I never met the Reverend Billy Graham and I never heard him preach in person, but I know the message Billy Graham was about – The message that Jesus Christ forgives sin. And for all the controversy in the Church with some of the positions and decisions Billy Graham made in his life and ministry, his message was one that is both greatly needed in the conversation of our day, and one that will not be tolerated.
He Preached Sin
The influential voices of our day are not preachers, because faithful preachers of the Word of God preach sin, and to preach sin in our culture is to preach “intolerance”. To be for the Bible is to be against what God despises, and our culture does not accept such a message. God does not despise people made in His image; He does despise the evil of sin that every man, woman and child was born infected by. Billy Graham would not point merely to external factors as the greatest problem, but the virus of sin in the hearts of every man. He would not rely merely on laws, protests, and politicians to solve the problems of our day, he would herald the only answer for sin – A Savior, Jesus Christ!
He Preached Christ
Though Billy Graham had a place of immense influence with politicians and presidents, he came as an ambassador of a greater leader. His message was not swayed by the wind of cultural acceptability or political correctness, his message came from the Author of Salvation, the Creator of the Universe. Today, town halls and marches to discuss problems and create man-made solutions abound, but hearing from God empties rooms and draws nothing but critique. Religion is considered personal, and Jesus considered a figure of an old-school America (or backwoods America). To preach Christ, as preachers and people, is to choose a path of being marginalized. Never again will America allow a Billy Graham a seat at the table or a position of such influence, because never again will America listen to the voice of God or champion the miracle of salvation accomplished by Jesus.
He Preached Compassion
Though Billy Graham was known as a “fiery preacher”, he exuded the love and compassion of Christ. Conservative, Bible-believing Christians all-to-often just try to talk louder to make their case or win their argument. When Jesus looked upon Jerusalem and saw that the people were confused and hurting, like sheep without a shepherd, He was filled with compassion. It’s a rare word these days, because it means keeping your mouth shut (being slow to speak), putting others before yourself (quick to listen), and not accepting raging rhetoric and emotional outbursts as appropriate behavior (slow to anger). It sees not a moment to be won, but people who need to be cared for, with the greatest care someone can give being the love of Christ through the hands of His people. The answer will never be in laws, protests, town-halls, hashtags, pundits on FOX or CNN, metal-detectors, stricter background checks, better mental health care, active-shooter training, yelling parents or pictures of grieving kids … it will only always be through the compassion of a Savior who left heaven, took on human flesh, paid the ultimate price for our sin, rose from the grave, commissioned a church to make disciples, is seated at the throne of God, is sovereign over the planet He created, and will return to judge the living and the dead.
But God …
Though from my vantage point of a local church pastor in a small community looking at the national conversation of important people and powerful politicians it all seems headed in the wrong direction … We are never without hope! Great Awakenings have dotted the history of our country; awakenings of people to their greatest need of forgiveness of sin through the power of a Savior. Awakenings brought about not by the plans of men, or programs of governments, but by the breath of God. Unless the Lord builds the house, the people labor in vain; and unless the Spirit moves there is no power. So we pray … and seek the face of God for His gracious help in our time of need. And we preach … and declare the timeless truths of the God of all Creation. Knowing that men’s hearts are the problem, Christ’s death is the answer, and only the Spirit of God can make the change!
Please please please pray with me for this move of God in our day!