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Today is Billy Graham's 94th birthday — and the evangelist said he's looking forward to whatever else the Lord has for him.
never expected I would live this long, outliving my beloved wife, Ruth,
as well as many friends and loved ones," Mr. Graham said. "I believe God
must still have a purpose for keeping me here, and I look forward to
seeing what that might be."
When I was a teenager, I was a counselor at a Billy Graham crusade in Minneapolis. The scope of the event was amazing. Each night, we were bussed in to the Metrodome, the football stadium of the Minnesota Vikings. The stadium filled with people every night — people who heard the message of the Gospel. There was an altar call each night as people went forward to either accept or learn more about the message of Jesus. I'm no longer convinced that this type of evangelism is the best — there are stats that show the importance of follow-up and discipleship in people's lives when it comes to massive crusades like this. However, there is no way to deny the unmistakable influence Billy Graham has had on the kingdom of God. Millions around the world have heard about Jesus because of Graham's work.
At age 94, Graham is finishing his 31st book (31st!) which talks about the simple truths of God's love and forgiveness. He was involved in this year's political process, and his son Franklin has continued in ministry through Samaritan's Purse. Graham has had a busy life. I once saw a documentary on him, outlining all he had done: the millions of people he spoke to, the leaders who sought out his advice. Graham and his family made many sacrifices over the years. He was gone a lot while his children grew up, and his wife, Ruth, took on a lot of responsibility.
The life Billy Graham has led would probably not be for everyone. But I am grateful for the influence he has had and for the message he preached.
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Comment by Beatrice:
Mr. Graham said "I believe God must still have a purpose for keeping me here, and I look forward to seeing what that might be."
I wonder if it was God's purpose for Billy to advocate for the losing presidential candidate -- or was that just Billy's mistake? Either way, it will probably go down as the last public act for which he will be remembered. A good lesson for all of us to think carefully before we act.
Comment by BDB:
For Billy Graham's last Crusade in Los Angeles, my church had the privledge of being the lead church to organize the follow-up for all the other churches. One of our giftings as a church is that as a non-denominational one-location church we can be neutral in dealing with all the different types of churches that provide decision counselors at these events. When people come from all over, you need churches from all over to talk with them.
Though, once in a seminary class with some pastors of small churches, we discussed the whole follow-up program idea. The professor noted that in his experience, the strongest, most complete conversions didn't require any follow-up at all. These were the people who accepted Christ, immediately read through the Bible, and did a variety of other things to grow on their own, attach themselves to a church and serve, etc.
What I liked best was the simplicity of Graham's call for a decision. Very matter-of-fact, very simple. And then hordes of people would go forward. It's really all the prayer that goes into the events ahead of time. But it does change some lives.
Comment by Ria:
Happy Birthday Billy Graham!
Even if his methods aren't your preferred style for evangelism, he's the only really famous Christian leader I know of who's enjoyed such respect and a good reputation throughout his career. That's saying something. "A good name is better than great riches."
Comment by SpecObs:
Amen! I think I remember watching the same if not a similar documentary on Billy Graham's life on PBS. Truly a great American and Christian - I just hope someone can take up his mantle.
Comment by Dana:
Comment by Kat:
I think that any mention of Billy Graham must be accompanied by a warning about his errant doctrine. People trust Boundless to recommend trustworthy, Biblical resources, and a post that celebrates his birthday may lead unsuspecting people to seek out his teaching and resources.
Although Billy Graham uses the language of the Bible and seems to preach the gospel, if you dig a little deeper you will find that he is sadly leading people astray from the Biblical truth that Jesus ALONE is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no man comes to the Father except through him. Denying this foundational and fundamental truth is a denial of the gospel itself, and makes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ irrelevent. Billy Graham has sadly come to deny what Jesus Christ himself said about who He was and His role as our only Lord and Savior. Therefore Billy Graham is decieving people, and givng them a false hope that leads to Hell.
Please be more cautious in the future. If you want to wish Billy Graham a happy birthday, that is fine. But it is also imperative to sadly note the unbiblical doctrine that now tarnishes the legacy of his ministry, as people recieve his false teaching as truth from an authoritative figure and expert.
John Macarthur explains the dangers of the error in Graham's teaching better than I can. He begins to discuss Graham about two minutes into this video.
Comment by Joseph:
Billy Graham has always preached salvation through Christ alone. Even if Graham held some views that contradict scripture, something I firmly believe all Christians have done at some point in their walk with God, that does not mean that those who put their faith in Christ because they met Him at a Billy Graham campaign have put their hope and soul into a false hope.
There are many people whom have known Christ as their savior without being exposed to the gospel. In Colombia, the Bari, aka the Motoloni, are a tribe that had prophecies since their formation as a tribe, (they have oral records of their crossing from Asia to South America) of the messenger God would send them to lead them back as a people to Himself. For thousands of years they waited till a 19 year old Christian from the US stumbled into their territory, inadvertently (I would argue divinely) fulfilled every prophecy they had, and the whole tribe believed in Christ as their savior within 24 hours. Now, does this mean that all those dozens of generations of people who were waiting for God's messenger to come for a thousand years are all in hell? Or was their hope in the same God that we have put our own hope in? Considering the reaction the tribe had to the gospel, I know it is the latter. If you want to read about it, check out the book Bruchko.
Even in the Bible there are many who knew God who were not Christian nor Jewish. Melchizedek is the greatest example, because Paul calls Christ a priest in the order of Melchizedek. Billy Graham is correct that the body of Christ does include people from every tribe, nation and tongue. I have been involved in evangelism efforts in Colombia for over half a decade, and have encountered other stories of tribes who have similar stories to that of the Bari.
A major part of the reason Christianity is exploding in India is because of a man who accepted Christ as his Savior without even hearing the Gospel. He studied, training to be a Hindu guru, but was searching for the One True God, and one day in 1973 he had a vision of a dead man hanging crosswise on a tree. He immediately asked everyone he could find who was this man, eventually running into an American businessman, not a believer, who told him it sounded like Jesus. That fellow's name is Govind Sathiya Seelan and he founded 1200 churches in India. Because of the sheer success of Christianity in India, the hardline Hindu parties are trying to ban conversions and preaching of the gospel all together. My family was involved in helping Dr. Seelan and his family obtain asylum in the US, after several attempts on his and his wife and daughter's lives were made.
So Billy Graham is correct, God will choose, aka elect people without any connection to the gospel from 1st century Palestine to spread the truth of Jesus Christ, and what God is doing is far greater than we can comprehend. But even if Graham still holds the more extreme views from the 60's quote MacArthur gave, that does not subtract from his preaching of the gospel. Even men like Luther, Calvin, the Wesley Brothers, Whitfield and Jonathon Edwards held theological beliefs that contradict the word. Does this make them all false teachers? If so, then it is impossible for any man or woman to not be a false teacher. Even MacArthur, who rightfully preaches against the Platonic and Aristoltlean views adopted in Catholocism, some of which are in evangelical and even fundamentalist Christianity, holds to the Roman pagan pastoral structure of the Church rather than the model Paul outlines in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, and rejects Joel 2 and practically everything referring to spiritual gifts. Does this mean he is a false teacher as well?
The answer is no, what this does tell us is that each of these men I have mentioned, including Graham and MacArthur, are human and are fallible. Christians too often resort to crying heresy and false teacher when a believer believes something contrary to the Word. If that indeed were true, then practically every preacher of the Word is a false teacher, because none are perfect like Christ.
In Paul's warnings of false teachers, he says in 1 Timothy that the goal of this warning, this command is "love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." Peter, in his warnings in 2 Peter, is harsher in context, stating that God will pay back false teachers for what they have done, but he describes these teachers as boastful, who appeal to the lustful desires of human nature, slaves of depravity, "their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight...with eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed...they have followed the way of Balaam son of Beor."
So we have Peter's description of false teachers, and none of the men I have mentioned, Graham, MacArthur, Edwards, the Wesleys, or Whitfield fit it at all. That is why Jesus said in Luke 6:
"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart."
So how should we determine whether someone is a false teacher or not? Find out if they at one point believed in a questionable doctrine fifty years ago? Or should we judge them by the fruit they bear? Or do we continue condemning everyone who happened to believe something that is false at some point in their relationship with Jesus?
This is why I continually take what I believe and compare it to the Word, that is why I study the Word and fellowship with other believers, so that I may grow in Christ and grow in understanding His Word, and weed out falsehoods that I previously believed. I would be a liar to claim that all doctrine I now believe is perfectly true, but I know that whatever false or irrelevant doctrines I may hold, God will reveal them to me through His Word,through fellowship with other believers and through the teachings of the elders at my local congregation and of the body of Christ at large. I just hope that if God does use me like He has Billy Graham, people fifty years from now will not rush to accusations like you have over something false I may currently hold to be true.
That is one of the points of the Church, for believers to refine one another, not to condemn and excommunicate. If God condemned everyone who held a false belief at any point in their relationship with Jesus, like you and MacArthur have, then I know I am heading to hell along with every other of the redeemed.
Comment by Allie:
I am a little taken aback about this post, Billy Gram went onto to endorse and Mitt Romney who is a mormon...for that he confused me smh
Comment by Stacy:
Joseph #7 - AGREED! You put it well!
Beatrice #1 - I don't think that because the candidate that Billy Graham & many Americans supported did not win means that B.G. or the other supporters are to be looked down on. This country has elections because WE don't always agree on how the nation should be run. Your candidate not winning an electoral election is not a slam against his supporters. As to your belief that that is what he'll be remembered for shows you really don't have much knowledge of Billy Graham & all he has done or his writings.
I'm not sure who this John MacArthur fellow is. His video doesn't include any document cites so I'm not sure what specifically he's reading from.
When it comes to the beliefs of different people groups, what happened after the flood? If as the Bible says there were only those with Noah who were left, then those people must have spread out over the world, right? C.S. Lewis suggests that one of the reasons there are "flood myths" in so many cultures is because it's an event that actually happened, and the survivors kept passing down the story.
Is there any reason why God can't prepare peoples to hear the Gospel? Don Richardson's book Eternity in their Hearts provides a number of examples of how different people groups seem to have an inkling of how the Gospel works; something in their culture long before European missionaries came to them. The Karen people of Burma are a great example.
Hebrews 8 has an excellent discussion of how the covenants worked, and in particular quotes Jeremiah which includes where God said, I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts;. If God is writing his laws on people's hearts, what does that mean?
Comment by AliceSmall:
Allie - it wasn't Billy, but Franklin who stripped the website of the mormon/cult thing. Billy, is senile and not in control of his legacy any longer. Bless his heart, I was at his crusade in the 50's, it meant a lot to me then. Much of the religious right has co-opted the message of the gospel and has aligned itself with the republican party. Lord have mercy on us all, when we suggest that a political party take the place of our Lord. Our president is not our Savior. And America is not exceptional, God loves the whole of the world, without exception. Our God is bigger than anything we think or hear on faux news.
Comment by SHADRACKMUTAVIKENYA:
This is to wish the Greatest Evangelist whom I have heard from the Radio and later the T.V.since childhood a Happy Happy Birthday.You are a blessed person and may God Bless you abundantly during this Happy moment.I remember reading your book from my fathers shelve The Beatitudes and it still blesses me 20 years later. Every time I read the beatitudes they are a blessing actually you called them the beautiful Attitudes.Please know that you are in the Super League of Heaven Featuring Moses,Jacob,Paul and others whom God used to change the course of humanity.Be blessed Billy during your 94th Birthday.It doesn't really matter whether you gave an opinion which the majority voted the opposite.Iam quite sure in the heart of Billy is the greatest Love for not only Americans but for the whole Humanity of whom he has committed all for.Happy Birth day Billy
Comment by TammyinTexas:
Joseph: Wow. Thank you so much for your post. So insightful, and so much to consider. I really agree that it is the intent of the person that can make them a false teacher. We all have errors in our thinking... it is part of normal Christian growth. I believed things in my teenage years about God that I have since realized are likely not true. Those revelations come as we walk with God longer and know Him better. However, I've never really thought about that before until you pointed it out. In contrast, when a person sets out with intent to mislead, or intent of financial gain or something other than true motives, that person is a false teacher, in my opinion. I also think that some people can start out with right motives and be corrupted over time. I do not believe this is the case with Billy Graham, and I do not think he has lead people astray. Thanks for the well backed up argument.
Comment by PricklyPete:
While you are right that Kat's criticism of Billy Graham is a bit harsh, you are straying into unbiblical territory with your argument. The Bible is very clear, salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul summed up the counter to your idea:
...for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
People cannot call on or believe in Him of whom they have not heard. This is part of Paul's great call to missions, for exactly that reason: many are perishing without having heard of Jesus. That should bother us. But our reaction should be to mobilize for missions, not to pretend that, contrary to Scripture, people can be saved some other way than through faith in Jesus.
Does God prepare people and peoples for the gospel ahead of time? Definitely! But does God save people apart from the gospel? There is no Biblical warrant for thinking so.
Comment by adam:
Prickly Pete (#14) :
I don't think he's saying that the people were saved apart from the gospel, rather that the people who had put their faith in this nameless unknown god who they awaited more news of would be saved, much in the same way as the faith of the Old Testament saints would have been accredited to them as righteousness. That's an interesting idea and one that I've never heard of in all my years. I haven't read the book he mentioned, but I'd have to approach this idea with a lot of skepticism. Some differences between the Old Testament saints and these modern tribes are that God specifically was revealing himself to the Jewish people and he instituted a system of sacrifices for the people to hold to to cleanse their sin. I believe every man will be held accountable even if they never heard based upon at least the moral check in their conscience reminding them of God's law written into existence.
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