In a gospel conversation, the apostles always brought up the reason why we need a savior — they talked about some aspect of our human problem. Following their example, we also try to listen for the problems that our friend has, and learn to transform that conversation into showing the need for a savior. Our reason is not to make the person feel worse, but so that we can then move on to talk about Jesus, the answer to the problem.
If the listener objects to your statements about sin before you have a chance to share the gospel, try to answer that objection as briefly as possible or to postpone it so that you have time to first explain the gospel.
After hearing the entire salvation message, if the listener still wants to object to the idea of sin, then you can invest time in talking about that subject together. Try to talk not as the listener’s opponent, but as two people seeking truth together.
BACKGROUND TO HELP YOU TALK ABOUT SIN:
Synptoms of sin. People have felt needs; many of these needs are symptoms of sin (examples: guilt, shame, meaninglessness, feeling of lack of value). Our goal is to listen carefully enough to find out how our conversation partner is experiencing the pressures of living in a sinful world, so that we can then share how Jesus has helped us. You do not need to put the listener on the defensive in order to explain the notion of sin: you can give examples from your own life. You can also show the reality of sin by asking about times when the person has been sinned against. You can also point out examples of sin in society. People already know what their felt needs are, and they already know about the problems in society, but they will not know the root problem unless someone tells them, because it is only revealed in scripture:
See another author’s article “Ten things you should know about shame.”
Root cause of symptoms. Mankind’s problem is clearly expressed in Isaiah: “Your sins have made a separation between you and God.” (Isaiah 59:2). We need to make progress on how clearly we can describe the concept of sin, using everyday language. John writes, “sin is a breaking of the law.” (1 John 3:4). This implies that we be ready to talk about God’s law, because as Paul writes, “what the law does is to make man know that he has sinned.” (Romans 3:20).
Cause of the separation: “In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience.” 1 Cor 2:1
Recognizing disobedience: Without God’s law, we might not have guessed that we have violated God’s standards. “everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4
The scope of God’s law. God’s Law tells us what to do, and what not to do. If we don’t do what He tells us to do, that is evidence that we are a sinner. If we do what He tells us to avoid, that is evidence that we are a sinner. If we just want to do something He tells us to avoid, that is also evidence that we are a sinner. Jesus said: “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) God’s Law includes examples in all the following areas
The Don’ts: The Do’s:
As you study the following lists of sin, see if you can put each statement into one of the boxes of the diagram. The Ten Commandments is in Exodus 20, 1-17. Other lists of laws are: Galatians 5:19-21, Romans 1:18-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, Titus 3:1-3.
Even if a person does not accept these as “God’s Laws,” the person can still ask, “do I even live up to my own standards?” If not, it is an evidence of sin.
The scope of sinfulness. “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23).
Being Sinners. Without God’s Word, we might have realized that even one sin is enough to show us that we are sinners and need a savior. Use this illustratiom:
If a tree is full of apples, what kind of a tree is it? _____ If a tree has only one apple, what kind of a tree is it? _____ Jesus said: “a tree is recognized by its fruit” Matthew 12:33
Consequences of Sin. Without the Bible, we might not know the penalty of sin:
“the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23
Limits of law: The law can show us the problem, but it can’t solve the problem:
”God has done what the law could not do (by sending Jesus). (Romans 8:3).
“the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” Romans 7:14
If the person cannot see the reality of sin in himself or in society, you can proceed with the conversation by asking Why else would Jesus willingly die? Jesus said he came to “give his life as a ransom” Matthew 20:28.
When people hear the message about their need (through the LAW) and about God’s solution (through the GOSPEL), there is an effect. The Holy Spirit brings about repentance (looking at sin from God’s viewpoint) and faith (trust in Jesus). Those who trust Christ receive forgivenss, eternal life, and many other benefits. A felt need is a chance for you to talk about the root problem. The root problem is solved by Jesus’ death on the cross. Those who trust in Jesus receive the promises of God, which in turn help us in facing our felt needs.