Explaining the gospel has always been a struggle for me, especially as I have taught at various and sundry after-school Bible clubs, Good News Clubs, VBS and 5-Day Clubs, and so on. Somehow, I want to understand the truths of the gospel message so clearly that I can translate them to kids in a way that they will be able to grasp. Of course, I know that it is the work of the Spirit in their hearts that will awaken them to their sin and need for salvation. At the same time, I do not want to be slack in any way and just give the "pat answers" so that I can feel better. As Steve and I have delved further into Calvinism and I begin to see how this system helps me organize and understand the gospel truths that I already know, explanations to kids have been easier and I feel like I am actually sharing the truth...and not some nebulous concept.
But, I still get hung up on the whole believe/receive thing. What exactly is that? I know that believing is ultimately trusting someone, and in this case, trusting that Christ is the Son of God and that his sacrifice on the cross is sufficient in atoning for my sin. But receiving? So many times, the line is "Just receive Jesus as your Savior," or "I received Jesus when I was eight," or something like that. How do you really understand what that is? How do you explain that to somebody else?
I was listening to a really great sermon by Piper last night and he helped me:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes . . .” Four observations about this believing.
First, it means that not everybody will benefit from what Jesus came to do. But “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” The rest will perish—and not have eternal life.
Second, the word itself means to embrace something as true; and when it’s a person, it means to trust them to be what they are and do what they say.
Third, John 1:11-12 shows that another word John has in mind to explain believe is receive. “[Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” So receiving Jesus and believing Jesus explain each other.
Fourth, if we ask, “Receive him as what?” the answer would be, “Receive him as what he is.” For example, in John 6:35, Jesus says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” So here believing means coming to Jesus and receiving him as the food and drink that satisfies our souls. That’s one of the reasons I talk about receiving him as our Treasure (Matthew 13:44). And this is why faith is so transforming.Aha! Something tangible. Something explainable.
(It's 12:30pm. Maybe I won't get called in for work after all. Let the Saturday chilling begin!)