I would have loved to had said this first, but somewhere CS Lewis wrote it, I read it, and it stuck. Admittedly, this is one of my favorite quotes and I have lots of them. This is so simple, yet it is so profound.
Many Christians in the west seem to care a lot about morals and good behavior. Even when we look at certain lifestyles we seem to be more interested in the behavior of a person rather than the condition of the person. We judge people’s behavior all the time.
The person isn’t necessarily a “bad” person, but a “dead” person. Isn’t this what the Scripture tells us about ourselves? Didn’t Paul say, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins?” Does God help our behavior? Of course, He does, but maybe not the way you think He does.
Reflecting on the role and work of an apologist I must return to the gospel. If we don’t get this right, it doesn’t matter how well we make a defense. The illustration of buttoning your shirt or blouse comes to mind again. If you don’t get the first button right it doesn’t matter how you button the others. You can mess the other up, too, but you have to get that first one right to have a correct starting point.
Knowing the gospel is that first button. What is the gospel? What did Jesus come to do? What happens when we give ourselves to Jesus Christ? Sometimes I hear answers to these questions that make me cringe. Yes, Jesus came to provide forgiveness of sin, but not so I could go on sinning. In fact, the transformation in my life ought to make me go a completely different direction than the one I was traveling on.
The message of the New Testament is that God sent His Son to redeem and restore me. He redeems me to Himself and restores me to Himself. As a result, I am a changed individual. Paul said it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20).
For me, conversion was a catastrophic event. Someone said it was like a “train wreck.” Everything in my life changed. Most of my friends left me; I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing before. My worldview radically changed. Explaining what happened to me was another story. At first, I couldn’t explain it at all. I walked away from a lot of conversations because I couldn’t explain my conversion experience. But that changed too. I began to understand what God did in my life.
Now I go even further and explain why my experience can be validated by the evidence found in the New Testament for the message of the Gospel. Jesus isn’t just one of many, nor is he a false or fake person. Jesus embodies the truth of God to redeem us and put us on the path that continually leads us to the all-loving and all-powerful God.
The gospel is the message - apologetics is the seasoning, the adjunct, the ancillary, the handmaiden to evangelism if you will. If we convey the message correctly and people embrace Jesus because He is the answer to their need, they will have new life, not just new behavior. Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good, but dead people live.