Struggling to Know the Core
If you have been a Christian your whole life, you may find that the Gospel is a part of you in every way, but still you stammer to try to actually say what it is.
After two weeks of introducing the New Testament to my tech-savvy, super-smart, cradle Catholic high-school sophomores, I asked them, “What universally motivated all the writer of the New Testament? What is the Good News?”
Simple and true answers were easily fell from their lips, “Jesus.” “Love.” “The teachings of God.” Good, but not enough. That doesn’t do justice to the truth, nor help a person in need of God. I pushed them further.
“What if a student from China were here and she had never learned anything about Christianity – could you help her? If she wanted to know and understand your faith, could you tell her what the good news is? Could you phrase it in a way so she can see that it is good news for her too? Or, what if your little cousin visited you for a weekend and came to your church on Sunday. If he wonders what it is all about — you could explain the Gospel to him?”
A few of my students (who are very sweet and obliging) tried. They stumbled. They could say a few beautiful things, but nothing that really made sense. Nothing that was compelling. After a while, the room was silent.
I had omitted to teach the most essential thing.
What about you? Can you articulate the Gospel? Can you make sense of the ups and downs of life and see yourself in the midst of the unfolding of God’s mysterious plan? Can you help someone find the joy that persists? Can you see the things which make us all brothers and sisters in a common hope? Can you do it in more than a sentence but less than three minutes?
What about your own children? Are you in the same position as I was – having taught many things but missing a clear summary of the core of what we believe?
Well, friend, let me tell you the good news. It has to do with you and me. It has to do with the deepest part of who you are, of how you are, and of what you will become.
The 30-Second Gospel
- We are made good – to share in the life of God.
- We broke that relationship.
- God became one of us to bring us back to him.
- Jesus taught about the kingdom through miracles and stories.
- Jesus died on the cross for our sins.
- He rose from back to life, conquering death and sin.
- Through faith, we live in relationship, empowered by the Spirit.
It is helpful to have pillars like these in your mind the events of the Gospel which you can expand upon or keep short. Here is a one-page printable summary of the Gospel with simple pictures.
Allow me to expand a bit …
The Three-Minute Gospel
Let’s start with you. You are good. Very, very good. You and I were both were made for relationship. In the very beginning of time, God created the first man and the first woman. He breathed the breath of life into us – making us like himself – with an eternal soul, with reason and freedom. We walked with God in complete harmony with each other and all of nature. Something within you even now longs for this unity for which you were made.
Our first parents broke this bond. Turning from God’s faith and love of them, they cultivated a mistrust of His love. They did the only thing He asked them not to do. They ate a forbidden fruit. In doing so, they ripped their perfect, trusting, and holy relationship with God. Devastation. Not only did they sin, but you and I also followed in their footsteps. We have turned from God again and again. This has left us broken, uprooted, and disconnected.
Longing for us, God called again and again – reforming our hearts, carrying us through restorative ups and downs, even though we could never stay faithful for very long. Unwilling for us to live perpetually in this darkness and discord, God knew, from the very beginning, that he himself would be the only way. And so, at the perfect time, the second person of our Triune God took on our own experience – born as a baby – Jesus – fully God and fully human. Although son of God and God Himself, He had all the same responsibilities, temptations, joys, and weaknesses that all of us do – except that He was without sin.
He was obedient and loving to His parents and then as an adult, He taught us about God’s kingdom – here and now – and yet to come. Through His parables, miracles, and healings, we began to see the way of love with God and each other.
Yet, this extreme love, justice and surrender was and is threatening to our pride and trust. Those in power seized Jesus and had Him killed. Knowing that this was the path for our own reconciliation with God, Jesus willingly was crucified, died, and was buried.
He did what we could not do – perfect person, perfect God freely took the shame of the sins of the whole world upon Himself and canceled our debt – healing us by His own wounds.
Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered sin and death. Jesus walked again among us, teaching and guiding His disciples to have faith in Him, to spread the power to live, through faith, in this new life. Through loving trust in Jesus, we become an innocent new creation – with the power of the Resurrection.
LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
Jesus ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to reside in his people. Through the Spirit, we are able to live in unity with God and each other, relying on the grace of the cross for the forgiveness of our sins and the fulfillment of our new creation. We can live today in His kingdom by the original purpose for which we were made – intimate relationship with God and one another.
It is not usual to be able to have a monologue like that in a conversation. More than likely, it would come tumbling out over the course of a 30-minute conversation.
My high school students now can all articulate the Gospel using these few pillars. Their own study of the New Testament has a little bit more framework. They understand the “why” a bit more. Perhaps they will live it too! I hope the same for you and your kids.
You can find many summaries, prayers and guidance to help you form a life of prayer within your family in my upcoming book: Collection of Grace – A Flexible Handbook for Growing a Life of Prayer. Feel free to reach out to me with your own ideas.
Copyright 2020 Carrie Soukup