Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham 60 years ago, interviewed Graham about his life, ministry and his most recent book: “Q&A: Billy Graham's Warning Against an Epidemic of 'Easy Believism'.” This interview was conducted in conjunction with the “My Hope America with Billy Graham” campaign during the month of November, which accompanies the release of likely his last book, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation.
Since 2002, the “My Hope” crusade has reached 57 countries, America being the 58th, with more than 298,000 churches participating, and with more than 4.4 million Christians serving as hosts. According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, more than 10 million people have become Christians.
I will highlight a few key statements, though I encourage you to read the whole interview. What Graham says is always worthwhile to hear.
In response to the question of how he refers to himself first, as an evangelical or a Christian and why, he stated that “what really matters is how God sees me. He isn’t concerned with labels; he is concerned about the state of one’s soul.” This is exactly right and refreshing to hear. It reminds me of Paul when he writes to the Galatians, “now that you have God, or rather to be known by God “(4:9a).
Graham tells the story of his own life in which he had previously thought he was a Christian, but realized after he experienced the new spiritual birth that he had not been. He claims that what accompanies is a new birth is a new life.
If there is no change in a person's life, he or she must question whether or not they possess the salvation that the gospel proclaims. Many who go to church have not had a life-changing transformation in Christ.
He was also asked, “Why, according to the title of your book, is salvation the reason for your hope?,” and his response gets to the heart of his concern, “easy-believism.”
As I approached my 95th birthday, I was burdened to write a book that addressed the epidemic of "easy believism." There is a mindset today that if people believe in God and do good works they are going to Heaven. But there are many questions that must be answered. There are two basic needs that all people have: the need for hope and the need for salvation. It should not be surprising if people believe easily in a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. Satan has cleverly misled people by whispering that they can believe in Jesus Christ without being changed, but this is the Devil's lie. To those who say you can have Christ without giving anything up, Satan is deceiving you. While I am no longer able to stand in the pulpit and deliver a sermon from the Bible, God laid on my heart a burning desire to put this message in book form—a message that resonates within me every time I switch on the news. When I visit with people from all walks of life the question is asked, "What is happening in the world?"
Asked about topics and illustrations that address people’s needs, Graham noted that there is a great deal of confusion today – about religions, about God, about heaven and hell – and the answer to it all is Jesus Christ.
There are so many religions in the world, and I have never witnessed as much confusion as there is today about where to find truth. We have people preaching that God is a God of love, not of wrath. We have people proclaiming that Heaven is real but Hell is only a figment of imagination. As research was done for this book, my heart ached to hear story after story of people bragging that Hell will be one continuous happy hour; high profile comedians joke that they are happy to know they will one day go there.
This book is written to sound a warning—a loving warning from Heaven—that Heaven is created for those who humble themselves before God and Hell is created for Satan and those who serve him. Christ came to turn mankind away from the hold Satan wants to have in people's lives. Jesus Christ is the answer for the world—he is the anchor of the soul—he is the God of hope that came in human form to rescue us from Satan's grip. A seminary professor once made a profound statement to his students: "Never preach Hell without tears in your eyes." My message is to proclaim that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and ask each one this question: Have you ever been saved?
I thank the Lord for Billy Graham. I am also grateful that the Lord, in His faithfulness, preserved Graham so that he remained faithful to Him in carrying out his call as an evangelist and as evidenced in his commitment to the gospel in proclamation and life.