The recent passing of the well-known evangelist, Billy Graham, has sparked responses from both friends and foes, especially within the Christian church. As surprising as it might sound, Billy Graham did have some foes. Why would a Christian be opposed to the beloved Evangelist? It is largely due to his very simple message of salvation. Many felt he gave a false message in that he did not strongly advocate repentance.
It is true that Billy Graham encouraged his listeners to come and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior, and every Christian who studies scripture very seriously realizes the importance and necessity of repentance. Without genuine repentance, a person cannot be saved. The Holy Spirit draws the individual and puts in his heart a desire to go to Christ Jesus.
It appears to me that there are at least two ways in which the Holy Spirit draws a person to Christ. One is by a very strong conviction of his sins and the consequences thereof. He may realize that he is heading to eternal destruction and, that revelation instills fear which causes him to cry out to God for mercy.
Jonathan Edwards, a man through whom God moved during the “Great Awakening,” used a fire and brimstone message to bring conviction upon the masses. His most popular and possibly his greatest sermon is entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Some who heard him give this sermon stated that they could feel the flames of hell’s fire as Edward’s words fell upon their ears, while fear gripped their souls. Many were saved through Edward’s sermons.
The second way in which the Gospel can be proclaimed is to preach the love of God. Love is the most powerful force in the earth, even greater than fear. Billy Graham’s sermons were certainly not like those of Edward’s and were given from a totally different perspective, more from the position of God’s love.
It can be debated which brings about the best results, but if a soul is brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, it has brought about positive results. I was saved through messages which related more of fire and brimstone, while my brother was saved when he heard the glorious news that God could, would, and did (does) love him. It was the love of God that drew him to the Lover of his soul.
It was years after my conversion that I began to taste of the love of God as I sense it today. Which way is best? It probably depends upon the person. Apparently, the Lord uses both means to draw souls to Himself. Isn’t it great that God is not limited to our opinions and preconceived ideas?
Billy Graham was a man of very strong moral character and so unlike many of the present day TV preachers. He never used the ministry’s donations to live extravagantly and for his own personal gain. He was a man who remained faithful to the wife of his youth. While there has been criticism of this man for his message, very few have found fault with his integrity and the standards to which he held and by which he lived.
Some have found fault with him for his association with the Pope, which I also have a problem with to some degree. But, lest we judge prematurely or harshly, let us remember an account in scripture.
The account is found in II Kings 3. After the death of King Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel. Jehoram, the son of Ahab and king of Israel, sent to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to go with him to battle against the king of Moab. Note Jehoshaphat’s commitment to Jehoram:
II Kings 3:7…and he said, “I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.” Jehoshaphat linked himself with this king, who was evil and against God in every way. Does this sound strange to our ears? Yes, it does. But let’s continue with the account. Jehoshaphat, being a godly man, asked that they might inquire of a prophet concerning the battle. Elisha was called and when he came before the two kings he said, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee” (II Kings 3:14).
Elisha did not condemn Jehoshaphat for binding himself with Jehoram. He never referred to it at all. Why? God didn’t tell him to. How did God look at this situation? God favored Israel and spoke through Elisha instructing them how to gain victory in this battle through very unconventional means. God gave the victory to Israel. Am I saying that Billy Graham sinned in going to the pope or joining with him in some particular events? I cannot say, for I am not his judge. It’s not something I would think I would do; nevertheless, God knows what was in the man’s heart and He is the Righteous Judge who will render to every man according to their deeds.
Coming back to Billy Graham’s message: Billy Graham said himself that if ten percent of those who went forward and professed salvation were truly saved, he would be happy with those results. I might say that if only one percent were genuinely saved, at least there are some added to the kingdom of God and have gained eternal life.
Is it possible that God used Billy Graham? Is it possible that some were saved? We must be careful when we judge another.
Billy Graham said that God called him to be an evangelist. He was not a pastor, a teacher, an apostle, or a prophet, but an evangelist. If God called him to this office, did he fulfil the obligations of that office? Or, did he dilute the message? By sending the converts to “the church of their choice,” was he sending them into Satan’s camp?
If they were truly saved, would not the Holy Spirit, that great leader and teacher, lead them out of the “church of their choice” and lead into the church of His choice? Or do we limit the Holy Spirit and question His ability to guide those washed in the blood of Jesus Christ? Where was Billy Graham to send those who were saved? To your church or mine? To the First Baptist Church, The First Presbyterian Church, The Adventist Church, The Church of God, The Assemblies of God, The First Church of Prophesy, etc? He was not the one responsible for their spiritual growth, the churches were and are; those called to be pastors, teachers, prophets and apostles (Eph. 4:11).
The responsibility lies on those who stand behind the pulpits of those churches to which the saved chose to attend. It seems that Billy Graham fulfilled the call God gave him. No doubt he made mistakes. Certainly, he was not perfect. Some things he preached and promoted might have been improved upon, but then who among us does not need improvement?
Who could not use a little more anointing, a little more understanding, a little more holiness in our personal lives? I hate the way the scripture, “Judge not, that ye be not judged,” is so often used by those who wish to continue in sin, but I feel it is very appropriate here and let us allow Jesus to do the judging and let us concentrate on walking a little more righteously in this evil world.