By Tim Spiess
The death of Billy Graham is receiving much attention around the world. He was, after all, a global figure preaching his version of the Christian gospel. The praise, tributes, accolades and effusive admiration from almost all segments of societies is remarkable. Popular Christians and the mass media are putting out statements like, “Graham, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was regularly listed in polls as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World."
There is no doubt that Billy Graham was popular and that his message was popular. You don’t get popular by preaching a message that is not popular. In fact, it could be said that Mr. Grahams’ ‘gospel’ has set the tone for much of contemporary Christianity, particularly of the protestant bent. Essentially, Mr. Graham’s gospel in a nut shell was this, ‘Christ died to save sinners…believe in Christ to go to heaven’. The only possibly offensive part of Mr. Graham’s gospel was the term ‘sinners’, but that term divorced from what it actually means has become an acceptable (if not mocked in some corners) religious term. In his evangelistic ‘crusades’, Mr. Graham would not tell people what he believed ‘sinners’ were, he would merely repeat in many different ways that ‘Christ died for sinners so that you could go to heaven’.
Mr. Graham’s gospel was very good news to tens of millions of people. All they had to do was to ‘believe in’ the Christ mentioned by Mr. Graham and they would be heaven bound! Mr. Graham would also encourage those at his religious meeting to attend their local religious organization (the ‘church’), and it didn’t matter what sect it was. As long as you “believed in Christ” (what or whoever that was) and went ‘to church’, you were heaven bound. If you look at the religious landscape in the U.S., you should be able to see that Mr. Graham’s gospel has very much been appropriated by the masses of ‘church-going’ Christians.
I did not know Mr. Graham but by most accounts he was a decent and kind human being who had moral principles he tried to live out, just like most people. I do not judge the person of Mr. Graham, but I do judge his message and his gospel as desperately wanting. (As an important aside to people interested in politics, you also should NOT judge the person but rather judge the policies.)
Here are a few saying of the real, historical Jesus of Nazareth that show what a gulf exists between Mr. Graham’s ‘christ’ and the real, historical Person of Jesus of Nazareth:
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.” Luke 6:26
Of course the rest of the gospel books tell us that Jesus was persecuted and killed by those in power for the things he preached, and those people in power were supported by the vast majority of citizens (see Matt. 27:22; Mark 15:13-15; Luke 23:21; John 19:15).
What did Mr. Graham’s message produce? “Graham, who had been in ill health for a number of years, was regularly listed in polls as one of the "Ten Most Admired Men in the World."
The only people that didn’t speak well of Graham are those who don’t speak well towards anyone who holds to some consistent traditional moral view or God belief – primarily atheists and LGBT folks. When Jesus was referring to the “when all men speak well of you”, he was referring to the general populace, not narrow anti-god, anti-moral special interest groups. It was not the atheists and anti-morality people who hated and killed Jesus, it was the people in power – the religious leaders and the politicians and their followers.
Here is another saying of the real Light of the world that brings light onto Mr. Graham’s gospel.
“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” John 15:20
So, the deduction is simple. They did indeed persecute the real, historical Jesus, to the point of murdering him. Those who follow the real, historical Jesus of Nazareth get the same treatment. We are not popular because we don’t preach a popular message. We don’t preach, ‘believe in a Christ of your own making and support your local religious organization in order to go to heaven’. No, rather we repeat The Light’s sayings like:
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
“You cannot serve God and wealth / money.”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…”
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of God.”
“I am the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through me.”
"Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."
I urge the reader to get to know the real, historical Person of Jesus of Nazareth by reading Jesus’ own words in the four gospel books, starting with the book of John. If you have eyes to see, you should at least sense that what the real, historical Joshua of Nazareth said, and what Mr. Graham said, are mutually exclusive things. You should also be able to see that things are not going so well in the U.S. AND 'the church' that Mr. Graham spoke of is powerless to bring meaningful change. You should be able to see that the growing division and hatred is going to lead to much pain, loss and suffering. Why wait for that to come to pass before actually finding out what the real, historical Person of Jesus of Nazareth has to say to you? Here is a link to the real, true good news of Jesus of Nazareth if you are interested in contrasting it with Billy Graham’s gospel - The True Gospel of Joshua of Nazareth.
Book available on Amazon - The Light of the World: The Life and Teachings of Jesus of Nazareth Or free on this website in PDF here