March 11, 2018–The Message That Made a Man

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Sylvia Alloway, Granada Hills, CA

 

Warm-up Question

If you were asked to give a message that would be heard around world, what would you say? Why would you say that?

The Message That Made a Man

If you were asked to give a message that would be heard around world, what would you say? Why would you say that?

Billy Graham, the Man with the Message

Christians argue over a lot of issues which they consider important. How much water should be used in baptism? What kind of music is truly worshipful? Would Jesus approve of current political causes?

For Billy Graham there was only one important issue: Jesus Christ. He loves you. He died for you. He forgives you. His single-minded focus on Christ’s saving work and his simple, intense presentation of the Gospel were so impressive his audiences numbered in the hundreds of millions world-wide. Known as “America’s pastor,” he was arguably the most famous Christian of the 20th century. On February 21st William Franklin Graham passed into the presence of his Lord at the age of ninety-nine.

So what was so special about this guy? How did he manage to make the “Ten Most Admired Men” list 61 times? When other evangelists were brought down by scandal, how did Billy stay on top? Was he superhuman or something?

(The teacher may play this clip https://billygraham.org/video/happiness-lexington-4-28-71/ as an example of Billy Graham at his height.)

No, he was not superhuman. He was super-faithful. His focus was on faithfulness to his message – the truth of salvation through Christ. Fame didn’t tempt him to put his public image ahead of his message. Money did not distract him from his message. For social and political missteps (and he made a few) he almost always admitted his fault, apologized, and continued to preach his message. As his audience increased, he grew in humility, not pride. Giving people God’s truth was a responsibility he took seriously.

“I have been asked, ‘What is the secret?’” Graham once said. “Is it showmanship, organization or what? The secret of my work is God. I would be nothing without him.”

In summing up his attitude towards death he revised a quote from D.L. Moody, an earlier evangelist whom he admired:

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.

 

Discussion Questions

  • Has the class heard of Billy Graham? What have they heard about him?
  • Name some people you admire and tell why. What qualities do you admire most? Why?
  • Go back to your answers for the warm-up question. Are there any of these messages worth focusing your whole life on? If not what kind of message would be worth it?

Fourth Sunday in Lent

Numbers 21:4-9

Ephesians 2:1-10

John 3:14-21

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

 

Gospel Reflection

Today’s Gospel lesson contains one of the most famous verses in scripture – a favorite of Billy Graham and many other Christians. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” It is said that this verse states the entire message of the Gospel. So what about all those other verses?

Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus, a Pharisee who sincerely wants to know more about who Jesus is. He has come to visit Jesus at night so that no one will know he has been talking to the man his fellow Pharisees oppose.

Nicodemus gets the message simply and directly. Jesus is God’s Son sent by his loving Father to offer eternal life to the world. Moses lifted up a bronze serpent so that the Israelites could look at it and be healed of snakebite (Number 9:8-9). When we look to Jesus on the cross, we will be healed of sin. No more condemnation, no more darkness – just believe.

It sounds simple – but there’s a problem. People don’t want to step into God’s light and be healed. They’d rather hide in the darkness clutching their sins to their hearts, thinking no one will see them. By refusing God’s salvation and hiding from his light, they have already condemned themselves.

Only in the light of Christ can we see the truth. Only by seeing his truth can we do what is true for all to see. This was the message to which Billy Graham devoted his life, the message that lit up his sermons and gave him the power to do what is true.

Eventually Nicodemus understood the message and openly declared himself a follower of Christ (John 19:38-42). Do we understand the message? Do we live it in our lives

Discussion Questions

  • Look carefully at John 3:16 one phrase at a time. What part of the Gospel does each phrase describe? How do all the phrases work together to declare the Gospel message?
  • Verse 21 talks about doing what is true. What does that mean? What are some examples of true actions in real life?
  • That are some examples of spiritual darkness you see around you? What are some examples of spiritual light?
  • What can you personally do to get the message of Christ’s light across to those around you?

Activity Suggestions

In groups or as a class have students work out a scenario in which a person can get the message of Christ’s light across to another person through words and actions. Have them act out the scenario for the class.

Closing Prayer

Loving Father in Heaven, thank you for sending your Son to save us and bring us into your marvelous light. May we spread this good news about Jesus in our words and actions that bring light to the people in our world.