Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Homegoing of a Spiritual Giant

As most all know, on February 21, evangelist Billy Graham went home to be with the Savior and Lord he served for most all of his life. He died in Montreat, NC at the family home there. Dr. Graham was 99 years old. But there were some who pointed out that he actually made it to age 100 considering that life begins as conception. That would have made him 100 years and 3-plus months of age at his passing.

Graham accomplished many things in his amazing life for God. Perhaps the most impressive of all was preaching face-to-face to well over 210 million people in 185 countries around the world. That is more than anyone else in the history of the faith.

As of 2008, Graham's estimated lifetime audience, including radio and television broadcasts, topped 2.2 billion. According to his staff, more than 3.2 million people responded to the invitation at Billy Graham Crusades to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. And that may be just the tip of the iceberg when adding all of those who responded in other venues over the decades.

Graham was on Gallup's list of most admired men and women 61 times—more than any man or woman in all of human history. And only Heaven will reveal how many people will be in that glorious location forever because of the vision, gifts and dedication of this one man who served God like few others ever have. He was, without question, one of the most influential Christian leaders of the 20th century and perhaps any century for that matter.

Billy Graham was sometimes criticized or ignored by some that did not agree with his methods, message or because they did not appreciate some he associated with during his ministry. And yet his message never seemed to vary or weaken.

As I watched the various programs, including his funeral service, there was one verse that seemed to be repeated constantly and one that characterized Him and his work. It was from John 14:6. “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” The other verse that always found its way into his messages on salvation was of course John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In many ways, his message was quite simple and repetitive. But it consistently hit the mark as scores responded to the message of the Gospel and came to Christ via faith alone.

Back in 1981, there was Graham crusade in my hometown. It was held at the old Memorial Stadium, the then-home of baseball’s Baltimore Orioles and the NFL Colts. My mom was a counselor for the meetings and my dad worked on the grounds crew. She was a believer, but he was not.

But on the last night of the 8-day crusade, after the field was almost cleared, my dad walked up to my mom near the empty platform he had helped construct. She assumed he was picking her up for the ride home—and he was. But of far greater importance was that he sought her out to inform her that he had trusted Christ during Graham’s last invitation that night. He was about 55 at the time and just never responded until that miraculous moment.

It was a night that changed my dad’s eternal destiny, unified our home in the faith, and something that validated the entire Graham ministry from day one even if my father was the only one to ever be saved in the six decades of evangelistic outreach.

Perhaps you have never accepted Christ as your personal Savior and found true forgiveness of sin and the glorious reality of a heavenly home someday. Obviously you cannot respond today to the live voice and invitation of Billy Graham to be saved. He is in heaven now. But because the Scriptures he shared are living, powerful and true, you can still respond to what the Bible says about becoming a part of God’s family right this minute. Te-read those two verses just mentioned above and add these to the mix. Roman 10:13 says, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." Or there is this one in Acts 16:31. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” These two verses leave little doubt on the outcome of salvation when one trusts Christ as Savior, don’t they??

Sincere belief from the heart is all the condemned thief dying along side of Jesus on the cross had and had time to do. Obviously he never entered a church service. He had no time to sing a single hymn, give an offering, be involved in ministry or do even one good deed. And what did his simple act of faith accomplish? Consider the Lord's words in that desperate and eternally significant moment. “And the Lord said to him ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’"  (Luke 23:43)

Does that sound too simplistic? Maybe so. In some ways, it really is. God made redemption as easy and clear for us as He possibly could but at infinite expense to Himself. Jesus paid it all.

But the tough part is admitting that we are lost helpless sinners and destined for an indescribably horrific eternity separated from Him. We must accept that avoiding that fate requires that we cry out for God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy. We must fully trust in His Son who died in out place. And when that is done from the heart, only then can we rest in the profound promise found in 1 John 5:11-13. "And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.”

Do you today know, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that you have eternal life in Christ?

If not, why would you wait another second to settle forever the single most important question anyone can decide concerning this life and especially destiny of the life to come?

"Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2)

Bill Breckenridge