Wednesday, June 21, 2006

#152: Billy Graham: Man of God?

There is no doubt that Billy Graham preached to more people in his lifetime than any other person in the entire world. He was/is the greatest, most eloquent and persuasive religious orator that ever lived. He has a way of presenting a message that can’t be beat. His roots go to a First Baptist Church in Texas, of which he is still a member. I am certain he made more people aware of a need for accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior than any other human being. If more people had the passion that he had in spiritual matters, this would be a better world. He is a man of modest living habits and a proponent of never being extravagant; he used the earnings from his ministry to further his religious purpose.

One reason for his popularity: he was multi-denominational. There were/are, at the minimum, 50 denominations that subscribe to what he preaches. That is impressive to say the least. But for that diversity of religious beliefs there is a price to pay. In order not to step on too many religious toes, there were certain doctrines he minimized or excluded altogether in his preaching; it could be that he didn’t want to offend anyone’s belief system. He could be labeled a universal preacher (one message fits all, as it were). I do not believe Pastor Graham was disingenuous in his preaching, and without any doubt in his mind, he surely believed he was preaching the whole truth. Nevertheless, there are extremely important portions of the gospel message Billy Graham neglected; these are the ones this post will fill in.

Billy Graham is a Baptist. I am not certain how many bloggers know what Baptists believe concerning when a person is saved. Answer: Once a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, their Salvation is eternal (God is not an Indian giver). In other words, if a person believes he/she is saved, and sins by disobedience or by omission of a necessary good deed, he/she is still saved. To cover their tush, this is tagged on to that belief: Regardless of how people are living, as long as they verbally profess Christ as Lord and Savior, they have eternal security. Baptists say, “Who made you or me the judge, jury, and executioner? Only God can read the motives of a person’s heart. We must give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” Sure!

A nickname for that theology is: “Once saved, always saved.” Anyone who looks at that type of belief with any Godly or Biblical understanding and logic can easily predict the result: “Sanctified disobedience." The problem is, that form of misguided teaching gives believers a safety net of freedom: to live as they please with no fear of losing their Salvation. The effects of that type of theology may have had a profoundly negative implication in the direction Christianity has shifted in the last 57 years in America and the world. For good reason, the New Testament will bust that “anything goes” bubble with this post, using nothing more than the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The question I pose is this: Of all the hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, that answered the alter-call to accept Jesus Christ as Savior in the last 57 years or so at Billy Graham’s crusades, how many at this time are genuine Christians? Baptists would say, most likely, that all of them are. Dogmatically making a statement of that sort is where a grievous heresy springs to life. That type of belief negates obedience, dedication, faith, love and all other essentials that make up the Christian life.

Another potential problem: Since Billy Graham (a Baptist) is a shining role model to most American Christians, what church did many, if not most, of those new converts join? Most likely a Baptist church. Do they know what the New Testament expects of/from them as Christians? I really doubt it. They will go to a Baptist or a kissing-cousin church and listen to the preacher and believe his/her every word as gospel truth and “live happily ever after.” For that reason, “Religion’s Crime Against God” is here to expose the non-biblical teachings of the Baptist and many other well-known and popular denominations.

The reason this “once saved, always saved” belief came into existence, was because of a misunderstanding of New Testament Scripture. Here is the scenario they use to defend that doctrine: If a person is saved when they are good, and lost when they are bad, and when a person repents, he/she is saved again, and on and on. They say that this roller-coaster ride of being saved one day and lost the next is ridiculous. And I agree; it certainly is.

The confusion comes from the use of the word “saved.” There are several uses for that word in Scripture. There are at least 29 verses that use it in the future or present tense: “will be saved,” “are being saved,” “are saved,” and 6 verses that use it in the past tense: “we were saved,” “have been saved,” “has saved us.” Now the question comes up: Are we saved, or are we being saved? There seems to be a contradiction. Not so. Let me clarify their use by using a human allegory.

A multi-billionaire chose a small number of families to be prime candidates for an experiment. He contacted each family personally and told them what he proposed to do. He gave each family an unbelievable gift: a beautiful large home in the South Pacific, along with all expenses paid: one hundred thousand dollars a year, for life. They won’t have to do a lick of work for the rest of their lives, guaranteed. To prove he wasn’t kidding, he took them all to view their new homes and gave them each a copy of a document which tells of having several billion dollars in escrow that can never be withdrawn by the billionaire. It is the recipient's life-long piggy bank.

Each family was given a deed to their new home, but there was one condition: Before they could actually occupy their new home and live a life of leisure (Shangri-la), they had to go through an arduous obstacle course. This course could be completed in only a few months, or it may take several years to accomplish. If, for any reason, any family didn’t or couldn’t finish the course, they were disqualified and had to forfeit their precious gifts.

Now, getting back to the word “saved”: All people who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior technically ARE SAVED because they accepted God’s free gift by grace, and therefore can actually visualize their heavenly homes. The New Testament is the document to verify that transaction (they have God’s word). But according to that document, there is one condition: they must first finish an all-important course. That course is to live life as that document specifies. To put it another way: As they are on the difficult course of living the Christian life, they are saved–God’s work—and are BEING SAVED at the same time–their works. Acts 2:40. "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." Luke 21:19. "By standing firm you will save yourselves." Philippians 2:12. “. . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Christians must possess Salvation before they can work on it. Their complete Salvation will culminate by being actualized at the resurrection of the dead, on Judgment Day.

Some will quickly say, “That is works.” Wrong! They were saved because they believed what God said in His document and thus accepted His free gift. Living life as God requires (obedience to His Commands), difficult as it may be, is no more than EVIDENCE of their faith in God. The Christian life (their works) is lived because they already have been [past tense] saved. Ephesians 2:8-10. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do GOOD WORKS, which God prepared in advance for us to do" [emphasis added]. First saved, then works, equals eternal life; first saved, then no works, equals eternal death.

Now is the time to give unequivocal proof from the New Testament that Salvation is conditional. Repeating, that condition is to believe and live as God requires/commands after we have been saved, because we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior.

All verses taken from the New International Version. I will emphasize certain words by capitalizing them or by enclosing them in brackets. The following is Bible truth.

1st Corinthians 15:2. “By this gospel you are saved, IF you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

Matthew 7:2. “Not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

The book of Hebrews is full of “ifs.” Hebrew 3:6. “And we are his house, IF we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”

Hebrews 3:14. “We have come to share in Christ IF we hold firmly TILL THE END the confidence we had at first.”

Hebrews 5:9. “. . . he became the source of eternal salvation for all who OBEY him.”

Hebrews 6.:4. “ It is IMPOSSIBLE for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the coming age, IF they fall away, to be brought back to repentance . . .”

Hebrews 10:26. “IF we deliberately KEEP ON SINNING after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.”

Hebrews 12:14. “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without HOLINESS no one will see the Lord.”

1st John 2:15. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. IF anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world–the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world.”

1st John 2:3. “We know that we have come to know him IF we obey his commands.”

1st John 2:5. “But IF anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him.”

1st John 2:6. “Whoever claims to live in him MUST walk as Jesus did.”

1st John 3:6. “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.”

1st John 3:9. “No one born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.”

1st John 5:3. “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God has OVERCOME the world.”

After all these hard-edged verses in 1st John, there is a word of comfort in 1st John 2:1. “But IF anyone does sin . . .”(did you notice that the author did not use the word “when”?) “If” means occasionally, if ever, while “when” means certainty—we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ the Righteous one. [Also, premeditated sin has the smell of death attached to it].

Matthew 10:22-23. “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.”

Matthew 24:12. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”

The next 8 verses, from the Book of Revelation, all mention the word “overcome.” Someone may ask, “Overcome what?” Answer: “Overcome the world.” The author of Revelation is believed to be the Apostle John, the same person who wrote the book of 1st John and the Gospel of John, and who walked with Jesus for 3 years. He mentioned the word “overcome” in 1st John several times and added the word “world.” Also in John 16:33, John is quoting Jesus as saying, “I have overcome the world.” To be more descriptive: overcome all the sinful but pleasurable temptations that are in vogue, which this ungodly world offers.

The following verses are from the Book of Revelation.

2:7. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

2:17. “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.”

2:26. “ To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.”

3:5. “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white.”

3:12. “Him who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God.”

3:21. “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I have overcome and sat with my Father on his throne.”

21:7. “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”

This next section will be on obedience to what God commands in the New Testament. It is a repeat of the last part of post # 127. This is where many people who call themselves “christians” may get a failing grade. These verses will also be for those who downplay the importance of Scriptural obedience.

2nd John 1:6. “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His commands.”

Acts 5:32. “ We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God will give to those who obey him.”

Romans 15:18. “. . . leading the gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done. . .”

Romans 16:26. “. . . by the commands of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him.”

Hebrews 5:9. “. . . he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

1st Peter 4:17. “. . . what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”

1st John 2:3. “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”

1st John 3:24. “Those who obey his commands live in him , and he in them.”

Revelation 14:12. “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.”

For those who desire to know more of what God commands and the result of living the genuine Christian life, click on the Table of Contents # 127: “Silently Forbidden New Testament Verses.” There are another 50 verses to consider.

The New Testament tells a sobering story of what real Christianity was meant to be. How could what is now called “christianity” get so far from what the Bible teaches? Answer: unholy men who desire prestige, power and influence, along with a gullible laity.

Only those who are or desire to be genuine Bible believing Christians will make EVERY EFFORT to adhere to these Scriptures. Just going to church on Sunday, saying one’s prayers and being good the rest of the week is a poor imitation (a parody) of genuine Christianity. If the New Testament doesn’t tell what Christianity consists of, what does? Remember that all humans are flawed; therefore, what anyone teaches is flawed, including this author. Stick with the Holy Scripture and you will not go wrong.

Let me mention this: I searched through about 32 of Billy Graham’s sermons and only found two that mentioned the words “obey” or “obedience.” One of them was a teaching on how children must obey their parents; the other was given in 1958. I am certain he must have preached on obedience as to what God commands more than that, but it looks to me like he downplays that paramount subject because of the unpopularity of the word “obedience.” Christianity without obedience is not Christianity. That is one of religion's crimes against God.

I am certain some bloggers have been offended and others irritated by this post that cuts to the core of religious belief. For those who are in a state of denial of their feel-good spiritual cancer or the authenticity of this strong message, I ask you to please send me a Biblical rebuttal. Or if I have left out some passages that are in favor of the belief I have challenged, again let me know. Or better yet, take this message to a career clergyman/women. Let them present their defense. My only desire is that some of the readers who need to make serious changes in their belief systems are motivated to do so by this message. My prayer is that God will bless all the bloggers who subscribe to this blog, but He can only bless as much as you–plural—will allow.

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