The Gospel is at its core a message of hope. We believe that our beginning and end is with God our Father. We have our origin in Him. “Let us make man in our image” is a radical and amazing concept. The natural man, one without Christ in his life, must acknowledge that he is meaningless and random. If we are random and have no meaning, it does not matter if we exist; we are nothing more than slightly animated matter.
But the Bible says differently. In fact, every one of us has been created with a purpose. Look around you at the messages the world sends. Which messages really are hopeful messages? Some would say that personal achievement is why we are here; some would say that happiness or satisfaction is the reason for our being. But this only means that what we do is important; who we are does not matter. If I have a large house, expensive cars, a boat, and many other possessions, I may have high achievement and be happy, but it does not change who I am.
What about other messages? Some would say that we are here to attain enlightenment. But how? Some say by renouncing desire. But again, that only bears on what I want, not who I am. Some would say we are here to live good lives. But that is only another way to say that what I do is important.
Do any of these messages convey hope? Some seem to give freedom, while others increase burden. But where is hope? If I live happy simply to die and snuff out like a spark, why live at all? Man has a sense of mission, of the dignity of our existence, of a sense of value for individuals and societies. Only redemption of our souls really conveys any hope. Only redemption says that who we are matters to God enough that He would die to have us back again.
When speaking with students, it is good to probe them with a few questions about what they believe about hope and existence. The intent is not to change their mind; rather, you are priming their thinking and causing them to examine their assumptions. Everyone wants to have hope in something, but few people realize that at the end of the day they have no hope at all.
A good question might be something like, “Why do you believe we are here?” or “What happens to us after we die?” or “What is the meaning of life?” Their answers to these questions will provide you with the opportunity for more follow-up questions, and will eventually allow you to transition into Scripture.
What are some other good questions for exposing someone’s assumptions and hopes?
Transitioning to the Gospel
At this point, it is good to explain to the person you are speaking with that the Bible says that we can be certain of our hope, as well as what happens to us after we die. Show them 1 John 5:13, which reads, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Point out to them that ‘know’ implies being 100% certain. If we believe Jesus, we can be certain that what he promises us is true. Ask them if you can show them some of the claims of Jesus from the Bible. This is a great and non-threatening transition to sharing the Gospel.
Write out two other possible transitions to the Gospel.
Why We Are Here
The first part of the Gospel is a message of hope. What is it Christians hope for?
Read to them John 10:10 – “I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” Ask them if they have heard this promise before. Most people do not associate Christianity with abundance. Most associate it with austerity. Ask them what they think abundance means, and help explain it to them. It is always important to make sure that terms are defined clearly as you share the Gospel!
Next read to them John 1:12 – “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Ask them who ‘he’ is, and make sure they understand it is Jesus that is being talked about. Ask them how we ‘receive’ something. This is an obvious question, but surprisingly not everyone understands this, and it helps him or her to visualize being given eternal life, not earning it by merit. Also help them to understand that we are not just children of God solely because He created us, but because Jesus gives us that right.
Now read to them John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Once more, ask them questions about some of the terms used in this verse. Do not assume that they know what even simple words mean. Ask them what ‘perish’ means. Explain that it means to spoil, or fade, or disappear. It is the opposite of eternal life. Point out to them that God does not want us to perish! That certainly is a message of hope!
Hopefully, at this point, you have allowed the person you are speaking with to see that in Christ is hope and abundance. You have helped them to understand some of the words and their definitions that we often take for granted. You have also set them up to talk more about issues of sin that hinder us from knowing God.