The Bridge Illustration
The following six pictures show how your illustration will look at various stages of development as you show these concepts. You will actually draw only one picture, using the stages given, and will draw in the various items as you talk about them. (You can also see the Bridge Illustration as a PowerPoint presentation)
The Bible teaches us that God is love and that He loves us. He desires that we experience an abundant life. This would include such things as love, peace, purpose, and fulfillment. Jesus, speaking about His purpose for coming to earth, said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10b)NIV. In the beginning, when God put man on earth, God and man had a relationship which produced an abundant life.
But God did not create man like a robot who would automatically love and have fellowship with Him in return. He gave man a will and the freedom of choice.
Man could keep God's commandments or he could live his life apart from God. Man chose to go his own way. This resulted in a separation between God and man. God is completely holy and perfect, while man is sinful and imperfect. The Bible says, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isaiah 53:6) NIV. People continue to go their own way today. And this applies to all men. Each one of us is guilty. All of us have made decisions and done actions and had thoughts that were contrary to what God desires. We have been like wandering sheep.
The result of turning away from God and doing things that are displeasing to God is spiritual death—eternal death. The Bible also says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23) NIV. For now we will just look at the first half of this verse.
Paul states here that the consequences or payment we receive in return for our sins is eternal death. So you can see that on man's side we have eternal death, and on God's side there is eternal life. The last part of this verse talks about the free gift of God being eternal life, and that will become clearer as we develop this diagram. For now, we seem to be stuck on the death side.
(Next read Hebrews 9:27.) You can see as we look at this verse that each of us will die physically, and after we die physically we will face judgment. The Bible teaches that there will be a day of judgment when God will judge the actions and thoughts of every man and woman. In Revelation 20:15 the Bible says that "If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." NIV
So you can see that on man's side we have sinned, and the penalty of those sins is eternal death. Also we see that the consequences of our sins is for us to face the judgment of God. This gives a pretty dismal picture of our situation on this side of the chasm that separates us from God.
Human beings think they can devise their own way to obtain God's favour and blessing. They usually devise codes of conduct and requirements that need to be performed in order to please God. These include giving to charity, helping others, praying, attending church, or being baptized. However, God's Word states that all these efforts are useless in the sight of a holy God to obtain God's salvation. (Next read Ephesians 2:8-9.) From this verse we understand that good works will never suffice to meet God's requirements but that God's salvation is a gift that is obtained by grace alone through faith alone.
In spite of the fact that we have turned our backs on God and have disobeyed Him, God still loves us and desires that we know Him personally so that He can bless us.
Only one adequate bridge can cross the gulf that exists between man and God, and that bridge is through Jesus Christ and His death on the cross.
The Bible also says, "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). NIV
The Bible teaches that when He died on the cross, He died in our place. He paid the penalty and took the judgment for our sins so we could be forgiven for all our wrongdoings. The slate could be wiped clean.
Christ has made it possible for us to cross over to God's side and experience the full life He wants us to have. But we are not automatically on God's side. We need to take action; we need to ask God's forgiveness and ask Jesus Christ into our lives.
"The time has come," Jesus said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)NIV. Repentance means to reverse direction. We must give up our efforts to reach God by man's remedies and accept God's remedy for our sins.
The Bible also says, "Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12) NIV. We "reach out" to God through prayer and receive the gift of eternal life.
Now let's add another verse here (Revelation 3:20) that goes right along with John 1 : 12. This is Jesus Christ talking. (After the verse is read, you would continue.) So the door on which Jesus is knocking is the very center of our lives—the heart, the core, the innermost part of our lives. He is knocking and would like to come into our lives. So He wants us to open the door and invite Him in.
Let's take a look at John 5:24. This statement of Jesus summarizes all we have talked about. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears My word [the things we have been discussing here] and believes Him who sent Me [believe means to receive, that is, to invite Christ into our lives] has eternal life [a present possession] and will not be condemned [judgment] ; he has crossed over from death to life." NIV
How to Use "The Bridge" to Communicate the Gospel
The Bridge Illustration is one of many effective methods of presenting the Gospel. It has been used successfully to communicate the Gospel over many years and in many contexts, in groups and person-to-person. You will find it to be a useful and effective tool to add to your "arsenal" of ways to share the Gospel.
Many variations of The Bridge Illustration are in use. The presentation described here is one of the most commonly used variations. Your instructor may ask you to make adjustments in the format presented here in your workbook.
Learn the method he presents, and become skilled in that method. After you have used his method to present the Gospel to several non-Christians, you may also want to make a few adjustments in the format to make it more your own. This illustration will become a sharpened tool in your hands if these adjustments are based on actual experience in communicating the Gospel.
The Bridge Illustration can take as few as 15 minutes to present, or it can be stretched out to an hour or more. A normal presentation will last 20 to 30 minutes. The flexibility of this presentation is one of its greatest assets. It can be tailored specifically to a person or situation.
The way in which the Holy Spirit leads you to witness will vary in different situations. It is important to be observant and sensitive as you are relating to the person with whom you are sharing "The Bridge." In any type of ministry situation it is important to pray silently and ask God for guidance and wisdom, and to be able to communicate the Gospel clearly.
Experience has shown that it is helpful to have a few statements and questions in mind to help open the door for presenting the Gospel. Often an ideal time to share the Gospel is after a person has heard your personal testimony. You first want to get his response to your testimony by saying something like:
"Well, that's my story. What do you think?" Or, "Well, that's my story. What is your reaction to what happened to me?"
A more direct lead-in is: "How about you, Jim? Have you ever thought much about becoming a Christian?"
If there is time to talk further and the person still shows interest and capacity to hear more, you might say something like, "You know, Jim, there's a little diagram that really clarifies this thing of being a real Christian and knowing for certain that you have eternal life. If you have a few more minutes, may I sketch it out for you? When he says Yes, you may proceed.
If you feel the person has heard as much as he can absorb for now, you might say something like: "You know, Jim, there is a little diagram that really clarifies this thing of being a real Christian and knowing for certain that you have eternal life. When you have 15 or 20 minutes sometime, why don't we sit down and I will sketch it out for you? OK?" Then at a later date you can get his consent to go through the illustration with him.
In many situations you will find it natural to ask permission to show the illustration without having given your testimony. Some other door~openers are:
"What if someone walked up to you and said, 'I want to be sure that I have eternal life with God. I want to be sure that I am a real Christian. What should I do?' What would you say to him?"
"Mary, what is your impression of Christianity?"
"Mary, if someone were to ask you how to become a Christian, what would you tell him?"