Now let's look at the focus of the gospel: salvation. Christ died to save sinners, but he didn't just die. He died according to the scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4). He was betrayed by a friend, beaten, humiliated and crucified – all of which was prophesied in the word. Then he was buried and rose again the third day – also prophesied beforehand. Everything thing Jesus did was according to the scriptures. We too should preach the gospel according to the scriptures.
This is important because there's a lot of confusion out there. Sinners shake their heads at us Christians because we can't seem to get our message straight. Every church preaches something different. Have you noticed that too? That's why we need to go directly to the word. We need to read and understand it for ourselves and preach the same message the apostles preached, and have the right perspective on salvation.
Here's what I mean by perspective: Think Long Term.
What does the Bible say about salvation? Are we saved because of one decision? Or are we saved because we believe on the Lord Jesus and live according to his word? Consider these verses...
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)
I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not. (Jude 1:5)
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13)
Folks, it is absolutely possible to have a great start with God, only to fall away later. We all must be vigilant to not lose our soul. I bring this up because I believe it's important for us to have a long term perspective about salvation especially when it comes to sharing Christ with others. In our natural lives, birth isn't the end; it's the beginning. Being born again isn't the end either. It's the beginning of a new life in Christ, right?
Years ago when I talked with someone about the Lord, I had the attitude that they should make a decision right then. If they didn't, I was heartbroken. But the reality is, very few people receive Christ right off the bat. How many of us needed to hear the gospel a few times before moving forward? Paul preached week after week because people needed to think it over...
And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. (Acts 18:4)
Planting & Watering. Are you a believer now because of one person's message? Or are you serving God in part because he used many people along the way to preach to you, pray with you, encourage you, get in your face and correct you, and love you through difficult times? I am a product of the latter. He used someone to plant the word in me, and many others to water. I'm living for God today because of his mercy and the active involvement of the body of Christ - not just because of one person with the “right words.” I've been encouraged by many stable saints in my life and I thank God for every one of them.
You may have never preached the gospel to a lost soul, but you may have been exactly what someone needed to ponder eternity or to stay faithful to Jesus...
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
Never forget the importance of your witness to others.
The narrow way that leads to life isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. If we have a long term, teamwork approach to soul winning we'll have a more biblical view of the way of salvation. God may use all of us at one time or another to plant here or to water there.
In the next part of this article, we'll get into the gospel message itself. Here's a hint: It's the same message the apostles and Philip preached. Nothing has changed!
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