THE GOOD NEWS PREAMBLE
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, made a marvelous personal discovery on May 24, 1738, for after wrestling with the subject of peace with God and salvation from sin for over a decade, that night he found salvation. As he wrote in his journal, “. . . one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans . . . while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust Christ, Christ alone for salvation: And an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
Many of us in the Evangelical Methodist Church have, in God’s grace, made the same discovery and enjoy the same assurance of salvation from our sins. We thus also have the honor to be God’s envoys, to represent Him to you, so please grant us 15 minutes to present to you the Gospel of Jesus Christ—the Good News, the same message that transformed John Wesley, and on which he based his subsequent ministry.
We have compiled this presentation from the same epistle which God used to reach John Wesley, Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, and it comes with our prayer that you, too, will have your heart strangely warmed and, like John Wesley, and us, find assurance of your eternal destiny.
THE GOOD NEWS INTRODUCTION
God seems very remote to most people, and, indeed, some even question whether He exists, though it is logically impossible to explain creation without a Creator. But is God really remote, or is this simply a misunderstanding on our part? Is it possible for a created being to have a relationship with the Creator? In any case, is it even important?
The Bible answers these questions fully and clearly, and discloses that the Creator actually wants an intimate relationship with each person in His creation; it also explains why God seems remote, and how that remoteness can be overcome. But before we look at these answers, let us consider the Bible.
The Bible is a unique book with a single purpose—to reveal God to His intelligent creation—the human race. We can be sure the Bible is indeed God’s revelation of Himself because the major agent of this revelation—Jesus Christ — claimed, before He died, that if His revelation was true, God would raise Him from the dead on the third day after His death. And God did! God granted this stupendous proof as unarguable evidence that Christianity is the true religion, the true way to God—let him who wishes to argue disprove the resurrection! Any logical weighing of the evidence has to conclude that the resurrection is a fact; indeed, Christianity is so certain of this fact that the New Testament itself states that Christianity stands or falls on the truth of this one fact.
One day the resurrected Jesus Christ confronted one of the most violent and active opponents of Christianity ever, Saul of Tarsus, and this most ardent of Jews became the most ardent champion of Christianity. After responding to the significance of the resurrection he experienced a unique conversion, and his awe at the grace that God had granted him never waned. In an instant he found the God whom he had previously struggled to know.
God inspired this brilliant man, now renamed Paul, to detail in clear logic the whole process of reconciliation (salvation) in a letter he wrote to the church in Rome. Then God preserved that letter and included it in the Bible to instruct the human race through the centuries. We will use only this one book of the Bible for our discussion, but rest assured, these truths are found throughout the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, and are by no means confined to The Epistle to the Romans.
The Bible calls this the “gospel,” a word that simply means good news or good announcement. The good news is that man can enter an intimate relationship with God—but that obviously infers some bad news, which is that man is initially separated from God. So, in God’s view—and as He is the Creator, His view is the only one which matters—man is estranged from Him, but He has provided a means to heal this separation, this estrangement.
Let us examine this God-given record of God’s view of man, and of His provision for man. Let us start with the bad news, for only after we have understood where man stands in God’s sight, can we understand why the news of reconciliation is good news, or even why it is important.
HOW GOD VIEWS YOU
A. God’s view of man
We hear a lot nowadays about how we are all God’s children and how much God loves the human race, but is that the whole truth? We can do no better than turn to the Bible for God’s own answer, for if we want to understand our relationship with God, we must have correct facts, His facts, not theories. Romans 3:10 states that:
There is none righteous, not even one.
and Romans 3:23 expands this by saying:
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
So, God classifies every human being as a sinner. This seems ominous, for it seems impossible for a Holy God to allow sinners into His presence, so we need to know what God says is the consequence of being a sinner. Romans answers this question.
B. The consequence of being a sinner
Romans 8:7 says:
The mind set on the flesh (i.e., a sinner) is hostile toward God.
So, we find that as sinners we are enemies of God, and Romans 6:23 explains the consequence thus:
The wages of sin is death.
—and contrasts this death with eternal life, thus indicating that this is an eternal dying—or what the Bible elsewhere calls “Hell.”
So, the consequence of being a sinner is to be at war with God during this earthly life, followed by an eternal separation from Him in the life to come—eternal confinement to Hell. Clearly, the Bible teaches that mortal man is in mortal danger. Man clearly needs saving, and this is what the Bible means when it talks about salvation.
Being a sinner seemed ominous, but the Bible’s explanation of the consequence of being a sinner is distinctly alarming, so we naturally ask whether there is any hope, whether a God of love has made any provision for man to escape this alarming future. Romans answers this question, too, and answers it with the most wonderful news ever to fall on the ears of man!
GOD’S PROVISION FOR YOU
A. The Good News
We have looked at the bad news, and it is bad indeed, for if we are at war with Almighty God, what hope is there for us? Fortunately, Romans 5:8 offers hope, for it reads:
God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
and Romans 6:23 expands that hope, for, in full, it reads:
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, the good news is good indeed—for the Bible tells us that even though we are enemies of God, He still loves us and has provided a way out of this dilemma—and it is free. How, then, does one accept this free gift?—for one has to accept a gift to benefit from it.
B. What must you do to be saved?
Romans 10:13 records God’s promise that whoever trusts Christ shall be saved: it reads:
Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
And Romans 3:28 makes it plain that all that is required for salvation is this call of faith, for it says:
For we maintain that a man is justified by faith, apart from works of law.
This last verse suggests that you don’t have to do any works or live in a special way to be saved; but can this be right? Romans 3:20 repeats this truth, for it says:
by works of the Law no flesh shall be justified in His sight.
So, clearly, the Bible teaches that you do not have to do any work to be saved. You do not have to live a righteous life to earn your salvation; you only have to call on God in faith to find salvation.
Romans 5:1 gives the result of having taken this step of faith:
Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, you have God’s word that if you place your faith in Jesus Christ you will be justified (released from the consequence of your sins) and be at peace with your God.
HOW CAN YOU BE SAVED?
A. One simple act!
God tells you what to do in Romans 10:9-11:
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
So, that is what God says you must do to be saved—nothing more—simply believe and confess.
B. What effect will this have on your life?
Man instinctively knows that recognizing Jesus as Lord will affect his life, and, indeed, Jesus Himself exhorts those who would be His disciples to “count the cost.” So, let us consider the effects of this step.
First, it will save you from judgment for your sins, for God gives you His word on this in Romans 10:9: You shall be saved.
Second, it will guarantee you eternal life, for Romans 6:23 says: The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Third, it will make Jesus Christ Lord of your life, for, as Romans 10:9 states, you must:
Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord.
This means He will have the right to control your life, and you can be assured that He will direct you to give up sinning, but in return you will have the comfort of being at peace with God (Romans 5:1). Scripture everywhere teaches that you are saved through faith, not through living a sinless life, but it is equally clear that having been saved, God expects the believer to live an upright life.
This obvious fact has caused many people through the centuries to reject God’s offer of eternal life; but surely it is utterly stupid to cling to the dubious pleasures of sin for a brief few years and face the certain, ominous, eternal judgment which Romans 2:5-6 describes:
But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God who will render to every man according to his deeds.
Let us summarize the spiritual facts we have noted from Romans, and thus overview God’s view of man and His provision for us. We have seen that God’s authoritative word (Jesus Christ’s resurrection proves its authority) clearly reveals that:
1. All men are sinners and thus cannot hope to see the glory of God.
2. This means all men are estranged from God.
3. The consequence of this estrangement is an eternal dying.
Clearly, God views sin very seriously indeed.
4. However, although we are sinners, God loves us.
5. Because of this love God offers all men forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
6. This offer is free—we do not have to earn or work for forgiveness and eternal life.
Clearly, God has been very gracious and generous.
7. The sole means of finding this eternal life is to call, in faith, on God to save you through the work of Jesus Christ.
8. God promises to forgive all who call on Him in faith and save them from the consequence of sin.
9. This faith is placed in Jesus Christ as God the Son, and thus recognizes His divine right of lordship.
10. The result of placing saving faith in Jesus Christ is peace with God and salvation from the consequence of sin (eternal dying).
Clearly, God has made salvation simplicity itself.
So, the Bible teaches that the only means of finding salvation from sin and thus finding eternal life is through placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. This is so simple that even a little child can do it—indeed, Jesus said exactly this! By making the means of salvation so simple, God has assured that absolutely every man, woman or child can be saved from the doom of sin and find eternal life.
As we have noted, the Bible makes it plain that the consequence of spurning this gift offered in God’s love is to face God’s certain wrath, and the eternal consequence of unforgiven sin—eternal separation from God, the source of all life—an eternal dying.
No person need face this horror, for Jesus Christ has made adequate provision for all and the means of salvation could not be simpler. He has done all the work; all you have to do is accept, in faith, the salvation He offers you. God says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” How do you respond?
ACCEPTING GOD’S GIFT
We trust you have understood where you stand in God’s all important view, and how simple it is to remedy this position. On the authority of Scripture, we implore you therefore, “Be reconciled to God.”
Romans 10:9-10 indicates how to do this—by a simple spoken prayer. If you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and you want to accept God’s free gift of salvation and eternal life, all you have to do is tell Him so. Do this in your own words; we suggest your prayer include the following points:
1. O my God, I recognize that I am a sinner.
2. I recognize that my sins separate me from You, and that I deserve to be judged for them.
3. I recognize I am unworthy of You, God, and that my only hope of forgiveness lies in the work Your son, Jesus Christ, did by dying for my sins.
4. I express my full faith in Jesus’ ability to save me from my sin.
5. I therefore call on you to save me, my God, and accept Your offer of salvation and commit my life to Jesus as Lord.
6. I recognize that as my Lord You have the right to control my life.
7. I thank You, my God, for Your assurance of my salvation.
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