The son of an American icon came to the Silicon Valley this week. An amazingly simple message was communicated to thousands. ◊
I remember hearing about Billy Graham’s rebellious son, Franklin, when I was a high school kid myself growing up in Southern California. Franklin Graham was just a few years older than me and apparently loved to smoke, drink, party and defy authority. His behavior as a teen got him sent to an alternative school in New York where he was later kicked out.
Pretty embarrassing news I recall for his father, the leading Christian evangelist in the world.
As Franklin says now and lays out in his 1995 autobiography, Rebel With a Cause, “I believed in God. I just didn’t want Jesus running my life. I wanted to run my own life. … But I was miserable.”
Many people resist Christianity because they feel they’ll lose control of their life. But living by our own standards ultimately proves to be unfulfilling. As Franklin admits, “The more I tried to fill my life with things I thought would make me happy, the more empty I felt inside.”
Even though his own father Billy Graham was dedicated to a life of ministry, Franklin knew he had to deal with the God/Jesus issue himself. Eventually, he got tired of running from God and surrendered his life to Christ at the age of 22. He writes:
- “I realized for the first time that sin had control over my life. Franklin Graham was not in charge, but sin was. And there was absolutely nothing I could do in my own power to overcome it.”
- “I felt I was a Christian. I was the son of Billy Graham, I went to church, and I memorized Scripture. What more did it take?”
- “Suddenly, I had an overpowering conviction that I needed to get my life right with God … I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. My years of running and rebellion had ended. … It was finished. The rebel had found the cause.” 1
Now 42 years later, Franklin Graham came and spoke to a crowd of thousands here in the Silicon Valley this week.
A Bible Story About a Sinner Accepted by Jesus
While pushing no agenda other than the clear evangelical Christian gospel, and an opening massive group prayer for leaders of our cities, states and nation, regardless of party affiliation, to come to their own saving decision for Christ, Franklin Graham is the real deal.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:1-10
Graham positioned Zacchaeus as a corrupted politician, hated by the townspeople, yet who seeks a chance to see the popular Jesus passing through his region. He does not call out to Jesus from his perch on an over-hanging tree, but is actually singled-out by Jesus, who invites Himself to the sinful, rich man’s house. The judgmental people bemoan the fact that Jesus would associate with such a sinner. Zacchaeus welcomes the Lord and repents before Jesus. Jesus declares salvation for even “this man…for the Son of Man (Jesus) came to seek and to save the lost.”
A Gospel for All of Us Sinners
Franklin Graham delivers the same simple Good News gospel message that his famous father delivered for decades. I saw many of those Billy Graham Crusades on television as a kid and experienced it once live 20 years ago in Oakland, California. The Good News message is very simple: God loves you so much He died for your sins and was raised from the dead to live spiritually within us today. No matter how hard we may try to hide and cover it, we are all indeed sinful sinners who will never find earthly or eternal fulfillment apart from the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Many sinful people like you and me surrendered and responded to that message this very week.
Have you heard and responded to the Gospel?
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. – 1 Corinthians 15:1-5
1 Franklin Graham on the Emptiness of Running From God, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, http://www.billygrapham.org/story/, April 20, 2016.