Yesterday, February 21, 2018, you might’ve heard some fake news. The headlines read:
The Rev. Billy Graham, prominent Christian evangelist, dead at 99
Billy Graham, evangelist pastor and counselor to presidents, dead at age 99
Billy Graham, America’s pastor, has died
Billy Graham has died, but don’t believe it. Take Reverend Graham’s own words for it, not mine. Years before he died, commenting on his death, Graham wrote:
“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.”
Billy Graham is dead is fake news. He is more alive than any of us currently are.
However, this above quote Graham adapted from a hero of his. A man named D.L. Moody who was an evangelist, author, and founder of the Moody Bible Institute and someone who was instrumental in the Holiness Movement. Before Moody passed away in 1899 he wrote:
“Some day you will read in the papers that D. L. Moody, of East Northfield, is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I shall have gone up higher, that is all; out of this old clay tenement into a house that is immortal — a body that death cannot touch; that sin cannot taint; a body fashioned like unto His glorious body.”
If you’re told Graham (or Moody) is dead, don’t you believe a word of it! They have crossed the plain of physical death, that still remains a result of sin, but their souls, their person is more alive now than they ever were on this terrestrial ball.
About his life after death Graham said, “I am not going to Heaven because I have preached to great crowds or read the Bible many times. I am going to Heaven just like the thief on the cross who said in that last moment ‘Lord remember me.’”
None of us go to heaven because we have read the Bible many times. None of go to heaven because we have preached Jesus to dozens, or hundreds, or thousands, or millions, or tens of millions. None of us go to heaven because we have earned it.
You cannot earn grace. The grace of God is given freely. The grace of God is free unmerited favor manifested in salvation through acceptance into God’s family and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus gives you an invitation to join his family, all you have to do is accept. He offers forgiveness, all you have to do is ask.
That is why Graham is in heaven today. Not because of what he did, but because of what Jesus did for him. Jesus offers salvation by grace through faith. And today Jesus offers that salvation and assurance to you, that you can know, you can be sure, that when you pass from this world to the next you will more alive in that eternal moment than you have ever been here and now.
1 Timothy 6:17-19 says:
17 Tell people who are rich at this time not to become egotistical and not to place their hope on their finances, which are uncertain. Instead, they need to hope in God, who richly provides everything for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others. 19 When they do these things, they will save a treasure for themselves that is a good foundation for the future. That way they can take hold of what is truly life.
This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. And I don’t know about you, but I want to take a hold of what is truly life.
So how do you do that? How do you build up a foundation that is taking a hold of what is truly life for both this life and the life to come?
First of all, we all need to realize and admit our individual sin problem.
Romans 3:23 tells us, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
We have sinned, we all mess up. We have all done things that God doesn’t want us to do. We are all sinners and as a result of that we all face a physical death.
Romans 6:23 tells us this, “For the wages of sin in death…”
The consequence of sin is death. God told Adam of this consequence in the garden. Eat from any tree, except this one, because if you eat from it you will surely die. Adam ate, he sinned, and physical death entered the world as a consequence of that sin.
However, Romans 6:23 continues when it says, “…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
God knew we all faced a physical death with sin, but he didn’t want us to face a spiritual death, a second death, that would result in eternal separation from him. He didn’t want that for us, simply, because he loves us. God loves you.
Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Even though we are sinners, even though we have lived for self and not God, and done things that God would not want us to do he still loved us. God loves you now. In this very moment you are loved by God.
So the question I have for you today is, have you experienced that adoption into God’s family that makes you an heir of eternal life? Have you experienced the forgiveness of Jesus and the peace in your soul that comes with entering into salvation? Do you have hope for this life and the life to come? Do you know that when you die, you will be more alive then, than you are now?
Romans 10:9-10 tells us, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
To enter into relationship with Jesus you need to admit you’re a sinner and ask for forgiveness. You need to believe that he is the Son of God who was killed for your sins and was resurrected from the dead. You need to declare that Jesus is Lord.
That’s how you enter into relationship with Jesus. That is how you take a hold of what is truly life, both for this life and the life to come.
So what about you? What about when you die? We all die. One day you will die. We all experience physical death, we don’t all experience the second death because of the grace offered through Jesus Christ.
But for you, when you die what will people do? Will they worry and be in misery when they hear that you have died. Or, will they not believe a word of it?