The Good, the bad, the worst and the best

By James Merritt

I love to play golf—or at least love to try! Recently, I was invited to play two of the top 100 courses in America, one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and one in Hutchinson, Kansas. I love to play with caddies because they really do help you choose clubs and read greens, and if they are open, you have a one-on-one chance to share the gospel while enjoying God’s beautiful creation and walking 5-6 miles at the same time.

My first caddy, Dan, was a veteran and a strong believer who wanted to talk creationism non-stop. Since I believe in the biblical account that God indeed created the earth, no problem here. My second caddy, Dillon, was a young man who had just finished his first year in college. As we were getting ready to tee off, I said the same thing I always say, “ I’m a pastor and I like to talk about spiritual things. Do you mind if we talk about spiritual matters?” In all my years of playing, only two caddies have declined. Dillon readily agreed. I begin a conversation that is leisurely, unhurried and takes the time to let things “marinate” and let the Spirit “activate.”

I then ask two questions: “Are you sure you have a relationship with God” and if so, “On what basis do you believe after death that relationship will continue forever?” Though Dillon had grown up in church, he honestly told me he had no assurance he had any true relationship to God. I then said I wanted to share four simple things with him: the bad news, the worst news, the good news and the best news.

1. The bad news: We are all sinners separated from God.
I began by asking Dillon if he had ever done anything wrong. Of course the answer is always “yes.” I explained that what we call “failures,” or “mistakes,” God calls sin. We have all sinned, and that sin is a barrier between God and us because God is holy and perfect, and we are not.

2. The worst news: There is nothing we can do to take care of our sin problem.
I told Dillon that we all try in one way or another to take care of our sin problem on our own. We try religion, but that just makes us religious sinners. We try baptism, but that just makes us wet sinners. We try giving money to the church or the poor, but that just makes us generous sinners. We try good works, but that makes us good sinners. We try to start over and do better, but that just makes us better sinners. In the end, it’s like trying to take paint off the wall—we are still stuck with the stain of sin.

3. The good news: Jesus did for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
I shared with Dillon how God loves us so much and desires a relationship with us so badly, He sent Jesus to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He lived the perfect, sinless life we could not live, so He could die for our sins and imperfections. To prove He accomplished this, God raised Him from the dead to show our sin debt was completely paid in full.

4. The best news: God’s forgiveness and eternal life is a free gift, and all we have to do is receive it.
I told Dillon that you can’t buy what has already been paid for. Salvation is a gift of God’s grace, and to have it, you have to do three simple things:

  • Realize you are a sinner. This was easy because by then, Dillon had already admitted it.
  • Repent of your sin. Here, I took my time and carefully explained that to turn to God involved a turning from sin and a past life living for self. It is a 180 degree turn from a sinful past to a forgiven present and a God-filled future.
  • Receive Christ as Lord and Savior. I quoted Romans 10:9 and explained the need of trusting Jesus as Savior and surrendering to Him as Lord.

Then I asked three questions which is the close to the conversation:

  • Do you understand what you have heard, and does it make sense to you? At this point I asked Dillon to go through the points with me to make sure the gospel has been made clear.
  • Is there any reason you can give God that God would accept why you could not receive Christ into your life? I have yet to have anyone give me one that they really thought was valid.
  • Would you be willing to let me pray for you and then you pray with me to Christ alone for your salvation? Dillon said “Yes, I want to get this nailed down in my life.” On the 9th green, he asked Christ to save him and forgive him.

I told him that was why I was there—not primarily to play golf but to share the gospel—which by the way was a greater thrill than the golf! So the good news for us is we have the best news to share for all under the bad news and the worst news that in Jesus all will turn out for our good and God’s glory. We just need to make and take every opportunity to report the news!

Published May 30, 2018

James Merritt

Pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.