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Billy Graham’s Good News


(Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

I had Wednesday morning set aside to write my monthly column for KSR, but I was at a loss for a topic. On Tuesday I tweeted out a request for ideas and got a lot of good suggestions, but none of them resonated. So I woke up Wednesday with a few hours to write, but nothing to say. Then with one breaking headline, I am now overwhelmed with too much to say.

Billy Graham has died.

Where do I even begin? Of course I could talk about his impact as the greatest evangelist the Church has known, arguably since the Apostle Paul himself; perhaps a piece on his above-reproach character as a needed rebuke to the scandal-plagued lives of public religious leaders in our days; or his willingness to serve as a spiritual advisor to both Democrat and Republican presidents as a refreshing example to our deeply polarized and partisan culture. These and many other ideas came to mind, but none seemed fitting. In the coming days, years, and even centuries, historians and biographers much more qualified than I will be writing on those matters.

Instead, I want to write what I believe, with all my heart, he would ask me to write. The best way to honor this great man is to once more share what he devoted his life to sharing. And the best way for you to honor one of the greatest figures of American culture is to at least spend a few minutes considering what he had to say. Agree or disagree with Billy Graham, I think we can all agree his life’s work is worth consideration.

I won’t say it as well as he said it, but thankfully its truth is true, whether expressed in the eloquent and powerful words of Billy Graham or from the clumsy stammering lips of the rest of us. In hundreds of different ways, throughout thousands of different places, to millions of different people, Billy Graham had only one thing to say: Gospel.

Have you ever wondered what it is that Christians actually believe? At the core of our faith is this word gospel, which means “good news.” Religions are full of good advice—systems to follow, tenants to adhere to, rules to keep. But in contrast, Christianity is good news. Not something that we are to do, but something that has been done.

But this good news begins with bad news: We are all sinners. In our day, the concept of sin is at best trivialized and at worst despised, but on the deepest levels, we all know it to be true. Our guilt and shame bear witness to the reality that none of us is as we ought to be. This is because we were created by a just God who has just expectations for the world in the same way you have just expectations for the world.

Not only do you believe in this thing called justice, you demand it. From the deepest forms of injustice to the smallest acts like cutting in line, everyone expects that everyone else behave rightly. And yet that same expectation we have of others simultaneously indicts us. I cannot demand justice while also asking to be the one exception to justice. Instead, I must play by the same rules. If I want there to be such a thing as right and wrong (and who doesn’t?), then I must I ask whether I myself do what is right and not do what is wrong. And friends, I do not. Again and again, I fail to do what I demand of you.

But the reality of justice gets only worse, because God is not interested in whether I adhere to my own standard of justice. God wants to know how I measure up to his standard.  And if I can’t even live up to my own standard, then how shall I stand before perfect justice? The answer is I cannot stand. When people say, “Only God can judge me,” I don’t think they realize how awful that news is. Indeed, only God can judge us, but God judges based upon his standard of justice, not ours. And God’s standard far exceeds my standard, for it is nothing short of perfection. Therefore, none of us has any hope of ever escaping the justice of God.

Perhaps you’re wondering at this point how this could ever be called “good news.” Well, there is more to the story. God is not only just; God is love. In the same way God’s justice far exceeds our standards of justice, God’s love far exceeds our standards of love. Indeed, God is the perfect standard of love. And so it would seem that the justice and love of God are irreconcilably at odds. He must judge perfectly, and yet he loves perfectly those he must judge.

Every revival that Billy Graham ever preached confronted his hearers in some way with that tension, and every revival that Billy Graham ever preached ended with Jesus as the answer to that tension. Jesus Christ—specifically the cross of Jesus Christ—is the answer to the justice/love dilemma of God. Here I’ll quote Graham directly, “God proved his love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’” But how is the death of Jesus the love of God? Because the death of Jesus wasn’t just his death, it was my death.

Jesus took upon himself all my sin and carried it to Calvary to receive the judgment day it deserves. On the cross, Jesus received the justice that I deserve, endured the punishment that I have earned, and died the death I should have died, so that now the justice of God is satisfied and the love of God is all that remains forevermore.

That is the good news Billy Graham shared with hundreds of millions of people. And today, that is the good news Billy Graham died trusting. The messenger finally inheriting the good news of his message. I’ll let him have the final word: “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Robert Cunningham is the Senior Pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church. Follow him on twitter at @tcpcrobert and send any comments or questions to [email protected]

Article written by Robert Cunningham

47 responses to “Billy Graham’s Good News”

  1. swarrenwilson

    Excellent article. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Lhw

    Very well said. Thank you for the article.

  3. Brogreg

    Great article about a great man who changed our world who lived and served God by power of Holy Spirit.

  4. JFlan

    Great Job!

  5. channell

    Perfectly stated. Thanks for reminding us of God’s perfect love.

  6. nstewart

    Wow I think that is the best article I have ever read on KSR.

  7. JLP

    Billy Graham was a man of great faith and shallow thinking. He cozied up to presidents for the status. Hypocritically, his organization changed Mormons from cult to Christian for political reasons – help Romney win election. Elevate faith as your pinnacle of perfection all you want, but faith is not required when compelling evidence exists. Faith is required only when evidence is weak or lacking. BG will never be a hero to me for that reason. I prefer reason & evidence over glorification of faith. Now all you Christians who profess love is central to Christian thought, unleash your venom on me. That’s the reality I see and hear.

    1. Parker_UKFanNC

      As a Christian, far too many Christians including myself are guilty of failing to Love first and to not get offended. I won’t comment on your statements as I don’t know much about those topics but Christians are very guilty of being hypocritical. It’s probably one of the biggest reasons why so many people avoid church more these days.

    2. minkekj

      JLP, to be completely honest…we all live on faith. I love science, I love reason, l love analyzing ideas. But even those only go so far. Eventually, you will hit a wall or a gap and you must choose where you put your faith. My brother and one of my best friends are non-believers, they both believe in science. But even they admit science doesn’t answer everything and eventually you step out on faith on something. And truth be told, I absolutely love talking with both guys because they challenge me and they’re brilliant. I know it might be weird coming from a random internet comment, but I’d truly love to grab coffee and chat sometime. You say you like reason, as do I.

    3. catsby90.1

      I don’t know a lot about the politics aspect of your post so I won’t comment on it. I’m sure that happens pretty often, and I’m upset that it does. I don’t want to unleash venom on you because I don’t think that’s how Christians should act. Spreading Gods love and developing a relationship with him is actually what it’s about. I believe in him and all he has done because I have had experiences that can’t be answered otherwise. I pray that you experience the same pal. God bless

    4. JLP

      Minkekj, This Cat fan lives in Washington State, home of Starbucks, Amazon & Microsoft. Oddly, I don’t drink coffee! Appreciate your offer though.

    5. CombatMedic_98

      If u deny the Father, HE too will deny you…for it is written, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess. Takeaway is, you may not do it here on earth while you have the chance to publicly join his team…but you will standing before the Son. It’s too late then. He makes it so simple and rewarding JLP, have faith of a mustard seed and in turn reap what you don’t have access to unless you surrender to the Father. I pray you surrender and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior Today and live a repentative live. It’s worth it, you are worth it, HE is worth it!!!

  8. jtd6567

    Well said. True, but graceful … just as he would have done.

  9. JLP

    Oh, and remember Jesus would only be “good news” for believers. For the billions and billions of non-believers, he can only be considered “bad news”. No Jesus, no Hell? According to doctrine, Jesus is the toggle switch between heaven & hell. Believe or burn baby burn, even though it is a 2,000 year old story with no compelling evidence except for some arbitrary writing that came decades after his death by unknown writers. God is Love. God created Hell. God is not love.

    1. Parker_UKFanNC

      Hell is defined as complete and total separation from God. No hope, no love, no positive emotion whatsoever. Only despair.

    2. timbo

      The bad news is exactly what was presented…you and I and everyone else are guilty. Justice for the guilty means hell, it’s true. The good news is that the Son of God has stood in your (my) place before the most righteous. He intercedes on our behalf. We can accept this intercession, like the just Father has accepted it, or we can reject it based on our own misguided views of what justice “ought” to be. I certainly won’t pretend that a holy and perfect God has a lesser understanding than my own of what true justice is.

    3. JLP

      Does Jesus intercede to himself? Ever heard of the Trinity? If Jesus died on the cross, did the Father and HS also? If only the man Jesus died but not the Son, then how could a man take on mankind’s sin? How fair is it for an innocent person to sub for a guilty one? Would human courts allow that? Why did Jesus even need to die; isn’t God mighty enough to just forgive? So many questions; so few answers except by FAITH.

    4. Parker_UKFanNC

      Jesus took on the human form in order to take our place. He died to forgive our sins. From the garden mankind has always had freedom of choice. Thus people also have the choice to accept the forgiveness. Mankind was made to have relationship with God before sin entered the world. Jesus came to give a way to once again live in eternity with God.

    5. CombatMedic_98

      Because of Sin, man couldn’t get it right even when God Spoke to them. the Father sent the Son so he could be a “Shepherd” to us and literally SHOW us the way to his house! LITERALLY. So yeah, we have to die to our flesh. Everyone dies. PERIOD. Forgiveness is already rendered, you have to accept Jesus to receive his covering…he was the sacrificial Lamb for all on earth because we couldn’t do what he demanded of us.

    6. JLP

      Parker, I appreciate your tone and respect your willingness to respond civilly. Personally, I don’t believe in any Garden of Eden or Original Sin. Augustine certainly ran wild with Paul’s idea on that (and remember to blame Eve first – it was a woman who caused the Fall). As an evolutionary biologist, I can find absolutely no evidence of any Garden, any Flood, a spread of language diversity from a tower at Babylon, or any evidence of humanity starting from two people in the Middle East. But many of my family and friends are Christian and I love them and don’t try to actively convert them to my thinking. Best wishes

    7. Parker_UKFanNC

      You mentioned you were a biologist. Have you done much research on the bombardier beetle? The specifications and absolute accuracy that the percentage of the chemicals needed to create their “bomb.” How would you argue that evolution would be able to have a creature with 0 room for error in its chemicals to defend itself? To me this creature alone is a huge argument for intelligent design vs macro evolution. I completely believe in micro evolution but the the evolution of one species to another.

    8. Parker_UKFanNC

      My goodness lots of typos in that last post. They really need an edit button. “The speculations and absolute accuracy required of the percentages to make their bomb defies evolution to me.” “I completely believe in micro evolution but not the evolution of one species to another.”

    9. BlueHeaven

      JLP, first let me say that it saddens me that you feel the need to even post something like you did about BG whether or not you believe in God. The mere fact that you attack him and then God shows you are broken and hurting and I will definitely pray for you even though you may not want it or have asked for it. Your comment about some arbitrary writings is the furthest thing from the truth. The fact is that the Bible has stood the test of time more than any other book or document written throughout the course of history. Society has been based on the writings of people like Socrates yet when you compare his writings as well as all others they are not as accurate, spread and shared consistently throughout the world as much as the Bible. I’m not hear to try and convince you of my beliefs nor get into an argument as I have my faith and it is what I believe and sustains me. A lot of your statements aren’t new from those who don’t believe and the fact is Jesus died for all of us knowing that some would accept and follow him and some never would. May the love and peace of God find you.

    10. CombatMedic_98

      Don’t let Satan deceive you. He want to kill, steal, and destroy everything about YOU and as fast as possible…sadly, science ended up proving God does exist and yes Jesus is real. JLP, if the demons recognize Jesus as the Christ, Muslims recognize Jesus as a Prophet of God, and the Bible is a proven historical text book of Christianity based on the evidence of the Dead Sea scrolls…why then do you deny the Son and the Father?

    11. Sentient Third Eye

      Jesus offers salvation to everyone at some point or another, and every single human must individually decide to accept or reject it. Ultimately everyone ends up exactly where they put themselves. God has never and will never damn anyone.

    12. CombatMedic_98

      Jesus came to save the non-believers, the gentiles, the Jews, the atheist, the lost, the poor, the hurt, the rich, all skin colors, EVERYONE!

  10. JLP

    Who defines Hell that way? Not Jesus or the Bible & most evangelicals. It is a place of active, eternal torment. Unless you know more than most evangelicals about these matters.

  11. JLP

    Is that Graham’s definition of Hell? He didn’t believe in hellfire & active torture?

  12. Tsmithff10

    The Bible is a great non-fictional book, one of the best I have read. Very sad day and may be rest in peace.

  13. antiquefurnitureandmidgets

    That is some Holy Spirit inspired stuff right there. Not a swipe at Mr. Cunningham but no man writes with that kind of wisdom on his own. I’m sure he’d be the first to agree. Just beautiful.

  14. Chacosrule

    Don’t know much about Billy. But great article. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Parker_UKFanNC

    Those are both things described in the Bible because they are easier to comprehend the pain and suffering of hell. But it’s the separation from the presence of God that’s the worst and least understood part of hell.

    1. JLP

      How do you know that and so many other Christians don’t? Maybe you just don’t want to believe your God could be that cruel? Yet that has been the predominate Christian belief over the centuries. I ask again – you have a special line of communication to your deity?

    2. Parker_UKFanNC

      How many Christians have actual relationship with God? I know plenty of other Christians that believe this the same as I do. The thing is many Christians faith is defined by attending church and and praying before meals. For most of my life the same could be said of me. It wasn’t till high school I really started to pursue God and seek Him out. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great people who have set great examples of how to live a life pleasing to God.

  16. westkycat20

    The 1505 Christian Coalition is proud of ya bob. IZ-?? 1062

  17. mikeintn

    Thanks Robert, great article with so much truth, about a great man and his work for GOD, not a perfect man [ as he would have been the first to say ], but he let the Lord use him in such a wonderful way, and now he has his reward in heaven.

  18. blueballs80

    Keep religion out of a sports blog! You are entitled to your beliefs but how is this relevant to a sports blog?

    1. 4everUKblue

      You must be new to KSR balls. You have a choice….read it or don’t.

    2. Booby Petrino

      lol You are entitled to keep scrolling and not comment. Or you are entitled to comment and whine. Just as KSR is entitled to post about whatever they want on their site that you’re using for free.

    3. Sentient Third Eye

      Technically speaking, you are not wrong, but that ship already sailed long ago…

  19. Cryingtheblues

    Great article!

  20. Sentient Third Eye

    Graham was Jesus-like in his ability to rise above all politics, even when expressing what could be called a political opinion. He is probably the only public figure in modern times who managed to accomplish that. He was to Christian leadership what C. S. Lewis was to Christian philosophy, meaning he set a standard that all will follow for a century and few, if any, will ever equal.

  21. 8generationsblue

    I really appreciate KSR putting this on their site!!! Means a lot to me! Thank you!

  22. KY Blue Blood

    Love Billy Graham. A man full of love for Christ and because of that full of love and conviction for mankind and always busy working to awaken the lost with the good news of the gospel. Best thing I’ve ever read on KSR, BY FAR! Thank you guys for posting this!

  23. CombatMedic_98

    America’s Pastor was the most consistent man of God I have ever known. The most influential leader & role model in my life. He was the only man to preach the Gospel openly in North Korea ??. His legacy and testimony was already sealed in history. He will surely be missed.

  24. wesmorgan1

    Graham was a mixed bag…as is every one of us.

  25. CombatMedic_98

    However a true man of God.