Listen to evangelist Billy Graham preach the “good news” from John 3:16.
This message was given in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 1957.
This message was delivered in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1973.
What is the message of good news? It has to do with the all-sufficient and completed work that God has accomplished in Christ to remedy the problem of our sin. The good news begins with the bad news that we all are sinners. The Bible says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The myriad of evils and problems we observe happening all around us confirm that humanity has an internal problem that you nor I as individuals, nor mankind as a whole, can solve. If we are honest, we all must admit that in thought, word and deed we have acted contrary to what is morally right and good. We have broken God’s laws and commandments. Scripture overwhelmingly testifies to this problem of sin, and experiential reality bears it out as an obvious and undeniable truth. This sin, which affects our very nature, not only separates us from ourselves and others, but also from a holy and righteous God. Its primary characteristic is self-centered pride. Its grandest delusion is to believe that there is no God, and if their is, we have no need of Him. God has made himself known in nature, conscience and ultimately in Jesus Christ. Yet we disregard this revelation given for our benefit. God’s eternal power and divine nature can be clearly seen in the things he has made, and his specific will and ways are revealed to us in the Bible (Romans 1:19-20). We have all turned to our own ways and ignored God our Creator (Isaiah 53:6). Sin and evil are antithetical to God’s very nature as perfectly holy, righteous and just. Therefore sin requires judgment and punishment. If sin is not dealt with it will result in eternal separation from God.
So, there is the fact of sin, and that we are helpless and hopeless in this condition. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot earn God’s favor or our salvation through our good deeds. We need a way out from under God’s righteous judgment. We need a way of salvation.
Now, the good news is that God himself has provided that way of salvation. What we could not do, God, out of his grace and mercy, did for us. The good news is that the love of God is so great for you, me and everyone in the world that He gave us His Son, Jesus Christ, to take upon himself through his death on the cross, all our sins for which we would otherwise have been judged and condemned by God. The Bible says,
“…God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).
God became man in Jesus. He was born of a virgin. As the Son of God he was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). The life, death and resurrection of Jesus restores our relationship to our Creator God and provides salvation for all of us. In the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God affirms that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah sent from the Father and vindicates all that Jesus taught and claimed to be as the savior of the world.
Now, what makes the gospel message “good news” is not only that God has provided salvation, but that you can be assured that this salvation applies to you personally and individually. In other words, it is true that God loves you and Jesus died for you and therefore you too can be saved. The Bible says,
“God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his one and only Son into the world so that we might live through him. Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9, 10).
The salvation God provided, he provided for you. The children’s song “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” contains two profound theological truths. They are, that Jesus (God) loves you, and you can know that because the Bible tells you so. You can be assured that it is God’s will that you be saved. The Bible says,
“…God our Savior,…wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:4-6)
There is no limitation as to who can be saved (Isaiah 45:22; John 3:16-17, 20:30-31) . In the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross, God has decisively and completely made atonement for the sins – past, present and future – of every individual. God has reconciled us to himself through Christ’s death on the cross (1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2). This means that anyone can be saved. This is the message of good news. The apostle Paul writes,
“Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
Since salvation is for all individuals, it is accessible to all individuals. How can you receive this salvation? God offers it to everyone as a free gift to be received by faith (Romans 5:2). The Bible says,
“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Romans 3:21-26)
The nature of faith allows for every individual to respond in humble trust in Christ’s work on their behalf, not in their own works or merits. God declares the sinner justified or righteous when they believe. Their sins are forgiven. The Bibles says,
“For we conclude that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28).
Faith is a disposition of humility that admits that you need salvation and that you cannot accomplish or earn it on your own (Galatians 2:16). It is complete trust in the work of another – Jesus Christ – on your behalf. God offers salvation to all, and faith is the condition upon which it is received (Galatians 3:8). Out of his love and grace, God has already accomplished salvation in Christ for all sinners and designed it to be received by faith that it might be appropriated by all. What we must do is simply believe. This faith is not to be considered “a work” meriting salvation. Faith is humbly agreeing with all that God has revealed about our human predicament in sin and the way of salvation in Christ. God has made salvation to be on the basis of simple faith so that it would be available to all. Social, economic, racial or any other factors, such as the good works we may have performed in the name of religion or otherwise, have no weight in the matter of salvation. We cannot be saved by our good deeds. God and God alone has the prerogative to decide how we are to be saved. It was a sovereign divine decision that salvation would be found only in Christ, the chosen one, and be received by faith. God grants salvation to those who humbly, willingly and freely repent and believe. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Neither is faith a mindless leap in the dark. Faith is trusting in what we have good reason to believe is true. Faith, reason and truth go hand in hand.
Since it is God himself who offers to everyone this free gift of salvation, and God cannot lie, it is a true and sincere offer that applies to each and every sinner. Furthermore, the Spirit of God is always present when this “good news” is spoken. By virtue of the content of the message the Spirit is at work in the hearts and minds of the hearers for the purpose of enabling them to respond in faith. God desires the salvation of all individuals. Their is no hindrance to belief except the person’s own willful resistance to the Spirit and rejection of the message in unbelief (John 8:24; Luke 7:30, 22:67-68; Acts 7:51, 13:46, 18:6, 28:23-28). Again, God “wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He is “not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Moreover, in the New Testament, the terms assigned to Israel in the Old Testament are now associated with those who believe; terms like “elect” or “chosen.” Believers are now viewed in light of the meaning and implications of these terms as they applied to Israel as God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Believers in Christ are also considered by God to be among “the elect” or “the chosen people of God.” As to salvation, both Jew and Gentile are now on equal footing. For the Jews, this was a radical shift in thinking with profound implications (see Romans 9-11). In the decision and act of faith, there is no special privilege or merit to claim, for faith as the way of salvation removes all boasting in merit or special privilege. That is the nature of faith and therefore that is what God desires. It is a laying down of all pride and self-righteousness. Moreover, Paul always contrasts faith with works, showing us that the decision of faith is not to be considered “a work” or “contribution” to one’s salvation.
Given that we are made in God’s image, we have both reason and will. God wants a reciprocal response of love that genuinely comes from us as human persons made in his image. Therefore, his love and grace can either be accepted or rejected. God sends no one to hell. Those who stubbornly reject God’s offer of salvation send themselves there. God is a God of love, grace, life and salvation. The Bible says,
“For God so loved the world that the gave his only Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18).
This is the “good news.” God loves you! In light of God’s great love and grace demonstrated in Christ’s death on your behalf, why would you choose to reject that love and saving grace? He bids you come to him and find rest for your soul. Receive by faith the gift of salvation and the eternal life he offers you today. God loves you and sent Jesus to be your Lord and Savior. This is truly good news!
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