Sunday, February 25, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Do the Work of an Evangelist (Billy Graham, 1918-2018)"

“Do the Work of An Evangelist”
Billy Graham (1918-2018)
February 25, 2018 :: 2 Timothy 4:1-8 

It happened again. My plan all week was for us to start in on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with a study of the Beatitudes. We read the whole Sermon on the Mount two weeks ago, but then we took a week off to learn about the Holy Spirit after Stay Sharp.

And I studied this week, thinking that we were going to dive into the Sermon on the Mount this morning. That was my plan.

But apparently the Lord has a different plan for us.

Because after Billy Graham died on Wednesday, I just couldn’t get him out of my mind, and when it came time to write this week’s message, I felt like it would be very appropriate to take one more week off of the Sermon on the Mount and do something special to mark Dr. Graham’s passing into glory.

There aren’t very many people I would take a Sunday off my normal plan to talk about, but Billy Graham has had an enormous impact for Jesus Christ on our world. And his death truly marks the end of an era. His body will lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C!

So Marilynn will have to come up with yet another cover about the beatitudes because this week, we’re going to stop and look at 2 Timothy 4:1-8.

I picked this passage because it is also about the death of another major Christian leader. The Apostle Paul expected that he would soon be executed. He says, “the time has come for my departure.”

This is Paul’s last letter that we have. And he used that last letter (and the last chapter of his last letter!) to give his protégée Timothy a very solemn charge.

And as we read it, I think we’ll hear echoes of and lessons from the life and ministry of Billy Graham.
Embed from Getty Images
William Franklin Graham was born on November 7, 1918, four days before the Armistice was signed to end World War I. He died this last Wednesday, February 21, 2018. Over 99 years old. That’s a long lifetime. And what a life he lived!

I’m not going to give a history lesson this morning. This is a sermon, not a lecture. But I recommend learning about the life of Billy Graham.

When I was in college, I read this book, Billy Graham: The Authorized Biography by John Pollock. It was first published in 1966. By 1966, Billy Graham had already preached the gospel in person to over 50,000,000 people!

By the time he died, it was more than twice that number.

And he preached to many many more than that through broadcasting: radio, television, film, internet.

He is arguably the most influential Christian figure of the last century.

And everybody here knows his name.

A few years from now many less will know his name.

There was a time when he was on one of the top most admired people in America every single year. There are many who don’t know him today.

But he has been a household name for many years.

And most of us have a Billy Graham story to tell. Some way that he has impacted us.

My wife's family has a picture of her grandfather, Billy Wood, standing in a group and talking with Billy Graham at the Hume Lake camp and conference center in California.

When Heather was little, her parents were counselors on the floor near the podium at the Billy Graham Crusade in her hometown of Calgary.

What’s your Billy Graham story?

He came and preached in Altoona in 1949.

I have several of his books my shelf many of which belonged to my grandmother who gave them to me when I started to show an interest in spiritual things. One on the Holy Spirit, one on the End Times called Approaching Hoofbeats.

The first major paper that I wrote at college was about Billy Graham and his influence on people around the world. I put up a poster in the hallways at Moody saying, “Were you converted under the ministry of Billy Graham? I want to talk to you.” And I had several fascinating conversations of people from all walks of life who had been led to the Lord through Billy Graham’s ministry.

Graham was innovative and broke new ground in publishing, broadcasting, even film making. He met with Presidents (11 of them, I think, here's a tribute from George W. Bush) and royalty and celebrities (he was friends with Johnny Cash, for example). But what he was best known for and what he wanted to be known for is for being an evangelist.

A few years ago Pastor Ralph Rott gave me this book, Graham’s autobiography, Just As I Am published in 1997. In the introduction Billy writes, “I want to add a few words about my calling as an evangelist. The word evangelist comes from a Greek word meaning ‘one who announces Good News.’ Its verb form occurs over fifty times in the Greek New Testament. An evangelist, then, is like a newscaster on television or a journalist writing for a newspaper or magazine–except that the evangelist’s mission is to tell the good news of the Gospel. (The word Gospel actually means ‘Good News’).

In the Bible, an evangelist is a person sent by God to announce the Gospel, the Good News; he or she has a spiritual gift that has never been withdrawn from the Church. Methods differ, but the central truth remains; an evangelist is a person who has been called and especially equipped by God to declare the Good News to those who have not yet accepted it, with the goal of challenging them to turn to Christ in repentance and faith and to follow Him in obedience to His will. The evangelist is not called to do everything in the church or in the world that God wants done. On the contrary, the calling of the evangelist is very specific.

Nor is the evangelist free to change the message, any more than a newscaster is free to change the news. The main thrust of our message is centered in Christ and what He has done for us by His death and resurrection, and the need for us to respond by committing our lives to Him. It is the message that Christ came to forgive us and give us new life and hope as we turn to Him” (pgs. xiv-xv).

That’s what Billy Graham was all about.

And that’s why I want to title this message from verse 5, “Do the Work of an Evangelist.”

And I have four points of application that I want to make.

All four come from 2 Timothy chapter 4, but I want to use a catchphrase from or about Billy Graham to describe each one.

Here’s the first one:

1. “THE BIBLE SAYS.”

Can you hear Billy Graham say it, “The Bible Says...”

When Billy Graham preached, he didn’t just spout out his opinions. He didn’t just tell stories. He didn’t just share his feelings.

He preached from the Bible, and this was his catchphrase, “The Bible says...” and then he would explain biblical teaching.

Because that’s where the power is.
Embed from Getty Images
And because he was heeding the words of Paul to Timothy in chapter 4. Listen again to verse 1.

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I [Paul] give you [Timothy] this charge: Preach the Word...”

Can you feel how serious Paul is about this charge?

You can’t get any more serious than appealing to the presence of God and Christ who will JUDGE and is coming back again to set up His Kingdom.

That’s the basis of this charge.

“Timothy, don’t preach anything else than God’s word.”

And preach it faithfully. V.2

“...be prepared in season and out of season [when you feel like it and when you don’t, when you feel ready and when don’t]; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction.”

That’s faithful preaching. Year in and year out. And not just preaching the easy parts that people want to hear. “Correct, rebuke, and encourage.”

Don’t just encourage!

And do it with great patience and careful instruction. Why? V.3

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. [Tell me this. Tell me this!] They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”

But myths won’t save.

Only the truth will save!

Doesn’t verse 3 sound like today?

It’s been like that for a long time. Paul warned of it, Billy Graham saw it in his day and countered it by preaching the Word.

Where are you at with God’s word?

Do you believe it?
Do you know what it says?
Are you trusting in it?
Are you reading it every day?
Are you basing your life on it?

You know there was a time in Billy Graham’s life when he had some serious doubts about the Bible.

It was 1949 and the Los Angeles evangelistic crusade was coming up. And another preacher had challenged Graham that the Bible was out of date and couldn’t be trusted.

And Billy had a little crisis of faith.

He writes about it on page 139 of Just As I Am.

He went for a walk in the moonlight with his Bible and he placed it on a tree trunk and prayed. He said something like, “O God! There are many things in this Book I do not understand. There are many problems with it which I have no solution. There are many seeming contradictions. There are some areas in it that do not seem to correlate with modern science. I can’t answer some of the philosophical and psychological questions [they] are raising...Father, I am going to accept this as Thy Word—by faith! I’m going to allow faith to go beyond my intellectual questions and doubts, and I will believe this to be Your inspired Word....

When I got up from my knees...my eyes stung with tears. I sensed the presence and power fo God as I had not sensed it in months. Not all my questions were answered, but a major bridge had been crossed. In my heart and mind, I knew a spiritual battle in my soul had been fought and won.”

“The Bible says.”

And that’s the authority.

Is that where you are?

Have you had that same experience?

Made that same commitment?

I remember when I read about that at Moody about 25 years ago that it was a great example to me. I got down on my knees and said something very similar to the Lord.

I still have questions. But I also have faith in God’s Word.

That’s why I’m up here every Sunday teaching this thing!

Do you believe what the Bible says?

Or do you just want teachers to say what your itching ears want to hear?

Don’t turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Because they won’t save.

They can’t save!

The passage just before this is also very familiar. Paul just go done reminding Timothy what the Word of God is. Look up at 3:16.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

What does the Bible say?

And whatever it says, we trust that.

And we preach that.

Here’s Number Two.

#2. “JUST AS I AM.”

That’s the title of the hymn that is most closely associated with Billy Graham and his evangelistic team.

By the way, that’s one of the things I love about Billy Graham is that he surrounded himself with a team. He didn’t try to do everything on his own. He was like Paul in that, too.

And some of his team led the singing like Cliff Barrows and George Beverly Shea.

One of the things that Billy Graham was known for was giving people an invitation right then and there to respond to the gospel message.

At his stadium events, he would invite them to come forward, talk with a counselor and pray to receive Christ.

He was famous for saying that the buses would wait for you. “You just come.”

And the choir would sing “Just As I Am:”

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!
Embed from Getty Images
Now, of course, you don’t have to walk an aisle to become a Christian.

You don’t even have to pray “the sinner’s prayer.”

It is by grace through faith that we are saved. And not by our works at all.

But we can express that faith by walking an aisle and praying a sinner’s prayer.

And we must all respond in faith to the gospel to be saved.

We all have to repent and believe.

We all have to come to Christ.

Personally.

Individually.

And just as we are.

We don’t get cleaned up first. We come as we are, sinners without one thing going for us...except the grace of God.

And it’s the job of an evangelist to tell us that gospel and call us to respond to it. Look at verse 5.

“But you [instead of turning aside to myths, you...], keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Timothy was supposed to keep a level head. That’s not easy all of the time in ministry.

Billy Graham did well at that on the whole, but he’d be the first to tell you that he also made big mistakes.

I think it’s a mark of his integrity that he publicly declared his regrets and things he’d do over again if he could.

One was that he wished he’d studied more. Another was that he’d traveled less. And was away from his family less. Another was that he had done more to effect racial reconciliation. He led the way in desegregating his evangelistic campaigns and partnering with minority preachers, but he wished that he had done more and sooner. And another big regret was that he allowed himself to get too embroiled in politics and too enamored with politicians.

It’s easy to do if they are making much of you. It’s hard to “keep your head in all situations.”

He says in his book, “...There have been times when I undoubtedly stepped over the line between politics and my calling as an evangelist. An evangelist is called to do one thing, and one thing only; to proclaim the gospel. Becoming involved in strictly political issues or partisan politics inevitably dilutes the evangelist’s impact and compromises his message. It is a lesson I wish I had learned earlier.

About one thing I have absolutely no regrets, however, and is my commitment man years ago to accept God’s calling to serve Him as an evangelist of the Gospel of Christ” (pg 724).

What Billy never regretted was sharing the gospel of grace. He never regretted doing the work of an evangelist. He never regretted calling people to respond to Jesus just as they are.

How about you?

One of the things love about verse 5 is that it doesn’t say, “You are evangelist, Timothy, get busy.” It says, “do the work of an evangelist.”

I think that means that Timothy might not have the gift.

He might not have that special ability that some people have to talk about Jesus and see them come to faith.

Heather and I had a friend at Moody named Jeff who would go for a walk and come back with convert. He just had that gift.

I don’t have that gift.

But I can still do the work.

I can still tell people about Jesus and invite them to respond to Him in faith.

And so can you.

You and I will never be Billy Graham.

We won’t preach to millions about Jesus.

But we can share Jesus with a friend, a neighbor, a family member, a co-worker, a stranger.

Have you filled out one of these yet?

This is doing the work of an evangelist to be a fisher of men.

Write down their name and your name. Who you are praying for and wanting to reach with the gospel of grace.

See, Billy is gone now. It’s up to us pick up the baton.

It’s up to us to discharge the duties of our ministries.

That’s not going to be easy. That’s why Paul told Timothy to endure hardship.

That’s no fun!

This being a Christian thing is not easy. Billy Graham didn’t have it easy. He had Parkinson’s Disease. He had all kinds of threats. So many situations he got into that were difficult. Constant criticism.

But he was faithful to do the work of an evangelist.

And you and I can be, too.

Who do you need to talk to this week about Jesus?

And tell them about what Jesus did for them? And invite them to receive Him as Lord and Savior?

I hope that the death of Billy Graham ushers in a new season of evangelism in the church. Because it’s so easy to not share the gospel.

Paul knew that his life was just about over, and that’s why he’s passing the baton to Timothy. V.6

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.”

“You’re going to have to do it now.

My time is over.”

Billy Graham could be saying the same thing to us today.

I gave you the gospel. I gave you the steps to peace with God.

Now, you need to go tell others.

Here’s number three.

#3. “THE BILLY GRAHAM RULE.”

That’s not what he called it, but it’s named after him.

You might have heard it called, “The Mike Pence Rule” because our current Vice President has adopted it and taken flack for it, as well.

And that is that Billy Graham would not travel with, meet with, or eat alone with a woman who was not his wife.

Now, that’s not in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t give us that rule.

But there is wisdom in it.

What the Bible does say is that men are to be faithful to their wives.

And they are to flee youthful lusts.

And they are to be men of integrity.

Look at verse 7.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Paul is saying that he stuck with it.

He is not claiming to be perfect, just persevering.

He has not given up or defaulted on his confession of faith in Jesus Christ.

What we call “The Billy Graham Rule” is just a part of something that Billy Graham and his teamed called, “The Modesto Manifesto.”

Back in 1948, they met in Modesto California and made a list of the things that normally sink evangelists: money problems, sexual scandals, working at cross-purposes with the local church, and exaggerating evangelistic success.

And they decided then and there that they would put practices in place to makes sure they did not fail in any of those areas. And to be true to their principles, no matter. The Modesto Manifesto.

And they did it!

They stayed faithful to the wives. They were careful with the money. They worked closely with local churches. They were accurate in their reporting.

They fought they good fight. They finished the face. They kept the faith.

This is a call to integrity.

Billy Graham was faithful to Ruth Graham.

He lived out his commitment to Christ as he lived out his commitment to Ruth.

Now, I don’t know what your particular practices are to be men and women of integrity, but what matters is that you are.

Because there is a correlation between how we live and the gospel that we preach.

Is there something you need to put in place to guard your integrity?

Maybe it’s internet filter and accountability software for your phone and computer?

I use something called “Covenant Eyes,” and it sends a weekly report of places I go online to my accountability partner.

Billy Graham wouldn’t get into an elevator alone with a woman who was not his wife.

That might be too strict for you. But he didn’t default either!

He stayed the course.

He stayed true to Ruth and to the gospel and to Jesus.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

#4. “I’D RATHER HAVE JESUS.”

My favorite song from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is the one Bev Shea always used to sing, “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”
Embed from Getty Images

“I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I'd rather be His than have riches untold
I'd rather have Jesus than houses or land
I'd rather be led by His nail-pierced hand

Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sins dread sway
I'd rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today”

I’ll bet the Apostle Paul would have loved that song, too.

Because that was how He felt about Jesus. Look at verse 8.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

All who have longed for Jesus to come back.

Paul knows that he will be reward by Jesus Himself.

And he looks forward to it.

But the best part of that reward is the One who is giving it to him!

Paul has been longing to see Him face to face.

He’s lived for Jesus, more than anything.

“I'd rather have Jesus than vain applause
I'd rather be faithful to His dear cause
I'd rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I'd rather be true to His holy name.”

Billy Graham got lots of applause all around the world.

And he’s being honored this week.

But he often said that his goal was to actually hide behind the Cross so that people would not see him but Jesus.

And now, Billy gets to see Jesus.

On the last page of his autobiography, he wrote, “I know that soon my life will be over. I thank God for it and for all He has given me in this life.

But I look forward to Heaven.

I look forward to the reunion with friends and loved ones who have gone on before.

I look forward to Heaven’s freedom from sorrow and pain.

I also look forward to serving God in ways we can’t begin to imagine, for the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is not a place of idleness.

And most of all, I look forward to seeing Christ and bowing before Him in praise and gratitude for all He has done for us, and for using me on this earth by His grace–just as I am” (pg. 729-730).

Amen!

0 comments: