Instead of today’s scheduled post, today, we recognize the passing of a great evangelical leader, Rev. Billy Graham. If we are to assess the life and work of Billy Graham, two main things stand above everything else: evangelism and personal integrity.
We know Billy Graham because of his evangelistic zeal more than anything else. His efforts to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to people are astounding. To be sure, his methods became dated over the years, and his crusades had their missteps. However, the man’s light did not burn under a basket; it glowed from a lampstand for all to see. The work of Billy Graham in evangelism called those who heard him to think about where they stood in relation to Christ Jesus. Ponder such a thing. Where are you right now with Christ?
The question commands reflection and demands an answer. It beckons conversion. It calls for repentance. The faithful preaching of the gospel never affirms humanity it its sin and separation from God; instead, it calls the sinner to step from darkness into light. It speaks with urgency, and Graham placed a premium on dealing with the reality of the inevitability of death and judgment by God. In a chapel message preached at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1982, he highlighted the truth of tomorrow’s potential non-existence for some in attendance. We might wrestle with the interplay between process and event in conversion, but we must not forget the urgency of the gospel’s call. News of violence and accidents reminds all of us of Graham’s correct observation: there may not be a tomorrow for you.
Not content to serve as only a model evangelist (only!), Graham also displayed a personal integrity no one can deny. His unwillingness to meet or eat alone with a woman who was not his wife may receive mockery; however, do you know who didn’t mock him? Ruth Bell Graham! While the world may does not respect those with whom it shares a bed, Billy Graham certainly did. One does not find the Billy Graham rule on the pages of Scripture; however, one does find the call to flee youthful lusts there. Let the elites and erudites of the world mock the simple man from North Carolina; they still shill out their money to watch movies depicting the kind of love that Billy Graham had for his wife. All of this said, I have not even commented on his ministry’s financial integrity which was also excellent.
So what does the common Christian do in reflecting on the life of Rev. Billy Graham?
We remember that the 20th Century’s foremost evangelist said things like “repent” and “we deserved that cross.” We should do the same. We remember a man who made it his life’s work to speak well and make much of Christ Jesus. We remember a man who made a point to love his wife.
We realize that no man lives this life forever. Born in 1918, the man seemed a permanent fixture; now he has breathed his last until the day of resurrection. There comes no February 22, 2018 on this earth for Rev. Billy Graham, the humble preacher from North Carolina. Reader, you do not know if you will see the next date on the calendar either. We live in a broken and a wild world. Your body, your mind, the whole of creation groans under the weight of sin, and you cannot remove that weight yourself. Do you dare carry it yourself unto judgment? Is your plea going to be “I was a good person. I never stole or killed anyone!”? Will you say to the crucified and risen Judge, “I did my best. Surely you understand.”? What is your confession of faith? Is it, “Yeah, lay off me. I believe in God and Jesus and all that.”
Would you resolve to know nothing but Christ and him crucified? Would you turn your back on your sin and cast it into the mud to follow Christ Jesus? Submit to him that your sins would be among those counted against Christ on the cross and that you would receive his perfect righteousness. Sinner, repent; Christian, revel in this glorious salvation.
Further reading: What I Would Have Done Differently: Billy Graham's Regrets, In His Own Words