How to teach God’s Good News in Easy English - Part 2
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
How Much Should A Church Leader Say About Sin?
In our previous part, we discussed sin (evil deeds), although we hardly ever used that word. We also did not mention hell, although the Bible teaches clearly about it; and we did not describe what happened to Adam and Eve. Clearly, there are a lot of important subjects that we could explain.
Church leaders need to know how much they should explain about sin. It would be wrong not to mention it. People need to know the truth about the state of their lives before God. If people do not understand about sin, then Christ’s death would seem without purpose; and then people would have no reason to invite God into their lives.
Something very strange happens when a church leader speaks about sin. People listen to his words but, usually, there seems to be no reaction. People act as if they do not care about these things. That is extraordinary. It is not the usual way for people to behave when they hear terrible news about themselves.
When a judge sends someone to prison, that person feels the strongest emotions: fear, shame, anger. Only a person who has gone to prison many times does not care about the judge’s decision. But when a church leader speaks about God and His judgement, people seem not to care. That, too, is evidence of how terrible our state is before God. The Bible calls that attitude ‘a hard heart’. It is the attitude of people who do not care. God wants to change that attitude completely. His desire is to give people a right relationship with Himself:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh - Ezekiel 36:26.
Actually, it is better if we do not usually see strong reactions and powerful emotions in our churches. Emotions can quickly become much too strong for anyone to control; and then it may be impossible for the person to hear about Christ. People may start to imagine that even God cannot save them.
For this reason, a church leader should appeal to a person’s mind and intelligence, not to the emotions. A church leader should consider himself a teacher, not an entertainer:
These things command and teach - 1 Timothy 4:11.
An entertainer appeals to the emotions, but a teacher educates the mind. People who have learned the truth about God can then start to trust Him.
Our work begins with the mind, but it should not end there. It is God’s desire to change people completely:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” - John 3:3.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
It is especially in his spirit that the person needs a right relationship with God. The mind will die when the body dies. It is the spirit that can live always with God:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect - Hebrews 12:22-23.
That is why our own words and thoughts are not enough. We can, perhaps, educate people’s minds, but we are completely unable to change their spirits. Only God can do that. For that reason, regular prayer is essential for the church leader who carries out this kind of work. He must pray for himself as well as for the people whom he hopes to help. For the same reason, the leader must use God’s Word, that is, the Bible. Our words can only have an effect on a person’s mind, but God’s Word is much more powerful:
For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart - Hebrews 4:12.
There is also another reason why we must use the Bible to teach about these things. There are many different beliefs in this world, and most of them are neither good nor helpful. We must show people that we are not merely teaching our own opinions, but God’s opinions. They have an important decision to make. So we must show them what God has said about these matters. However, if we explain too many Bible verses, people may find them too hard to understand. It is better to choose just one Bible verse, and to explain it well.
We are now ready to answer our original question. How much should a church leader explain about sin? Of course, the answer is not the same for every group of people. Some people learn more quickly than other people do. So the leader should continue to explain until the people understand clearly these important facts:
- The people must understand that they have not obeyed God’s law. God considers each of them guilty; and one day in the future, He will be their judge.
- The people must understand that their lives need to change completely. They have been God’s enemies, and they must now become His friends.
- The people must know that they cannot save themselves. They cannot pay for their sins by means of good actions. Only God can change their lives; and He does it by means of Jesus’ death, when people invite Him into their lives.
When people understand these things, the church leader has explained enough about sin. So then the leader can explain what God did to save people from their sin by the death of Jesus.
How A Church Leader Can Explain About Jesus Death
It should be clear that people cannot save themselves. To do that, they would need to give themselves a right relationship with God. They have done many wrong things against Him, and they have become His enemies. So of course they cannot now become His friends by their own efforts. They cannot force God to accept them. Only God is able to save people.
The Bible is God’s own account of what He did to save people. That is its subject, from beginning to end; but we cannot ask people to study the whole Bible before they trust Christ. That would be too hard for almost anyone to do. Instead, a church leader should use his knowledge of the Bible to select an important passage or verse. He then uses that passage or verse to teach how God can save people. So, although perhaps the leader only reads one verse, he uses that verse to explain the message of the whole Bible.
The church leader must select that verse very carefully. Each verse belongs in a longer passage. The leader must consider the meaning of the whole passage before he selects the verse. Although he might not read the whole passage at the meeting, he himself should study it carefully.
One especially useful verse for this purpose is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16.
However, because the whole Bible is about this subject, many other verses are useful for this purpose. John 3:16 explains why God acted to save people. It was because of His great love. It explains how God acted. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ. It also explains who benefits from God’s kindness. God saves the people who believe in Christ. Finally, John 3:16 tells us the results of God’s action. Those people will not suffer God’s punishment; and they will always live with Him.
That is a most wonderful verse, and people can learn much from it; but John 3:16 does not explain everything that people need to know. In particular, it does not tell people how to believe; and it does not explain what Christ did to save us. Those two subjects are essential knowledge for anyone who desires to have a right relationship with God.
So let us think about Christ. First, we need to understand who He is. If Christ were merely a man like other men, then the Christian religion would be like any other religion. Its beliefs would merely be human ideas. It would be unable to give anyone a right relationship with God.
Christ is, and always has been, God (John 1:1-2; Hebrews 13:8). He is God the Son, who, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, created the world (John 1:3). The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the one and only real God (Deuteronomy 6:4; John 17:11). At a future time, all will recognise Christ’s greatness (Philippians 2:9-11); and Christ will rule both earth and heaven (Psalm 2; Luke 1:32-33; Revelation 19:16).
The Bible records that God saw the terrible state of people on this earth. He saw that they had become His enemies. He saw their evil deeds and He knew about their evil nature. They did not care about God, but God cared about them. People deserved only punishment, but God wanted to save people.
God is completely good; His nature is perfect. Because He is completely good, He always punishes evil acts. So, He is the perfect judge. However, because He is completely good, His love is very great. So, it is His desire to save people.
Those two statements may seem to be opposites. It seems impossible both to punish and to save; but the Bible has always insisted that that is God’s character:
And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” - Exodus 34:6-7.
In the life of Christ, we see how God did both, together.
Christ is God; but He chose to be born as a human baby. God was living among us (Matthew 1:23), but the people did not recognise Him (John 1:10-11). His life as a boy and a young man was like the life of any other young person. He studied. He learned a trade. He worked with His hands; but there was one important difference from us. Unlike us, Christ never did any wrong thing that was against God’s law:
Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously - 1 Peter 2:22-23.
That fact matters. Christ did not deserve the punishment that He suffered.
As a man, Christ began to teach the people about God, and to do God’s work among them. He cured people who were ill. He declared God’s good news, even to the poorest people (Luke 4:18-19). Everything that He did was good; but still, people hated Him and wanted to kill Him; and in the end, that is what happened. Christ, the perfect Son of God, suffered a slow, painful and cruel death that He did not deserve.
As we have already said, there is much cruelty in this world. It is a terrible fact, but many innocent people suffer in the most unfair manner. We do not remember Christ’s death just because it was so unfair. We remember Christ’s death because, by it, God was carrying out His promise to save His people.
In order to save His people, God must punish their evil acts. When Christ died, He Himself suffered the punishment on their behalf. God the Son took upon Himself our evil deeds:
Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. - 1 Peter 2:24.
The punishment that can bring people a right relationship with God was upon Christ:
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:4-6.
Christ’s death had a powerful effect on some of the people who saw it (Mark 15:39-43); but, at the same time, something astonishing was happening that people could not see. Strange events happened across the city (Matthew 27:50-54).
The first people (Adam and Eve) did not obey God, and we still suffer from the results of their evil deed today; but Jesus Christ obeyed God completely, even in His death; and the results of His good action in dying for us can save us now, and always:
For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:17.
That one event – Christ’s death – can give us a right relationship with God that never ends:
So Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. - Hebrews 9:28.
God wants us to trust Him. So He has provided evidence that Christ’s death did achieve these things. There is the evidence in the Bible (Luke 24:27; John 20:31). There is the evidence that Christ became alive again after His death (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). There is the evidence that God has given Christ the place of greatest honour in heaven (Acts 1:9-11; Hebrews 1:3-4). There is the evidence of the people whom God has sent to declare His message (Matthew 28:18-20; Hebrews 2:3); and there is the evidence of the astonishing things that still happen as a result of the prayers of Christians (Mark 16:20).
For all these reasons, people should believe Christ. They should confess their evil deeds to Him, and they should invite Him into their lives.
© 2012 Keith Simons
About The Author
Keith Simons is a Bible Teacher whose work reaches across the world by the Internet, through his website www.usefulbible.com, which reaches some 2000 people monthly, in 60 countries. To aid second-language English speakers, he prepares courses and books in EasyEnglish, a system devised by Wycliffe Associates (UK). He has also worked extensively at Wycliffe Associates, and until recently led their EasyEnglish Bible Commentary team. He worships at Stockport Elim Church.