Today on his blog, Ed Stetzer highlights one of the Mission of God Study Bible's most unique features: "Letters to the Church." Here is what Stetzer had to say about it:
One of the great privileges of the Christian life is to learn from those who served Christ longer and have experienced more of His mission. The essays in the Mission of God Study Bible that make up the Letters to the Church are from some of our "older leaders" in the faith.
The first essay I'm sharing is from the most well-known modern day evangelist in the world: Billy Graham. The essay below is but a snapshot of his unparalleled ministry over the years.
We are honored that he would contribute an original essay to this study Bible and are thrilled to share it with you.
Below is the full text of Billy Graham's essay. Follow Ed Stetzer's blog for future highlights from Letters to the Church, featured in the Mission of God Study Bible.
by Billy Graham
If Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from our sins and give us the gift of eternal life, then why doesn't God take us to Heaven the moment we trust Christ as our Lord and Savior?
Many answers might be given to this question, of course--but they all come down to this: God leaves us here because He has a mission for us to fulfill. We aren't here by accident; neither are we here simply to enjoy the good things life has to offer. We are here because God put us here, and He has a sovereign purpose in keeping us here. It's true for us as individuals, and it's true for His body, the Church, in all of its fullness. As Jesus prayed just before His arrest and trial, "I am not praying that You take them out of the world . . . As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world" (Jn 17:15,18).
But what is the mission we're sent to accomplish? What does God want His people to do?
We will never understand His mission unless we understand His revealed Word, the Bible. Apart from it we will flounder around, never understanding His mission for us and therefore never fulfilling it. Yet from one end of the Bible to the other we see God's plan at work, and our first task must be to understand it.
Apart from the Bible we will never comprehend the depth of human sin, and the horror of what it has done to the entire human race. Because of our rebellion against God, we have been cut off from the very One who created us, and have become subject instead to death and judgment and Hell. Beyond that, our lives have been twisted and marred by sin's terrible tyranny over us and over all human society. The Scripture's words are true: "There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become useless" (Rm 3:10-12a).
But apart from the Bible we'll also never understand the depth of God's love! We can say "God loves you." We may even think we feel His love from time to time in our hearts--but what is the proof? The proof is in the Bible's message of the Cross. In the Cross we see God's love demonstrated in all of its fullness and depth, for at the Cross God Himself, in the person of His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, took upon Himself the judgment that we deserve. As the Bible says, "God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent His One and Only Son into the world so that we might live through Him" (1Jn 4:9).
By His resurrection Jesus demonstrated beyond all doubt that He was indeed the Savior, sent into the world to save us from our sins and give us the gift of eternal life. And some day He will come again to conquer all evil and establish His eternal rule over all creation.
This is the message God has given us--a life-changing message that our sick and confused world desperately needs. We need to understand it . . . we need to submit our lives to it . . . and we need to share it in every way we possibly can. God did not intend for His Church--His people--to be just another social club, or a community that is concerned only with its own survival or power or internal welfare. We are called to be His instruments--His feet, His hands, His voice, His welcoming arms--in penetrating our world with the Good News of God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ.
Jesus' final command to His followers has never been rescinded, nor will it ever become outdated or unimportant or irrelevant: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:18-20).
This is why evangelism must be our continual priority, and this is why discipleship must be our goal. We are under divine orders, and our only logical response must be obedience. But more than that, we are under a divine compulsion--a compulsion born of love. How can we remain indifferent to those around us who are living every day of their lives "without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12)? How can we remain indifferent to a world that is torn by war and injustice and racism and famine and poverty and disease?
Paul's words must become ours: "For Christ's love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised. . . . Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ's behalf, 'Be reconciled to God'" (2Co 5:14-15,20).
Let God's Word, the Bible, saturate your soul every day. Let its message of hope and freedom from sin change you into the person God wants you to be--a person who reflects Christ in all you think and do and say. And then let that message send you to your knees in prayer for a dying world, and let it send you in the power of the Holy Spirit to tell others that there can be hope . . . there can be new life . . . there can be forgiveness . . . and there can be Heaven before us because of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world.
And in that day when we stand before Him, may we not be ashamed, but may we hear Him say, "Well done, good and faithful slave!" (Mt 25:23).
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