God Loves You
September 1, 2003 - One of the most familiar verses in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us that "God so loved the world." Immediately, that raises questions. If God loves the world, why is there so much trouble? Why do we have disasters, like the recent wildfires in the western United States or the tornadoes in the Midwest? Why does God allow bitterness and hatred between nations? Why do we have terrorism, lust and greed? Why are some of our greatest minds employed in creating armaments of destruction?
A Message by Billy Graham
Just a moment! If you want to know about the troubles of the world, if you want to know what man is like and what God is like, if you want to know about human history and about personal redemption, you come to the Bible. Here is our manual, our guide, our map.
As we open the Bible, we need to ask, first of all, what is God like? We are told that He is a God of holiness. He cannot look upon sin. His eyes are too pure to behold iniquity. The Bible also says that God is a God of judgment. It speaks of the wrath of God, and of a Day of Judgment coming. One day, you and I will stand before God and give account of our words, our actions and our motives.
But the Bible has something else wonderful to say about God. It tells us that God is love. Have you ever wondered why God placed us on this planet? What our purpose is in being here? It is because God is love.
God created on this planet people whom He could love and who would return love to Him. Reverently speaking, God was lonely. He wanted someone to love and someone who would love Him. That sounds incredible, but the Bible tells us that God loved and that He created us and put us on this planet. But in order that we would not be little puppets who would obey simply when He pulled a string, God gave us freedom of choice.
So in the Paradise He created for man, there was no war, no police force, no racial discrimination, no hunger, no poverty. And God said: "You can enjoy all the fruit of this garden except for one tree. If you love me and obey me, we will build a wonderful world together. But if you disobey and rebel, and if you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will suffer and die" (Cf. Genesis 2:16-17).
So God stood back to see what man was going to do with his gift of freedom. It wasn't long before he deliberately rebelled against God—and that's where all our troubles began. Man began to suffer and to die. He began to know war and poverty and hate. We became alienated and separated from God. We inherit sin from our parents—but when we reach the age of accountability, we ourselves choose to sin, and then we practice sin. In other words, we are sinners by inheritance, by choice and by practice.
The Bible says that the result of sin—the wages of sin—is death (Cf. Romans 6:23). We are all under sentence of death. But what kind of death? The Bible speaks of three different kinds. There is physical death; every cemetery testifies to the fact that we are each appointed to die. Death is total in every generation. If Christ tarries, within a hundred years we will all be gone, and that is the result of sin.
Another death is called spiritual death. Living inside our bodies is the soul, which was created in the image of God and was made for fellowship with God. Because of that, only God can satisfy the soul. We can make money. We can reach the pinnacle of popularity. We can acquire great political power. We can reach for pleasure and beauty. But none of these things satisfy; none of them fulfill our lives because we remain spiritually dead.
A third kind of death, eternal death, is taught in the Bible. Jesus called it hell. We can have hell in this life by separation from God, but there is also the hell to come. Jesus used such language as "lost," "perished," "condemned already," "punishment" and "fire." These words describe something terrible. They mean that when we die without God, we go into eternity still separated from Him.
But God saw our predicament. The Bible says that in spite of our sin and our rebellion, God still loves us—because God is love. God loved the world and did not want it to perish. He looked down on our rebellion. He wanted to save us. He wanted to save us from destroying ourselves. He wanted to save us from our suffering and from the judgment that faces us. So God decided to become man. Think of it! That is who Jesus Christ was, the God-man, the incarnation of Almighty God.
The Bible explains it this way: "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son" (John 3:16, NIV). In other words, in order that He might communicate His love to us, God took the form of His Son.
Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, walked among us and showed us what the Father is like. So when I want to know about God, I take a long look at Jesus. I watch Him as He makes the blind to see, the mute to talk, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear and the dead to rise. I watch Him feed the hungry thousands, and I know that He is interested in the social problems of the world. I see Him in Samaria talking to a woman of another race, and I know that He has love and racial understanding. And I know we have a loving God.
Yet Jesus Christ did not come to earth simply to live among us or to teach us a different way of life. He came for another purpose: to die on the cross. He said, "For this very reason I came to this hour" (John 12:27, NIV). When Jesus was crucified outside Jerusalem—when they put a crown of thorns on His brow, nails in His hands and a spear in His side—His heart was bursting with love. He said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34, KJV).
He was only about 33 years old at the time, and legions of angels were ready to come to His rescue. But He stayed on the cross and died for the sins of the whole world. You see, He died also for the sins of this generation—for your sins and for my sins. He died in our place. He took the death we deserve, the judgment we deserve, the hell we deserve. Jesus Christ bore them Himself on the cross. I don't understand how God did it, but the Bible says that He, who knew no sin, became sin for us. He was numbered with the transgressors. He took our lust, our grief, our pride, our jealousy, our prejudice. Jesus became the sin-bearer, the substitute, the one who died in our place.
So when I see Jesus on the cross, I see myself there. He died for me. And from that cross God is saying to the whole world, "I love you. I am proving my love by giving my Son for you." And because of Christ's death, it is as if God is saying to you and to me, "I can forgive you, but I will do more than that: I will justify you. I will place you in my sight as though you had never committed a single sin. I will forget your sins."
One of the biggest problems with which psychiatrists wrestle today is the matter of guilt. Many people are troubled by guilt feelings. How wonderful it is to come to the cross and to have all our guilt wiped away, to have all our sins forgiven, so that we stand cleansed in the sight of God. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin because, as John 3:16 tells us, God so loved the world that He sent His Son to die for us.
But that is not the end. They put Jesus in a grave, but on the third day He rose from the dead. I am not speaking about a dead Christ, for Christ is alive. I am not speaking about a cross alone, but about an empty tomb. Christ is risen! He is seated at the right hand of God the Father right now, interceding for us and doing His high priestly work.
The Bible says something else is going to take place. Jesus Christ is coming back to this earth. He is the future Ruler, and I can say positively that the future belongs to the Christian because of Christ. Not to terrorism, not to Communism, not to materialistic capitalism—but to those who are following Christ. We ought to do everything we can to bring peace and to heal the social ills and problems of the world, yet ultimately we know that the world is headed toward Armageddon. If it were not for the coming of Jesus Christ, the human race would destroy itself.
When the world stands at the brink of self-destruction, the Bible says that God will speak again. His Son will come back as King of kings and Lord of lords to reign forever and ever. And what a glorious world that will be!
What About You?
Now we come to your part of John 3:16: "whoever believes in him." Put your name there in place of the word "whoever." Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Is He living in your heart? If so, the last part of John 3:16, "shall not perish but have eternal life," is yours as well. What a promise! And it can be yours today. You can be born again; He will make you a new person if you repent of your sins, receive Christ by faith, and begin to serve Him and obey Him. Will you do it?