Posts Tagged ‘Billy Graham’

Devotional Podcast #28: “Fools for the Gospel”

August 7, 2018

Today’s episode tackles a difficult but important truth: There is no way to obey Christ and bear witness to him and his gospel without being perceived as foolish by many people—that is, if we’re doing it right. This was true for the apostle Paul; it’s true for us. So let’s “lean into” this truth for a change and see what happens.

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Monday, August 6, 2018, and this is episode number 28 in my ongoing series of devotional podcasts. You’re listening right now to “Words of Love,” written and recorded by Buddy Holly in 1957 in all its double-tracked, analog glory. By contrast, give people an infinite number of digital tracks today, and they can’t create something that sounds nearly this good! Just wonderful! Anyway, you may be more familiar with the Beatles’ 1964 cover version from the album Beatles for Sale or the long-forgotten American LP Beatles VI. But I recorded Holly’s version directly from his 1978 greatest-hits album Buddy Holly Lives, also known as 20 Golden Greats.

But this song is today’s theme because I’m talking about “words of love” in the context of something that many of us contemporary Christians don’t like doing: that is, witnessing or the dreaded “E-word,” evangelism—sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others; telling others about Jesus and what he’s done for us, and what he means to us. We witness in many different ways, but at some point we have to do so using words. And in general Christians would rather receive a root canal than to witness with words. Yet the Lord himself has commanded us to do this important work: “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

And perhaps you object: “Yes, but Jesus was directing these words to his twelve (or eleven but soon to be twelve) apostles. They followed this command, and here we are today. They no longer apply to us!” But that interpretation can’t be right: Because notice he says, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” We haven’t reached the “end of the age” yet, therefore, he must have also been directing these words to his disciples up to and including those who will be alive when then end of the age happens. Right? That includes us! Moreover, when he gives the equivalent Great Commission in Acts 1—“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”—we know that even today we haven’t yet reached the “end of the earth” with the gospel. There remain in 2018 places that are yet unreached with the gospel, much less toward the end of the first century. So Jesus’ words weren’t merely for that first generation of apostles, but for all disciples until the end of the age and until the gospel message has reached the end of the earth.

As for another objection—“Yes, but the Great Commission isn’t for just anyone; it’s for ministers… like you, pastor Brent, not for me. I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” My first response to that is that we’re all ministers, whether we’re ordained or not. Philip, for example, in Acts 9, wasn’t a credentialed apostle; yet through his witness the gospel reached Ethiopia. Not to mention one of the most successful evangelists in all of scripture: the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, through whose witness an entire village was saved! The only qualification, as far as I can see, for doing successful evangelistic work is having had a life-saving, soul-saving encounter with Jesus Christ. 

So… Are you a Christian? Are you born again? Then that means you’ve been given the Holy Spirit. So of course you can be a witness! Moreover, if you happen to be a United Methodist, when you joined the church you promised God that you would be a witness for Christ.

How are you doing at that? Read the rest of this entry »

Am I only preaching the “easy half” of the gospel?

March 14, 2018

Like Graham, I only preach the “easy” half of the gospel.

In yesterday’s podcast, I said that we Christians never “outgrow” John 3:16. I gave a personal example: Even though I’ve been a Christian for 34 years, I realized only recently how desperately I need my career to “save” me. Not eternally, of course: I know that I will only ultimately be saved through faith in Christ. My problem is that I live as if I need something right now—other than Christ—to make me feel good about myself. Specifically, I need to know that I’m doing good work. I need to feel as if I’m “getting ahead” and “climbing the ladder of success”—or name your own cliché.

I hear the voice of the Law (if not God’s Law, then my own): “You must prove your worth. You must live up to your standards. You must accomplish something great. You must justify yourself.”

Isn’t it strange that God has called me to a profession where many of the external measures of career success are missing? After all, few people (I hope) go into pastoral ministry for the money! And it’s hardly a “growth industry.”

So here I am—sick with sin and in need of a real Savior. What do I do? I listen to the gospel again. I remind myself that my worth does not come from any thing, any person, or any idea in this world; it comes from God alone. He has demonstrated my worth by sending his Son Jesus to die on a cross—which meant suffering hell itself—all because he wanted me to be his child. As I said in yesterday’s post, I am infinitely valuable to God because he paid an infinite price to buy my pardon. And he did so without caring about what I would accomplish in my career. God’s embrace of me is based on one condition only—faith in Christ.

Yes, this is a “simple gospel” message. I have not outgrown it. I cannot improve upon it.

I don’t listen to old Billy Graham sermons from the 1960s, for example, and think, “How naïve! If only he would have added these additional points to his message!” No… I listen and think, “This is life-saving medicine!”

This is on my mind, in part, because of a blog post I read recently on the “Ministry Matters” website, a United Methodist-affiliated blog. The author, a retired pastor, began by saying that his post “isn’t about Billy Graham,” yet he took a sideswipe at him using the words of a South African Methodist leader, Peter Storey, who helped organize a preaching rally with Graham in South Africa when the country was still under apartheid. Storey said:

[Graham’s] mandate, he claimed, was to preach the ‘plain and simple gospel.’ The problem is there is no such thing. What he really meant was that he would offer only half the gospel, the half that invited people to face their personal sins without confronting the systems that often did their sinning for them.

Is that true? Was Graham offering only half the gospel?

Where in the New Testament does Jesus or the apostles include “confronting sinful systems” as part of their gospel presentation? (It’s one-half of the gospel, after all. Surely there’s one or two references to it!) Did Philip, in Acts 8, preach only half the gospel—a message of “facing personal sins”—to the Ethiopian eunuch without confronting the sinful system that makes, well… men into eunuchs in the first place? Regardless, I’m sure the Ethiopian eunuch, having lived in Paradise for nearly two millennia, isn’t complaining.

But forget about the specifics of Storey’s criticism of Graham. His words (and the effect to which his words are put by the article’s author) demonstrate the tendency within Methodism that I mentioned in yesterday’s post: The gospel—as represented by Graham and the very personal nature of John 3:16 (note: “whosoever” is a singular pronoun meaning “any individual”)—isn’t enough (unless you redefine what the gospel is, as Storey does). Not that the gospel isn’t necessary, but the point of the Christian life is to get on with it—to go about “transforming the world.”

The scare quotes are deliberate: Many years ago the UMC changed its Book of Discipline to say that the mission of the church is to “make disciples of Jesus Christ.” That was simple and to the point. Several years later, it was changed again: “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” Why was that added? Jesus says nothing about the “transformation of the world,” for example, in his Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. While I’m sure “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” will play a positive role in the world’s transformation (as history attests), it’s hardly the aim of evangelism, as Billy Graham understood.

Moreover, we can’t change the world. Only God can. And most of that change takes place in the eschaton. But, of course, semi-Pelagianism is also a Methodist tendency (not that proper Wesleyan-Arminian theology leads there).

My point is, this getting on with the alleged “second half” of the gospel feels like Law all over again. (Just what I need! 😑) Even if I were successfully transforming the world (which I’m sure I’m not), my left hand would certainly know what my right hand was doing—at all times! And then, like the Pharisee in the parable, I would be left in the cold while the tax collector—whose very livelihood opposed the world’s transformation—goes home justified.

But that’s Jesus, like Billy Graham, only preaching the “first half” of the gospel!

Can we retire the phrase “cheap grace”?

March 10, 2018

A few days ago, I posted a lengthy devotional podcast that was motivated by Washington Post columnist George F. Will’s sharply critical words about the late Billy Graham. Will, an atheist, seems to believe that religious faith is good only to the extent that it accomplishes something practical in the world. (He’s hardly alone in believing this, I’m sure.)

In his column, he said the following, almost as an aside: “His audiences were exhorted to make a “decision” for Christ, but a moment of volition might be (in theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s phrase) an exercise in ‘cheap grace.’”

As I’ve said on this blog before, if grace is “cheap,” then it’s already too expensive for us! It must be free, or else we’re all bound for hell!

A popular misconception of God’s plan of salvation (shared by too many Christians, I’m afraid) goes something like this: God created us to live in a perfect relationship with him in the Garden of Eden. So long as Adam and Eve didn’t break this one simple rule—”Don’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil”—they would be fine. That was Plan A. It failed miserably. So he tried Plan B: He would create a people Israel, who would live under the Ten Commandments and other, related laws. This time, however, he would give them a remedy for sin in the sacrificial system. So long as they didn’t mess up too badly, they would be O.K.

The books of Judges, Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, however, describe how badly that plan failed.

So what’s God going to do now? Plan C: Since we human beings have demonstrated that we are incapable of obeying laws, God sent his Son Jesus to obey the Law on our behalf—because we can’t do it for ourselves. It’s on the basis of his righteousness rather than our own that we’re saved.

Even as I read this, I confess it’s dangerously close to the truth. I can see why many people believe that this is what the Bible teaches.

So what’s wrong with it? First, what I describe above isn’t a single plan; it’s multiple plans. Yet scripture teaches us that Christ was the “lamb who was slain” before the foundation of the world, according to the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8). In other words, God is not surprised by our sin. God knew, before he created our world, that one consequence of his creation is that he would have to redeem it from its sin through the sending of his Son. In other words, there was only a Plan A: that God would be in Christ reconciling the world to him (2 Corinthians 5:19). Everything God does before Christ—through the giving of Law and the sacrificial system—is to prepare the world for Christ’s coming.

Among other things, the Law teaches us that we are helpless sinners who need to be redeemed by God alone, through his Son Jesus. The sacrificial system teaches us that forgiveness is costly, that it comes only through the shedding of blood. Ultimately, only the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross can purchase for us the forgiveness of our sins (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 7:23; Acts 20:28; Hebrews 9:12).

To be clear, God did not send his Son Jesus because earlier plans of salvation proved too difficult; that salvation through faith in Christ was easy, whereas salvation through works was difficult. No: faith in Christ makes salvation possible; any other scheme makes salvation impossible!

By all means, if we fail to grasp these truths, then we may fall victim to “cheap grace.” But it won’t be because—as I suspect Will believes—we haven’t worked hard enough for our salvation. If we have to work at all as a means of securing even the tiniest fraction of salvation, we will be damned. (The necessary work that we do will demonstrate that our faith is genuine. This is why Paul says we must “examine ourselves,” not to see if we’ve finally done enough to earn salvation, but to see if we are “in the faith” [2 Corinthians 13:5].)

What I failed to consider in this week’s podcast is how offensive free grace must be to someone like Will—and so many others. Man-made religion is all about what human beings must do in order to be saved. The cross of Christ is scandalous because it tells us that we can do nothing—that we are powerless—to merit the salvation that God makes available to us.

Frederick Dale Bruner

All of this is prelude to the following words—which move me deeply—from theologian Frederick Dale Bruner’s commentary on John 3:14-15. He has already said that the condition for salvation (“simply trusting” in Christ, otherwise known as justification by faith alone) “puts the bar breathtakingly low.” (I have told you before how much I appreciate Bruner’s commentary on Matthew. Now, as part of my current sermon series, I’m working through his commentary on John.) I hope you enjoy it! (Emphasis is his.)

The simplicity of trust is not at all an insignificant part of the joy of the Good News. No merit, deserving, struggling, steps, conditions, techniques, disciplines, or inward or outward “doings” (“works”); no emptying or yieldings; no adverbs of “utterly, totally, completely, truly” are placed on our back. Rather, and let us hear the promise one more time: “Every single individual who is [simplytrusting has, by his means, deep, lasting Life.” May this simple gospel never be made more complex. Dear Nicodemus, if you are still listening: You asked, “How in the world can these things ever happen?” They happen by Jesus, the Son of Man, being hoisted up and, then, by (you and all the rest of us) simply trusting that this Man and his hoisting brings us into the entirely new, free, and happy relation with God called Life. Trust him, Nicodemus. That’s “how.”[1]

1. Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 194.

Devotional Podcast #19: “Nothing to Show for Ourselves”

March 8, 2018

In this episode, I reflect once again on Billy Graham’s life, as seen through the eyes of Washington Post columnist George F. Will, who wrote a column deeply critical of Graham. Reading that column helped me to learn something unflattering about myself, which I want to share with you. Maybe you can relate?

Devotional Text: Philippians 4:11-13

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Hi, This is Brent White! It’s Wednesday, March 7, and this is devotional podcast number 19.

You’re listening to a sweet song called “Blue, Red and Grey.” It was written and performed—on ukulele, no less—by Pete Townshend. It appears on his band’s 1975 album, The Who by Numbers. Townshend, who swore one time that he never wrote a proper love song, is likely singing about God when sings,

I like every second
So long as you are on my mind
Every moment has its special charm
It’s all right when you’re around, rain or shine

But what appeals to me here is the contentment expressed by the song. I’m sure Townshend would be the first to tell you that it’s aspirational. In the context of an otherwise deeply unhappy album, the song’s optimism is jarring. But he’s exactly right to aspire to this level of contentment, no matter how elusive it may be.

But what if it doesn’t have to elude us? What if the apostle Paul is telling the truth when he writes the following in Philippians 4:11-13?

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

In the wake of Billy Graham’s death two weeks ago, Washington Post columnist George Will—wasting no time, apparently, to speak ill of the dead—published an editorial critical of the evangelist—on the very day that the Rev. Graham died. Graham was “no prophet,” Mr. Will said—as if he ever claimed or aspired to be. Why? Because he never challenged the status quo—otherwise how could he have been so beloved by millions? “Prophets are without honor” and all that, Will reminds us. So Graham must have been some kind of people-pleaser.

Except… even Will conceded that Graham did challenge the status quo on matters of race: as early as 1952, years before the tide turned against Jim Crow and segregation in the South. As a white southerner myself, born a generation after the fiercest battles of the civil rights movement had been fought and won, 1952 seems heroically early for a white southerner like Graham to speak in defense of equality and desegregation. Nevertheless, Will said, Graham “rarely stepped far in advance of the majority.”[1] Read the rest of this entry »

Devotional Podcast #18: “Don’t Settle for Christian Mediocrity”

March 2, 2018

In this podcast, I talk about, among other things, Billy Graham. What we admired most about Graham was not his ability to fill stadiums, to convert thousands in one fell swoop, and to be a chaplain to presidents and royalty. No—what we admired most was his integrity… his character. In Graham, what you saw was what you got: a man who sincerely loved the Lord, who trusted in his Word, and who wanted everyone else in the world to do the same.

Does this describe us? If not, why not? Do we doubt that God has a plan for our lives? Do we doubt that we have the same Holy Spirit working through us that Graham had?

Devotional Text: Genesis 28:10-22

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Hi, This is Brent White! It’s Friday, March 2, and this is podcast number 18.

You’re listening to the band Blondie and their 1979 hit “Dreaming,” from their album Eat to the Beat.

I’m playing this song because today’s scripture, Genesis 28:10-22, is all about dreaming—specifically, a dream that Jacob had when he was on the run from his murderous brother, Esau. He was on the run from him he tricked Esau out of his inheritance and, a little later, his father’s blessing. So Esau is understandably angry. He vows to kill Jacob as soon as his father dies and the period of grieving is over. Rebecca learns of Esau’s intentions and sends Jacob, her favorite son, to live with her brother Laban, in whom—as you’ll see if you read the next several chapters—Jacob fully meets his match, at least in terms of cheating and deceiving.

What a family! You’ve got to admire the way the Bible tells the unvarnished truth about its heroes!
Read the rest of this entry »

Devotional Podcast #17: “Healing Our Past”

February 27, 2018

Another jumbo-sized podcast episode!

This one is all about the necessity of healing our past, without which our future won’t be as good as we want it to be. Why? Because the past has a way of continuing to exert a harmful influence over our present and future. To help us find healing from our past, I reflect on some helpful resources related to forgiveness and providence from God’s Word.

Devotional Text: Philippians 3:8b-14

You can subscribe to my podcast in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Tuesday, February 27, and this is Devotional Podcast number 17.

You’re listening to Pete Townshend’s song “Somebody Saved Me,” from his 1982 album All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes. In the song, the singer is looking back on his life. And he sees that there were times in his life when he was rescued from decisions that he made—decisions that, ultimately, would have brought him great harm—if not killed him outright. Not that he saw it that way at the time—when he didn’t get what he wanted, when his plans fell through. No, he was often dragged kicking and screaming away from paths that would have led to his destruction. “But somebody saved me,” he sings. “It happened again/ Somebody saved me/ I thank you, my friend.”

He doesn’t know who this mysterious “friend” is. A guardian angel, perhaps? But notice it’s somebody, not some thing; it’s not an impersonal force; it’s not fate; it’s not luck; it’s a person. And of course we know that person’s name, even if Townshend doesn’t: his name is Jesus.

Townshend sings, “All I know is that I’ve been making it/ And there’ve been times that I didn’t deserve to.”

Who hasn’t been there? Who can’t relate to that?

For the last several weeks, I’ve been preaching a series of sermons on the Lord’s Prayer. I’ve benefited greatly from reading Frederick Dale Bruner’s commentary on Matthew. In fact, every time I teach or preach anything from Matthew’s gospel, I benefit greatly from reading Bruner. Here’s what he had to say about the final three petitions in the Lord’s Prayer—what he calls the “Second Table” of the prayer. He writes:

In the Second Table of the Lord’s Prayer, we may say in summary so far, the petition for bread was a prayer for the present (“give us this day”), the petition for forgiveness was a prayer for the removal of a bad past, and now the prayer for leading is a prayer for the future. This petition follows naturally from the preceding prayer for forgiveness. For when we ask for forgiveness we almost instinctively ask also to be kept from the temptations and evil that made our prayer for forgiveness necessary at all. So the Sixth Petition follows the Fifth like wanting to be good follows sorrow for failing to be.[1]

I like that! I’ve never thought of these petitions in terms of past, present, and future.

In today’s podcast, I want to focus on the fifth petition: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” I’m reluctant to say that any of these three petitions is more or less important or necessary. But I will say this: the “prayer for the removal of a bad past,” as Bruner puts it, must be granted by God before the “prayer for the future” has any hope of coming to pass.

Why do I say that? Because the past has a way of haunting the present—and influencing the future. And if we haven’t made peace with the past, its influence can be harmful.

Stop and consider how many times even today you’ve ruminated over something in your past. Maybe it’s from your recent past: like some offhanded comment that someone made about you yesterday—“What did he mean by that? Was he criticizing me?” Or that witty riposte you wish you had said to your boss last week when she challenged the quality of your work. Read the rest of this entry »

My collection (so far) of Billy Graham sermons on vinyl

February 23, 2018

Image courtesy of the New York Times

Since 2014, I have been collecting Billy Graham records. From these I have digitized eleven sermons from the ’60s (and one from 1986). As best I can tell, he didn’t release any sermons on vinyl in the ’70s. (Am I wrong?) I recently acquired an RCA LP from 1957 by Graham called The Problems of the American Home. I’ll post that sermon soon.

In the meantime, to celebrate the life and legacy of one of my heroes, here are the eleven that I have so far. If you follow the links, you’ll also find my commentary on each one, along with photos from the albums themselves. Enjoy! (Please note: the two sermons on the Second Coming, both entitled “The Climax of History,” are substantially different sermons.)

“God’s Delinquent” (1964)

“The Climax of History” (1964)

“Why I Believe the Bible to Be the Word of God” (1962)

“Why I Believe Jesus to Be the Son of God” (1962)

“David and Goliath” (1962)

“The Climax of History” (1962)

“The Cross of Christ” (1963)

“The Frontiers of Tomorrow” (1963)

“The Cure for Loneliness” (1986)

“The Signs of the Time, the End of the World, the Second Coming” (1969)

“Man in the 5th Dimension” (1964)

A recent example of effective witnessing

March 23, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I preached about witnessing. I shared some advice on the topic from a recent article in Christianity Today. The author, Jerry Root, a long-time associate of Billy Graham, said that when we witness, it’s not a matter of “taking Jesus to someone”; Jesus is already there. We follow Christ’s lead. But doing so still requires preparation. It’s a deliberate action.

For example, when we meet someone, he suggests asking them what he calls “public” questions—non-threatening questions like, “What’s your name?” “Are you from here?” Then we “listen to the answers and find in them the permission to go deeper. Eventually, we connect the gospel at the very point of deep felt need.”

Easy, right?

Well… I suspect for many of us this still seems intimidating—in part because we’ve seen so few examples of people who are doing it, or doing it well.

Last Friday, however, I encountered a living, breathing example of someone doing it well. I had business in Atlanta. While I was there, I went to a favorite coffee shop near Emory to work on my sermon. A couple of tables away from me, two young women were talking. I promise I wasn’t eavesdropping, but one woman’s voice carried across the room.

I overheard her telling the other woman about her experience raising an autistic child. I gathered that she was counseling this young woman, a new mother whose own child had recently been diagnosed with autism.

My ears perked up at one point when she told the young mother that she was a Christian. She volunteered this in relation to some educational choices that she and her husband had made. A few minutes later, she said the following: “I believe that God has made your child perfect, just the way she’s meant to be. And the Lord is going to take care of her—and you—and give you all the love and support and strength you need to be a great mother to her.”

I wanted to jump out of my seat and shout, “Amen!”

Nothing about this conversation felt forced. First, the woman volunteered that she was a Christian. Then, as Dr. Root described in the article I cited above, she waited for “permission to go deeper.” Having found that permission, she spoke from her heart about Jesus and connected the gospel to the young mother’s deeply felt need.

What convicts me about this conversation is how easily this Christian could have remained quiet about her faith. Doesn’t it often seem easier not bring it up?

What would happen if we prayed regularly—daily—for opportunities to bring it up? Who knows what the Holy Spirit might do? Is it possible that this young woman was so accustomed to sharing her faith that it would be harder for her not to bring it up?

Sermon 03-12-17: “Calling All Tax Collectors and Sinners”

March 21, 2017

If you’re a Christian, witnessing should be one of your top priorities in life. If you’re like most Christians, however, it isn’t. As much as I want to say, “Try harder,” that message won’t work. As I say in this sermon, what we need to become more deliberate, more effective witnesses is to fall in love with Jesus—again or for the first time.

Sermon Text: Matthew 9:9-17

Do any of you have an ichthus or fish decal on or near the bumper of your car? I have often said that I wouldn’t have one of those because I’m not a considerate enough driver—or a careful enough driver—to have a symbol of my loyalty to Jesus on the back of my car: I don’t want to cut someone off in traffic and thereby give Jesus a bad name! I don’t want to be a bad witness.

A satirical article in the Babylon Bee purports to have just the answer for Christian drivers like me: a “retractable fish decal.” The article describes a modification kit for your car that allows you, with the press of a button, to hide the fish symbol when you do something wrong while driving. In the article, a spokesperson from LifeWay Christian Resources puts it like this:

“Want to cut someone off, but worried you’ll be a bad witness? Now you can slap the red button on your dashboard and a small panel will rotate on your bumper, hiding the fish from view… Flip people off on the freeway, [drive] down the shoulder [of the interstate] during a traffic jam, all without worrying about marring the good name of Christ.”

The article continues:

The kit ships with several options, such as the ability to instantly replace the Christian fish decal with an atheist “flying spaghetti monster” silhouette or a Coexist sticker, or else the bumper sticker from a competing church in your town or city.

[The spokesperson added:] “Not only will your terrible, aggressive driving not be a bad witness for Christ, but you can also make atheists or any other church or religion you want look bad instead!”

If only that were real! Read the rest of this entry »

Billy Graham on Vinyl, Part 11: “Man in the 5th Dimension”

September 17, 2015

IMG_5246

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 Billy Graham Presents from his World’s Fair Pavilion “Man in the 5th Dimension” from 1964 (RCA Camden, CAL-813).

[Right-click here to download an MP3 file.]

IMG_5247

As you can tell form the title, this record is unlike all the previous ones in this series, which capture sermons and music from various Crusades. This is a soundtrack recording of the 28-minute film presentation that Rev. Graham’s organization made at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.

Click to expand.

Click to expand.

The film is a beautiful apologetic for Christianity. As you can hear from the audio, Graham begins by discussing the scientific progress we’ve made in uncovering some of the mysteries of the universe. Nature bears witness to God’s handiwork, Graham says, and there’s no conflict between science and faith:

The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible never tries to prove the existence of God. It assumes it. The problem is, too often man tries to subject God to the analysis of the laboratory. But we cannot put God in a test tube and say, “Here is God,” anymore than you can put a mother’s love in a test tube and say, “This is a mother’s love.”

Of course, no amount of scientific progress can solve humanity’s main problem: the sin which alienates us from God. Graham goes on to lay out biblical history, beginning in the Garden of Eden and continuing through the letters of Paul and the promise of Jesus’ Second Coming.

He goes on to discuss great Christian thinkers through the ages from Augustine to Pascal to Tolstoy to some of America’s founders and leaders. He then asks well-credentialed men in fields of science, business, and medicine to offer their witness for Christ.

IMG_5249As usual, he offers an invitation to accept Christ at the end of the film, and he does so with great care. He includes the following words:

Jesus said, “Except you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” You must come to Christ with the trust and simplicity of a child. First, you must be willing to repent of sin. Repentance means you change you mind about God and your relationship to him. Repentance involves a willingness to change your whole pattern of living.

Notice I said a willingness. You may not have the strength or the ability to repent. But if you’re willing, God will help you to repent.

Second, you must turn to Christ by simple faith and accept him as Lord and Savior. Notice again I said by faith. If you wait until you can understand it all, you will never come. It must be a step of faith.

It’s like receiving a gift: the gift of pardon for the past and a new life for the future. Many of you have come with an emptiness and a restlessness in your heart and soul. Intellectually, some of you are not certain about the purpose and meaning of life. You’ve never really committed yourself to any great cause or purpose. You long to have something to believe in—a flag to follow and a song to sing.

Why not commit your life to Jesus Christ and let his love and authority dominate your life?

Others of you have been suffering from a sense of guilt. You would like to wake up tomorrow morning with a sense of forgiveness—to know that all the failure and sin of the past is completely gone; to have an exhilaration that only God can give to a person.

This tremendous change in your life could take place right here and now.

Our commitment to Christ is only a first step. But it’s a necessary step if you’re going to enter the kingdom of God. You could make this commitment at this moment. I’m asking you to do it now. Respond to that inner voice of the Holy Spirit that is saying, “You need God.” This is your moment, your moment of decision, the most important decision of your life. Let this be the beginning of your new life in the fifth dimension—the dimension of the Spirit.

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To listen to Part 10 in this series, with links to earlier sermons in the series, click here.