Often, when we are sharing the gospel with an unbeliever we think that we must begin with a blank slate in regards to their understanding of and adherence to God and salvation. We try our best to understand their perspective and their personal narrative and see how we can fit in the gospel message.
What is helpful for Christians to understand when sharing the gospel is that all people—irrespective of their faith and background—share the same meta-narrative (or big-picture story) that is meant to give meaning and purpose to each individual’s narrative (or personal story) which only Christianity can fully explain. This will help us share the gospel with every person no matter what ethnicity, religious background, or nation they come from.
Truly, the first move of the Holy Spirit on the earth was not on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) but in the very beginning, when the Spirit of God was hovering over and enjoying the created order of God at the beginning of time (Genesis 1:1-3). Thus, the Spirit has already been working in every person and every culture, even among those nations and peoples that have not heard the gospel. This is because we all have a common creator and at least four major components of our life stories that will resonate with the biblical worldview of God’s metanarrative.
First, we all come from the same origin and creator. Genesis 1 teaches us that God is the common creator of the universe and all human inhabitants of the earth. Thus, there is automatically a sort of homing device inside every human that points each of us back to the One who gave us life and designed us. This is the reason why there is no part of the inhabited earth that is without some sort of expression of religion or faith in God. Romans 1:21 actually teaches us that every human knows God. Thus, every unbeliever is really a secret believer who is in rebellion against their creator. This is also the reason why God calls people “fools” who say there is no God (Psalm 14); the knowledge of God’s power and divine attributes have already been fully disclosed and seen by all people. This is why no one will have an excuse for unbelief on the Day of Judgment (Romans 1:18-22).
Secondly, all humans know that the world is messed up and is progressively falling deeper into moral decay. The Bible gives us the only rational explanation for all the pain, suffering, crime, abuse and immorality in the world: the Fall, as found in Genesis 3:1-8 and Romans 5:12-19. Without faith in God and in His commandments there is no rational explanation for morality, evil and sin. Those who say there is no such thing as right and wrong, or evil in the world, have no explanation for why many people continually exploit and destroy other people for their own pleasure and advantage. Any rational person would admit that if the whole world followed the Ten Commandments as shown in Exodus 20 that the world would be a better place. This means that any nation or people group that systemically disobeys these laws will find the unraveling of their cultures and societies, resulting in collapsing under the weight of their own corporate sin and greed.
Third, all people not only know the world is messed up, but we all have a sense there is some kind of solution that can fix our personal problems. Ultimately, no person will be able to experience shalom until we reconnect with our creator because each of us is born with a hole in our heart so large that only God can fill it (read Ecclesiastes 3:11). The biblical answer to this dilemma of emptiness, guilt, bondage and shame is redemption. The New Testament teaches us (Romans 5:12-21) that the sin of our federal head (Adam) was undone by the obedience of the second federal head, Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:45 calls Jesus the second or last Adam), and that we have redemption through His blood, even the remission of our sins (Romans 3:21-26; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter1: 18-19) through faith in His vicarious (substitutive) death for every one who believes in Him. Thus, “He who the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36)! At the very least, every person unconsciously knows that every unredeemed person is walking around with a guilty conscience that cannot be satisfied by anything less than the remission of their sins. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He is the only one who has the power to erase this guilt and shame, and give them a new life of power and victory over their sinful nature.
Finally, every person has an innate sense of some sort of judgment to come, a day in which everything that was done unfairly in this life will be rectified, when good people and good deeds (as unbelievers say) will be rewarded, and evil people and evil deeds will be punished. The meta-narrative of scripture and salvation culminates in the great consummation of the second coming of Christ, a day when He will separate the sheep nations from the goat nations (Matthew 25) and will judge all who are ungodly and do not obey God (2 Thess. 1:7-9), resulting in those whose names are not written in the book of life to be eternally punished and separated from God (Revelation 20:11-15). Indeed, God commands all people everywhere to repent because He has ordained a day when He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man that He appointed, and He has furnished proof to all people by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31). When we share the good news with unbelievers we are also obligated to share how this sober part of our common meta-narrative of how the world ends. Ultimately we have to trust the Spirit to both convict and draw people back to their creator (John 6:37-44) when we connect their personal stories with the big-picture story God has provided for us in Scripture.
In summary: It will greatly aid our faith when sharing the gospel with others to know that God is already bearing witness to every human being’s spirit as to the reality and power of the gospel (1 John 5:9-12). This is especially true when it comes to answering the four great nagging questions every person has: Where did I come from? How did everything get so messed up? What is the ultimate solution that eradicates evil? And how will everything end up? Thus, when preaching we don’t have to start from scratch but instead have faith that God has already been testifying to every human!
Consequently, Christians who understand these four major parts of God’s meta-narrative will be able to speak the truth in love by comparing this meta-narrative with each person’s narrative and accompanying worldview, then showing the inconsistencies within all non-Christian responses to these four major questions and pleading with people to turn their lives back to their creator. God’s desire is that every person’s personal narrative conforms with His overarching meta-narrative for the world and humanity so that we can truly find life.
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