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 on an LP called Two Sermons by Billy Graham from 1963 (Word Records W-3243-LP).
In this sermon on Jeremiah 6, Billy Graham compares the United States of 1962 to a faithless and oblivious Judah, living on the brink of destruction and exile during the prophet Jeremiah’s day. Our nation’s biggest threat doesn’t come from communism, he said, but from moral deterioration. Referring to President Kennedy’s New Frontier, Graham admonishes his audience to return to some old frontiers that they’ve abandoned, namely faith in Christ and obedience to his Word.
We’ve had all of our fill of amusements and pleasures, and yet we’re still we’re not happy. And we don’t have peace. And we haven’t found joy. We’re running up one blind alley after another, searching, searching for peace and joy and happiness and rest of soul, and we can’t find it. Our moorings are gone. We’ve become tethered to time instead of eternity. And we’re filled with fears and frustrations and disappointments and sin. If you ask me, whether a country with so highly developed sense of national purpose, with the overwhelming accent of life in personal comfort, with insufficient social discipline—if you ask me if a country like this has a good chance of competing with a purposeful, serious, and disciplined society like the Soviet Union, I have to answer “no”!
The reference to the Soviet Union seems quaint now. But even when I was coming of age in the late-’70s and early-’80s, the Soviet Union was portrayed in popular culture as a highly disciplined society, however misguided its political and economic system was. Surely no one imagined in 1962 that it would cease to exist within 30 years—at least apart from a U.S. victory in World War III.
Toward the end of the sermon, Graham turns his attention to Christ and the cross. And what follows is about as good a statement about Christ’s atoning death as I’ve heard in a sermon. Graham appeals to penal substitution (as do I), but he places it in the context of God’s love. With humility, he admits that he doesn’t know how God places our sins on Christ—he calls it “mysterious”—only that the Bible says he does.
At the moment we nailed him to the cross, Graham said,
God did a glorious thing: Instead of sending angels to sweep that whole crowd into hell and destroy the planet, the Bible teaches that God took your sin, even though you hadn’t been born… God doesn’t see things in the future. God doesn’t see things in the past. Everything is present with God. Listen to that! Everything is present with God. It’s in the eternal present. What you did yesterday is not yesterday with God. What you will do tomorrow is not tomorrow with God. What you do tomorrow is today with God. Everything with God is today! And God took your sins and laid them on Jesus Christ! And in the eternal mind of God, Jesus Christ is dying on that cross for your sins!
He took your sins and my sins. He made him to be sin for us [sic] who knew no sin. He laid on him our sins. Don’t ask me how he could do it, I don’t know! Don’t ask me to explain it. I cannot! I only know the Bible tells me that all the sins I’ve committed and the laws that I read a moment ago—I’ve broken them, you’ve broken them. The Bible teaches that we have broken the laws of God, and we deserve hell, we deserve death, we deserve judgment. But God took our sins and put them on Christ. And when Jesus Christ prayed that prayer, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” in that terrible and mysterious moment, Christ was dying in your place… for you!
Notice the theological nuance with which Graham handles God’s perspective on time: from God’s eternal perspective, all of history is present to God. There is no past or future with God. This may prove pastorally helpful as we think about the cross: For instance, at times we may doubt that Christ’s death continues to atone for our sin—after all this sin, after all this time, after all these years. But of course it does! From an eternal perspective, Christ is dying right now for our sins!
To listen to the sermon, click the 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.
Click here for Part 4.
Click here for Part 5.
Click here for Part 6.
Click here for Part 7.