EQUIPped for Gospel Reflection

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Billy Graham Library. While I have know the name Billy Graham and have heard many stories from his life, I was amazed at his heart and desire for people to know God and to walk with Him. His passion for the gospel and genuine love for people often put him in the position to bring the light of Christ into previously thought dark and impenetrable areas.

This got me thinking… How well do I really know the gospel? Does an overflowing gratefulness for the gospel of Christ overflow from my life? How about our students?

Shortly after visiting the Billy Graham Library, I was with a group of middle school students for Cadre’s Equip for Middle School Disciplemakers. Among other things, we spent time together writing out our story, looking at the five parts of the gospel, and sharing the gospel with each other.

What about the upcoming school year? How do we build times for gospel reflection throughout the year? What if we peppered into the rhythm of youth group – Gospel Nights. Three or four nights in the upcoming school year to creatively and actively remind each other of the gospel of Jesus Christ. To celebrate the gospel together.

First, we let’s start with the gospel itself. There are a variety of ways and resources to explain / communicate the gospel. I personally like the five parts that we use in Equip. Here they are:

  1. God loves me and wants me to live with him forever. (John 3:16)
  2. My sin separates me from a relationship with God. (Romans 3:23)
  3. I can’t fix my sin problem. Being good can’t save me. (Titus 3:5)
  4. God fixed my sin problem through Jesus’ death on the cross. (Romans 5:8)
  5. God invites me to believe and receive his gift of forgiveness. (John 3:16 | John 10:10)

Through Jesus, I can experience love, joy and peace in my life now and forever.

There are many other ways to communicate the gospel. Dare2Share uses 6-words: God. Our. Sins. Paying. Everyone. Life. Others use 4-words: Creation, Fall. Redemption. Restoration. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association uses four steps: God’s plan – peace and life, Our Problem – separation from God, God’s remedy – the cross, Our response – receive Christ.

You can also use one verse and some stick figure art: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Yup, do you remember the bridge illustration? 

Now get creative. What experiences can you come up with that will help your students engage and articulate their story and the story of the gospel?

  1. Key Word and Scripture Search. Split the gospel into each of its parts, and then have students search key words to find verses from the Bible that explain or relate to that part of the gospel.
  2. Linking the character of God to the gospel. Ask the question: what does each part of the gospel tell us about the character of God? Then have the students come up with the answers.
  3. Gospel scavenger hunt. Have students search for images or take photos for each part of the gospel. Have them share with each other the images and how or why it reminds them of the gospel. 
  4. What is God’s heart for people who do not know him? Read Luke 15 together or other intersection moments from the Gospels – moments when Jesus interacts with someone who does not know God. What is God’s heart for people who do not know him (Hint: John 3:16)?
  5. Share your intersection stories. How has your life intersected with the story of the gospel? Walk through each part of the gospel and ask each other questions:
  • Have you ever come to a point where you know God loves you? Tell me about that. What has made it hard to believe God loves you?
  • What do you think about the statement that, “my sin separates me from God”? Is that hard to believe? Have you ever felt a longing or distance from God – or something?
  • “I can’t fix my sin problem.” Is this true? Are we able to handle the consequences of life on our own or do we need God to step in? Have you had a moment in life where you’ve experienced this?
  • “God fixed my sin problem through Jesus’ death on the cross.” What does this mean? Do you believe this? If you do, tell me the story of how or why you believe this. If not, what prevents you from believing this?
  • What does receiving God’s forgiveness look like? What does it look like to walk through life with Jesus?

When it comes to the gospel, we often think about it in a confrontational context – a weapon to defend our view of life or to win an argument with someone who doesn’t believe the same thing that we do. No wonder talking about the gospel – even among fellow christians – stirs anxiety and causes our hearts to race.

This should not be. Let’s help the gospel to be the good news that it really is. Let’s celebrate it together. Find times to share the stories of how the gospel of Christ is intersecting our lives. The more we personally and our students know the gospel and celebrate the intersecting of Christ and our lives, the more we will see evangelism accidentally happening out of the overflow of our hearts. Use these ideas to get you started in being friends who celebrate the gospel of Jesus and its impact on our lives.

Why our identity matters

[This post is part of our Spiritual Caffeine collection, geared toward encouraging students to grow as disciplemakers.]

I used to be a janitor at a local high school. One night when I was emptying the feminine hygiene boxes in the girls’ bathroom, I came across the wrappings of someone’s lunch: orange juice, container of raspberries, foil wrapper from a sandwich. Seeing this, I stopped and prayed. I also found myself asking: “What would cause someone to hide in the restroom and eat a meal?”

Identity: A look back to Israel’s Exodus from Egypt

God had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Their descendants were now slaves in Egypt, and God was about to free them in a miraculous way. God speaks to Moses and gives him a message for His people:

“I am Yahweh, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.” Moses told this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their broken spirit and hard labor. (Exodus 6:9)

A promise

Do you see the statement “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God”? God is promising his people that their identity will be anchored to his character—in his identity. Verse nine, however, tells us that they were so broken and with so little hope, they couldn’t even imagine their identity being attached to God himself. But he does it. God is faithful to his promise. He gives these Egyptian slaves a new identity. They are now the people of God.

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Forgetting who they are

Fast forward to the golden calf. It’s a bone-headed move. The Israelites have quickly forgotten the God who loves them and have run into the arms of something else. God has delivered his people, just like he had promised. He is even going to keep his promise of giving them the land of Canaan. But, he tells Moses, “I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people.” (Ex. 33:3) Remember the promise… “I will take you as My people, and I will be your God.” This is too much for Moses to bear. The promise of God’s presence is more precious than anything else. Having an identity that is anchored in the character of God is too important.

“Then Moses said, ‘If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. How will anyone know that you look favorably on me – on me and on your people – if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth. (Ex. 33:15-16)

Finding out who we really are

Just like it was for Moses and the Israelites in the desert of Sinai, God’s presence is what gives us our identity. Our identity is found in the immovable unchangeable character of Christ and the forgiveness he gives. That identity gives us hope when we find ourselves in broken in spirit.

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It is in the deliverance, freedom, and redemption of Christ that we find our identity—our hope. In the midst of pressure and pain, that hope—that identity will not disappoint. It is anchored in the love of God and sealed with is presence—the Holy Spirit.

“And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Rom. 5:4-5)

That night standing in a bathroom stall, my prayer was for hope. I was asking God to help this young woman discover the hope of an identity anchored in the forgiveness of Christ.

My prayer today is for your identity too:

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)

God, help us to embrace the hope found in an identity anchored with you and then overflows with hope in all circumstances.