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What does someone really need to know to believe in Jesus and receive His gift of forgiveness and eternal life?
The most effective approach I have found is to share two simple truths the apostle Peter always included in his preaching about Jesus.
In the book of Acts, Peter's preaching always focussed on two things: Jesus' identity, and the purpose of His mission on earth. Peter always answers these two simple but penetrating questions: "Who was Jesus?" and "Why did he give His life?"
Being prepared to discuss these two questions will equip any believer to share Christ simply and clearly with anyone.
Who was Jesus?
In recent years cover stories about Jesus have appeared in almost every national news magazine. Television and mini-series have focussed on his life. But accounts of Jesus' life by secular media invariably question or outright deny the historical reliablility of the four gospels. Jesus is sometimes presented as merely a mythical figure. If he is depicted as a historical person, he is portrayed as a great teacher, or even a prophet, but only human. Jesus was much more than a teacher and prophet. He is God. He always existed but came to earth in human form. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died to pay the penalty for our sin, and conquered death by rising again to offer us the gift of everlasting life. If Jesus Christ was not who he claimed to be, if he is not the crucified and risen Son of God, then as the apostle Paul declared, our faith is useless. The apostle Paul wrote "There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim 2:5)
Why did he give his life?
John the Baptist clearly announced the purpose of Jesus' mission on earth when he said "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) The Jews and Romans cannot be blamed for Jesus' death. His life was not taken from him; he gave it.
Jesus said, "The Father loves me, because I lay down my life so that I may take it up again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again." (John 10:17-18)
The cross stands as a symbol of sacrifice for a lost world. The cross sends a message. It says first that we are all sinners. Second, it says we could do nothing about it. We could not save ourselves, so Jesus became our savior.
Jesus lived His life without sin, and they killed Him. Jesus was punished for sin, but because He had never sinned, death had no power over Him, and after three days He came back to life. That is why the apostle Peter could say "God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for him to be held in its power." (Acts 2:24) Now He gives everlasting life to everyone who calls upon His name, and receives Him as Savior and Lord.
Everone must be confronted with the reality of who Jesus truly is, and why He gave his life for us. Everyone must be given an adequate witness and the opportunity to accept the gift Jesus offers: forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.
"Pray that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ." (Col 4:3 NIV)