Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Tale of Two Saviors

What follows is a story I recently received: please read it, and my response that follows.

Billy Graham and Oprah - What a good story!

Last year I watched Billy Graham being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on television. Oprah told him that in her childhood home, she use to watch him preach on a little black and white TV while sitting on a linoleum floor.

She went on to the tell viewers that in his lifetime Billy has preached to twenty-million people around the world, not to mention the countless numbers who have heard him whenever his crusades are broadcast. When she asked if he got nervous before facing a crowd, Billy replied humbly, "No, I don't get nervous before crowds, but I did today before I was going to meet with you."

Oprah's show is broadcast to twenty million people every day. She is comfortable with famous stars and celebrities but seemed in awe of Dr. Billy Graham.

When the interview ended, she told the audience, "You don't often see this on my show, but we're going to pray." Then she asked Billy to close in prayer. The camera panned the studio audience as they bowed their heads and closed their eyes just like in one of his crusades.

Oprah sang the first line from the song that is his hallmark "Just as I am, without a plea," misreading the line and singing off'-key, but her voice was full of emotion and almost cracked.

When Billy stood up after the show, instead of hugging her guest, Oprah's usual custom, she went over and just nestled against him. Billy wrapped his arm around her and pulled her under his shoulder She stood in his fatherly embrace with a look of sheer contentment..

I once read the book "Nestle, Don't Wrestle" by Corrie Ten Boom. The power of nestling was evident on the TV screen that day. Billy Graham was not the least bit condemning, distant, or hesitant to embrace a public personality who may not fit the evangelistic mold. His grace and courage are sometimes stunning.

In an interview with Hugh Downs, on the 20/20 program, the subject turned to homosexuality. Hugh looked directly at Billy and said, "If you had a homosexual child, would you love him?" Billy didn't miss a beat. He replied with sincerity and gentleness, "Why, I would love that one even more."

The title of Billy's autobiography, "Just As I Am," says it all. His life goes before him speaking as eloquently as that charming southern drawl for which he is known.

If, when I am eighty years old, my autobiography were to be titled "Just As I Am," I wonder how I would live now? Do I have the courage to be me? I'll never be a Billy Graham, the elegant man who draws people to the Lord through a simple one-point message, but I hope to be a person who is real and compassionate and who might draw people to nestle within God's embrace.

Do you make it a point to speak to a visitor or person who shows up alone at c hurch, buy a hamburger for a homeless man, call your mother on Sunday afternoons, pick daisies with a little girl, or take a fatherless boy to a baseball game?

Did anyone ever tell you how beautiful you look when you're looking for what's beautiful in someone else?

Billy complimented Oprah when asked what he was most thankful for; he said, "Salvation given to us in Jesus Christ" then added, "and the way you have made people all over this country aware of the power of being grateful."

When asked his secret of love, being married fifty-four years to the same person, he said, "Ruth and I are happily incompatible."

How unexpected. We would all live more comfortably with everybody around us if we would find the strength in being grateful and happily incompatible.

Let's take the things that set us apart, that make us different, that cause us to disagree, and make them an occasion to compliment each other and be thankful for each other. Let u s be big enough to be smaller than our neighbor, spouse, friends, and strangers.

Every day, may we Nestle, not Wrestle!

Now for my response:

Oh, contraire! We must wrestle, we are called to not only wrestle, but to be casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every though to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). People are not at the bottom of this idea, and we are not to physically confront them; this is not a call to violence, obviously, it is a call to discernment. Sorry to rain on the parade, but feel good stories won't save Oprah; or you, or me. God takes us just as we are, but fortunately, He doesn't leave us there: He saves us from His wrath, which we deserve, and saves us to Himself, which we don't (Ephesians 2:1-10).

We are not all born as children of God. We must be born again (John 3:3), which has been Billy's message, but it was missing here, conspicuously. We cannot, we should not, and we must not allow our feelings for one another to override our duty to Christ. We are to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus, and He will draw those who will be saved unto Himself. What happens so often today is that we leave off the part about repentance, and give a false assurance to those who have no intention of trusting in Christ alone. We give the people what they want, a sense of being God's children without any requirement at all. Yes, it is all of grace, but those that do trust in Christ alone are changed, they are born again. I do not profess to know with certainty the state of Oprah's soul, but if she were born again, I believe she would not stop at "let God hug you", nor should Billy Graham. That is simply a message that will appeal to anybody, but that is not what we are to do. We are not honoring God by telling others that they may nestle in God's embrace, all the while leaving them to their sin. Nothing can separate us from the love of God, yes, but that love is only found in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:39), and we only become children of God through faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26).

Oprah represents all that is wrong with the man made religion of the world. And friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God (James 4:4 / 1 John 2:15).

We are not talking about being mean to people, we must show them God's love, but we must not capitulate to the world's idea of it; we are to shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:15). The love of God in Jesus Christ is different from the sentimentality we see here in this message from Oprah and Billy, and the writer of this piece. It is incomplete, and it isn't enough.

As Christians, we must understand that we are at war. Indeed, we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). How does this look? Well, not by looking for a demon behind every doorknob, but by understanding how these evil powers operate. Satan uses people, nice people who look as if they are doing good things, but they don't do them for the glory of God, but for the glory of man. It isn’t godly principles, as we see in this article, it isn't those that save you, it's God himself. They have a form of godliness but the deny the source of true godliness' power, which is Christ (2 Timothy 3:5). And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

I plead with you; see this as it truly is, just another ploy to get you to slip into a feel good coma, all the while slipping down into hell. Repent, trust Christ alone, and leave Oprah to the rest of the world. Billy Graham ought to know better, but we have seen this before. Now is the time to discern between the Holy and the common. The old redemption story is the only one that saves.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:20)!

Here is a link to several articles about the Oprah phenomenon:

Here is a quote from one of the articles: Oprah's newly-packaged positive-thinking spirituality is tailor-made for the empty souls of our postmodern age. She promises meaning without truth, acceptance without judgment, and fulfillment without self-denial.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to speak to the issues this ever darkening world needs to hear!

Anonymous said...

I think Jesus would say the same thing to these “nestlers” that he said to His unbelieving (Jn. 7:5) earthly brothers James & Jude:
“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” Jn. 7:7

Even So... said...

I know this may sound "mean" to some, but come now, is being nice what being a Christian is all about? No we aren't supposed to be offensive, but the true gospel offends, period.

People see the problem as something other than their own sin, they believe that if we just "hugged" everybody, then all would be well. To me, as one of God's children, that is offensive, and I know it offends a holy God.

I believe this all stems from the problems related to a synergistic soteriology. I do not believe man has a hand in his own salvation, other than responding in faith to what God has already done, meaning that I believe we are saved by grace through faith, but that even the faith to believe is given by God. This can be called monergism.

But here and everywhere else these days we see the rotten fruit of the synergistic system. I won't take the time to go into all this right here, but perhaps we will some day soon in a separate post.

We are to proclaim His sovereignty, His majesty, and His saving grace, not plead with people using every compromise in the book, as if God was waiting on their choice. Jesus is Lord, period, we are not trying to get people to say a prayer and sign a card. No, you cannot always be worrying about being nice while doing it!

You may resign this whole matter to the sovereignty of God, saying, "well they are going to or not going to come any way, so why not just be nice?" All that would do is show your lack of understanding, and your misplaced focus; it belongs on God and His glory, that is what we are to fight for (not physically) and declare. All the sentiments in the world, without giving glory to God, are nothing but the schemes of the Enemy. When you back this sort of thing, which side do you think you are on? hmmmmm.....

Even So... said...

I guess that may have seemed like a rant to some of you, and I certainly don't think that those in the Arminian camp are not saved, that would be a "shibboleth", no doubt. My point is that when you start with a premise of "do what it takes", this is what you sometimes end up with. Not that Calvinism doesn't have its people driven problems, but I think if we were focused on the glory of God first, then we wouldn't see the need to be all "huggy" without being holy. That being said, there are those who aren't Calvinists that do have the proper focus...Jerry, you out there?