How to talk about Jesus
What the gospel is and why it matters
If you want to talk to people about Jesus, there are two things to think about. First, you need to consider how you'll move a conversation toward the good news of God's love in Christ. Second, you need to know what to say when the conversation arrives at that point. You can learn a couple of simple questions that will help you with the first matter by clicking here. The rest of this post will help you with the second so you'll know what to say when it's time to talk about Jesus.
It's about Jesus
For starters, the gospel is about Jesus. That may seem obvious, but it's worth repeating. In particular, the gospel is about the death and resurrection of Jesus. Consider the way 1 Corinthians 15:1-3 puts it: "For I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel that I proclaimed to you...For I handed on to you what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures..." Christ died and was buried, and Christ was raised. That's the heart of the gospel. So when you find yourself talking to someone about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done, you need to talk about him as the one who died for our sins and was raised on the third day. That's the starting point.
"Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures...he was buried, and...he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:3
It's about reconciliation
Now the why question will inevitably come up, and you need to be prepared for it. Why did Jesus die for our sins? What does that mean? Why does it matter? For those questions, we turn to Romans 5:6-11. In those verses, Paul explains the purpose of Jesus' death. And what does he say? He says that the purpose of Jesus' death was to reconcile us to God (Romans 5:10). Now there's a concept anyone can appreciate. Do you want to be reconciled to God? Then you want to hear about Jesus.
But this raises another question. Why do we need to be reconciled to God? The answer isn't complicated. Two people only need to be reconciled if there's some conflict already in place. So if we need to be reconciled to God through Jesus, that means there's a conflict with God to be resolved. What's the conflict? The conflict is that we have insisted on being god over our own lives. We may not like to admit it. But it's true. We want to call the shots. We want to be in control. We want autonomy and authority. But that insistence cuts against God's best for us. That insistence is rebellion against God, and it's behind the breach between us and God. It's why we need reconciliation.
From death to life
The good news - the gospel! - is that Jesus has taken all the consequences of our rebellion on himself in the cross. Think about it this way. God is life. And we participate in life when we have peace with God. But if we resist God and sinfully reject his best for us, then we are saying we don't want the life he alone offers. There's only one alternative to life, and that alternative is death. That's why the Bible says that the consequences of sin is death (Romans 6:23). When we cut ourselves off from the one who is life, that sin inevitably results in death. And here's where the cross comes in. With his death on the cross, Jesus takes the consequences of our sin on himself. When we trust him and surrender to him, he offers us the benefit of his self-sacrificial death. That means the consequences don't fall to us, because they've already fallen on him. But that's not the end of the story. Having dealt with the consequences of our rebellion, the resurrected Jesus makes us participants in his life. That is, he brings us back into reconciliation with the God who is life, and he shares that life with us.
Here's what you do
So if you've successfully moved the conversation toward who Jesus is and what Jesus has done, then you'll want to keep these aspects of the gospel in mind:
the gospel is about the death and resurrection of Jesus
Jesus died to reconcile us to God
We need reconciliation because we've rebelled against God
Jesus takes our consequence of death and gives us the gift of life
Keep in mind that there's no formula. There's only a story. It's the story about Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us. He did it to make peace between us and God. Here's one last thing. When you tell the story of the gospel, be sure you also invite people to turn from their rebellion and offer themselves to Jesus. This isn't something you're selling or negotiating. It's an offer of reconciliation with God in Christ. And you'll know you've been faithful when you graciously invite your conversation partner to offer themselves to the one who offers them life and peace.