Stuart* levelled his eyes steadily at his father Frank. He took a breath before asking one of the most difficult questions a son could ask: “Dad, are you ready to die?”
Frank had been in and out of the hospital over the past few months with a series of problems. First there was a fractured hip, then the cancer and now there was fluid in his lungs. The doctors had run tests and determined the problem—his kidneys had failed.
There were two stark choices: dialysis or palliative care. Frank decided he had had enough and chose not to have kidney dialysis. He knew what he was deciding. For Stuart, watching his aged father slipping away wasn’t easy. What was harder was trying to make sure his father understood the gospel and was assured of his salvation.
Frank had been a private man all this life and he had never spoken about his feelings or beliefs to anyone, not even his family. Though Frank had been to church, his son Stuart just didn’t know where Frank stood spiritually. Stuart had passed his father a copy of By This Name two years ago. Frank mentioned that some parts of the book had caught his interest and he had pulled out his Bible to look up some of the verses but that was all Frank shared of his impressions of the book.
What could a son do? Stuart discussed it with his wife. They both knew that because of his illness, Frank could not hold a long conversation. His attention span was short. Stuart decided that a short chat focused on the four irreducible minimums of the gospel (see below) was the best course of action.
Stuart and his wife visited Frank at the hospital and Stuart started going through the four points. He started explaining about a holy God. He briefly talked about creation and Adam and Eve, and how they were created innocent. This led to the second point about everyone being helpless sinners as a result of Adam and Eve’s rebellion. Then Stuart explained how God himself provided a sufficient substitute by sending Jesus, and how Jesus’ death and resurrection provided the solution to man’s sin problem. Now the question was: did Frank put his trust in Jesus for his salvation?
Almost imperceptibly, Frank made a sound. It was a yes! Stuart and his wife were elated. Suddenly, a weight had been lifted. There were so many questions they wanted to ask but Stuart’s dad didn’t have the strength. Just as Frank had taken Jesus at his word, Stuart now had to take his father at his word. The heaviness had been replaced with a quiet joy. The son was now assured of his father’s salvation.
When Frank passed away soon after, Stuart and his wife were sad at the loss but they were comforted with the knowledge that this parting was just temporary. One day in Heaven, they would all be reunited!
When someone is at death’s door and we know that time is quickly slipping away, it is of critical importance–when we want to share God’s Good News of salvation and hope–that we are not only time-conscious but that we communicate in a manner that clearly expresses the key essentials of the Gospel message. And that is what Stuart did. He didn’t gloss over the “Four Irreducible Minimums of the Gospel.”
Likewise when we share, we need to start at the first point and ensure our friend or loved one understands that point before moving on to the next. If a right understanding isn’t in place, the Gospel may not make sense. Such understanding is so very important if those near and dear to us are going to have a proper basis for their faith–a choice that will have life-and-death implications.
The Four Irreducible Minimums of the gospel
- A Holy God: God exists in all His majesty, being the Creator-Owner of the Universe. He is a loving, caring God but equally He is also a holy lawgiver. His holiness demands that His law be kept perfectly. He can have nothing to do with any lawbreaker. Only perfect people can live with a perfect God.
- A Helpless Sinner: I was born into the world as a lawbreaker, alienated from God. I am far from perfect. God’s law says that all sin demands the death penalty. Not only do I die physically, but I face something the Bible calls the second death–an eternity of suffering in the Lake of Fire. Since I am a sinner, there is no way I can avoid death. I am helpless.
- A Sufficient Substitute: Jesus, God Himself, came to this earth to live as a man. He was perfect–sinless. Because He had no sin of his own to die for, He could die for someone else’s sin. In His love, He died in my place, taking the consequences of my sin on Himself. As evidenced by Jesus’ resurrection, God accepted that death as an overwhelmingly sufficient payment for my sin—a fulfillment of the requirement of His holy law.
- A Personal Faith: I believe that when Jesus died on the cross, He died in my place. I rest in the fact that He alone has saved me from the judgment on my sin. In Him, my resurrected Saviour, I now have a perfection that is not my own, but is counted as mine because I trust Him. I will enjoy life with God both now and forever in Heaven.
[* Names changed as per GoodSeed policy.]
Photo credit: Bruce on flickr