What does a sinner need to know about sin in order to be saved?
Often, in explaining sin in evangelism, people tend to take one of two avenues. On the one hand, people can be so reductionistic about sin that all they desire to do is get the person they are witnessing to to say that at least one time, at some point in their lives, they may have committed a little tiny sin.
On the other hand, some people are so desirous not to sell the gospel short that they insist on using sin as a billy club to beat someone over the head with, almost insisting on long and specific lists of sin before they will move on to talk about the life that is in Christ.
I wonder if we might not appropriately sum up the issue of the knowledge of sin in evangelism in the word "helpless." When I am talking to someone about the gospel, what I want them to do is not just say that one time a long time ago they did something they should not have (though they most certainly did). Nor am I interested in a annotated enumeration of their manifest depravity (though it would surely be long and gruesome).
What I want them to see is that no matter how bad they think they are, their sin has made them helpless to have a relationship with God. I want them to see that Christ is their only hope.
A person who thinks they can help themselves might only have one acknowledged sin, or they might have a long list. But they are still holding out hope that they can somehow fix their relationship with God. They are not yet ripe for the gospel. It is perhaps best to leave them alone for now and come back to them later.
A person who recognizes that they are helpless apart from Christ alone will recognize that because they see the true nature of their sin, whether it is one sin or more than they can remember.
So in evangelism, while we need not dodge specific sins, it seems to me that we need to focus on the helplessness that sin has created in our lives.
What do you think?