In honor of Billy Graham, a hero of mine, I’m digitizing some of his sermons from long out-of-print records and making them available as MP3s. This sermon is found in a 4-record box set called A Billy Graham Crusade from 1962 (RCA Victor Custom Record Dept. BG4314).
The people of God, who are the church made visible in the world, must convince the world of the reality of the gospel or leave it unconvinced. There can be no evasion or delegation of this responsibility; the church is either faithful as a witnessing and serving community, or it loses its vitality and its impact on an unbelieving world (¶ 129, The United Methodist Book of Discipline).
As I said in the sermon I shared yesterday, the community around the church where I pastor is filled with people who are lost, who have not received the gift of God’s saving grace. Unless or until they repent of their sins and receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, they are bound for hell—for eternal separation from God. It’s sobering to imagine that the difference between hell and heaven for them could be us. It could be our church!
While I know that Methodists (among other Christians) often speculate about post-mortem opportunities to repent and turn to Christ—United Methodist theologian Jerry Walls made that case in his book Hell: The Logic of Damnation—I wonder if it’s not to assuage our consciences for shirking our duty to “convince the world of the reality of the gospel or leave it unconvinced.”
Billy Graham has devoted his ministry to “convincing or leaving unconvinced.” He rightly understands that decisions made on this side of eternity make a difference on the other. (I know this is baby-talk for many of you, but many United Methodists, including myself, need the reminder!) Like a muscle that atrophies from lack of use, the more that sinners fail to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the less they’ll be able to respond—until it’s too late. Graham makes this point in today’s sermon, from a 1962 Crusade in Chicago:
You can neglect Christ long enough until you’ve actually rejected him! And it’s too late because unknown to you, there’s a quiet operation in your heart going on… You’re actually hardening your heart, and you don’t even realize it. Until after while, your heart is so hard that you suddenly wake up and say, “I better become a Christian! I’ve got to follow Christ! I better be born again!” But now you find that you cannot find the voice of the Spirit of God convicting you. And the Bible says there will be a day when you call on him, and he’ll not answer. You’ll seek him but you’ll not find him!
To listen to sermon, click on play button above, or right-click here to download as a separate .mp3 file.
Click here for Part 1.
Click here for Part 2.
Click here for Part 3.