than another group’s? But doctrines and philosophies are of little concern to those who have had a supernatural encounter with God through the person of Jesus, and after which, can’t wait to tell the whole world.