Evangelist Billy Graham was laid to rest today at his eponymous Library in Charlotte, today. He grew up on a dairy farm just a couple miles from where I grew up in Charlotte. While I was riding with my husband and son to a wheelchair basketball tournament in Nashville, we listened --intently-- as our favorite radio station aired from Mr. Graham's funeral. The Name of Jesus was lifted high and glorious in his celebration of life: even in death, Mr. Graham was reaching people for the cause of Christ.
In the two weeks since his death at 99 years of age, there have been numerous television news accounts and specials about Mr. Graham's life from a North Carolina farm boy to a globe-trotting evangelist, becoming the Pastor to Presidents. His death and celebration of life have given Christians an opportunity to share the Gospel with people who ask, why the celebration? He's dead, isn't he?
His body, yes; his soul -- oh no!
Conversations will happen. This world is so broken, so starved for hope, that when hope and joy even in death are put on display, questions will be asked. As the Bible says, "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil," [1 Peter 3:15-17 NIV].
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. For we do have hope. We do have joy. We know that this bleak and hard world is not all there is. While we may be sad that Mr. Graham is no longer with us, we rejoice in that he is now in the Presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Glory! What phenomenal things he is seeing! What wonder! Seeing the face of Jesus!
We as Jesus' followers also have this hope of heaven. We need to be prepared to tell it. What do Christians have? We have the understanding that these earthly bodies are but tents ["For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands," 2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV] and that our souls, if we accept Christ as Savior while in the tent, will go on to be with Him in paradise. Some people say, "I'm a good person, I'll go to heaven." You can not buy your way or act your way into heaven. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me," [John 14:6 NIV]. Jesus is the only way to approach God the Father.
Because Jesus took our sins upon Him and did a substitutionary death in our place, as the sentence for sin is death, we are clean through the blood of the Lamb of God. God won't remember our sins after Jesus has made us His through His grace and atoning death—all we have to do is accept it and believe that Jesus is our Lord and Savior.
Accepting Christ's death on the cross and rising three days later from death's grip means that He makes us new creations. All sins are gone, all shame is gone. We are new! 2 Corinthians 5:17 states, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" When I was younger I used to get hand-me-downs from my older cousins, and while I appreciated the clothes, I loved it when I received a new outfit. We can not hand down our faith to our children; they have to come to a new faith in Him and accept Him for themselves. Faith is a legacy but not a hand-me-down.
Faith in Christ gives us hope and a purpose that this life is not all there is. He makes His will known to us along with a promise in Matthew 28:19-20, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” He commissions us to go throughout the world and share the Gospel, and baptize in the Trinity's name, and teach others about Him. He promises that He will be with us as we do these things. We cannot fail when the Lord God is in the midst of the purpose and the master of the promise. So many these days are floundering, looking for a purpose in their lives. As Christians, we have a purpose that is made up of all active verbs: Go, Share, Baptize, Teach, Hope.
Because of His promise to always be with us, and that these earthly tents are not all there is to life, we live with Kingdom Vision that allow us to see past the sad death of a 99 year old man dying in his bed, and experience the glory this servant of Christ Jesus saw when called Home. Because of Kingdom Vision, we answer the question of "Where was God when all those children died a week before Billy Graham's death at that Florida school?" with this: Because of man's rebellion against God, sin entered the world. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and that sin has wide-reaching ramifications. Other people get hurt and die because of sin, even the sins of others. Where was God? He was protecting the large majority of children who did not get injured. He has been providing peace and funeral monies for the families of the children that were caught in the gunfire of the sin-filled student's aim. He was crying along with the students in the grassy areas. Throughout millennia and even today, humanity has consistently told God through actions and words that they have no use for God. They have made other things and even themselves their own gods.
Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me," [Revelation 3:20]. Jesus is a gentleman: He will not barge into someone's life. He will come in when the door is opened or when He is called. Humanity has made the decision to not need God, then question where was He when something went wrong? Maybe —just maybe— this world would see massive improvements and heart-changes if revival and a great turning toward Christ would happen.
Christians love but this love is not how the world loves. We love others too much to agree or affirm their sin-filled lifestyles, no matter what that encompasses. We love them too much to see them doom themselves to hell, so we share the hard things, the things they don't want to hear: that Jesus is the Only Way to God the Father and heaven. If they don't accept Christ as Savior, they will die and go to hell, to sit in judgement before God and have all their sins laid out before Him.
Christians will have this done to them, too: all their sins spread out before God and everybody, but then—from the right hand of the throne—comes Jesus, pouring a vast bowl of blood over the spread-out sins and saying, "Father, I have covered their sins with My Blood, they are no more!" And God forgets those sins. God, who knows everything, wills Himself to forget those sins because of what His Son did on the cross.
Christians do not want anyone to be separated from God, and that is what sin does: it separates you from God. God loves us so much that when His Son breathed His last breath, God Himself tore the veil separating the common area where the people gathered from the Holy of Holies in the Temple, where God traditionally lived, top to bottom. In one moment as Jesus died, God tore that veil separating His people from Himself. Jesus is the one Who made communion with God possible, through His death. We don't have to be separated from God because of Jesus.
Therefore, when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord our lives, we are no longer alone in this world without hope. We have Jesus and His Spirit to guide and lead us in all things. We have His protection, His power, His peace, and His presence. We have His provision.
Through Mr. Graham's death, we too can reach hundreds and thousands more for Christ in sharing the Gospel message he preached and Christ commissioned us to share. Let us not squander this opportunity Christ has given us to share His Name.
(c) 2018 Terrie McKee
This post may contain affiliate links to products and/or services, including those available on Amazon.com, as Near Your Altar is a participating member in the Amazon Affiliate Program in addition to other retail affiliates. These affiliate links help provide for this website as well as a small income to my family and I. Please consider clicking on the links to purchase or to browse the affiliate's website, which will open in a new window. We thank you for your support. ~ Terrie
Read Disclosure Policy here