ILLUSTRATION: Book of Sin

(This is based on an illustration from ‘Christianity Explained’ by Michael Bennett)

STEP #1 – Hold out your right hand with your palm facing upward towards the ceiling…

Book Illustration #1

Let your right hand represent yourself, and the ceiling represent God.

STEP #2 – Now take a book and place it on your right hand…

Book Illustration #2

Suppose this book contains a record of every sin you have ever committed, every sin you are committing now, and every sin you are going to commit in the future. It contains a record of every accidental sin, and every deliberate sin. All the sins you know you committed, all the sins you didn’t even realize you committed. So in effect, the book contains a record of you past, present, future, accidental, deliberate, known and unknown sins.

So now my sin stands between me and God. And the Bible teaches that because God is holy, there is something about Him that He can’t just ignore my sin. He can’t just turn a blind eye. He can’t overlook it. There is something in God that has to punish sin. And the punishment for sin is an eternity separated from Him.

So now God has a problem. He created me to live with Him forever. He doesn’t want to punish me, but He has to punish my sin. So how does God solve His problem? How does God punish my sin, without punishing me? 

STEP #3 – Now hold out your left hand with your palm facing upward towards the ceiling…

Book Illustration #3

Let your left hand represent Jesus. Because Jesus never sinned, there is nothing standing between Him and God.

Now because God has to punish my sin, but doesn’t want to punish me, Jesus offers to take my sin upon Himself.

STEP #4 – Transfer the book from your right hand to your left hand… 

Book Illustration #4

So if I allow Jesus to take my sin upon Himself, my sin now stands between Jesus and God. As a result, Jesus cops the punishment for my sin. This is what was happening to Jesus when He was on the cross. Jesus paid for all my past, present, future, accidental, deliberate, known and unknown sins. He was condemned so that I could become uncondemnable.

Because I allowed Jesus to pay for my sin, it no longer stands between me and God. I have escaped judgement. The Bible says that there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). I am completely loved and accepted. I am free to enjoy a relationship with God. I can be 100% confident that I will spend eternity with Him.

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ILLUSTRATION: Exam Swap

642559_89524063Suppose that you are just a few weeks from completing your university degree. In order to graduate, you need to sit one final exam. So you clear your schedule, take leave from work, and study harder than you’ve ever studied in your life. The day arrives and you could not have been more prepared. But just a few minutes into the exam, you begin to feel extremely anxious. There is not single question that makes sense to you. You frantically work through the questions as best you possibly can, but it doesn’t look good. In fact, it is a complete disaster. You have not answered any of the questions correctly.

Now suppose you have a friend who is sitting beside you during the exam. For whatever reason, they have aced every question. They are on their way to achieving 100%. And they can tell that you have failed. So in some sort of crazy, unheard of, incredibly selfless move, just before the exams are handed in, they take your exam paper and swap it for theirs. They write their name on yours, and your name on theirs. As a result, you will be awarded a grade of 100%, they will be awarded a grade of 0%.

Now all this is incredibly unfair. But it is not unlike what Jesus did for us.

Our life is like one big exam. In order to become part of God’s family and be given a place in heaven, we need to get 100%. But the fact is, we all fail miserably. We do not love as we should love. We fail to forgive those who hurt us. We are often driven by greed and pride. Even when we do good to others, there is nearly always a hint of selfish motivation hidden beneath the surface. The Bible says: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away…there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 1:10-12).

The good news is that Jesus lived the perfect life. Though we completely fail the test, Jesus achieved 100%. Not only that, but He offers to swap his grade for ours. So that if a person places their faith in Jesus to save them, God treats them as if they received 100%. They are assured that they are part of God’s family and have a place in heaven because Jesus passed the exam on their behalf. At the same time, God treats Jesus as if He received 0%. Jesus copped the punishment that we deserved. This is what was happening when Jesus was dying on the cross.

Now again, none of this is at all fair. It is completely ridiculous for Jesus to do such a crazy, selfless thing. But this is how much He loves us.

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

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ILLUSTRATION: Dog carrying a piece of meat

preview.aesops_dogSuppose there’s a dog carrying a piece of meat in his mouth as he walks alongside a lake. He turns to look at the lake’s surface, and he sees the reflection of the meat in the water. He opens his mouth and snaps at the reflection of the meat, losing both the meat and the reflection in the process.

In order to become a Christian, one needs to cling to ‘what Jesus has done’, just as the dog clings to the meat. And if they do, it will be reflected in their life, just as the meat was reflected in the lake.

However many misunderstand the message of Christianity, and rather than cling only to ‘what Jesus has done’ (the meat), they feel the need to cling also to their ‘good works’ (the reflection). And by trying to place their faith in ‘what Jesus had done’ as well as their ‘good works’, they lose both ‘what Jesus has done’ and their ‘good works’.

The key to becoming a Christian is to cling only to ‘what Jesus has done’ on our behalf. If we do, the Holy Spirit will come into our life and transform us from the inside out. So that when others see us they will see a reflection of Jesus.

(Based on an explanation by Martin Luther in his book ‘The Freedom of a Christian’. The story of the dog is one of Aesop’s Fables and is numbered 133 in the Perry Index)

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ILLUSTRATION: Why should God let you into heaven?

Heaven-Hell2Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and he were to say to you, “Why should I let you into my heaven?” what would you say? *

Many of us would probably appeal to our good works. We’d talk about how we’ve tried to live a good life by treating others well, working hard, and being a responsible citizen of society.

Others of us who would appeal to our religious practices. We’d bring up times when we were baptized, took communion, attended church, prayed, and read the Bible.

Another group again would appeal to our commitment to Jesus. Knowing full well that our good works and religious practices are not enough, we would begin talking about the commitment we made to live for Jesus. We’d explain how we always tried to be faithful. We consistently obeyed the Bible. Everything we did was done with a heart to please God.

Essentially all three of these approaches are about ‘WHAT I HAVE DONE’. They rely upon my good works, my religious practices, or my commitment to Jesus.

But the Bible teaches that there is another way. That Jesus is the one who paid the price for us to get into heaven. He lived the perfect life that we could not live. He died the death that we should have died.

The person who gets into heaven is the person who says: “I am a sinner. My good works, my religious practices, and my commitment to Jesus mean nothing before a Holy God. All that matters is what Jesus did on my behalf. I am not relying upon ‘WHAT I HAVE DONE’. I am trusting solely in the finished work of Christ. I am betting my eternity on ‘WHAT JESUS HAS DONE'”.

(* This extremly helpful opening question is taken from Evangelism Explosion)

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ILLUSTRATION: Demon Possession

demonic-possessionIf you have ever seen a movie where someone gets demon possessed, you would have noticed a battle going on between the demon, who wants to take control of the person to make them do evil, and the person, who want’s their life back. Sometimes the demon possessed person is controlled by the demon. Sometimes the person is in control of their own body. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

Although it sounds a little strange, something similar happens to a person when they become a Christian.

The Bible teaches that when a person places their life and eternity into Jesus hands, the Holy Spirit comes into their life to wage war against their sinful nature. In a sense, they get ‘Holy Spirit Possessed’. From that moment on, there is a battle that rages within between the Holy Spirit, who wants to take control of the person to make them more like Jesus, and the person’s sinful nature, which loves sin and craves sin. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is in control. Sometimes the sinful nature is in control. Sometimes it’s a combination of both.

This is why when you meet a Christian, you can definitely expect to see evidence that the Holy Spirit has come into their life. The Bible describes this as ‘fruit of the Spirit’: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

But this is also why you will unfortunately continue to see evidence of their sinful nature: selfishness, gossip, lust, greed, complaining, unforgiveness, bitterness, envy, etc.

Galatians 5:17
“The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want”

ILLUSTRATION: Concentric Circles

NOT EVERYTHING IN CHRISTIANITY IS OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE…

When Jesus was asked to explain the greatest commandment, He replied by saying: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matt 22:36-40).

When the Apostle Paul was speaking about doctrine, he explained that some doctrines are of first importance, implying that others are of less importance: “Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).

When the Apostle John was writing his biography of Jesus, not everything could be included. He was forced to leave our some of the less important information. In his closing statement he says: “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

ONE WAY TO THINK ABOUT THE DIFFERENT DOCTRINES OF CHRISTIANITY IS TO DRAW A NUMBER OF CONCENTRIC CIRCLES…Urantia_three-concentric-blue-circles-on-white_symbol.svg

The inner circle contains those doctrines which a person must absolutely believe in order to be a Christian. These would include:
> The deity of Jesus
> Jesus dying on the cross to pay for our sin
> The resurrection
> That we are sinners who are saved by grace through faith in Jesus

The second circle contains those doctrines which a person may not have to believe to actually be a Christian, but they are so significant that if we mess with them there would be serious implications. One example of this might be the authority of the Bible. A person could come to place their faith in Jesus to save them without actually believing that the whole Bible is true. So in that sense, it’s not an ‘inner circle doctrine’. But the implications for not believing the Bible are huge, both individually and corporately as a church community.

The third circle contains those doctrines which typically divide denominations. These might include:
> Baptism
> Communion
> Speaking in Tongues
> Predestination
> Church Leadership Structures
> …etc

The outer circle contains those doctrines which Christians might discuss, and perhaps even hold an opinion on, but even within different Christian denominations there are varying beliefs.

WHY THIS IS HELPFUL…

Firstly, a person doesn’t need to believe absolutely everything Christianity teaches in order to become a Christian.

Secondly, the objections or questions a person has about Christianity may not be as big a problem as we might expect. Some people figure out all their questions before they become a Christian. But most people become Christians even though they have not had all their questions answered.

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ILLUSTRATION: House

Floor_PlanImagine that your life is like a house, and each room of the house represents a different part of your life. One room represents your family. Another room represents your work. Another your finances. Another your church community. There are probably 10 or 15 significant areas of your life, each repesented by a different room.

Now when a person becomes a Christian, it’s as if the Holy Spirit comes in and begins to renovate the different rooms of your house.

Some wrongly assume that the Holy Spirit will complete the renovation instantantly. They believe that we can be perfect this side of heaven. But the Bible teaches that we still have a sinful nature which resists the Holy Spirit’s work in our life.

Some also wrongly assume that the Hoy Spirit will be active in every room of the house. But if we’re honest, there are some rooms that we would rather not have the Holy Spirit walk in to. This is evidenced by the fact that many Christians have blind spots. The Holy Spirit might have driven them to forgive those who’ve hurt them, but has not yet turned them into a generous and sacrificial giver. Another Christian might find the Holy Spirit giving them a huge passion for overseas mission, yet at the same time they find it difficult to share their faith with their friends and family.

So how do we know that we have received the Holy Spirit? If there are unrenovated rooms in our life, should we be questioning whether or not we are truly a Christian?

Perhaps the best question to ask is this: “WHO OWNS THE HOUSE?”

Five times in the New Testament we are told that “we belong to God”. The Bible teaches that we are no longer our own, and that we have been bought at a price.

One of the key differences between a Christian and a non-Christian is that Christians recognize that the deed of their house has been given to God. And although at times they may resist the Holy Spirit’s attempt to renovate the different rooms of their house, they know in their heart that the Holy Spirit has a right to do whatever He wants.

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