I’ve been working with a few groups recently, exploring the heart of the good news of Jesus as a basis for exploring evangelism.
The classic explanation of the Christian gospel is found in the Four Spiritual Laws, developed by Bill Bright for Campus Crusade for Christ.
- God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
- Man is SINFUL and SEPARATED from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life.
- Jesus Christ is God’s ONLY provision for Man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.
- We must individually RECEIVE Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
The presentation ends with the the sinner’s prayer:
“Lord Jesus, I need you. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I
open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for
forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my
life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”
This is the explanation with which I was encouraged to ‘make a decision’ for Christ, as a fifteen year old teenager. It’s based on the substitutionary atonement model put forward by Paul in the Letter to the Romans. I responded with a resounding yes to God.
However, the four spiritual laws framework doesn’t fit so well now. I could rephrase the language to make it more inclusive gender wise. But over time I’ve come to experience the life, death and resurrection in many more ways than these ‘four spiritual laws’ can explain.
One approach I’ve found helpful is the ‘Ten Gates to the Cross”, developed by John Driver in his book, “Understanding the Atonement for the Mission of the Church”, Herald Press, 1986. (buy it through Amazon.com). The Ten Gates approach was picked up and popularised in New Zealand by Gordon Miller, of World Vision, in his Leadership Letter.
The image I find helpful is the cross surrounded by a wall in which there are ten gates. A person first sees the cross through one of those gates. Over time that person has the opportunity to walk around and see the cross from different perspectives. What Driver gives us is the reminder that there are at least nine other approaches to the cross besides the classic ‘guilt/forgiveness’ gate.
- The Deliverance Gate speaks of Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness.
- The Suffering Gate focuses on Christ’s suffering for us.
- The Leadership Gate holds Jesus out to us as a representative person, pioneer, forerunner and firstborn.
- The Martyrdom Gate reminds us of how Jesus laid down his life for us.
- 5. The Transformation Gate traces our new vibrant Christian life back to Jesus’ sacrificial death.
- The Cleansing Gate gathers up all the richness of the Old Testament mercy seat picture.
- The Service Gate captures the life of service we owe to the One who purchased us from the slave-market of sin.
- The Peace Gate reminds us of how God turns his enemies into friends.
- The Forgiveness Gate speaks of the marvellous new relationship we have with God when we accept the death of Christ for our sin.
- The Family Gate focuses on the wonderful family privileges we now enjoy through the death of Christ.
Responses I’ve had when preaching through this have been varied. Some people have been greatly relieved to find their understanding of the cross was aligned with a New Testament approach. Others are annoyed that I’d made things far too complicated. They liked it when they could put the basic contract with God in a few sentences. How would we know if someone was a real Christian now? Some of the same people thought this sounded like pluralism, ‘New Age’ and liberalism. Gordon’s response, when I talked it through with him, was keep preaching it from the New Testament so it’s clear it’s not just ‘New Age’.
What I’m now working on is what would it look like if someone responded to God through the other nine gates? What are the alternatives to the classic sinner’s prayer?
Understanding the Atonement for the Mission of the Church has been republished by Wipf and Stock and is available at Amazon.com.