In the heydey of his crusade ministry, Billy Graham would travel across the globe to preach to stadium-sized audiences. Now, though confined to his home in the mountains of western North Carolina, the mass evangelist is still able, using modern technology, to continue proclaiming the gospel. November marks the beginning of the "My Hope America with Billy Graham," campaign, a video evangelism course designed for individual and small group use. In conjunction with the launch of My Hope America, Graham has released what may be his final book, The Reason for My Hope: Salvation. CT asked Graham about his thoughts on the present state of Christian belief and his confidence, amidst theological and cultural confusion, in the core gospel message.
Do you call yourself an evangelical, or a Christian, first? Why?
What really matters is how God sees me. He isn't concerned with labels; he is concerned about the state of man's soul. The Bible tells me that I am first a sinner. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But because of the saving grace Jesus has extended to me, and my repentance of sin, I am his child—having been saved by the blood of my Savior on the cross. At that moment, I entered into a life-changing relationship with him. Those who read The Reason for My Hope will see clearly from Scripture how to be saved and how to live the Christian life.
Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master. I have repented of my sin, turned my life over to Christ, and seek daily to obey his Holy Word. I am his follower. Before my conversion on November 1, 1934, which I tell of in the book, I always thought myself a Christian. It wasn't until I was confronted and convicted of my sin that I realized that Christ makes a difference in the lives of those who not only claim his name but obey his Word. If there is no change in a person's life, he or she must question whether or not they possess the salvation that the gospel proclaims. Many who go to church have not had a life-changing transformation in Christ. Those outside the church expect followers of Christ to live differently, yet today many in church are chasing after the world—not to win them, but to be like them. This is very dangerous and the Bible gives account to the tragic result.
In the New Testament, when people heard the truth Jesus taught and received his glorious gift of forgiveness and hope for eternal life in Heaven, others who observed the change in their lives called them Christians—Christ followers (Acts 11:26). Just as Jesus came willingly to rescue mankind from sin, I willingly serve him and seek to glorify him with my life because I am a child of the King. Being called a Christian should identify us with the demands Christ makes on those who belong to him. He tells us to count the cost of following him.
My preaching is that of an evangelist and I wholeheartedly believe in the fundamental teaching of the Holy Scriptures. This is the foundation of my book. My hope is that people will read it. My desire is that readers will comprehend the privilege and responsibility of living the Christian life. When Jesus becomes our Master we set aside our way and walk his way. It is not always easy but enormously productive and challenging, because those who follow him become shining lights in a very dark world. This is why the Christian has hope. The reason I have hope for the world is because Christ died for the whole world and is calling the lost and weary to come to him. Jesus said he had "come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10).