If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
The news reports say the Reverend Doctor Billy Graham is planning the last of his great rallies.
That is of some interest to me since, in his autobiography, Dr. Graham says he was drafted into the position of large-crowd evangelist by some laymen who were concerned about the void that had been left by the unexpected death of the original Lutheran Hour Speaker, Dr. Walter A. Maier. Yes, it's true. The Lutheran Hour used to host giant rallies. Still, honesty forces us to admit we were hardly the first to hold these great events.
Before us there was a fellow named Billy Sunday. During the 1880s and '90s, Sunday had played professional baseball for Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Then he became an evangelist, and what an evangelist he was! His messages were directed against "demon rum" and peppered with baseball jargon and gestures. It was a rare sermon when he didn't demonstrate the proper way for a Christian to "slide" into heaven.
There's one thing Sunday did I especially liked. Before he came to a town to preach he would write to some of the community's leading citizens. He would ask them to share their concerns for the future of their town and list the people whom they thought most needed prayer. It was a great idea, and it worked well because it allowed Sunday to tailor his message to that particular community.
Of course, there was the time when he wrote to a mayor in the Midwest and asked for the names of those in the mayor's constituency whom he knew had spiritual problems.
In a display of non-politically correct honesty, the mayor answered the request by sending Sunday his town's telephone book. Maybe that's because the mayor knew all his people were less than perfect.
Now most people try to be honest. They admit they're not always the best or the most noble of souls. "Still, when I'm compared to others," they reason, "I'm not so bad. Actually, I'm pretty good."
Now please don't think those folks are lying. They're not. There are a lot of people who lead very moral, very circumspect lives. When they're put alongside the world's serious sinners, they look pretty good.
Of course, the Lord doesn't let "pretty good" people into heaven. He doesn't even admit the really, really good people. Nope, the only ones who are going to gain entry into paradise are those special sinners known as Christians.
Understand, those Christians aren't getting into heaven because they're so good. No, indeed. They're going to be admitted because Jesus is their Savior. Having been brought to faith by the Holy Spirit, they acknowledge their sinfulness and helpless condition. Then, by God's grace and through Jesus' blood they are forgiven of their sins and cleansed of all unrighteousness.
Oh, and lest I forget ... these Christians don't slide into heaven, they walk in with a prayer of thanksgiving to the Savior on their lips.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks You had mercy on me, a sinner. I rejoice that through the Savior's work I have been forgiven and healed. Now may I be Jesus' evangelist and share the story of salvation with all the serious sinners out there who aren't forgiven. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries