I remember when I was 16 years old. I attended a small church in Stokes County and the pastor took a group of us teens and adults aside to show us how to share our faith. He introduced me to a small tract titled, “How to Have a Meaningful Life.” It featured John 10:10 and was the first tract I’d ever seen. In every meeting he taught us how to engage people. I was terrified! I sat down with a peer and read the entire tract. I left feeling like I didn’t make any ground with that person. While I was in college a group of people were being baptized and was in the group. All I did was read Scripture. Scripture is a powerful tool, a gateway. Here at First Baptist we take our people through a tract too. It’s called the Three Circles and you can find it on Lifeway’s website. Internationally we use something else called Creation to Christ that’s longer. The Three Circles is a three minute conversation with people on how to have a relationship with the Lord. I want to take you through what this means. If you’re on our churchwide email list you had a worship guide sent to you. If you don’t have the guide you can get a pen and paper. Draw 3 circles: one at the 11am position, one at 3am and one at 6:00. Now you’re ready to do your writing. We are a tool, a vessel to speak God’s Word. This is how we can have a conversation with people and here’s how we can lead someone to God.
The first circle represents God’s design. It’s the perfect design. Genesis 1:31 God called it good. It was a perfect scene, Adam and Eve. All was good in the garden. They were a perfect couple in a perfect union. One afternoon a visitor came. He didn’t storm in, he wasn’t loud and wasn’t scary. He asked a question. “Did God really say?” It sounded good. It made sense and Eve knew the boundaries God gave her were clear. We live outside of Eden.
The next circle represents our brokenness, our sin. We don’t say a lot about this. We give it a lot of different names. Sin separates us from God. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Sin is a grievous act. We are separated from God. We are fallen creatures born into sin. We call the second circle brokenness. I don’t have to tell you we live in a broken world, outside of Eden, away from God. God loved Adam and Eve so much he made a covering for them. God wants to bring us back into relationship with Him. Notice these squiggly lines and arrows coming out of the circle. These represent the times we try to fix things on our own. We are self-sufficient in our own brokenness and we’ve failed. Romans 1:25 says we have exchanged the truth for a lie. They worshiped something created instead of the Creator. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” In brokenness Paul is saying there is a way that seems right. Eve heard the spiel, the pitch but it was outside of God’s way. We bear the fruit of that today. I am broken and my world is unraveling. I’ve read books, taken the meds, spent my money, gone from relationship to relationship and I’m broken. That’s what leads us to the next circle.
Hope, God wants us back. God is pursuing us. This is why we need the cross. John 3:16 says, ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Write this passage in the circle you have at 6 o’clock. God loves us that much. Jesus Christ died for our sins. We can have life everlasting. That’s why we need the cross today. Romans 6:10 says, “For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” It’s all paid for on the cross. What sins you might ask?
I heard an old military preacher once. I remember so much about church life in high school. He said, “Listen people! Every time you sin that sin is nailed to the cross!” That stuck with me. John Calvin said “The human heart is an idol factory.” What are your idols today? They are nailed to the cross.
(Mark stands next to a life-sized cross and lifts up the beam and attaches it to make the cross. He nails each sin as he names it.)
· Money – The love of money is the root of all evil. Money becomes an idol. Nail it to the cross.
· Drug Dependency – You think it will get you out of your brokenness. No! Nail it to the cross.
· Envy is a sin. Nail it to the cross.
· Your Secret Life – You think no one will know about your inline activities. God knows! Nail it to the cross.
· Pride comes before the fall. A lot of young people and church leaders have gotten into trouble with pride. Nail it to the cross.
· Self-Sufficiency – I don’t need God. Nail this thinking to the cross.
· Harboring Unforgiveness – This is a sin that leads to more troubles and more peril. Nail it to the cross.
· Unfaithfulness – to your church, your finances, your business partner, your family… Nail it to the cross.
· Stealing - We think, “I can take this… Nobody will know.” Nail it to the cross.
· Lying – Little white lies and half truths are sins too. Nail them to the cross.
· Anger – This can get us into trouble. We can get out of control. Nail it to the cross.
· There’s much strife, deceit, haughtiness, disobedience to parents, covetousness, ALL SINS! Nail them to the cross.
Our brokenness is before us. What do we do? Jesus came to erase the sin debt. He nailed it to the cross. What’s your story today church family? You can’t fix this yourself. We need a Savior. Jesus came to free us. Look at the Scripture: Colossians 2:14 says, “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Jesus took your place and my place. You can be free! You might say, “Look, I’ve had a terrible life.” Paul had a terrible life too. He lived as a terrorist who watched the stoning of Stephen and later became the greatest missionary of all time.
Ten years ago I was speaking at a school and a girl raised her hand. It was Good Friday and the kids were getting out early from school. She was seated on the front row. She heard me say, “Jesus forgives sins.” She asked, “You mean, any sin?” I said, “Yes, any sin.” She asked a second question, “Are you a preacher or soemthin? Every sin?” “Yes, and God forgives any sin.” Some of the kids in the back started making fun of her, snickering. Yes, Jesus took our place and forgives any sin. Everything goes to the cross. She didn’t have the Scriptures, so I took a Bible to her home.
What’s your story? Where do we go from here? God is working a good work in you. Phil 2:13 says, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” God enables you to do good works. Eph. 2:10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” I want to read to you what Paul said in Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” That’s the relationship God wants for you and me. Paul said it clearly. Christ was buried and raised on the third day. There’s power in the resurrection. What’s your story today? There’s a video you’re about to see. It shows us what we can do. Let the Word of God do the talking. God needs you to make disciples. You and I are an Easter people. Watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lcj5G_4dwrI
Sermon Notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.