Reverend Billy Graham, an evangelist like you and me
William Franklin “Billy” Graham Jr (November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018) was an American evangelical evangelist, Arminian theologian and Baptist pastor. Graham was born on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina and was brought in by his parents to the Association of Reformed Presbyterian Churches. After attending several evangelism meetings, Graham was converted at age 16 in 1934. After graduating in theology and being appointed as a minister, he was a spiritual adviser to several US presidents and a prominent member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Billy Graham personally preached to more people than any other preacher in history around the world. According to his team, in 1993, more than 2.5 million people took “a step forward in their crusade to receive Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour.” As of 2008, Graham's lifetime audience, including radio and television, has exceeded 2.2 billion.
What can we learn from his messages? First, as an evangelist, he always emphasised in his sermons that we are all sinners. If we read in Ecclesiastes 7.20, it says: “For there is not a single righteous man on earth who practises good and does not sin” and in Romans 3.23: “...since all have sinned and continue to fall short of God's glory”. There is no mystery in talking about what is written in the Bible. This was the basis of the preaching of John Wesley and so many others that emerged throughout our history, but what did they have in common? Passion for souls, for lives with Christ Jesus as their only Lord and Saviour.
Reverend Billy Graham was in Brazil in August 1975 preaching at the Maracana football stadium to more than 100 thousand people and my family and I were there. In his sermons, Reverend Billy Graham also addressed aspects of sin. It is not enough to report what the Bible says about the sinful nature of the human being, without giving examples of what sin is because, for many, it is very abstract and we need to give concrete examples of what separates us from God. The Bible teaches us that the most common sins are reported in Galatians 5.19-21: “Now the actions of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of anger, quarrels, conflicts, factions, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild partying, and things like that. I am telling you now, as I have told you in the past, that people who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Another passage on this subject is in Revelation 21:8: “But people who are cowardly, unfaithful, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars will find themselves in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur. This is the second death.”
Reverend Billy Graham passed away in 2018 and left us a great example of what we can do so that the Name, which is above every name, Jesus Christ, is heard and glorified through our personal testimony of what God has done in our lives. In our daily Bible readings we ask God to give us the opportunity to tell at least one person that Jesus loves them. Take advantage of this moment of reading and mark these passages in your Bible, so that when talking about God's love, it is easier to remember and show them how important it is to know the Word of God.
Rev Ilidio C. de Oliveira Jr.