Billy Graham: Made for God’s Purpose, Not Your Own

Sharing today from the July-August 2019 issue of Decision Magazine. This sermon was originally preached in 1956.

Billy Graham:
Made for God’s Purpose,
Not Your Own

By Billy Graham

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. … Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand” (Jeremiah 18:3-4, 6).

What an accurate portrayal of men and women this is! The Prophet Jeremiah portrays God as the divine Potter and a man or woman as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.

Three ideas stand out boldly in this parable of the potter: made, marred and made again.

We humans, in our vaunted pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that we are self-created. We would wrest ourselves from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved, and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!”

But the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.

The Bible states that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. … Then God blessed them” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Notice, He did not make men and women haphazardly, but with an infinite plan and purpose. He made us in His own image and likeness: creatures with whom He could commune, companion and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.

That heart of yours, despite its waywardness and evil, in its serious moments reaches out for the stars and cries out for fellowship with the infinite God. That mind of yours, so fraught with evil imaginations, sensual images and earthly aspirations, longs for communion and affinity with the divine Potter—God. That body of yours, tired of its labors and wanderings, aching with loneliness, hungers for companionship with the One for whom you were created.

Race, ethnic background and language make no difference—all hearts repeat the words of David: “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

There are thousands of people who admit that they are unhappy. Economic security, recreation, pleasure and a good community in which to live have not brought them the peace and happiness they expected. The reason is that we were created in the image of God, and we can find no complete rest, happiness, joy and peace until we come back to God.

You were not only made for a purpose, you were made with a will of your own. This will of yours is capable of obeying or disobeying, of choosing life or death, darkness or light, Heaven or hell, sin or the Savior.

If there is no will, there can be no true love. God wanted us to love Him willingly, with a free heart, by choice. This was a calculated risk on God’s part, but it was the only way true love and fellowship could be achieved.

Read the rest here.

The Requirements of Victorious Praying

Sharing today from Decision Magazine.

The Requirements of Victorious Praying

By Adrian Rogers

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” — James 4:1-2, KJV

If there’s anything that I need to do—that you need to do, that we need to do, that everyone needs to do—it is to learn how to pray.

The man who can pray can do anything, for prayer can do anything that God can do, and God can do anything. Our desperate need in these days is to link our lives with the omnipotent God who has called on us and told us to pray.

You don’t have a sin in your life but what prayer could have prevented that sin. You don’t have a genuine need in your life that cannot be met through fervent, believing prayer. Oh, dear friend, how we need to learn how to pray! In the Book of James, we can see three distinctive prayer patterns. First, the presumption of unoffered prayer. Then, the problem of unacceptable prayer. Finally, there are the principles of undeniable prayer.

The Presumption of Unoffered Prayer

God wants to bless us. God wants to give us what we need, but we’re so presumptuous. We’re so proud. We’re so self-sufficient that we go about in our own strength, as James 4:1-2 tells us—fighting, warring, scheming, planning, hating, killing, conniving, striving—trying in our own way to get the things we think we need.

There is no problem that cannot be solved by prayer. There are no problems too big to solve, just people too small to solve them. When we begin to pray and to seek the face of God, then we’ll know peace, both domestically and in our hearts, as we seek the face of Almighty God. God wants to bless us, and God will bless us through prayer.

“More ships!” some cry. “More guns! More fighters in the air!” But wise is the king who calls for more prayer! It is prayer that links our lives with the omnipotent power of God.

Oh, friend, the presumption of unoffered prayer. Did you know that prayerlessness is a sin? John Bunyan wrote in “Pilgrim’s Progress,” “Prayer will make a man cease from sin, and sin will entice a man to cease from prayer.” Are you praying? There is no substitute for prayer.

Read the rest here.

The Bible: The Word of God

This article was originally written in 1951 and was republished in the March 2019 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Bible: The Word of God

By Billy Graham

This article was originally written in 1951.

The Bible is being discussed today more than ever before. Some people want to get rid of it completely. Some want to keep it just as literature. And many, believing it to be God’s Word, want to live by it. Does the Bible have anything to say to us?

THE CONSTITUTION OF OUR FAITH

The United States has a constitutional form of government. A number of men, after long argument and debate, drew up the Constitution and submitted it to the 13 Federated States for ratification. The presupposition of these framers of the Constitution was that law was absolute.

People in the United States were to be free, for they were to know what the law required and also what the law could not do. They were to know their rights, their privileges and their limitations. No judge was to be unfair but was to judge cases as the law required.

People found that if they knew the law and kept it, they would be truly free. They knew where they stood, for constitutional law made it clear.

The Bible is the constitution of Christianity. Just as the United States Constitution is not of any private interpretation, neither is the Bible of any private interpretation. Just as the Constitution includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception, so the Bible includes all who live under its stated domain, without exception.

God’s laws for the spiritual world are found in the Bible. Whatever else there may be that tells us of God, it is more clearly told in the Bible.

Nature in her laws tells of God, but the message tells us nothing of the love and grace of God. Conscience, in our inmost being, tells us of God, but the message is fragmented. The only place we can find a clear, unmistakable message is in the Word of God, which we call the Bible. 

True Christianity finds all of its doctrines in the Bible; true Christianity does not deny any part of the Bible; true Christianity does not add anything to the Bible. For many centuries the Bible has been the most available book on the earth. It has no hidden purpose. It cannot be destroyed.

The Bible has a magnificent heritage. It has 66 books, written over a period of 1,600 years by more than 30 writers, and yet the message is the same throughout—so clearly that the 66 books are actually one book.

The message, in every part, is straightforward. No writer changed his message to put his friends in a better light. The sins of small and great alike are frankly admitted, and life is presented as it actually is.

THE CENTER OF CONTROVERSY

The Bible has been the anvil upon which the critics have worn out their hammers. Critics claim the Bible is full of forgery, fiction and unfulfilled prophecy, but the findings of archaeology have corroborated rather than denied the Biblical data.

Our faith, which is not dependent upon human knowledge and scientific advance, has nevertheless presented a magnificent case at the “bar of knowledge.”

How many times we have heard someone say, “Why, the Bible contradicts itself!” Very few who make that statement have used the family Bible for more than a storage place for pressed flowers.

The first requirement placed upon critics is that they read carefully every chapter of the Bible. They ought also to know something about how we got our Bible, the miracle of its writing. Biblical history is fascinating and makes us appreciate the Book that has been preserved for us to this day.

If you are setting yourself up as a critic, it is your responsibility to read and know both sides of the question. It is significant that very few Bible critics have bothered themselves to read the literature available on the defense of the Bible, much less the Bible itself.

The Bible will always be the center of controversy.

Read the rest here.

Billy Graham: The Mystery of the Incarnation

This article about Jesus’ humanity (What did He become? Flesh) is the last of three excellent articles about the incarnation of Jesus Christ from the December 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

Billy Graham:
The Mystery of the Incarnation

By Billy Graham

When you read the record of the coming of Jesus into the world—born in a stable, born of a woman, reared in the woodshop of a poor Jewish carpenter—you could not grasp the truth that He was the God-man if the Scriptures didn’t reveal it.

This great mystery of the incarnation is the crux and the core of the Christian message. It is the mystery over which the rationalists stumble, by which the humanists are offended, and by which the world is bewildered.

The natural mind is not equipped to grasp this truth that transcends human wisdom. Paul—after reasoning with the Greeks, who majored in knowledge, and with the Romans, who majored in justice—said, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

I would like you to consider with me three facts regarding the incarnation.

First, the incarnation is a Scriptural fact. 

The recurring theme of the Bible is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The prophets wrote of it, the psalmists sang of it, the apostles rejoiced and built their hopes on it and the epistles are filled with it. Christ’s coming in the flesh—His invading the world, His identifying Himself with sinful men and women—is the most significant fact of history. All of humanity’s puny acts, accomplishments and attainments pale into nothingness when compared to it.

Read the rest here.

‘What’s in it for Me?’: A Christmas Message

This article about Jesus’ activity (He became flesh and dwelt among us) is the second of three excellent articles about the incarnation of Jesus Christ from the December 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

‘What’s in it for Me?’:
A Christmas Message

By R.T. Kendall

Our generation is often referred to as the “me generation.” A question many people ask is, “What’s in it for me?” This kind of thinking is one of the end results of existential philosophy that offers no hope but only despair. This line has crept into many universities, theological seminaries and churches all over the world. Much of theology today is anthropology—meaning it is mostly man-centered. The question, “What’s in it for God?” does not seem to cross people’s minds.

But that is the question I would put to you as we enter the Christmas season. So, what’s in it for God? The answer is, what’s in it for Him is what’s in it for you. The reason for Christmas is about God: His Son, His love, His plan and His purpose, and ultimately His glory.

Jesus Was Sent

A key word that makes this clear is sent. It comes largely from the Gospel of John. God sent Jesus from Heaven to earth. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … The Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). The Word became flesh because Jesus was sent by the Father. The term sent and its derivatives are found almost 60 times in the Gospel of John. Jesus came to earth because of the Father’s purpose. Jesus did not come to do His own will but the will of Him who “sent” Him (John 6:38). The Son can do “nothing of Himself” but only what He sees the Father doing (John 5:19). He said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34). In other words, it was a God-centered mission.

Read the rest here.

The Incarnation: Word Became Flesh

This article about Jesus Christ’s identity (John calls Him “the Word”)  is the first of three excellent articles about the incarnation of Jesus from the December 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

The Incarnation: Word Became Flesh

By Skip Heitzig

“And 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

The statement in John 1:14 that “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” is really the Christmas story pressed into a nutshell. This is the Main Event—Jesus, the eternal Word, became a human being and lived among us in obedience to the Father’s eternal, redemptive plan.

We as Christians know this. We tell this to our children every year. But we need to remember that it’s still a profound mystery—and one worth diving into. As Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:16, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ was revealed in a human body” (NLT). Let’s crack open that mystery a bit and look at three things revealed in John 1:14: Jesus’ identity, activity and humanity.

First is Jesus’ identity: John here calls Him “the Word.” That’s a rather impersonal way to describe somebody, isn’t it? So why did John do it? Where did the term the Word come from, and why is it important?

Read the rest here.

Hate What God Hates

This is an excellent article by Franklin Graham from the October 2017 issue of Decision Magazine.

I recently had the privilege to pray for our nation and its leaders at a gathering led by President Donald Trump.

I asked for God’s help and wisdom for our president and Vice President Mike Pence, along with our congressmen as they attempt to help steer our troubled country through some very turbulent times.

America has flaunted its sexual immorality to the world. We’ve neglected many of the poor and suffering and are guilty of much injustice, pride and self-indulgence. We are broken spiritually, adrift morally and divided politically and racially—following whichever direction the bankrupt culture seems to drive us.

Sadly, the voices of hate have grown increasingly loud and insulting, and it was my prayer then and now that God would silence these voices like he shut the mouths of the lions when Daniel was hurled into the den.

While those hateful voices have been raised on both sides of the political aisle, we must realize that ultimately what is transpiring in our nation is an increasing hatred of God, His Word and His ways.

In my lifetime, I have never seen such blatant and incessant animosity toward Christ and His followers. We should not be surprised, because the Scripture tells us that if they hated the Lord Jesus Christ, they surely would despise those who worship and serve Him.

I think of the recent ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of Bremerton, Wash., high school football coach Joe Kennedy. For eight years, Coach Kennedy took a knee and prayed silently after games. But in 2015, he was suspended by the school district when he refused to discontinue his prayers, and his contract was not renewed.

The federal appeals court said in their appalling ruling: “When Kennedy kneeled and prayed on the 50-yard line immediately after games, while in view of students and parents, he spoke as a public employee … and his speech therefore was constitutionally unprotected.”

Can you believe it?

Read the rest here.