On Nov. 7, my father turned 99 years old. Thankfully, I was able to be with him and celebrate how God has used a simple farm boy from North Carolina to share His love and truth with the world. For some eight decades, he has preached the Good News that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV).
Here, at his home in North Carolina, he has a Bible verse printed in very large letters pinned up on the wall in his bedroom (it’s also in the bathroom, dining room and several other spots around the house). It’s his life verse and it reads: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14, NKJV).
My father has truly lived that verse his entire life and has preached it to hundreds of millions of people around the world. In fact, you will still find in literally scores of countries men and women whose lives were transformed by the Holy Spirit as they listened to one of my father’s Crusades in person or through his radio and television outreach.
Many of them became leaders of mission-minded churches and ministries that in turn reached thousands more with the saving Gospel of the Savior. As I travel and preach today, I invariably meet someone who shares a story with me of how they made a decision for Christ through my father’s Gospel proclamation.
All to the glory of God!
And now as my father enters his 100th year, we are joyfully celebrating his life and ministry with a yearlong series of special events. It is God’s grace and mercy that has allowed my father to live now for nearly 100 years, virtually all of it marked by a global evangelistic ministry that has steadfastly preached “Christ and Him crucified.”
And while the message of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has never changed, certainly the world has.
Here in the United States, the moral decline has moved with breakneck speed in the past two decades. The sanctity of marriage, the stability of the family unit, the clear, distinct roles of men and women—the backbone of a morally healthy society—have come under vicious attack by liberals and progressives who are determined to spread their immoral and destructive ideology to not only this generation, but the next as well. If the coming 10-20 years proceed at the same perilous pace as the past 20 years, then I shudder to think what our culture will look like.
I continue to believe that we have a brief window of opportunity for change. A Supreme Court with a new conservative bent can help undo decades of rulings that have flaunted traditional morality and accepted norms. Conservative judges appointed in the next few years can be a backstop against the liberal bias that has dominated the nation’s benches for so long.
Abroad, the threats of nuclear war are ringing out from rogue countries like North Korea and Iran, the still virulent threat of Islamic terrorism rages, and global tensions between world superpowers are as prevalent as ever.
The ultimate change agent for cultural and personal renewal, however, is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, all too many churches no longer present the clear-cut, transforming message of the Gospel of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection—His substitutionary, sacrificial death for the forgiveness of our sins. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, ESV). It’s only the company of the truly redeemed who can be the salt and light needed to positively affect a deteriorating culture.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the growing chaos, the powerful, penetrating words of the Prophet Isaiah pierce the darkness with resounding truth.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace, there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:6-7, ESV).
Of course, that verse was fulfilled in the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in the small village of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, when the “Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, ESV).
Jesus, God’s Son, the Savior of all who place their trust in Him, came into a stable as both fully God and fully man, lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, died on a Roman cross for our sin, was buried, and rose again from the dead to secure our salvation.
The world’s deadliest problem—sin—was dealt with by the Son of God. The long-promised Messiah stepped out of eternity and into time, to save us from our sins and give us everlasting life.
And yet there is still a sense that this promise is still being fulfilled. Yes, the Kingdom of God has already come in the lives of believers submitted to His rule in our hearts, but the day is coming soon when that Kingdom will come in its full glory when Christ returns. Then the “increase of His government and peace” will be at its full zenith. The knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
That’s why the message of the Gospel is always relevant, regardless of the decade, or era or moral status of the culture. All men from all ages have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all men are in need of redemption. And redemption only happens through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NKJV).
If you look at the logo that marks my father’s 100th year, you will see the one thing that he loved to boast in—the precious cross. Here at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, it’s our privilege to continue to declare that “the Gospel is the power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16, NKJV).
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Scripture quotations marked ESV are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.