The mere word seems to send otherwise mature Christians running for the hills.
Potluck. “You know I’m in.”
Worship. “I hope we sing 10,000 Reasons again.”
“Uh, I’ve got something else going on.”
What is it about this word?
“Evangelism” is a Christianese word, but it shouldn’t be scary. When the New Testament was written, the word simply meant “the declaration of good news.” It was mainly associated with news about the king. The birth of a prince was good news. The coronation of a new king was good news. A king’s victory in battle was good news.
In our Christian context, evangelism is merely telling people the good news that the King was born. The good news that He died on behalf of messed up people like you and me. The good news that He rose again and is going to restore all things to their original, good design.
Telling good news isn’t a special skill. People don’t get degrees in “Delivering Good News.” Little kids, with no training whatsoever, are some of the best at telling good news: “Dad, dad, dad! You won’t believe it: I found a quarter!” “That’s great.” “No, it gets better: I bought, wait for it, a gumball with it!”
Somewhere along the line, we shifted things though. Evangelism went from being simply sharing Good News, to formulas, memorized outlines, and asking terrifyingly awkward questions. Moreover, it went from being something natural, like a kid excited about finding a quarter, to something you had to have specialized training for, a unique calling for.
Somewhere in the course of Christian history, evangelism moved from being the joy of every disciple to being the responsibility of a few specialists.
We need to reset the dial, regain the joy of every Christ-follower being engaged in telling the good news about the King.
To do that, we need to be reminded why it’s Good News in the first place. Jesus himself gives us a sketch of the Good News in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Such a familiar verse, but one whose message has been lost in our evangelism-averse era of the faith. However, if we can regain an understanding of evangelism as simply telling good news…well, there is all sorts of good news here for us to share!
1. God’s unearned love is good news
The fact that God loves the world is a massive dose of good news. It’s especially good when you consider what Jesus means by “the world.” When he says that God loves the world, he’s not saying that God loves the penguins, and God loves the pandas, and God loves the butterflies. When he says that God loves the world, he’s talking about you and me. He’s talking about humanity, sinful humanity.
God created everything and has the right of creation to outline laws for his domain. He says, “here’s the way you ought to live. Here’s this good world that I’ve created.” And we throw it back in his face and say, “no thanks. We’re going to do it on our own.” We rebelled, and we continue to rebel.
We’re not worthy of God’s love.
And this verse tells us God loves us anyway.
He loves people who reject him. He loves the world, the broken, sin-ridden, filthily-foul, curse-riddled mess that we call humanity. He’s not waiting for us to love him: he loves us and invites us to encounter his love.
So, God’s love is good news, not because we love him and then he loves us, but because we hated him and he still loved us.
2. God’s gift of his Son is good news
People throw out the statement, “God is love” all the time. And, based on the context, many people never try to define that love. It’s like, to them, God is this big, amorphous blob of love, just oozing out everywhere with rainbows and cotton candy.
However, God’s love is clearly defined in Scripture. God loves in a very particular and a very costly way. It’s all right here in John 3:16: “For God SO loved the world that he gave his only Son…”
We tend to interpret that “so” as meaning “God loved the world so much” as if Jesus was merely emphasizing the size of God’s love. Nope.
It means, “in this way.” God loved the world. How do you know? He gave his only Son.
God did something very specific to demonstrate the nature of his love because we needed at least two things to recognize his love: we needed to know who God really is and we needed someone to solve our sin problem.
Jesus reveals the true nature of God by being God. His birth, teaching, life, death, and resurrection show us God’s character and attributes more clearly than was ever revealed before.
That’s an act of love because we were created to know God and be known by him. When we rebelled against him, we lost that knowledge and humanity has been stumbling around in the dark, desperately creating gods in our own image, hoping to find the relational satisfaction we were created to enjoy but always coming up empty.
And when the scales fall from our eyes, and we see Jesus, our hearts leap and shout: “Here is the one who made me, who loves me, who calls me! Now I understand!”
But if all Jesus did was reveal God to us, our hearts would cease their exulting as our minds caught up: “But he’s so perfect, so right, so true and I’m so flawed, so evil, so false: I’m unable to relate to him because my rebellion has dug a chasm between us.”
So, God didn’t just send Jesus to reveal himself: he sent Jesus to heal us. Jesus shows God’s perfection and then dies for our imperfection. The punishment that our sin deserved, death, Jesus takes into himself on the cross. He dies in our place. And because the punishment for our sin is accomplished, the guilt of our rebellion is done away with. That chasm is bridged, and all who will may walk across, back to fellowship with their Creator.
That’s good news.
3. God’s grace is good news.
So how do we walk across the bridge? Because it’s not enough for us to know who God is, that there’s something in us that’s broken, that has to be fixed. Somehow, it actually has to get fixed.
It gets fixed by us believing in Jesus. Jesus himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It’s only by believing that Jesus is who he said he was and confessing him to be the Lord he is, that we can be saved.
Not, “work as hard as you can and hope that I’ll make up the difference.”
Not, “do x number of good deeds, pray y number of times, and never wet the bed, and I’ll let you off the hook.”
None of that. Believe.
You can’t earn God’s love, you can’t earn the solution to your sin, you can’t earn anything from God. Earning suggest owing and God owes his creation nothing. However, he offers everything to those who believe.
“It’s too easy,” we think. “Surely there’s something we have to do. Surely there’s something we have to contribute.”
Jesus says, “no, no, believe in me.”
That is God’s grace. God’s grace says you can’t earn it, you don’t deserve it, and yet God offers it anyway. This is why Paul tells us that the gospel is foolishness to the Greeks, a stumbling block to the Jews. We want the good news of God’s forgiveness to require something of us, up front. We want it to require us to be smart, to work hard, to earn it somehow.
However, we can’t, we don’t, we won’t. It’s grace through faith, a simple act of faithful obedience, not to a list of rules, but to the call of our Lord: “believe in me.”
That’s good news.
4. God’s offer of eternal life is good news.
Too many people, including the one writing this post, are tempted to think that this life is where we need to find our satisfaction, happiness, and joy.
And every single one of us is going to die disappointed unless we change our minds on that subject. Because the fact of the matter is that this life is too full of brokenness, too full of heartache, too full of disease and death and sadness to ever be what we need it to be.
Whether you have $2,000,000 in the bank or you don’t have two pennies in your pocket, you’re going to face hardship in this life. Money’s not going to solve the problem.
Whether you’ve got a spouse who loves you and completes you and is your soulmate, or you’re stuck in a marriage and think that getting out is the answer, or you want to be married and you can’t seem to find anybody, a relationship is not going to give you the life that you expect.
Money won’t. Relationships won’t. Stuff won’t. Fame won’t. Power won’t. None of it is going to outweigh the difficulty that inevitably comes by continuing to breathe. Humans live in a world that is marked by sin. We experience the effects of both our sin and the sin of the people around us. We deal with hard times day by day by day, and if this life is meant to be our fulfillment, we got a raw deal.
Jesus says, “Here’s the deal: you don’t have to believe in me. You don’t have to take the love that God offers. You can seek fulfillment in this life, and you may come close, but you’re not going to find it because, in the end, you’re going to perish.
But then he says, “Wait. Those who do believe in me will be given eternal life.” And not life like it is now: life like God intended things to be, forever. No more pain, no more cancer, no more dying, no more rape, no more starvation, no more brokenness.
That’s good news.
Tell The Good News
Evangelism is just telling people, “Hey, good news: this world isn’t all there is. It’s broken, I’m broken, you’re broken. But God wants to fix the world, and me, and you. So he sent his Son. Want to learn more about him with me?”
That’s not so hard. Evangelism, in the traditional, churchy sense might be hard, but telling good news: that’s easy.
So, let’s do it. Let’s start telling people the Good News.
John 3:16 is a pretty good place to start.