By Scott Armstrong
In the three weeks since Billy Graham died at the age of 99, I have been reflecting on his life and his legacy. Four of his quotes have stuck with me and I would like to offer them to you here.
- “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”
Almost any scholar would categorize Rev. Graham as a “Reformed” theologian and preacher, so some of us as Wesleyans may be surprised that he preached and wrote often on sanctification. Although he stopped short of understanding entire sanctification the way John Wesley defined it, Graham knew that the legions of new believers who came forward at his revivals needed to continue on to be “made righteous” in holiness. How was this “progressive sanctification” to take place? Graham consistently referred to the two-fold practice of abiding daily in Christ and obeying his Word.
In his book, The Holy Spirit, Graham beautifully puts it this way, “We are as much sanctified as we are possessed by the Holy Spirit. It is never a question of how much you and I have of the Spirit, but how much He has of us.”
- “Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives – as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy – something they obtain and then forget about until they die. What keeps you from being His disciple?”
In a short reflection on Matthew 8:21-22, Billy Graham penned those words. He knew Jesus to be clear: absolutely nothing should stand in the way of being His disciple. In an echo to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, he calls out anyone who would use Christ and Christianity as a commodity: something that makes us comfortable in our eternal destiny while demanding nothing of us in our daily lives. No! Discipleship requires discipline, and, indeed, is best known as a cross we carry to our own death along the way.
- “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”
Interestingly enough, this quote may be his most famous. It is cited in an endless number of “Quick Quotes” websites and came to have wide appeal when it appeared for the first time in his article, “A Time for Moral Courage”, in Reader’s Digest in July 1964. Rev. Graham later would admit that the times had changed dramatically in the decades since he wrote those words, but that the need for character was still the same. In fact, he always believed the problem of sin and the essence of the gospel remained the same, even when culture and current events evolved with astonishing speed. Who would have the valor to live a life of integrity and speak the truth in love to this hurting world? His own life was the answer to that question, even as it invited us to respond – and live – likewise.
- “The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”
Let’s end on this one, for it speaks deeply of mission and evangelism. May the heart and life of Billy Graham be multiplied thousands of times over in a present-day army of Christ-followers passionately demonstrating God’s love to a broken world!