How Can I Know Eternal Life: God’s Good News
Goldilocks was the consummate middleman. Whether it came to porridge, chairs, or beds, she gravitated toward balance.
I share Goldilocks’ concern when it comes to evangelistic materials. Most of what I encounter is either too dense with words, making it difficult to follow the trail of the logic of the Gospel, or too meager, not even providing a clear trail at all. I wanted something that was “just right,” condensing the Gospel, and asserting it clearly, without compromising the message.
Concerns other than word count, however, spurred me on to develop a booklet that I could use, and that could serve others as a resource for communicating the Gospel. I found a good deal of what was out there wanting in some way, such as by neglecting a call to repentance or misrepresenting what Jesus accomplished or basing assurance on a person’s action rather than the Spirit’s affirmation.
The editors of worldviewchurch.org have asked me to share this resource with their readers. So, at the risk of sounding like an infomercial, permit me to explain the features and use of what I hope will become a tool you might find helpful for equipping God’s people in their call to be witnesses for their Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me begin with a description of the booklet: How Can I Know Eternal Life? communicates the Gospel in a clear, concise, and conversational form that does not shortchange content. Beginning with our relationship to God in creation, this colorful 32-page booklet leads the reader through the alienation of the fall, God’s sovereign initiative in salvation, the reconciling work of Christ, and a call to repentance and faith. A separate “FAQs about sin” section establishes the reader’s condition before God and need for Christ. Each point in the presentation closes with a “Cause for Pause” – thought-provoking question and a transition displaying the logic of the Gospel amidst the illogic of God’s undeserved, unmerited, unexpected grace. Scripture references on which the content is based are noted at the end for reference and study.
In one of his columns, T. M. Moore convinced me from John 17:3 that eternal life is so much more than the prospect of heavenly habitation. Eternal life is knowing Jesus Christ, with all that involves. Hence, I resisted the suggestion of titling the booklet, “How Can I Have Eternal Life?” Salvation is about a redeemed, reconciled, restored relationship.
How Can I Know Eternal Life? takes its shape from the Biblical worldview of Creation—Fall—Redemption. At the center of it all is a sovereign God, the Creator who is to be forever praised. He is the initiator of redemption, for no reason other than His own glory. He is the granter of life, making those who are dead in sin alive in Christ, able to hear the voice of their Savior.
The booklet traces the logic of the Gospel under the headings: creation, alienation, initiation, reconciliation, and obligation. Each heading summarizes the Biblical teaching on the topic.
One of my mentors in the faith and zealots for a God-centered over a man-centered gospel reviewed my booklet. His comment validated my effort, but it was his bottom line that spoke loudest to me: “It honors God.” I can think of no greater endorsement.
It was his final comment, though, that indirectly highlighted the booklet’s usefulness, when he lamented that his material “needs better graphics.” His lament related to the wonderful job the publisher did in making this booklet inviting to the eye through vivid, meaningful graphics and beautifully laid-out pages (see sample).
That sounds trite, but I don’t believe it is. We live in a visual world nowadays. Advertisers certainly know well the importance of capturing the eye. Color and space and images might be peripheral to the message but they are not to its communication.
I surveyed a number of pastors and their congregations, asking two questions: (1) what would make you accept religious literature from someone?; and (2) what would make you actually read that literature? Answers to the first related to authenticity of the giver, while answers to the second related to the quality of the literature itself.
In his excellent book, Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions, Gregory Koukl lists eight insights for evangelistic encounters. His penultimate insight is “If they want to go, let them leave.” His final insight completes the thought, “But don’t let them leave empty-handed.”
Dispensing of religious literature takes it on the chin nowadays. Pollsters have observed that a negligible number report coming to Christ through mass distribution of religious literature.
The two-question survey I referenced above seems to support the pollsters’ observations. One missionary who responded thought the practice “ineffective in Western settings.” But he followed up with an “unless.” It is this “unless” that we want to emphasize for equipping and resourcing our congregations in the Gospel mandate.
The missionary went on, “…unless you are using it to supplement a substantive conversation where you have built rapport.” That is exactly where I see the greatest benefit of this evangelistic tool—organic to a conversation for Christ. It can be brought to bear to help discussion at the time, or handed on with the agreement of follow up later. It gives them something tangible to read and re-visit and reflect upon.
While we incorporate the booklets in our visitor folders at church and include them in our literature rack, I see their greatest use in the context of conversation. For that reason, we offer and encourage each home to have a supply on hand for such use. We provide them as part of our outreach budget that encompasses not only foreign and national missions, but also the mission of each member of the church.
Let me close with a story. Recently, I’ve been able to get a winter Bible study going in my neighborhood, one to which participants can walk. We started a study of Philippians around the end of January. In Philippians 1:5, Paul mentions “the Gospel.” I distributed copies of How Can I Know Eternal Life? and asked each to read it in preparation for the next meeting to gain an idea of what Paul had in mind. At the next meeting, one woman asked, “Did you really write this?” What impressed her, though, wasn’t so much that I wrote it as what it said. She said she read it through in one sitting. She had never heard the unfolding story before, or at least made the connections. She said she intends to read it again. It may be she is not far from the kingdom.
My prayer is that you might find How Can I Know Eternal Life? to be a “just right” tool to help your church members become more consistent in reaching out to others with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Author’s Note. This first appeared as an article in The Worldview Church (March 16, 2011), in response to a request explaining the format and use of my booklet as a resource for Christ’s church. Since then, the booklet has been republished under the title God’s Good News. The content remains the same, but some changes have been made to layout and cover. The revised booklet should be available soon from Day One Publications.