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FIRST-PERSON: Bad news & eternity

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–We have always thought of the Gospel as good news. In fact, the Greek word evangelion, which is translated “Gospel,” literally means “good news.” And certainly the fact that Jesus Christ died and rose again to give us salvation and victory over sin is good news, indeed!

However, for many people in the world, the Gospel will be bad news. They will discover that Jesus Christ is the standard of judgment for whether or not one receives salvation and enters into eternal life in heaven.

Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV). The Apostle Paul testified of that day, “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:16, ESV).

Many people, even in our own society, have heard the Gospel but have chosen not to believe and accept it. Some think their good works or faithful and perfunctory attendance at church will save them. Many humanistic thinkers in our postmodern society are convinced their own efforts, or whatever they chose to believe, are of equal value to faith in Jesus Christ.

Then there are those around the world who have been exposed to the Gospel but choose to follow other religions. They are going to be terribly disillusioned one day to discover all roads do not lead to God. Only the one through faith in the blood of Jesus can cleanse our sins.

However, the greatest tragedy is not found in the arrogant self-righteous or those who reject a Christian witness. It is found among those who have never heard the Good News that Jesus saves. There are many in our own country, or neighborhood, who have never been confronted with a clear evangelistic witness of Christ.

Multitudes around the world live in pockets of lostness where they have never even heard the name of Jesus. They are likely to live their entire lives without an opportunity to hear, understand and respond to the life-changing message of God’s redemptive love. For many, it is going to be quite disturbing to arrive at the judgment throne of God to find that faith in Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation. And they didn’t even have a chance to hear and believe!

Do we think they are satisfied to follow religious traditions that give no hope and assurance of eternal life? Are they happy to be in bondage to legalistic rituals that do nothing to give them victory over sin and bring peace to their lives? Is lostness and dwelling in spiritual darkness a preferable choice to experiencing the grace of God and finding forgiveness of sin?

For them, the Gospel is bad news because it describes who joins God in His eternal Kingdom and who spends an eternity in hell.

Whose mission and responsibility is it to proclaim the Gospel to all peoples? Who has our Lord commissioned to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth? Every believer and every church.

What are we doing to make sure the Gospel is good news to the whole world?

Will we pray for those without Christ? Will we give sacrificially that God-called missionaries can go and make disciples of all nations? Will we offer our lives to be used to take the Gospel to the remaining pockets of lostness that all people everywhere might know Jesus?
Jerry Rankin is president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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  • Jerry Rankin