I had a thought one evening as we were teaching kids about the gospel. Now, we weren’t doing this, but I thought about how when children hear that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for their sins so that they can “go to Heaven”, and it struck me as odd that anyone would make the gospel all about getting to Heaven. Because that’s what many do! They make the gospel about a destination. It becomes more about getting to Heaven or getting out of Hell, and the whole idea of the here and now of salvation is not elaborated on.
Imagine being a small child and hearing that if you believe in Jesus you get to go to Heaven when you die. The clever child might ask “Okay, so in like a eighty years I get to cash in the decision I make tonight?” The same goes with our evangelism. We tell the average person that the decision they make to believe in Jesus will “get them out of the line going to Hell and into the line going to Heaven”, and they walk away waiting for some future destination that doesn’t impact them now.
Now I understand that most Christians reading this would say that is an extreme exaggeration, and that they would never not mention following Jesus in life, but that is a whole other point. Some teach that we must follow Jesus in life to get to Heaven. Same thing! It’s all about getting to Heaven, and don’t get me wrong, Heaven is a great expectation of all God’s people.
But the gospel is the good news of our being reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. That happens the moment you believe. The great chasm that existed between you and God because of your sin is filled with Christ atoning work on the cross. The gospel is the good news that through faith in Christ you are now His child, adopted into His home, and beloved by God forever.
One of my favorite verses is John 17:3, which sums up what eternal life is all about. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer He says, “And this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
You see here that it is knowing God that Jesus says is eternal life. Heaven is wonderful because it is eternity with God, the God who called you while you were yet dead in sin, but now alive in Christ through faith. But all this happens in life.
So in short, when it comes to evangelism, whether with children in VBS or a stranger on the street, give them the gospel of reconciliation. Remember the apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:20 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
The gospel is not about a place, it’s about a person, namely Jesus Christ!